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

 

Book on Industrial Locomotives of South Asia

The more determined railway fans from South Asia would appreciate this weighty book by Simon Darvill (2013):

It gives most details of industrial locomotives which ran in the countries between Afghanistan and Myanmar. A special feature is the lengthy section on the British Army’s military railways in what is now India and Pakistan, including the large amount of rolling stock and other material sent to other theatres of WW1 and WW2.

An interesting point (which one had not come across earlier) is that there was a serious plan to lay a 2’0″ Decauville track across the Khyber Pass from the then railhead at Jamrud, crossing the border and extending into Dakka Fort in Afghanistan during the 3rd Afghan War in 1919. This was some years before the “real” broad gauge line was built to Landi Kotal and Landi Khana.

However, there is no mention of this little line in accounts of the war, so there is some doubt if it was actually built.

While the stress is on steam, there are plenty of diesel locomotives listed as well. Profusely illustrated with b/w photographs.

This book may be available from amazon com and amazon in. Otherwise it is available from specialized bookshops in the UK. Sellers can be located by using Google for the book’s title or ISBN no 9781901 556827

International shipping charges will be high as the packed weight is over 1.5 Kg.

 

 

 

The longest railway tunnels in India-June 2018

The list of long railway tunnels in India have undergone frequent changes in recent years. Fortunately the Wikipedia article seems to have been kept up to date:

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

In undivided India the 3.92 km long Khojak tunnel in Baluchistan had been opened in 1892; for more details see :

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/the-rail-tunnel-in-baluchistan-which-appeared-on-a-currency-note/

This was in fact the longest rail tunnel in South Asia until the Konkan Railway opened in the late 1990s. As you can see from the above list, the majority of the long tunnels are on the Konkan route. The longest is the Karbude tunnel at 6.5 km.

Some other longer tunnels opened in recent years the Sangar tunnel (2.4 km) on the Jammu-Udhampur section and the slightly longer Khowai tunnel on the Karimganj-Agartala section which was recently converted from MG to BG. Other examples in the North-East included some old and new ones on the Lumding-Badarpur section, and some yet to come up in Manipur. One tunnel of 1.9 km length on the existing Lumding-Badarpur metre gauge alignment has been abandoned, although a longer one on 3.2 km has come up on the new BG alignment.

There are some older and shorter tunnels on the trunk lines, notably at Monkey Hill, Parsik, Saranda and Gurpa.

However, the longest tunnel on IR is the 11.2 km long Pir Panjal tunnel between Banihal and Qazigund which provides a link between Jammu and Srinagar. More details can be seen here:

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

Opened in 2013, it will be part of the main route into the Kashmir valley once the problem-ridden section between Katra and Banihal is completed in the next few years. At the moment it serves a number of DMU passenger trains between Banihal and Baramulla (though some run only upto Budgam just north of Srinagar). These trains seem to be popular with the local people at the Banihal end as they save a lot of time and distance compared to the road route between Banihal and Qazigund. And the rail route is far less likely to be disrupted by snow than the road route.

It is likely to be the longest rail tunnel in India for a long time to come. There is expected to be a 8-km long tunnel on the uncompleted Katra-Banihal section which would take over the second spot from the Karbude tunnel. It will still exceed the two long road tunnels under construction at the Rohtang Pass and Patnitop, although the latter would also result in a considerable saving in distance on the Udhampur-Banihal road route.

Reviving the Darjeeling Mail route?

Here are extracts showing the timetable of the Calcutta-Siliguri route in 1943:

Darj Mail 001

As you can see, the border line crossed the tracks between Chilhati and Haldibari stations.

Recent pictures of these stations:

Further south, the Radcliffe line crossed the tracks between Banpur and Darsana. Later Gede station was built closer to the border. (Similarly Petrapol station was built close to the border).

As we well know, the Maitri Express and some goods trains cross the Gede-Darsana border. Probably the Haldibari-Chilhati border will  be used for goods trains only. In case you are wondering, there have been many attempts by Indian governments over the years to get Bangladesh to allow transit for Indian road vehicles and trains to cross Bangladesh to reach North Bengal and the Northeast. They do not seem to like the idea. In fact, tourist visas issued to Indians invariably mention that you must enter and leave from the same point if traveling by land e.g. if you enter at Benapole you have to leave at Benapole.

The US and Western countries do not have such restrictions on the entry and exit points. It is understood that the Bangladesh government has made these restrictions as it does not want visitors to use their country as a means of traveling from one part of India to another.

Anyway, there are some interesting stories connected with the Haldibari-Siliguri section, which I will take up next.

 

Travels in Chennai-ancient signboards

Our first stop is at Basin Bridge Jn (BBQ), where we have examples of ancient and modern signboards:

The food-minded may wish to hold a BBQ here, though you may have to first find a military hotel nearby.

Nearby there is Washermanpet, though the sign painters have some doubts about the name:

The official name is Washermanpet in the timetables. Also note the mis-spelling of the Hindi name. No picture of any new signboard seems to be available on the net.

Some years ago I have seen signs with Chromepet and Cromepet co-existing. Another well-known case is Hafizpet/Hafizpeta in the Hyderabad area.

An example of a run-down signboard in a totally run-down station:

Royapuram

Again, no picture of a new signboard is seen on the net. Tragic, as this station has the oldest surviving station building in India.  It was the first terminus in Madras where trains started running to Arcot (now Walajah Road) in 1856. The old terminuses in Mumbai and Kolkata had opened before this but the station buildings do not exist now. However, it now boasts a new electric loco shed.

Another station which is particularly obscure, as it does not seem to be mentioned in timetables even though it has a booking office which issues tickets. No picture of any new signboard can be located.

Pattabiram military siding

 

Rail Quiz No 2

Here is a fairly simple one for those who are familiar with timetables of the 1970s:

What was common between these four stations as of the mid-70s (but not today):

 

Answer: These stations had three gauges of lines.

The first to get it right was Abhirup Sarkar.

Notes for those who are interested:

Remember, all this applies to the 1970s and not now.

BG, MG and NG are mentioned in order for each case.

NJP: The main line to New Bongaigaon, branch line from Siliguri, 2’0″ DHR to Darjeeling.

Bangalore City: Main line from Madras, various lines to Mysore, Hubli etc, 2’6″ line  to Bangarapet via Yelahanka, Chikballapur and Kolar. The NG terminus moved to Yelahanka in the 80s. Now that line is also BG. Possibly Yelahanka had all 3 gauges for some time.

Miraj: Main line from Bombay and Poona, main line from Bangalore, branch line to Kurduwadi. (Up to around 1970 it was on the MG line from Poona to Bangalore. BG conversion got up to Miraj and Kolhapur and then stopped for many years).

Ujjain: Major branch line from Bhopal to Nagda and Indore, minor branch line from Indore via Fatehabad Chandrawatiganj, 2’0″ branch to Agar which probably closed in the 80s. This was originally part of the Scindia State Railway which also ran three similar branches out of Gwalior, one of which still runs on NG.

 

Hyderabad and Gujrat are not only in India

Have a look at these pictures and decide whether they are in India or somewhere else:

Note the Sindhi signboard in the right picture, which should help you to locate it. The first one is in Pakistan’s Punjab.

The “other” Hyderabad can be reached from India by the Thar Express, which you board at Zero Point after leaving India from Munabao.