IRFCA Mailing List Archive

Messages 321 - 340

From: Ajai Banerji <

Subject: Puzzle solution

Date: 27 Oct 1990 16:42:00 -0500


So we have some military strategists on this net. Both Aravind and
Vijay got it right. The two bridges which handle all north-south traffic
Krishna bridge between Vijayawada and Krishna Canal
Krishna bridge near Krishna station on Raichur-Wadi section

The metre-gauge connection between North and South could be cut anywhere
on the Secunderabad-Dronechalam section. As Vijay pointed out, there is a
bridge over the Krishna near Gadwal station.
After I created this puzzle, I had a look at the September issue of Bradshaw.
One new development has been the opening of the Nadikude-Bibinagar b.g. line
as well as conversion of the Guntur-Macherla section to b.g.
(If you're not familiar with this area,Bibinagar is on the Kazipet-Hyderabad
section and Nadikude is on the Guntur-Macherla section. There is now a
Hyderabad-Guntur passenger via Bibinagar and Nadikude)
Even if something happened to the two Krishna bridges, trains from
Kazipet or Hyderabad could run via Bibinagar-Nadikude-Guntur-Tenali and
thus to the South. So our invaders would also have to take care of some
bridge on the Krishna which must lie on this route.

From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: Re: The Long Ride

Date: 28 Oct 1990 15:48:00 -0500


Ajai writes:
> As you might guess, the diverted route became Wardha-Bhusaval-Manmad-
> Daund-Guntakal-Krishnarajapuram-Jolarpettai and then resumed the regular
> route of the Kerala Express. As is usual in such cases, the diverted train

I wonder why the diversion wasn't executed via Guntakal-Renigunta-Katpadi-
Jolarpettai instead of via K'puram. The former would have still catered to
some of the Kerala Exp.'s regular halts namely, Renigunta and Katpadi.

> route probably has the worst food amongst the trunk lines. At the other end
> of the scale, probably the best food I had in a railway dining-room was at
> Ambala Cantt. I used to eat there regularly in 1979; it was still good on my

I was quite impressed by the high quality of service provided on the
Bombay-N.Delhi Rajdhani Exp., including the food. This was in summer of '83;
the above journery constituted the first phase of my Kashmir trip.


From: anand <

Subject: Cholan express from Kumbakonam to Madras Egmore

Date: 29 Oct 1990 20:35:00 -0500

One of the most memorable journeys that I have had was on the Cholan
express (which runs from Trichi to Madras on the main line) in the
summer of 1975.

[An aside: I have always felt that the chord should have been the main
line since it seems obvious when you see it on the map. This is all
Meter Gauge incidentally]

We had gone to visit my mother's great aunt who lived in Kumabkonam.
This a nice agricultural town near Thanjavur (in central
Tamilnadu). On two days of the week, the Cholan express has a chair car
rake with a vestibule and pantry car. On the rest of the days, it is an
ordinary meter gauge train. We unfortunately did not get the chair car.

The train halts for a minute or two in Kumbakonam and after a pushing
match, my mother, brother and I managed to get into the first
carriage from the engine. The engine was a YDM4a with an extraordinarily
dirty exhaust. I suspect that the engine needed a tune up. The YDM4a
sounds very different from the familiar WDM2. It has an angry rasp in
its exhaust note. The engine also seemed to be running at a
substantially higher RPM than the WDM2.

Well anyway, there was 6 of us squeezed on a bench meant to seat 4.
One of the people was a women with a small baby. The baby screamed like
crazy. Another passenger wishing to be helpful, offered the mother some
castor oil (yuk!). The baby quitened down on receiving the foul stuff
but a few minutes later had an unforunate 'accident' on the seat.

Imagine if you will a pool of liquid on the seat. Each time the train
goes around a bend, the pool creeps a bit further forcing one of the
passengers to get up. Soon there was 5 of us standing and the mother and
baby were the only ones seated. Remember that MG lines have sharp bends
and the train went fast through the curves. Fortunately when the time the
train reached Villupuram, a cleaner came and cleaned up the mess!

At Villupuram they changed to a meter gauge electric built by Hitachi.
I wonder if anyone knows the designation of these engines. They run on
25 Kv AC so would it be YAMx ? In my opinion, these electric locos are
the best looking engines on Indian Railways. Their horns have a
wonderful note! Villupuram is only 157 Km from Madras Egmore and the
there were no more incidents for the rest of the trip. The train stopped
at Tindivanam, Chengalput and Tambaram. The stations on Southern's MG
section are always immaculately clean! Madras Egmore is a particularly
nice station. You can drive your car virtually on to the platform.

Well, as you can see, I am a fan of the MG section of Southern. I really
wish I had had more opportunities to travel on it. The only other long
distance I have travelled is from Srirangam to Madras by the Rock Fort
Express but unforuntaly most of that journey was by night.

R. Anand

From: aravind <

Subject: interesting journeys

Date: 29 Oct 1990 19:10:00 -0500

I guess an interesting journey of mine was a trip from
Trichy to Madras Central on BG - via Erode.

This is sort of like traveling the three sides of a rectangle.
I did it about 15 years ago just to experience being hauled by
the famous Mangalore mail between Erode and Madras, which had been
newly "dieselized" and was then the among the fastest trains on the
Erode-Madras section. (The powers-that-were needed quite some
convincing before they allowed me to purchase such a ticket ...)

The link express from Trichy to Erode consisted of through
bogies to Bangalore, a few unreserved coaches for Erode, and one
sleeper coach for Madras.

This through coach was empty when we left Trichy in the evening.
It gradually filled up as we picked passengers at various points, the
bulk of them entraining at Karur (for whom the MG Trichy-Madras
trains were not a good option).

By the time we arrived in Erode it was nearly midnite. The coaches
for Bangalore were moved first, to be attached to the then
Cochin-Bangalore Island express. There used to be an engine change at
Erode, so the new engine was attached directly to the Blore coaches.
Of course I had to get down to watch all this action ...

The Island express pulled up, and its engine change took place, the
process attaching the Blore coaches. It then departed.

After a wait, the Mangalore-Madras mail arrived. It too underwent an
engine change at Erode with the new engine coming first to our coach,
and hauling it to the waiting "headless" mail.

The mail finally left Erode, rapidly picking up speed that so used to
enthrall me in those tender years. I waited for the train to cross
the Kaveri outside Erode before climbing to my berth.

I sort of went to sleep for a while and woke up sometime before
Katpadi, and marveled at the length of the train behind me, and the
speed at which it was going (100 kph was a lot then!).

The one part I didn't like all that much was when a whole bunch of
commuters crammed into our sleeper coach at Arakkonam. But that was
the last hour of our journey and passed quickly. The train was
punctual, which made the experience all the more memorable.

I've always enjoyed the trips on the Jolarpettai-Madras BG section,
even tho' I've travelled on it several times between Madras and Blore.
It is Southern Railways' showpiece; there is always something to watch
along the route.


Like Anand, I too am somewhat regretful that I haven't explored the MG
rail lines in Tamil Nadu. I did travel on the Cholan express once
from Madras to Trichy (it takes a whole day). It passes thru a
bunch of towns steeped in classic Tamil culture - Cuddalore,
Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, and Thanjavur - that the shorter chord line
skips altogether.


From: aravind <

Subject: krishna bridge

Date: 30 Oct 1990 09:45:00 -0500

Original-From: vax135!aravind (Aravind)
To: att!!
Subject: krishna bridge

About 100 km SE of Hyderabad is the Nagarjunsagar dam across the
Krishna and the associated lake, which has flooded a large portion
of the valley. I remember from a visit that this
place is named after the mathematician Nagarjuna - I don't recall if
he actually lived there ...

There was talk in the mid-70s of a rail line through the region that
would link Hyd and Guntur. I guess that line is now a reality, and
the new bridge across the Krishna is probably somewhere
downstream from the reservoir ...


From: Ajai Banerji <

Subject: All about Bradshaw

Date: 30 Oct 1990 10:15:00 -0500


Many of the people on this net may be interested in having a copy of the
current Bradshaw. This is how you can get it.
It is available from the publishers at Rs 90 by air mail and Rs 65 by sea
mail. The check should be drawn in favor of W.Newman and Co. The address is
Bradshaw department
W. Newman &Co
3, Old Court House Street

Of course, it is not worth sending a rupee draft from here for such a small
amount. It is better to ask someone in India to make the payment.
It is preferable to get the May or November issues as they will have the
revised timetables.

Another helpful source is Thomas Cook's Overseas Timetable, which may be
available at university libraries. The same publisher also brings out a
Continental Timetable which covers only Europe. The Overseas timetable covers
India in some detail, around the same level as Trains at a Glance. It is also
useful as it covers all countries other than Europe, so it may be useful in
planning a trip by Amtrak. This costs about $22 and is available from Forsyth
Travel Services (1-800-FORSYTH)

From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: MG traveling in the South!

Date: 31 Oct 1990 14:03:00 -0500

Hi Folks,

Traveling by MG has alway been a welcome change for me. It is more than
just being in a narrowed down version of a BG coach, and hauled by a narrower
version of the familiar WDM2 or WAM4. The sights and sounds that one
experiences, are quite different. BTW, I have always wondered why the
rhythmic sounds produced while traveling by MG are somewhat different from
those in BG. Has this something to do with the variation in the spacing of
bogies, track arrangements, or train speeds?

Some of the routes have been traveled (by me) only in passanger trains.
These are Mayiladuturai-Karaikkovilpathu and Dindigul-Palani. Another
journey was from Bangalore to Secunderabad on the Venkatadri Exp.; I have
already described the fusion of the two link trains at Dharmavaram,
in an earlier mail. Let me briefly describe some of the other journeys:

1) Thanjavur to Madras by Cholan Exp.

This was way back in summer of '74, when I was in Thanjavur to attend my
uncle's marriage. Earlier we had traveled from Varanasi to Madras by a
thru' coach (before the Ganga Kaveri Exp. was introducted), and then from
Madras Egmore to Thanjavur by an overnight passanger. It must have been
around 9.00 a.m. when the passanger stopped at a small stn. just after
Kumbakonam. And then I saw a YDM4a for the first time in my life, hauling the
blue (with yellow strips) coaches of the vestibuled Cholan Exp. In fact, it
was the first time that I had set eyes on a prestigious MG train.

I was naturally very excited when I learnt that our return journey would
be on the very same train. The train stops at Thanjavur for about five mts.;
we somehow mananged to push our way into a chair car coach. (This train was
also completed colored and vestibuled) The situation
became better after Kumbakonam, where I managed to get a seat beside the
window (very important). At Mayuram, another uncle of mine detrained with his
family; he would be proceeding to Karaikkal. We crossed the crossed the
Kollidam river after nearly an hr. and then had a brief halt at Chidamdaram.
We passed thru' the towns of Cuddalore and Panruti, before the much awaited
halt at Villupuram. After this, our YDM4a gave way to a cute looking
YAM-1(?), which reminded me of the WAP2 loco. in operation on the electrified
sections of the Eastern rly. Both these locos. are eight-wheeled and have
slant faces. One major difference is in the positioning of the pantographs.

Regarding Anand's comment on the Cholan Exp. being a ordinary MG train
some days of the week, does this mean that the train loses its color and
vestibule on these days?

2) Dindigul to Madras by the Vaigai Exp.

This journey was a dream come true, and was carried out in summer of '85,
a few months before embarking on the overseas trip to the States. The fact
that the train stops at Dindigul for a mere 2 mts. had me a bit worried during
the rickshaw-ride to the stn. The train arrived on time (around 7.30 a.m.).
I felt pleasantly surprised to learn that even the YDM4a had the same
green'n'yellow color as all the coaches. Fortunately, my reserved seat was
beside the window. The next 8 hrs. would be spent in traveling on one
of the fastest MG trains in India (is the Pink City faster than the Vaigai?).

The train thundered thru' Manaparai. The 12 mt. halt at Tiruchchirapalli
gave me chance to take a few photos of the brillaintly colored YDM4a along
with its equally magnificent fleet. Some more photos were taken while
leaning dangerously out of the door; but the train had just left Tiruchi
and was yet to pick up speed. The train continued to ignore faily imp. halts
such as Tiruchi. Town, Srirangam, Lalgudi and Ariyalur, and then had a brief
2 mt. halt at Vriddhachalam. It then crossed the Dn. Pallavan Exp. after ~30
mts. The next halt was at Villupuram, where I indulged in some risky business.
I climbed out of the door towards the non-platform side, squeezed thru' a
small opening in the fence, crossed the adjacent track, climbed up the other
platform and then took a few snaps of the coaches. By the time I had retraced
my steps back to the door, the whistle had been already sounded (note that the
same YDM4a hauls the Vaigai even in the electrified V'puram-MAS section) and
the train was all set to move.

I had always been fascinated by the electric locos. in this section, and
wasted no time "capturing" a few of them on film. Tindivanam was arrogantly
ignored. The train slowed down precariously at
Chengalpattu. The next few moments were spent in agonized suspense as
the train snailed thru' the important junction. Tambaram was also
convincingly ignored. Oh, what a feeling! We were now traveling thru' the
suburbs of Madras. Once in a while, our train would overtake a suburban train.
One last quick halt at Mambalam, and the train finally ground to a halt at the
"neatly" maintained Madras Egmore stn.

That's all for now,



From: Swaminathan Srinivasan PHY <

Subject: "train journeys"

Date: 31 Oct 1990 12:55:00 -0500


Hi guys,

I was expecting to read something about experiences involving
interaction with fellow passengers, when vijay called for people to write
about their train journeys. Also some descriptions of the regions they
passed through, etc. All we have so far is discussions about rail-routes
and engines and coaches. Nothing to do with scenery, nothing to do with
people ....

I am not saying that what is being posted is not relevant to this
group (for that is not the case). Can't help feeling that there is a lot
more to train journeys than the train itself and the names of the stations
it passes through. Hence this posting.

swami srinivasan

From: Ajai Banerji <

Subject: Train to Pakistan

Date: 02 Nov 1990 14:39:00 -0500


No, I am not referring to Khushwant Singh's novel. However, in view of
the impending communal holocaust it is well worth reading. Our generation
generally views Khushwant Singh as a frivolous writer, but this novel is
probably the best one written about the horrors of Partition. This novel
(also published under the title'Mano Majra') along with 'Bhowani Junction'
are probably the only novels in which the Indian railways figure prominently.
The only rail connection between India and Pakistan is the express between
Amritsar and Lahore, which passes through the frontier stations of Atari(on
the Indian side) and Wagah(on the Pakistan side). There are customs and
immigration posts at both these stations. Of course, there are a lot of
formalities which make this a very cumbersome journey, although the two cities are only about 80 km apart. The only road link officially open between the two countries also passes through the same area.In spite of the problems there,
this route is heavily traveled since it is the only link between the two
countries for those who cannot travel by air.(A few years ago, I observed a
sign at New Delhi station mentioning a New Delhi- Lahore special)
It is also inconvenient for those traveling from Bombay and South India to
Karachi and other places in southern Pakistan. Take, for instance, a trip
from Bombay to Karachi. This involves a trip from Bombay to Amritsar(2 days),
another day for the border crossing, and again a 2-day trip from Lahore to
For this reason there has been talk about restoring the line from Munabao
to Khokrophar. Munabao is the terminus of an obscure branch line from Jodhpur
via Luni, Samdari and Barmer. It is served by a single pair of passenger trains
from Barmer.Similarly, Khokrophar is the terminus of an obscure branch line
from Hyderabad Sind via Mirpur Khas. As you might guess, there used to be
through services before partition. The crack train of the Jodhpur State Railway
(the Sind Mail between Ahmedabad and Hyderabad) used to run on this route,
according to a 1929 issue of the Railway Gazette.More about this later.
Incidentally, during the 1971 war India did occupy Khokrophar and the next
few stations. I remember seeing a documentary at that time showing an Indian
military train running into Khokrophar station.
Interestingly, there is a station on the Indian side called Gadra Road,
though Gadra is in Pakistan.
If this route is reopened, there will be certain practical problems. The
Atari-Wagah crossing is at least in a developed area near to major cities,
while this crossing is literally in the middle of nowhere. On the Indian
side, the nearest district town Barmer is over 100 km from the border and
the nearest city is Jodhpur, over 200 km away. The situation on the Pakistani
side appears to be similar. Probably it would be better to run a train from
Ahmedabad to Hyderabad. This train could connect with trains from Bombay and
South India. It would run via Palanpur, Bhildi, Samdari, Barmer and then the
Munabao- Khokrophar border and Mirpur Khas before reaching Hyderabad. It
could connect to services to Karachi, Multan, Quetta etc.
As I mentioned earlier, there used to be a mail train between Ahmedabad and
Hyderabad running in the late 1920s. This would have followed a slightly
different route as some of today's lines did not exist then. The Palanpur-
Kandla/Bhuj line extended only up to Deesa, while the line south of Samdari
ran only up to Raniwara. Thus, this train used to run from Ahmedabad to
Hyderabad via Marwar and Luni, which was somewhat longer than the proposed
route of today.

From: Ajai Banerji <

Subject: Train to Bangladesh

Date: 12 Nov 1990 10:35:00 -0500


There isn't any.
That is to say, there have never been any scheduled passenger services
between India and Bangladesh since the latter country came into being in
However, there certainly were trains running between India and East Pakistan.
In 1962, I travelled from Kulaura in E. Pakistan to Karimganj in Assam. I am
not quite sure of this train's start and destination. The customs formalities
were probably held at Maishasan station which is now the terminus on the
Indian side. Today,it has a few passenger trains from Silchar.
In a timetable of around 1964, there was a mention of three trains starting
from Sealdah and running into East Pakistan. If I remember correctly, these
were the North Bengal Express, the North Bengal Mail and the Barisal Express.
My guess is that the first two ran to Parbatipur and the last to Jessore or
Probably these services ceased after the 1965 war. However, during the 1971
war, some military trains probably crossed the border after the tracks were
What are the chances of starting train services between India and Bangladesh
now? Apparently there hasn't been much interest on either side.
The most logical route would be a train from Calcutta to Dhaka. However
this is not possible yet since there is no bridge yet across the river
which splits Bangladesh in two. A ferry crossing of several hours would be
needed. Probably one could think of a train from Sealdah to Goalundo Ghat
with a connecting ferry to Narayanganj, near Dhaka.
Connecting Dhaka and Chittagong with Assam would be simpler, as there would
not be any ferry problem with the above mentioned Kulaura-Karimganj line.One
could think, for instance, of a Dhaka-Gauhati Mail or a Chittagong-Dibrugarh
Express. Both of these would run through the Badarpur-Lumding hill section,
which is supposed to be one of the biggest'bottlenecks' on the Indian railways.
It is single track and includes a stretch of 18 km of 1:37 gradient. However,
this line was intensively used during the second world war to carry supplies
from Chittagong to the war front in Manipur and Nagaland.
As we know, there are many problems in Assam stemming from migration from
Bangladesh. So the Indian government is unlikely to agree to anything which
will make it easier to travel between the two countries. Thus, there is no
prospect of train services resuming between the two countries.

From: J Mukerji <

Subject: Re: Train to Bangladesh

Date: 12 Nov 1990 15:11:00 -0500

Excerpts from personal.IRFCA: 12-Nov-90 Train to Bangladesh Ajai (2429)

> In a timetable of around 1964, there was a mention of three trains starting
> from Sealdah and running into East Pakistan. If I remember correctly, these
> were the North Bengal Express, the North Bengal Mail and the Barisal
> Express. My guess is that the first two ran to Parbatipur and the last
> to Jessore or Khulna.

Almost right! They were named East Bengal Mail, East Bengal Express and
Barisal Express. East Bengal Express is not to be confused with North
Bengal Express, which used to run from Sealdah to Maharajpur Ghat, then
one got on a ferry there to cross the Ganga to Manihari Ghat. At
Manihari Ghat one got onto the Meter Gauge North Bank Express to get to
Siliguri. All this was of course long ago, much before Farakka Barrage
and the Assam Broad Gauge link. It was then a serious adventure getting
from Calcutta to Siliguri. I remeber travelling from Calcutta to
Darjeeling via this route many eons ago!

BTW, before partition there used to be a Darjeeling Mail which ran from
Sealdah to Siliguri (on Broad Gauge) via Bengal - Assam Railway, across
the famous Sarah Bridge, through what then became East Pakistan. I have
heard stories of trips to Darjeeling by this train from my mother.
Naturally that train was discontinued and there was no train service
from Calcutta to Siliguri until the Meter Gauge Assam Rail Link (between
Barsoi and Siliguri?) was completed.

Jishnu Mukerji,
+1 908 957 5986,
AT&T Bell Laboratories,
MT 3K-423, 200 Laurel Ave.,
Middletown NJ 07748

From: Ajai Banerji <

Subject: Long runs(and other railway trivia)

Date: 13 Nov 1990 13:23:00 -0500


Guess which is the longest continous scheduled run on the Indian Railways?
It is the 465 km between Kota and New Delhi, which the Rajdhani Express
does in 5:05 hours while going north and 4:50 while going west.
Other long runs (over 400 km) include Dhanbad- Mughalsarai(402 km),
Kanpur- New Delhi(434 km) and Madras- Vijayawada(433 km). Earlier, several
trains like the TN express and AP express used to have continous runs from
New Delhi to Jhansi(410 km), but they all stop at Gwalior and/or Agra now.
When the Coromandel express started running in the late 70s, it had only
3 stops, at Bhubaneshwar, Waltair and Vijayawada. Each of its runs was
over 400 km. Now it has many more stops.
However, if you consider the longest continous run in terms of time, this is
7 hours flat between Vijayawada and Madras by various trains. This run is from
21.10 to 04.10 by the Guwahati-Trivandrum express and its sister services like
the Patna-Cochin and Howrah- Bangalore. There are 6 different trains which
share the same timetable between Howrah and Madras.The Coromandel and TN
express also make this run nonstop, though they take a little less time.
Note that this 7-hour run applies only to the southbound journey. On the eastbound trip all these trains stop at Ongole to pick up lunch. The
Coromandel stops at Bitragunta for the same reason.
Other long runs(over 6 hours) include Bhopal- Nagpur and Kalyan- Bhusaval.
A few words about Ongole and Bitragunta are in order. Both are comparatively
small places which got a stoppage of superfast trains by luck. Though Ongole
is a district town, its main claim to fame is the following PJ which appeared
on sci lately:
Q: Why do teams from Andhra do well in hockey and football?
A: Because they already have an advantage of one goal (Ongole)
Bitragunta is a strange place. It has a fairly large station and huge
marshalling yard, though there doesn't seem to be any town there apart from
the railway installations. One could understand this if it was a major
junction(like, say, Itarsi or Bina which dont have much of a town), but it
is not a junction.

From: anand <

Subject: Bitragunta

Date: 14 Nov 1990 04:07:00 -0500

Ajai mentions Bitragunta which is a place I rmember with much fondness.
The reason that Bitragunta has a large station yard is that it used to
be one of the big steam loco sheds on SC railway. There used to be a
wonderful roundhouse in Bitragunta clearly visibile from the mainline
which had a huge sign which read:

Bitragunta: Home of the Iron Horse.

Even as late as 1979, you would see half a dozen steam engines including
WP, WG and a type of a BG steam tank engine (4-6-4T). Does anyone
remember its type? Now alas, the sheed is defunct and everything is
electrified... If you look hard I think that you can still see the
remains of the roundhouse.

R. Anand

From: apte <

Subject: Re: Long Runs

Date: 13 Nov 1990 14:13:00 -0500

Ajai has given an excellent summary of the long non-stop runs on IR.
Till a couple of years ago the Bombay-Delhi Rajdhani did not stop at
Kota. The Ratlam-New Delhi run, must therefore have romped in at #1
with hundreds of kms to spare. However, both this and the
Kalyan-Bhusaval run of the Gitanjali Exp include technical halts at
Gangapur City and Igatpuri respectively and are therefore not strictly
non-stop. Does anyone have any fundas on why the Rajdhani stops (at
least used to stop) at Gangapur City? Is it that the locos need fuel,
or servicing or what?

Swinging from long runs to the other end of the spectrum - the short,
yet interesting runs: a category of trains that has always fascinated me.
Their characteristics are that they are short distance, connecting two
important cities that happen to be nearby, they typically make both up
and down journeys in one day. Their allure is that they are
prestigious, fast/superfast, in some cases are legends in their own
domain, and they all have fancy names (as opposed to the unimaginative
Baroda-Ahmadabad Inter-city Exp!)

Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list:


I'm sure I've missed many - maybe somebody can complement?


P.S. If we do ever come up with a reasonably comprehensive list, it
will be an interesting excercise to find out which, among these,
runs shortest of them all? I suspect that the Deccan Queen (191 kms)
would be a leading contender.

From: J Mukerji <

Subject: Short Run Expresses (was Re: Long Runs)

Date: 14 Nov 1990 07:54:00 -0500

A few more that come to mind are:

Coalfield Express Howrah - Dhanbad
Steel Express Howrah - Tatanagar
Ispat Express Howrah - Tatanagar

and the unimaginatively named

Howrah-Asansol Express Howrah - Asansol

the locals seemed to call this train Bidhan Express.

Jishnu Mukerji,
+1 908 957 5986,
AT&T Bell Laboratories,
MT 3K-423, 200 Laurel Ave.,
Middletown NJ 07748

From: aravind <

Subject: "short" trains

Date: 14 Nov 1990 08:58:00 -0500

On SR,

- Kovai express between Madras Central and Coimbatore (500 km)

- Pallavan express between Madras Egmore and Trichy (330 km MG)

A same-day round trip on the Vaigai Exp., do-able in 1982,
was not possible in 1986. The incoming Pallavan to Egmore
would reverse to become the outgoing Vaigai and vice-versa.

Re: Bitragunta, I remember that when steam was king on this
section, an engine change would take place for all steam trains
at this station. However, the diesel trains would skip
it completely.


From: Mukunda Kantamneni <

Subject: Re: Bitragunta

Date: 14 Nov 1990 08:22:00 -0500

There is some thing majestic about the "Home of the Iron Horses"
at Bitragunta. I fell in love with it at first sight! I still
remember it vividly, though it is more than 10 yrs since I
travelled in that section.


From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: Long and Short Runs!

Date: 14 Nov 1990 14:32:00 -0500

Hi Folks,

Please note my new email address:- ("csg" changed
to "crhc").

Long runs:

1. Rajdhani Exp. and Trivandrum/Cochin/Bangalore - Howrah/Guwahati Exps.
Congrats for gettting the solutions right, Ajay! (This was a puzzle I had
posed to Ajai about a week back). I had been meaning to write about the
long runs. Now that Ajai has done a splendid job of it, let me add my

2. Longest scheduled run by an MG train:

The Delhi-Jodhpur superfast Mandor exp. covers the 284 km. distance between
Jodhpur and Jaipur (via Degana-Phulera) in about 6 1/2 hrs. I am not sure
whether this is supposed to be non-stop; I have a feeling that Phulera is
a technical halt.

3. Some other long runs (past and present):

The Bombay Rajdhani Exp. covers the Kota-Delhi 465 km. stretch with a
very high average booked speed of ~94 kmph. Earlier, as Puskhar mentioned,
Kota was not a halt and the train used to stop at Gangapur City instead (but
this was just a technical halt). Thus, the longest distance between
consecutive PASSENGER halts was 731 km. I believe that both the
Rajdhani Exps. change their crew at all their three respective halts.
Possibly these are also watering halts. The Bombay Central - Vadodara run
is also a long one:- 392 kms. covered in just 4 1/2 hrs. (avg. speed ~84 kmph.)

The Howrah Rajdhani also maintains a high avg. speed in its long runs.
N.Delhi-Kanpur Central (435kms. in ~5 hrs., ~87 kmph.), and Mughal Sarai-
Dhanbad (408 kms. in ~5 hrs. one way, ~4 3/4 hrs. other way).

Did you know that the Rajdhani Exps. had only technical halts at Vadodara,
Mughal Sarai and Dhanbad at the time of introduction? (Hwh. Rajdhani was
introduced in 1969, and the Bombay one in 1972). This meant that the
longest distance between consecutive passenger halts was Kanpur-Howrah :-
an astonishing 1008 kms!

Other non-stop trains on the New Delhi-Kanpur stretch are the two
Neelanchal Exps. and the Shatabdi Exp. Earlier, the Prayagraj Exp., the Gomti
Exp., the Vikramshila Exp. (now merged with the Magadh Exp.), the
Saryu-Yamuna Exp., the Shaheed Exp. and the North-East Exp. used to enjoy this

Did you know that the Gitanjali Exp. earlier used to travel non-stop
between Durg and Raurkela (a distance of 453 km.)? Alas, it now has
halts at Raipur, Bilaspur and Jharsuguda in that stretch. Similarly, the
Tamilnadu Exp. earlier had a non-stop run between Balharshah and Vijayawada
(a distance of 455 kms.)

Short Runs:

Following is the list of all short-distance (<= 500 km.) Exp. trains from
Bombay and Calcutta, with some additional info. to the best of my knowledge
(additions/modifications are most welcome). I'll post the trains from the '
other two metropolises shortly.

Notations: v - vestibuled
s - superfast
d - has a few double-decker coaches
dd - is a double-deckered train
n - is an overnight train
ac - has AC Chair Car service
el - hauled by an electric loco. througout its run
dl - " " a diesel " " " "

^From Bombay V.T.:

1. Deccan Queen Exp. (to Pune): v, s, d, el, white color with a red strip
across the windows and a green strip near the bottom
(loco. of same color)

2. Indrayani Exp. (to Pune): v, s, ac, el, white-n-blue color (including loco.)

3. Deccan Exp. (to Pune): v, ac, el
4. Sinhagad Exp. (to Pune): v, dd, el
5. Siddheswar Exp. (to Solapur): n, el
6. Mahalaxmi Exp. (Dadar to Kolhapur): n
7. Koyna Exp. (to Kohlapur): n
8. Sahyadri Exp. (to Kolhapur): n
9. Panchavati Exp.(to Manmad): v, dd, el (changes elec. locos. at Igaturi)

^From Bombay Central:

1. Flying Ranee (to Surat): v, dd, el
2. Vadodara Exp. (to Vadodara): v, n, el
3. Sayaji Nagri Exp. (to Vadodara): v, el
4. Gujarat Exp. (to Ahmedabad): el
5. Gujarat Mail (to Ahmedabad): v(?), n, el (This is a 21 coach train with as
may as five I class coaches!)
6. Ahmedabad Janata Exp. (to Ahmedabad): n, el

^From Howrah:

1. Steel Exp. (to Tatanagar): v, el
2. Ispat Exp. (To Raurkela): v, el
3. Howrah-Purulia Exp. (to Purulia): v(?), dl
4. Howrah-Ranchi-Hatia Exp. (to Hatia):

5. Dhauli Exp.: v, s, ac, dl (Can sombody inform me about the color of its
coaches, and whether the WDM-2 has the same color?)

6. Sri Jagannath Exp. (to Puri): v(?), n, (I believe it has a red-n-white

7. Asansol Exp. (to Asansol): v, el (earlier it used to have an orange-n-white
color, hauled by a WAP2 loco. of the same color)

8. Coalfield Exp. (to Dhanbad): v, d(?), ac, el, blue-n-white color
9. Black Diamond Exp.(to Dhanbad): v, d(?), ac, el (I believe it too has a
blue-n-white color)

^From Sealdah:

1. Bhagirathi Exp. (to Lalgola)


Adios Amigos!



From: Amitabha Mukerjee <

Subject: A journey last summer

Date: 14 Nov 1990 20:03:00 -0500

Another tale of train travel. This one is from this summer in Pune.

amit mukerjee

A ride in the engine

It rumbles down the tracks of steel, gasping and wheezing an
overpowering metallic breath as it decelerates behind me. It is an
old engine, a one-eyed behemoth standing high above me, a good bit
higher than the mental image one acquires from distant sightings. I
have come onto the railway lines only a few minutes back, giving way
at last to the seductive call of the gap in the wall behind my guest
house. I have negotiated a wide drain and crossed the first set of
tracks - an weed-overgrown line that ended soon at a wooden
crash-barrier - and am carefully walking along the stones besides the
track when this monstrous hulk comes bearing down on me at snails
pace, coming to a stop directly beside me, just before the signalpost.

It is late afternoon, and Pune city is busily returning from
work across the gently curving silhouette of the bridge leading to the
Blue Diamond hotel. Distant horns and smoke from the jhuggi
cooking-fires register dimly on the consciousness. There are a few
others walking along the tracks on the other side, across the ten or
more lines that lead into Pune station. The grass has faded along
their well-trodden path where it meanders next to the parallel
regularity of the shunting cables running along the tracks.

I can see the engine driver through the window above me. On
impulse, I hail him and he turns to look at me - thick black
spectacles and on an unshaven visage - he beckons me up the ladder
into the cabin. There are two men in the coach, one standing in front
of a large lever and various other controls, and the other, the one I
had seen, simply lounging in the other seat. The man at the helm is
the driver and the other an assistant driver, as I soon found out.
You entered the engine driver's hierarchy as assistant driver, and
went through Goods driver, Junior driver (lesser passenger
trains/locals), to eventually become a Senior driver, and only then
were you entrusted with the mail and the express trains.

It is an electric engine, built by Hitachi about thirty years
back. Originally designed for high performance traffic, it has seen
many years of service hauling express trains, but now it is old and
difficult to maintain - spare parts are unavailable - and has been
relegated to goods train duty. On the windscreen it says "80 Kph" in
thick hand painted letters, but the speedometer goes up to 160. The
model is WCM-4. A cousin, the WCM-1 still works with the Deccan Queen
and the Indrani Express, both superfasts. What about the Shatabdi, I
ask. Oh those are AC lines there - Alternating Current, you know.
Out here, the Pune-Bombay segment is entirely DC. The Shatabdi engine
is a WAM-4. Yes, it is certainly more powerful. Many of these
engines are now built in India except for the generators, which come
from England, although he hasn't seen the WAM-4 and can't vouch for
those. Here it is all DC; even this bulb. 1500 Volts of it, along
those overhead lines. Oh no, heaven forbid, the bulb is only 110V,
and the motors are all 750V - come, let me show you the engine room,
offers the driver.

We go through a small door into a narrow corridor smelling
like electric heating elements being used after a long time. Large
machines with grey cowling hum behind green-painted meshes.
Altogether the six "regenerative" motor-generators produce 3600 hp.
Here, this is the high-tension room, which he does not open. This is
a bank of resistors - intense heat radiating from behind more green
meshing. More motor cabinets and then we pass through another door
onto the rear cabin, identical to the front, with a full complement of
controls. We stand here a few minutes, soaking in the wondrous
symmetry between front and rear, and then we walk back through the
narrow aisle, the machines brooding over us and crowding us from all
sides and the naked bulb glinting dimly on the paint. We stoop across
the low door and are back in the cabin again.

The signal has turned green in the meanwhile, so our driver
releases the brakes and we shudder forward, past the back of Wadia
College, crossing the mark that just says 193 and it is rather dense
of me not to recognize this immediately as the kilometrage to Bombay.
Moving cautiously around 20 Km/h, we pass under the bridge and rumble
through Pune station on the second line, in between the main platform
and platform 2. The light is red but there is this tiny orange lamp
below the main light, which overrules the more visible lamp above and
means "proceed with great caution." The next one is the same. Two in
a row means we are headed for a shunt, where the train rattles and
jolts across the tracks, and caution is indeed necessary. This is the
Pune yard now, and we stop a little distance from a traffic underpass
watching from our elevated plane while city life in its different
dimension passes by underneath. We will be here for a while since a
good bit of the train will be detached here. The guard will move from
his rearmost coach to the new guard coach, already connected at the
right position.

The drivers are quite friendly. I am welcome to go with them
- well, I have no plans - maybe I will go along for a few stations.
They are quite pleased, although I am sure this is strictly forbidden
in the rule book that they take their drivership examination from.
Such are the ways in which rules are transformed into meaningless
phrases and disorder insinuates itself into the system. A few rules,
and it is easy to see why each is important; a thousand petty
instructions and you have failed to command respect.

I decide to write the diary while sitting in the assistant
driver's seat. No, no, no problem at all, he says, palms held forward
- please sit down and write, by all means. He will in any case be
nipping down to get dinner from his house nearby. The driver also
gets off and chats with the railway folk in the nearby cabin, from
which they pull the huge levers that operate the joints through
intricate mechanical systems of rods and hinges. Earlier we had
crossed the Pune Central Cabin - if I can find the time, I am enjoined
to visit it. Pune Central is modern; it controls even the distant
joints by electric switches, and all feedback is electrical. Which is
why it was half obscured by some large trees; being electronic, it can
be a little recessed from the tracks.

They are as curious about me, as I am about everything here.
They can't quite fathom my status. A professor from America, in brown
shorts and sneakers, boarding the train from a gap in a hovel - what
kind of creature is this?
Srishti-chhara srishti-majhe deergha-din kariyachhi bash,
shangiheen ratri-din. Tai more aporup besh, aachar nutantaro.
<Long have I lived in alien lands, all by myself. Which is
why I appear so different - Tagore>
I am visiting TCS on Mangaldass Road? Oh who hasn't heard of the
Tata's. What do I teach? Computer Science - how impressive!! There
are four colleges in Pune offering BSc in Computer Science - and he
names them all. Wadia, Ferguson, SB, and another one he forgets.
Perhaps he has a child who went through College Admissions recently, I
think as he is going through the list.

Their eyesight must be good, I remark, mentioning how us three
brothers are all a little colourblind - we are forever failing to see
the bikini on the female form in those funny dot diagrams that look
like mottled sunlight through a tree. Yes, they say, eyesight is one
thing that they are very strict about, must be A1 - it is examined
each year.

The shunting of the coaches are done now and we start moving
again, passing quickly past Shivajinagar station. A local train has
just left and a number of people are crossing the tracks. The
assistant driver tells me how these "trespassers" cause "too much
tension," and I agree, seeing how long the braking distance is. A
milkman stops just short of our track, his brass milk container
shining in the twilight. The driver blows the horn and it jolts me,
reverberating all over the small cabin. But the milkman stays exactly
where he is: his position has been precisely honed over many years,
and he knows exactly what his bounds are. The engine driver knows
that he knows, and so does everyone else, but it is a ritual, this
blowing of the horn. A protocol - a talisman for an uncertain

The sun is quite low now and you can see some lights here and
there in the distance. Khadki is the next station, and I ask to be
let off at Khadki. No problem, they say - they will be going through
the yard anyhow....

The shunt into Khadki yard is heralded by the same red light
with its orange parasite, and we turn left over the shunts, crawling
along at 10 kph. The assistant driver explains, for the third time,
and with increasing gusto at each repetition, how the train has no
steering wheel or handle to maneuver during turns, swaying with his
torso to simulate the turning of a scooter handlebar. Indeed it does
take some getting used to, this steeringless-ness, and one is apt to
search for a convenient object to steer by. The few occasions I have
tried riding a cycle rickshaw I remember a similar sense of surprise
at the behaviour of its steering. Unlike the bicycle, where you apply
negligible force on the handlebar, doing most of the work by turning
the body, in the three-wheeled rickshaw, one turns the handlebar with
sheer force, and the three wheels keep it stable. One wonders what
happens to engine drivers when they start driving a car...

Suddenly, there is a problem. There has been a mistake, a
serious one. The line we have been shunted into has standing on it a
low decked carriage ahead of us and we can barely make it out in the
approaching gloom. The driver stops the train well before any danger,
but had he not seen it, there would have been a collision, albeit a
slow speed one.

Apparently the cabin has also realized the error; there is a
man in khaki waiting for us with a many-sided lantern. He jumps into
the cabin even as the train is slowing down. He leans out of the door
and asks the driver to back up the train. This is a delicate affair,
since train is quite long, and there is no communication between the
engine and guard, making it essentially a blind run.

So we move VERY slowly, back under the pedestrian bridge that
no one uses, past the road crossing where traffic is piling up
wondering why we are backing out, and finally past the shunt and back
on the main line. All the time, everyone is leaning out and looking
backwards. Fortunately it is not a large distance, but we take our
time about it. Approaching the joint, there is another man with a
lantern, and he waves us on again as soon as they have shifted the
shunts appropriately. This time we move forward again, on to the
empty track, overriding the bright red signal under the immediate
authority of the swinging lantern ahead of us. The traffic at the
Khadki crossing is a little restive by now but this is India and
patience is abundant so no one really minds.

Is this not a serious offence, I ask the engine driver. Of
course it is a serious offence. If he were to file a written report
the cabin men would almost surely be suspended. But you know, we are
all railwaymen, and after all there was no accident anyhow, and some
days there may be small problems with our driving - nothing so serious
though - and in the long run, "sab adjust ho jayega," - everything
will even out. The word adjust and the related notions are pervasive
in the Indian psyche. I ask him if he knows how this happened, "Galti
kaise hua?" But he simply nods and moves across to peer out the other

Evening has fallen. It is Khadki, time for me to go. The
naked bulb in the streetlight illuminates the faces of the bicyclists
waiting for the gates to open. A few men are sitting on the far
platform under the pedestrian bridge, smoking bidis like fireflies.
Our train slows down and I step down gingerly from the engine deck,
the light from the cabin illuminating me and making me unusually
prominent for a moment. But immediately I am engulfed in the Deccan
night, and stand on the uneven stones of the railway tracks, and they
wave back at me from the bright windows of the engine. I watch them
go a long way, a point of yellow light slipping under the overbridge,
past the platform, onward to its lonely vigil across the ghats.

The gate opens and life surges through, honking and jostling
across the tracks. It is just another summer night in Pune. . .

From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: Short Runs from Madras!

Date: 15 Nov 1990 12:14:00 -0500

Hi Folks,

Went thru' Amit's article; those drivers probably weren't aware of the
existance of the WAP1 or the WAP3.

Continuing on my description of short runs, here is the list from Madras
(distances < 500 km.)

Notations: v - vestibuled
s - superfast
n - is an overnight train
ac - has AC Chair Car service
el - hauled by an electric loco. througout its run
dl - " " a diesel " " " "

^From Madras Central:

1. Kovai Exp. (to Coimbatore): v, s, ac
2. Cheran Exp. (to Coimbatore): v, s, n
3. Brindavan Exp. (to Bangalore City): v, s, ac, green color with two yellow
stripes bordering the windows
4. Madras-Bangalore Mail (to Bangalore City): n
5. Madras-Bangalore Exp. (to Bangalore City):
6. Madras-Jolarpettai Exp. (to Jolarpettai):
7. Yercaud Exp. (to Erode): n
8. Madras-Tirupati Exp. (to Tirupati East): el
9. Sapthagiri Exp. (to Tirupati East): el

^From Madras Egmore (MG):

1. Vaigai Exp. (to Madurai): v, s, ac, dl, green-n-yellow color (including
2. Pallavan Exp. (to Tiruchirapalli): v, s, ac, (uses same rakes as above)
3. Pandyan Exp. (to Madurai): v, n, green color with yellow stripes
4. Rockfort Exp. (to Tiruchirapalli): n

Out of the short-run trains I have discussed so far, Madras-Tirupati Exp.
and Sapthagiri Exp. travel the shortest distance (~145 km.), the former taking
the least time between terminii (3 hrs. 20 mts.). The Deccan Queen Exp. and
the Indrayani Exp. come a close second taking 3 hrs. 25 mts. for traveling
the 192 km. Bombay-Pune distance.