What is it??
IRFCA is a primarily an electronic discussion group connecting many railfans particularly interested in railways in India, and with links to other railfan groups around the world. Currently, it takes the form of a web-based forum, although in the past it operated as a mailing list. Additionally IRFCA also refers to this web site (irfca.org).
Topics on IRFCA cover just about anything and everything having to do with trains in India! Many members are interested in current passenger services, routes, timetables, etc. Others are more interested in technical details of railway operations, motive power, rolling stock, etc. Yet others are interested in historical aspects of trains in India and the subcontinent. We also get travelogues and descriptions of railfanning trips made by members. Occasionally we also discuss railways in neighbouring countries or elsewhere in the world. Discussions are in the English language.
Members of IRFCA are also engaged in documenting railways in India photographically and otherwise (see the main page and the links there to the photo gallery, members' web pages, documents on IR, etc.).
Some members are also engaged in preservation and heritage awareness-building activities, and other activities related to IR, although those are not officially within the scope of the IRFCA mailing list.
IRFCA is not a web site intended for children. Meaningful participation in the discussions requires some maturity and experience as well as knowledge of technical details, history, economics, etc., far above children's levels. Also note that occasionally topics unsuitable for children may be discussed; we do not censor or filter discussions with a view to what is or is not suitable for young people.
See below for the History of IRFCA.
For instructions on joining the forum, see below. There are no dues or contributions required or requested for participation in the IRFCA forum, and there are no obligations or duties either, other than adherence to the group guidelines. You're welcome to join and just listen in on the conversations, although active participation in the discussions is encouraged.
Web Site This web site (irfca.org) was created to be a platform for sharing information - documents, articles, data, images, etc. - amongst IRFCA members and the broader railfanning community with a focus on the railways of India.
Meetings and Trips Interaction among IRFCA members is not just on the forum. Occasionally, members of the IRFCA forum in a particular region may also meet in person to go railfanning at local train stations or on longer trips (by train, hiking, etc.), or sometimes just to chat about trains or watch videos, etc. There is no formal organization of the regional subgroups or 'chapters' of IRFCA. If you join the IRFCA forum, you will quickly find out who is in your vicinity and what activities are going on that you may be able to participate.
In February 2006, the First IRFCA Convention was held at Pune and many railfans gathered for a day of discussions, presentations, and exchanging notes about IR. This has continued as an annual feature with the convention being held at different cities each year. Subsequent conventions were held at Chennai, Kanpur, and Bangalore. See links to their web sites or blogs.
How to join IRFCA
Visit the forum: http://forum.irfca.org and register there. You will need to confirm your e-mail address by responding to the automatic verification mail you will receive from the site after submitting the registration form with all required information.
There are no dues or contributions required for joining IRFCA.
You do not need to join the IRFCA forum if you simply wish to browse around the irfca.org web site, or to contribute any material for the web site. Most parts of the web site are freely accessible to everyone.
The history of IRFCA
The IRFCA Mailing List
IRFCA started with a few rail fans discussing Indian trains by e-mail on the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.indian. Mani Vijay (then Vijay Balasubramanian), along with Sankaran Kumar and Dheeraj Sanghi, proposed setting up a private e-mail list in order to allow the railfans to correspond directly and conveniently. The first incarnation of the list had just 9 members exchanging e-mail directly. The first list server with the name 'IRFCA' -- a name proposed by Mani Vijay and which was accepted over a few other names that were proposed -- was set up at the University of Maryland by Dheeraj Sanghi and was operational on August 29, 1989 (the address was irfca
The mailing list was later transferred to OneLIST in 1999 by Anurag Acharya. OneLIST later merged with eGroups, which was subsequently acquired by Yahoo Groups. During the first ten years or so (1989-1999) the membership remained small, at 50 to 100 members, and predominantly consisted of persons in the US, with some members in the UK.
With the spread of the Internet in recent years, especially in India, membership has been continuously rising. By 2005, the list had more than 2800 members from several dozen countries (it's hard to estimate the number of countries from the e-mail addresses). The two biggest groups on the basis of members' locations are from India and the US. The next leading contingent is probably from the UK. In October 2010, the mailing list had a peak of 8,080 members (although admittedly many of the e-mail addresses registered on it were probably inactive).
E-mail Archive: E-mail messages posted to the IRFCA mailing list from the early years are available on this website at the mailing list archive. Later messages (from late 1999 to late 2010) can be found at Yahoo Groups. The most recent messages are on the IRFCA forum.
The IRFCA Forum
In October 2010, the discussions moved from Yahoo Groups to a forum on the IRFCA site itself.
The IRFCA.org Web Site
The IRFCA server (this web site) was originally not a single web site. In the mid-1990s, the Indian Railways FAQ was maintained on a Geocities web site, and the IRFCA.org domain had some Indian railfan material by Shanku Niyogi. Several other IRFCA members had their own web sites scattered across the net on Geocities, Tripod, and other hosting services. The IRFCA.org domain became defunct in the late 1990s, but later, in 2002, Rangachari Anand acquired the domain IRFCA.org, hosted it on a web server shared with some other web sites, and all IRFCA-related material was consolidated on it. That was the first version of the modern IRFCA web site. During this time, Anand and his friends generously paid for the upkeep of the site. In 2005, the popularity of the site, especially its picture gallery, and the resultant increase in the use of bandwidth and the need for more disk space resulted in the domain being hosted on its own web server where it is today.
And what does the name IRFCA mean, anyway???
The name "IRFCA" stands for the "Indian Railways Fan Club". Why the extra "A"? The list's original name was "Indian Railways Fan Club of America" which was appropriate when the list began, as all the members were in the USA. When membership grew and more and more railfans from outside the USA joined, the original name became less accurate, but it was decided to keep the acronym.