The line to Aizawl

There have been some advertisements regarding various rail mega projects which will link the remotest borders by rail.

Here we look at one such project which may be completed relatively quickly.

The present railhead for Aizawl (and the whole of Mizoram) is Bhairabi, on a branch from Katakhai Jn which is between Badarpur junction and Silchar.

The line is to extend 50.5 km to Sairang, which is about 21 km short of the centre of Aizawl.

Here is the list of stations according to the RBS tables:

The link to the “rest of India” is Badarpur, so we also give the stations between Badarpur and Bhairabi.:

In 1947, the terminus was at Lalaghat near the present station of Lalabazar.

Note the district HQ of Hailakandi. This was part of Sylhet district which, along with Karimganj sub-division, remained in India while the rest of the district went to East Pakistan.

Let us see if there will be an Aizawl Rajdhani.

You can trace the path of the new line from Bhairabi on this map:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Bairabi,+Mizoram/@24.1820813,92.5436294,14z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x374e03e98bcd8d27:0xaabba20e26eb562!8m2!3d24.1853491!4d92.5371264

The vortex in Bhortex, and other stories

An average railfan would have seen the station of Bhortex in the WR timetable, and wondered how this “non-Indian” spelling came there. However, this is what you will see there:

This is in Maharashtra, on the Surat-Bhusaval section. You can see that it is spelt Bhortek (in English, Hindi and Marathi). A look at maps of the area confirms this. In fact, the timetable entry changed to Bhortex some years ago. It looks like a clerical error by the timetable department. But no one has bothered to change it. Bhortex also remains in the RBS site.

Another persistent error relates to this station:

This is in Punjab, near the Punjab-HP border on the Kangra Valley line. Anyone slightly familiar with Indian history would realize that the spelling is correct. This station serves the hill station of that name. But the NR timetables and the RBS site have chopped the last E for several years, and display Dalhousi Road today. This would again been a clerical error which no one has bothered to correct.

Now to Jharkhand, on the Gomoh-Daltonganj branch and not far from McCluskieganj we have:

The station is listed as Gumia. In the locality both Gumia and Gomia are used, especially as the only large industrial unit there uses Gomia. It appears that the local practice was initially to spell it Gumia, though Gomia became more widespread since the 1960s. Now even the station sign says Gomia, but the timetables and RBS still stick to the old name.

There are many instances of British names becoming Indianized, such as Worsleyganj becoming Waris Aleganj and McDonald’s Choultry becoming Magudan Chavadi. But there is one odd example from Bareilly in UP. You would have heard of the divisional headquarters at Izatnagar. Or is it Izzatnagar?

When you reach this station, you will see these signs:

So which is correct? In the vicinity you will see both varieties being used in shops and offices.

It was indeed Izatnagar to start with, named after a British railway manager named Alexander Izat. There is also an Izat Bridge elsewhere on the NER near Allahabad. But somehow the word “Izzat” crept in, and now features in the timetable and RBS.

But we can see that no one in the railways seems to care if the signs with different spellings are standing in close proximity.

More about Mr Izat and the Izat bridge here:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Izat_Bridge

Other misspellings have lasted for a few years before being corrected. Examples would be “Duckyard Road” for this:

This is in Mumbai on the Harbour Branch. Far away in the Nilgiris, this station

was listed as “Hillgroove” for some years. (These mistakes may have been because “duckyard” and “groove” are valid English words).

There are, of course, numerous stations where you will find signboards with different spellings, often on the same platform. Some well-known ones are Hafizpet/peta and Washer(man/men)pet which you can still see today.

We close with a station in a relatively remote part of Rajasthan, between Bandikui and Bharatpur. It is listed as Tarchhera Baraoli Ran. This is what you will see there:

So someone, either at the NWR headquarters or the local painter has messed up.

But if you check Google maps for this locality (at 27.21 N, 77.10 E) it is shown as Talchera Baraoliran. That is what the sign says. So the timetable is wrong again.

Now, does this really matter to most people including railway passengers of the area? Not really, since they usually know where they are going regardless of what the timetable or sign says.

But it does seem to show that the station sign is more likely to be correct than the official website or timetable.

Anyone seeking to create a practical railway guide or map should keep this in mind. In most cases pictures of the sign can be found in the site https://indiarailinfo.com/ at the entry for the particular station.

Welcome to Kevadiya

The route from Vadodara is given below:

Note that a narrow gauge line existed from Vishvamitri (VS) in the past. The section between VS to Dabhoi was converted to broad gauge some years ago. The less important narrow gauge branch to Chandod was later converted but did not seem to have any BG passenger service until now.

More recently, with the advent of the Statue of Unity it was decided to extend the broad gauge line a further 32 km to the dam township called Kevadiya Colony. This station was finally called Kevadiya. Electrification was also expedited from Dabhoi.

Here you can get the list of trains serving Kevadiya:

https://erail.in/trains-between-stations/kevadiya-KDCY/vadodara-jn-BRC

and

https://erail.in/trains-between-stations/vadodara-jn-BRC/kevadiya-KDCY

There has been some talk of this line (and indeed) the Statue of Unity being an unnecessary expenditure which may not be of much use to the nation. There are various arguments for and against this.

The long-distance trains will provide additional connectivity from some cities (especially Chennai) towards Surat and Vadodara where there may be a need for more capacity. And additional services from Ahmedabad and Mumbai towards these cities.

The Jan Shatabdi between Ahmedabad to Kevadiya will include Vistadome coaches, for what they are worth.

India’s Far West

As of today, it is well known that the western-most railway station in India is Varvala (long 68.97E) and the western-most terminus is Okha (69.07E)

The western-most junction was thought to be Kanalus (69.90E) but it is actually Wansjaliya (69.86E), which means about 4 km between the lines of longitude.

However, the western-most junction in the past was Khambaliya, which had a branch to the port of Salaya until the 1970s. Its longitude is 69.66E

The railway line up to Naliya (68.84E) has been closed for conversion to broad gauge for several years. This work is now progressing from Bhuj and may be completed in 2021. It is proposed to extend this line to Vayor (68.69E) which is north-west of Naliya.

So Varvala and Okha will lose their titles when the trains start running to Naliya.

The western-most airport with regular commercial flights is Bhuj (69.21E). While Bhuj has an IAF base, the military airport furthest west is the Naliya air base (near Naliya Cantt station) which is at 68.87E. It is known that the IAF has a helipad at Koteshwar on the coast at 68.53E. Naliya has fighter aircraft, and their Mig-21s shot down a Pakistani recconaissance aircraft close to the border in 1999.

Bhuj airport’s competitor is Porbandar at 69.64E. It includes enclaves of the Navy as well as the Coast Guard who also fly from there.

In due course the railway may reach Koteshwar. That is quite close to the western-most point of India, which is not as ill-defined as the northern-most point. This point on the mainland is 68.48E, while the western-most village appears to be Guhar Moti at 68.49E

You can amuse yourself with finding these places on this map link:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Kutch,+Gujarat/@22.9416315,69.7547649,9z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x39511e0750db4489:0x2049bf8ec25dea88!8m2!3d23.7337326!4d

Why does this station exist? – continued.

While most railway routes run between major cities, the stations in between would include fairly large stations which may not be justified by the local population. These could be junctions which have to be at particular locations, or loco sheds and watering/coaling points at suitable intervals preferably with a good water supply, or workshops which need space as well as a suitable supply of skilled and unskilled labor.

I am giving a few samples of each case. This is not meant to be an exhaustive listing, and anyone who wants to enumerate all cases in each category is welcome to do so.

Junctions in small places:

Amla, Arakkonam, Bhusaval, Bina, Daund, Dornakal, Gomoh, Gudur, Guntakal, Itarsi, Jolarpettai, Katni, Kazipet, Kharagpur, Khurda Road, Kiul, Lumding, Manmad, Mughal Sarai, Shoranur, Tundla, Villupuram, Viramgam.

(Of course, some like Mughal Sarai are not too far from larger urban centres.)

Rajasthan has a number of these, e.g. Bandikui, Bayana, Degana, Luni, Marwar, Merta Road, Phulera, Ratangarh.

Loco sheds in small places:

(These include those which are not junctions):

Abu Road, Balharshah, Bitragunta, Dongargarh, Gangapur City, Jhajha.

Major railway workshops/offices in small places not counted so far:

Adra, Alipur Duar, Chakradharpur, Chittaranjan, Dahod, Danapur, Jagadhri, Jamalpur, Kapurthala, Marhaura, Mariani, Podanur, Rangiya, Rewari, Yelahanka.

Sometimes one can guess why a steam loco shed (or at least a watering point) was located at a particular place, considering that steam locos had to stop every 150-200 km.

Considering the Mumbai-Delhi (WR) route:

Valsad is 194 km from MMCT and 197 km from Vadodara.

Gangapur City is 171 km from Kota and 153 km from Mathura.

Try to see the logic of the location of Bitragunta, Dongargarh, Jhajha etc.

However, Balharshah gets in because it was the terminus of the Nizam’s State Railway for a long time before the GIPR reached it.

Why does this station exist? – an introduction

If you look closely at the major railway routes in South Asia and elsewhere, you will notice fairly large railway facilities at places which were not important towns to begin with. So there must have been some reasons for locating these stations at a particular place.

Sometimes the reasoning was clearly stated. In the earlier days of the East Indian Railway the large workshops and training centres were set up at Jamalpur in Bihar. The EIR administration did say that they did not want the junior employees to be distracted by the bright lights of Calcutta.

Another peculiar station was Barog on the Kalka-Shimla route. This station does not have much population in the vicinity and exists primarily to provide food to the passengers. (Although there is a larger town Solan few km away),

On the micro scale, crossing stations needed to be set up for the convenience of smooth running on single line sections. There are literally hundreds of such stations all over the country. For example, persons familiar with the Haridwar-Dehradun area would know Motichur and Kansrao stations which exist only for crossing purposes.

Junctions would need to be set up where important routes met. Other stations with coaling and watering facilities for steam locos would need to be set up at certain intervals. Sometimes this could be done at the junctions. If not, a large station would have to be set up at a place which was not already a junction. The criteria for location would be that it would be 100-250 km from the nearest station with similar facilities.

We will look at such stations on the trunk routes in subsequent blogposts.

If at first you don’t succeed……

 

You may aspire to winning a Nobel Prize. But you may have to be satisfied with an Ig-Nobel Prize.

And there is at least one person who won an Ig-Nobel Prize before getting a Nobel Prize a decade later:

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

especially this bit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andre_Geim#Ig_Nobel

Similarly, if you cannot reach Singapore during the lockdown you can go to:

This place in Odisha was once listed as Singapore Road. Later it became Singapuram Road before settling on its present name.

If you cannot reach Kuala Lumpur, there is

This is in the hills of southern Assam.

If you want to visit the capital of New Zealand, there is

in the Nilgiris. Both are named after the same person.

If you wish to venture further to Dundee in Scotland, there is

near Jabalpur in MP.

However, you have to draw the line somewhere. If you are going to Jakarta and you are sent to this place instead, you should not accept it.

This is in one of the more remote parts of Uttarakhand, where the Special Frontier Force roams. Even the elite troops of the Mukti Bahini trained here in 1971.

 

Quick quiz-Place names with initials.

Try to find the full forms of these place names. Google may help in some cases:

  1. An easy one to start with. What is Wimco?
?????????????

2. Which station? And what important railway facilities are there?

3. What is DMW?

4. What does DAV stand for?

5. What is WRS? and which city is nearby?

6. This is not in West Bengal, but in another state where Bengali is the main language. What does S.K. stand for?

ANSWERS BELOW:

  1. WIMCO stands for the Western India Match Company, a long-standing MNC which was taken over by ITC in the 2000s. The main factories were in Ambernath and Chennai (which had this station which remains after the factory was closed).
  2. NKJ= New Katni Jn. A major electric loco shed is nearby (with locos marked NKJ). There is also a diesel loco shed nearby with locos marked “Katni”.
  3. Diesel Loco Modernization Works at Patiala. It was earlier known as Diesel Component Works, which had the initials DCW. https://dmw.indianrailways.gov.in/
  4. There are DAV colleges and schools in many towns in northern India. This stands for Dayanand Anglo Vedic. There is also a halt station for DAV College Jalalabad, a smaller town in Punjab.
  5. The Wagon Repair Shop colony in Raipur.
  6. Sindhu Kumar Para in Tripura. It is not clear why a relatively short name like this needs initials.

The quickest good responses were from Ganesh Iyer and Pavel Ghosh.

More mysteries in Karnataka

After solving the mystery of T-Sakibanda , the Special Investigative Team turned its attention to mysterious names in Karnataka. They are relatively new, as they came up in the last decade on the Bengaluru-Hassan line via Shravanabelagola. We first take up B.G. Nagar station:

All the languages mention only the initials B.G. Looking in the map of the surroundings, there is no immediate clue to the full form of B.G. Nagar.

There is however the BGSIT or BGS Institute of Technology nearby:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/BGS+INSTITUTE+OF+TECHNOLOGY/@12.9651433,76.7262857,16z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3bafeed69801ae53:0xa9dd86aab57869ad!8m2!3d12.9651433!4d76.7284744

The institute’s website http://www.bgsit.ac.in/ indicates that its name is in commemoration of a person named

Sri Sri Sri Dr.Balagangadharanatha Maha Swamiji

Founder President, Sri Adichunchanagiri Matt

So now you know what the B.G. stands for. You could not expect the full name to come on the station sign. Case closed.

Our next visit is to D. Samudhravalli, further west after Shravanabelagola.

Here you can see that D is followed by a full stop. What does D stand for?

The station is at a place called Samudravalli while D Samudravalli is another place which is not on the railway.

That still does not help us.

By googling for Samudravalli, we identify a nearby place called B Samudravalli.

It looks like there are different places called A, B, C and D Samudravalli as it needs to be administered in four parts.

Case closed.

The Special Investigative Team is looking for more such cases to study. So far they could find BEML Nagar and VOC Nagar which are easy to expand. So some more place names with odd initials will have to be identified.

The mystery of T-Sakibanda

The station of T-Sakibanda lies between Guntakal and Ballari. It is in Anantapur district of Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh and close to the Karnataka border.

https://indiarailinfo.com/station/map/t-sakibanda-tkbn/5177

Note the peculiar spelling of T-Sakibanda. Not like the better known Tsunduru elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh. The hyphen after the T is clearly shown in this sign for all three languages.

Even the local map does not throw light on this:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/T+Sakibanda/@15.162225,77.1762175,17z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x3bb6e59021aaaaab:0xfbacafc56bc15ed7!2sGuntakal+Railway+Junction!8m2!3d15.1755264!4d77.3667171!3m4!1s0x3bb71d91288ded59:0xd9664510b32d1c8f!8m2!3d15.1632802!4d77.1779197

Could it be a word like Tehsil or Taluk? Such words would normally be spelt out in a place name (e.g. Tahsil Bhadran, Kasur Tahsil). Anyway, in AP we have divisions and mandals.

From Google we get another T Sakibanda in faraway YSR (Kadapa) district. This has an alternative spelling of Chaki Banda (just like Chunduru for Tsunduru). Perhaps that is the explanation. But why the hyphen? Was someone fond of T-series cassettes or perhaps T-bone steaks?

Partly inspired by this book: https://www.amazon.in/Bermuda-Triangle-Mystery-Solved/dp/0879759712

More recent name changes in Uttar Pradesh

Earlier we have dealt with the renaming of Allahabad Jn and nearby changes to reflect the old name of Prayagraj. There are a number of other name changes in UP over the last couple of years. Some are well known and others have been hardly mentioned in the media.

The most well known change was this:

Mughal Sarai

New Mughalsarai (DDU)

As in the case of Allahabad/Prayagraj, there was a long gap between the announcement of the change and its actual implementation. So a number of photoshopped pictures appeared in the local media, like this:

DDU @ MGS fake pic

As we know, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya was found dead near this station in 1968. The circumstances of his death have never been satisfactorily explained, and may well become a never-ending mystery like the deaths of Subhash Chandra Bose and Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Other changes which attracted less attention:

Farah Town (between Mathura and Agra Cantt) became Deen Dayal Dham – as Panditji was born in that area.

Panki (near Kanpur) became Panki Dham:

Robertsganj became Sonebhadra (which is the name of the district):

Chanehti became Bareilly Cantt:

And someone will have to decide which of these is correct, as the staff at the station (as well as the local authorities) in Bareilly do not seem to be sure:

It was indeed named after a British railway manager named Charles Izat, though somehow it morphed into Izzat over the years. Interestingly, both names are seen on signs in the locality.

Indian Railways map of 1909

Fortunately we now have a good quality map which is easily downloadable:

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

The downloaded image can be expanded using Irfanview or similar software.

A few things of historical interest:

The stub going southwest from the Delhi-Muttra section is the Kosi-Sankoch branch which closed long ago, maybe in the 1920s.

While the branch from Satna to Rewah is shown here, it was not built until around 1990.

The branches fron Harpalpur to Rath and Nowgong have not been built even now.

Sipri is the present Shivpuri, then an NG terminus.

The Mohpani branch served collieries in the past, but was closed by the 1930s.

A number of other closed branch lines can be seen.