Old narrow gauge rail lines in Bengal
I am interested in the history of old railway lines in India, especially narrow gauge and meter gauge lines that have now disappeared. Many have now been converted to broad gauge, often along the old alignments, but some have been dismantled or significantly altered during conversion. This is purely amateur interest and I just want to go one step beyond Wikipedia or other such sources. If possible, personal accounts of people who have seen these old lines or know something about them are most welcome. This note was written in mid 2015.
In particular, the narrow gauge network in Bengal used to be quite extensive and is now almost non-existent, except for the Darjeeling Hill Railway. Samit Roychoudhury's Great Indian Rail Atlas (first edition) has a map of the old narrow gauge network - for some reason, he does not have it in the second edition - and that is the source for some of the questions below. I have physically been to almost none of these places, and these are armchair travel questions.
* The old line from Kalighat/Majerhat to Falta seems to have disappeared altogether and Wikipedia says that a large part of the alignment is the current day James Long Sarani (which is a nice alternative to Diamond Harbour Road, for those who have had occasion to travel to IIM Calcutta). Kalighat station itself has morphed into New Alipore station on the Circular Railway, also according to Wikipedia. Information on this is welcome. This old Kalighat Falta line had nice stations like Thakurpukur, Pailan and Amtala Hat, which are busy localities today.
* The Basirhat/Hasnabad line used to operate from Shyam Bazar (a station between Sealdah and Dum Dum) as per Samit's map. Any idea when that changed? The current line to Hasnabad takes off at Barasat. Does Shyam Bazar station (rail station, not metro) exist in any form any more? This line to Hasnabad seems to be the same alignment as the current Barasat - Hasnabad, but the station names are different. The common part of the alignment seems to be from Beliaghata onwards (the old map mentions Beliaghata Bridge and the new one Beliaghata Road, similarly the old one mentions Berchampa and the new one Champapukur). Basirhat, Taki Road and Hasnabad are the only ones in common in the two maps. The section from Shyam Bazar to Beliaghata has stations like Baguiati and Rajarhat Bishnupur, which are presumably dismantled now.
* On the Howrah side, there was an old station called Howrah Maidan and another called Howrah Ghat. Any remnants of these? Howrah Maidan was the terminus of the narrow gauge line to Amta (now converted) and also Champadanga.
* A question I had was why at Kamarkundu junction on the Howrah Bardhaman chord line, the line to Tarakeshwar simply flies over the chord line with no surface crossing. My guess it that it used to be a narrow gauge line, but I could be wrong. Tarakeshwar itself is marked on the old narrow gauge map as a terminus for a line, but coming from the north! Apparently there was a narrow gauge from Tribeni Ghat (right on the river) through Tribeni (on the Bandel Katwa line), passing Magra Jn (on the Bandel main line) and going over the current day Bardhaman chord and going to Dasghara Junction with branches to Tarakeshwar and Jamalpurganj. This nice east west connection seems to have been lost now.
* This Jamalpurganj is quite close to Rainagar, on the other side of the Damodar river and the terminus of the Bankura Damodar Railway, now converted to broad gauge. This is quite a historic line, of course. The only question is: Is Rainagar the same as Raina (Rayna)? Apparently a broad gauge connection is planned between Rainagar and Masagram on the Bardhaman side.
* The narrow gauge lines from Bardhaman to Katwa and Katwa to Ahmadpur were operating till quite recently and will presumably be converted soon. Ditto for Krishnanangar City to Shantipur and Nabadwip Ghat and the defunct line from Shantipur to Kalinarayanpur (just north of Ranaghat Jn), which may be restored. These seem part of the present network plan.
* There seem to have been two companies Martin's Light Railway and McLeod's Light Railway which operated these narrow gauge lines and others in the north and east of India in British times and for a decade or two after Indian independence. Perhaps they continued with Narrow Gauge because of lower capital costs and lower operating costs, but speeds on these lines made them completely unviable compared to bus/road, so they all wound up.