From the Indian Railway timetables of 1975

The All-India Railway Timetable was the “Bible” of a section of railfans until 1977 when it was replaced by “Trains at a Glance”. The Indian Bradshaw started sometime in the 19th century and appears to have vanished a few years ago. And then there were the timetables of the individual zones. Unlike the All India RT and Bradshaw, they carried the zonal maps as well. They survive today as a sort of hybrid, an example being the Western Zonal Timetable which includes the Central, Western, West Central and North Western Railways.

Today, however, we look at some extracts from the maps attached to the Southern and South Central Railway timetables issued in November 1975. It is instructive to compare them with the maps of the present railway systems in those areas.

First, the inset showing the Madras area:

madras-area-1975

Notes: Many more stations have come up on these suburban sections since 1975.

See the MG lines extending up to the Tondiarpet yard. It was a bit startling to observe a YG next to the BG tracks while travelling north from MAS in the late 80s.

Madras has long become Chennai, while Madras Park and Madras Chetpat have since been contracted¬† to Park and Chetpat. (However they are listed as Chennai Park and Chennai Chetpat in the RBS tables). Not the first time that official names in the Railway’s own databases are not the same as the names on the signboards.

The Villivakkam- Anna Nagar branch came and went in the 2000s.

This map shows Veysarpadi which was and still is a cabin and not a station. Vyasarpadi Jeeva station came later.

And the mapmaker forgot the existence of Madras Beach station, where once MG lines met an outlying BG line.

The Hindi signboards in this area are curious in that they use Hindi transliterations of Tamil words rather than Hindi words. Today we have:

Chennai Beach : Chennai Kodikirai in Hindi

Chennai Fort: Chennai Kotte

Park: Punga

Also, Egmore is revealed to be the Anglicized form of Eshambur.

The Hyderabad area:

hyderabad-area-1975

Notes: Husain Sagar Jn was a functioning station at that time, while James Street station vanished soon afterwards and was revived with the MMTS in the 2000s. Many new stations appeared when the MMTS started. Today Husain Sagar has a large signal cabin while the platforms of the long-vanished station can still be seen.

The short-lived Telapur-Patancheru branch appeared some years later and has now vanished. If you keep your eyes open you may see the abandoned station of Telapur west of Lingampalli, from where the branch departed to the north. There is some talk of reviving this branch as part of the MMTS.

Note the forgotten siding to Trimulgeri, which was more commonly spelt as Trimulgherry.

An intensive suburban system with YDM2 diesels served the MG suburban sections running north and south of Secunderabad. Now, of course, you will not see any MG line within a few hundred km of the Hyderabad area.

 

Famous Indian trains of the past-and what happened to them (Part 2)

Continuing our study on the famous trains numbered 1 and 2 on the Indian Railways in the past.

In 1976, the newcomer  was the 1/2 Golconda Express between Guntur and Secunderabad. This appears to have started running in the late 1960s, probably soon after the new South Central zone came into existence. It still runs on the same route with slightly slower timings, and is ranked as superfast. The only difference you will see is that it now has two rakes instead of one.

Golconda

The story of the 1/2 Gujarat Mail is different in that it has been around for a long time, but like the Golconda Express it runs on the same route and similar timings. In the 1970s it was said to be having more first class coaches than any other Indian train. (At that time there were only two pairs of Rajdhanis and no Shatabdis). It has the classic late night-early morning pattern of the old Mails. Over the years its timings have improved only marginally.

Gujmail

The 1/2 Delhi/Ahmedabad Mail even lost its number one status on the Northern railway between Rewari and Delhi, where it became 201/202 (presumably to distinguish it from the 1/2 Kalka Mail on broad gauge)

It has a sad story. It remained a Mail until renamed the Yoga Express a few months ago, and never got superfast status. It was earlier considered the best train on the MG route between Ahmedabad and Delhi, but got competition from the Ashram Express since the 70s. Once this route was converted to BG in the 90s, it was extended to Haridwar thus becoming the Ahmedabad-Haridwar Mail and finally the Yoga Express of today. In the mean time a Rajdhani as well as the Ashram Express became more popular on the Ahmedabad-Delhi route. Anyway, gauge conversion has reduced its running time between Ahmedabad and Delhi from 22 hours to 19 hours. It now takes a small detour to stop at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. In case you were wondering, this was before Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. But the change to Yoga Express did occur during his tenure.

ADI Mail

Finally there is the fastest (?) narrow gauge train which used to run between Gondia and Jabalpur which had its number 1/2 though the SER had the 1/2 Calcutta Mail on the broad gauge as well. It was sometimes listed as the Satpura Express. Today conversion has taken away the first quarter of the route and it runs between Balaghat and Jabalpur. This is likely to be converted to broad gauge by 2016, although the 10001/10002 Express still runs as of date.

Satpura

Thus ends our sample study of the trains numbered 1 and 2 in 1976 and how they were faring in 2014. Sometime later I plan to go back further to compare the 1/2 of the 1930s with their counterparts of today. This would add a few more such as the Darjeeling Mail, once the pride of the Eastern Bengal Railway.

Railfanning in Riga

Those in the older age group would first have heard of Riga in this limerick:

There was a young lady of Riga,
Who smiled when she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

If your general knowledge was better, you would know that Riga was the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, and that Latvia had briefly been an independent country which was swallowed by the Soviet Union in the 1940s. It finally became independent in 1991 and now has EU membership, the Euro, Schengen visas and all the other trappings of modernity.
But our story is not about that Riga but the other one closer to home:

Riga

While this is the station at the other Riga, which truly befits a nation’s capital:

Riga Latvia

The Indian Riga is near Sitamarhi in Bihar:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.648306,85.429489,12z

It’s main claim to fame is this company:

http://www.rigasugar.com/about%20us.htm

The company has its own metre gauge railway line with one saddle-tank steam loco and one diesel shunter (both from the 1930s) which were until recently hard at work hauling sugarcane. Despite its inaccessibility it attracted the attention of foreign steam fans.

Some pictures can be seen here:

http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/india035.htm

Though you may find this 11-minute video more interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvNRHzYqTtI

This is mainly devoted to the steam loco hauling wagons laden with sugarcane. There is a brief glimpse of a regular diesel-hauled metre gauge passenger train from 7.00 to 7.25.

Time has stood still here for many decades. However, you will look in vain for the lady and the tiger.

UPDATE: The above Youtube clip is from 2005, when Riga station was on the metre gauge line from Darbhanga to Raxaul and thus had freight trains carrying sugarcane. The factory’s trains used to move these freight wagons to the factory. More recently, the section has been converted to broad gauge. While this has enabled a few express trains from Delhi, Kolkata and elsewhere to traverse this route, none of them stop at Riga.It is served only by slow passenger trains: http://erail.in/riga-railway-station

More importantly, freight trains to this station are now broad gauge and thus their wagons cannot be used on the metre gauge line to the factory. So it seems that the two hard-working locos from 1930 and 1935 may now have retired.

Railway History: Construction of the Assam Rail Link

One of the important chapters of post-Independence Indian Railways was the somewhat complicated task of building a new rail connection with Assam (and the rest of North-Eastern India) which had been broken when East Pakistan was formed. Here is the story pieced together and originally created as a ppt presentation in early 2011 at a convention of the IRFCA (Indian Railways Fan Club Association).

See what suits you best:

The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction (Ppt)

Or you may prefer to see the presentation as a series of images: (Read left to right, row by row)

The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-001 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-002 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-003 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-004 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-005 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-006 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-007 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-008 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-009 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-010 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-011 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-012 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-013 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-014 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-015 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-016 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-017 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-018 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-019 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-020 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-021 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-022 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-023 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-024 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-025 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-026 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-027 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-028 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-029 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-030 The Story of the Assam Rail Link construction-page-031

The stress is on what happened in 1947-50. Some mention has been made of subsequent developments but this is not to be regarded as a full account of railway construction in the Northeast after independence.

The real and the false Modinagar

As everyone knows by now, our present Prime Minister is supposed to have spent some of his youth (perhaps around 1960-65) at a tea stall at a wayside station in Gujarat. This is what it looks like now:

Vadnagar-main

And this is supposed to be the tea stall where he worked:

Vadnagar-TS

While we are at it, here is the school he went to. It is close to the railway station:

Vadnagar school

A report mentioned that Modi attended Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya (also known as BN) High School, a co-ed Gujarati-medium school right next to the Vadnagar railway station. However Vadnagar probably sees less trains than it did in the 1960s. The reason is that most of the major routes in Gujarat (and elsewhere) which were on metre gauge have been converted to broad gauge. And if you are still on metre gauge, you are cut off from most long distance trains and may have to make do with local slow trains from the nearest junction with broad gauge. Here you can see the full timetable of trains at Vadnagar station:

Vadnagar TT

This tells us that it sees precisely 3 pairs of DMU trains daily (and 2 on Sunday) which run between the mainline junction Mahesana (MSH) and the terminus at Taranga Hill (TRAH). In happier times (as in the 1976 timetable) there was one passenger train which ran all the way from Ahmedabad to Taranga Hill. Perhaps this forsaken route may be taken up for gauge conversion now, once their man is in the country’s leader. There are probably several less important metre gauge lines in Gujarat which have already been converted.

Here is one of the little trains which presently run on this route. This is standing at Mahesana.

Mahesana-Taranga Hill DMU

Update: the Mahesana-Taranga Hill section was closed for conversion to broad gauge in December 2016. So Vadnagar has no train service today.

Another update from 2018: Congress supporters have said that NaMo’s claims of helping his father sell tea at Vadnagar station are false as Vadnagar station did not exist until 1973. Strictly speaking this is not true as the station is listed in historical records as being built in the 19th century.

I have verified that, and that it has been listed in the Indian Bradshaws of 1935, 1943 and a few later years before 1973. It is now being said that the station was a tiny halt station with no amenities until it was upgraded to a proper station in around 1973. The truth is somewhere in between.

So much for the genuine Modinagar. The other one is here

Modinagar

This is a somewhat larger and better known place, north of Delhi on the way to Meerut and Saharanpur. It is on a semi-main line and some important trains do stop there, though not the Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Nanda Devi Express which pass this way to and from Dehradun. Neither does the Golden Temple Mail (earlier known as the iconic Frontier Mail). These are some of the trains at Modinagar which were running in 2015: Modinagar TT No less than 35 trains a day, though not all run daily. You can board a train here for faraway places such as Mumbai, Okha, Ahmedabad, Indore, Ujjain, Jammu and Bilaspur. There are several other express trains which do not stop there.

Now, this town in Uttar Pradesh is named after Rai Bahadur Gujar Mal Modi (a Marwari unlike our PM) who was mainly responsible for setting up the Modi group of industries. He died in 1976. Most of the group companies are not doing well now. The younger generation may not have heard of him, though they would have heard of his famous grandson Lalit Modi. Incidentally he is said to have declined a knighthood and asked for an Indian honour instead-hence the Rai Bahadur title.

The station was renamed from Begamabad, which you will see in timetables of the 1940s and earlier. So now you know which is the genuine Modinagar and which one only has his name. There is another Modipuram on the highway north of Meerut, which also has some of the near-defunct factories of the Modi group. That is served by the small station of Pabli Khas, where only passenger trains stop.