Aspects of modern Edmondson tickets in India - Part 2

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. 3/4, Autumn/Winter 1998.

In the last issue we discussed the basic aspects of the Edmondson Card Tickets used on Indian Railways over the years. In this concluding part we first discuss the specific idiosyncracies of the individual railways ticketing practices which include the following:-

Central Railway:- This railway has an unusual tendency towards vertical tickets and to a certain extent to abbreviating station names-particularly on Bombay Suburban issues.

Eastern Railway:- Very keen on "combination" tickets, of which there are a mind boggling variety. These are titled on the front, and are in English only.

Some suburban issues from the Howrah (Calcutta) are clearly printed by the South Eastern Railway, as they display S.E.R. typeface and printing dates. Some tickets are tri-lingual, i.e. English, Hindi and Bengali.

Northern Railway:- The security background which appears on the fronts of many N.R. tickets consists of a logo repeated continuously within a diamond-shaped framework.

Some tickets which include supplementary charges, such as reservations or sleepers, specify this on the backs rather than the fronts.

Northeast Frontier Railway:- This is perhaps the least conformist of all. Its operating territory is largely inaccessible to foreign visitors, and possibly for this reason tickets are not commonly seen outside India. The initials used on the backs of tickets are "N.F.R.".

Ticket colours are often non-standard, and unique to the N.F.R. in the writer's experience is the description '0CM' on tickets for journeys partlyby ordinary and partly by mail train ('Ordinary cum Mail')

The typesetting of station names by the N.F.R. printers is sometimes a little suspect and varying sizes of type can be found to spell out a single name.

Many, if not most tickets are trilingual - English and Hindi, plus (I think) Bengali.

South Eastern Railway:- The most distinctive feature of S.E.R. tickets is the printing date, which expresses the month in Roman numerals. There is also the red "D" overprint in evidence. The S.C.R. was formed in the early 1970s from parts of the SR. and the C.R. and some earlier issues appear to have been produced by these two railways.

Southern Railway:- The typeface used by the SR. is distinctive - very narrow lettering, which may be related with the notoriously long place-names found in the south of India.

Many tickets are trilingual - English, Hindi and Tamil for the most part, but the third language is sometimes Kannada or Malayalam, depending on the area of issue.

The S.R. is very keen on "combination" issues too - with much use of the word 'cum'. These are wholly in English.

Western Railway:- Tickets for the Bombay suburban services are distinctive, and tend to use abbreviations for station names - "CCG" is Churchgate, for example.

Some ticket are trilingual, the third language being Gujarati.

A year or two ago there was a trend towards white 2nd class tickets, but this seems to have been only temporary.

The above are just a few examples of features which members may care to search for in their collections. The writer would welcome details of others identified by such research, and correspondence on the subject of Indian tickets generally. One trivial but fascinating subject for study would be the longest distance evidence on a pre-printed Edmondson ticket (Indian, of course). Can any member produce anything to exceed 3136 km. (Trivandrum Central to New Jalpaiguni)?

There are many otherwise rational people who despite all other ties and loyalties, manage to conduct a passionate love affair from thousands of miles away with that great beast of the sub-continent, Indian Railways. For my own part, although my enthusiasm for I.R. falls a long way short of such devotion (particularly when arriving at a destination over 11 hours late, courtesy of a so-called "superfast" train), I do confess to being a fan. Yes I do like steam trains too, but am not so masochistic that I want to be at Foulganj juction at 3.30 AM. to catch the once daily narrow-gauge 2nd class only train(steam-hauled of course) to Grotpur! What I would like, however, are a couple of tickets from Foulganj and Grotpur - you see my weakness is not for the rolling-stock as much as for evidence of the journeys undertaken by passengers thereon.

The concept of issuing a ticket as authority to undertake a journey is not new (indeed, the concept of a fare for a journey goes back to Biblical times -- see Jonah ch 1, v.3, although we do not know if Jonah was issued with a piece of cardboard on this occasion). Certainly, the earliest railways in India issued tickets, and fortunately some of these have survived. It is actually quite likely that tickets constitue the only remaining relics of certain Railway Companies. I have a number in my collection where this may be so, such as the 'Bengal Dooars Railway' (amalgamated with Eastern Bengal Rly in 1941), and the 'Bhavnagar, Gondal, Jamnagar and Porbandar Railway, which vanished rather earlier (ticket no. 3956 was issued in November 1904). Unfortunately many others have so far evaded me, including several of the minor State railways which were operating in their own right until the late 1940s (Porbandar and Rajpipla, for example) Others which I Would particularly like to obtain would include the 'Carnatic Railway' (absorbed by the South India Rly. in 1874), the 'Pondicherry Railway Company' (what language or languages appeared on their tickets?) and the amazing 'Patiala State Monorail' of 1907 whose rolling-stock may be seen today in the Delhi Railway Museum in full working order!

But the fascination of Indian railway tickets is not only in their representation of long-defunct companies. Even current tickets have plenty to offer, in terms of variety of type, and an amazing amount of information can be extracted from a single ticket. A few examples will illustrate what I mean:

  1. Ticket no. 962 is from a defunct company, but not a notably rare one -- the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, in fact which did not finally disappear until 1951. It is however an interesting specimen, as it was issued not at Bombay Victoria Terminus station but at an office in the Taj Mahal Hotel. The letter 'F' and the horizontal red line denote a 'foreign' booking, i.e. one to a station not on the G.I.P.R, - in this case Jhelum (North Western Rly), which incidentally is now in Pakistan. The ticket is dated 1915.
  2. Ticket no.01792 is much more recent. It is from the North East Frontier Railway, and is preprinted for a marathon journey from New Bongaigaon to Ernakulam This is again a 'foreign' booking, Ernakulam being on the Southern Railway, and it is interesting to see that the horizontal red line convention mentioned above continues on present-day tickets. The ticket shows a printing date 12/83, and as it was not issued until 1989, the printed fare has been adjusted in manuscript. Note the distance of 3130 kin, the class indication"2 ME " (2nd class Mail or Express train), and the very precise routing - the codes at the left of the ticket represent Malda Town, Howrah, Waltair (Visakhapatnam), Gudur and Madras. The stations of origin and destination appear in three languages.
  3. Ticket no. 00325 is currently not available. although it may well still be stocked at Tiruchirapalli Junction. It is for another 'foreign' booking, in this case in more than one sense, as it is a through ticket to Colombo(Sri Lanka)! the ticket covers the basic fare plus supplements for sleeping berth and reservation, using 2nd class ordinary train on the Southern Railway of India( 'up to RMM' i.e. Rameshwaram), Lower Class accommodation on ferry (currently suspended), and 3rd class on the C.G.R. (Ceylon Government Railway). It was issued in 1982.

A specific type of ticket which particularly interests me is the Platform Ticket. Not every station in India issues these - but an awful lot do, and it has been my ambition to be able to produce a comprehensive check-list of issuing stations. Platform tickets in India traditionally cost the same as the minimum 2nd class fare, perhaps so as to remove any temptation there might otherwise be for a prospective passenger to buy a platform, rather than a travel ticket. Sometimes elderly stock is held at wayside stations, because it is rarely if ever issued in practice - thus the Baripada ticket(no. 00018) was issued to me in September 1989 even though its printed price (20 paise) indicates that it dates back to early 1974 at the very latest. The Sandhurst Road issue is a rare example of a glaring spelling error, and the Bharatpur ticket illustrates the regrettable trend of Western Railway towards paper, rather than card platform tickets.

Progress, in the shape of computerisation of ticketing at major stations will undoubtedly reduce the variety of tickets on issue in future. However, such is the scale of network that there will always be something to look forward to in the ticket sense, and I see no likelihood of having to close my collection to new arrivals!