The decline of the Indian Bradshaw

The original Bradshaw started by George Bradshaw in Britain in 1839 lasted up to the early 1960s. The Indian Bradshaw was apparently not connected to the original one and apparently started publication in around 1868. A copy from 2003 mentions “135th year of publication”.

It has its place in Indian railway history as for many years it was the only consolidated source of information for the numerous railway companies all over the country-the big and the small, the railways owned by the Indian government, princely states and private companies. Many of these companies did bring out their own timetables but they would have had limited availability and would have been almost impossible to obtain outside their areas of operation. Hence the need for all-India coverage was filled by the Bradshaw which appears to have been published by W.Newman & Co of Calcutta for most of the time.

After Independence and regrouping in the 1950s, there was a regular publication called the All-India Railway Timetable which existed at least from the mid-60s and coexisted with the Indian Bradshaw. A typical page of the old Indian Bradshaw (this one from 1951):

Brad1951 000

And this one from the official All India Time Table of 1975 (though it did not always have advertisements on the cover):

TT75cover

This All India timetable appeared for the last time in 1976 and was replaced by “Trains at a Glance”, often referred to as TAAG by railfans. This covered only the reasonably important routes and the reasonably important stations on them.

The 9 zones of that time used to publish their own timetables which were generally available only in their own zones (though I remember a bookstall at Delhi Jn which used to have most of the zonal timetables). Once the All India Time Table ceased to exist the only reference for train timings all over the country (including the obscure branch lines) became the Bradshaw. It continued to be useful until the mid-2000s, when it still gave detailed coverage of the entire network (although the major suburban networks were never there). Here is one of the Bradshaws of that period:

Bradshaw 2003 001

Soon the publishers stopped covering the minor routes (and thus reduced it to a badly printed clone of TAAG). By 2005 the mess of 16 zones was addressed by the appearance of 5 zonal timetables which, between them, covered all the non-suburban services running in the country. Hard-core timetable fans concentrated on acquiring these. The networks like IRFCA had messages like “Wanted South Zone TT. Will send West Zone TT in return”.

By then, the original publishers seem to have lost interest in the Bradshaw and sold (or passed on) the brand name to other parties. This changed hands at least once more. As of today, the Indian Bradshaw is still published (but has not been seen by most railfans in recent years-not even in Kolkata).

In the mean time the Thomas Cook international timetables also ceased publication, leaving foreign tourists without a convenient source of detailed information.

Even railfans in Kolkata have had to take a lot of trouble to find a copy. Apparently the number printed is quite low now. Anyway, you can see proof of its existence below (along with the contact details of the distributors):

Bradshaw details 001

Note the prominent typo on the back cover. Nitpickers may also add that the Kolkata Metro is the 17th zone. One can also nitpick that the Konkan Railway is counted as a zone though it is not legally a part of Indian Railways (though operationally it certainly belongs to IR).

Is the present form of the Indian Bradshaw worth buying? Sadly, no. It does not seem to contain any information which is NOT contained in Trains at a Glance and costs more (particularly as the latter can be be easily downloaded for free, and detailed information is available from a variety of official and unofficial resources on the Net). And if you prefer hard copies, the 5 zonal timetables (plus separate suburban timetables for Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata) are still around.

Thanks to Souroshanka Maji for taking the trouble to locate a copy of this 2016 edition.

DC traction on India’s railways-sidelights

Much has been written about the final days of DC traction in Mumbai, more specifically on the Harbour line from CSTM to Vashi which was the last holdout of this form of electrification on the Indian railways. This is not exactly true – the Kolkata metro will continue to be on 750 V DC indefinitely, and it is officially a part of the Indian Railways (unlike the metro systems in Delhi and elsewhere).

At its peak, the 1500 V DC system in Mumbai covered these sections:

WR: Colaba to Churchgate to Virar

CR: CST Mumbai to Pune and Igatpuri via Kalyan

CST Mumbai to Mahim and then in parallel to WR up to Andheri

CST Mumbai to Kurla via Harbour branch and then to Mankhurd,Vashi and Panvel.

(Mankhurd was the terminus until the 1990s).

Diva-Vasai Road

A typical news item about the conversion of the last route:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Harbour-line-trains-run-on-new-25KV-AC-traction-from-today/articleshow/51762468.cms

What most railfans may forget is that 3000 V DC existed on some routes out of Howrah for about a decade and 1500 V DC on one metre gauge route out of Chennai for several decades.

From an official IR publication of 1964, we can get the early history. It makes things simpler if we use the names of places which were prevalent at that time

The years of completion were:

Bombay VT to Poona and Igatpuri: 1930 (299 route km) on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, predecessor of the CR

Churchgate to Virar: 1936 (60 route km) on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, predecessor of the WR.

Madras Beach to Tambaram: 1931 (29 route km, metre gauge) on the South Indian Railway, predecessor of the SR.

Howrah-Bandel-Burdwan

and Seoraphuli-Tarakeswar: 1958 (142 route km) on ER.

Coming back to Bombay, the VT-Reay Road section was opened in 1925 with electrification, as the 1 in 34 gradient at Sandhurst Road was felt to be an insurmountable obstacle to any other means of traction. Reay Road to Kurla had been running on steam since it was opened in 1910.The extension from Kurla to Mankhurd was completed by 1927 although it was electrified in 1936.

The Karjat-Khopoli branch was one of the first lines opened in India (in 1856, when it became the railhead for Poona for some years). It seems to have been electrified only in the mid-90s and timetables of 1994 show diesel-hauled passenger trains on the CR main timetable (not the suburban timetable).

The Diva-Vasai Road line was built in the 1980s and was electrified with DC soon after it was opened.

On what is now the WR, electrification was completed to Borivli in 1928 and to Virar in 1936. Colaba was the terminus for long distance and local trains until Bombay Central was opened in 1930, and the lines between Colaba and Churchgate were electrified but this line itself was closed at the end of 1930. Churchgate has been the terminus for local trains since then.

The short stretch from Madras Beach to Tambaram was electrified at 1500 V DC in 1931. Apart from the EMUs on this route, long distance trains continued to run on steam from Madras Egmore. By 1967 the Tambaram-Villupuram section was electrified at the then standard voltage of 25 KV AC and the Beach-Tambaram section was converted to AC to enable through running up to Villupuram.

After independence, the first steps towards electrification of ER lines out of Howrah were taken with Howrah-Bandel-Burdwan and Seoraphuli-Tarakeswar being completed by 1958. These too were converted to AC in the mid-60s, and all subsequent electrification in India was at 25 KV AC. The only exceptions were the extensions from Mankhurd to Vashi and then Panvel, Thane to Vashi and extensions,  and electrification of Karjat-Khopoli in the 90s which had to match the existing DC system.

More about DC locos, AC/DC locos and operational aspects to follow.

Oddities in Indian history-Chandernagore/Chandan Nagar

The history of the French territories in India gets little or no mention in school history nowadays. Most of us vaguely know about the Union Territory of Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe whose constituents have tenuously clung on to their “privileged” status despite several determined attempts to incorporate them into the adjoining states.

We will return to the Union Territories and their oddities later. For a quick overview see this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_India

Chandernagore (now Chandan Nagar) was an integral part of French India along with the southern territories mentioned above.It was a tiny pocket of 19 sq km surrounded by British India, though it did abut the Hooghly. The main railway line from Howrah to Barddhaman (Burdwan) did have a station named Chandernagore though it seems to have been just outside French territory. It still survives as Chandan Nagar and is served by many EMU locals and a handful of long-distance trains.

You may hear that the railway line runs outside the former territory because the British railway engineers did not want their line to pass through foreign territory. My friend Souroshankha Maji, who has studied the history of this area in detail, feels that this “diversion” was more because of the desire to create a straighter and more convenient alignment rather than to avoid the territory.

However, there were some other cases where alignments avoided certain territories because of some problems associated with their governments. A good example is Rampur in what is now Uttar Pradesh, where the rulers initially did not permit the main Lucknow-Amritsar line to pass through their territory. So the trains ran through another route via Chandausi which was built in the early 1870s. By the 1890s the rulers of Rampur relented and the line now runs through the town. It is even a junction now.

Once the British left in 1947, the new Government of India started making polite noises to the governments of France and Portugal stating that it would be a good idea to give independence to their colonies in India. Portugal, in line with its semi-fascist government’s policy,  told India to get lost and continued to do so until they lost some of their colonies in 1954 and all of them by 1961.

The French were more willing to listen.They probably felt that the Bengalis of Chandernagore were more likely to create trouble than their compatriots in Southern India so Chandernagore was the first to be given independence in 1948. This followed a referendum in which 97% of the population voted for independence.

The handover was in May 1950. Here is a contemporary report (from the Hindu’s “50 years ago” feature in 2000):

http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/2000/05/03/stories/10031045.htm

In due course Chandan Nagar became a subdivision of Hooghly district and thus an integral part of West Bengal. It does have many traces of its French heritage and there is some attempt by West Bengal’s government  to market it as a tourist spot. It is, after all, within easy reach of Kolkata by road and rail.

The population can be said to be a bit unlucky, since the more obscure places like Karaikal, Yanam, Mahe, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu continue to enjoy their UT status. Among other things, this allowed a complete backwater like Silvassa (DNH) to become an industrial hub of sorts. Daman and Diu (particularly the latter) are relatively unspoiled and probably derive much of their revenue from alcohol-starved Gujaratis on weekends. Some tourist guides specifically warn unwary visitors against this.

For more details see

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandannagar

Subsequent blogposts on this topic will cover Oman’s outpost in India, and answer the question why DNH is an Union Territory in the first place, and will reveal the hidden enclave of Diu in Gujarat which most atlases and even Google Maps do not know about.

The tortured past of metros in Kolkata

We begin with what appears to be the best map of the existing Kolkata Metro which one can find from regular websites:

http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/westbengal/kolkata-metro-map.html

Even this has some errors in station names, but at least it shows all the stations existing today and their connections with the regular railway system.

This is the corrected list of stations along with distances:

Kolkata Metro

The rate of progress was painfully slow even by the standards of infrastructure projects in India. This will be apparent from this table:

Extension date Terminals Length
24 October 1984 Esplanade Bhowanipore 3.40 kilometers (2.11 mi)
12 November 1984 Dum Dum Belgachhia 2.15 kilometers (1.34 mi)
29 April 1986 Bhowanipur (now Netaji Bhaban) Tollygunge (now Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) 4.24 kilometers (2.63 mi)
13 August 1994 Belgachhia Shyambazar 1.63 kilometers (1.01 mi)
2 October 1994 Esplanade Chandni Chowk 0.71 kilometers (0.44 mi)
19 February 1995 Shyambazar Girish Park 1.92 kilometers (1.19 mi)
19 February 1995 Chandni Chowk Central 0.60 kilometers (0.37 mi)
27 September 1995 Central Girish Park 1.80 kilometers (1.12 mi)
22 August 2009 Tollygunge (Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) 5.85 kilometers (3.64 mi)
7 October 2010 Garia Bazar (now Kavi Nazrul) New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 3.00 kilometers (1.86 mi)
10 July 2013 Dum Dum Noapara 2.09 kilometers (1.30 mi)
Total Noapara New Garia (now Kavi Subhash) 27.39 kilometers (17.02 mi)

Construction started in earnest in 1978 and the short section from Esplanade to Bhowanipore / Netaji Bhawan was opened in 1984. It was another 11 years before the familiar Dum Dum- Tollygunge route was fully opened. Extensions started again in the 2000s and the line extended downwards to Kavi Subhash (New Garia) and upwards to Noapara by 2013.

The line has the usual IR broad gauge and the 750 V third rail system which the suicidal may find convenient, while the Delhi Metro has overhead 25 KV lines (which become overhead third rails in tunnels). One famous victim was former tennis champion Premjit Lal who jumped before a train in 1992 and ended up a cripple who survived another 15 years or so.

Once the route was fully open in 1995, it did make a significant difference to the traffic jams and vehicular pollution on the main north-south axis in Central Kolkata, while not making a difference to the rest of the city. Much later air-conditioned rakes added to passenger comfort.

The Kolkata Metro was recently formally declared the 17th zone of the Indian Railways, while the Konkan Railway remains a corporation which is nominally not under IR but is part of it for operational purposes.

The story of Line 1 is not over yet. Construction of the northward extension to Baranagar and Dakhineswar is in full swing. As for Lines 2 to 6….well, that is another story.

A popular grouse is the mass renaming of stations in the Trinamool era. There had some renamings earlier such as Bhowanipore to Netaji Bhawan. The southward extension from Tollygunge (sorry, Mahanayak Uttam Kumar) had stations with logical names such as Kudghat, Bansdroni etc. which corresponded to the actual names of the localities. Now see what happened in Kolkata Metro . The station now known as Shahid Khudiram was initially planned as Pranab Nagar and became Birji before getting its present name. All the stations south of Tollygunge now have names which have no obvious connection with the names of the localities. That is why announcements and display boards have to clearly specify “Netaji station serving Kudghat”. Locals and visitors alike will get confused with two stations named after Netaji and two more after Rabindranath Tagore.

The terminus of Kavi Subhash is adjacent to the New Garia station on the regular railway. There is a similar arrangement at Dum Dum (which has thankfully not been renamed). A sort of connection exists between Rabindra Sarovar metro station and the obscure station of Tollygunge on the railway, which is a few hundred metres away, though that station is itself not as well connected as the other two.

So much for Line 1. There are now big plans for lines 2 to 6, which deserve a post by themselves.

Travels through the unseen railways of Kolkata

The Kolkata circular railway is one of the least known suburban rail systems of the country. It has little coverage in timetables and elsewhere. It was hastily patched together from existing suburban lines, disused dock lines and freight lines besides a new link to the airport which is little used. To begin with, here is a 2010 map which may give the general orientation:

Kolkata Rail (ER Suburban)

If you were to start your journey at Ballygunge and proceeded west (anticlockwise), this is what it would look like. Note the comments along each station (including a few PJs and historical notes):

Save1

No Sealdah? There is a reason.

Capture3

For variety, you can divert from the “circle” at Dum Dum and travel on the still more obscure line to the airport:

airport line

Here are some pictures along the route, taken on 8 Apr 2015:

20150408_113320

The starting point of Ballygunge. Note the crow perched on the loudspeaker.

20150408_122115

While changing trains at Majerhat.

20150408_131114

Along the Hooghly.

20150408_124955

Further along the Hooghly. Below there are various stations along the way:

20150408_123957 20150408_124310 20150408_125039 20150408_125407 20150408_125745 20150408_131618

Tala is where many of the rakes for trains from Kolkata Terminus are stabled.

20150408_131920

(This is at Kolkata terminus, where the trip to Bangladesh begins.)

20150408_134958 20150408_135524

A few short videos along the way can be seen here: Apart from the trip along the Hooghly we also cover the large rust belt towards the airport.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpnX2Gw1sU-H9aMWhNlnP1rv3wVvKcBCW

Several longer clips of this route by others can be found on Youtube.

Jessore Road has its place in history with this piece of poetry by American poet Allen Ginsberg written during the tragic events of 1971, though I suppose he was referring to a place in Bangladesh rather than this suburb of Kolkata:

http://www.everyday-beat.org/ginsberg/poems/jessore.txt

Hope that has inspired you to travel along the little known byways of your city.