IRFCA Mailing List Archive

Messages 141 - 160

From: aravind <

Subject: The Benguela Railway

Date: 15 Nov 1989 23:05:00 -0500

>From: vax135!aravind (Aravind)
To: arpa!!irfca
Subject: The Benguela Railway

(My comments) The Benguela railway used to run from Southern Zaire to
a port on the Angolan coast, on the Atlantic Ocean. In its heyday, it
was a vital link between the copper country of the then Belgian Congo
and the rest of the world. During the current
civil war in Angola, this link has been all but devastated by the
rebels. The following article describes a serious attempt to get the
railway back on its wheels.... (Hit the "n" key now if not

(excerpted from te NY Times, Monday, Nov 13)


Huambo, Angola:

"In a move that reflects growing confidence in Angola's economic future,
Belgian engineers are preparing to reopen the war-torn Benguela
railroad, once the main artery into Central Africa's rich mineral

If the $572 million renovation is completed in the late 90s, it would
help the4 region's countries reduce their dependence on South Africa.
It would also ease the economic plight of Angola.

The first stage of the renovation effort, tentatively scheduled to
begin this month, involves surveying the entire 845 miles of railway
track, as well as buildings, locomotives, railroad cars, bridges and
telecommunications equipment. The line has been sabotaged by
Angolan rebels.

Ninety percent of the railroad is owned by a Belgian conglomerate and
the rest by the Angolan government.

The project is especially important for Zaire, which once sent half its
trade on the Benguela railroad, and to Zambia, whose devastated economy
would also receive badly needed income and development from the revival
of the railroad.

(some stuff on who is going to fund all this work - African nations as
well as international donors)

Completed after a quarter century (!!!) of labor in 1929, the Benguela
runs from Lobito on the Atlantic coast, climbs 6082 feet
to the fertile highlands, crosses the savannas of eastern Angola and
through Shaba province in Southern Zaire.

In 1973, before Angola's independence from Portugal, the railroad had
14,000 employees, carried 3.2 million tonnes of freight, and earned $30
million in revenue. After independence, virtually all the skilled
workers, some 1,800 Portugese, fled the country, freezing construction
and maintenance projects. Rival guerilla groups then gained control
over sections of the line.
Since then, most of the route has been too precarious to use because of
attacks by the rebel army of Jonas Savimbi.

As of June 1987, only 8 of the railway's 34 diesel locomotives were
being used, and 16 of the 103 steam locos. In Huambo, where the number
of railroad workshops was once the largest in Africa, guerillas have
blown up most of the machinery in the sheds. Elsewhere, old steam
locos still run regularly on a short coast stretch. Hooked to the
front of the trains are ballast cars to set off mines.

Much of the optimism about this planning stage rests on a coincidence
of peace efforts meant to end tensions in the region... In June, the
leaders of the Angolan and the rebels did reach an agreement, but each
side has accused the other of violating the truce, and has returned to
the battlefield."

(end of report)

What a pathetic story... what a sorry legacy of colonialism ....


PS Kumar, your history of the GT was fascinating. I remember the
mix-up between "Southern Express" and "GT express" in the days of the
anti-Hindi riots in Madras in 1967-68. The names were indeed
mysteriously switched in successive timetables, as I recall ....

From: SC10000 <

Subject: suburban traffic

Date: 16 Nov 1989 13:51:00 -0500


There is criticism of the Indian Railways for not providing for the
needs of non-suburban short distance passengers. My feeling is that
the railways are reluctant to introduce such trains because of the
expected heavy use of such trains by season ticket holders. The
season ticket fares are nowhere near the actual cost of transportation
and are a heavy drain on the railway budget. Add to this the prevalence
of ticketless travel and short distance trains are sure money losers
in a big way. My feeling is that season ticket fares should be increased
substantially (this includes suburban sections).

Talking about electrification, the Madras Beach - Villupuram section is
the only electrified MG section in India. I was always intrigued by this
fact. It seems that the plans to upgrade service on this section were
approved when Kamaraj was the CM of TN; at that time he was influential
with the powers that be at the Centre.Supposedly the TN govt.was
offered a choice of either having the Madras-Villupuram section
converted to BG or having the section electrified. The TN govt. opted
for the latter and the electrification was completed in the 60's.

There are no plans to convert the section now to BG; however there are
plans to convert the Madras Beach - Tambaram section to BG. It has been
reported that the Tambaram suburban section has reached saturation; the
frequency of the EMU's cannot be increased because of the presence of
a number of level crossings (these would have to be permanently closed
if the EMU frequency is increased further!). The railways want more
overbridges etc. Also BG EMU's can handle larger commuter traffic.

This is also an acute problem on the Madras-Trivellore suburban (BG)
section. The frequency on this section (at least until 1987) was
terrible (30 -45 mts.). Level crossings, trunk line traffic were the
bane of the suburban system. The Madras-Trivellore section was being
quadrupled to separate the trunk line from the suburban line. This
may have been completed by now.

How do they propose to handle increased traffic in Bombay? Does anyone
Bye, Kumar

From: aravind <

Subject: Re: suburban traffic

Date: 16 Nov 1989 18:54:00 -0500

>From: vax135!aravind (Aravind)
To: arpa!!irfca
Subject: Re: suburban traffic

Ten years ago, before the Madras-Tiruvellore section was electrified,
there were no EMUS - only short passenger trains hauled by steam or
the shunting diesel locos. Service must have been even worse then.
Or has the usage of the line gone up dramatically after electrification?

There used to be a TERRIBLE level crossing next to Nungambakkam station
just outside Loyola college in Madras. Has this been fixed?

The population density along the Tiruvellore corridor was quite lower than
along the Tambaram line. I remember the landscape changing to paddy(?)
fields at Villivakkam, about 10 km from Madras Central. Maybe this
was why they took so long to introduce EMU service?


From: SC10000 <


Date: 17 Nov 1989 13:20:00 -0500


Aravind should be pleased to know that there is an underpass at
Nungambakkam station now. He is correct to say that the Madras-
Tiruvallur line is not as urbanised as the Tambaram line; however
there is urbanisation upto Avadi on that corridor; this is also
very industrialised starting from the Integral Coach Factory in
Perambur (actually Villivakkam) to the Tank factory in Avadi.
Understandably, the urbanisation is centered along the Madras
Tiruvallur highway. Many train stations do not have good road
access; this is now changing.

Coming back to trains here is one more:

Howrah - Secunderabad "Gangasagar" Express:
Superfast, blue colored, weekly.
dep. Hwh M 12:00 noon arr. Sec'bad 10:00 am (next day)
dep. Sec'bad Sat. 4:00 pm arr. Hwh 2:00 pm (next day)

Halts: Kharagpur, Tatanagar, Raurkela, Bilaspur, Raipur, Nagpur,
Ballarshah, Kazipet.

Bye, Kumar

From: Dheeraj Sanghi <

Subject: Re:Re: suburban traffic

Date: 18 Nov 1989 23:17:00 -0500

Kumar writes:
>There is criticism of the Indian Railways for not providing for the
>needs of non-suburban short distance passengers. My feeling is that
>the railways are reluctant to introduce such trains because of the
>expected heavy use of such trains by season ticket holders. The
>season ticket fares are nowhere near the actual cost of transportation
>and are a heavy drain on the railway budget. Add to this the prevalence
>of ticketless travel and short distance trains are sure money losers
>in a big way. My feeling is that season ticket fares should be increased
>substantially (this includes suburban sections).

As I had mentioned sometime ago, the suburban traffic is always a
losing proposition for Indian Railway, even in city like Bombay
where all the trains are always full. Not to talk about the season
tickets, even the regular tickets are less than what it costs to
provide the service, maintain the tracks, etc. Now, increasing the
fares is not only politically impossible (at least not to the level
of making suburban service self-sufficient) but there may be good
argument for subsidizing suburban travel.

So the question is who should provide the subsidy? I think, we can
borrow something from the model here. E.g. in Washington DC, Metro
service is not self-sufficient. All the plan expenditure is done
by the federal govt. (By plan expense, I mean, construction of
tracks, bridges, stations, buying the coaches etc.) The running
expense, and the maintainance is the responsibility of Metro. But
even that is more than what revenue Metro can generate on its own.
So, the various counties that are served by the Metro subsidize
its operations. (Of course, they benefit more. Property near metro
stations become costlier, resulting in higher property taxes to
the county. Also, the county has to spend less on widening roads,
constructing new roads etc.)


From: aravind <

Subject: subways of the world

Date: 21 Nov 1989 19:00:00 -0500

>From: vax135!aravind (Aravind)
To: arpa!!irfca
Subject: subways of the world

Yesterday (Mon) I watched an episode of the series "Travels" on
PBS in which a woman rated subway systems in cities around in world-
New York, San Francisco, DC, Toronto, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong,
Amsterdam, Berlin, London, .... and, you guessed it, Calcutta.

The hour was filled with fascinating views of life in and around the subway.
In every city except Hong Kong, the subway is heavily subsidized.
(In capitalist Hong Kong, the subway rents/sells air-estate around it for such
huge sums that a subsidy is unnecessary. The residents don't want to pay more
taxes to support their subway!)

In the criteria of functionality, punctuality and sheer complexity, the Tokyo
system received a perfect score. But the woman (an American) found the
language barriers very formidable and the subway lacking in color,
and so she knocked the overall score down a couple of notches. Seoul's system
is also very impressive too, and got a high score.

Another most intriguing fact is that East and West Berlin share a
subway line. At the time the film was shot this was the ONLY subway in the
world where one needed passports and visas. The line passes thru abandoned
stations in no-man's land before stopping in East Berlin.

The most surprising part of the show was that Calcutta's subway
received the top score!!! The reporter was bowled over by the cleanliness,
the order and decor of the subway (in total contrast to the chaos above
ground). Victor Banerjee, Calcutta's favorite son, made a brief appearance
where he said that the subway had conferred on Calcutta a new lease on life
(or something similar).

With such words ringing in her ears, our reporter said "a perfect score it
shall be", and the program ended there ...

The New York PBS station WNET is rebroadcasting this episode next Sunday at
7pm. This is a great program for railway/subway fans - (ignore the occasional
gaffe and factual slip) ..... Look for it in your TV guides ....


PS Have a good Thxgiving

From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: New Time-Tables

Date: 22 Nov 1989 14:56:00 -0500

Hi folks,

Mr. Rabindra Roy (also a FACIR) just returned from India, and he got me
the latest South-Eastern, Eastern and Trains-at-a-glance time tables.
Following are some of the changes I noticed on a casual perusal
(I haven't had the time to go thru' them in detail):

1. All trains now have a UNIQUE four-digit number in order to facilitate the
computerized reservation process. e.g the B'by - N. Delhi Rajdhani Exp.
is 2951 Dn. and the N. DElhi - B'by one is 2952 Up. I find that the last
two digits of the numbers have been retained in this (two-to-four digit)

2. The Vasai Rd. - Kalyan WR-CR link is now in operation. As a result, the
Rajkot Secunderabad Exp. and the Rajkot/Ahmedabad Trivandrum/Cochin Exp.
now employ the Surat-Valsad-Vasai Rd.- Kalyan-Pune route. They stop at
Vasai Rd. for 20 mts. (probably for changing directions) and have a 5 mt.
halt at Kalyan. There is, in fact, a weekly Ahmedabad-Pune Exp. using this

3. The Coromandel Exp. now stops at Khurda Rd. for 12 mts., in both the
directions. Incidently, the Patna-Cochin weekly superfast exp. goes via
Howrah and Madras.

4. Many trains have acquired unique names instead of the earlier
terminii-based ones. e.g. Bombay-Lucnow Exp. is now called Pushpak Exp. and
Gorakhpur-Cochin Exp. is now called Rapti Sagar Exp.

5. A new weekly Hyderabad-Gorakhpur Exp. shares its time schedules
with the Rapti Sagar Exp. And then, we have the Varanasi - Tirupati/Cochin
Exps. to add to the list of North-South trains.

6. The Bombay - N. Delhi Rajdhani Exp. has been speeded up by about 1/2 hr. in
both directions. This may be due to the use of WAP-1 electric loco. in the
Ratlam - N. Delhi section. The train stops at Ratlam for 20 mts.; hence, a
locomotive changeover is likely to occur. Also the train now leaves N.
Delhi around 4.00 p.m, a 1 hr. shift from its earlier dep. time.

7. The Neelachal Exps. are back to their original schedules. They leave N.
Delhi at 5.40 a.m. and arrive around 5.00 p.m./9 p.m. They now stop at
Koderma and Jajpur Keonjhar Rd.

More later,



From: SC10000 <

Subject: Subways etc.

Date: 24 Nov 1989 11:47:00 -0500

I did catch the concluding portion of the PBS show on subways which
Aravind writes about. I have been on the Tokyo subway; it is quite
a complex network. The trains on each route have a distinctive color.
Also, all the stations have both Japanese and English signs and I
didn't have much trouble recognising my destination station. I did
have some trouble finding out the exact fare (unlike New York there
is no flat fare) to buy my ticket at the vending machine as there
were no English signs there. However this was not a problem in
Kyoto where everything was clearly marked in English.

Coming to the recent changes in the time-table, I am not surprised
that the Coromandel now has a scheduled stop at Khurda Rd.; it always
used to stop there anyway for a crew change. It will be interesting to
see if the railways will introduce a Delhi-Pune train via the Bombay

I read recently that the electric cable system had been destroyed by
the recent cyclone near Kavali on the Madras-Vijayawada section. This
has disrupted traffic.

Bye for now, Kumar

From: aravind <

Subject: CR-WR link

Date: 27 Nov 1989 18:38:00 -0500

>From: vax135!aravind (Aravind)
To: arpa!!irfca
Subject: CR-WR link

It's good to hear that the CR-WR Bombay bye-pass is finally open to
passenger traffic ... it should cut several hours off the Manmad-Jalgaon
route. Could Vijay confirm this?

Also, I doubt if the link was laid in a way that necessitated a direction
change at Vasai Rd. The 20-mt wait is probably for an engine/crew change...


From: SC10000 <

Subject: One more Shatabdi

Date: 28 Nov 1989 15:04:00 -0500

I read that a new Shatabdi express has been introduced between N.Delhi
and Chandigarh; this covers the distance in 3.5 hours.

Does anyone know the party-wise break-up of the Lok Sabha seats won?
Thanks, Kumar

From: SC10000 <

Subject: Why the lull?

Date: 06 Dec 1989 13:44:00 -0500

Hi folks,
Why the sudden lull in irfca/facir activity? Any comments about the
N.Delhi to Chandigarh Shatabdi Express? Who is the new Rly Minister?
Also bon voyage to Vijay on his upcoming trip to India.
Bye, Kumar

From: T.K. Lakshman <

Subject: Re:Re: Why the lull?

Date: 06 Dec 1989 13:12:00 -0500

ok : here's my first posting (though it doesn't concern IR it IS
about trains....).


The world news (yesterday) had a report stating that a (6-car;
1-engine) train has broken the world speeding record by going at 298.??
mph. The 'normal' hi speed for this train (10-car; full-load) is ONLY
about 188 mph!!. The prev record was held by a german train (~~ 250

PHONE(Off) : 217-244-0529
USMAIL : Dept. of C.S., DCL, 1304 W Springfield Ave, Urbana, Il 61801.

From: SC10000 <


Date: 06 Dec 1989 15:06:00 -0500

Lakshman, was this high speed french train a magnetic levitation

From: aravind <

Subject: New ministers

Date: 07 Dec 1989 08:42:00 -0500

>From: vax135!aravind (Aravind)
To: arpa!!irfca
Subject: New ministers

I just read in the NY Times that George Fernandes (of Coca-cola fame)
is to be the new Railways Minister. Madhu Dandavate, the rlys. headman
during the Janata govt, will be the Finance Minister.


From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: Breaking the lull!

Date: 08 Dec 1989 12:41:00 -0500

Hi Folks,

I have been terribly busy these past few weeks engaged in wrap-up work
before I leave for India on the 13th of Dec. (THAT's something to look forward
to). I shall be back by the 10th of Feb., hopefully, with tons of IR stuff,
and memorable experiences of my train journeys.

I do have lot to communicate to you even at this moment such as responding to
Kumar's thought trains, Aravind's queries about the Vasai Rd.-Kalyan link, and
so on, but I'll reserve it for the second half of Feb.

I recently had the oppurtunity to glance thru' some of Paul Theorox's
descriptions about his Indian journeys. I took an instant disliking to this
person, more because of his contemptous manner in which he has cared to bring
out the negative aspects of Indian journeys, an attitude so evident in these
so-called "white explorers".
On his journey in the Rajdhani Exp., he mentions how Indian meat should be
avoided like the plague, and he also describes this fat, sweaty man serving
food in the pantry car. He scorns at the swarm of Tamilians aboard the GT exp.
And there are many more, which I do not remember in vivid detail (and do not
wish to either).

I guess this end my IRFCA ramblings for this year. Buy I shall be back to
continue from where I left. Til` then keep the ball rolling.

Thanks to all of you making this venture a success.

Here's wishing all you FACIRS a merry christmas and a VERY, VERY, VERY



P.S.: Dheeraj, I hope to meet you in Bombay soon.

From: Dheeraj Sanghi <

Subject: Some undelivered mail.

Date: 01 Jan 1990 22:12:00 -0500

Hi everyone,
Due to some problem (caused by me of course) the mail to
the irfca list was being deposited to a file instead of being sent
to everyone. Here is the "lost" mail.

Date: FRI 29 DEC 1989 13:39:00 CST
From: SC10000 <
To: <

Hi folks,
Wish you all a happy 1990!


Date: Mon, 1 Jan 90 22:19:35 -0500
From: (Dheeraj Sanghi)
Subject: Re: The Extra Second ..
Newsgroups: soc.culture.indian
In-Reply-To: <
Organization: U of Maryland, Dept. of Computer Science, Coll. Pk., MD 20742

In article < you write:
>News about India: (AIR)
>4. Work on converting Metergauge to BG has started in the NorthEastern
> Railways.
>b.s. manjunath

Hi Mr. Manjunath,
Do you (or anybody else in irfca) have any more information,
as to exactly which lines are being converted?



Date: Mon, 1 Jan 90 23:02:42 -0500
From: (Dheeraj Sanghi)
Subject: The New Year

Hi everyone,
My best wishes to everyone on the new year. Our mailing list
has remained dormant for too long, and let's hope we see some discussion

In yesterday's travel section in the Washington Post, there was an
article about future of Railway travel in the world. As usual, the world
consisted of USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. I do not have time to type
the whole article (you can see it in your library, if you want), but I
will present a summary here.

In Canada, the number of passengers is being reduced drastically.
(From more than 400 to less than 200 per week from 15th Jan.) More service
will be cut in the next 3 years. In USA, Amtrak is doing very well. The
revenue to cost ratio has increased to about 0.74, the highest ever. It is
not expected to become self-supporting though in the near future. Amtrak
would be adding some luxury coaches to some of its trains, and increase
the frequency of some trains.

In Europe and in Japan, more and more emphasis is being given
to business travelers. Many countries in Europe are laying tracks
for high speed trains. Luxury coaches are being added to existing trains.
Better service etc. e.g. On some train in Japan, they have added 2 coaches
which have private bath, bedroom etc. They have a telephone, and few other
amenities. There are meeting rooms on the train. There is room service
for food.

What does 90's have in store for Indian Railways? Any thoughts?



From: aravind <

Subject: train accident in pakistan

Date: 05 Jan 1990 13:22:00 -0500

(from NYTimes, Jan. 5 1990)

At least 210 die in Pakistan's worst rail crash:

An overcrowded passenger train was switched to a wrong track and struck a
freight train standing at a village station. it was traveling at least
35 mph when it hit the freight cars. Most of the dead were in the
first three cars. The site of the accident is the village of Sangi
in Sind province.


From: Dheeraj Sanghi <

Subject: BBC on Indian train trip.

Date: 31 Jan 1990 15:21:00 -0500

This was on SCI:

From: (James J. White)
Newsgroups: soc.culture.indian

The February London Calling announces a BBC broadcast on a train trip
across India -- 4,000 miles from Simla at the foothills of the Himalayan
mountains to Kannya Kumari (The Cape of India) in the state of Tamil
Nadu -- with Adrian Quine. The schedule: Sun 4th 1615, rep Mon 5th
0730, 1330. (Remember that's Greenwich Mean Time.)

I hope somebody will listen to this program and tell us all about it.


From: Dheeraj Sanghi <

Subject: Re: Indian Railways : One Hundred Years.

Date: 05 Feb 1990 21:41:00 -0500

Hi folks,
I am sorry about the previous mail. It so happened that
there was a workstation in my lab, whose mailer was disabled for
last few months for doing some experiments. All the mail that
was sent from that machine in the last few months was thus
accumulated, and yesterday when the mailer was started again,
all the mail was sent out. I had already reposted the article
from a different machine in Nov. when I realized that I couldn't
send mail from this machine.


From: Vijay Balasubramanian <

Subject: I'm back!

Date: 12 Feb 1990 14:22:00 -0500

Hi IRFCAites!

I'm back from my India trip. Needless to say, I had lot of fun! Besides engaging myself in the usual list of activities (hogging, sleeping, meeting people, relaxing, TV watching, etc.), I did a decent amount of train traveling whihcwhich also
included an 8 hr. trip in eletric engines from Bombay to Bhusaval! What an

I also took plently of train photos, got some train material from India, mademyself abreast of the latest developments in Indian train-world. You may very
soon find the mailing list being updated, as I 'discovered' another train-nut
in India. He has given me his Indian email address. He may well be a very
useful member, as he could give us the latest in Indian railways.

How has our club activity been in the past two months? Dheeraj, did you temporarily remove me from the mailing list as you had indicated earlier, or did youdecide against it?

I am dying to relate my eventful train journeys, but will have to wait a little while as I prepare to get myself back into the routine.

More in the near future,