Visiting Narrow Gauge Railways in India

#31 Mar 11th, 2014, 18:43
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#31
Good report Dave. Thank you again for the bougainvillea photo!

I think I hadn't taken it in properly before when I read your blog that Balgona now has the broad gauge line and new broad gauge station. When I was there it felt so 'far out in the sticks'. My photo of Balgona station is here. Is that gone now?
#32 Mar 11th, 2014, 18:52
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#32
I think that the old Balgona Station must now be buried under the new BG station. I was a little pre-occupied getting our tickets so I didn't really have a good look round. The present NG terminus is just a run round loop without any platforms or paved areas.

I didn't see any chai sellers. The current official Indian Railways price is Rs 7/-.
#33 Mar 11th, 2014, 19:02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave W View Post I think that the old Balgona Station must now be buried under the new BG station. I was a little pre-occupied getting our tickets so I didn't really have a good look round. The present NG terminus is just a run round loop without any platforms or paved areas.

I didn't see any chai sellers. .
That's sad. I enjoyed my half-hour or so there
#34 Mar 11th, 2014, 19:42
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Nice info. Dave. I was really unaware of this fact - read the news of conversion of this NG to MG. Now I'm planning to have a ride there

Thanks again.
aamar payer tolai sorshe...(I have wheels under my feet)
#35 Mar 11th, 2014, 20:34
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Gwalior NG

The second NG line that I had the opportunity to visit in February was the Gwalior – Sheopur which was originally part of the Gwalior Light Railway system, built during the last years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century by the then Maharaja. The line is more than just a remnant as it runs for almost 200km and is the longest surviving 2' 0” gauge railway in the world. Time only allowed a short sampler visit but this line is currently under no threat from the Gauge Conversion programme so I hope one day to return to do the full route. As this trip required an early morning start Madame W opted out. All services on the line are now diesel hauled but there is a plinthed example of one of the steam locos previously used on the line outside the main station building
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The NG station at Gwalior (GWO) occupies Platform 5 and is immediately west of the main BG station (GWL) . The two stations share a common Booking Office which is on the west side of the two stations. It is open 24 hours per day apart from 07.45 – 08.00, 15.45 – 16.00 and 23.45 – 00.00. All trains are unreserved including the 06.30 departure for Sheopur which takes just under 11 hours to travel 199.8 km. The two later departures from Gwalior only go as far as Sabalgarh, taking four hours for the 106 km. As can be seen from these timings a full return trip on the line would require an overnight stay somewhere. A return trip to Sabalgarh should be possible.
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I arrived at the NG platform at around 6 a.m. , just as the empty train was pulling in headed by an NDM5 class diesel. I headed straight for the Booking office to purchase my Rs 5/- ticket to Motijheel, the second stop. I chose this one as it seemed to be the easiest name to pronounce and the clerk seemed to understand me without a problem.
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My plan was to get down at the first stop, Ghosipura. By the time I got back to the platform the train was starting to fill up so I took a few quick photos in the gloom and then occupied a corner seat in the last coach on the train. This had some markings on it which I now know mean “ Seat 1-8. Railway Postal Service” (Thanks Aarosh) The people sitting in this coach just looked like ordinary passengers and nobody suggested that I was sitting somewhere that I should not have been. The coaches are quite run down, with wooden seats and shutters, no glazing. There were no lights as far as I could see. Some of the coaches have been given Rajdhani style advertising liveries.
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The train continued to fill until departure, only a minute or two late, but nobody seemed to climb onto the roof. I was surprised as I have seen pictures of trains on this line with the coach roofs packed solid with people. Later I learned that there are some low power cables on the stretch from Gwalior to Ghosipura and these deter roof riding on this stretch. The train threads its way between walls and buildings for much of the first couple of km s and this alone would make conversion to BG a major undertaking. For this part of the route the line skirts the bottom of the hill occupied by Gwalior Fort.

I managed to get a place at the door of our coach as we approached Ghosipura and was glad that I did so as there was a real throng of people waiting to get on. I spotted a couple of autos in the station yard and then got on with more pictures and video. By the time the train had departed, complete with a few 'Upper Class' roof passengers and I had the shots that I wanted the autos had disappeared. Nobody had any real English but one chap seemed to understand that I wanted an auto. He beckoned me to follow and I finished up in his house, met his family and had chai and biscuits before he gave me a lift back to our hotel on his motorbike.
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Tip for anybody who wishes to try this. Secure an auto before you start taking the pictures.

Gwalior has an abundance of hotels and plenty of trains connect it to Delhi. We stayed at the Hotel Grace about 300 metres from the station and therefore pretty noisy. There is an Indian Coffee House very close to the main entrance to the station which does good value food.

Attempts to research Sheopur appear to throw up very little hard information.

For a report on a longer trip on the Gwalior Line see #47 on this thread.
Last edited by Dave W; Jun 18th, 2015 at 12:11.. Reason: Typo
#36 Mar 12th, 2014, 13:33
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#36

Dholpur - Bari

The day following (1st March 2014) we visited Dholpur. The Y shaped 2' 6 gauge system, centred on Mohali, that connects with the BG here, is reportedly due to succumb to Gauge Conversion in the near future. Although both NG and BG stations share the same code (DHO) they are physically separated. On exiting the main station a plinthed ZE Class 2-8-2 can be seen to the right. The entrance to the NG station is just beyond this. The Booking Office in the main station also issues tickets for NG services.
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We opted for a relatively short 31 km trip to Bari, the first major habitation along the line. Tickets cost Rs10/- each. The current timetable would allow the whole system to be covered and a return to Dholpur by mid evening. The NG station has minimal facilities just a few benches with sun shelters. There are a few sidings used to store coaches and some way off, hidden by trees , is a loco depot. We arrived at about 9.15 and there were already people waiting for the 10.40 departure. Tourists, especial western ones, appear to be a novelty around here.
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The incoming train from Sirmuttra was a few minutes late and could be heard before it came into view. Here was the Indian narrow gauge train of legend, emerging out of the morning mist with a packed roof and people hanging onto the sides of the train. The waiting crowd had grown and everybody pressed forward to the platform edge hoping to get a good seat. Most of the arriving passengers had disembarked before the train came to a stand in the platform and those who stayed on board had to dismount onto the tracks at the opposite side of the train to the platform. Savvy locals carried thin bags that could be passed through the window bars and used to reserve seats.
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We were able to squeeze into a compartment and collar a couple of wooden bench seats next to each other and the young man with the window seat very sportingly let us move up so I could get some video shots. The catch on the window shutter was not working but somebody on the platform found a piece of stick which did the job. The train was getting very full and there was no opportunity to get off to watch the shunting that was going on involving two ZDM5 locos (517 & 518) and a number of spare coaches. We could hear people climbing onto the coach roof. One of our fellow passengers told us that today had been an examination day which is why the train was so busy.
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Departure time came, went and we were 25 minutes late by the time that we set off. The line crosses a mixture of urban, agricultural and wetland landscapes and there was plenty to see out of the window. At each wayside station more people got on and we began to get worried about how we would get off when our stop came. A local man reassured us that many people would dismount at Bari and so it proved, although we did have to descend on the non-platform side as a fresh influx were already crowding onto the train. The train stopped for a good while at Bari which is quite a large town.
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We had arranged for a car to meet us and drive us back to Dholpur although it looked as if there were buses available. The much vaunted Gauge Conversion work does not appear to have made much progress and I would guess that the line will still be NG for a while yet. Dholpur is readily accessible from Delhi and Agra by train. The Bhopal Shatabdi takes less than 3 hours to get there and its timings would allow a trip on the mid morning NG departure that could be expanded into a full day excursion. Dholpur has a few hotels including the rather splendid Raj Niwas Palace, although the latter might not suit all budgets.
#37 Mar 12th, 2014, 14:56
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#37
Great Dave! A really enjoyable read and photos. I like the train approaching in the mist and also the one inside the crowded carriage.

The things Madame W will do for you! You've even got her carrying your hat!
#38 Jun 12th, 2015, 14:18
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#38
Time for an update. There is good news and bad news.

DHR - According to the Indian NG fans Facebook group the Siliguri Times has reported that through trains from NJP to Darjeeling will commence running today. There is one trip in each direction. There has been a massive hike in the fares for the Staem hauled Joy Trains that run daily from Darjeeling to Ghum and back. This now costs Rs 1050 per person. The first Joy Train each day is diesel hauled and costs less.

Satpura Lines - Nagpur - Jabalpur. This is variously reported as closing on 1st September and 31st October for conversion to BG. We travelled the line in February and a lot of work had been carried out on a parallel alignment but there were some big gaps in this. When I get chance I will post some more details. If you want to travel this line go soon.

Matheran - There has been no progress on the Steam loco. It is possible to hire a private saloon to be attached to regular trains. This seats 5 people and costs 1500 per trip All trains are now Unreserved but do carry FC coaches. Single fare for this is Rs 300. Tickets must be bought at the NG window at Neral Junction for trains up to Matheran
#39 Jun 12th, 2015, 14:57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave W View Post Time for an update. There is good news and bad news.

DHR - According to the Indian NG fans Facebook group the Siliguri Times has reported that through trains from NJP to Darjeeling will commence running today.
Thanks for the update Dave. That's great news

Cheers
#40 Jun 12th, 2015, 22:07
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Originally Posted by Dave W View Post Satpura Lines - Nagpur - Jabalpur. This is variously reported as closing on 1st September and 31st October for conversion to BG. We travelled the line in February and a lot of work had been carried out on a parallel alignment but there were some big gaps in this. When I get chance I will post some more details. If you want to travel this line go soon.
This leaves Pulgaon-Arvi, Murtajapur-Achalpur, Murtajapur-Yavatmal, Pachora-Jamner and of course Gwalior-Sheopur Kalan.
#41 Jun 12th, 2015, 22:33
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Originally Posted by Golghar View Post This leaves Pulgaon-Arvi, Murtajapur-Achalpur, Murtajapur-Yavatmal, Pachora-Jamner and of course Gwalior-Sheopur Kalan.
The NG at Pulgaon was not looking too healthy when we passed through in February. There are reports on Indiarailinfo that the line closed before January 2013.

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More to follow about the Gwalior line.
#42 Jun 12th, 2015, 22:45
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Originally Posted by Dave W View Post The NG at Pulgaon was not looking too healthy when we passed through in February. There are reports on Indiarailinfo that the line closed before January 2013.
Erail still has it running as NG: http://erail.in/?T=PLO::ARVI#
#43 Jun 12th, 2015, 22:55
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Indiarailinfo also lists that train. I think that some time ago we established that erail and indiarailinfo have to enter, change and delete details of Unreserved trains manually and that from time to time errors come to light.

I doubt that I will be going anywhere near Pulgaon in the near future so we will have to wait for enlightenment from elsewhere.
#44 Jun 14th, 2015, 13:37
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Satpura Lines - Part 1

Quote:
Originally Posted by aloke_m View Post I'm a bit surprised the Nagpur - Jabalpur narrow gauge line has failed to find a mention in this thread. Covering a fraction less than 400 km, the 58839/40 Nagpur - Jabalpur Passenger is the longest NG journey that can be made on a single train in India - 19 and a half hours!
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As promised above here is a report on our visit in February 2015. The whole system consists of a mainline from Nagpur to Chhindwara, Nainpur and Jabalpur. There is a 110km branch from Itwari, just outside Nagpur to Nagbhir and branches from Nainpur to Mandla Fort and Balaghat. This latter originally ran through to Gondia but the final 40km has been converted to BG. There is a narrow gauge museum somewhere near Nagpur Junction. sadly our arrival was a few minutes before it closed and our departure the next day a few minutes after opening time so we did not get to visit.
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The lines are 2' 6" gauge and all traction is diesel. Nagpur Junction's NG platforms are at the north end of platform 1, so quite handy for the Station facilities. The majority of the coaches are Unreserved but some trains carry a reserved coach. On train 58839 this was a combination 2nd Sitting and Sleeper coach. There were 10 Sleeper berths , all Side Upper and they seemed to be a bit shorter than the SU berths on BG trains. We booked both 2S seats and Sleeper berths, storing our bags on the berths during the day. The two TTEs that we dealt with seemed to be satisfied with our ticketing arrangements although one of our fellow travellers tried to tell us that it was illegal to hold two tickets for one train. He got off at the first stop. Tickets were booked through Cleartrip. Adult fares are Rs 160 in Sleeper and Rs 90 in 2S.
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The first 40 km of the trip passes through fairly flat country and there is a parallel BG line which eventually heads off to some kind of industrial complex. After the line crosses into Madhya Pradesh it starts to climb into hillier, wooded country. On this section there has been a lot of work done on a parallel BG alignment although there are many gaps in this.

The train makes many stops, 50 in all. Some of these allow time to visit the platform chai stall while others are very sharply timed. I watched what the locals did before getting down to buy chai. Our coach was not full for this stage of the trip and there was no competition for getting a door riding spot. In the late afternoon a storm broke and we had to retreat to our seats. We saw one on train vendor who was selling boiled sweets and packaged snacks. After darkness the train arrived at Chhindwara where it reverses and waits for 50 minutes. The catering facilities here were not appealing and we had biscuits bought in Nagpur for our supper.

The coach was full for the next section of the trip. people were sleeping on the floor.We chained and locked our rucsacs to our seats and retired to our berths. We had brought a fleece blanket each which we were very glad of. There was a bit of an argument at our end of the coach between those who wanted the light left on and those who preferred darkness. The Light prevailed. I am over six feet tall and estimated the berth to be 5' 6" but to my surprise I slept quite soundly, totally missing the 25 minute stop and reversal at Nainpur.
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Just after dawn there was a long stop at a small station where we waited to cross a southbound train. The chai stall did great business. As a rail fan I was interested to see that these lines still have old fashioned semaphore signals and some interesting signal boxes on stilts. At one of the rural stations a team of locals arrived with dozens of sacks which they hung on the outside of the train. The one below our window was fresh coriander which was a great improvement on the smell of the toilet cubicle which was starting to get quite ripe. Another team removed the sacks a couple of stations down the line. It was all very organised.
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On the outskirts of Jabalpur we had quite a long stop outside the depot. We wondered if staff illness is a big problem here. Our train arrived in Jabalpur a mere 5 minutes late after a trip of nineteen and a half hours. A commendable effort.
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Next up. A First Class trip on the Satpura Express
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Last edited by Dave W; Jun 15th, 2015 at 00:58.. Reason: Fares added. Typos fixed.
#45 Jun 16th, 2015, 17:47
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Train 10002 Satpura Express 22nd February 2015

We had a very pleasant day in and around Jabalpur, visiting the Marble Rocks and taking a cable car trip above the Dhuandhar Falls, followed by an early night. We were booked on the Satpura Express from Jabalpur to Balaghat departing at an ungodly 5.30 a.m. Luckily we had only a five minute walk to the station where people were just starting to stir.

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Once again the NG platform was conveniently sited for us and our train was just pulling in as we arrived. The rather forbidding looking First Class coach was soon located and Madame W installed with our luggage, while I went in search of chai and bottled water.

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This coach had quite a strange layout, with primitive sofas along each side. As well as the main compartment , in the photo, there was a small separate cabin at the far end with four seats. There are no Upper Berths in this coach. There is a single toilet compartment in the entrance lobby (behind me as I took the photo). This coach is the only reservable seating on the train. The adult fare is Rs 455.

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The first hour or so of the trip was in darkness as we navigated the suburbs of Jabalpur and then ran out across flat agricultural land, retracing our steps from the previous day. We crossed a couple of quite large rivers on substantial bridges. The Satpura is a proper Express, passing through a lot of stations without stopping. As usual at pass through stations the stationmaster was very visible on the platform showing his green flag to signal All Clear.

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This section also has old fashioned semaphore signals, some which have backin plates to assist visibility. No doubt these will be replaced with electic light signals when gauge conversion takes place.

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The trip lasts for six hours forty minutes and the line passes through different types of countryside, including some wooded uplands and some quite rocky areas. I was lucky enough to have my choice of doors and could move at will from one side of the train to the other. I realised when putting this post together that I had taken over 300 pictures on a single trip.

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About four hours into the trip there is a 10 minute halt at Nainpur Junction, quite a busy place with lines coming in from north, south, east and west. There was time to fetch chai as well as to take a few photos. Madame W was not convinced when I suggested that it would be a good place to spend a week or so.

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On the earlier parts of the trip the new BG alignment that is under construction could be seen , often some distance away. Between Nainpur and Balaghat the new line will be much closer to the existing and some substantial works have already been completed.

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All too soon we were at the Balaghat terminus. Not so long ago the NG ran through to Gondia, our next destination, but this trip is now served by Unreserved multiple units - OK but lacking charm. There is not much rest here for the Satpura Express and her crew. There is 35 minutes allowed to run the loco round to the other end of the train and then move the coaches from the arrival end of the platform to the departure end. The foot overbridge provides an excellent view of these manoeuvres but not very much shade.

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I was lucky enough to be invited up into the cab of the loco while the crew were waiting for the departure time of the return train. Here is a pilot's eye view.

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