Madras to Lucknow by Metre Gauge in 1976

We are now almost at the end of our look back of the long journeys which could theoretically have been made wholly by metre gauge in the past. Today we take up Madras to Lucknow.

Those who have followed this blog for a while would know that this involves going up the line to Delhi. At Phulera we deviate from the Ringas route and proceed to Jaipur and Bandikui. From there, we head east to Bharatpur, Achnera, Mathura and beyond.

Madras to Ahmedabad by Metre Gauge in 1976

The Navjivan Express started running in the late 1970s. It was the first train from South India to Gujarat. Until then the usual practice was to change at Bombay, and the interchange between CR and WR was puzzling to those travelling for the first time. However, it was theoretically possible to travel entirely by metre gauge between Madras and Ahmedabad. This beacame a little simpler with the opening of the Udaipur-Himatnagar line in the mid-1960s. Earlier the terminus was a relatively small station called Udaipur. This new line involved the construction of a larger station for Udaipur City, while the old Udaipur became Ranapratap Nagar.

This would be the MG route:

Today, there are numerous trains from the southern states to Ahmedabad and beyond.

Delhi to Trivandrum by Metre Gauge in 1970

This is probably the last instalment of MG routes from Delhi to the major cities in South India. Trivandrum came on BG in late 1975, so this time we imagine a journey in 1970. One could also imagine a link express from Quilon to Ernakulam.

This comes to 3249 km, which is just over 2000 miles. Probably it would take a week.

In 1970, TVC was indeed the southern-most station in India as its latitude was less than that of Tiruchendur, which remained on MG until 2000 or later.

Delhi to Mangalore by Metre Gauge in 1980

Our next long trip by metre gauge from North to South involves the Hassan-Mangalore line which was opened in 1979. So we use the route and station names as they were in timetables of the early 1980s. As before, we provide the present station names when they have changed significantly.

Compare the 2845 km with 2524 km by the present BG trains between Nizamuddin and MAQ by the Konkan route, which was not fully opened until the late 1990s. There would also be a nasty ghat section between Hassan and Mangalore.

Madras to Goa by Metre Gauge in 1962

Having seen how to get from Madras to Poona entirely by metre gauge, we now deviate slightly from Londa to give an all-MG and all-SR route from Madras to Vasco-da-Gama, the main station for Goa.

See this for Madras-Poona: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2022/11/18/madras-to-poona-by-metre-gauge-in-1962/

Note that this route, like the Madras-Poona route, lay entirely in SR in 1962.

Rishi Sunak and Gujarat

As we know, Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton, England. His parents earlier lived in East Africa. And one or both grandfathers were from Gujranwala in West Punjab.

So it is a little odd to find a place named Sunak in a particularly isolated place in Aravalli district of Gujarat.

It lies on the Himatnagar-Dungarpur section of the Ahmedabad-Udaipur line. This section was opened in the mid-1960s on metre gauge, and reopened on broad gauge in late 2022. This is about 118 km from Ahmedabad and 180 km from Udaipur. The line is presently served by a single pair of express trains, which do not stop at many stations including this one.

According to reports in Gujarati papers, the station was originally called Sunokh and was recently renamed to Sunak.

(Naturally, his ancestors from Gujranwala would have no reason to travel here).

This picture was taken in 2016 when metre gauge trains were still running.

Now see this article in a recent Gujarati newspaper, with a current picture of Sunak station on broad gauge:

If you can read Gujarati, the gist seems to be that the station was renamed recently when the line was converted. On the face of it, this seems to be true.

However, I have looked at timetables going back to 1994 and have seen the station was listed as Sunak and never as Sunokh. This is not the only case where the name in the timetable does not match with the actual sign at the station. This has been commented on by many researchers, such as the indefatigable Jim Fergusson. In fact, the Fergusson station lists also show that it was always listed as Sunak in timetables going back to the 1960s.

I would think that the station was originally supposed to be called Sunak but the painter for some reason painted it as Sunokh. Supervision of small things like this is often lax. Finally someone noticed this and changed the sign when the new line was opened.

Hope that someone forwards this to 10 Downing Street, before someone starts claiming that the Sunak family was actually from Gujarat.

Footnote: The Fergusson station lists can be found here:

https://www.branchline.uk/jf.ph

Go to Asia, then India and then the zone which presently covers your area of interest.

Thanks to Ganesh Iyer for locating these pictures.

A to Z of Indian railway stations

There are numerous directories of railway stations in India. They do not all agree.

Some will list the first station (in an alphabetical list) as AB Junction near Agra Cantt. But it is a cabin and not a station.

The first station in the list is Abada (near Howrah on the way to Kharagpur):

Then there is this place on the Bengaluru-Hassan section on the SWR:

In some sources it is listed as Aadi….. so that would make it the first in the alphabetical list. Of course, there are many cases where the name on the station sign differs from the name listed in timetables or elsewhere.

The last entry is more clear-cut:

This is on the Suratgarh-Shri Ganganagar section in Rajasthan, on the NWR.

Coming to junction stations.

The first one is Abhanpur, near Raipur in Chhattisgarh. It was a narrow-gauge junction which is presently closed for conversion

So the first junction (which is presently functioning) is Abohar in Punjab:

No dispute about the last junction, Zafarabad near Jaunpur in eastern UP:

The Dacca Mail of 1944

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:

Delhi to Bangalore by metre gauge in 1976

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).

Delhi-Madras has been covered here: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2021/09/18/delhi-to-madras-by-metre-gauge-in-1976/

Madras-Bangalore has been covered here: https://abn397.wordpress.com/2022/01/02/madras-to-bangalore-by-metre-gauge-in-1976/

Those who have timetables of 1976 or thereabout can work out suitable combinations of trains to cover this route. Examples could be Delhi-Ajmer, Ajmer-Secunderabad, Secunderabad-Bangalore.

Compare this with the BG route via Madras.

The new line to Krishnapatnam port

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.

A very brief summary is here:

https://www.rvnl.org/en/AnnualReportsDocuments/RVNL%20ANNUAL%20REPORT%202015-16%20ENGLISH.pdf

See p 35 of the pdf which corresponds to p 33 of the booklet.

A map of the route:

Obula line map

While this is a screenshot from a TV report, it must have been an official map to start with.

Other articles:

https://www.projectstoday.com/News/Krishnapatnam-Port-Venkatachalam-Obulavaripalle-railway-line-makes-progress

and

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/first-freight-train-between-obulavaripalli-and-venkatachalam-operated/article28139362.ece

The list of stations can be got from the RBS tables (where you have to ask for the “goods” option rather than “coach”).

Obu-Kri line cropped

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:

Obu-Kri line crossing

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.

Details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rail_tunnels_in_India_by_length

and https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/scr-commissions-longest-electrified-tunnel/article28276234.ece

There are numerous video clips (in Telugu) on Youtube describing this route with an emphasis on the tunnel.

Also note:

ObulavaripalliVenkatachalam road

Also see these pictures of some of the intermediate stations:

Cherlopalli

Nidiguntapalem

The mysteries of HPS 32 at the Howrah railway museum

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.

Common names in India and Bangladesh

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: