By – Vidyut P Maurya ( IHC Member 18959A )
Mumbai got a mono rail system in 2012 but history of mono rail in India is very old. First mono rail in India is introduced by Tata group in its tea estate in Munnar, Kerala in 1902. In 1908 it is converted into light railway. The biggest and successful mono rail sytem in India was built by Maharaja of Patiala in Punjab. Patiala State Monorail Trainways (PSMT) served successfully people of Punjab for two decades.
Patiala State Monorail Trainways (PSMT) was a unique rail system, partially road-borne railways system running in Patiala in the State of Punjab. The PSMT served people of Punjab from 1907 to 1927. PSMT was the only operational locomotive-hauled railway system built using the Ewing System. But before going on PSMT we must know about one more mono rail system running in India. It was Kundala valley Mono rail in Munnar, Kerala.
WHAT IS MONO RAIL
A monorail is much different from traditional rail system. Mono rail is a railway system in which the track that consists of a single rail. Mono rail has a rich and long history. The first passenger carrying monorail celebrated a grand opening June 25th, 1825 in England. It was Cheshunt Railway, in the town of Cheshunt in Hertfordshire, England. It was pulled by a one-horse power locomotive.
Ivan Elmanov was the first to invent monorail in 1820 in Russia. But in his idea carriages were to be drawn by horses and its wheels were on the rail not on the carriages. Henry Palmer in the UK patented his idea in 1821 and Deptford Dockyard in South-East London was the place where the first monorail was built.
KUNDALA VALLEY MONO RAIL ( 1902 – 1908 )
The Kundala Valley Railway, set up by the Kannan Devan Company for the transportation of tea in Munnar region of Kerala.
Kundala Valley Railway was built in 1902 and operated between Munnar and Top Station of Madupatty. This railway was built to transport tea. It was built along the road leading from Munnar to Top Station for the purpose of transporting tea and other products. This monorail was based on Ewing System.
THE BEGINNING OF PSMT
Tata Tea became a big tea producing company By 1902, with around 16 fully equipped factories. A major chunk of the produce was exported to UK via the Tuticorin port of Tamilnadu. For Quicker modes of transportation Mr. W. Mime, then general manager of the company set up a mono rail system connecting Munnar and Top Station. Five-hundred bullocks were brought to the hill station for pulling the mono rail. A veterinary surgeon and two assistants from England were also assigned with the task of attending to the animals.
The goods carriage consisted of a simple platform running on a small wheel over the rail and a larger one pulled by bullocks. From Top Station, where the mono rail ends, tea was carried on ropeway to Kottagudi, which is also called the Bottom Station. From Bottom Station it was transported to the lower country and then to Tuticorin. The containers used for packing were ‘Imperial Chests’ imported from the UK. In 1908, the monorail gave way to a light railway. Starting from the Munnar station, the service had two stations en route, at Mattupetty and Palaar, before ending the journey at Top Station.
MUMBAI MONO RAIL (2012 )
In fact Mumbai mono rail is third project in India of its kind. The first Monorail test run was conducted from Wadala Depot to Bhakti Park on February 18, 2012. The decision to introduce Chembur – Wadala – Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk - 20 Km long Monorail corridor, as a feeder service to the other Transit System and to cater crowded and narrow congested areas was taken by the Authority in its 119th meeting held on 28th September, 2007.
PSMT, THE BEGINNING
The Patiala state mono rail came into existence due to the efforts of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. It was envisioned to provide a system of efficient transportation for goods and people in the state. The Imperial Gazetteer of India published in 1908 tells, the Monorail was inaugurated in February, 1907 and connected Basi with Sirhind Railway Station. If one goes back down the memory lane, one is reminded of the unique and historical Monorail in Patiala that was initiated by the British.
Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh – Man behind the dream
Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh of Patiala got this unique railway system constructed to facilitate movement of people and goods in his state. Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh born in 1891 was the ruling Maharaja of the princely state of Patiala ruled between1900 to 1938. Bhupinder Singh succeeded as maharaja of Patiala state at tender age of only nine. From childhood he has keen interest in transport system, not only rail and roads but air also. Maharaja Bhupinder was the first king in India to own an aircraft, which he bought from the United Kingdom in the first decade of the twentieth century. He also has fleet of 20 Rolls Royce cars. He also worked to build a unique monorail system in Patiala.
ROUTES OF PSMT
The total distance covered by Patiala state monorail (PSMT) was 50 miles (80 km). In fact PSMT was running on two different lines. The main line ran 35 miles (56 km) from Patiala to Sunam. Now Sunam is a city and a municipality in Sangrur district in the Indian state of Punjab, but Sunam was one of the important town of Patiala estates. The line of mono rail was going from heart of Patiala to Sunam via Bhawanigarh. Now Sunam is a railway station on Dhuri to Jakhal line. Patiala is also on railway network but there is no rail link between Patiala and Sunam.
The other rail line was 15 miles (24 km) from Sirhind to Morinda in Punjab state. It was proposed to extend this line to Ropar (Now Roopnagar) but since Ropar was connected by a railway line, so this idea was abandoned.
CONSTRUCTION OF PSMT
The lines of Patiala state monorail (PSMT) were constructed by the firm of Marsland and Price, a Mumbai based British company. The chief engineer of this project was Colonel C. W. Bowles. But unfortunately, today no trace of the tracks or any infrastructure of PSMT remains. However, information about the route was found in a letter by Colonel Bowles to Mr. Ambler. The track was 18 pound per yard (9 kg/m) rail clipped to iron sleepers.
Colonel Bowles described the route of Patiala-Sunam line as starting from goods yard of North Western Railway (NWR) at Patiala. The PSMT then crossed the main railway line at a road level crossing nearby. It then went through walled city towards City Mandi and then took a turn north towards cantonment. Then it traveled along the main road to Bhawanigarh and then Sunam.
Colonel Bowles has earlier successfully used monorail based on Ewing System (designed by William Thorold) during his stint as engineer during laying of tracks for Bengal Nagpur Railway for transportation of construction materials. Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh made him chief Engineer for the PSMT project.
At some point during this contract, he met Sir Bhupinder Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala. This meeting eventually led to Bowles being appointed the State Engineer for Patiala.
The whole line cost Rs70,000. The line was shown on a 1913 map running on the west side of the road. Ambler states that papers supplied by Bowles's widow said that in one month (September 1908) that 20,000 passengers had been carried.
HAULED BY MULES
It was very interesting to know that rail network was hauled by mules and bullocks. One of the objects of PSMT was to make use of the 560 mules being maintained by Patiala State. Apart from mules, bullocks were also used to haul the monorail before introduction of steam engine on route of PSMT.
It appears from the evidence that a major reason behind the building of a monorail system in the state was as something useful for the mules maintained by the state on behalf of the Imperial Service Regiment. The animals (300 according to Day and 560 according to Ambler) and their drivers were kept on standby in case the British needed them. The Maharajah obviously thought that it was better to keep them employed rather than idle.
PSMT initially used mules to pull the train. Later four steam locomotives were acquired for pulling the coaches. It is not known whether the engines were used on both lines or only on Patiala Sunam line. These four locomotives were of 0-3-0 configuration and was built by Orenstein & Koppel (O&K) of Berlin in 1907. It was bought at cost of £500 to £600 each.
Donald W. Dickens, in his article on the PSMT, described the locomotives as “These were an adaptation of the normal O&K 0-6-0′s but had a double flanged driver in the centre of each axle rather than drivers at each end. The right-hand water tank was larger so that some of the weight shifted onto the 39-inch (990 mm) diameter balance wheel which was attached beyond the enlarged water tank. These locos were confined to the Patiala – Sunam line.
The wheel arrangement of these locomotives are 0-3-0. The middle flange less wheel was of 50 centimetres (1 ft 8 in) diameter. Other two wheels were double flanged having groove depth of 2.15 centimetres (0.85 in). The locomotive had wheelbase of 119 centimetres (3 ft 11 in).
The steam engine was probably used only on Patiala Sunam Line. In his letter to H. R. Ambler, Col. Bowles wrote that the engines were heavy for 18 lb/yd rail (9 kg/m), thus they were not used on Sirhind – Morinda line. Col. Bowles categorically stated that the steam engine did run between Patiala Station and City Mandi. A distance of about one mile. Heavier rails (about 60 pounds per yard or 30 kg/m) of almost same length was found stored in PSMT Yard along with other dismantled equipments. Thus in all probabilities, the steam engine was used in hauling carriage only between Patiala Station and City Mandi.
ROLLING STOCK OF PSMT
Wagons were normally 8 feet long by 6 feet wide (2.4 by 1.8 m), with two 8-inch (200 mm) diameter rail wheels. The coaches were supported by a road wheel of 98 cm diameter, set at 7 feet (2.1 m) from the rail. The passenger coaches on the Sirhind Line were open-sided wagons with knifeboard seating. In 1908 there was a total of 75 goods wagons and 15 passenger coaches. Col. Bowles writes there were a few 30-foot (9.1 m) long goods wagons, having two road wheels. Some of these wagons were also converted for use as passenger coaches by having transverse benches fitted in them.
MAXIMUM SPEED 30KMPH
The line had four passenger vehicles that could carry 18 to 20 people each and 30 goods wagons that could carry 82 maunds each. The average speed on the line was 13 kmph. One test using four artillery horses found that train ran smoothly at nearly 32 KMPH.
UNIQUE EWING SYSTEM FOR MONORAIL
The railways based on the Ewing System are basically monorails using a balancing wheel for balancing the train. The main load (almost 95%) is borne by the single rail while the rest is borne by the balancing wheel which runs on the ground. Further, in normal train systems, the rails have to be at almost exact level of other rail, failing which the train may go off the tracks. By using Ewing system, this problem is solved as the balancing wheel does not need exact level to maintain the balance of monorail. In addition the cost of laying tracks also goes down considerably since only one rail is used. Another benefit of using Ewing System was that the balancing wheel could run on existing tarred, thus further reducing cost to lay down tracks.
Using one rail also means that the turning circle is far less than the standard trains. PSMT had to pass through some very congested areas. Since the space need to lay the tracks was less and balancing wheel could run on existing roads, PSMT succeeded in running through the congested urban areas of Patiala. The balancing wheel of PSMT ran on the roads and did not interfere with normal traffic.
FARE AND FREIGHT OF PSMT
PSMT is found in papers of Colonel Bowles. According to a memorandum dated October 2, 1908, found amongst Colonel Bowles papers, PSMT carried 20,000 passengers in a month on Sirhand – Morinda line. There are no details of the quantity of goods carried.
The fare for passengers in the route PSMT was one and a half annas. The charges for transportation of goods on PSMT network was one anna for per 80 kilograms. The route of the PSMT passed through one of the major agricultural areas of Punjab; the area around Patiala was known as the “wheat basket”. The old photographs of the PSMT show it carrying sacks of grain as well as people. Thus, the PSMT was used for both purposes.
THE DECLINE OF PSMT
Though the Patiala State Monorail Tramways was a unique initiative, it did not continue for a long period of time. Continuous development in infrastructure and automobiles drew people towards cars and other modes of transport and slowly the PSMT became defunct. Finally, the PSMT was close in 1927 as it had lost its popularity amongst the citizens. Ultimately PSMT was closed on 1 October 1927. PSMT's equipment was simply walked away from.
For 35 years it rested where it was left. It was searched by Mr. Mike Satow, a historian and great rail lover, who discovered the remains in 1962, He came Patiyala and worked for a forgotten part of Indian rail history. it would have disappeared from memory by now if he was not written about PSMT. Largely due to him one locomotive of PSMT was restored to full working order by the Northern Railway Workshops at Amritsar.
PSMT IN NATIONAL RAIL MUSEUM, NEW DELHI
A Locomotive and a coach of PSMT have been restored, are in running condition and are exhibited in the Indian National Rail Museum.This locomotive is also filmed in famous Hindi movie THE BURNIG TRAIN on year 1980. Today, its one of the major attractions in the National Rail Museum and runs on every Sunday for the public. One can enjoy a ride in the historical Monorail by booking tickets in advance for the Sunday rides. The PSMT passed into oblivion at one point of time and not a great deal of effort was put to learn about its whereabouts. But credit goes to Mike Stoew who got t back from the claws of oblivion and the abandoned PSMT was restored.
It was efforts of Mike Satow and others, One PSMT locomotive (Number PSMT – 4) was restored along with Chief Engineer's private inspection car (this coach was rebuilt on original frame as a normal passenger coach). Both of these are on display at the National Railway Museum, Chankyapuri, New Delhi.
Mono rail became more popular from the 1980s, with a rise in urbanization and traffic. Japan, one of the earliest users of monor ail has one of the busiest mono rails. In India Mumbai adopted mono rail system in 2012 for city transport needs. But PSMT could have been a good example of forerunner of mass transit system in urban areas in India. The rail network served people of Punjab successfully for two decades. Its model still holds good for introducing mass transit system in congested urban areas where laying of train or tram tracks is not possible due to insufficient space.
Total Network – 80 Km
No of Lines – 02
Year of Start – 1908
Year of Closing - 1927
- Website - https://mmrda.maharashtra.gov.in/mumbai-monorail-project
- Website - http://www.keralatourism.org/munnar/kundala-valley-railway-munnar.php
3 Book, Unusual railways by Mr. J. R. Day and Mr. B. G. Wilson, 1957
4 Book- Railways of the Raj; Author Mike Satow; Page 30
5 Book - The Patiala State Monorail Tramway - A Reappraisal by Simon Darvill, 2012
6 Book - Railway World magazine, Feb, 1962
7 Book - The Imperial Gazetteer of India ( published in 1908 )
8 Website - http://www.monorails.org/
9 Book- Monorail Musings: Writings from the Highway in the Sky- By Martin Beaudry
Author – Vidyut Prakash Maurya
M.A (History) BHU 1995: MA Mass Communication (GJU,Hisar), UGC NET Quilified.
(Paper presented in 78th INDIAN HISTORY CONGRESS held on 28-30 Dec 2017 at Jadavpur University, KOLKATA in Modern India Section )