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.

Long quiz-Sep 2020

  1. What is special about this station?

2. What is special about the BG siding here?

3. What is unusual about these two station signs? Explain.

4. What additional language is on this sign?

5. This is often labelled as “Nawab Station”, although no such name is in the timetable. Which station is this?

6. With luck, you may be able to get tuna at Tuni station. But there was another station called Tuna in the past. In which present-day state is it?

7. Bengali travelers can try to get fish at this station restaurant. Which state or province is it in?

8. Many clocks at stations and other public places were supplied by P. Orr & Sons of Madras. This small station is far from Madras. In which state?

9. Consider these two pairs of stations:

9A

and 9B:

What do the pair in 9A have in common with the pair in 9B?

10. What is unusual about this station which is not in India?

11. This shows the abandoned station which used to be a ferry terminal as well as being adjacent to a zonal headquarters until the mid-60s. Name it.

12. The fate of Dhanushkodi is well known. But you can still see the remains of it. A small terminus in the North-East was less fortunate as it fell into the Brahmaputra after an earthquake in the 1950s. Which was it?

ANSWERS:

The best response was by Biswarup Basu. Honourable mention to Ganesh Iyer and Bharat Parashar:

  1. Kot Kapura is the northern most point of metre gauge in India. It was connected by MG to Bathinda and Fazilka, which are to its south.
  2. The Tirap siding is beyond Ledo, and is the eastern most point of IR in India. BG goods trains run there. Further east there is the abandoned MG line to Lekhapani. There are also non-IR industrial lines nearby.
  3. The normal practice is to have the state’s official language on top. In Nagaland (Dimapur) and Mendipathar (Meghalaya), English script is used for official purposes so it is on top.
  4. Dogri language, which is one of the 22 official languages.
  5. This is a part of Rampur station (between Bareilly and Moradabad in UP). This platform had been used for the royal train of the Nawab of Rampur. The dilapidated platform and coaches are probably still there.
  6. In Gujarat, on an abandoned portion of the Cutch State Railway.

7. Balochistan, at the foot of the Bolan Pass going to Quetta. This station, like Karjat, is the base for banking locomotives for uphill trains.

8. Madhya Pradesh, on the Kota-Bina section.

9. These are connected with unusual gauges which were not used anywhere else on IR. The Arconum-Conjeevaram line was initially constructed with 3’6″ and was soon converted to metre gauge, and finally to broad gauge more recently. The Azimganj-Nalhati section was initially constructed with 4’0″ and was soon converted to broad gauge. This loco was converted at the same time and can still be seen at the National Rail Museum.

10. Quasba (Kamalasagar until the late 40s) is in Bangladesh on the main line from Akhaura to Chattogram. It is practically on the border with India and trains can easily be observed from the Indian side.

11. Pandu, on the south bank of the Brahmaputra. A ferry service from Aminigaon ran there until the mid-1960s. The NF zone headquarters was initially here and later moved to Maligaon.

12. Saikhowa Ghat, on a branch from Makum. This branch now terminates at Dangari.

 

The Inter-Railway junctions of 1963

The Indian Railways had 17 zones at last count. Life was simpler in the past. In 1963 there were only 8 zones as the SCR was yet to come.

The All-India timetables of those days used to carry a list of Inter-Railway junctions. It was quite a long list, but it was swollen by the 9 Non-Government light railways which had their space at the end of the timetable. In the timetable of October 1963 they were:

  Dehri Rohtas Light Railway (DR)

Arrah Sasaram Light Railway (AS)

Futwah Islampur Light Railway (FI)

Howrah Amta Light Railway (HA)

Howrah Sheakhala Light Railway (HS)

Shahdara Saharanpur Light Railway (SS)

Ahmadpur Katwa Light Railway (AK)

Burdwan Katwa Light Railway (BK)

Bankura Damodar River Railway (BD)

For more about them you can see these earlier blogposts:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/the-non-government-railways-of-india-in-1964-and-what-happened-to-them/

and

 https://abn397.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/the-non-government-railways-of-the-1940s/

Here you can see the list of junctions given in the All-India Timetable

Note that the ones in bold type are the ones between regular zones. Some comments are given on the right.

Many changes occurred over the years, starting with the formation of the South Central Railway in 1966 with two divisions of CR and two of SR. A further adjustment was made between CR and SC in the 1970s. And the great reorganization of 2002-2003 brought the number of zones to 16 (though the Konkan Railway is not a zone) and then 17 when the Kolkata Metro became a zone.

And all the light railways were either closed or incorporated into the main zones.

Balharshah was not an inter-railway junction prior to 1966, but now it is.

Raichur had been an inter-railway junction right from the 1870s, but now it is not.

Waltair/VSKP remains an inter-railway junction since the east coast line was opened in the 1900s.

Kuchaman Road itself is closed when the route was re-aligned to be further away from the Sambhar Lake. Then the WR and NR joined at Phulera. And when the NWR was formed, there was no need for an inter-zone junction there.

One more point is that there were many junctions between the NR and NER in UP. At that time NER was almost entirely metre gauge. In most cases there were separate stations and station codes for the NR (BG) and NER (MG) stations. For example, Bareilly Jn was BE for NR and BRY for NER.

Beyond the Mashriq Maghreb Express

UPDATE: In 2021 I received a message from a person in India who admitted to placing the article on this topic in Wikipedia as a sort of joke. This confirms my suspicion that there was something wrong as no other reliable reference could be found.

One of the persistent “urban legends” in South Asian railway history relates to train services between the two parts of Pakistan. This is what you will see in a Google search:

“Between 1950 and 1955, there used to be a train named the Mashriq–Maghreb Express which ran from the westernmost extremity of Pakistan (Koh-i-Taftan in Balochistan) to the easternmost rail extremity at Chittagong in modern-day Bangladesh, stretching at total of 2000 km over the Indian Territory.”

This translates to “East-West Express”.

This even made it to Wikipedia. The problem is that there is no reference to such a train in any official documents of India and Pakistan. Not even in the Bradshaw of 1951.

There are several odd things here. Why start from Koh-i-Taftan, a small place near the Pakistan-Iran frontier which never had more than two trains a week? More importantly, how would it reach Chittagong directly when it was (and still is) metre gauge? Nothing is said about the ferry crossings in East Pakistan which were in use until the early 2000s.

Perhaps it was something which the government of Pakistan wanted to introduce, but was never implemented. Whatever reference you will see on the net essentially repeats the paragraph given above-but only in anonymous blogs or general articles about Pakistan.

It is just possible that some travel agency in West Pakistan had offered packages of combined railway tickets between West and East, including the intervening routes in India. And the advertising may have been fancy enough to give the impression that they could buy a single ticket for these journeys.

Now the references in Wikipedia have also gone. Someone must have pointed out the lack of supporting references.

However, there were a number of relatively short-distance trains connecting India and West Pakistan as well as India and East Pakistan running in the early 1960s before the 1965 war put an end to them. They include trains connecting

Amritsar and Lahore

Munabao and Hyderabad (Sind)

Sealdah and Khulna, Goalundo Ghat and Parbatipur

Various short trips across the border connecting places in Bengal and Assam with East Pakistan, such as one between Kulaura and Karimganj. These are all mentioned in Indian timetables of that period.

For the moment, it is interesting to look at the details of meetings between ministers and officials of the two countries in 1955 about the planned improvements of the train services. This largely consists of details of how goods trains would connect the Calcutta area with north Bengal via East Pakistan:

http://www.commonlii.org/in/other/treaties/INTSer/1955/4.html

Note that the entire railway system of East Pakistan was then called the Eastern Bengal Railway. Similarly the entire system of West Pakistan was called the North Western Railway.

The document also lists out how this was to be implemented including transhipment between BG and MG at Santahar.

At that time the line from Haldibari to Siliguri was metre gauge, so BG trains coming from Calcutta side through Pakistan would be transhipped to MG wagons there.

Another document which may be of interest is a IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) report on transport in both parts of Pakistan, covering river, road and rail transport. Apart from a review of the systems at that time, it is interesting as it describes several projects which were implemented in later years:

This document may be of interest to those studying the history of transport in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Special thanks to Ash Nallawalla, Kamal Narang, Jishnu Mukerji, Harsh Vardhan and others.

The other junctions on Indian Railways

The definitions of a railway junction are many. In general, we say that a junction is where three or more lines meet.

A more detailed definition is given by my friend DSP Anirudh:

 

“In the company-era railways, the stations at the boundary between the railway networks of 2 different companies, were also called Junctions.

This reflects the more generic meaning of Junction, which refers to a point where two or more things are joined. In railway parlance, this meant that even passing stations (with no branch lines and no break of gauge) could also be termed as Junctions as long as there was something different about the railway lines on either side of the station.”

 

However, there are also “pseudo-junctions” where one line ends and another one starts, where they are of different gauges. So passengers and freight would have to be transferred at this point.

We look at the pseudo-junctions which existed since 1950. If we go further back many instances can be found in the years while the IR system was expanding.

Kalka and Mettupalaiyam are the most obvious ones, with BG/MG and BG/NG. These will continue indefinitely as long as the mountain railways are running.

Not Neral, NJP, Siliguri and Pathankot as they are junctions in the normal sense as three or more lines are meeting.

One which existed until the 1990s was Parli Vaijnath, where a BG line from Vikarabad met a MG line from Parbhani. Now the MG line is converted.

One which still exists (from 2005) is Udaipur City, where the MG line from Ajmer side was converted to BG and the MG line to Ahmedabad side remained. This was a relatively new line which was opened in the mid-60s. However, the line from Ahmedabad via Himatnagar is partly converted and may be fully BG by 2021. So this, like Parli Vaijnath, will become a wayside station on BG.

Others which will exist for a year or so are Bahraich and Mhow (Dr Ambedkar Nagar).

You may be thinking of Miraj, but that was a junction in the normal sense with branches to Kolhapur and Kurduwadi.

Shantipur on ER had this status until a few years ago, when the BG line from Ranaghat met the NG line to Krishnanagar and Nabadwip. Now the NG line is being converted and there is no longer a BG-NG connection at Shantipur.

A short-term BG-NG junction existed at Balgona for a year or so in the course of the NG to BG conversion of the Barddhaman-Katwa section. Now the conversion is completed.

You may think that New Bongaigaon was where BG ended and MG started between the mid-60s and early 80s. This is incorrect as the BG branch from NBQ to Jogighopa was also opened in the mid-60s, but did not have passenger service for a long time. Local trains were there in the early 70s.

Viramgam was where BG ended until the 1970s, but more than one MG line ended there.

Jaynagar on the Bihar-Nepal border would not qualify since the IR station (MG, then BG) was at a different location from the NG line of the Nepal Railways. I don’t know if there is any change now. The new BG line from Jaynagar to Janakpur and beyond does not seem to have opened yet.

If you go back to the time of independence, there was a BG-NG connection at the OLD Siliguri, where the BG line from Sealdah via Haldibari ended and the NG line started. The NEW Siliguri Jn was built to the north of this, near the old station of Siliguri Road.

At this time, Kishanganj was the end of a MG branch from Katihar and Barsoi and the NG line to old Siliguri started from there.

If you count cases where only passengers had to move from one gauge to another, we can include Madras Beach in the past. For a while, the BG Ganga Kaveri Express used to end there and the corresponding MG train to Rameswaram would start from there.

Also Coimbatore, as it was the end of MG lines from the Pollachi side. The MG lines continued to a point near Coimbatore North.

Many other cases can be found from the earlier days. The weirdest case in undivided India was probably in the Bolan Pass connecting Quetta to the Indus Valley, where there was a small MG section in the middle of the pass between two BG lines. This MG section between Hirok and Kolpur did not last long. During that time (in the late 19th century) passengers and goods were transhipped at both these stations.

This is incomplete, but it is probably not feasible to include all such cases which occurred in the course of lengthy gauge conversion projects.

For railfans-the Fergusson papers revisited

This is primarily for railfans interested in lists of stations on railway systems across the world. Some explanation is necessary.

The Fergusson papers on the link given below are compiled by an Englishman named Jim Fergusson, who has been collecting timetables from all over the world since around 1950. He has got hold of timetables from different time periods ranging from the 19th to the 21st century.

Most of those reading this will be interested in the Indian railway system.  The systems of all our neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Myanmar) are covered. He seems to have drawn largely from the Indian Bradshaw which has been published since the 19th century but seems to have vanished a few years ago.

Update: By Oct 2020 he has added sections from all zones of India

Have a look at it here:

http://www.railwaystationlists.co.uk/

The Jodhpur Railway from the Bradshaw of June 1944

The Jodhpur Railway of those days was one of the small but well-run railway systems in the first half of the 20th century. The network (as shown in the June 1944 Indian Bradshaw) is:

Jodhpur1-1944Jodhpur2-1944

These are also in the IRFCA gallery’s Heritage section, though wrongly labelled as being from the 1943 Bradshaw.

It can be seen that after 1947 a part of this system (west of Munabao) became part of Pakistan’s railway system. Initially it was merged with the North Western Railway, then Pakistan Western Railway and finally Pakistan Railway.

The part remaining in India essentially became the Jodhpur Division of the Northern Railway and later the North Western Railway (which has nothing to do with the previous NWR).

The trains of Madras in 1958

Recently a Madras suburban timetable of the 1950s (probably 1958) surfaced on the IRFCA forum. This had a page showing the arrivals and departures of long-distance trains at Madras Central and Madras Egmore:

Madras 1958

No Rajdhanis, Shatabdis or Durontos, although there are Janata Expresses. See how many of these trains have survived, often with new names.

Madras itself has become Chennai. Stations such as Waltair, Bezwada, Arkonam, Bangalore, Jalarpet, Bombay, Mangalore, Conjeevaram, Madura, Trivandrum and Tinnevelly have long been renamed, while no train has run to Dhanushkodi since December 1964. Vizagapatnam Town station also closed around the same time.

Let us not talk about the present name of Madras Central.

Note the Tuticorin Express which came to grief near Ariyalur in 1956.

(Thanks to S. Aravind for providing this piece of history).

The Indian Midland Railway of the 1890s

This is from a map found on the net:

Ypu can download it from https://www.flickriver.com/photos/124446949@N06/49078963546/

Otherwise you can refer to the cropped portions below.

IMR cropped

The blue color indicates the IMR and the orange indicates the GIPR.

More basic history can be seen here:

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

The IMR was short-lived and existed only from 1885 to 1900 when it was absorbed by the GIPR. This particular map seems to be from the 1890s.

The station presently known as Bina was then known as Etawah or Itawa. Note the other old spellings such as Cawnpoor.

We can also see that the Agra-Mathura-Delhi line was not built yet. But one could go from Agra to Tundla and then to Delhi. Indeed, during the 1890s the GIP trains from Bombay to Delhi did follow this route.

And the BBCIR had not advanced much from Baroda towards Delhi. But it was also a regular practice for travelers from Bombay to Delhi to travel to Ahmedabad and then by MG to Delhi.

This box item from the IMR map has some points of interest:

IMR box item

It lists out the lines which existed then, including “Etawah” to Saugor, i.e. Bina to Saugor, though the extension to Katni was completed later.

The “Comparison of Distances” provides insight into the rivalry of different companies connecting the same pairs of cities. In later years the BBCI and GIP kept trying to show that their services between Bombay and Delhi/Punjab were better. This ended only when the railways were regrouped to form the WR, CR etc in the early 1950s.

Here we see that the IMR route from Bombay to Kanpur was shortest, :

1.  Via Jhansi-Kanpur 830 miles (1336 km) which is the standard route today

2.  Via Itarsi-Jabalpur-Allahabad-Kanpur 964 miles (1552 km)

3.  Via Baroda, Ahmedabad-Delhi by MG, Delhi-Kanpur 1006 miles (1620 km)

And similarly for Bombay to Agra:

1.  Via Jhansi-Agra 830* miles (1336 km) which is the standard route today

* So Jhansi-Agra and Jhansi-Kanpur are the same distance?

2.  Via Itarsi-Jabalpur-Allahabad-Tundla-Agra 1123 miles (1808 km)

3.  Via Baroda, Ahmedabad-Bandikui-Agra by MG 849 miles (1367 km)

Once the BBCIR got going and completed the Baroda-Mathura section by around 1910, they clearly had a shorter route between Bombay and Delhi.

The GIPR and EIR met at Jabalpur (Jubbulpore in those days). By the 1920s the Allahabad-Jabalpur section was transferred to the GIPR.

Some jokes from those days:

GIP stood for “Great Improvement Possible”

BBCI stood for “Beastly, Bad and Cannot Improve”

Then there were “Bribes Never Refused”, “Mails Slowly Moving” and “Sambar Idli Railway” which you should be able to guess.

However, the EIR escaped these nicknames.

The Martin lines of old Calcutta-2

More historical details:

To help you keep track:

HALR and HSLR from Railway Magazine

Opening dates:

(HALR):

Telkul Ghat (Howrah) to Dumjur:         01-07-1897     9.20 miles/14.81 km

Dumjur to Bargachia:                              02-10-1897      5.87/9.45

Bargachia to Maju:                                   04-05-1898     5.50/8.86

Maju to Amta:                                            01-06-1898     6.62/10.66

Total                27.19/43.78

Champadanga branch:

Bargachia to Jagatbalabpur:                   02-10-1897     1.50/2.42

Jagatbalabpur to Autpur:                         01-06-1904     8.50/13.69

Autpur to Champadanga                          24-08-1908:    6.68/10.75

Total             16.68/26.86

(HASR):

Kadamtala to Chanditala                               02-08-1897:     8.88/14.30

Chanditala to Kistrampur                             10-09-1897:      3.75/6.04

Kistrampur  to Sheakhala                              07-11-1897:     4.75/7.65

Total:            17.38/27.99

Janai branch:

Chanditala to Janai                                            05-05-1898:    2.37/3.82

LATER DEVELOPMENTS:

By 1939, service were stopped between Howrah Ghat and Kadamtala. All the trains started from the latter.

In 1948, a new terminus was constructed at Howrah Maidan. A new alignment was created from there to Dasnagar

This was opened on 01-02-1948 with a length of 4.00 km.

That was common to the HALR and HASR.

For the HASR, a new alignment was also opened on 01-02-1948 from Dasnagar Km 3.2 to Km 6.0 (a length of 2.80 km)

This meant that Kadamtala and Uttar Banthra were no longer in use.

Passenger services on the Chanditala-Janai branch stopped between 1951 and 1963.

The rest of the HALR and HSLR closed from 1971.

Only the Howrah-Amta services were restarted in the 1990s, when the route was converted to broad gauge and electrified. There are several pairs of EMUs running on this route which has seen a major change in alignment at the Howrah end. These trains start from the main Howrah station and proceed along the main line to Kharagpur. At Santragachi, the line to Amta branches off, passes Kona which was on the old HASR and takes up the old alignment near Makardaha. A number of the old stations do not exist now.

Details of the present Howrah-Amta route via Santragachi and Kona can be seen here on this extract from the official SER map:

Howrah-Amta new

Or here:

Howrah-Amta new station list

 

 

 

The Martin lines of old Calcutta-1

Many older people remember these lines well although they ceased to operate by the early 1970s. The Howrah-Amta line is now a single line electrified BG line on a slightly different alignment, while there is no sign of conversion of the lines to Sheakhala and Champadanga.

Here are a few old maps showing their details:

HALR and HSLR from Railway MagazineHowrah_Railway_Systems in 1909Howrah-Amta_Light_Railway_Map_1909

The map at the top is from the “Railway Magazine” published in Britain in the 1960s. The two other maps are from 1909. In the bottom map Sheakhala is not marked but you should be able to follow the line adjacent to the Amta line. There is also the long-vanished Tarkessur-Magra NG line.

The branches to Bargachia and Janai may not have been built when this map was prepared. But the 1960s map above is probably the best map of these lines which can be found.

A summary of the history of the HALR and the HSLR is given here:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Howrah_Tramways_(Light_Railways)

They have been described as the only major commuter railways on narrow gauge anywhere in the world. While the passenger traffic was heavy, continuing losses caused their closure in early 1971.

Timetables from the 1944 Bradshaw can be seen here:

1943-NG-4B

 

1943-NG-5A

1943-NG-5B

Note that Kadamtala was the terminus, as the Howrah municipality felt that operations from Telkul Ghat were not feasible due to congestion. By 1948 a new terminus at Howrah Maidan was built, which was in use until closure in the 1970s.

 

Rail quiz: New and old names of stations

Tirupadiripuliyur

This time you have to mention the old name of the station. The changes would have taken place between the 1940s and 2010s. In a few cases there are multiple changes of name, but give at least one of the old names.

1) Achalpur

2) Adarsh Nagar Delhi

3) Bangarapet

4) Bharuch

5) Bidhan Nagar Road

6) Chhapra

7) Chittaranjan

8) Dhone

9) Kahalgaon

10) Kollam

11) Manthralayam Road

12) Miyagam Karjan

13) Nagaon

14) Nagapattinam

15) Palakkad Jn

16) Palakkad Town

17) Palampur (Himachal)

18) Parangipettai

19) Ranapratap Nagar

20) Sewagram

20) Shivaji Bridge

21) Siwan

22) Tiruppadirippuliyur

23) Tirunelveli Jn

24) Varanasi Jn

25) Vijayapura

Answers below. The best efforts were by Sagar Tipnis and Ganesh Iyer.

Quiz-New and old station names