Aspects of modern Edmondson tickets in India - Part 1

by John L King

This article was originally published by the Indian Steam Railway Society (ISRS) in its newsletter, and is reproduced here by permission, which is gratefully acknowledged. Copyright for the material here rests with the ISRS and the author(s) of the article. The ISRS is the premier organization in India engaged in preservation and efforts to promote awareness of the country's railway heritage.

This article originally appeared in the FNRM Newsletter No. 2, Summer 1998.

To some collectors who have a fairly limited accumulation of Indian tickets, they might appear to be rather dull and lacking in variety. This would however be a misguided vie because although a fairly standard design of ticket has evolved, there are vast numbers of subtle variations, and practices peculiar to specific railway systems (of which there are nine). In this series I will attempt to identify both standard and non-standard features and, I hope, encourage an increase in interest in Indian tickets generally.

Firstly, some background information which may be useful. Indian Railways today comprises nine fully functional constituent zones viz:- Central, Eastern, Northern, North Eastern, North East Frontier, South Central, South Eastern, Southern and Western. There is a bewildering variety of accommodation, although not all permutations are available on every train - Air- Conditioned Class, First Class. Air-Con 2 tier Sleeper Class, Air-Con Chair Car Class, Second Class Sleeper, Second Class Sitting and the newly introduced Air-Con 3 tier Sleeper Class.

Trains are also of various types. At the bottom of the ladder are 'passenger or 'ordinary' trains; then there are 'Mails' and 'Expresses', and finally some which are designated 'SuperFast'. In Second Class, there are separate fare scales for 'Ordinary' and 'Mail! Express'. On 'SuperFast' trains there are supplementary charges in all classes.

There are sundry supplements for superfast trains, reservations and sleeper berths, sometimes these are dealt with by the issue of separate tickets for the basic journey and for each suplementary charge, and sometimes one 'combination' ticket suffices for all purposes. The Indian fondness for the word 'cum' is much in evidence in the context of the latter, for example 'Journey cum Reservation cum Sleeper ticket'.

The standard modern Indian Edmondson Card ticket will display the following features:-

  1. The issuing railway's initials (or sometimes its full title on earlier prints) appears on the back of the ticket.
  2. The main text is normally printed over a security background, usually composed of the title of the issuing railway in continuous small type (although the Northern Rly. oftens adopts a different background).
  3. The journey is printed in English and usually Hindi also; sometimes a third regional language also appears.
  4. Other features include class designation, type of ticket (0-Ordinary, M-Mail/Express), fare, distance in kilometres (earlier issues quote the distance in miles), and printing date.

A continuing practice which dates back to the earliest days of Indian railways is that of distinguishing 'foreign' tickets (in other words tickets issued between stations on different railway systems), with a red horizontal wavy band.

It is interesting that despite the evolution of a standard design of ticket, the appearance of different railways' issues can differ quite considerably, because each seems to have its own distinctive typeface (although the Central, Eastern and North Eastern are all similar), and to a certain extent layout. Colour schemes are none too standard; although for the most part Air Con Class issues are white, First Class are green and Second Class Ordinary buff. There are plenty of variations which I will describe in the next issue.

to be continued in the next issue...