Patiala State Monorail Trainways

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The Patiala State Monorail Trainways(PSMT) was a unique rail-guided, partially road-borne railways system running in Patiala from 1907 to 1927. The monorail used the Ewing System and was constructed and operated by the Bombay firm of ‘Marsland, Price & Company’ [1]

Maharaja Sir Bhupinder Singh of the Princely Patiala State had this unique railway system constructed to facilitate movement of people and goods in his state. The chief engineer of this project was Colonel C W Bowles who had earlier successfully used a monorail based on Ewing System (designed by William Thorold) during his stint as engineer for the Bengal-Nagpur Railway when responsible for the Construction works at Kharagpur used for transportation of construction materials . Colonel Bowles was made chief Engineer for the PSMT project. 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 locomotives on the route of PSMT [1].

Personnel Records

No information or records have been found, except by obscure references:-

  • Colonel C W Bowles was made chief Engineer [1], mentioned above
  • Herbert Septimus Harington is reported to have "died whilst supervising the construction of a light railway system for the State of Patiala"[2]. He died in 1913 and buried at Simla. This can only be in connection with the PSMT but nothing more is known.

PSMT Lines

The total distance covered by PSMT was 50 miles (80 km). PSMT was run on two unconnected lines. The lines were constructed by the firm of Marsland and Price, based in Bombay.

Basi Monorail

At Sirhind there was a connection to the North Western Railway ‘Ambala-Ludiana SectionMainline’ and the line was opened as far as Basi, 5 miles(8km) by 1908 [3].

Sirhind - Morinda Monorail

Sirhind to Morinda, a distance of 15 miles (24 km). The Basi Monorail was then extended to reach Morinda. It was proposed to extend this line to Rupar but since Rupar was connected by a railway line, this idea was abandoned.

Patiala - Sunam Monorail

Patiala to Sunam, a distance of 40 miles(56 km) via Bhawanigarh following the good road on which there was a constant bullock cart traffic in passengers and freight. Most of the traffic transferred to the monorail line, which, although used animal traction, was smoother and more comfortable. The road was mainly on a raised embankment to keep it clear when the surrounding land was flooded. The embankment was about 20ft (6 metres) wide at road level with a 8ft(2.4m) centre strip, leaving soft shoulders on each side of about 6ft(1.8m). The monorail was laid on one of these shoulders so that the balancing wheels ran along the edge of the metalled surface, leaving the rest clear for other traffic [4]. A letter by Colonel Bowles to a Mr. Ambler 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 the walled city towards City and then took a turn north towards the cantonment. Then it travelled along the main road to Bhawanigarh and then Sunam [1].

PSMT Locomotive No 4 at unknown location

PSMT Locomotive No 4 at unknown location

The ‘British Library Photographic Collection’[5] has a ‘Ewing System Monorail’ locomotive No 4 bearing the PSMT logo.
The background to this image shows a very elaborate circular/semi-circular construction . There is a strong possibility that is one of the structures at the ‘Delhi Durbar’ of 1911

Published Information

The published information about PSMT is very limited:-

  • The 1908 edition of the Imperial Gazetteer of India [3] in which there was a brief mention. The gazetteer simply stated that "a mono-rail tramway, opened in February, 1907, connects Basi with the railway at Sirhind".
  • The pre-opening examination report carried out by the NWR in December 1908 reported that the line was to be worked by mule power to start but ‘two steam .. and one .. petrol monorail engines had been ordered’. The report also confirmed that the line between ‘Sirhind and Bassi, a distance of 6 miles(9.6km) had been completed’ and it had four passenger vehicles and 30 goods vehicles. The passenger vehicle carried 18 to 20 people and the goods vehicles 82 maunds. The report described the platforms, lines and operations of the monorail. It reported an average working speed of 8 miles per hour but a trial run over 1½ miles(2.4km) with one car and four artilliary horses gave a speed of nearly 20 miles per hour [6].
  • An ordnance map of 1913 also shows a tramway running along west side of road, but does not mention the PSMT by name.
  • The “Railway World” [4] in 1962 published an article by John R. Day giving information and photographs received from Mr C W Bowles, then in retirement, concerning his first-hand knowledge of the ‘Ewing System Monorail’ and the ‘Patiala Monorail’.
  • The “Railway Magazine “[1] in 1969 published an article by H.R.Ambler giving further information and photographs.

Apart from the above, PSMT has not been mentioned in any official documents of that period in India.

Later History

It is generally thought that the PSMT closed when the opening in 1927-28 of the North Western Railway(NWR)'s Sirhind-Rupar Railway line made the Patiala State Monorail Trainways obsolete, together with any plan to extend the line from Morinda to Rupar.

However adverts were placed by the Punjab Public Works Department in the 2 Jul 1921 edition of ‘Indian Engineering’ offering monorail trucks, passenger cars, locomotives etc for sale and in the 25 July 1925 edition it offers the whole of the tramway with the statement ‘although the line is a monorail, the wagons and carriages are suitable for conversion to narrow gauge at not too much extra cost’ [6].

Further Information

See pages Monorail Systems in India and Ewing System Monorail
Further information and later history of the locomotives is given in Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compiled by Simon Darvill [6].

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 ‘The Railway Magazine’, February 1969, “An Indian Might-have-been” by H.R.Ambler pages 72-76, reproduced by IRFCA (Indian Railways Fan Club); Retrieved on 18 May 2017
  2. ‘Grace’s Guide/Inst of Mechanical Engineers Obituary 1914’ “'Herbert Septimus Harington” Retrieved on 21 Nov 2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 7, p. 95. Basi"; Retrieved 18 May 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 “Railway World” February 1962 Vol 23 No 261, pages 52-53 & 66. ‘An Indian Monorail: The Ewing System in Patiala’ by John R Day. Published by Ian Allen & Co.
  5. ’British Library Photographic Collection’ F/290/184/0001
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compliled by Simon Darvill. Published by ‘The Industrial Railway Society’ 2013. ISBN 978 1 901556 82-7. Available at Reference: Entry PB10 page ....