A Traffic Probationer's Reminiscences
By G T Simpson, BB&CI Railway, from the BB&CI Railway Magazine, 1942.
Selected and with a foreword by B M S Bisht, ex-GM, NFR, IRTS (retd). 3 January, 2008.
This article was previously published on the website of the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS).
After savoring the history of our alma mater viz. Railway Staff College from its very little known Dehradun days in 1930 that I mailed to the IRTS site a few days ago I am very happy that I have another very topical a topic for all of you to enjoy. Soon we will have the IRTS Day when members of the service will have their annual reunion. I gather this time a batch of IRTS probationers too will join this festivity so appropriately I am posting two heritage pieces on the life and training of a young Traffic Probationer by the probationer himself -- an Englishman named G T Simpson. Probationers will have a glance into the life in the "vintage" days of 1922 in the BB&CI Railway (now the Western Railway). Koi Hai days were certainly different in many ways but now we have far varied and interesting things in the Indian Railways to do and not to do as a probationer or a greenhorn. Our senior members will find the piece nostalgic especially those from Western Railway. I shall be very happy if some Traffic Service survivors of the BB&CI days react to enhance our joviality.
This is Part I; the second Part follows. (On this web page.)
B M S Bisht
My first contact with the BB&CI Railway Company was made in 1920, prior to which year I must reluctantly confess that I never heard of it. My knowledge of India at all was sketchy - that undigested mixture of rice fields, Kipling, elephants and Gandhi with which a school boy in those days was unimaginatively stuffed.
Among the several careers which I had half-heartedly considered, railways had never seriously featured. I had of course passed through the stages of wanting to be an engine driver and a signal man (cabinman) in a box (cabin),but when I imagined I had become a man and put away all childish things, railways went with them.
My first serious, pre-adolescent choice of a career was, modestly, that of bill-posting. To see gigantic twelve-sheet posters being slapped unerringly into place at the end of long brush from the top of a tapering ladder, headlong, enchanted me, though for some reason I was ashamed of this enchantment, probably because I could not discuss it with my contemporaries, all of whose interests seem to be widely different. My father was an advocate and there was naturally a desire in the family that I should follow in his footsteps, or (and here my mission-minded maiden aunts may be heard yelling encouragement from the touch line) become ordained as a minister of the Church of Scotland.
The world, however, was spared both these inflictions, for war, as today, played ducks and drakes with families, and projected courses through the ocean of life had to be re-plotted and recharted several times. My father, who was doing a vast amount of organizational work for the army as well as trying to look after his own legal practice, found the over-work too much for his tired heart and died in 1918 three months before the armistice. This left the family fortunes unbelievably depleted and we joined the ranks of what came to be contemporarily called "the new poor". To proceed with a leisurely university curriculum would have meant sacrifices on my mother's part to which I could not agree. The earlier possible method of earning a salary had to be sought and I could not pretend at the time any tears of regret for by-passing the university. In fact I felt a new freedom and relief for uncertainty as to the future rarely worries a healthy youth thinks that the world is his oyster. I was soon staying with an uncle in Essex, a judge from India who was home on leave as I had not then made a decision. India was put forth as a probability for the first time and my uncle extolled the virtues of his own service. The alternatives of railways and Indian police were before my eyes.
Then to me somehow, the idea of becoming a policeman was unwelcome and in contrast railways seemed a welcome return to the joys of childhood. I consented to consider the railways and my decision at last, after weeks of hovering, caused a sigh of relief in the household compared with which the Frontier Mail blowing off steam on Darrah Pass is as a gentle zephyr.
Striking while the iron was hot, my uncle took me in to London the very next day and presented me to an old acquaintance of his, a certain Major Shelley, who was chairman of an Indian administration with the complicated and irrecollectible name of Bombay, Baroda, and Central India Railway Company.
As a consequence of this interview I left the office in Petty France, Westminster, with an assurance that I would be allotted a post on this what's-its-name railway as Traffic Probationer, but that two years or so were likely to elapse before this materialized as similar promises had been made to several other young men -- some recently demobilised after the First World War. I was therefore advised to spend the interim period in seeking a Traffic People's course on a home railway to qualify myself in some measure for the duties in India which lay ahead of me. My mother was luckily acquainted with the General Manager of the old Great North of Scotland Railway, now the most northern component of the L.N.E.R. and he very kindly nominated me for a course of training on his line, dispensing with the usual fee which is charged on such occasions.
The next two and a half years were spent first in England in learning how to be a railway man. It was entertaining, and academically instructive, but I cannot honestly say that it was of much practical use to me in later years in India, so utterly different are the day-to-day conditions in the two countries.
However I did duty on four royal trains and had the honour, when travelling with the Superintendent of the Line in an adjoining compartment to that occupied by the Prince of Wales and his equerry on an ordinary train between Aberdeen and Ballater, of being presented to H.R.H. (His Royal Highness) in his compartment and sitting therefore about ten minutes while he discussed affairs with my Superintendent.
Just before Christmas, 1922, I received my sailing instructions from the B.B.&C.I. Railway and, proceeding to Liverpool in the following month, I embarked on a tiny ship, the City of Karachi, which took a full month to reach India, with only one halt at Port Said, and gave one a full week of hell before passing into the calmer waters south of the Bay of Biscay.
There were quite a number of other youngsters on board going out to India for the first time and we formed a Hindustani class, which met daily under the tutelage of a friendly Deputy Commissioner from the Punjab whom we had persuaded to instruct us. Starting off on what he described as the three most important words in Hindustani -- ao, lao, and jao, he soon had drummed into us sufficient, if an uncertain smatter of the language to enable us to order our more elementary requirements.
At long last Bombay was reached and while I was gazing, fascinated, over the rail at the countless varieties of headdress and clothing parading below me on Ballard Pier, a steward informed that an officer of the B.B.&C.I. Railway was asking for me and I went below to meet the first of my new colleagues.
This proved to be that pleasant mill pond of calm imperturbability, Homer Miles, then humming musically into the telephone as Deputy to the Traffic Superintendent. He ascertained that I was fixed up for the night and arranged that I should call at the B.B. Offices the next day.
How green some of us were in those days -- and probably still are, did we but realise it! With a friend on the ship I undertook some necessary shopping that afternoon. One of the things which had been drummed into us by old Koi Hais on the ship was that one must never, on any account, pay the price demanded for goods in India. One must always bargain, and usually concluded the deal at about 50 per cent of the price originally asked.
Knowing therefore, as we thought, every strand of the ropes, we strolled into, I think, Marco Polos' and demanded cigars, which we had been told by the same know-alls were the cheapest smoke in India. Blandly we were led to a show case."How much ?" we asked.
A figure was named which was considerably in excess of what we had been led to believe was the market value of Indian cheroots. Dividing this mentally by two, however, we recognized this to be the opening gambit in the long game of chaffering and laughed good-humouredly at the bland young assistant. "Oh, come, come !" we said, " we know what's what. Look here, we'll give you so much."
To see this crinkly-haired youth draw himself up and explain that this was not the bazaar was a sight for the gods, but we learned about India from him. (text missing)
(text missing) and the unfamiliar and unending chirrup of crickets, I presented myself at the B.B.&C.I. Offices the next morning and was introduced to everyone in the Agency and Traffic Offices. All at one visit, they were too much for my memory and I do not know to this day whom I met and whom I did not. I remember Neville Medley well, because he acted as my cicerone and seemed to take a disproportionate pleasure in having known some of my relations, and I remember "Gac" Walker, then editor of the B.B.&C.I. Railway Magazine, with whom I had a long talk.
Every one, however, was kind and friendly and I came to the conclusion that I had joined a brotherhood of happy men and would inevitably be happy among them. I was to be posted to a place called Ahmedabad and was to leave that very night.
At Colaba station I had my first glimpse of my new railway. I was not impressed. The crowded, inadequate station and the dirt and discordancy everywhere were depressing and I whooped with satisfaction when I found that a ship-board acquaintance was sharing my compartment. We dined surprisingly well in the dining car which used to be attached to the Gujarat Mail in those days and, wondering at the absence of corridors in this bewildering country, returned to our compartment and the realisation that even though one may retire to bed under a fan in an Indian train, one may be very glad to pull up a third blanket a few hours later.
I had been told that I was to join a chummery at Ahmedabad which was run by a Mr. James, and when I arrived at Ahmedabad station, which seemed even more gloomy than Colaba and was permeated with the combined smells of decayed fruit and urine and the chatter of myriad mynahs in the roof, I was met by the station master and shepherded into that torture-chamber, an Indian tonga, and dispatched to Mr. James' bungalow. "Jimmy" James was then D.T.S. of the metre-gauge branch district and lived in one of the pair of double-storied architectural monstrosities which serve as a residences for the two D.T.S.'s there. When I drove up in my jolting chariot, Jimmy appeared on the upper verandah in a gorgeously stripped dressing-gown, the lower segment of his cheerful round face encased in a crescent moon of soap, and waving a genial shaving brush in greeting.
My own D.T.S. (for I was posted to the broad gauge) I met later in the day. Although an able and successful man, for whose technical knowledge I had a healthy respect, he had patches of pop-eyed pomposity which segregated him in my mind from the " brotherhood of happy men" I had noted in Bombay. His guiding principle was that of the young officer should, on every possible occasion, be taken down another peg -- a principle upon which he took delight in acting.
As a good example there was a chaprasi or peon, allotted to me in the cadre of the office. In those days I scarecely knew a chaprasi from chapatti, but relying on the information of my fellow probationer, Kerwick, I took this minion on line with me for my first tour. Within a few hours I received a wire from the D.T.S. at headquarters instructing me peremptorily to return this peon to headquarters. When I got back I was told that it was bad thing for the young officer to become accustomed to a horde of menials ministering to his wants and the chaprasi must be used in the office only.
On another occasion he noticed me on a train which his train had crossed at a wayside station, sitting in an officer's carriage. He could see no other officer in the carriage so he presumed that I was using the carriage for myself. Needless to say, I had been forbidden, as much as to small beer, ever to use an officer's carriage. Now the real tenant of carriage in which I was spotted was having a bath and was accordingly not visible at the moment when the two trains crossed. I was only a guest it was typical of this D.T.S. that he wired ahead to the next junction asking them to waylay me and enquire why I had taken out a carriage.
However, such men were soon forgotten and we had two changes of D.T.S. during that year, both the others being pleasant.
On the features of life in Ahmedabad which I remarked to myself was the long period in the middle of the day when one was apparently expected to go without food. The offices, as today, were stationed several miles from the bungalows. The officers went down by trolly before 10.00 and returned about 4.30, yet no one seemed to think it necessary to take even a sandwich with himself!
Accepting this unquestioningly as another curious custom of the country, I too subjected myself to this daily eight-hour fast, endeavouring to ignore the thunderous regurgitations of my innards which would not be satisfied by frequent draughts of soda water and cried aloud for something more solid to wrap themselves about. Some weeks elapsed before I gathered that it was not a social solecism to eat in India to eat in the middle of day, after which I always took my sandwiches with me.
Once a week I would go on line, because for some reason assistants were expected to tour only on office holidays, usually visiting Anand, Baroda, Mehmedabad or some other station where there was a rest house. As all trains on this district run by night, I soon became used to sleeping on station platforms and nipping into trains at awkward mid-night hours in my pyjamas, often to the discomfiture of the sleeping passengers in the train who had to be knocked up to let in.
However, it had its compensations. I was once forced to enter, for lack of room anywhere in the train, a compartment already overfull of Gujarati gentlemen returning from a wedding. They were tired and tempers were frayed, particularly between two nose-in-the-air individuals who were doing their best to ignore each other as offensively as possible.
When I entered they had to move up closer to each other and the jostling which ensued was too much for the "dignified" silence. Turning to his offending neighbour who had pushed him, the first remarked in English witheringly, "You are who?"
To which came the answer, "If I am who, you are bloody what?" I felt there was no more to be said. And I soon noticed that on line a district a railway officer is treated as a little tin god on wheels and is regarded with a deference which I found both unmerited and embarrassing. I imagine this could turn a weak head, and its effect on a few of India's railway officers is discernible, but I was kept to my own sense of proportion by my D.T.S. and the ice which I failed to cut at the Ahmedabad Club.
At the Ahmedabad Club in those days seniority and juniority was all-important. Seniors shamelessly overstepped one's turn. I was once waiting for tennis, and the business fraternity, that bunch of jovial souls, who I am glad to see, run this club today, were not considered eligible to be members at all. There was no one else within years as young as myself there and for few weeks I felt slightly lost.
This was soon remedied by the transfer to Ahmedabad as fellow-assistant, of Norman Iredale, recently demobilised from the 66th Punjabis, and known to all as "Cocky". Iredale was not then possessed of a quarter of his present-day girth and had a zest for activity, both in work and play, with which I found it difficult sometimes to compete. We both lived in Jimmy James' chummery, soon to be added by a fourth-comer -- the local representative of an electrical equipment firm who was one of the few people in Ahmedabad in those days to own a car, but who never, if he could possibly help it, offered any of the three of us a lift in it, and even when asked point-blank to do so in circumstances to when it would have been impossible to refuse, conceded our request with a very bad grace.
Iredale and I could be seen walking home briskly from the club any night. We would be passed on the road with a swirl of dust by this "electrical" gentleman in his model T Ford, but never by any chance, would he offer us a lift, although he as living in the same house and could be seen already wolfing his dinner by the time we got back.
It must not be assumed from all this that life was unhappy. On the contrary, considerable sparkle and gaiety were always present. We derived much quiet fun from a newly-married couple who addressed each other as "Lovey" and "Dovey", from a corpulent dame whom we called "Rabbit Jaws" and a little Spanish girl whose innocence of life in India and of the English language roused our protective instinct.
Our chummery always seemed to be having visitors too, and I recollect one breathless weekend when Paul Dury Mitton almost literally "blew in" on his way back home from sitting for his A.T.S. examination, stirred a cyclone of froth and gaiety which engulfed us all, emptied my Eno's bottle in the morning, and was off on his way back home with a shout of noisy bonhomie before we had properly come to and realized what had stuck us.
I am with you now posting the second and concluding reminisce of 1922 vintage of the BB&CI's Traffic Probationer G T Simpson. Here you can enjoy the old charms of the work and life of young traffic probationers and officers of those days. "Charms" may have a different connotation for the later genre of traffic officers as times change and so does the service culture. The Senior Western Railway members will get a chance to re-live their glorious days and the present young IRTS officers especially of the WR may feel envious -- I am not very sure though!
Simpson talks of two Indians rather fondly, a trains clerk of Ahmedabad named Shivpershad B, and Ramnath Kaul, his fellow Traffic Probationer. I wonder if any of our senior members can give us a clue about them especially Kaul as he happened to be an officer trainee. The Railway School of Transportation at Chandausi is also mentioned where Simpson and Kaul attended the six-week transportation course and where the former topped among all the traffic probationers. Wouldn't it be a good novel idea that some trainee officers at the RSC, Vadodara, and IRITM, Lucknow, are given Indian Railways' history and heritage subjects to research on part of their project writing. Vikram Singh, the present principal at the Chandausi School (now called Zonal Training School), I presume, has reason to be proud of his institution's great lineage. Among many things interesting that struck me is Simpson rueing his paltry salary of Rs 300 per month as a young BB&CI officer in 1922 not anticipating our royal monthly gross salaries of Rs 350 and Rs 400 per moth as T(T) & CD (IRTS as it was called then) probationers in the 1950's and 1960's!
Now please read on; patience may be rewarding. Thank you.
B M S Bisht
I must not forget my training. Despite the fact that on the B.B.&C.I. Railway in those days an A.T.S. was but a machine for signing free passes and routine letters, a certain prescribed ritual had to be undergone by way of training and one of the earliest manifestations was that of running as a guard. I started off running in charge of goods trains. As I said in the earlier Traffic Probationer - Part I all the main trains on the Ahmedabad district ran at night and while I found no difficulty in discharging guard's duties, I found it all but possible to keep myself awake in the brake van in the long watches of night.
I paced the narrow confines of my van, stamping my feet, played with the wheel of the hand-brake, smote myself on the forehead, even deliberately burned my fingers with a match -- any thing to keep myself awake. I knew that if I once sat down on the little seat, uncomfortable though it was, I should immediately drop off and be found unworthy as a guard.
"Hell" Jones and his wife (he was then D.L.O. -- the District Locomotive Officer -- of the district) were extraordinarily kind to me on those trips. Twice I had their saloon on my train and on arrival at Baroda Marshalling Yard in the morning they gave me breakfast and allowed me to sleep in their saloon, which saved me from the further hour's agony of making my way, dazed with sleep, from the marshalling yard to the passenger station where the rest house was situated.
"Gertie" Jones was a favourite in our chummery, for she regarded us all with a motherly eye and her triangular blue notes to one or other of us were a familiar feature of life. To our great sorrow she was to find herself a widow a few years after this.
Train control was introduced on the Ahmedabad district when we were there (after 1922). As there was no room in which it could be housed, the A.T.S.' s room was commandeered for this purpose and Iredale and I were moved into the room of the D.T.S., then "Willie" Harrold, which rather cramped the style of all three of us. Years were to elapse before more spacious offices were built.
I must say here a word about a man whom I chose for my mentor among the office clerks. None had his quiet dignity and efficiency, or a better knowledge of his work, than Shivpershad B., then trains clerk, and from whom I learnt much of the rudiments of my new job. As a member of the staff committee he was ever assiduous in helping his less fortunate brethren, and I am gratified to see that he has since been made a Welfare Adviser. If India had been populated by a community like Shivpershad with service to others as the keynote of their lives, instead of rival gangs of political self-seekers inspired by hatred of each other, India would have been a self-governing dominion years ago.
One of the happiest times I spent during my posting at Ahmedabad was when I was lent to Ratlam to district for a fortnight or so to assist Mr. Aldous with a sudden accumulation of work.
The Aldouses very kindly put me up in their home, and as this was the first real, domesticated home in which I had lived since coming to India, with children adding to the gaiety, the experience was wholly delightful. My sincere enjoyment must have been patent to them for they asked me to return there for Christmas although they already had a full house with old Mr. and Mrs. Sievewright, Mrs. Aldous's parents, and Stanley and Ruth Pick from Baroda, then fairly recently married.
It was in Ratlam that I first became acquainted with that refreshingly unusual person Arthur Campion, recently arrived from Bandikui as X.E.N. His esoteric tastes and opinions were a delight to one already becoming embogged in railway shop and his passion of the moment was gramophone records of operatic arias which he smeared with cream because of some idea that they kept better in this state.
At that time Arthur was starting to write that mirth-raising series of Happy Thoughts after the style of Frank Burnand which appeared in the B.B.&C.I. Railway Magazine for many months and was one of the most amusing features it has ever published. My own connection with the Magazine began about this time with an account of the Christmas activities at Ratlam. My youthful vanity was promptly flattered by a call from Cooper-Walker for more and until I left the B.B.&C.I. Railway I contributed more or less regularly to the Magazine under a variety of aliases.
I became well-bitten by the journalistic bug and, finding in writing something more profitable than the empty life of bridge and gossip which seemed to content so many of my fellow country men in India in their leisure hours, I bombarded the professional press with the progeny of my labours. For some time the only result was a substantial drain on my slender salary for stamps and a regular receipt of the sadly familiar self-addressed packets from the postman, containing my rejected stories.
By and by, however, an occasional one was accepted, and at one time, when I was in constant practice I averaged as much as Rs. 60 to Rs. 100 a month -- a very welcome addition to the Rs. 300 which was all the railway considered my services worth.
After just over a year at Ahmedabad I was transferred to Abu Road. After a bigger station like Ahmedabad, life in Abu Road with only a small railway community and no club life, was very much a family affair, and I think very happy family we were. We played tennis as often as it was possible on our court near the bungalow or at the Institute, and sat in one another's gardens afterwards. Morley was acting D.T.S. then. Paddy Walker was X.E.N., with Manland as his assistant. Carl Newman, now Chief Medical Officer of E.B. Railway (East Bengal Railway) was the doctor and Thos. Cooper looked after the engine.
I find it extremely difficult to think of Abu Road and Thos. Cooper without thinking of Percy Clarke too, for the three names are almost inseparable in the minds of B.B.&C.I. officials, but Percy was home on leave when I arrived, and Roy Morley, supported by his wife and a haughty scrap of Chinese aristocracy called Ninoo was holding the fort.
My first task on arriving on the Abu Road district was to complete the remaining essential items of my probationer course training. After tea, when not on duty, I took my Airedale for long scrambles up the boulder-strewn hills which face the station, on one of which a panther could occasionally be observed seating himself on a large rock in front of a cave. About this time, the next station master of Moribeta was sending his classic wire in to D.T.S.'s office: "Tigers attacking station. Send two swords first train."
Telegrams from station masters were unbelievably funny about this time. At one time they were asked to send in telegraphic advices of rainfall and these some times took curious forms: "Heavily raining cats and rats" was one, I remember, and "Dogging and catting since 7 hours." was another!
After Erinpura, I was sent on to Sojat Road, to work as a Traffic Inspector. This was the one part of my probationary training which had practical use in after-life, and I think a much greater proportion of a probationary officer's training should be spent as a T.I. and much less as a signing machine.
When I returned again to Abu Road, Percy Clarke had returned from leave and resumed charge of his favourite district, bringing with him his wife and their two delightful children, Richard and Rosamund. Here again began a very happy period of my life when I enjoyed the freedom of a family life in Clarke household once more and played with the children by the hour. I realised my grey hair when I heard, only the other day, that Richard has just returned to India as a Gunner cadet officer.
Life was always a joyous adventure with the Clarke family. Percy spread a radiance like a spring morning among his friends and had the enviable quality of enjoying to the utmost every situation in which he found himself. His fame as a shikari was legendary and I have spent countless happy hours with him looking for jungle fowl at Chippaberi, fishing in the Banas, or shooting green pigeons from the bungalow roofs. If there was no time for anything else he would spend a few minutes practising casts with his fishing-rod on the front lawn.
A new arrival from England about this time was Donald MacGee, the Brighton Scot, who was posted as an assistant to Thos. Cooper and who, a few months later, with extraordinarily rapid promotion which characterised the Loco Department of those days, took over from him as D.L.O. (District Locomotive Officer) when Thos. went on leave. We set up a joint m�nage in the Locomotive Bungalow, for I was glad to leave my few dingy sticks of hired furniture and enjoy the relative luxury of Thos.'s which had been left in the bungalow.
At Abu Road I last started to do a little real railway work and was not confined to sitting in the office signing passes and doing my touring only at week-ends, upon which all other D.T.S.'s had insisted. Percy was essentially "human "and no one could have asked for a more understanding chief. Probably he was too understanding and did not hand out sufficient raspberries for my own good, but I can honestly say that I learnt more under Percy than under any other man on the B.B. &C.I. Railway.
One of the earliest requests with which I had to deal officially here was from a station master who complained, "White ants are attacking the records on my shelves. Kindly arrange to paint their backs and bottoms with coal tar."
This reminds me of the answer once given me by an embryo guard in a test examination. The question was, "What is a tail board?" and the answer given was, "A tail board is an emblem which is hanged on the backside of a train."!
I found fascination in the expression "to enjoy leave." I found it common among the clerks and line staff to use this expression even when the leave were required for some sad occasion like a funeral! I also observed a tendency to translate the Hindi word umed literally as "hope," never as "expect" or " anticipate." One day I received the combination of the two in, " I hope my mother will breathe her last in few days when I shall have to enjoy few days leave."
Once a fortnight or so in the Institute they used to stage a dance (or "hop" as they always called it) which was widely attended and thoroughly enjoyed by every one. The Ormsby family were the backbone of these, for Mrs. Ormsby always took care of the catering and her elder daughter, now Mrs. Jules d'Linares, provided the music.
Concerts were popular also and I usually gave one or two fatuous and so called "comic" turns, or took part in a short play. Because of the large number of Scottish drivers in Abu Road I Belong to Glasgow was the most popular song. And I was always sure of an enthusiastic chorus from these grand chaps at the back of hall, led by Grant or Davy Watt.
From Abu Road I was often used for relieving work. I was sent to Bandikui to take over from the permanent A.T.S. going on ten days' casual leave, and found myself assistant to my fellow Aberdonian D.J.T. Jamieson or "Jamie". Jamie had been at the same school; he too had trained with the Great North of Scotland Railways, but he had then graduated to India, via the B.B.&C.I. London Office, an intermediate stage which I had not taken. He is now, I understand, a key man in the A.R.P. organization of his native city, which has suffered on several occasions at the hands of Goering's bombers.
I also went to Delhi to release Mr. Martelli for short leave to take over charge of a district for the first time. I did the same thing with the Deputy Traffic Superintendent's post in Ajmer. Those were the days when Ena and Connie Row were the belles of Ajmer and we staged The Bathroom door to such good effect on the Institute stage there that Trevor Robinson, then C.T.M. (Chief Traffic Manager), visiting the show, could not tear himself away in time to avoid delaying the train by which he was leaving Ajmer, and awkward questions about this delay were asked in the Assembly.
William Stuart Fraser was undisputed king of Ajmer and the station has never really recovered from the reaction which followed his retirement. He was a law unto himself and quite unperturbable. Whatever Ajmer wanted, that it must have, even if it was something so widely improbable as the skating rink. Flower shows, bowling, boxing, hockey par excellence, those were a few of the regular features of Ajmer life which flourished under the patronage of Mr. Fraser. His apprentices worshipped the ground he trod, and small wonder, for he was among them almost every evening at the Institute and he never allowed any glass to remain empty when he was absent. Jimmie James, then also in Ajmer was running another of his famous chummeries this time, and many a happy evening was spent at the sign of The Sambhar's Head. Hudson and Lomre Fox of the Imperial Bank were its regular inmates, but I was permitted to squeeze into a dressing room whenever I came in from Abu Road.
A third brief posting was for a month at Mhow when I had to take over as D.T.S. from Stanley Pick and hold the fort until Mitton returned from leave. I had been looking after Paul's terrier Herbert. Herby was a lovely dog except that he loved a scrap and sought it out, while his nose for food was unerring. One day I missed him on Abu Road station. I discovered that he had jumped on to the dining car of the mail! From Palanpur came the harassed wire "D.T.S.'s dog leaping on platform barking and biting at one and every one."
My one spell of illness at the B.B.&C.I. Railway was an undiagnosed fever which resulted three weeks in hospital in Ajmer under the eye of Miss Spicer and her devoted sister "Mintos", and a month of recuperation at Mount Abu where I stayed in solitary state at the Peaches and paddled myself about the lake. It was very much the off-season and no one was there. The third year of my probationership was spent at Bandikui where I shared a house with Cedric Watson, Assistant Engineer. It was a jovial station, though I thought its climate was hard. May was a foretaste of hell. Morley was my D.T.S. Charlie Lindsay was D.L.O. George Williams and Billy Craig soon arrived to be assistants to him. Symes was the engineer and "Doc" Hume looked after our medical department assisted later by Robert Heatley who had come straight out there from Trinity College, Dublin, while I was there.
Dancing was the most popular way of spending the evenings at Bandikui, and it went on almost every night without exception at the Institute. I myself used to play the piano for many of these, assisted on the drums by a genial ex-soldier driver Mickey Hunt who seemed to derive as much pleasure (and alcohol) from it as I did.
Youths and maidens, I need hardly add, formed the bulk of the dancers. The Scottish stalwarts who drove the trains on this district and were more often seen as drinking Messrs. MacEwan's strong ales in the bar, laced with a peg of brandy, an evil mixture I am glad to say I have not encountered elsewehere.
From Bandikui I was sent as a first officer from the B.B.&C.I. Railway to attend a six weeks' course at the new Railway School of Transportation which had been opened on the E.I.R. at Chandausi. Going back to school again with restrictions was a curious experience, though. There was little to do outside the walls of the school at Chandausi and we did not find the confinement irksome. Ram Nath Kaul accompanied me from the B.B.&C.I. Railway and I think between us we put the State Railway officers in their places. I passed out first. This may have the reason why, a week or two after I returned to Bandikui, I received a letter from a friend who was senior officer on the Jodhpur Railway informing me that they were reorganizing their railway and creating separate Traffic and Engineering departments to replace the system of District Managers. They wished a young Traffic Officer of experience (!) and would be prepared to offer the post to me if I cared to apply for it.
This seemed too good to be true. The Jodhpur Railway scales of pay, prospects and conditions of service were better than those of the B.B.&C.I., and there was no income tax to be paid. The service had high reputation, had always made its former recruitments through the Cambridge University Appointments Board and consequently had a cadre of first-rate fellows, several of whom I had met. I took a few days' leave, went over to Jodhpur to talk things over and agreed that they might ask the B.B.&C.I. Railway to transfer my services to them.
Here we struck a snag. The B.B.&C.I. refused to agree to a transfer. On the face of it, their refusal was understandable. They stated that having brought me out from England and trained me they could not agree to spare me now that I had become useful. I could not have quarrelled with this, except that, a few months before, I had applied for confirmation as an A.T.S. because I had then successfully completed my three years' probation, as well as (text missing) on a home railway before that.
I was told, however,that there was no vacancy to which I could be confirmed, although a head clerk in Bombay office had been promoted to A.T.S. in the interim. This decided for me, and I asked the Manager of Jodhpur Railway whether in the event of my resigning from the B.B.&C.I., he would be prepared to wait for six months until I could serve out my notice period.
On hearing that the B.B.&C.I. would not agree to my transfer, the manager had immediately cabled home to Cambridge for a new recruit, but to my intense satisfaction, he was agreeable to my proposal and was able to cancel his cable. He made a firm offer in writing, assuming that I could report for duty in about six months' time. And I accepted it. I have never regretted this.
We therefore parted, as it were, as friends, and although I have never regretted transferring my allegiance to the Jodhpur Railway, I have many happy memories of life and colleagues in the three years and nine months which I spent as a Traffic Probationer of the B.B.&C.I. and formed several friendships which remained unimpaired by the years in-between.