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

(Apart from CR and WR, some lines of the Bombay Port Trust were electrified with DC as well).

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


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.


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. Diesel traction existed but was not considered a serious option at that time.

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 and 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 virtually 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 in Mumbai.

Some of the DC locos from ER were converted to 1500 V DC and sent to CR, where they continued to serve for many years on the slopes of Bhor Ghat and Thull Ghat. Some EMUs were also converted and sent to WR and CR with mixed results.

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

The shortest flights in India and elsewhere (Updated in 2019)

As we have seen in the previous article, there are many international flights which cover over 10,000 km non-stop. The ultimate aim would be to have an aircraft which has a range of about 20,000 km (being half the circumference of the earth) which could travel between any two points on the globe without stopping. It would, of course, be useful to have such a missile and probably the US, Russia and even North Korea must have done something towards this end.

Now we look at short flights in India at present. This would appear to be Mumbai-Pune, operated by a 737-800 of Jet Airways. The point-to point distance is 123 km but distance flown may be as much as 211 km (which can be seen from sites such as http://uk.flightaware.com/ ) Quite wasteful for a 737. Other flights under 200 km include Kolkata-Durgapur (164 km), Diu-Porbandar (167 km), and Kochi-Thiruvanthapuram (195 km, actual distance flown 237 km). Some of these sectors are covered by ATR turboprops, others by 737s or A320s which probably doesn’t do much for fuel efficiency.

In the last decade, there have been flights linking Kanpur and Lucknow (63 km) and Jorhat and Lilabari (also 63 km). In the former case the airports are quite far from the city centre so even ordinary buses may turn out to be faster. However, IIT Kanpur now has a helicopter service linking its campus to Lucknow airport. In the latter case there is no satisfactory land route, and it involves crossing the Brahmaputra where, until recently, there was no bridge for hundreds of kilometres.

The real record was held by the Tripura hopper operated by the then IAC in the early 70s, which linked Calcutta with Agartala, Khowai, Kamalpur and Kailashahr with a DC-3.

The distances were:

Agartala-Khowai: 42 km

Khowai-Kamalpur: 23

Kamalpur-Kailashahr: 28

And there are Pawan Hans helicopter services in Arunachal Pradesh which may have similar sector lengths.

Here is an article about the world’s shortest (and longest) flights:


But the clear champion for the world’s shortest flight goes to Loganair’s flight between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. This has been appearing in the Guinness Book since at least the 80s, and many articles and videos can be found on the net. This flight is timetabled at 2 minutes but can cover the distance of less than 3 km in 47 seconds in favorable winds. The present fare appears to be about USD 30. Here is a typical description along with a video:


In 2019, Emirates announced a flight between Dubai and Muscat on an A-380 (which is about 340 km in 40 minutes)-surely an example of overkill. Maybe they could not find any other route for an A380.

For the shortest international flight, we have this 8-minute flight between St Gallen-Altenrhein in Switzerland and Friedrichshafen in southern Germany :