From the Bradshaw of June 1944, long before today’s Maitri Express or even the East Bengal Mail of the early 1960s, though it followed the same route as the latter.
At that time the route was on the short-lived Bengal & Assam Railway.
As you may know, it crossed the future Radcliffe Line between Banpur and Darsana and terminated at Goalundo Ghat, which was a terminus from Pordaha on the main line to Siliguri. The passengers than got on to a ferry to Narayanganj, and then got onto a local train for the short journey to Dacca. The present main station in Dhaka called Kamalapur is at a different location from the old station, which closed in the 1960s.
Summary of the overall journey:
Here the Dacca Mail (No 7) leaves Sealdah at 21.10, reaches Goalundo Ghat at 05.05. The ferry left at 05.50 and reached Narayanganj at 13.00. A local train left there at 13.12 and reached Dacca at 14.10. Note that some passenger trains ran beyond Dacca to destinations such as Mymensingh.
At the bottom of the page you can see the 8 Mail leaving Dacca at 11.30, reaching Narayanganj at 12.04. The ferry left at 12.45 and reached Goalundo Ghat at 21.30. The train left there at 23.00, reaching Sealdah at 06.20.
Here you can see the full timetable between Sealdah and Goalundo in both directions:
The above timetable does not show timings between Sealdah and Ranaghat. These can be seen below:
You can also see the timings of the Darjeeling Mail of 1944 (from the same source) here:
With the near-complete removal of metre gauge from all important routes starting from the late 1970s, it would be a surprise to younger railfans that as late as 1976 it was possible to travel from Delhi Jn to Bangalore City wholly by metre gauge. (At that time there was no train from Delhi to Bangalore, though there were through coaches on the GT Express and Madras/Bangalore Express. The Kerala-Karnataka Express was yet to appear.)
There was, of course, no such MG train but by a series of reasonably good MG expresses it was possible to make this journey of 2389 km. The BG route via Madras would be a little longer at 2536 km.
Let us begin our journey from Delhi Jn. I have taken the distances from the 1976 All India Time Table. Spelling of names are from that period. Inflated distances were being charged between Khandwa and Hingoli, so I have taken actual distances.
Between Rewari and Phulera I have taken the route via Ringas rather than the better-known route via Jaipur, as the former is shorter.
This route passes through DL, HR, RJ, MP, MH, AP and KA. (Also TG which did not exist then).
This new line in Andhra Pradesh has been in the news lately. It is similar to the Dedicated Freight Corridors in that it is primarily meant for freight traffic (iron ore export) and there is no present plan to use it for passenger services.
There are, of course, a number of short freight-only lines on IR. This line is unusual in that it is over 100 km long and because it may well serve as a short cut between widely separated parts of a state. And it is electrified from the start.
The list of stations can be got from the RBS tables (where you have to ask for the “goods” option rather than “coach”).
There are some discrepancies between this table and the map shown above. Perhaps all the stations have not been completed yet.
It would be useful for passenger services between Kadapa and the east coast from Nellore and beyond, as Renigunta and Gudur would be bypassed.
But presently there is a problem with this, which will be apparent from this map of the eastern end of this line:
The new line crosses a flyover (between Kommarpudi and Venkatachalam) over the Gudur-Vijayawada line with no simple connection to the latter. Thus a prospective Nandalur-Gudur passenger or Kadapa-Vijayawada Express would have to reverse at Venkatachalam Road.
The route includes a tunnel about 6.6 km long (between Cherlopalli and Rapuru) which is being described as the “longest electrified rail tunnel in India” which may be correct today. But there will be longer tunnels in J and K which will be electrified over the next few years.
There are many mysteries about this locomotive. Is it really an HPS? Where did it come from? If it came from East Pakistan, how did it come?
Presuming that it was owned by the Pakistan Eastern Railway (the name used from 1961 to around 1972), the most logical answer to this is that it was operating a scheduled passenger service between East Pakistan and Calcutta (Sealdah). The normal practice is that the locomotive would be changed either at the last station in Pakistan or the first station in India. That is being followed even in 2022.
These services were abruptly stopped during the 1965 war. At some point during this war, this locomotive probably happened to enter India on its way to Gede or Bangaon or Petrapol and was “captured” by India. There was no land war in the east in 1965, although there were air attacks by both sides.
No scheduled passenger services ran between India and East Pakistan/Bangladesh until 2008. It is known that goods services had started some years before that. And military trains ran between India and East Pakistan/Bangladesh during and after the 1971 war.
There may be various other ways in which the locomotive came to be in India, but I am not going into them. It is just possible that it was brought into India in 1971-72 as some kind of “war trophy” as some Pakistani tanks were. But it was not displayed in public until recent years.
We now pick up the story in 1985, when a British railfan took this picture in 1985 at Bandel:
You can just make out the number 32 on the cab.
A few years ago this loco made its way to the Howrah Railway Museum. This is what you will see now:
Numerous other pictures can be found on the net. It has been painted in a nice shade of green. The tender is that of a different type of locomotive (but this is not so significant as there were many mismatched locos and tenders over the years).
What is significant is the inscription. It is clearly made by someone from the Howrah museum who thought it should be like this.
The questions are:
Bangla was one of the official languages of Pakistan from around 1954 to 1972 or a bit later. Pakistani postage stamps and other government documents did have Bangla as well as Urdu during this period. Station signs in East Pakistan then had inscriptions in both languages, as you can see in these pictures from the 1971 war:
But why would anything operating in East Pakistan at that time have Urdu and not Bangla?
Here is a rather bad picture of a PER coach:
One can just make out the Bangla inscription “Purbo Pakistan Railway”, followed by PE (the official abbreviation) followed by an Urdu inscription. (Perhaps some reader will be able to say what is written in Urdu).
A typical Pakistani stamp issued in 1971 or earlier, overprinted with Bangladesh:
Now come back to the present-day picture.
It says “East Pakistan Railway” but nothing of that name existed in the past. As mentioned above, it should be “Pakistan Eastern railway” or PE. Wagons and coaches were also marked PE.
The Urdu inscription has been checked by a couple of friends who know the language. It reads “Purvi Pakistan Railway”. That is not Urdu (as the first word would correctly have been something like “Mashriqi”). In fact, the Urdu inscription seems to be transliteration from Hindi “Purvi” rather than Bangla “Purba”. Please correct me if this is wrong.
Conclusion: It is interesting to speculate on various questions:
If it is not an HPS, why was this marked as one?
The records show that HPS 32 was listed under the PER. (p 38 of Hughes, Vol 1 (1990), also p.82 of Hughes, Vol 4 (1996)). However, the manufacturer and date of manufacture are not given.
How did it come to be in places far from the border, such as Bandel?
And whoever painted the inscriptions in English and Urdu was not instructed properly. (Why? There are certainly some people in West Bengal who know Urdu properly.)
While this probably isn’t something to worry about, it just shows the shoddiness which is associated with IR’s restoration works. There are many examples of garishly painted locos (Pink? Blue?) plinthed in different parts of the country.
We have already looked at places in India and Pakistan with the same or very similar names.
A few such combinations can be found in India and Bangladesh.
The most well known would be Jamalpur in Bihar and Jamalpur Town in Bangladesh:
The different names date from before Partition. Perhaps the Railway Board was more strict about avoiding duplication of names.
Going to lesser-known places:
The latter was built recently on the line from the Bangabandhu Bridge to Joydebpur and Dhaka.
Nawabganj near Ayodhya in UP and the larger Chapai Nawabganj in Bangladesh.
This is in MP, between Itarsi and Bhopal
The one in Bangladesh is probably more important.
Similarly, this station in Assam is quite small. It is between Badarpur and Karimganj. The sign in in Bangla and not Assamese as the former is the local language here. This picture was taken some years ago before it was converted from MG to BG.
While this brand-new station, also called Bhanga, is set to become a major junction in Bangladesh. It is south of Faridpur and near the new Padma bridge.
Next we come to a new station in Tripura:
The town of Belonia, like Hili, spreads over India and Bangladesh.
Earlier there was a branch from Feni to Belonia on the Bangladesh side, but it closed a few decades ago.
Finally, the notorious station of Hili in Bangladesh which is right on the border with India:
It will be connected to Balurghat in the near future. The IR station will be different from the BR station shown above.
Daulatpur Chowk, recently opened in Himachal Pradesh:
Daulatpur near Khulna:
This station near Kolkata is now closed and will be replaced by a metro station:
While its counterpart in Dhaka is on the main line going east, and has many important trains stopping there:
As you know, there are three pairs of trains running between India and Bangladesh: The Bandhan Express between Kolkata and Khulna, the Maitree Express between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantt, and the Mitali Express between New Jalpaiguri and Dhaka Cantt.
Of these, only the Bandhan Express has an exact counterpart from before Partition. This was known as the Barisal Express which ran between Sealdah and Khulna. The railway has not reached Barisal (now Barishal) yet, though this may happen in the near future.
The Barisal Express of 1944 is covered here;
That was running between 2017 and 2020, and has restarted in 2022. The main details are here:
Note that the rake has 4 AC-1 and 4 AC chair coaches and no other passenger coaches. In general, Indian rakes and Bangladeshi rakes are used on alternate days.
An IR diesel (normally a Howrah WDM-3D) hauls the train between Kolkata and Benapole, which is about 2 km beyond the border. A BR diesel (normally an Ishurdi WDM-3A) takes it onward to Khulna. The track is electrified up to Bangaon, so an electric loco could have been used up to there.
The timetables showing all intermediate stations:
Note the stoppages at Petrapole, Benapol and Jessore
Concluding this set of posts with some more videos and pictures of this route, with emphasis on the Dorabavi viaduct and its remnants. The remnants can be seen near the Bogada tunnel in the direction of Chelama (or Nandyal).
First, the mileage details from a current railway website:
New stations at Nandipalli and Kistamsettipalli have come up in recent years.
Here we have a rather detailed video which covers the Nandyal-Giddalur section, which gives a reasonable view of the forests. It does show all the stations listed above.
One thing this vlogger missed was the remains of the Dorabavi viaduct, which can be seen on the other side of the track.
Doubling of the track between Nandyal and Giddalur is expected to start in 2022 and may take a few years.
Basic details of the viaduct from a website of the railways:
Here a guide takes you around the remains of the viaduct (Commentary in Telugu with English subtitles. Among other things, you get a good view of the present line from a height and can see a long goods train passing).
There are, of course, a wide variety of blogposts and videos covering the Nallamalla region along the rail line. In this and earlier posts I have included some which I felt were more useful.
Here we concentrate on the information about the railway stations on this route.
In 1935, distances are given in miles:
In 1976, the route is still metre gauge but distances are in kilometres:
This matches the miles from 1935.
After conversion to BG, these are the distances in kilometres:
* At new location
Note that Basavapuram and Bogara stations were not listed in the timetables in 1935 and later.
Comparing 1976 and 2021:
Distance from Nandyal to Gazulapalli practically same. (2021 data is more accurate).
Distance from Gazulapalli to Chelama* is 10.8 km vs 18 km to old Chelama.
Distance from Chelama* to Diguvametta is 16.7 km vs 25 km from Old Chelama
Distance from Diguvametta to Giddalur is 11.5 km is practically the same.
Thus, in the entire Nandyal-Giddalur section there is a saving of about 14.4 km.
Many of the curves have been removed.
The line is BG and electrified, but not doubled yet.
A sketch of the new and old alignments (based on the Great Indian Railway Atlas, 2015):
I have tried to fit in the most relevant items.
Dorabavi viaduct (about 1 km) between Chelama (old) and Bogara, near the latter.
Bogada tunnel on BG, about 1.6 km long, between Chelama (new) and Diguvametta.
Chelama tunnel on BG , about 0.28 km long, a little west of Chelama (new).
The old and new alignments diverge west of Gazulapalli, and east of Diguvametta. However, the pillars of the Dorabavi viaduct can be seen to the north just west of the Bogada tunnel on the BG line.
Here is a video taken from the brake van of a west-bound goods train starting from a point near Diguvametta, passing through the Bogada tunnel, Chelama (new) station and the shorter Chelama tunnel. It ends short of Gazulapalli. From around 4.15 to 4.50 (just after the tunnel) you can see the pillars of the viaduct. Also note the musical accompaniment.
Will wrap up with some more details in the next instalment.
Our first stop is in Punjab, where Punjabi is the official language. Signboards in railway stations are expected to be in English, Hindi as well as the state’s official language if it is not English or Hindi.
We see that “Chhavni” is the word for “Cantonment” in Hindi and Punjabi, although some places use Cantt in these languages.
Now to Uttarakhand, where the official languages are Hindi and Sanskrit. Earlier Urdu was an official language when UK was part of UP. See the old and new signs here:
(New). Note the addition and subtraction of languages.
In UP, the official languages are Hindi and Urdu (but not Sanskrit). Now see some newly painted signs:
This is the old sign for Manduadih, a suburb of Varanasi. Recently it was renamed:
Note that both Sanskrit and Urdu are here.
The main station in Varanasi is:
They haven’t thought of adding Sanskrit here. Surely this station is more deserving than Manduadih, which most people outside this area have never heard of.
One more example of old and new:
New. It is not to be confused with the existing Ayodhya:
Here is another city in UP:
Now, what will strike you is that “Chhavni” is the standard word for “Cantonment” in Hindi-speaking states and neighboring states.
Why does the Hindi inscription at Ayodhya Cantt have “Cantt” and the Sanskrit inscription “Chhavni”? Isn’t there any suitable word in Sanskrit?
Finally we visit a few more stations elsewhere in India:
In Southern India, Hindi script could have Chhavni or Cantonment.
And in Bengal and Bangladesh, “Cantonment” is used in Hindi as well as Bengali:
The last one is Chattogram Cantonment.
Stop trying to look for consistency in languages used and in nomenclature. There isn’t any.
The northern-most railway station in India is Sopore, at lat 34.26 N. The terminus of this line is Baramula, at 34.22 N
It seems unlikely that any line will be built further north. If the railway finally reaches Leh, it will still be at around the same latitude as Srinagar.
The northernmost station:
and the northernmost terminus:
You know that Ghum (near Darjeeling) is the highest station in India at 2258 M, which is on narrow gauge.
And Udagamandalam is the highest on metre gauge, at 2210 M.
The highest on broad gauge is in Kashmir, where the little-known station of Hiller Shahabad (between Banihal and Qazigund, just north of the tunnel) is at 1757 M
You may notice something odd about the Hindi inscription.
However, if a line to Leh gets built it will reach at least 3500 M which will be by far the highest point on the Indian Railways.
Our last stop today is a remnant of the old Sialkot-Jammu line, which must have shut down soon after Partition.
Here you can see the services listed in June 1944:
In the middle section, we can see that services were limited to two pairs of passenger trains between Wazirabad and Jammu via Sialkot.
The international border between Pakistan’s Punjab and the present UT of Jammu and Kashmir fell between Suchetgarh and Ranbirsinghpura, 15.86 miles from Jammu and 9.08 miles from Sialkot (approximately 25.5 and 14.6 km respectively). However, it appears that a part of Suchetgarh town is in India.
The last station on the Indian side can still be seen:
You can just make out the station name.
The history of this line after partition is not properly documented. Probably services would have stopped shortly after partition, and the rails on the Indian side would soon have been pulled up as the route was not useful. Meanwhile, the Indian BG network crept up from Pathankot to Madhopur (Punjab) and Kathua, reaching the new Jammu Tawi station in 1972.
This accident on July 17, 1937 was probably the worst railway accident in India until then. Even if it did not have the highest death toll among accidents prior to that, it certainly attracted the most publicity.
This was the derailment of the 18 Up Punjab Express while approaching Bihta station on the Mughal Sarai-Patna section.
The preceding station at that time was Koelwar. Bihta is about 27 km west of Patna and 17 km west of Danapur.
Initial reports mentioned sabotage as a possibility. However, the truth was more complicated than that.
This picture appears in “Indian Broad Gauge Steam Remembered” by LG Marshall (2009). The caption summarizes the findings of the numerous inquiries into the accident.
You can see that the loco is XB 1916 of the EIR (East Indian Railway).
The reports do not clearly mention where the Punjab Express was coming from, except that it was going from Mughal Sarai to Howrah. In the 1935 Bradshaw its route was shown as being from Lahore via Saharanpur and Lucknow.
The “guilty” loco was based at Jhajha shed and was normally used for express trains from there to Mughal Sarai and back.
The Inspectorate report on the accident is not available on the net. Some other material such as the judicial inquiry report and the more comprehensive Pacific Locomotive Enquiry report were available some time ago, but not now.
You can search on Google, but do not be misled by an article by Ken Staynor which confuses this with another accident which had occurred in the same general area (east of Patna) in 1934. For more on that accident, see this: