Zones and divisions of the Indian Railways

May be of interest to those who are into the study of the Indian Railways all over the country:

http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=137331

Warning-not all the spellings are correct.

It is interesting if one wants to see how the newer zones were created. A rather obvious case is the North Western Railway which was formed from Jodhpur and Bikaner divisions of NR and Jaipur and Ajmer divisions of WR, thus creating a zone whose jurisdiction covers most of Rajasthan.

Similarly, the East Central Railway was formed from Danapur, Dhanbad and Mughalsarai divisions of ER and Samastipur and Sonpur divisions of NER, thus covering most of Bihar.

The North Central Railway has a rather mixed parentage. It includes the divisions of Allahabad (ex NR), Jhansi (ex CR) and Agra (a new division with bits and pieces of WR, CR and NR, perhaps even NER).

One particularly odd thing is the Waltair division. Waltair is a suburb of Visakhapatnam where the main railway station is located. Waltair was renamed to Visakhapatnam over two decades ago but the division name remains.

But there are counter-examples of this. On SR there used to be the Olavakkot division which became the Palghat division and finally the Palakkad division, in line with the changes of the name of the station.

There are plenty of other points of interest in this listing, particularly for those into the history of IR.

More odd station signs in India

A number of odd things can be seen in station signs if one keeps one’s eyes open. Here are a couple picked up from the net. Copyrights of the pictures are that of their respective creators.

First, this one from New Delhi.

New Delhi..

Nothing out of the way, right? Now see this one, also from New Delhi:

New Delhi unofficial

See how the Punjabi inscription has been added. Just wondering if this was done by the railway staff or someone else.

Something similar has happened at Titagarh station near Barrackpore.

First see this one of Barrackpore, which can be taken as the “standard practice” in this area:

Barrackpore

It can be seen that it has Bengali, Hindi and English.

Now see the sign at Titagarh:

Titagarh

It looks as if  an unofficial Urdu inscription has been added, like in the case of New Delhi above. Thanks to those who pointed this out.

It does look to be unofficial as the official signs would have the inscriptions of different languages to be of similar sizes and not in relatively tiny sizes as in these two examples.

To end on a lighter note, here is a more humorous example of modifying signs (this time from England):

Turban outfitters

Good neigbours

Examples of station signs with languages of neighbouring states.

Copyrights of the pictures belong to the respective photographers.

Raichur station-5 languages

Raichur in Karnataka and close to Telangana. Has Telugu apart from English, Hindi, Kannada and Urdu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nearby in Telangana there is Krishna. Has Kannada apart from English, Hindi, Telugu and Urdu.

kollengode-4

Kollengode, Kerala. Has Tamil apart from Malayalam.

Pollachi_junction_station_name_board

Pollachi, Tamil Nadu. Has Malayalam apart from Tamil.

Sini

Sini, near Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. Has Odiya and Bengali.

Finally, Pimpalkhuti in Maharashtra, close to Telangana.

pimpalkhuti

Another odd thing. Many stations in Maharashtra have separate inscriptions for Hindi and Marathi even if they are identical, but not here. A typical example is this one from Miraj where Hindi and Marathi inscriptions are identical:

Miraj

These are a few samples of good neighbourliness. Numerous other cases can be seen in other parts of India.

Station signs in undivided India

Here are some pictures of stations and signs as they were in the 1940s or earlier. It is interesting to see the languages used in some of  the signs, as these places are now in Pakistan

First, Karachi Cantt in the 1940s (from a film shot by a British soldier):

Karachi Cantt-1

Lahore, probably 1940s:

Lahore-just-before-Partition

Landi Khana. This is truly a rare picture, as it could have been taken only between 1926 and 1932. Note the Gurumukhi script.

LANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Landi Kotal, probably 1930s:

Landi Kotal Railway Station during British Raj

Landi Kotal another old

Shelabagh, close to Chaman on the border with Afghanistan and not too far from Kandahar. Note the southern end of the Khojak tunnel:

Shelabagh (old)

And finally Tanduri, on the now-closed Sibi-Khost section. It appeared in the 1891 timetable and never again. Perhaps the extreme heat gave it its name and hastened its closure:

Tanduri

(This picture seems to have been taken in 2009). The sign does look to be a century old.

Finally, this is what you would see while entering British India from Afghanistan at the Khyber Pass border checkpoint in the 1930s:

Afghan border

Afghan border (4)

It is easy to guess that the milestone refers to Peshawar, Jamrud and Landi Kotal. The station of Landi Khana was still closer to the border. It appears that an embankment and maybe rails were laid from there to the border, but trains never ran on them.

And when you tried to cross into Afghanistan at other points on the border, you would see this:

Afghan border(3)

Mannargudi, its mafia and its railway connections

Today we hear a lot about this nondescript town in Tamil Nadu:

mannargudi

It is not even in the top 20 cities of Tamil Nadu when ranked by population. However, the term “Mannargudi Mafia” has come to mean a group of people connected with the CM-aspirant Ms VK Sasikala. Google for “Mannargudi Mafia” if you are not familiar with this aspect of TN politics. For instance, see: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/nation-world/all-you-wanted-to-know-about-sasikala-and-mannargudi-mafia/what-is-mannargudi-mafia-/slideshow/57021899.cms

Even Wikipedia cannot find anything out of the ordinary here except for the presence of some moderately important temples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannargudi

Ms Sasikala was not born here, but at a more tongue-twisting place called:

ttp-jn

Mercifully we can use the station code for TTP here. It is maybe a little bit larger than Mannargudi. While Mannargudi has enjoyed a railway revival of a sort in the last few years, TTP has not seen trains running for the last few years due to gauge conversion. It also used to have a branch line running to the quaintly named Point Calimere (later Kodikkarai) but that line may or may not be reopened.

Of course, the phrase Mannargudi Mafia sounds catchy, just like the Maharashtra Mafia and Malayali Mafia we may have heard about elsewhere. How about a Mathura Mafia? In other countries there may be a Manchester Mafia or a Massachusetts Mafia, but probably not one from Maine as it is not important enough in US politics.

We now move back to the strange history of the railways in and around Mannargudi and its feeder junction Nidamangalam:

nidamangalam

(Note the new trend of mentioning the PIN code on station signboards).

In the early 1860s, the predecessors of the South Indian Railway built a broad gauge line all the way from Erode to Trichnopoly, Tanjore and Negapatnam (those being the spellings used at the time). A wayside station now called Sikkal was then listed as Sickle.

By the mid-1870s, the South Indian Railway Company (with HQ at what is now Tiruchchirapalli) had decided that MG would be used through most of its territory. By the end of the 1870s the above mentioned line from Erode to Negapatnam was converted to MG. An MG extension to Nagore was opened in 1899, and a branch from Nidamangalam to Mannargudi still later in 1915.

Erode to TPJ was converted back to BG in 1929. The rest of the route to Nagore became BG only in around 2000. Extensions were made to Velankanni in the south and to Karaikal in the north.

However, the branch from Nidamangalam to Mannargudi had a few trains running on the 14-km route. There were two intermediate stations -Rajapayyam Chavadi and Haridranadhi (which have now vanished from the railway map, apart from the Great Indian Railway Atlas). I remember seeing this route in timetables of the 1960s and early 1970s. But it is absent from the 1975 timetable. This 1975 timetable does have the Mayuram-Tranquebar and Peralam-Karaikal lines which were closed soon afterwards. The Mannargudi branch was also thought to have gone the way of the dodo until a few years ago.

Though not considered to be from the Mannargudi Mafia, the DMK leader TR Baalu set his sights on improving things in the region around Thanjavur. His somewhat complicated political career can be seen at more length here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._R._Baalu

Essentially he served as a minister in both NDA and UPA governments up to 2009. Although he was not in the railway ministry, he appears to have been instrumental in getting the branch to Mannargudi reopened in BG in the mid-2000s. It now has a variety of express trains to different parts of Tamil Nadu and even to faraway Bhagat-ki-Kothi near Jodhpur, better known for its large diesel shed and for being the terminus of the Thar Link Express to Munabao.

Here you can see the station’s list of trains:

http://indiarailinfo.com/departures/mannargudi-mq/9633

The 4 daily trains include a DEMU passenger to Tiruchi, another passenger to Mayiladuturai and expresses to Chennai Egmore and Coimbatore. Then there are a tri-weekly express to Tirupati and a weekly express to Bhagat-ki-Kothi. Not bad for a place which used to have only shuttles to Nidamangalam.

Presumably the local population is happy with its new-found connectivity to different corners of the country.

In contrast, the broad gauge line from Salem to Mettur Dam had no passenger services for several years (although goods services continued). These passenger services were also revived in recent years but still has rather limited services:

http://indiarailinfo.com/departures/mettur-dam-mtdm/6593

Indian railway stations with matching names

There are some names which you will find in many Indian towns, such as Mahatma Gandhi Road. And there are many places with similar names, such as Rampur which must be the name of dozens of villages and small towns. Ironically, the largest place with this name was once part of a princely state ruled by Muslims.

Most of us have heard of the large cities of Hyderabad (capital of undivided Andhra Pradesh) and Hyderabad in Sind. Pre-1947 timetables listed the two as Hyderabad (Deccan) and Hyderabad (Sind). I could not locate any old pictures of these stations and their signs, though this is what they look like today:

There never was any train between these cities, and anyone traveling between them by train would have had to change at several places. One possibility would include a sea journey between Bombay and Karachi.

This also illustrates a general rule which the Indian Railways have tried to follow-that no two stations should have exactly the same name. Of course, the station code will be different.

One example is Madhupur in Jharjhand and Madhopur in Punjab:

You cannot travel by a direct train between these stations. The Howrah/Jammu Tawi Himgiri Express does run through both, but stops only at the one on the left. The one in Punjab is a smaller station, but for some years in the 1960s it was the northern-most station in India before the line was extended to Kathua, Jammu and beyond.

Then there are the three Katras:

The first two are in UP. The first is an ex-MG terminus near Gonda which is across the river from Ayodhya. It was connected to the BG network in recent times when a bridge was built across the Saryu.

The second is between Shahjahanpur and Bareilly. The third is the new showpiece station (SVDK) which is the railhead for Vaishno Devi.It is the northern-most station on the main IR network (though not on IR; that is Sopore near Baramulla). It is likely to hold this status for a few years until the connection to Banihal is completed.

There is one train which runs through Miranpur Katra on its way to SVDK, but does not stop there. This is the once-weekly Kamakhya/SVDK Express. The Himgiri Express and Kolkata/Jammu Express also run through it, though they still terminate at Jammu.

Then we have two places with similar names in Maharashtra and Jharkhand:

The one on the left was called Chandrapur (Maharashtra) until recently. There is another station called Chanda Fort nearby. There are no direct or nearly-direct trains between these stations.

And now to Rajendranagar in MP and Bihar:

The former is on the southern outskirts of Indore and is presently served by a number of DEMUs between Indore and Mhow. The latter is east of Patna Jn and is an important secondary terminus for Patna, while Danapur and the new Pataliputra station also fulfill this role.

There are two weekly trains between Indore and Rajendranagar Terminal (one of which was involved in a serious accident near Kanpur last November). So it is a reasonably simple task to travel between the two Rajendranagars. It is possible that the MG conversion south of Mhow may see some long-distance trains connecting these stations, though they are unlikely to stop at the one in MP.

Now these two in Rajasthan and Tripura. The latter has just seen the start of passenger services from Agartala:

It is theoretically possible that one day there may be a direct train between these two stations. There may not be much logic behind this routing.

The station on the left was opened in the mid-60s as part of the Udaipur-Himatnagar new line. The existing terminus of Udaipur was renamed Ranapratap Sagar, and still hosts most of the railway offices of this region. For some years Udaipur City was one of the few stations which were pseudo-junctions where a line of one gauge ended and line of another gauge started. It has now lost this status as the Udaipur City-Ahmedabad MG line is now under conversion. Other examples of pseudo-junctions are Kalka and Mettupalaiyam (but not Neral, Pathankot, NJP and Siliguri Jn which are junctions in the regular sense). Other pseudo-junctions have existed in the relatively recent past (e.g. Parli Vaijnath)

The station on the right is presently a terminus, but the line will soon extend downwards to Belonia and Sabrum at the southern tip of Tripura. It will not touch the now-closed terminus of Belonia which lies a short distance within the Bangladesh border. Also note that Bengali is the official language (at least for station signs) in Tripura and three districts of southern Assam.

Now, you may ask, is there any case of two widely separated stations with similar names having a direct train connection. There are some trivial cases like those of Merta Road/Merta City and Latur Road/Latur (but not Ranchi Road/Ranchi). But there is one more. I traveled between them recently. More on this later.

Note: Copyrights of the pictures here belong to the original photographers.

Fruit on rails

A collection of picture of stations of the Indian Railways whose names involve fruit:

There is Mango, a suburb of Jamshedpur, which does not have a station. As someone said, there is no space for the mango man in a banana republic.

Take a closer look at the sign for Sitafal Mandi in Hyderabad. It appears to be one of the old signs from the time of the Nizam’s State Railway, with the Hindi inscription added later.

One wonders how the citizens of Nagpur allowed a much smaller town to grab the title of Orange City.

And Amla may not be named after the fruit but is supposedly an acronym for “Ammunition Land”, where a large military storage facility exists.

Afterthought-Prior to partition, Afghanistan used to export fruits to different parts of India by train. These fruit trains usually started at Chaman (a railhead to the north of Quetta), travelled down the Bolan Pass and made their way to faraway places.