A new plinthed loco in Chandigarh

Our friend Dr Dheeraj Sanghi, currently Director of the Punjab Engineering College at Chandigarh, informed us of this plinthed loco in the campus.

Also this one from Google Maps, thanks to Mayur Nandu:

PEC steam loco pic from Google

There is nothing about this location on the net. The only thing we know is that it is of  class EE and has number 5.

From  “Indian Locomotives Part 2 – Metre Gauge 1872-1940” by Hugh Hughes we find that it is a metre gauge 2-4-0 (with tender) which was supplied to the Jodhpur Bikaner Railway in 1891. It was manufactured by Dubs & Co, Glasgow.  Some of the locos of this class were built by Neilson & Co, Glasgow in 1894.

This particular loco was among those transferred to the Bikaner State Railway in 1924 when it was separated from the Jodhpur Bikaner Railway. It was taken out of service before renumbering was done in 1957. Perhaps it served on the MG section of the Northern Railway.

The Bikaner State Railway extended up to Bathinda. Metre gauge continued beyond Bathinda to Kot Kapura and Fazilka initially on the BB & CI Rly. This section was transferred to the NR. Kot Kapura was the northern limit of metre gauge in the IR network.

Here is a picture from Hughes’s book showing a loco of this class:

PEC Loco 1 001

And some further details:

PEC Loco Text 002

Bypasses of the Indian Railways

Many important stations of the Indian Railways have bypasses. These are used to reduce congestion, and especially where a reversal is eliminated.

While some are used mainly by goods trains, there is an increasing trend for more large junctions to be bypassed. In most cases a smaller station nearby is used as the “proxy” for long-distance trains to stop. Examples are Perambur for a few trains which skip MAS, Sevagram for Wardha Jn, Uslapur for Bilaspur, Pathankot Cantt (ex Chakki Bank) for Pathankot.

Here is a pdf file for all of the bypassed stations which I could think of. Additions and corrections are welcome.

Let us not consider “area bypasses” such as Vasai Road-Panvel or Gudur-Renigunta-Katpadi or Kharagpur-Asansol.

Bypasses on IR1

Perhaps we can think of a few more places where bypasses would be useful, such as Sawai Madhopur.

Trivia: the first custom-built bypass was probably the one at Shoranur which was commissioned in the early 1940s. Others which came up over the years due to realignments etc would be Allahabad-Chheoki and Podanur, (Yes, I know that the lines around Coimbatore have a complex history).

Pentas and Hexas

You have heard of quadruplets, quintuplets and hextuplets. Or quadrilaterals, pentagons and hexagons.

The Penta has various connotations. Like the Pentagon. Or Brazil winning the soccer World Cup for the 5th time in 2002. Or even the dreaded Khalistani terrorist named Surjit Singh Penta, and the long-gone Hotel Leela Penta.

And there are penta locomotive combinations on the line through the Braganza ghats to Goa:

Note the “station” of Dudhsagar Water Falls, with is nothing but a viewing platform with signs.

This impressive array of power is needed for trains going downhill, particularly as they need additional braking power.

However, these are not the most locos on a train on the Indian Railways. Admittedly the six-pack you see below is quite rare.

Most of you have heard the one about “How do you get 4 elephants into a Volkswagen Beetle? Two in the front and two in the back”.

And the desi version involving the venerable Ambassador, where the 6 elephants are accommodated three in the front and three in the back.

Remember that now:

Video by Mr Rajendraprakash Saxena.

This was taken above Palasdhari at the start of the Bhor Ghat incline to Lonavla. Goods trains are normally hauled by electric locos, though here we have three WDG-3As in front and a triplet of WCG-2 howlers at the back. Not unlike howler monkeys. Sadly, you cannot hear them today.

Which name is correct?

In some stations, the signs at different places show different names:


Sakleshpur is supposed to the correct spelling.

I have seen signs of Hafizpet and Hafizpeta coexisting.

And in Chennai:


Washermanpet is listed in official sites. And the Hindi signs seem to agree.

Chromepet is the official name, which is logical as there is or was the Chrome Leather Factory nearby. But today all signs gave been changed:


More peculiar is the station which is listed as Dalhousi Road (which is wrong as the town and the Governor-General were spelt Dalhousie). And the station sign is more correct than the official listing:

Dalhousie Road

Finally, the official name is Atari, but signs mainly show Attari:

To make things more confusing, the Punjab government has renamed the station Atari Shyam Singh in 2015, though it appears that the Centre has not approved of this .

Similarly, you will still see Allahabad and not Prayagraj. (There are also Prayag Jn and Prayag Ghat which are different). There are numerous photoshopped pictures of the new signs on the net, but no genuine pictures of the new signs where Prayagraj has replaced Allahabad.

(While on this topic, note the continued existence of IIT Madras, IIT Bombay and IIM Calcutta).

Tail piece: note the mismatch between Hindi and Bengali here:



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 site  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. Another well-known but shorter siege was near Bharwari station, west of Allahabad).

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 railroad 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):


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.