Jitendra Dixit ABP News book review

Halt Station India: The Dramatic Tale of the Nation’s First Rail Lines | Book Review by Jitendra Dixit

Don’t be surprised if you hear huffing-chuffing & rattling sounds while reading this book named, ‘Halt Station India’. This book would fully enthral you in the world of wheels that transformed India. I had picked up this book two years ago at Delhi airport but it was just recently that I finished reading it.

My experience with Rail Fanning:

Railways have always fascinated me. My love for trains briefly reflects in my debut fiction ‘Bombay 3’ where the protagonist & his two friends spend their after-school time on a railway bridge. During my school days, I have often spent hours standing on the foot-over bridge between Masjid & Sandhurst Road stations looking at trains & discussing them with my friends.

A few years back I came across a term for such activity- “Rail Fanning”. So today I am writing about a book which I have savoured as a rail-fan. The book Halt Station India – The Dramatic Tale of the Nation’s First Rail Lines’ is written by senior journalist, Rajendra B. Aklekar.

Spread over eight chapters & 200 pages, this book reflects the substantial research by the author. He has given great attention to the details & has presented some unknown facets of the railways. Every page of Halt Station India is worth the reader’s time.

Jitendra Dixit

Halt Station India makes its readers’ time travel to the 19th century

The book not only extends a detailed background of the commencement of the first railway of India but also explains how it became an integral part of Mumbaikar’s life. There are many interesting anecdotes on how the first railway line was laid between Boribunder to Thana, what were the challenges and how they were overcome & what was the response of the local people & so on.

The book makes its reader’s time travel in the 19th century. The station by station description of the GIP Railway (Predecessor of Central Railways) & BB & C Railway (Predecessor of Western Railway). The overall narration makes you feel you are part of the time & location, the author is talking about.


I am also a Bombayphile & through railways, this book also partly satiates my appetite to know more about the history & evolution of my beloved city. The 19th & 20th Century history of Mumbai is incomplete without knowing the railways & the role they played in making Mumbai, India’s most sought-after city.

My take on the book:

If you have ceased taking trains for outstation travel & prefer air mode for the transit, I am sure this book would make you fall in love again with the trains. The language is modest & would also appeal to a non-regular English reader.

Thank you, Mr Aklekar for writing this book.

After reading the book one would realise why Mr Rajendra B Aklekar is rightly called, a walking-talking encyclopedia of the Indian Railways.

Jitendra Dixit

Quick Snapshot:

Book Name: Halt Station India – The Dramatic Tale of the Nation’s First Rail Lines
Author: Rajendra B. Aklekar, Senior Assistant Editor, Mid-Day
Foreword by: Mark Tully, former Bureau Chief of BBC, New Delhi
Reviewed By: Jitendra Dixit, West India Editor, ABP News
Publisher: Rupa Publications (English) & Mehta Publications (Marathi)
Price: Free on Kindle | Paperback available on Flipkart & Amazon
Language: English, Marathi
Genre: Non-fiction, Transportation & Automotive
Available on:
Amazon (English – Unabridged Version)
Flipkart: English Marathi

Synopsis:

The book is in two languages- English (Rupa Publications) and Marathi (Mehta Publications).

It’s the story of how the line came up to become India’s first railway line and to grow into the 7 million passengers that if ferries today. It is the story of each station and the relics of that glorious era that are still lying around at those stations. It’s the story of Bombay railway, the lifeline of now Mumbai city.

Halt Station India chronicles the dramatic rise of India’s original rail network, the arrival of the first train, and the subsequent emergence of a pioneering electric line—all in the port city of Bombay. Trains that once provoked awe and fear—they were viewed as fire chariots, smoke-spewing demons—have today become a nation’s lifeblood. 

Taking a walk along India’s first rail lines, the author stumbles upon fragments of the past—a clock at Victoria Terminus that offers a rare view of a city; a cannon near Masjid Bunder Station that is worshipped as a god; a watchtower overlooking Sion Station, believed to have housed a witch. Each pit-stop comes with stories of desire and war, ambition and death—by Dockyard Road Station, for instance, author Laurence Sterne’s beloved, Eliza Draper, followed a sailor into the sea; or close to Parel Station, the wife of India’s governor general, Lord Canning found a garden rich in tropical vegetation; this, she replicated at Barrackpore.

Drawing from journals, biographies, newspapers and railway archives—and with nostalgic, first-time accounts of those who travelled by India’s earliest trains—the book captures the economic and social revolutions spurred by the country’s first train line. In this, Halt Station India is not just about the railways—it is the story of the growth of India’s business capital and a rare study of a nation.

About the author:

Rajendra B. Aklekar is Senior Assistant Editor, Mid-Day and author of best-selling books on India’s railway history, heritage and trains, including one short-listed as Best Nonfiction at Bengaluru Lit Fest, 2015. He has also penned the biography of E. Sreedharan.

Best selling author, Rajendra B. Aklekar

A journalist for the past twenty years, Rajendra B. Aklekar has two things on his mind—the railways and Bombay. He started his career with Rusi Karanjia’s firebrand The Daily, where he used to run a weekly column on the history of Bombay’s railway stations. Presently, Aklekar is associated with Midday. He has trained himself in museology to document Bombay’s vanishing relics, helped the railways set up heritage galleries, and worked on several prestigious projects to conserve the city’s ancient structures. This text refers to the paperback edition.

Follow Rajendra Aklekar on: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram | Koo
Click for more information: Rajendra B. Aklekar

Get his books here: Amazon India

Buy the book, read it and share your views in the comment section below. 

Book Review by:

Jitendra Dixit

©DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter & Mumbai Author’s Club. DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter brings this book review to you in association with the Mumbai Author’s Club. This article is a property of DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter & Mumbai Author’s Club. Any unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mumbai Author’s Club, Jitendra Dixit and DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter. With the right and specific direction to the original content.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored post. Jitendra Dixit has written this post only after being completely convinced about the book, Halt Station India – The Dramatic Tale of the Nation’s First Rail Lines by Rajendra B. Aklekar.

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla and sponsored by Queen’s Brigade.

22 comments

  1. This is something new to me. It’s good to know about trains. The book sounds interesting.I’ll check it out

  2. I am really surprised as to how I missed this book. My kid is a Indian Railway fan and has so many books even bigger than his age and read most of them. I am going to buy this one immediately.

  3. This books sounds interesting. I always loved trains, there are so many childhood memories attached with my train travel. I would love to read this book Thanks for this wonderful review.

  4. Your review is what interested more than the concept of the book itself. I am not an railway fan but reading your review I could feel on your enthusiasm.

  5. This looks like a lovely book. I have great memories of train travel. Back in the old days when you had the whole bogey to yourself. Or those First Class compartments that were quite different from ones these days. I will surely check out the book.

  6. I don’t really have any interest in trains but I love reading about history. So this book sounds like something I would enjoy. Great job highlighting the salient points of the book!

  7. Oo wow! What an awesome review of this amazing book. The book seems like an interesting one and your review made me curious enough to grab my copy. I would like to read English edition sooooon!

  8. Wow! Seems like a detailed book covering many important aspect of the history of railways – 200 pages! I too read books that talk about the history of cities or things we use so much and take for granted. Your review has only made this book more interesting for me. Of course trains as such an important part of Mumbai – the backbone of the bustling city. I have visited Mumbai twice and have experience travelling by the local train both time. First time was in 2002 and i was amazed as Iam from Bangalore and those times we still were a very peaceful city with none of the traffic woes. The next was in 2019 ….since we have driven down we had our car and used that most of the time to travel to places closeby. But I did take the train on 2 occasions when I had to travel across the city. Very well organised and safe.

  9. The book sounds interesting. I am always looking for such off beat books. As someone who has traversed the length and breadth of India on trains growing up, just the review made me nostalgic. I didn’t know there exists a term rail-fanning.

  10. My maternal Grandpa used to work in the Mumbai railways and that too in the early days. He had a craze about them. He was a repairman and the mention of this book brought back all the memories he shared with me. I will definitely check this book.

  11. Wow!! It would be wonderful to know so much about trains in mumbai…trains are the lifeline of mumbai and so many interesting things must have added up to its history…would love to pick up a copy

  12. The book by Rajendra B. Aklekar seems interesting. Train travel in the 18th and 19th centuries was an altogether different experience. I would like to read the book on train travel by the man who wrote the biography of E.Sreedharan, the Metro man!

  13. Mumbai is indeed incomplete without trains. I use to travel from Thane to V.T for my first job . For my travels, I still prefer train. I enjoy the journey, especially the Himachal and Konkan belt. I never knew someone has written a book on Indian railways, sounds really interesting. Thanks!

  14. The Railways have always fascinated me. A book on it sounds interesting. The review tempts me to grab a paperback and start reading. The history should be captivating to read.

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