November 19, 2010

Odd bits and ends

Today we have a bonanza for our readers. Read on to find out little known facts and figures, secrets and trivia telling what the great system of railways in India was like in the past.
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1) A journey up the hills by the Darjeeling Hill Railway took only about 5 hours 15 minutes in the 1930s.
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2) A total of 42 railway companies were in operation before independence.
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3) Rail links over the Bhor and Thull ghats were opened for traffic in 1864.
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4) The Chief Mechanical Engineer was in earlier days known as Chief Locomotive Superintendent.
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5) The first electric train ran on 3 February 1925 from Bombay VT to Kurla.
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6) There were three kinds of goods trains in operation earlier, namely, Shunting, Van, and Through trains.
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7) Electric lights in railway carriages were first introduced in 1902 on the Jodhpur Railway.
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8) Line clear was obtained earlier using the electric telegraph. Following this, the ASM of a wayside station would lower the signals for the departure of a train by operating the levers of a ground-frame next to his office.
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9) Toilets on trains were introduced in 1891 in Ist class, and in 1907 in lower classes.
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10) Trains in earlier days (except Mails) “stopped at every station a quarter of an hour for purposes of gossip, and at all large stations half an hour or an hour” an early traveller in India once complained.
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11) The Commissioner of Railway Safety was earlier known as Government Inspector of Railways.
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12) Locomotives shipped to India from Great Britain were accompanied by the manufacturer's printed set of instructions for the workshop to assemble the machine correctly.
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13) Bogie carriages were introduced in 1903 with both 4- and 6-wheeled bogies. Carriages with inward opening doors first appeared in 1909.
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14) At many small stations a safety system known as Annets Lock and Key system was in use to prevent conflicting signals and points, later superseded by an invention known as Hepper’s Key Transmitter.
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15) On 9 August 1925 armed revolutionaries stopped No. 8 Down train near Kakori station and looted the British government treasury. Four of them were hanged but the incident fired up the nation’s patriotic spirit.
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16) At small and unimportant junctions a track formation known as a ‘triangle’ was often used in place of a turntable to reverse steam locomotives.
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17) The key elements of a steam loco shed were a store, office, repair shop, examination pits, well, overhead water tank, ash-pits, turntable, fuel platform, sick sidings and water column. An inseparable part of a locoshed would be a travelling steam crane often found busy chugging away, shovelling coal into the tenders of waiting locomotives.
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18) In 1923 there were over 500 different classes of steam locomotives in use. By 1952 the number of classes was brought down to 377.
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19) In the year 1900 the railways of India had a route kilometreage of 39,834 kms, there were a total of 3627 stations, 4629 steam locomotives, 17,272 carriages, and 88,612 goods wagons. By 1940 the railways had spread to 66,067 kilometres of track, with 7286 stations, 8414 steam locos, 72 electric locomotives, 23,450 carriages and 2,15,253 goods wagons.
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20) The G.I.P. Railway in 1856 charged 2 annas per mile to send a horse by train, and 3 annas per mile if two horses were sent together by the same owner. One groom in charge of each horse was allowed to travel free in the same vehicle as the animal. The lowest charge for sending a horse was Rs 2 annas 8. Carriages and palanquins could also be booked by train and if the owner chose to travel seated in his own carriage he was charged Ist class fare.
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21) In his book “Permanent Way Material, Plate-Laying, and Points and Crossings” (E. & F. N. Spon Limited, London, 1928), W.H. Cole, M.Inst.C.E., of the Indian State Railways recommended that in hot and dry weather, the gateman of a road crossing “ought also to water the crossing before a train is expected, to prevent dust from getting into the working parts of the engine.”
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22) A fine 19th century old 6-inch gauge display model of the East Indian Railway 2-2-2 well-tank locomotive 'Express' commissioned for the East India Railway boardroom in London was recently auctioned by Bonhams for 17,250 pounds. A similar 6-inch gauge display model of the EIR Class L1 4-6-0 locomotive of 1900 was sold for 9,200 pounds.