The Non-Government Railways of the 1940s

I had earlier summarized information about the 9 non-government railways which were separately listed in the All-India Timetable of 1964. None of them exist in NG now, they have either been converted to BG or closed for many years.

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/the-non-government-railways-of-india-in-1964-and-what-happened-to-them/

As there is interest in timetables of these and other vanished lines, I am giving some extracts of a 1943 Bradshaw which covers all the lines which were apparently not part of the larger railway systems of that time. Some survived into the 1960s and beyond and others closed much earlier.

Here we see the lines of the Bengal Provincial Railway, which closed in 1956:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengal_Provincial_Railway

1943-NG-1

Here we have the two McLeod and Co lines known as the Burdwan Katwa Light Railway and the Ahmadpur Katwa Light Railway.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bardhaman%E2%80%93Katwa_line

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmadpur%E2%80%93Katwa_line

Both these lines were purchased by the Government transferred to the Eastern Railway in 1966, where they continue till now after being fully converted to BG and electrified.

Also the Dehri Rohtas Light Railway, initially owned by the Octavius Steel group and then the Sahu Jain group. It closed in 1984 and is not likely to be revived.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehri_Rohtas_Light_Railway

1943-NG-2

The 4 lines here were all part of the Martin Burn group:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Bukhtiarpur-Bihar_Light_Railway

Closed in 1961.Became part of ER and converted to BG by 1962.

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Futwah-Islampur_Light_Railway

Was closed in 1986, converted to BG and became part of ER (and then East Central Railway).

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Arrah-Sasaram_Light_Railway

Closed in 1978, converted to BG and became part of ER (and then East Central Railway).

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Shahdara-Saharanpur_Light_Railway

Closed in 1970, converted to BG and became part of Northern Railway.

1943-NG-3

The Barasat Basirhat Light Railway (which had other owners, NL Roy and Sons Ltd)

1943-NG-4A

This was closed in 1955. In 1962 the Barasat-Hasnabad BG line was opened with a similar alignment.

Also from the Martin Burn group:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Howrah-Sheakhalla_Light_Railway

This was of 2’0″ gauge. This closed in 1971 and no steps have been taken to reopen it.

1943-NG-4

Next is the Howrah-Amta Light Railway. This was also of 2’0″ gauge.

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Howrah-Amta_Light_Railway

Like its sister line above, it closed in 1971. The Howrah-Amta section was converted to BG and electrified, and is now part of the South Eastern Railway. It is unlikely that the Champadanga branch will be revived.

1943-NG-5A1943-NG-5B

 

The Rupsa-Bagerhat Light Railway, now in Bangladesh. This was converted to BG in around 1970 but was closed soon afterwards.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khulna%E2%80%93Bagerhat_Railway

1943-NG-6

The Bankura Damodar River Railway (from the McLeod & Co group):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLeod%27s_Light_Railways#Bankura%E2%80%93Damodar_Railway

This was transferred to the South Eastern Railway and converted to broad gauge in the 2000s. It was extended from Rainagar to Gram Masagram (near Masagram on the Howrah-Barddhaman chord).

The Kaligat Falta Railway (McLeod & Co)

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Kalighat-Falta_Railway

This was closed by 1957. A road now runs over the alignment.

1943-NG-7A

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which needs no introduction. The 2’0″ line from NJP and Siliguri continues to run much as it has since the 1880s, except that diesels now haul the regular trains.

It was initially part of the Gillanders Arbuthnot group. By this time it was considered to be a part of IR and not a  non-government line.

1943-NG-7B

The line from Siliguri to Kishanganj was converted to MG as part of the Assam Rail Link in 1948-50, and to BG more recently.

The Teesta Valley branch continued running until 1950. The section between Siliguri and Sevok was converted to mixed NG/MG gauge until the hill section up to Gielle Khola was damaged by floods in 1950. The hill section was closed and the NG line removed from Siliguri to Sevok which continued to be part of the Assam Rail Link. Today it is broad gauge.

The Tezpur Balipara NG line was initially run by the local agents Kilburn & Co. In 1952 it became part of the Northeast Frontier Railway and converted to MG. Still later it was converted to BG although the terminus is now Dekargaon, north of Tezpur.

1943-NG-8A1943-NG-8B

 

And finally the Jagadhri Light Railway, which closed in 1950:

https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Jagadhri_Light_Railway

1943-NG-9

This, then, is the summary of all NG lines which were not part of the major railway companies in 1943. A brief history of the later developments has been given.

The links provide sources of more information from Wikipedia and Fibis.

There were still other NG lines which had closed by 1940, mainly in South India. Most of them never reopened.

 

 

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/

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1943

We have all heard of the train to Darjeeling, but there was more to it than the single line from Siliguri to Darjeeling. This should be apparent from these timetable extracts from 1943. These are not from the Bradshaw which had rather poor print quality, but from another source (more about that later).

DHR TT 001

First, this is an extract from the Bengal & Assam Railway. See its logo showing that it was founded in 1942. This was an emergency measure following the outbreak of World War 2 in Asia. The old stalwarts Eastern Bengal Railway (HQ in Calcutta, main station Sealdah) and the Assam Bengal Railway (HQ in Chittagong) were merged to form the B & A Railway to make it easier to manage rail transport east of Calcutta. Essentially the running of the railways was taken over by the US armed forces.

Of course, the B & AR was broken up after partition and its tracks are now spread over the present Sealdah  division of ER, the NFR, and Bangladesh Railways.

Now we look at the timetables of the DHR. These lines were not part of the B&AR, but it was the practice to include adjoining smaller railway systems in the timetables of larger systems.

DHR TT 002

There are several points here that many railfans may be unfamiliar with. To begin with, this system was the 2-foot narrow gauge unlike most other narrow gauge lines in India which were 2 ft 6 in. Only a handful of 2-foot gauge lines in India survive now, including the mountain railways to Darjeeling and Matheran.

The Siliguri station here was the BG terminus where long-distance trains such as the Darjeeling Mail used. It was located at the station now known as Siliguri Town. Note the connection between the Mail arriving at 06.44 and the NG train (also called the Mail) at 06.59, and in the reverse direction when the passengers presumably had their dinner at Siliguri.

The present Siliguri Jn was opened as part of the Assam Rail Link in the late 1940s. It is located at the former wayside station of Siliguri Road seen above.

When New Jalpaiguri station was opened in the early 1960s, the NG line was extended south from Siliguri Jn to there passing through Siliguri Town, which had gone from being a major terminus to an unimportant wayside station.

Panchanai Jn was the point where the DHR branch to Kishanganj turned towards the left. There is no sign of it now. There have been various other changes pertaining to loops and reverses. One result of this is that Chunabhati station is no longer on the route. This timetable does not show the numerous halt stations which have mostly vanished without a trace, though Batasia is now a stop for the joyride trains between Darjeeling and Ghum.

Now for the rest of the DHR:

DHR TT 003

The Siliguri-Kishanganj Extension and the Teesta Valley Extension were built later (dates given below). The Kishanganj line provided a connection to MG trains from Barsoi and Katihar side. Being in the plains, it did not need the special B class engines but used more conventional ones. Apart from the usual 4-6-2s, there was also a Garratt.

This line became the starting point of the Assam Rail Link, enabling MG trains from the Katihar side to enter northern Bengal. Note that many of the stations (including Naksalbari and Baghdogra) became part of the MG line though there were some changes in alignment. For instance, the new MG line went directly from Matigara to the new Siliguri Jn without crossing Panchanai (where the station was demolished).

The Teesta Valley Extension had an unfortunate end. Initially the Assam Rail Link followed it up to Sevoke. There was a mixed gauge line from the new Siliguri Jn to Sevoke. Here the TV line turned north while the new MG line crossed the Teesta just east of the station and continued eastward to join the existing MG system at a place which became known as New Mal Jn, and finally to Fakiragram and beyond.

The terminus at Gielle Khola seems to have been known as Kalimpong Road in the earlier days. A ropeway connected this station to Kalimpong.

But this line did not last long after Independence. Severe flooding damage occurred in early 1950 which resulted in the line being closed permanently. Though the tracks ran close to the highway towards Kalimpong and Gangtok, you are not likely to see any trace of the line now unless you take the help of local experts. And the NG line from Siliguri to Sivok was pulled up as it no longer had any purpose, leaving a pure MG line behind. In the  2000s the entire MG route in this area was converted to BG.

Some historical notes here:

DHR History 001

Note the stamp issued in 1982.

The above information is from a nice little booklet called “A guide to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway” by Richard Wallace, first edition in 2000. There is a more detailed second edition published in 2009.

There is another useful book by R.R. Bhandari which may be available at the bookstall at the National Rail Museum at Delhi.

Numerous other books (mainly of British origin) are also there. Some may be available from bookshops in Kolkata and the Darjeeling area.

Other useful links include:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darjeeling_Himalayan_Railway

and

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/railway-history-construction-of-the-assam-rail-link/

 

 

 

 

 

For whom the bell tolls

This has nothing to do with Hemingway’s novel, though it will appear again at the end.

There used to be a railway station called Ghanta, on the narrow gauge line from Champaner Road to Pani Mines in Gujarat:

Ghanta

This picture is probably from before the 1980s, before the bell tolled for this and many other narrow gauge lines (mainly in Gujarat). Many other lines such as the Satpura network had enough traffic to justify conversion.

The village of Ghanta appears to be in Vadodara district, but is too obscure to appear in Google Maps.

Here is an extract from the 1943 Bradshaw:

Champaner branch

As you can see, our station was served by only one pair of trains daily. The timetables of the 1970s were similar.

Champaner Road is on the Mumbai-Delhi main line, between Vadodara and Godhra. No important train stops there now.

It has nothing to do with the Champaner of Lagaan, which was shot at a place in Kutch district.

And the Ghanta has become symbolic of other things in India, such as this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghanta_Awards

which may have been inspired by the Razzie awards of Hollywood.

Footnote: the title of Hemingway’s novel is from a poem by the 17th-century poet John Donne. Many of us would have come across this poem in school or college:

http://www.famousliteraryworks.com/donne_for_whom_the_bell_tolls.htm

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.”

 

 

The Non-Government Railways of India in 1964, and what happened to them

Apart from the privately published Indian Bradshaw, there was the All-India Railway Timetable which, until 1976, provided information about all the zones of the Indian railway system. All the 9 zones (which existed from 1966) had individual timetables which were bound into a single volume, along with some other pages of general information.

I used to have a copy of the 1964 edition which had all the 8 zones existing then (as the SCR was yet to be created). There was a small section at the end titled “Non-Government Railways”. These lines were also covered in Bradshaw, but were scattered all over and not segregated into one section.

These were the non-government railways mentioned in 1964:

1) Dehri-Rohtas Light Railway

The Martin Burn lines:

2) Howrah-Amta Light Railway
3) Howrah-Sheakhala Light Railway
4) Arrah-Sasaram Light Railway
5) Futwah-Islampur Light Railway
6) Shahdara-Saharanpur Light Railway

The McLeod & Co lines

7) Burdwan-Katwa Light Railway
8) Ahmadpur-Katwa Light Railway
9) Bankura-Damodar River Railway

The Amta and Sheakhala lines were 2’0”, and all the others were 2’6”

Here is some information from a talk I had given in 2007. Some further developments have occurred since then which I have updated, but this information may not be fully accurate.

1) The Dehri-Rohtas Light Railway ran south from Dehri-on-Sone to Rohtas and later Tiura Pipardih; the last extension was in 1958. It was built by Octavius Steel, and later became part of the Sahu Jain group which also owned Rohtas Industries in Dehri-on-Sone.

It had considerable passenger and goods traffic, mainly stone and marble.

It closed in 1984 due to problems with the parent company, which went into liquidation. There is no apparent plan for revival or conversion.

Tail piece: In 2007, the Railways acquired the land of Rohtas Industries at Dehri-on-Sone which would be used for the Eastern Freight Corridor.

The Martin Burn Light Railways

2) & 3) The Howrah-Amta and Howrah-Sheakhala Light Railways were amongst the very few 2’0” lines in the plains. They carried an extensive suburban traffic for commuters into Calcutta-and may well have been the most heavily used narrow gauge lines in the world.

These lines originally ran from Telkul Ghat, but were running from Howrah Maidan in 1964. They were closed due to losses (and labour trouble) on 01-06-71.

The Howrah-Amta line was gradually converted to an electrified BG line over the years. It remains a single-track section. It can now be found in the SE suburban timetable, with several pairs of trains daily. It also included the branch from Bargachia to Champadanga which remains closed.

The Howrah-Sheakhala line was supposed to be converted, but there is not much progress even though the Railway Ministry was controlled by the Trinamul Congress for several years. This also includes a short branch from Chanditala to Janai, near Janai Road on the Howrah-Barddhaman chord.

4) The Arrah-Sasaram Light Railway, like the Dehri-Rohtas line, passed through rather backward areas. It connected the Patna main line with the Grand Chord.

It was closed on 15-02-78. Conversion to BG was started and has been completed by the late 2000s. It is now on the East Central Railway. Local services run between Ara (formerly Arrah) and Sasaram, including an intercity express between Patna and Bhabua Road.

5) The Futwah-Islampur Light Railway ran south from a point near Patna on the main line. It was closed on 01-02-86, and was converted to BG around 2000. It now sees a few passenger trains and even the superfast Magadh Express from New Delhi. This is also part of the East Central Railway. Futwah is now known as Fatuha.

6) The Shahdara-Saharanpur Light Railway was the only such line in North India. It had considerable commuter traffic into Delhi as well as goods traffic. It had a separate station at Shahdara which could be seen till the mid-80s.

This also fell victim to losses and closed on 01-09-70. However it was converted to BG in the late 1970s, probably due to the influence of one-time PM Charan Singh whose constituency Baghpat was on the route. It now forms part of the Northern Railway. After this the trains terminated at Delhi Jn rather than Shahdara. A small diversion was made at the northern end where the line now branches off at Tapri rather than Saharanpur itself.

It now carries several crowded passenger trains including DMUs and a Saharanpur-Delhi express (since extended to Farukhnagar off Garhi Harsaru). There is also a tri-weekly express between Haridwar and Ajmer. Although the line is not suitable for high speeds, it has sometimes been used as an emergency backup for trains like the Kalka Shatabdi.

The McLeod & Co Light Railways

7), 8) The Burdwan-Katwa and Ahmadpur-Katwa Light Railways continue to run as part of the ER. They were transferred on 01-07-67 and 01-04-66 respectively.

Ahmadpur features in the famous “jackfruit letter”.

NG services with railcars and diesels continued until recently, The former line had 5 pairs of trains daily. The entire line is now electrified and now sees 6 pairs of EMU trains in a day.

The Ahmadpur-Katwa line was closed for conversion to BG in the past year. BG conversion was completed by early 2018, although full services have not been restored. There is one pair of MEMU trains running between Ahmadpur and Katwa.

9) The Bankura Damodar River Railway ran from Bankura to Rainagar. It was handed over to the SER on 01-07-67.Conversion to BG was completed in the late 2000s and extended to Gram Masagram, adjacent to Masagram on the Howrah-Barddhaman section. DEMUs are running on this route.

Other “Non-Government lines” which existed after 1947:

The Port Trust BG lines in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Visakhapatnam were extensive but not part of the IR network. They never appeared in the timetables as they had no passenger traffic.

The NG lines around Murtazapur and Pulgaon are still owned by the Central Provinces Railway Company, but have been operated by the GIPR and then CR for many years. They appear in the main timetables, as they have done during the GIPR days.

Martin Burn had two lines which were not mentioned in the 1964 timetable:

The Barasat-Basirhat Light Railway closed on 01-07-55. It later became part of the Barasat-Hasnabad BG line of the ER which now has EMU services from Sealdah.

The Bukhtiyarpur-Bihar Light Railway was replaced by a BG line in 1962, which ran beyond Bihar Sharif to Rajgir. It now has several long-distance services including a section of the Shramjeevi Express from New Delhi and a passenger train from Howrah. The line has been extended south of Rajgir to Gaya via Tilaiya and Manpur, though only one pair of DMUs presently run on this route. It was part of the ER and is now in the ECR.

McLeod & Co had the Kalighat-Falta Light Railway which closed on 01-04-57. There is apparently no chance of revival.

References:

All-India Timetable of 1964 and current timetables.
The Great Railway Atlas by Samit Roychoudhury (2005 and 2010 editions)
Information about locomotives can be found in Indian Locomotives (Parts 3 and 4) by Hugh Hughes.

Odd Indian locomotives-battery electric locomotives

Small electric locomotives run on batteries have been used in mines and similar environments for a long time. As batteries are heavy, you would not find them on a full-sized locomotive unless there was a good reason for it. One example would be for running maintenance trains in underground railways when power is switched off.

Thus we have the battery tender attached to the YCG-1 metre gauge locomotives which ran between Madras Beach and Tambaram from the 1930s. As some of the stations had unwired turnouts, the locomotives had a battery tender to run on if the overhead wires were absent.

sirelectwithtender

By the mid-1960s this section was converted to 25 KV AC and electrification was extended to Villupuram (which remained the only electrified metre gauge section in India). These DC locos were retired and a fleet of AC locos took over. The top half of the picture below shows one at the NRM in Delhi, minus the battery tender.

There were also two battery DC locos (this time on broad gauge) delivered to the old BBCI in 1927. They were to be used for shunting where steam locos were considered undesirable for some reason. There is a picture of it hauling a goods train in Carnac Bunder (under the Bombay Port Trust lines) in an old annual report of IR.

Old elec locos 001

In this case (in the lower picture) the batteries appear to be inside the main body of the loco. In the upper picture we see a YCG1 which is preserved at the National Rail Museum in Delhi.

Stranger is the case of the NBM-1 narrow gauge (2-foot) locos, 3 of which were built by BHEL in 1987 for the Gwalior branch lines. No pictures of these seem to be available. But one wonders what purpose they served. Perhaps there was an urgent requirement for replacement of steam locos when no suitable diesels were available. However, these routes have been served by the NDM-5 class diesels which were also built at the same time. But I wonder if there is any example anywhere else in the world where battery locos were used for regular service where there was no electrified line to start with.