[Reader-list] Research Musings + Ladies Train Travel in 1947

Zainab Bawa coolzanny at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 29 10:57:13 IST 2004

Research Musings

Since the last one week, I have been visiting Railway Offices for historical 
information on Mumbai’s Local Trains and details about the ladies 
compartment. The process in itself has been interesting. I have been living 
in Mumbai since 25 years now and this is the first time that I have visited 
the Railway Offices of Central and Western Railway. The Western Railway 
Office is situated at Churchgate. It is a dull and drab building as against 
the Central Railway Building situated at VT. The latter is a typical British 
Architecture building. It is quite magnificent from the inside, a bit 
overwhelming too I must say. It resembles the BMC building, but more British 
from the inside than the BMC building which is also British architecture.

What I found interesting is that sites like Railway Offices are rarely 
visited in a city. We simply pass by them. Even when these visits are 
undertaken, they are mundane, for mundane purposes. Who visits a Railway 
Office? Someone who has a ticket refund to take. I was 19 when I first 
visited the BMC building to get letters of invitation from the Mayor. When 
volunteering with an organization in Mumbai, my colleagues had to visit the 
Railway Office to obtain permission for conducting street plays on Indo-Pak 
relations at railway stations. The organizer narrated his experience at the 
Railway Office in the weekly meeting stating, “Our schools never taught us 
about railway offices. It is real life which teaches us about these things.” 
A couple of days ago, a friend chatting with me over the phone said, “On my 
job, I learnt how to book an airline ticket. Now when I talk about it, it 
sounds silly. But when I did it for the first time, I felt great.” I 
responded, “Makes you feel slightly liberated now, huh?” I remember the 
sense of freedom I experienced when I first entered the BMC building and got 
my work done, when I booked my first railway ticket, when I undertook my 
first overseas trip.

While sitting in the Town Hall library researching books on railways of the 
Raj, I met with a girl who has researched electricity in Mumbai and is 
currently working on researching fountains and water tanks in the city. I 
was reading voraciously about trains, learning about gauges, lines and 
designs of trains. It struck me that these mundane objects simply pass by in 
our everyday lives – we rarely notice them because we are too involved with 

During the process of the current research, I discovered the Indian Railways 
Fan Club and now on their e-group, I am beginning to understand how web 
communities are formed. People on this group are highly passionate about 
railways. Daily at least 20 and as many as 100 emails are exchanged on the 
list. I ask myself how people relate themselves to objects. I wonder what 
objects are we attached to in a city. And I also question the myriad 
relationships between people and objects in a city. For that matter, what 
are the relationships between people and places in a city?

The train research is beginning to reveal facets about cities and people, 
and I am awed by the number of questions that are coming to the fore. There 
are ways of seeing a city. I have begun to see the city through trains. The 
girl studying electricity is analyzing the city through the electric power 
which is so much a part of our everyday lives that we don’t realize this 
fact until there is a power cut! What are other ways of seeing a city?

Yesterday in the Town Hall library, I discovered a book published in 1947 by 
V. V. Modak of the G.I.P. Railway Bombay about Railway Travel in India. The 
purpose of writing this book was to educate the general public about railway 
travel in India. The author had stated that this information and knowledge 
is a must, and should be imparted in schools, colleges and educational 
institutions in order to teach people the exact ways of traveling by trains. 
The book outlined details about how railway fares are determined, booking 
offices in a city, traveling with dogs and birds on the train, servants 
travel on trains, waiting rooms on railway stations, weight of luggage on 
the train, etc. It was a complete guidebook about train travel. I was 
completely amused while reading the book. I wonder why they don’t write such 
books anymore?

I am quoting an excerpt from the book about Ladies Travel on Trains. Note 
the language and above all, the rules set out for women traveling alone and 
with children in the various classes of ladies compartment. Enjoy!

Chapter XII


Reserved Accommodation for III Class Lady Passengers:- A third class 
carriage forming part of a passenger train is reserved for the exclusive use 
of lady passengers. Boys under 12 years of age, if accompanying relatives, 
or friends, are allowed to travel in these compartments. Third class ladies’ 
compartment can be distinguished from the other compartments by the picture 
of the face of a lady on glass which is exhibited thereon. At night, a light 
at the rear of the lady’s picture will prominently draw your attention to 
this compartment.

Wherever possible, inter class ladies’ compartments are provided on some of 
the Mail and Express trains, and information in this connection can be 
obtained on a reference to the Coaching Guide.

First and Second Class Reserved Accommodation for Ladies:- As for first and 
second class ladies’ compartments, there is no such picture device, but a 
sign board ‘Ladies’ is fixed to the outside of the compartment. As for the 
reservation of separate intermediate, second and first class compartments 
for ladies, this can be arranged by giving 24 hours’ notice to the Station 
Master from which station the train starts and provided it is possible for 
him to arrange this.

The Railway Administration also undertakes to provide separate first and 
second class ladies’ compartments on certain important trains, and the 
necessary information can be obtained from the tariff of that railway.

Safety Devices:-  Third class ladies’ compartments, as also those of 
intermediate, second and first classes are fitted with bars to the windows, 
and also provided with good bolts for the doors from inside. Every endeavor 
is made by the Railway Administration to make these compartments immune from 
danger, by resorting to every possible device. When ladies are traveling 
alone at night, it is advisable that they should occupy ladies’ compartment 
for the sake safety and convenience. It should always be examined that the 
ladies’ compartment are provided with lights. If they are not lighted, then 
the Station Master on duty should be approached, and it is his 
responsibility to put the lights in order.

A Caution: - When ladies board compartments which were not occupied by even 
a single lady before they entrained, they should first examine the bath 
rooms, and lavatories and the inside of the compartment and satisfy 
themselves that no thieves are hiding there, and this should invariably be 
done before the train leaves the station. This caution should be clearly 
borne in mind by ladies traveling alone at night, as precious lives have 
been endangered by negligence in this connection.

Male passengers are prohibited from traveling in Ladies’ compartments: - Do 
not allow any male passengers to travel in ladies’ compartments, even if the 
wives or relatives of these passengers are traveling in ladies’ 
compartments. If they try to do so, they should be advised to take their 
wives and relatives to the men’s compartments. If the passengers refuse to 
clear out of the compartments, the Station Master on duty should be advised 
immediately and the passengers compelled to get out of the compartment. In 
the case of a male passenger boarding the ladies’ compartment just a little 
time before the train is in motion, pull the Alarm Chain, and stop the 
train. After the train has stopped, the Guard who will move from his brake 
towards the engine to locate the compartment which the Alarm Chain has been 
pulled, and to make enquiries why the train has been stopped, should be 
called and advised to get the passenger out of the compartment. After the 
passenger has been taken out, then the train should be allowed to move.

The punishment meted out to Male Passengers for the offence of entering and 
remaining in Ladies’ Compartment: - The punishment meted out to Male 
passengers for the offence of entering and remaining in the ladies’ 
compartment will be in accordance with Section 119 of the Indian Railways 
Act, which reads as under: -
‘If a male person, knowing a carriage, compartment, room or other place to 
be reserved by a railway administration for the exclusive use of females, 
enters the place without lawful excuse, or having entered it, remains 
therein after having been desired by any railway servant to leave it, he 
shall be punished with fine which may extend to one hundred rupees, in 
addition to the forfeiture of any fare which he may have paid and of any 
pass or ticket which he may have obtained or purchased, and may be removed, 
from the railway by any railway servant.”

First and second class Ladies Traveling alone at night: - A lady traveling 
alone or with children under 12 years of age at night in a first or second 
class compartment reserved for ladies may take with her in the same 
compartment in which she is traveling, one female servant holding a third 
class ticket for that portion of the journely which is performed between the 
hours of 8 P.M. and 6 A.M. This rule will not apply when two or more ladies 
are traveling in the same compartment.

The servant must leave the compartment when more than one adult passenger 
occupies it.

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