[This is Part 2 in a series on Chainages – a system of uniquely identifying every location on a railway route. Part 1 available here]
Whenever I have to pick up my family from the Perambur railway station, just across the road, I often don’t rely on any mobile app or the National Train Enquiry System (NTES).
I just call my wife and ask her to read out the chainage that she sees from the window. I decipher the station that her train is passing through from that number.
And, dart across when there are three kilometres left for the train to enter Perambur.
What is chainage?
It is a kilometre marker that is placed every 100 metres or so on non-electrified railway lines and about 35 metres on electrified territory.
It serves a variety of purposes for the train running staff, guards, station masters, signal staff, etc.
What does it have for the common man?
Nothing, actually, until S Aravind, an avid railbuff from Chennai got the itch to compile the chainage for each station on Indian Railways (IR).
“It was a chance meeting with V Srinivasa Prasad, a railway time table expert from Hyderabad that kindled my interest” Aravind says.
“He rattled off interesting trivia that stations from Begumpet to Hyderabad (Deccan) have two chainages marked, one from Begumpet to Hyderabad, and a second one from Hyderabad towards Secunderabad,” he adds.
Aravind also credits Deepak Saravanan, another rail enthusiast who has done exhaustive work on the file, but for the more technically inclined. “Deepak’s diligence rubbed off on me,’ he adds.
Aravind’s chainage document is a comprehensive compendium comprising the location in kilometre marking for each station on IR; navigators to multiple routes that branch off at junctions; location of river bridges / tunnels; and a table reference to easily locate stations.
The introduction spells out a lot of facts about how the document was compiled, the progression from version to version (we are at 5.1 now), and of course all the interesting trivia.
On my train journeys, I always refer to this document arousing curiosity among my co-passengers.
Once they get to know its value, most of them request the document to be transferred via Bluetooth.
Aravind’s chainage file is a monumental effort. It takes perseverance to put together data on every station in every section on such a large network.
“Every train enthusiast would love to keep this document,” says Shashanka Nanda, a railfan himself, in unequivocal appreciation.