Unusual languages on signboards in India

Dogri in Jammu:

Jammu Tawi (Dogri script)

Maithili in Darbhanga:

Darbhanga station Maithili

Also at Madhubani, although it does not seem to be on the platform signs:

Madhubani (Maithili)

These are in Manipur. While the residents of that state are called Manipuris, there is no language of that name. Experts from there will tell you that the signs are Meitei in Mayek script.

Jiribam-manipuriVangaichungpao-Dholakhal

Here is one language many of us would not have heard of:

Ghaghra (JH)

This is in Jharkhand, midway between Rourkela and Chakradharpur. This is the local language Ol’Chiki. Thanks to Pavel Ghosh.

In the neighborhood, here is a left-over Urdu sign in Bangladesh:

Boira (still trilingual)

And left-over signs in Gurumukhi script up in Khyber-Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan:

Landi Khana station todayShahgai (Khyber)

Remember that no train has been to Landi Khana since 1932, and not to Shahgai since around 2000.

 

Hili Revisited-2

Hope that you have read Part 1:  https://abn397.wordpress.com/2019/10/17/hili-revisited-1/

If not, it will be helpful to read it first.

We now turn to another video of this station. The commentary (in Bengali) is not too useful, but keep your eyes open.

Especially this clip at 1:56

Hili timetable board

This gives the full picture of passenger services running through. These include (mainly) BG expresses, while there are a few MG expresses as well. These are to connect Dhaka to places in the North (such as Dinajpur and Rangpur) which were (as of 2017) only on metre gauge. This timetable is valid from 01 March 2017.

Another quirk of Bangladesh Railways is that Intercity Expresses are considered to the best services while the Mail/Expresses are slower and less preferred. At the bottom of the hierarchy is the Local passenger, which also exist on this section.

I am transliterating the train names and place names here:

Hili TT English

The train you see at 2.25 onwards is a northbound MG train. It can only be the 750 Dhaka – Dinajpur Ekota Express. Or the 757 Drutajan Express with very abnormal rescheduling.

A typical sleepy rural station, which is not what you would expect to see on an international border. You can see that there are long-distance trains stopping there throughout the night, so there are likely to be major security issues as we see (from the previous video from the Indian group) that it is not difficult to cross between he countries without being noticed.

The border stone is slightly to the west of the level crossing. As you may recall, the Radcliffe Award mentioned that the railway line itself was to be the border. So both sides try to manage the best they can.

In the next few years, an extension from Balurghat will bring the Indian Railways up to India’s Hili.

(In the other side of Bangladesh, the MG branch line from Feni to Belonia was closed long ago. Meanwhile the BG line of IR has extended from Agartala down to India’s Belonia and further down.)

Note: Bangladesh Railways has stopped issuing printed timetables many years ago. Individual stations will have displays like this (and remember, outside the larger cities it is often Bengali or nothing). You can see the overall timetables on this site:

http://www.railway.gov.bd/site/page/f8898018-00a5-4096-a803-8b533232e60c/All-Train-Schedule

Note the separate sections for MG and BG, also for West and East Zone which refers to the Jamuna (or Brahmaputra in India) as the dividing line.

 

Hili revisited-1

Hope that you have read this: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/more-from-the-border-from-hell-1/

An update which shows a group from West Bengal visiting this area. This was uploaded earlier in 2019.

Commentary is in Bengali with English subtitles.

The narrator was not quite correct about the pre-partition Darjeeling Mail. In fact it took over 13 hours from Sealdah to the old Siliguri Jn (now Siliguri Town). And it did not go anywhere near Bangaon and Jessore. Here you can see its timetable in 1943:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2017/11/24/the-darjeeling-mail-of-1943/

In the next post, you will see more about current passenger services on the BR trains through Hili. Remember that it is dual BG/MG. More precisely, it was BG since the 1920s and MG has been added after 2000, to  facilitate MG services from Dhaka across the Bangabandhu Bridge to destinations such as Dinajpur, Rangpur and Lalmonirhat which are (or were until recently) on MG lines from Parbatipur.

 

Rail Quiz-Oct 2019 with answers

  1. What is the significance of this pair of stations in the history of IR? The line between these stations was opened in 1926, completing the Delhi-Madras line (as well as the Golden Quadrilateral with diagonals).
  2. Nowadays all passenger trains have at least a technical halt at Balharshah. But in 1963-64 the Southern Express (then the best train between New Delhi and Madras) ran through Balharshah without stopping. How was this possible?  They stop at Balharshah as it is the “junction” between CR and SCR where train crews change. Up to 1966, the Central Railway ran straight to Vijayawada and to Hyderabad and beyond. As Balharshah was not so important then, the Southern Express ran through without stopping. In 1963-64 it ran on some days as the AC Express and some days as the Southern Express (like the Paschim and Poorva which survived longer).
  3. What is the historical significance of this station in Bangladesh? Dohazari                                                                                    The end of a branch line from Chittagong. It was completed in the mid-1920s as the first part of a proposed line to Burma (which was still governed from India). The Great Depression, the delinking of Burma from India in 1937 and then World War 2 put an end to that.
  4. And of this station in Pakistan? The western-most station of Pakistan Railways. The line continues across the border to Zahidan in Iran, though that portion of the track was transferred to the Iranian railways in the 1960s. The trains are still operated by PR.Koh i Taftan (2)
  5. Why was this small station’s name well known to Allied military personnel?  Drigh RoadA major RAF base existed there since the 1920s, which was very active during World War 2. For some reason it was known as Drigh Road airfield and was not named after Karachi. Later, an offshoot of this became the main airport of Karachi.
  6. And what was the significance of this station’s name to British soldiers? Deolali was a British Army camp 100 miles north-east of Mumbai . It is also the source of the British slang noun doolally tap, loosely meaning “camp fever”, and referring to the apparent madness of men waiting for ships back to Britain after finishing their tour of duty. By the 1940s this had been widely shortened to just “doolally“, an adjective meaning “mad (insane).Devlali
  7. What is unusual about this station in Bangladesh? And what was it called before partition? Like Hili, it lies right on the border and from India one can easily see trains running here on the Chittagong-Akhaura section. It was called Kamalasagar as it used to serve this place which is now across the border.        Quasba
  8. Until recently, what was (wrongly) claimed to be the first station in Arunachal Pradesh? Bhalukpong, reached from Balipara around 1980. The town spreads over Assam and Arunachal, and the station is just within Assam’s border. The picture below shows it during MG days.Bhalukpong old
  9. Identify the time span when this picture was taken.   This place is in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. From 1954 to 1971 Urdu and Bengali were the official languages of Pakistan, and thus signboards in East Pakistan had English and these two languages. Once Bangladesh came into being, there was no need for Urdu signs and they are a rarity now. This picture dates from the 1971 war.Rajshahi station-old
  10. Where in India would you have seen steam locos in green livery marked “PAK”? The locos of SCR had tenders in red and green. There used to be a MG loco shed at Pakala (code PAK) and this was marked on the tender. (This was not an usual practice, but has been mentioned by Bill Aitken in one of his books).
  11. Name one station in Kerala which had steam sheds for BG and MG. Quilon, now Kollam. The MG shed was first, and the BG facilities started once BG came in 1975.
  12. Name one major rail-connected howler in the film “Julie”. This is set in Shoranur, an important junction but not even a divisional HQ. Utpal Dutt’s character is mentioned as the Chief Engineer, whereas the station would have had an Assistant Engineer (and AME) as the local heads.
  13. Which was the only section of IR which had 4-foot gauge? Azimganj-Nalhati, soon converted to BG and now on the ER. See details here: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Nalhati-Azimganj_Railway You can also see this loco at the NRM: 
  14. And 3’6″ gauge? The Arconum-Conjeevarum Tramway, as it was then called. It soon became BG, soon after MG and finally BG in recent years. More details: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Arakkonam-Conjeevaram_Tramway . No information about the 3’6″ locos could be found.
  15. What was the northern-most MG station on IR? Ignore the short-lived MG lines north of Lahore. Kot Kapura. The MG line from Bhatinda then turned south-west towards Fazilka, so Kot Kapura was the northern-most MG station.
  16. Bonus: Which important station most closely matches the description of the title of the novel “Bhowani Junction”? Note these points-it is on the Delhi-Bombay line, with a branch going towards Allahabad (though not directly). It is a district HQ and an important cantonment. This fits Jhansi perfectly (but not Itarsi and Bhusaval).

 

(The best effort was by my old friend Harsh Vardhan.)

 

The best trains of Pakistan and Bangladesh

Here you can see the start of the inaugural run of Pakistan Railway’s new premier service, the Sir Syed* Express between Rawalpindi and Karachi via Faisalabad:

And here is one of the leading expresses of Bangladesh Railways, the Sonar Bangla* * Express leaving Dhaka for Chattogram (the new official name for Chittagong):

See if you can pick out the different types of coaches. The locomotive seems to be considerably older than the coaches.

This is, of course, metre gauge and only a short portion of this major route has been improved to dual gauge with BG.

*Sir Syed refers to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898), noted reformer and educationist. He is considered to be the founder of Aligarh Muslim University.

** The Bangladeshi national anthem begins with “Amar Sonar Bangla”, i.e. “My golden Bengal”. This, like the Indian national anthem “Jana Gana Mana”, was composed by Rabindranath Tagore.

Also see:

https://www.seat61.com/Pakistan.htm

and

https://www.seat61.com/Bangladesh.htm

 

Stations in different countries with the same name

(Pictures are copyright of the respective photographers):

Here we limit ourselves to South Asia, but we still find a number of examples:

The most well-known pair is:

HyderabadHyderabad Sind

(Possibly the signs would have read Hyderabad (Deccan) and Hyderabad (Sind) in the past.)

Followed by the Indo-Bangladesh pair of:

Jamalpur station

Jamalpur Town (new)

This is near Mymensingh.

Another very similar pair:

Biman BandarDhaka Biman Bandar

The first one is adjacent to Dum Dum airport in Kolkata.

Then we have a small station in Karimganj district of Assam, and a large junction being built near Faridpur in Bangladesh

Bhanga AssamBhanga (BD)-1Bhanga (BD)-2

The station is not fully functional yet, but you can see the nearby police station which has the sign “Bhanga thana, Faridpur”.

Then we have this station in the Indian side of the Thar desert, which once served a town which is a few km away but in Pakistan:

Gadra Road

This town in Pakistan’s Punjab has nothing to do with the state in India:

Gujrat (Pakistan)

There was also a long-closed Kachh station in Baluchistan, on the Chappar Rift line.

This station in Bangladesh will soon get an Indian counterpart nearby:

Hili

Hili on the Indian side will be connected to Balurghat.

There is also a long-closed Belonia station in Bangladesh which served the town of that name in Tripura. In Tripura, the line through Agartala is gradually creeping towards Belonia and beyond. It has already crossed Udaipur, not to be confused with the better-known Udaipur City in Rajasthan.

Going beyond South Asia, there will be a few more matches in the Commonwealth countries and the US. Wellington in the Nilgiris and Wellington in New Zealand comes to mind. Then there is Salem in Tamil Nadu and Salem in Oregon which does have Amtrak service, while the better known Salem in Massachusetts has local commuter service.

 

 

 

Reviving the Darjeeling Mail route?

Here are extracts showing the timetable of the Calcutta-Siliguri route in 1943:

Darj Mail 001

As you can see, the border line crossed the tracks between Chilhati and Haldibari stations.

Recent pictures of these stations:

Further south, the Radcliffe line crossed the tracks between Banpur and Darsana. Later Gede station was built closer to the border. (Similarly Petrapol station was built close to the border).

As we well know, the Maitri Express and some goods trains cross the Gede-Darsana border. Probably the Haldibari-Chilhati border will  be used for goods trains only. In case you are wondering, there have been many attempts by Indian governments over the years to get Bangladesh to allow transit for Indian road vehicles and trains to cross Bangladesh to reach North Bengal and the Northeast. They do not seem to like the idea. In fact, tourist visas issued to Indians invariably mention that you must enter and leave from the same point if traveling by land e.g. if you enter at Benapole you have to leave at Benapole.

The US and Western countries do not have such restrictions on the entry and exit points. It is understood that the Bangladesh government has made these restrictions as it does not want visitors to use their country as a means of traveling from one part of India to another.

Anyway, there are some interesting stories connected with the Haldibari-Siliguri section, which I will take up next.