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.)

 

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).

 

Multilingual railway coaches

You have heard of multilingual signs on railway stations in India. They will have at least 2 languages, English and Hindi and whatever else is widely used in that area-the regional language such as Tamil or Bengali, Urdu in some states and sub-states, the neighboring state’s language and so on.

There are numerous stations with 4 languages, and at least two with 5: Raichur in Karnataka and Krishna in Telangana, which have English, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu.

Sometimes it seems illogical to find some languages on a signboard, such as in Cachar and two other districts of Assam where the signs have Bengali and not Assamese. (Nothing unusual since Bengali is the official language here).

Sri Lanka seems to have a strict 3-language formula of Sinhala/English/Tamil which is followed regardless of the Sinhala or Tamil population in a particular place.

Bangladesh has a simpler policy: Only Bengali, except for larger stations where English is added.

Pakistan seems to generally follow the Indian pattern with English and Urdu everywhere and regional languages as well, in Sind and parts of KP province but not in Baluchistan.

A few posts on station signs and language policies are elsewhere on this blog.

Anyway, today we look at an unusual coach in Chennai:

MSM wagon 1

MSM wagon 2

Copyright of these pictures is with the original photographer.

These pictures were taken some years ago at the Perambur workshops (NOT the ICF). Not sure where it is now.

As you can see, this broad gauge troop wagon belonged to the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, and probably dates back to the 1930s or earlier.

In its time, the M & SM (“Mails Slowly Moving”) covered parts of the present Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Thus the sign has English, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil which should cover all eventualities where the wagon would carry troops.

Also note that a British soldier’s bottom is understood to be larger than his native counterpart’s bottom.

 

More odd station signs around India

(Copyright of the pictures rest with the respective photographers)

If one looks at the use of words in English, Hindi and other languages on station signs then many inconsistencies can be found. Here are samples from different parts of the country.

North Lakhimpur

We start with this place in a somewhat remote part of Assam. North is transcribed into Hindi, but one can make out that it is “Uttor” in Assamese.

It is a normal practice to use the Hindi word “Chhavni” for Cantonment. Not everywhere. Here are two examples from Karnataka, where both Chhavni and Hindi Cantonment are used:

Our next stop is the station formerly known as Chakki Bank and now Pathankot Cantt. See the Hindi and Punjabi signs at the same station:

Hope the concerned persons have made up their mind now.

Similarly at Nellore South where both Dakshin and Hindi South are/were used:

(Can someone clarify what is written in Telugu?)

Elsewhere in South India, a standard pattern for Hindi words is not followed:

bengaluru eastkannur southernakulam townernakulam jncoimbatore north

Note that South and Town have been transcribed (not translated) into Malayalam. (Can someone clarify what is written in Kannada for Bengaluru East?)

Various forts:

ankai killachennai fortbekal fort

In Chennai, the Tamil word has been transcribed into Hindi. In Ankai Killa, the suffix is in Hindi unlike in the other places.

Now to some well-known stations in Assam which are now closed:

Lower Haflong closedHaflong Hill

The words Lower and Hill have been transcribed into Hindi and Assamese.

There are many “New” stations on the NF zone, but only one “Old”:New Cooch BeharNew TinsukiaOld Malda

Here the words New and Old have been transcribed into Hindi, Bengali and Assamese.

But for variety we have:

New Amravati is in Maharashtra, hence the top line is supposed to be in Marathi.

Our last stop is at Agra, which has Cantt, Fort and City:

Agra FortAgra CityAgra Cantt

Here at least a consistent pattern has been followed.

But you can see that the usage of English words in Hindi and other languages is quite arbitrary all over the country.

 

Odd station signs in Chennai

Note these station signs where the Hindi inscription seems to have been taken from Tamil rather than English:

Now compare the sign of Park Town above (top right) with the nearby Park:

Chennai Park

One wonders about the logic.

Finally, a similar one from Coimbatore:

Coimbatore North

Stations in different countries with the same name

(Pictures are copyright of the respective photographers):

Here we limit ourselves to South Asia, but we still find a number of examples:

The most well-known pair is:

HyderabadHyderabad Sind

(Possibly the signs would have read Hyderabad (Deccan) and Hyderabad (Sind) in the past.)

Followed by the Indo-Bangladesh pair of:

Jamalpur station

Jamalpur Town (new)

This is near Mymensingh.

Another very similar pair:

Biman BandarDhaka Biman Bandar

The first one is adjacent to Dum Dum airport in Kolkata.

Then we have a small station in Karimganj district of Assam, and a large junction being built near Faridpur in Bangladesh

Bhanga AssamBhanga (BD)-1Bhanga (BD)-2

The station is not fully functional yet, but you can see the nearby police station which has the sign “Bhanga thana, Faridpur”.

Then we have this station in the Indian side of the Thar desert, which once served a town which is a few km away but in Pakistan:

Gadra Road

This town in Pakistan’s Punjab has nothing to do with the state in India:

Gujrat (Pakistan)

There was also a long-closed Kachh station in Baluchistan, on the Chappar Rift line.

This station in Bangladesh will soon get an Indian counterpart nearby:

Hili

Hili on the Indian side will be connected to Balurghat.

There is also a long-closed Belonia station in Bangladesh which served the town of that name in Tripura. In Tripura, the line through Agartala is gradually creeping towards Belonia and beyond. It has already crossed Udaipur, not to be confused with the better-known Udaipur City in Rajasthan.

Going beyond South Asia, there will be a few more matches in the Commonwealth countries and the US. Wellington in the Nilgiris and Wellington in New Zealand comes to mind. Then there is Salem in Tamil Nadu and Salem in Oregon which does have Amtrak service, while the better known Salem in Massachusetts has local commuter service.

 

 

 

Unusual station signs

Here we look at some stations and station signs in India which have something unique or nearly unique about them.

This idea occurred following the announcement of this new station:

Bhubaneswar New

There are numerous stations with the prefix New, especially in the NF zone. But this is the first station name where New is a suffix.

And there is only one important station which has Old as a prefix:

Old Malda

“Old” is transcribed into Hindi and Bengali and not translated.

(There is also an Old Sachivalaya Halt on the Patna-Digha branch. The line’s future is uncertain. There is a better-known Sachivalaya Halt on the Patna-Danapur section.)

Similarly, we look at the points of the compass. At the center there are several stations which have Central as a suffix. But none have Central as a prefix.

We have better luck with North as a prefix:

North Lakhimpur

Interesting that North is transcribed into Hindi but the Assamese word “Uttor” is used.

None for East or South either. For West, we have this one near Kozhikode:

West Hill

Here, West and Hill have been transcribed into Hindi and Malayalam and not translated.

There used to be a Westpoint Halt near Darjeeling listed in older timetables. That used to serve a school with this name.

Finally, this station in the Hyderabad area:

Sanathnagar

There is nothing unusual about the station sign. The station itself is unusual, as a large number of EMUs of the Hyderabad MMTS do not stop there, but many regular passenger trains and a couple of expresses do stop there.

The reason is not very clear. It has been around for a long time and has a large goods yard. Maybe because road access was difficult, a new MMTS station was built at Bharatnagar about 1 km away which is served by the EMUs but not by other passenger trains. This is probably unique in India as a station which EMUs skip but where long-distance trains have a stoppage.

And there is something od(d) about this station, which is one of the two stations in India (along with Ib) which have two-letter names. It was listed as Ode in older timetables.

Od

Note the famous railway writer Vimlesh Chandra in this picture.