Railfanning in India

Railfanning locations

There are some obvious attractions for the railway enthusiast, including the Ooty rack railway (Nilgiri Mountain Railway), the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Kalka-Shimla route, the Neral-Matheran route, the National Rail Museum at New Delhi, the Mysore Railway Museum, etc. Information on these is available in this FAQ and elsewhere. Below are some further suggestions. The list is far from complete, of course, and should be taken only as an indication of the possibilities!

In and around New Delhi

  1. New Delhi Station - An amazing place to spot trains and locomotives from all over the country. Chief attractions are the WAP-5 and WAP-7 departures in the evening on the various Rajdhanis. Also variety of diesels can be spotted here. Must see - New Delhi trip shed on the north exit of the station which has hordes of locos lines up.
  2. Okhla Station - One station south of Hazrat Nizamuddin, many expresses & Rajdhanis can be spotted going through this station at high speed .
  3. Brar Square Station on the Ring Railway (GAL). Sylvan surroundings amidst the ridge forest. Highly recommended for freight action with electrics & diesels from all over the country.
  4. National Highway No. 2 to Agra is parallel to the New Delhi - Mathura mainline. Many highway side resorts provide ample opporunity to spot high speed action while sipping a cold beer!
  5. Anand Vihar on the New Delhi - Ghaziabad line via New Yamuna Bridge. Many high speed east bound trains. WAP5 and WAP7 locos can be seen on many trains here.

Mumbai and the suburbs

  1. Churchgate and CST Stations. The two locations from where Mumbai's iconic 'locals' begin their journeys. To get a feel of just how many people these trains carry, get to one these stations at around 9:00 AM or 6:00PM. CST has also has mainline express trains departing with WCG2s, WCAM3, WDMx locos.
  2. Vidyavihar Station on CR, at the CST Mumbai end, has a panoramic view around Kurla; there is also a marshalling yard nearby. WCG2's, WDM2, WCAMx and other locos can be seen at the electric loco shed nearby; there is also an EMU shed here. Some express trains departing from or arriving at the nearby Kurla Terminus can also be viewed moving slowly through here, whereas other trains from Mumbai/Dadar can be seen speeding through.
  3. Khar Station on WR, at the Santa Cruz end, affords good views. There is a railway yard attached, and the Bandra yard is also nearby. WCAMx locos are common. In the evening, two Rajdhanis hauled by WCAM2 locos can be seen within a span of about an hour ([7/99] 5pm, 5:55pm).
  4. Vasai Rd Station, offers good views all around. Towards the Virar end, a fairly large yard often has many WAGx, WCAG1 and WCAMx hauled trains standing. Most of them are bound for the JNPT, Mumbai. Towards the southern end, the sweeping curve that leads the Vasai - Diva line away from the WR mainline is visible, while the station proper has some additional AC lines that hold WAGx led container traffic towards Baroda.
  5. Kaman Rd Station on the Vasai - Diva gives excellent views of container traffic hauled by various AC locos. This station surrounded by lush green rolling hills, which makes it ideal for photography.

Note: Mumbai's suburban stations see extremely heavy traffic throughout the day. Often the platforms are very crowded. Please be extremely careful while railfanning at these locations and *never* cross railway lines directly. Use foot overbridges and subways.


Chennai

  1. Chennai Central - Southern India's biggest station. Excellent place to spot AC locos of all kind, with WAP4's in abundance! The rare WDM-7 locos also make an appearance, often shunting large 24 coach trains. Best time to railfan - between 7:00 and 10:00 PM. The station also has an excellent restaurant that overlooks platforms 8 - 12.
  2. Chennai Egmore - Chennai's second station. Trains bound towards Madurai and Kanniyakumari depart from here. A good place to spot WDM2 and WDP2(3a) locos. Best time - 6:00 to 10:00 PM.
  3. Basin Bridge Jn - Just 2km north of Chennai Central, this is the station where the lines towards west/north split. Express trains can be spotted snaking their way out. A large trip shed nearby also offers views of many AC locos from all over IR. Also of worthy mention is the large coaching yard nearby. Many WDS shunters can be seen trying to partition and form rakes.
  4. Villivakkam Station - 10 kms from Central on the line towards Arakonnam, this place sees express trains speeding by at 105kmph. Container freight to and from the Chennai Port also pick up speed ahead of the station.
  5. Tambaram Station - Home to the YAM1 MG electric locos. Sadly though these are now no longer in active service, one can see them stabled outside the station in a large yard. Chief attraction here are the dimunitive YDM2 locos, which handle the shunting duties. A few YDM4 can also be spotted.

Kolkata (Calcutta)

  1. Howrah Station - One of India's largest stations with over 20 platforms. Expresses and suburban trains arrive and depart almost continously throughout the day. Attractions include WAP-5 and WAP-7 hauled trains in the mornings and evenings. Other locos such as the WAP-4 and WDM-2 can also be spotted.
  2. Dum Dum Jn - A major junction with four intersecting lines. The Sealdah Rajdhani often hauled by either a WAP-5 or a WAP-7 can be spotted here in the mornings and evenings. Also of interest is a elevated single line of the Calcutta Metro passing nearby. The morning and evening rush hour sees thousands of passengers use the suburban EMU's.
  3. Bally Station. This is where the Howrah - Burdwan main and chord line seperates. Lots of express train action hauled by AC locos. Also of interest is the nearby Bally halt. This halt which is grade separates offers fine views of the Howrah - Burdwan main & chord lines and the Sealdah - Dankuni route. Mornings and evenings are ideal times with trains passing by in 3 minute intervals.
  4. Kolaghat Station on the Howrah - Kharaghpur line. This station is built some 50meters above ground level offers great views of trains passing by at speed. Famous trains that be spotted here are the Geetanjali and Coromandel expresses. Many freight hauled by WAGx and WDx can be seen too. An added attraction is the Rupnarayan river bridge just after the station.

Other locations

  1. Mumbai-Pune section (192 km) has very heavy traffic, with long-distance expresses, local passengers, and suburban trains. Suburban sections have automatic signalling. On this section is Neral, 87km from Mumbai, from where a narrow gauge train plies the route to Matheran, 20km away, hauled by NDM class locos. (Earlier NDM-1, now NDM-6. ([3/01] Note: It has been proposed to introduce a steam service here.)

    Also on this section is Karjat, 100km from Mumbai, where banking operations begin for the ghat section; you can see twin WCG2's banking a train up the ghats from here to Lonavla; the bankers usually return light to Karjat, but often with people all over them using the locos as their commuting vehicles. Further along on this section, a smooth long anti-clockwise curve between Ghorawadi(160 kms) and Begdewadi (164 kms) makes the whole train visible as you peer out of the window. The route has beautiful views of of the western Ghats and the Sahyadri mountains.
  2. Bangalore-Chennai section (358km) is a doubled section but the two lines are some distance apart, making it easier to see the destination boards of the trains you spot on the other line as they fly by. This line also has heavy traffic, and lots of freight too. Between Baiyappanahalli (10km from Bangalore) and Krishnarajapuram (14km from Bangalore) is a triangle from where track forks north to Dharmavaram from both directions; there is a good view of the signals of Channasandra station in the distance here. Krishnarajapuram has a large diesel loco shed (it's actually between Krishnarajapuram and Whitefield); these locos have a characteristic light blue / navy blue livery.

    Jolarpettai Jn. (144km from Bangalore) is one of the more important junctions on SR, and has many platforms, by-passes near the station, and marshalling yards around the station. Arakkonam Jn. (292km from Bangalore) has an AC electric loco shed; there are twin forks in the track for Renigunta just before Arakkonam; and this is the earliest point before Chennai that you can spot an AC EMU. The Bangalore area is also where the WDP-4 locos can be seen quite often.
  3. Guntakal-Chennai is a good section to spot long and heavy freight trains, typically the Green Bullet or other bulk commodity trains with BOXN rakes.
  4. Hyderabad and surroundings can be good places to spot the WDG-4 locos. There is also the suburban MMTS system to see here.
  5. Briganza Ghat in Goa is a good place to spot double-headed or triple-headed diesel-hauled trains.
  6. Kamarkundu Jn. near Calcutta is a good spot to see a lot of freight trains, locals, and expresses (including Rajdhanis) go by.
  7. Pune-Nira-Satara section: Still has Neale's ball token instruments in portions, so it's a good section to watch the token exchange procedure (during the day or at night). A horseshoe curve after Nira makes for good pictures as the train goes around it. In addition, there are rugged hills, viaducts, etc. that look good on an early morning ride.
  8. To see some of the heaviest freight loads in India, the Kirandul-Kottavalasa section is the prime area. There is a lot of movement of ore from the mineral-rich areas, and one can spot long and heavy ore rakes hauled by several combinations MU'd locos (WAG series -- multiple WAG-5's at the front and rear are common, this section also has the WAG-6 series locos, and now the more powerful WAG-9 locos). There is not much passenger traffic on this section, so some planning is needed. Bacheli is a station on this line with frequent appearances by MU'd locos.
  9. The Dhanbad division also has very heavy freights hauled by WAG-9 and other locos.
  10. For diesel lovers, two good regions are the Kalka-Shimla route (NG), and the Mysore-Hassan-Mangalore section (MG), both of which combine diesel-spotting opportunities with scenic locations.
  11. Secunderabad station allows diesel-lovers to see many WDM-2C-hauled trains, many in quick succession around 5pm and 6am (check timetables).
  12. Trivandrum-Kottayam, Cochin-Alleppey and Cochin-Trivandrum are sections where the rare WDM-7 locos can be seen in action. These sections also have beautiful views of the Kerala backwaters.
  13. Mirzapur - Allahabad / Kanpur is a section with heavy freight traffic: coal and and other goods rakes hauled by WAG-4/5/7/9 series locos. Also several WDM-2-hauled passenger trains (diesels running "under the wires").
  14. Vadodara and surroundings: A huge variety of rolling stock can be seen: LHB rakes, WAP-1, WAP-4, WAP-5, WAG-5, WAG-7, WAM-4, AC-DC locos WCAM-1, WCAM-2, WCAM-3, WCAG-1, WDM-2x, WDM-3x, WDP-2. The AC-DC changeover point here is especially interesting.
  15. Igatpuri and surroundings also afford views of a variety of locos: WAP-1, WAP-4, WAG-5, WAG-7, WAG-9, WAM-4, AC-DC locos WCAM-1, WCAM-2, WCAM-3, WCAG-1, WDM-2x. Like Vadodara, this also has an AC-DC changeover point.
  16. Vishakhapatnam and surroundings have the rare WAG-6x class locos.
  17. Mughalsarai on ER has an enormous marshalling yard, with numerous bypasses, loops, triangles, reversing forks, etc. An outer loop of track goes around the main part of the yard; there are a couple of main sections through the middle as well. There is also an NR diesel loco shed here, and an ER electric loco shed where some WAP series locos may be spotted.
  18. Matunga has WR's premier loco restoration workshops; similarly, Golden Rock near Thiruchirapalli is SR's premier diesel loco restoration workshop.
  19. Bandra Marshalling Yard is a large freight and marshalling yard for the city of Mumbai, with numerous WDS4's, WDS6's, and other locos and DMUs in service.
  20. Loco sheds of interest are Burdwan (has the only two WDM-6's ever built), New Katni Jn. (the biggest diesel shed now [4/00], Kalyan and Pune (DC and AC-DC locos of all kinds), Asansol (many AC locos, including WAM-1's and the only WAM-3's), Tughlakabad (large diesel shed, has WDP-1 and WDP-2 locos), Ghaziabad (the first WAP-1 is based here). The Gooty shed is to the right of the tracks when travelling towards Bombay (WDG-2, WDG-4, etc). The NH-3 road near Igatpuri station has a fine view of the DC loco shed, yards, and station. Igatpuri is a good place to see the switch between AC and DC traction. See the section on sheds for more information. Bear in mind that shed officials tend to be more picky about having official permission for photography. It also helps if you write or call ahead and establish your credentials first if you expect to get a visit into the shed proper accompanied by railway staff.
  21. In the same vein, it is possible to arrange for visits to the loco manufacturing units (Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi, and Chittaranjan Loco Works) with some advance preparation and correspondence with appropriate official staff there. Do not expect to be able to walk in without notice: these places do not generally offer tours for the public.

Notes: On double-tracked lines, bear in mind that IR trains use the left track (except in very unusual circumstances), so you have to be seated on the right side of the train you are travelling in, in order to spot the trains coming by on the other track in the opposite direction. Looking in the reverse direction, pay attention to the starter and advanced starter signals for the other track at all stations -- a green signal indicates that a train is due to pass by on the other track between the current station and the next one. Green home signals also indicate approaching express/mail trains. Green starter signals are not always necessary for passenger trains.

Q. Where can I see steam locos in India today?

See the section on the last of steam.

Q. Where can I see WCAM-1 locos? WDP locos? WAG-9 locos?

Please see the section on loco sheds for this information.

Q. Which loco sheds or workshops are good for catching sight of or photographing new locos, strange locos, old locos, etc.?

See the section on loco sheds. Also, see the information on plinthed and preserved locos and the railway museums.

Q. What are some good spots to observe shunting activity?

Generally the bigger stations have large yards attached where you can observe a lot of shunting activity as rakes are formed and dismantled. The large marshalling yards such as BAMY, Mughalsarai, etc. are good bets. Access is generally not too hard, although do keep in mind the restrictions on photography that apply on all IR territory.

Q. What are some good spots to see banker locos in action?

Karjat on the Mumbai-Pune (Bombay-Poona) section is the starting point for banking operations over the ghats, often by WCG2 locos, going up towards Lonavla.

Q. What are some good spots to see freight trains, multiple-headed operations, e.g. multiple WAG-5 freights, etc.?

Most big cities have freight yards (e.g. Shakurbasti for New Delhi, Wadala for Bombay) at nearby stations. In addition, at Bombay, Madras, etc. there are special freight yards for the port container traffic, oil depots, etc.; however, sometimes activity at these yards can be sporadic as it is geared towards shipping timetables.

The ore-hauling sections of SER are the best bets for seeing "heavy-duty" freight rakes hauled multiple WAG locomotives, e.g. Kirandul-Kottavalasa section. Also, the sections around the Dhanbad area where there are many collieries and mines have a lot of freight traffic.

These areas are the best bet for seeing some of the stranger or more unusual freight locos, often new models being tested out for performance under load, locos with non-standard gearing, etc. Watch out for the tell-tale strange suffixes, extra (sometimes hand-painted) numbers or other designations next to the model numbers on the locos, or new-looking locos fresh from the loco works or major overhauling centres.

Scenic route suggestions

  1. The Similiguda-Shrungavarpukota section on the Vishakhaptnam - Bailadilla line is remarkable for the beauty of the ghat scenery. (Take the Kirandul passenger from Vishakhapatnam.) Koraput-Rayagada is another impressive line in the Eastern Ghats.
  2. Palghat-Coimbatore is a route that crosses the continental divide over the Ghats and takes one from tropical rainforest to semi-desert in a couple of hours, with spectacular cliffs and gorges thrown in.
  3. On the Calcutta - Vishakapatnam line, between Behrampur and Khurda Road the view of Lake Chilka is spectacular, especially at night.
  4. The Kalyan/Karjat-Lonavala sections are also beautiful, especially in the rainy season with dozens of waterfalls to be seen along the route (the Deccan Queen is a good train for this). Similarly, the Kalyan-Igatpuri section.
  5. Jaipur/Bikaner/Ajmer/Jodhpur/Udaipur/Jaisalmer for the Rajasthan tourist circuit and great desert scenery
  6. Guwahati - Rangapara - North Lakhimpur - Murkongselek for the views along the Brahmaputra valley
  7. Silchar - Dharmanagar (Nagaland) for remote but lush countryside
  8. Mangalore - Mysore for the rough features and thick forests of the Deccan plateau, and Cochin-Nagercoil.
  9. Other routes include the entire Konkan Railway stretch (Mangalore-Ratnagiri, etc.), the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in summer, the Neral-Matheran train right after the monsoon season when the line opens, the Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge route, BG stretches like Hassan-Arsikere, Nagpur-Bhopal / Itarsi, Titlagarh-Raygadha, and the Dharmavaram-Bangalore and Daund-Manmad sections for numerous curves and gradients; the descent of the Khambli ghat in moonlight, Kalkund-Patalpani, Khandwa-Akola, Muri-Raurkela and Usilampatti-Teni

These are just some suggestions -- there are *many* scenic routes all over the country. (Not being specifically of railfan interest, information on scenic routes can also be picked up from general travel information sources.)

Photography

Q. How should I proceed with photographing or videotaping trains, locos, etc.?

For a comprehensive account of all that is involved in photographing IR, and suggestions on equipment, etc., please see A railfan's guide to photography on the Indian Railways by S Shankar.

IR is skittish about anybody photographing or videotaping anything at supposedly strategic locations such as railway stations, bridges, workshops, etc. Technically, a permit is required for almost all photography or videotaping done on or near railway premises.

However, in practice, this rule is often used by the railway security persons (RPF, GRP, etc.) just as an opportunity to extract bribes. More often, a security person might just be operating under an antediluvian notion of "security" and harass photographers with or without permits. Other railway staff (drivers, station masters) are sometimes quite sympathetic to railfans while others (shed foremen, particularly) might insist on following the rules and seeing a permit.

Lineside photography in general does not require a permit (unless near a bridge, tunnel, etc.), but security personnel may sometimes be ignorant of this. One will often find security personnel and railway staff both more friendly and accommodating at the smaller stations.

Many railfans have had good results without an official permit by being discreet and using small cameras (compact point-and-shoot cameras) which can be concealed easily. Bulkier and complex equipment (such as sophisticated SLRs, long zoom lenses, tripods, or video recorders) is more likely to be noticed and may result in questioning or trouble, especially if the photographer does not have a permit. Similarly, flashes may draw more attention, so unless it is essential, it is probably better to avoid them. The best advice is to avoid overdoing it and not to draw too much attention to oneself.

Some hints

Avoid the platforms or areas near the RPF or GRP post where the security personnel tend to be. Overbridges often provide good vantage points of tracks and shunting yards. An empty train stabled on one track can sometimes provide the best views of action on adjacent tracks, provided one can get into it (and remember to get out of it before it is shunted away...).

The end of a platform is a good place to get shots of a train pulling in or out of a station, without the crowds that are present near the middle of the platform. If you have a good SLR with a fast lens, ISO 100 film is the best as you can make good enlargements of the interesting portions of prints. With a compact point-and-shoot camera, or for candid pictures and action shots, it may be better to use ISO 200 or 400 film, which is also more versatile in different light conditions.

Although Station Masters and other officials at railway stations are not technically empowered to give you permission to take photographs, if you do not have a permit, it is sometimes a good idea to talk to the Station Master or other official and make sure that they understand you only intend to take a few hobby photographs. This will help avoid awkward confrontations with police or other security officials.

Q. How do I get permission for photography? Is permission really needed?

As discussed above, often it is best to avoid problems by getting a permit ahead of time (apply 2 months or so in advance) if you plan on doing any significant amount of photography or videotaping. A permit may be obtained by writing to the Joint Director of Public Relations, at the Rail Bhavan in New Delhi, or to the Senior PRO (Public Relations Officer) of any regional division, or the Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of a zonal railway. List the stations where you intend to take photographs, and the dates for which the permit is desired.

You must also state that the photographs are for personal use and not for commercial gain, and that you will not "tarnish the image of the railways" or otherwise defame IR with your photographs(!). You will receive a sheaf of permission letters -- multiple copies of the permit, which you hand out on demand to various officials later. Normally permits are issued only for still photography. Video photography permits involve more red tape.

Although a station master may not always ask to see the permit, it's a good idea to drop by the station master's (or assistant station master's) office and let him know before engaging in extensive photography. A station master at some of the bigger stations (e.g., New Delhi) might also dispatch an orderly to accompany you while you are photographing, which prevents further hassles with security personnel. Similarly, before photographing at a shed you should talk to the shed foreman. A permit from the CPRO of the zonal railway is almost a necessity at some loco sheds (e.g., Bandra Marshalling Yard) and even that may not work; a letter from Rail Bhavan is often not sufficient. Even railfans with multiple permit letters have sometimes been turned down by shed foremen and others.

[1/01] It has recently been reported that in some cases the CPRO's office now charges a fee for the photography permit, about Rs 2000, although it is not clear if the fee is for a permit for a specific location or one valid across many areas. Many offices do not yet charge this fee.

A photography permit may also be obtained from an Indian embassy or consulate, especially one of the larger ones. This can take a long time, however.

Note that videotaping or using movie cameras is not permitted, technically, under the terms of the standard photography permit issued to railfans; however, possession of an official piece of paper on Railway Ministry letterhead may be better than nothing in some sticky situations, and may smooth over the concerns of security personnel or other railway staff.

Sheds and Workshops, Production Facilities: Permits are needed to enter and visit carsheds, loco sheds, workshops, and production facilities. You may be able to get an invitation from an official at such a facility; otherwise, you need to get a permit from the concerned PRO's office. Loco sheds, workshops, etc., are under the relevant zonal railways' PRO; manufacturing facilities like CLW, DLW, etc., have their own PRO offices. Even with the permit, you need to arrange for the visit at a specific time -- you will be escorted around the facilities and cannot roam around on your own (this is mostly for your own safety since there are hazardous locations and equipment in these facilities). The permits for visiting these facilities may or may not allow photography, and you are advised to double-check with your appointed guide when you do visit the facility.

Miscellaneous

Q. How can I estimate how fast a train that I am in is going?

There are several ways to get good estimates for a train's speed. Distance markers by the side of the tracks provide indications of how far the next (or previous) important station is (in kilometers) and it is straightforward to time the train for a distance of a couple of kilometers to estimate its speed.

Telephone poles or other posts by the side of the tracks often have indications such as "100/5" on them. The top number is usually the number of kilometers from some station; the lower number marks the number of posts within that kilometer section. There are usually 15 or so such poles in a kilometer. So, successive poles may be marked as follows: 79/13, 79/14, 80/0, 80/1, etc. Sometimes these indications are found on the distance posts at ground level next to the tracks. Timing the train while observing these indications can give you a good estimate of the speed. You can't always assume there are 15 poles to a kilometer, though, so estimates are better made by timing from, say, 15/2 to 16/2 or 80/1 to 79/1

Similarly, electric traction poles usually occur at regular intervals spaced at about 16 per kilometer; they too are often numbered as above, or sometimes with every other number left out: 212/5, 212/7, 212/9, etc. Taking the time from, say 70/3 to 71/3 will provide a reasonable indication of the time to traverse 1km, and you can calculate the speed from there.

Rail lengths vary, but it is also possible to time the train while counting off the clicks of the wheels across rail gaps. On BG tracks, the rails are usually 13m long. A simple rule of thumb to use is to count the number of rail joints crossed in 45 seconds; this gives the approximate speed in km/h. For instance, 70 "clickety-clacks" in 45 seconds implies a speed of about 70km/h.

On MG tracks, the rails are usually 12m long, and a similar calculation can be made. Things are trickier on narrow gauge because there are a few different lengths of rails used. Bear in mind, also, that a few BG section have double-length rails. This method is of course likely to be very inaccurate on curves, bridges, approaches to stations with many points, etc.

On welded track it is usually possible, by listening carefully, to count the number of joints passed by the faintly different sound made when the wheel passes over the weld (the spot where the weld is often has a slight concavity with the typical thermite welding technique). Only with sections where the track is flash butt welded is it truly impossible to hear the rail joints. Often wheels have flat spots which add to the noise and make it more confusing. All this makes timing by rail lengths very hard.

The most common rail length on BG sections is 13m, but some places have 26m-long rails. MG rails are usually 12m, and for NG, a commonly-seen rail length is 9m.

If all fails, time the train between stations, and look at the route-km for the stations in a timetable or other source; this will necessarily be a less accurate method as you will only get the average speed.

Using a GPS device

If you have access to a portable GPS receiver, that can be the most easy and accurate way to find the speed of a running train. You will need to place the device close to the window so it can receive the satellite signals, and 'see' as many satellites as possible. Extensive superstructures (overhead bridges, etc.) or heavily built-up areas make it difficult for the GPS unit to track the speed. And of course, it won't work inside a tunnel!

Bear in mind that the speed read by GPS is more accurate on straight and level stretches, mostly because errors creep in as the GPS unit will give you the straight-line distance travelled between two points at which the positions are recorded. Absence of gradients is especially important when only 3 satellites can be received by the unit, because GPS receivers normally need 4 satellites to measure vertical position. To even out short-term errors, it is probably best to log the GPS readings frequently (1 second intervals, perhaps) to a laptop computer. Note that receivers with extensive logging capabilities can be much more expensive.

If you are serious about measuring positions by GPS and correlating them to maps, note that civilian GPS units are guaranteed only to about 20m accuracy in horizontal coordinates and 33m vertically (95% circular error probability) by the US DoD. In practice, accuracy down to about 4m is possible under good conditions and the use of differential GPS receivers can improve on this as well.

However, you should bear in mind that the datum used for coordinates by most commercial receivers is WGS-84, but most maps produced in India use a different datum (Indian datum based on the Everest 1956 ellipsoid), and you will need coordinate transformations to go from one to the other. Keep in mind that the more sophisticated your equipment, and the more 'serious' your measurements and surveying activities, the more likely it is that you will be picked up by questioning by the railway police or other security personnel. Indian authorities tend to be quite strict and unyielding when it comes to dealing with activities of this nature. The Survey of India announced some time back (around 2001) that new official maps of India based on the WGS-84 datum would be published, in the years to come.

Q. How can I tell how fast a train I see passing me is going?

This is in general a somewhat harder question than the previous one. One way to do this is to time how long it takes the train to pass you, and then compute its speed based on the number of coaches or wagons and knowing the length of each coach. BG coaches are 22m (72'4") buffer-to-buffer, BG EMU coaches are 18.2m (66') buffer-to-buffer. BOXN wagons are 10.7m (35.1'), etc. E.g., an 18-coach train is doing roughly 100km/h if it passes you (not counting the loco) in about 15 seconds.

See the section on books and publications for information on maps, especially railway maps, of India. Also see the section on the Indian map datum.

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