South Asian maps of 1910

Anyone dabbling in the geography of the past should be aware of the legendary Perry-Castaneda collection at the University of Texas at Austin. Unlike other institutions of this type, they have made an effort to put up much of their material online for anyone to see without a fee.

The general introduction:

The Asian section:

There is a lot of material of interest to those who are interested in seeing what South Asia was like in the past. For the moment, we take up the maps taken from the Baedeker guide to India and the neighborhood published in 1914:

Baedeker largely concentrated on Europe, but did bring out this guide in 1914 (just before the Great War). The Murray handbooks were more specialized works concentrating on India, Burma and Ceylon in greater detail.

Though this guidebook is dated 1914, it does show some things which had ceased to exist by 1910 and thus it may be a little out of date. But it can be taken as accurate for approximately 1905-1910. I am concentrating on the railway-related material showing how some lines and stations in undivided India have changed from c.1910 to today.

While clicking on the above link, you get a list of maps. Click on the one you are interested in. I have added comments wherever I could:

Aden: Included as it was governed from India from 1839 to 1937. Today it is part of Yemen. Also, most passenger and cargo ships going from Europe to South Asia stopped there. This continued well into the 1960s. There was even a small railway system there under the NWR which functioned from 1916 to 1929, so it does not appear here.

Many South Asians worked there even after it was detached from India. For instance, Dhirubhai Ambani spent most of the 1950s working at a petrol station there. Mukesh was born there, though Anil was not.

Agra: this had the most complicated layout for any South Asian city of its size, particularly as several railway companies were involved. “Jail station” seems to be the present Billochpura. And one wonders if it was then possible to see the Taj Mahal on the north-south route. You still get a good view while approaching Agra Fort from the east, which most trains from eastern India do.

Ahmedabad: Note Ellisbridge station which was in the timetable up to the 1940s. It is now known as Gandhigram, which briefly served as a metre gauge terminus in recent years.

Bangalore: Much simpler than the present.

Bei Dakka: The Peshawar-Kabul route as of then. The railway ended at Jamrud which was reached in 1901. The Nowshera-Dargai narrow gauge line is complete. The road to Landi Kotal and thence to Dakka (then an important Afghan fort) and Jalalabad can be seen, though the India-Afghanistan border does not seem to be marked. We will return to another map of the Peshawar area shortly.

Benares: the present Varanasi Jn was Benares Cantt Jn until the 1940s, if not longer. Locals still refer it to Cantt station. Varanasi City was an insignificant station on the metre gauge, and has not gained much today even after gauge conversion. Manduadih has now become the main secondary terminus.

Bombay: Note the terminus at Colaba. All long-distance and local trains of the BBCI used to start from there. It was even electrified for the local trains in the 1920s. By 1930 Bombay Central was opened for long-distance services, locals started from Churchgate and the Railways gained some valuable real estate. Housing for railway officers now stands on the area where Colaba station stood.

The harbour branch had not started from the VT end, and Mazagon station was replaced by Sandhurst Road station a little south of it a few years after the map was created. The high-level station and the harbour branch came up along with electrification in the 1920s.

Part of the Bombay Port lines can be seen.

Calcutta: Howrah and Shalimar are seen on the west bank of the Hooghly. We also see the Calcutta Port lines which are now part of the Circular line.

These lines run along the east bank to Chitpur and Sealdah as well, but were not used for regular passenger services until the end of the 20th century.

Environs of Delhi: No New Delhi station, as New Delhi did not exist then. Nizamuddin station is there, as well as Kilokri station between Nizamuddin and Okhla which vanished from the timetables long ago. It used to be the border betwen the GIPR and NWR. Much later Tuglakhabad became the border between NR and CR, while today Palwal is the border betwen NR and NCR.

The alignment between Ajmeri Gate (near New Delhi) and Tuglakhabad has changed considerably. In the old map the line ran west of Purana Qila and Humayun’s Tomb. Now it runs to the east of these landmarks. Probably the present Nizamuddin station corresponds to Kilokri while the old Nizamuddin lies somewhere in Nizamuddin West.

(Thanks to Jishnu Mukerji for filling in some of these details about Delhi).

Delhi (Modern): A misnomer as not much modernisation had occurred when the map was made, which must have been before the capital moved there in 1911. Note Garstin Bastion which gave its name to the infamous GB Road. That is now officially called Swami Shraddanand Marg.

Fathpur Sikri: No railway here, as the Agra-Bayana section was opened in 1913.

Gwalior: The narrow gauge lines to Shivpuri (Sipri), Sheopur Kalan and Bhind can be seen. They can be distinguished from the main BG line which has a thicker marking.

Hyderabad: The network in this section has hardly changed. The Husain Sagar triangle is in place.

Jaipur: Hardly any railway to be seen. The Delhi-Ahmedabad line is in place. Then, as now, you have to go south from Jaipur station and later turn north to reach Delhi and Agra.

Khaibar Pass: The terminus has been at Jamrud since 1901, so the future Khyber Railway actually started from there. Of more interest is the line going north from the long-forgotten Kachi Garhi Junction between Peshawar Cantt and Jamrud, which was the first attempt to reach the Afghan frontier. It ran up to Warsak on the Kabul river from approximately 1905 to 1907. This is probably the most obscure line which ever existed on the NWR.

While Kachi Garhi is difficult to find on the map now, it was known in recent years as a major camp for refugees from Afghanistan. Several members of Afghanistan’s cricket team have said that they learnt the game at this camp.

From contemporary sources, there was one train a day from Peshawar to Jamrud and another to Warsak. These were nicknamed the “Flying Afridi”. Some construction was in progress beyond Warsak in a western direction, when the project was abandoned and the existing lines pulled up in c.1907. More details about this aborted project can be seen here:

You can also see various points betwen Jamrud and Landi Kotal, where the Khyber line was finally built in the mid-1920s

Lahore: Note Lahore Cantt (West) which is now Lahore Cantt, and Lahore Cantt (East) which is now Moghalpura. Also note the chord line connecting them, which must have been used for locos and rolling stock going to Moghalpura besides goods trains. Apparently this was not used by passenger services under normal circumstances.

The two stations mentioned above were recorded as Meean Meer East and Meean Meer West in older records.

Lucknow: The main station is indeed at Charbagh though the larger station buildings came up in the mid-1920s. The site of Dilkusha cabin is clearly seen.

Madras: Most of the main lines are in place, except the Korukkupet-Veysarpadi link. Note Moore Market which was the site of the suburban terminus much later. Also note the proximity of Park station to the jail. There was at least one instance in recent years where a group of prisoners scaled the wall and made their getaway by local trains. It was only after that that full-time police sentries were posted on the platforms.

Nuwara Eliya (Ceylon): The old narrow gauge line is seen here, though it closed in the 1940s.

Port Said (Egypt): It is here as most ships stopped here before entering the Suez Canal.

Red Sea: Again, it is here since most ships from Europe to South Asia stopped here. The stoppages included Port Said, Port Sudan and Aden. One can see that an enemy could easily disrupt shipping this area, particularly in the choke point of the Bab el-Mandeb.

South Asia: A good overview. If you know a bit of German, the legends in the top right and bottom left corners may be of interest. Not quite sure why they have added Ireland to this map.

The shipping routes to Bombay and Karachi are marked. Gwadar is just out of view here. It is often forgotten that it was an exclave of Oman and became part of Pakistan only in 1957.

Suez Canal: On the route. Look carefully for the railway running almost parallel to the west bank of the canal. Also note Ismailia, which is where airships were to stop on their way from Britain to Karachi. This did not materialize after the R-101 crashed in 1930. The giant airship hangar at Karachi remained in place until the 1960s. A small station called Airship Halt existed there at one time.




Articles on world railways (including IR) from the 1930s

This apparently little-known website contains a large number of articles on railways around the world from the 1930s. They seem to have been put together in 1935. It is not clear which publication they originally appeared in.

Material relating to railways in India (and a little of Pakistan) can be found here:

There are also numerous articles on railways in other countries.