The last gasp of the Satpura narrow gauge lines

A news item about the impending conversion of the (Nagpur) Itwari-Nagbhir narrow gauge section from November 2019:

https://www.railpost.in/the-last-ng-section-in-secrs-nagpur-division-to-close-down-for-gauge-conversion/

This is the last of the vast network of narrow gauge lines which used to cover a large part of the less-developed areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Here is an earlier post describing its operations in late 2015:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/the-satpura-railway-still-exists/

Fruit on rails

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

SitaphalMandi_Railway_StationNarangiSantragachi

There is Mango, a suburb of Jamshedpur, which does not have a station. As Robert Vadra 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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Satpura Railway still exists!

Note: This was written in December 2015 and has not been updated.

In the last few months, there have been a number of articles in the popular media and rail fan groups regarding the demise of the network of narrow-gauge lines in Central India known as the Satpura Railway, now coming under the South East Central Railway.

If you were to take these articles seriously, you would imagine that these lines were being permanently closed down leaving this area without rail communication. They are, of course, being converted to broad gauge and this network has been gradually converted over the last decade. You can expect the conversion to be over within a couple of years.

Here we have an 1964 map of the then SER which shows all the NG lines long before Project Unigauge was even thought of.

SER 1964 001

Note the numerous NG branches all over the zone. However, the Raipur branches and everything east were not part of the Satpura system.

For the moment, however, there still exists one functioning narrow gauge line between Nagpur and Nagbhir which has three pairs of trains a day. This will also face the conversion axe sooner or later, but you can certainly travel there now. Thanks to local expert Alok Patel for this tipoff.

Here you can see the overall list of trains (from an official website, but errors are not impossible):

Nagpur-Nagbhir:

Nagpur Nagbhir

Nagbhir-Nagpur:

Nagbhir Nagpur

Here are the timetables for the first trains in either direction:

Nagpur-Nagbhir:

Nagpur Nagbhir TT

Nagbhir-Nagpur:

Nagbhir Nagpur TT

Note that the station of Moti Bagh was known for its narrow-gauge loco shed and other workshops (besides a small railway museum) but was not used for regular passenger services. I do not think it appeared in passenger timetables until now.

For instance, it is not there in the printed timetable of 2014. That shows the first train leaving from Nagpur at 05.55. The second train given above is shown at Itwari at 10.10/10.15 and then at Nagpur at 10.45.

So the laments for the demise of the narrow gauge Satpura Railway were a little premature. Ride this 110-km route south of Nagpur while you can. There are also a few BG trains running through Nagbhir. These include an express between Chennai and Bilaspur (once weekly in each direction) and between Yesvantpur and Korba (twice weekly).

This map showing part of Nagpur may be helpful:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@21.1552413,79.1014885,15z

Incorporating a few comments received from my old friend Alok Patel:

“Conversion has been sanctioned for the NGP-NABN line but no serious allocations done yet. I suspect they will want to complete the main Satpura lines first since the Nagpur-Chhindwara-Jabalpur-Gondia network had surprisingly high traffic. Also note that the station code for Nagbhir Narrow Gauge has been changed to NABN to signify NG. The BG station must now be using the code NAB”

“I haven’t been to MIB for a long time now but the trains don’t start from MIB per se. They start from the MIB yard, go to NGP, reverse at NGP, go down the same route till the triangle at MIB where they stop to pick up passengers, bypass the MIB yard at the triangle and continue towards Itwari. I suspect the one kilometre or so long NGP-MIB stretch won’t stay operational for much more time, now that the key Chhindwara side traffic has ceased to exist.”

 

 

Famous Indian trains of the past-and what happened to them (Part 1)

In the “romantic” old days of the Indian Railways, the most important trains in each jurisdiction had low numbers-and often the most important trains were the pair 1 and 2 which were invariably Mail trains. We take a look back to the year 1976 (when the system was quite similar to today’s, except that the number of zones was less) and see what happened to the trains numbered 1 and 2 then. Some are still important (if not the most important trains on their route) while others have become quite unimportant.

These were: 1/2 Bombay VT/Howrah Mails via Nagpur (also called the Calcutta Mails via Nagpur) 1/2 Howrah/Kalka Mails via Delhi 1/2 Lucknow/Gauhati Avadh Tirhut Mails (metre gauge) 1/2 Madras/Mangalore Mails 1/2 Guntur/Secunderabad Golconda Expresses 1/2 Bombay Central/Ahmedabad Gujarat Mails 1/2 Ahmedabad/Delhi Mails (though renumbered 201/202 between Rewari and Delhi), metre gauge and even 1/2 Gondia/Jabalpur Expresses on the narrow gauge. We can see that all of these trains had been around for a long time (probably since the 19th century) except for the Golconda Express which was started by the new South Central Railway in the late 1960s. Over the years cities and stations were renamed, the train numbering changed to four digits for most long-distance trains around 1990 and then to 5 digits for all trains in 2010. To begin with, we look at the 1/2 Bombay/Howrah Mails as they were in 1976:

At that time this was the top train on this route as the Geetanjali Express was yet to start. It had the classical Mail timings of the olden days, leaving at night and reaching in the early morning (though in this case there was an intervening day). In 2014, this pair of trains has the rather uninteresting numbers 12809/12810. Those more familiar with the railways can deduce that this pair of trains are superfast (for what it is worth) and “belong” to the South Eastern Railway. The timings then and now:

CalcuttaMail

The entire route is electrified now (about half was electrified in 1976) and timings have come down by about 2 hours. There are other faster trains on the route such as the Geetanjali and Duronto, but the Mail is still considered prestigious by the older generation-particularly in the eastern part of the country.

Now for the 1/2 Howrah/Kalka Mails:

At that time the Rajdhani had been running for several years but was still considered to be too extravagant for most travellers. The Poorva Expresses (often called the AC or Deluxe) were gradually becoming popular. The entire route between Delhi and Howrah was electrified around this time. By 2014, the 1/2 Mails had become 12311/12312, meaning that they were superfast and run by the Eastern Railway. These were the timings:

Kalka Mail

As we can see, they take almost exactly the same time between Delhi and Howrah. In the mean time there are two Rajdhanis daily which have attracted the upmarket travellers besides two Durontos. So the Kalka Mail has moved down the pecking order although, as in the previous case, the older travellers from eastern India still have high regard for the trains.

On the metre gauge, one of the longest hauls was on the 1/2 Avadh Tirhut Mails between Lucknow (LJN) and Guwahati. Even in the late 70s, there was no broad gauge link from Northern India to the North-East. So this Mail and its poor cousin the 15/16 Lucknow/Guwahati Express were the only links on this route. There was also the Assam Mail which ran on the broad gauge from New Delhi to Barauni, which connected with the metre gauge Mail all the way to Dibrugarh Town.

But over the years it lost its prestige with the coming of the broad gauge on the NER and NFR. By the 90s it became the Avadh Assam Express (demoted from Mail status) was running on BG on practically the same route up to New Jalpaiguri. It was then extended westwards to Delhi and finally to Lalgarh near Bikaner. Eastward it was extended to New Tinsukia. Worse still, it was not even a superfast but merely the 15909/15910 Avadh Assam Express. The 37-hour run between Lucknow and Guwahati (formerly Gauhati) had been reduced to 33 hours. Otherwise, time had not been kind to this train as it was involved in one of India’s worst rail accidents in 1999. (At that time it was running between Delhi and Guwahati). Here is the timetable of the old Mail and of its extended run in 2014. Note that it reaches its destination on the 4th day and has one of the longest runs of any passenger service in India.

ATMail

To conclude this section we have the 1/2 Madras/Mangalore Mail. I am not sure how old it is as the timetables of the 1930s and 40s show only the Malabar Express on this route. By the 1960s the Mail appeared in its present form. Later the Malabar Express started running from Cochin (and still later further south from Trivandrum) to Mangalore while the 1/2 Mail got a companion West Coast Express by the mid-60s.

Here are the timings in 1976 and of its avatar of 2014, when it had become the 12601/12602 Chennai/Mangaluru Mail (fortunately still superfast) with these timings:

MangaloreMail

Here the 18-hour run has been reduced to 16 hours although a fair portion of the route is not electrified.

We will take up a few more “number ones” in the next section, which would be up on Aug 11.

The Walrus and the incomprehensible song

The walrus, remarkable as it may be, does not live anywhere near India. Why, then, should we be concerned about it?
See what it looks like:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ce/Noaa-walrus22.jpg

Interesting-looking fellow, who bears a strong resemblance to an important person from Nagpur who was last heard demanding that India should be declared a Hindu nation. Or the former NSA of the US.

The walrus does appear in aspects of various cultures-such as the ultimate insult in Russian:

walrus

(From “Native Tongues” by Charles Berlitz; perhaps a more useful work than his numerous books about the Bermuda Triangle)

Many of you would remember this poem from your childhood:

http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/walrus.html

and this Beatles song: (with lyrics):

Not one of their best-known songs, but probably the most incomprehensible. Like many of their songs of that period, it must have been composed under the influence of some banned substance (such as the one immortalized in “Lucy in the Sky……) which even gets a mention in this song.

If you want to make any sense of it at all, try reading this:

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

and a more detailed analysis:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/30523/who-was-walrus-analyzing-strangest-beatles-song

Well, there are a few more of their songs which are almost as obscure although they have been analyzed to death. Even a traditional song like “Greensleeves” has been searched for hidden meanings. American pop music has a few songs which are supposed to have many hidden meanings, such as “The Boxer”, “Hotel California” and of course “American Pie”. More about them later.

Meanwhile, we await the banning of Lewis Carroll and the Beatles in India for bringing the Walrus into disrepute.