Multilingual railway coaches

You have heard of multilingual signs on railway stations in India. They will have at least 2 languages, English and Hindi and whatever else is widely used in that area-the regional language such as Tamil or Bengali, Urdu in some states and sub-states, the neighboring state’s language and so on.

There are numerous stations with 4 languages, and at least two with 5: Raichur in Karnataka and Krishna in Telangana, which have English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu.

Sometimes it seems illogical to find some languages on a signboard, such as in Cachar and two other districts of Assam where the signs have Bengali and not Assamese. (Nothing unusual since Bengali is the official language here).

Sri Lanka seems to have a strict 3-language formula of Sinhala/English/Tamil which is followed regardless of the Sinhala or Tamil population in a particular place.

Bangladesh has a simpler policy: Only Bengali, except for larger stations where English is added.

Pakistan seems to generally follow the Indian pattern with English and Urdu everywhere and regional languages as well, in Sind and parts of KP province but not in Baluchistan.

A few posts on station signs and language policies are elsewhere on this blog.

Anyway, today we look at an unusual coach in Chennai:

MSM wagon 1

MSM wagon 2

Copyright of these pictures is with the original photographer.

These pictures were taken some years ago at the Perambur workshops (NOT the ICF). Not sure where it is now.

As you can see, this broad gauge troop wagon belonged to the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, and probably dates back to the 1930s or earlier.

In its time, the M & SM (“Mails Slowly Moving”) covered parts of the present Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Thus the sign has English, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil which should cover all eventualities where the wagon would carry troops (Not Malayalam, though the Shoranur-Mangalore section appears to have been under the M & SM for some time).

Also note that a British soldier’s bottom is understood to be larger than his native counterpart’s bottom.

 

Rail Quiz-May 2019

This time it is with a focus on ancient history.

Answers included below. Best results were by Debatra Mazumdar and Jishnu Mukerji.

  1. Look at this old picture of Delhi JnDelhi Jn NWR

Is there something wrong with it? Why or why not?

(Nothing wrong. It was in the North Western Railway until 1948.)

2. You know about the Grand Chord via Gaya and Dhanbad. Why is the word “Grand” used? You know it is a chord line with respect to the “main line” via Patna, so what is grand about it?

(The first line connecting Calcutta to northern India was along the Ganga via Sahibganj and Bhagalpur. This was running by the end of the 1860s. The next shortening was from Burdwan to Kiul via Asansol and Jhajha, which was opened in the 1870s and was called the Chord line. When the distance was shortened still further from Asansol to Mughal Sarai via Dhanbad and Gaya, the route was called the Grand Chord.)

3. Sticking to the Grand Chord, a look at Google Maps or other large-scale maps would show a sharp S-curve at Gaya. Is there any logical reason for this? After all, you would not like to have sharp curves on an important line.

(The Patna-Gaya line was completed first. Naturally as the line was in a north-south direction, the terminus at Gaya was aligned that way. When the Grand Chord came along with its slight north-west direction, there had to be sharp curves. You can see similar curves while traveling north or south through Itarsi. Many similar examples are there.)

4. You know Khanalampura near Saharanpur, which is a newly opened electric loco shed. In the past it was the siteĀ  for one of the largest marshalling yards in India. Now Saharanpur does not seem to be that important a junction, so why was such a yard constructed there?

(It was the main junction for goods interchange between the EIR and NWR, the largest systems of undivided India. It even had the largest steam shunters, the 0-8-0 XGs. These tended to damage the tracks so they became the 2-8-2 XG/Ms.)

5. There are a number of sugar factories along the line between Saharanpur and Meerut. One of them has building with a sign “E.P. Rly 1951”. Explain what this means.

(After partition, the portion of the NWR remaining in India was called the East Punjab Railway. This covered practically all of the present Punjab, Haryana and Delhi and parts of UP and Rajasthan. By 1954 it became part of the new Northern Railway.)

6. On August 13, 1947 which was the northern-most station on IR?

(Dargai in NWFP, on a branch going north from Nowshera. It has been closed for several years now.)

7. On August 13, 1947 which was the western-most station on IR? It was not (and still is not) part of India or even Pakistan.

(Zahidan (and Mirjawa to its east). They are in Iran, and Zahidan (earlier Duzdap) was the western terminus of the NWR and thus IR. There was apparently no stoppage at the border then. At that time Nok Kundi in Baluchistan was the westernmost station of IR in India. Trains ran from Quetta to Zahidan. Today the line still functions but there does not seem to be more than one train in either direction in a week.)

8. Walajah Road is a relatively minor station now. But it has an important place in India’s railway history. Why? And what was its earlier name?

(The first passenger train in South India ran from Madras (Royapuram) to here in 1855. It was then called Arcot, although that town is some distance away and has not been connected by rail yet.)

9. Until Partition, which was the only stoppage for most express trains between Amritsar and Lahore? Why was it an important station?

(While Atari and Wagah stations existed, they were served only by slow passenger trains. The one stop was at Moghalpura (one stop east of Lahore Jn), which was an important railway centre with a number of workshops and offices. It was earlier called Meean Meer East and then Lahore Cantt East).

10. Which station on the former EIR was the site of a long siege during the War of Independence in 1857?

(Arrah (now Ara) to the west of Patna. It is covered well in most histories of the war. Though the besieged building may not have been the station building, it was close to the line being constructed and was largely manned by troops and others connected to the railways.)

Bonus: What similarity do you see between Abu Dhabi airport and Castle Rock station?

(A bit complex. Castle Rock is last station in British India (Bombay province) and independent India (Mysore state, later Karnataka) before entering Goa. Naturally, this was an international border until the end of 1961. The Portuguese customs and immigration staff were posted here and conducted their checks, before passengers could continue their journey to Goa.

Now the US has a similar agreement with several airports such as Abu Dhabi, Dublin and Shannon in Ireland, and several others in the Caribbean and Canada. There is even one such post at Vancouver station in Canada. The US CBP conducts their checks here. If they don’t like you, it saves them the problem of sending you back from the US. And they cannot arrest you either.)

Railway quiz-April 2019

Note that there is an underlying theme in most of the questions. If you understand this theme it will help.

  1. What do these stations have in common? For the bottom one, go by the sign you can see rather than the station name. Click to enlarge.

A: They are zonal headquarters but not divisional headquarters. The HQ of SER is near Howrah but there is no Howrah division of SER. In fact SER is a guest of ER at Howrah. (However, there is an Howrah division of ER). Similarly for Hajipur, Gorakhpur and Maligaon (in Guwahati city).

2. What connects the first 4 stations here? And what connected the 5th (bottom right) to the first 4 later?

A: SC, BZA, SUR and UBL were the original constituents of SCR when it was formed in 1966. SC and SUR were in CR, BZA and UBL in SR. After a few years SUR was moved back to CR and GTL was moved from SR to SCR.

3. What unusual feature does this station have (considering the above theme):

Nagpur

A: Nagpur is in CR and the SECR joins there. There is a Nagpur division both in CR and SECR. Like SER in Howrah, SECR does not own the Nagpur station.

4. What unusual features do these stations have (again, considering the above theme plus something else):

A: Chakradharpur, Danapur, Nanded and Izatnagar are divisional headquarters which are not junctions. Note: Izat is correct, not Izzat although even local people get this wrong.

5. The same theme, but somewhat different. What connects these stations? Think of pre-independence days.

A: Baroda, Gwalior, Trichnopoly and Jodhpur were zonal headquarters in the past but not now: for the Gaekwad of Baroda’s State Railway, Scindia State Railway, South Indian Railway and Jodhpur State Railway. Other examples include Bikaner, Mysore, Jaipur and several others.

Note: the best attempt was by Santosh Kulkarni, also known as Sant Kulk.

 

Where passenger trains do not stop

Earlier we looked at stations where train services no longer exist:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/where-trains-do-not-run-any-more/

Here are some apparently full-fledged and manned stations where no passenger service exists in the timetables. There are various reasons why this could happen.

The examples in this post are certainly not an exhaustive list.

We start with this station in the middle of Jaipur:

Bais Godam.jpg

This lies south of Jaipur Jn on the way to Sawai Madhopur. It was in the timetables up to the early 90s. Now it is an active station which has the main yard for storing rakes of long distance trains based in Jaipur. But it is not in the timetable.

Near Hyderabad we have:

Pagidipalli

Pagidapalli looks like a real station. And it is a junction where the line to Nalgonda and Nadikude branches off from the Hyderabad-Kazipet line. But no passenger service has ever existed since it was opened around 1990.

Closer to Hyderabad there is:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hussain Sagar was a small junction mentioned in the timetables of the 1970s. Now the outlines of the platforms can be seen, but only the cabin still functions.

In Goa:

 

 

Dudhsagar was once in the timetable when it the Londa-Vasco section was MG. After conversion to BG a new platform was built as a viewing point. No passenger services are scheduled to stop at either, though unscheduled stops are common. Tourists make good use of these stops, even though leopards and other animals are known to roam the area.

No passenger train has scheduled stops at any point between Kulem and Castle Rock. Other stations on this section include this pair:

 

However, they have long sidings to cater to crossings of goods trains.

Sonaulim has somehow become Sonalium, which sounds like an exotic metal.

On the way from Kalyan to Igatpuri, the semi-stations of Thansit and Oombermali/Umbarmali have existed for decades but never appeared in timetables. Many trains (including EMUs going to Kasara) did stop there for technical purposes. Finally in 2018 they have become full stations:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/umbarmali-thansit-are-now-official-stoppages-for-trains-on-kalyan-kasara-line/story-VUuNtbJMc6Wt1mijYEEBDP.html

The stations have been improved, including new signboards which greet the EMUs between CSTM and Kasara which now have scheduled stops.

Umbarmali

One more is Hubballi South:

Hubballi South

As you can see, the sign has recently been repainted as the name was changed from Hubli South. But no passenger train has been scheduled there for years.

Chakrakhwal is between Udhampur and Katra. Most trains stop there for crossing purposes in the middle of a single line section of 25 km. But these stoppages are not listed in the timetable.

This is in an unpopulated area. The station was located here as it was in the only flat area of a suitable length between the two stations.

Chakrakhwal

Finally, a near miss. This oddly-named cabin serves as an important junction near Salem, where the line to Bengaluru (besides Mettur Dam) takes off from the Coimbatore-Chennai route.

Magnesite

For a short period in 2017-18 one passenger train stopped at Magnesite Jn in one direction. Now that has vanished from the timetable.

More odd station signs around India

(Copyright of the pictures rest with the respective photographers)

If one looks at the use of words in English, Hindi and other languages on station signs then many inconsistencies can be found. Here are samples from different parts of the country.

North Lakhimpur

We start with this place in a somewhat remote part of Assam. North is transcribed into Hindi, but one can make out that it is “Uttor” in Assamese.

It is a normal practice to use the Hindi word “Chhavni” for Cantonment. Not everywhere. Here are two examples from Karnataka, where both Chhavni and Hindi Cantonment are used:

Our next stop is the station formerly known as Chakki Bank and now Pathankot Cantt. See the Hindi and Punjabi signs at the same station:

Hope the concerned persons have made up their mind now.

Similarly at Nellore South where both Dakshin and Hindi South are/were used:

(Can someone clarify what is written in Telugu?)

Elsewhere in South India, a standard pattern for Hindi words is not followed:

bengaluru eastkannur southernakulam townernakulam jncoimbatore north

Note that South and Town have been transcribed (not translated) into Malayalam. (Can someone clarify what is written in Kannada for Bengaluru East?)

Various forts:

ankai killachennai fortbekal fortagra fort

 

In Chennai, the Tamil word has been transcribed into Hindi. In Ankai Killa, the suffix is in Hindi unlike in the other places.

Now to some well-known stations in Assam which are now closed:

Lower Haflong closedHaflong Hill

The words Lower and Hill have been transcribed into Hindi and Assamese.

There are many “New” stations on the NF zone, but only one “Old”:New Cooch BeharNew TinsukiaOld Malda

Here the words New and Old have been transcribed into Hindi, Bengali and Assamese.

But for variety we have:

New Amravati is in Maharashtra, hence the top line is supposed to be in Marathi.

Our last stop is at Agra, which has Cantt, Fort and City:

Agra FortAgra CityAgra Cantt

Here at least a consistent pattern has been followed.

But you can see that the usage of English words in Hindi and other languages is quite arbitrary all over the country.

 

Odd station signs in Chennai

Note these station signs where the Hindi inscription seems to have been taken from Tamil rather than English:

Now compare the sign of Park Town above (top right) with the nearby Park:

Chennai Park

One wonders about the logic.

Finally, a similar one from Coimbatore:

Coimbatore North

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.