Indian railway stations with matching names

There are some names which you will find in many Indian towns, such as Mahatma Gandhi Road. And there are many places with similar names, such as Rampur which must be the name of dozens of villages and small towns. Ironically, the largest place with this name was once part of a princely state ruled by Muslims.

Most of us have heard of the large cities of Hyderabad (capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh) and Hyderabad in Sind. Pre-1947 timetables listed the two as Hyderabad (Deccan) and Hyderabad (Sind). I could not locate any old pictures of these stations and their signs, though this is what they look like today:

There never was any train between these cities, and anyone traveling between them by train would have had to change at several places. One possibility would include a sea journey between Bombay and Karachi.

This also illustrates a general rule which the Indian Railways have tried to follow-that no two stations should have exactly the same name. Of course, the station code will be different.

One example is Madhupur in Jharjhand and Madhopur in Punjab:

You cannot travel by a direct train between these stations. The Howrah/Jammu Tawi Himgiri Express does run through both, but stops only at the one on the left. The one in Punjab is a smaller station, but for some years in the 1960s it was the northern-most station in India before the line was extended to Kathua, Jammu and beyond.

Then there are the three Katras:

The first two are in UP. The first is an ex-MG terminus near Gonda which is across the river from Ayodhya. It was connected to the BG network in recent times when a bridge was built across the Saryu.

The second is between Shahjahanpur and Bareilly. The third is the new showpiece station (SVDK) which is the railhead for Vaishno Devi.It is the northern-most station on the main IR network (though not on IR; that is Sopore near Baramulla). It is likely to hold this status for a few years until the connection to Banihal is completed.

There is one train which runs through Miranpur Katra on its way to SVDK, but does not stop there. This is the once-weekly Kamakhya/SVDK Express. The Himgiri Express and Kolkata/Jammu Express also run through it, though they still terminate at Jammu.

Then we have two places with similar names in Maharashtra and Jharkhand:

The one on the left was called Chandrapur (Maharashtra) until recently. There is another station called Chanda Fort nearby. There are no direct or nearly-direct trains between these stations.

And now to Rajendranagar in MP and Bihar:

The former is on the southern outskirts of Indore and is presently served by a number of DEMUs between Indore and Mhow. The latter is east of Patna Jn and is an important secondary terminus for Patna, while Danapur and the new Pataliputra station also fulfill this role.

There are two weekly trains between Indore and Rajendranagar Terminal (one of which was involved in a serious accident near Kanpur last November). So it is a reasonably simple task to travel between the two Rajendranagars. It is possible that the MG conversion south of Mhow may see some long-distance trains connecting these stations, though they are unlikely to stop at the one in MP.

Now these two in Rajasthan and Tripura. The latter has just seen the start of passenger services from Agartala:

It is theoretically possible that one day there may be a direct train between these two stations. There may not be much logic behind this routing.

The station on the left was opened in the mid-60s as part of the Udaipur-Himatnagar new line. The existing terminus of Udaipur was renamed Ranapratap Sagar, and still hosts most of the railway offices of this region. For some years Udaipur City was one of the few stations which were pseudo-junctions where a line of one gauge ended and line of another gauge started. It has now lost this status as the Udaipur City-Ahmedabad MG line is now under conversion. Other examples of pseudo-junctions are Kalka and Mettupalaiyam (but not Neral, Pathankot, NJP and Siliguri Jn which are junctions in the regular sense). Other pseudo-junctions have existed in the relatively recent past (e.g. Parli Vaijnath)

The station on the right is presently a terminus, but the line will soon extend downwards to Belonia and Sabrum at the southern tip of Tripura. It will not touch the now-closed terminus of Belonia which lies a short distance within the Bangladesh border. Also note that Bengali is the official language (at least for station signs) in Tripura and three districts of southern Assam.

Now, you may ask, is there any case of two widely separated stations with similar names having a direct train connection. There are some trivial cases like those of Merta Road/Merta City and Latur Road/Latur (but not Ranchi Road/Ranchi). But there is one more. I traveled between them recently. More on this later.

Note: Copyrights of the pictures here belong to the original photographers.

Places associated with India’s Prime Ministers

Here are a few stations associated with various Indian Prime Ministers. Not all PMs have been included, including Dr Manmohan Singh whose birthplace Gah is over 80 km from the nearest currently functioning station (Rawalpindi). The only person recorded as Acting PM may also appear here.

The places mentioned below are either the birthplace or favorite constituency or a place associated with the person.

 

 

Should not be too difficult to guess, even though one place is now in Pakistan. There may be more than one picture for one person.

Fruit on rails

A collection of picture of stations of the Indian Railways whose names involve fruit:

There is Mango, a suburb of Jamshedpur, which does not have a station. As someone said, there is no space for the mango man in a banana republic.

Take a closer look at the sign for Sitafal Mandi in Hyderabad. It appears to be one of the old signs from the time of the Nizam’s State Railway, with the Hindi inscription added later.

One wonders how the citizens of Nagpur allowed a much smaller town to grab the title of Orange City.

And Amla may not be named after the fruit but is supposedly an acronym for “Ammunition Land”, where a large military storage facility exists.

Afterthought-Prior to partition, Afghanistan used to export fruits to different parts of India by train. These fruit trains usually started at Chaman (a railhead to the north of Quetta), travelled down the Bolan Pass and made their way to faraway places.

 

 

 

 

 

“Foreign” station signs in Britain

If there is one thing crazier than an Indian railfan, it is the British railfan. They have been at it for over a hundred years with specialized publications starting from the 19th century. Anyway, we take a look at this collection of trivia about British stations:

http://www.railwaycodes.org.uk/stations/bilingual.shtm

To begin with, all stations in Scotland must have signs in English and Gaelic. Likewise in Wales all stations must have signs in English and Welsh. Often there is a considerable difference between the two place names of a station.

In the tiny system on the Isle of Man, it is Manx Gaelic along with English.

Northern Ireland is not covered here.

Then it starts getting interesting. Cantonese in Irlam, Punjabi in Southall, Urdu in Levenshulme.

Here are the signs at Irlam, a small station in Greater Manchester:

A quick look at the Wikipedia article for this place does not say anything about the Chinese population in the vicinity.

Most readers here will be familiar with Southall:

southall

This western suburb of London has a large Punjabi (mainly Sikh) population.

And finally to the lesser-known Levenshulme:

This is also in the Greater Manchester area and has a large population of Pakistani origin.

Extensive research by British railfans has failed to find other station signs in languages other than English. As the article says, there are a number of welcome signs and general signs in various languages, but these are the only platform nameboards in other languages.

Thanks to Mark Lester for pointing me to this site. It contains some other trivia about various aspects of stations in Britain. Note that while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, it is not part of Britain.

Afterthoughts: all said and done, Britain has become an increasingly multicultural and multilingual society. The vote for Brexit was partly due to this, though the voter’s ire was directed more against the immigrants from the far-flung parts of the EU rather than the Asians. But one wonders what the average native Brit thinks when the majority of his or her fellow passengers in a Tube coach  are clearly of non-British (and that too non-European) origin. I did observe this phenomenon a decade ago. For that matter, a significant number of rail transport employees (particularly in and around London) are of Asian or West Indian origin, though they and perhaps their parents and even grandparents may have spent their lives there.

There was a time in the late 1940s and early 1950s where the London transport authorities had recruiting offices in places such as Barbados and Jamaica (which were still colonies then) where any able-bodied male was offered free transport to Britain if he was prepared to work for them.

Sometimes I came across interesting combinations, such as a steward on a long-distance train with a typical Tamilian name who had migrated from Malaysia and was settled in Edinburgh. Then there was the West Indian female ticket collector who admired a visiting Indian lady’s dress sense, and the rather large West Indian male ticket collector who approached us suspiciously in a first-class coach, though his attitude changed when he saw our first-class Britrail passes. On other occasions I ended up helping Gujaratis and Pakistanis (who were presumably residents and not tourists) who had problems with the railway system and apparently did not know English well enough to figure things out.

 

From the Indian Railway timetables of 1975

The All-India Railway Timetable was the “Bible” of a section of railfans until 1976 when it was replaced by “Trains at a Glance”. The Indian Bradshaw started sometime in the 19th century and appears to have vanished a few years ago. And then there were the timetables of the individual zones. Unlike the All India RT and Bradshaw, they carried the zonal maps as well. They survive today as a sort of hybrid, an example being the Western Zonal Timetable which includes the Central, Western, West Central and North Western Railways.

Today, however, we look at some extracts from the maps attached to the Southern and South Central Railway timetables issued in November 1975. It is instructive to compare them with the maps of the present railway systems in those areas.

First, the inset showing the Madras area:

madras-area-1975

Notes: Many more stations have come up on these suburban sections since 1975.

See the MG lines extending up to the Tondiarpet yard. It was a bit startling to observe a YG next to the BG tracks while travelling north from MAS in the late 80s.

Madras has long become Chennai, while Madras Park and Madras Chetpat have since been contracted  to Park and Chetpat. (However they are listed as Chennai Park and Chennai Chetpat in the RBS tables. Not the first time that official names in the Railway’s own databases are not the same as the names on the signboards.

The Villivakkam- Anna Nagar branch came and went in the 2000s.

This map shows Veysarpadi which was and still is a cabin and not a station. Vyasarpadi Jeeva station came later.

And the mapmaker forgot the existence of Madras Beach station, where once MG lines met an outlying BG line.

The Hindi signboards in this area are curious in that they use Hindi transliterations of Tamil words rather than Hindi words. Today we have:

Chennai Beach : Chennai Kodikirai in Hindi

Chennai Fort: Chennai Kotte

Park: Punga

Also, Egmore is revealed to be the Anglicized form of Eshambur.

The Hyderabad area:

hyderabad-area-1975

Notes: Husain Sagar Jn was a functioning station at that time, while James Street station vanished soon afterwards and was revived with the MMTS in the 2000s. Many new stations appeared when the MMTS started. Today Husain Sagar has a large signal cabin while the platforms of the long-vanished station can still be seen.

The short-lived Telapur-Patancheru branch appeared some years later and has now vanished. If you keep your eyes open you may see the abandoned station of Telapur west of Lingampalli, from where the branch departed to the north. There is some talk of reviving this branch as part of the MMTS.

Note the forgotten siding to Trimulgeri.

An intensive suburban system with YDM2 diesels served the MG suburban sections running north and south of Secunderabad. Now, of course, you will not see any MG line within a few hundred km of the Hyderabad area.

 

When stations change names frequently

Railway stations in India can be renamed for various reasons. The most common reason is to align the English spelling with the local pronunciation-as the British often modified the spellings to suit their convenience. Thus there were mass renamings in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka over the past few decades. Perhaps this was not so much of an issue in Northern and Eastern India. And there have been many name changes in Pakistan and (to a lesser extent) in Bangladesh, but those are different stories.

Then there are name changes in honour of famous people (examples like CST Mumbai, CSMT Kolhapur, Bapudham Motihari and Vanchi Maniyachi).

In fact, the stories beyond renaming of railway stations could well be a topic of a doctoral dissertation or at least a middle-sized book. Maybe I will do that one day. Today, we take up the cases of some stations which have been renamed twice-sometimes twice within a decade.

We start with cases where pictures are readily available:

1):

The average resident of this city would probably stick to calling the station “Majestic”, in the same way his counterparts in other cities stick to Nampalli and Kalupur.

Then we have the case of Mangalore/Mangaluru. While the stations here came under Karnataka’s mass renaming in 2014 onwards, they had already been renamed in the mid-2000s for greater clarity.

The old terminus of Mangalore became Mangalore Central. Then there was a smaller station on the outskirts called Kankanadi, which was the locality’s name. But many long-distance trains stopped only there and not at the old terminus-hence it became important enough to be renamed  Mangalore Jn. We see the story here:

2)

Pictures of Mangalore (as it was) and Mangaluru Central do not seem to be on the net.

But there are several other examples across the country

Olavakkot Jn->Palghat Jn->Palakkad Jn

Here Olavakkot was a small place in the vicinity of the city then known as Palghat. At some time in the 70s it was felt that an important junction (as well as a division HQ) should be renamed to mark the larger city, hence it became Palghat Jn. Large-scale renaming in Kerala (to match the local names in Malayalam) was done in around 1990, though most of the stations were renamed only in the 2007 timetable. It then became Palakkad Jn. (There is also a smaller Palakkad Town nearby).

Other examples in and around India include:

Meean Meer West -> Lahore Cantt West -> Lahore Cantt

Meean Meer East -> Lahore Cantt East -> Moghalpura

Mayavaram Jn -> Mayuram Jn -> Mayiladuturai Jn

Bellasis Road -> Bombay Central (Local) -> Mumbai Central (Local)

Manipur Road -> Dimapur Manipur Road -> Dimapur

Marwar Jn is said to have had several name changes in the 19th century.

“Cyclic” name changes:

Dhone Jn -> Dronachellam Jn -> Dhone Jn

Kallakudi Palanganatham -> Dalmiapuram -> Kallakudi Palanganatham

Ashapura Gomat -> Pokhran Road -> Ashapura Gomat

And if you include stations with a single name change, the list will run into hundreds.

Tail piece: Here I am largely considering changes from the 1930s to the present day (except for Lahore where we are starting with the 1860s). In the 19th century there were many rather awkward spellings made by the Brits who built the lines, with names like Ullygurh (obvious) and Uncleswar (not so obvious). Other double changes starting from the 19th century would include

Arconum -> Arkonam -> Arakkonam

Then there were particularly odd ones I have seen in 19th-century documents, such as Sickle for Sikkal and Cynthia for Sainthia. Quite possibly someone had been thinking of his wife or girlfriend in the latter case.

Rail Quiz No 2

Here is a fairly simple one for those who are familiar with timetables of the 1970s:

What was common between these four stations as of the mid-70s (but not today):

 

Answer: These stations had three gauges of lines.

The first to get it right was Abhirup Sarkar.

Notes for those who are interested:

Remember, all this applies to the 1970s and not now.

BG, MG and NG are mentioned in order for each case.

NJP: The main line to New Bongaigaon, branch line from Siliguri, 2’0″ DHR to Darjeeling.

Bangalore City: Main line from Madras, various lines to Mysore, Hubli etc, 2’6″ line  to Bangarapet via Yelahanka, Chikballapur and Kolar. The NG terminus moved to Yelahanka in the 80s. Now that line is also BG. Possibly Yelahanka had all 3 gauges for some time.

Miraj: Main line from Bombay and Poona, main line from Bangalore, branch line to Kurduwadi. (Up to around 1970 it was on the MG line from Poona to Bangalore. BG conversion got up to Miraj and Kolhapur and then stopped for many years).

Ujjain: Major branch line from Bhopal to Nagda and Indore, minor branch line from Indore via Fatehabad Chandrawatiganj, 2’0″ branch to Agar which probably closed in the 80s. This was originally part of the Scindia State Railway which also ran three similar branches out of Gwalior, one of which still runs on NG.