Unusual languages on signboards in India

Dogri in Jammu:

Jammu Tawi (Dogri script)

Maithili in Darbhanga:

Darbhanga station Maithili

Also at Madhubani, although it does not seem to be on the platform signs:

Madhubani (Maithili)

These are in Manipur. While the residents of that state are called Manipuris, there is no language of that name. Experts from there will tell you that the signs are Meitei in Mayek script.

Jiribam-manipuriVangaichungpao-Dholakhal

Here is one language many of us would not have heard of:

Ghaghra (JH)

This is in Jharkhand, midway between Rourkela and Chakradharpur. This is the local language Ol’Chiki. Thanks to Pavel Ghosh.

In the neighborhood, here is a left-over Urdu sign in Bangladesh:

Boira (still trilingual)

And left-over signs in Gurumukhi script up in Khyber-Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan:

Landi Khana station todayShahgai (Khyber)

Remember that no train has been to Landi Khana since 1932, and not to Shahgai since around 2000.

 

Places in the news-Punjab

The centre of attention: Dera Baba Nanak and Kartarpur Sahib:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Dera+Baba+Nanak,+Punjab+143604/@32.055151,75.0252443,13z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x391bfcec21c405cd:0x358173658502513b!8m2!3d32.0321859!4d75.0304481

While the corridor is not marked yet, you can see DBN  and Kartarpur Sahib across the border. Also the station of DBN, served by local trains from Amritsar.

Dera Baba Nanak

https://erail.in/trains-between-stations/amritsar-jn-ASR/derababa-nanak-DBNK

Some of these locals start from Verka, the first station from Amritsar. Other special trains are presently running from Sultanpur Lodhi, another sacred place for the Sikhs.

On the other side of the border, there is a now disused station at Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, which lies on the line from Narowal to Chak Amru.

Darbar Sahib Kartarpur

This was served by local trains until the early 2000s, when the trains serving this station had dwindled to one pair of trains on Sunday:

Kartarpur (Pak) TT 001

In happier times (from the 1943 Bradshaw) we have these trains in the same area:

NWR around Amritsar-1943 001

 

On the top right, the local trains between Amritsar and Narowal and Sialkot via DBN and Jassar (across the border). Wartime shortages must have reduced this to one pair of trains a day.

On the bottom right, the one train a day between Lahore and Chak Amru via Narowal, Jassar and Darbar Sahib Kartarpur. Those familiar with the 1971 war would remember the battles around Shakargarh. Chak Amru station was captured by the Indian army and was returned soon after the war.

Finally, the other Kartarpur which lies between Jalandhar and Amritsar.

Kartarpur India

Footnote: there is a place called Jassur on the Kangra Valley line, although the station’s name is Nurpur Road.

 

Rail Quiz-Oct 2019 with answers

  1. What is the significance of this pair of stations in the history of IR? The line between these stations was opened in 1926, completing the Delhi-Madras line (as well as the Golden Quadrilateral with diagonals).
  2. Nowadays all passenger trains have at least a technical halt at Balharshah. But in 1963-64 the Southern Express (then the best train between New Delhi and Madras) ran through Balharshah without stopping. How was this possible?  They stop at Balharshah as it is the “junction” between CR and SCR where train crews change. Up to 1966, the Central Railway ran straight to Vijayawada and to Hyderabad and beyond. As Balharshah was not so important then, the Southern Express ran through without stopping. In 1963-64 it ran on some days as the AC Express and some days as the Southern Express (like the Paschim and Poorva which survived longer).
  3. What is the historical significance of this station in Bangladesh? Dohazari                                                                                    The end of a branch line from Chittagong. It was completed in the mid-1920s as the first part of a proposed line to Burma (which was still governed from India). The Great Depression, the delinking of Burma from India in 1937 and then World War 2 put an end to that.
  4. And of this station in Pakistan? The western-most station of Pakistan Railways. The line continues across the border to Zahidan in Iran, though that portion of the track was transferred to the Iranian railways in the 1960s. The trains are still operated by PR.Koh i Taftan (2)
  5. Why was this small station’s name well known to Allied military personnel?  Drigh RoadA major RAF base existed there since the 1920s, which was very active during World War 2. For some reason it was known as Drigh Road airfield and was not named after Karachi. Later, an offshoot of this became the main airport of Karachi.
  6. And what was the significance of this station’s name to British soldiers? Deolali was a British Army camp 100 miles north-east of Mumbai . It is also the source of the British slang noun doolally tap, loosely meaning “camp fever”, and referring to the apparent madness of men waiting for ships back to Britain after finishing their tour of duty. By the 1940s this had been widely shortened to just “doolally“, an adjective meaning “mad (insane).Devlali
  7. What is unusual about this station in Bangladesh? And what was it called before partition? Like Hili, it lies right on the border and from India one can easily see trains running here on the Chittagong-Akhaura section. It was called Kamalasagar as it used to serve this place which is now across the border.        Quasba
  8. Until recently, what was (wrongly) claimed to be the first station in Arunachal Pradesh? Bhalukpong, reached from Balipara around 1980. The town spreads over Assam and Arunachal, and the station is just within Assam’s border. The picture below shows it during MG days.Bhalukpong old
  9. Identify the time span when this picture was taken.   This place is in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. From 1954 to 1971 Urdu and Bengali were the official languages of Pakistan, and thus signboards in East Pakistan had English and these two languages. Once Bangladesh came into being, there was no need for Urdu signs and they are a rarity now. This picture dates from the 1971 war.Rajshahi station-old
  10. Where in India would you have seen steam locos in green livery marked “PAK”? The locos of SCR had tenders in red and green. There used to be a MG loco shed at Pakala (code PAK) and this was marked on the tender. (This was not an usual practice, but has been mentioned by Bill Aitken in one of his books).
  11. Name one station in Kerala which had steam sheds for BG and MG. Quilon, now Kollam. The MG shed was first, and the BG facilities started once BG came in 1975.
  12. Name one major rail-connected howler in the film “Julie”. This is set in Shoranur, an important junction but not even a divisional HQ. Utpal Dutt’s character is mentioned as the Chief Engineer, whereas the station would have had an Assistant Engineer (and AME) as the local heads.
  13. Which was the only section of IR which had 4-foot gauge? Azimganj-Nalhati, soon converted to BG and now on the ER. See details here: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Nalhati-Azimganj_Railway You can also see this loco at the NRM: 
  14. And 3’6″ gauge? The Arconum-Conjeevarum Tramway, as it was then called. It soon became BG, soon after MG and finally BG in recent years. More details: https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Arakkonam-Conjeevaram_Tramway . No information about the 3’6″ locos could be found.
  15. What was the northern-most MG station on IR? Ignore the short-lived MG lines north of Lahore. Kot Kapura. The MG line from Bhatinda then turned south-west towards Fazilka, so Kot Kapura was the northern-most MG station.
  16. Bonus: Which important station most closely matches the description of the title of the novel “Bhowani Junction”? Note these points-it is on the Delhi-Bombay line, with a branch going towards Allahabad (though not directly). It is a district HQ and an important cantonment. This fits Jhansi perfectly (but not Itarsi and Bhusaval).

 

(The best effort was by my old friend Harsh Vardhan.)

 

The importance of Landi Khana-1

You would have heard of Landi Kotal, long known as the terminus of the Khyber Railway and the main cantonment guarding the head of the pass.

Landi Khana is not so well known. We first look at a detailed map of the Khyber Railway, which featured in an article by Victor Bayley and Gordon Hearn, the men most responsible for the construction of the line:

Khyber map

This lists all the stations on the line. Most of them were not shown in timetables.

The line was completed up to Landi Kotal in 1925 and to Landi Khana in 1926. Actually the line (or at least the embankment) was built up to a point right on the border. This point is mentioned as Tora Tigga Nala in contemporary accounts, though it is unclear what exactly it was (A station? or siding? or no track at all?)

Trains ran all the way up to Landi Khana in the first few years. Then the King of Afghanistan “requested” the Indian government to close the last stretch of the line. So no trains ran beyond Landi Kotal since 1932.

Here we see the 1930 NWR timetable for the line going all the way to Landi Khana:

Landi Khana TT 1 001

My old friends from Dehradun would note the passenger train connecting Peshawar Cantt with that city. Coming to the point, we see from the small print that the trains ran between Landi Khana and Peshawar twice a week, and started from Landi Kotal on the other five days. This was the peak traffic for this line; by the time regular services ceased in 1984 the train ran up to Landi Kotal only once a week.

In the reverse direction, we see the same pattern, except that on Sundays the train left Peshawar later to provide a connection with the Frontier Mail and ran up to Landi Kotal.

Landi Khana TT2

Timetables in later years mentioned that “Passports will be examined at Jamrud”, meaning that you needed a passport to travel into the tribal territory where the British government had limited powers. However (as my father recounted), tourists from other parts of India could travel up to Jamrud, probably have their picture taken there, and say that they had visited the Khyber.

This is a picture of Landi Khana station (which obviously was taken between 1926 and 1932):

LANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the Gurumukhi script. And the ever-reliable HGS locos which tackled the Khyber and Bolan passes without much fuss.

There appears to have been a small military outpost here, but it must have closed long ago. Which is why many people (even those presently living in Pakistan) do not know of its existence. As we will see, the remnants of this station still stand but there does not seem to be anything around it. The local villagers still use water from the water pipes laid in the 1920s for watering engines.

This is a grab from a video taken a few years ago:

Landi Khana station today

No one has bothered to remove the Gurumukhi inscription, which has been done in many stations in Punjab since 1947.

You may find it interesting to watch this 9-minute video (entirely in Urdu) from 2017 to see this place as a sideline to a trip up to the Afghan border:

One of the places they passed was this station which was one of the stops on the excursion trains which ran until the floods wrecked the line in 2008.

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here another sign in Gurumukhi script still survives, unlike this one from pre-partition Lahore:

Lahore-just-before-Partition

If you approached the Afghan border, you would see this sign if you tried to cross anywhere except the official route:

Afghan border(3)

And if you did succeed in crossing, you could look back and see this:

Afghan border

It should not be difficult to understand what P, J and LKL were. In those days all distances were measured in miles.

Now, you may say, you have told us all about a corner of Pakistan so obscure that few Pakistanis (leave alone Indians) have heard of it. Why is it important?

The answer is: It was important to know about it if you were an Indian POW in Pakistan in 1972.

To be continued.

 

The Jodhpur State Railway of 1943

Apart from the North Western Railway, the Jodhpur State Railway was split between India and Pakistan after Partition.

From a Bradshaw of 1943, we see that JoSR covered in four pages:

Jodhpur State railway 1943-1

Jodhpur State railway 1943-2

Readers from India will be familiar with the extensions and conversions on the Indian side. The lines which went to Pakistan are highlighted on the first two pages.

The line from Hyderabad to Mirpur Khas was converted in the late 1960s, and further to link with the Indian BG system in 2006. A new station (Zero Point) was built exactly on the Pakistani side of the border, between Khokhropar and Munabao.

The Thar Express covers the stretch from Munabao to Zero Point, with connecting points to Bhagat-ki-Kothi (near Jodhpur) and Karachi plus intermediate stops at Mirpur Khas and Hyderabad.

The other metre gauge lines shown in the first two pages were never converted and appear to be closed. A PR timetable of the early 2000s showed weekly trains on the Pithoro loop and one every 15 days on the Nawabshah branch.

The line to Zahidan has around the same frequency, but it still survives in the hope that it will be useful for Pakistan-Iran trade.

Changes in station signs over time-1

From the areas now in Pakistan in the 1930s/1940s:

Lahore-just-before-PartitionLandi Kotal Railway Station during British RajLANDI_KHANA_STATION_1932

Note the combination of languages; including Hindi in Lahore and Punjabi in all these places.

Landi Khana had train services only between 1926 and 1932. Then the station and tracks seem to have been undisturbed until the floods of 2006 seemingly closed the Khyber line forever.

Now we see current pictures of Lahore and Landi Kotal (where excursion trains ran sporadically from the closure in 1984 until 2006).

The only languages here are English and Urdu (although a few stations such as Peshawar also have Pushtu):

Peshawar City new

Note how the regional language has been pushed into a corner.

However, you can still visit the long-forgotten Landi Khana station which is some distance from the highway into Afghanistan:

Landi Khana station today

This is taken from a video shot a few years ago. As this is a remote and long-forgotten place, no one bothered to remove the Punjabi script.

(While many people in Pakistan speak Punjabi, they use a different script unlike the Gurumukhi used in India).

And this station which used to be a stop for the trains from Peshawar to Landi Kotal:

Shahgai (Khyber)

Here, perhaps it was found to be too much trouble to modify the sign which is fitted into the sturdy boundary wall.

We now compare the old and new signs at Shelabagh (on the way from Quetta to Chaman on the border near Kandahar):

Shelabagh (old)Shelabagh new

It is not clear what is in the smaller inscription in the newer sign, but normally the Balochi language(s) do not appear on the signs.

The southern end of the famous Khojak tunnel is seen here. Until the Konkan Railway came along, it was the longest rail tunnel (3.9 km) in South Asia.

And finally to Karachi (1940s) and now:

 

Karachi Cantt new

As you can see, somewhat distorted Hindi (Devanagari) script was used earlier. Today we see Urdu along with Sindhi.

While hardly any pre-1947 pictures from the area now in Bangladesh can be seen on the net, there are still some interesting points to be noted. (To be continued).

 

The best trains of Pakistan and Bangladesh

Here you can see the start of the inaugural run of Pakistan Railway’s new premier service, the Sir Syed* Express between Rawalpindi and Karachi via Faisalabad:

And here is one of the leading expresses of Bangladesh Railways, the Sonar Bangla* * Express leaving Dhaka for Chattogram (the new official name for Chittagong):

See if you can pick out the different types of coaches. The locomotive seems to be considerably older than the coaches.

This is, of course, metre gauge and only a short portion of this major route has been improved to dual gauge with BG.

*Sir Syed refers to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898), noted reformer and educationist. He is considered to be the founder of Aligarh Muslim University.

** The Bangladeshi national anthem begins with “Amar Sonar Bangla”, i.e. “My golden Bengal”. This, like the Indian national anthem “Jana Gana Mana”, was composed by Rabindranath Tagore.

Also see:

https://www.seat61.com/Pakistan.htm

and

https://www.seat61.com/Bangladesh.htm