The southernmost railways in India

There are some questions which can be answered easily by a layman. But if you ask a more knowledgeable person you may get a more complicated answer.

Q: Which is the southernmost point of railways in India?

A: Kanniyakumari station is the simple answer:

Kanniyakumari

A plaque at this station says that it was inaugurated by the then PM Morarji Desai on 15 April 1979. Its latitude is 8.0864 N from Google Maps.

Its code is CAPE. But the station never had this name. This is because the place was also known as Cape Comorin earlier on. To be more precise, the southernmost point of the Indian mainland is still called Cape Comorin.

Footnote: For a long time before the mid-50s, Kanniyakumari was part of Travancore state before the reorganization of states placed in the then Madras state as a majority of people in the taluk were Tamil-speaking. But as Travancore state was predominantly Malayalam-speaking, some station signboards had Malayalam inscriptions until a few years ago. Maybe they still exist.

Q: Before that, which was the southernmost point?

A: If one looks at earlier timetables, the southernmost stations as of 1975 were Trivandrum Central (TVC) and Tiruchendur (TCN). It was difficult to make out which was southernmost from ordinary atlases. With the aid of Google Maps, we see that TVC is at 8.4870 N and Tiruchendur is at 8.4986 N. So we see that TVC was the southernmost station until the opening of the lines from TVC and Tirunelveli to Kanniyakumari.

However, if you take the distance between the parallels of latitude then TVC was a little over 1.2 km south of TCN. A narrow win indeed!

Trivandrum

Though the city was traditionally known as Thiruvananthapuram, it was not until 2007 that this and many other stations in Kerala were renamed to fit the Malayalam versions.

A recent picture of the former runner-up:

Tiruchendur

You can see an overview here: https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Nagercoil,+Tamil+Nadu/@8.6366475,77.5674675,10z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3b04f0dfc0ddc7b7:0x809a9e32a95d3ed1!8m2!3d8.1832857!4d77.4118996

By enlarging this map you can see the two BG lines from TVC and Tirunelveli meeting at Nagercoil Jn, from where a short branch goes to Kanniyakumari.

In 1975, TVC and TCN were both MG. By 1976 the BG line from Ernakulam was extended via Quilon to TVC, and continued to Kanniyakumari after that. TCN got broad gauge much later in the 2000s.

Q: Did any other railway exist in the deep south before that?

A: Yes, the privately owned KPN Light railway existed (with its main station at Tiruchendur) until it was closed (due to economic reasons, perhaps connected to World War 2) in about 1940. It was 2’0″ narrow gauge. It was duly mentioned in Bradshaws before then, as you can see here:

Kulasekarapatnam line TT

This was owned by the Madras-based Parry’s group of industries to facilitate their activities in that area-in particular, a sugar factory at Kulashekarapatnam. Passenger services were probably more of an afterthought.

If one looks at the map carefully one can see that the southernmost station was Tissianvillai which was indeed the southernmost station in India, as its latitude was 8.3353 N, somewhat south of TVC. The route of this tiny railway system can be seen here.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Thisayanvilai,+Tamil+Nadu/@8.4062791,77.9075378,12z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x3b04f0dfc0ddc7b7:0x809a9e32a95d3ed1!2sNagercoil,+Tamil+Nadu!3b1!8m2!3d8.1832857!4d77.4118996!3m4!1s0x3b047e50930e95e5:0x1d70ec9eff576a24!8m2!3d8.3349894!4d77.8652573

Whatever little is known about this system is here: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Kulasekharapatnam_Tissainvillai_Light_Railway

The station was probably at a different location from the “real” station on metre gauge.

A few years ago a determined rail-fan friend of mine tried to find some existing physical remnants of the track but was unsuccessful. As many years had passed most of the local people did not know much about the track, and no former employee could be found in the vicinity. But there were some who vaguely remembered their grandfathers working on the line.

Q: OK, so that is true of the mainland (though this last line was not really a part of the Indian Railways). What about the island territories?

A: A good question, but you won’t catch me here. There is no record of any industrial railway in Lakshwadeep, but in any case the southernmost point of this territory is on Minicoy which is around the same latitude as Trivandrum.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands look more promising. Indeed, some industrial railways have existed in the vicinity of Port Blair. But this has around the same latitude as Puducheri.

If there were any such lines in the Nicobar islands, they would be the southernmost railways ever to have existed in India. But there is no record of these, as the Nicobar region remains largely undeveloped even today.

Thanks to Bharath Moro for his account of his search for remnants of the KPN line.

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Summary of the extreme points of India

Hope that some have found these posts informative. I am listing them below:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/the-extreme-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/the-northernmost-points-in-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/the-easternmost-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/the-westernmost-points-of-india/

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/04/08/the-southernmost-points-of-india/

The southernmost points of India

The standard answer to this one is Kanyakumari (also called Cape Comorin), which is indeed the southernmost point on the Indian mainland. Unlike the other extreme points, this is well populated and linked to other parts of the country. It is officially at 8.078 N, 77.541 E. Here is the main tourist area:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Kanyakumari,+Tamil+Nadu+629702/@8.0829211,77.5446251,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x3b04ed3d2a087861:0x1e790e896aeffaa0

The southernmost point on the mainland would probably be the place marked “Hidden twin beach”.

The railway station seen on this map has trains to all corners of India, including Katra in Kashmir and Dibrugarh in Assam.

Kanyakumari was earlier in Travancore state, then Travancore-Cochin state and was finally transferred to Madras state (now Tamil Nadu) when linguistic states were formed.

But the true southernmost point of India lies in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (not the islands of Lakshwadeep as their southernmost point is around the same latitude as Thiruvananthapuram). To be precise, the southernmost point is a settlement called Indira Point on the southern tip of Great Nicobar island.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indira_Point

This article mentions that there are 4 households in this settlement with a total population of 27 (all males). It also mentions how many are literate and how many are from reserved categories. Presumably most (if not all) of them are connected with the lighthouse.

Here is a video of the area shortly after the tsunami of 2004:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRA4sCNTN4E

Note how the lighthouse has sunk into the water. It is functioning again now.

There appears to be a helipad nearby. Also note the numerous small buildings near the lighthouse.

While tourism is being encouraged in some parts of the Andamans, even Indian citizens cannot visit Nicobar district without permission from the union territory’s government. There are ships and helicopter services to nearby Campbell Bay, which has India’s southernmost airport and naval base. This could be described as the southernmost village in India (population around 5700). Due to the military presence, it has amentities such as banks and a Kendriya Vidyalaya (school run by the federal government).

It is not often appreciated that these islands, particularly in the Nicobar group, are considerably closer to other countries than to India. This map should give an idea:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Indira+Point,+Andaman+and+Nicobar+Islands+744302/@12.2829531,91.787832,6z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x30693681c618213f:0xf4a05f017d87b04a

The straight-line distances from Indira Point to various places in India:

Port Blair-554 Km

Chennai-1646 Km

Kolkata-1855  Km

And to some places in other countries:

Banda Aceh, Indonesia-215 Km

Phuket, Thailand-515 Km

Colombo-1538 Km

Yangon-1153 Km

Think about it. Indira Point is closer to Indonesia and Thailand than to Port Blair. And Yangon and Colombo are closer to it than any mainland Indian city.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands were occupied by Japanese forces during WW2, and were nominally governed by the Indian National Army.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andaman_and_Nicobar_Islands#World_War_II

Regarding the research stations in Antarctica starting with Dakshin Gangotri, it appears that India does not have any territorial claims over Antarctica while some other countries do.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Antarctic_Program