Monday, January 14, 2013



Rail book



Book Review – By  ILYAS PATEL

Our friend and past president of GPA Mr Mainak Kathiara gave me a very decent coffee table book titled “The Great Indian Railways through Philately” to refer and write a review for it. This book is an Eastern Railway Publication and written by one of its employee – cum – philatelist Mr Mohammad Mujibullah. It is published in 2009. From the bibliography, I learnt that the author have already contributed two books on India Railways through philately and this being his third one. It is a matter of great pleasure that the author is serving both the Indian Railways and the philately by making such useful contributions in literature class.

rail book 2 The book is printed in full color and with exhaustive illustrations being a coffee table book. All the information is precise and concise. The author has tried to make it fully illustrative since there was no page limitation being departmental publication. But in doing so I feel that there is a duplication of material and wastage of costly pages. Such pages could have been used cleverly with additional information as I learnt from Mainak that the author is a largest collector on India Railways and have his own museum too. He collects everything related to Indian Railways.

In the book the author has adopted a philatelic time line against the traditional historical time frame to demonstrate his collection. Accordingly, he started with Railway Mail service (RMS) cancellation being introduced first as per philatelic time frame and have done with Travelling Post Office, Railway Sorter, Too Late, Train Late, Indian State Railways as well as cancellations of railways in Burma. The author has covered all the stamps issued so far and provided brief information for each of them including informative sketches as and when needed. He has not forgotten the contribution of various personalities who made note worthy contribution for the development and expansion of Indian Railways. The author has included some rare photographs and beautiful maxim cards to make it lucid and colorful as well as detailed list for perfin used by various railway systems in India. From the entire efforts it seems that the author want to make it an illustrative book through the medium of philately and not a useful reference book on Indian Railways that has a long standing history of 150+ years even through the same medium. I personally believe that he may have done it in his other two publications on the similar title and for that reason it is kept simply illustrative.

While reviewing the book philatelically, it is to mention that the author have used words large and small cancellation in RMS chapter. He could have properly defined it with common notations like diameter size and font size to distinguish them clearly. I believe that the author is aware about it. In illustrations shown on page 26 to 30 “*” is shown in the circle whereas it is a floral design rightly shown on starting page cancellation illustrations. There is an editing mistake on page 5 in which it is mentioned as 1856 instead of 1895 in small RMS cancellation. In Railway Telegraphs, the author has shown the use of only latest post-independence stamps. In fact, licenses were granted to railways to transact telegraphic business to accept prepayment of telegraph charges either in cash or postage stamps but they were not authorized to deface them initially. All British India stamps were used for the purpose. Licensed Railway Telegraph System is a glorious chapter in the history of Indian Railways and cannot be neglected. I also believe that instead of putting and discussing them in to a separate chapter, if the author has discussed all our railways that are declared as World Heritage Railways by UNESCO under a title “Our World Heritage Railways” to make it more lucid and informative. To the best extent of my knowledge, The Great Indian Peninsula Railway was the first to build railway line in India and they built the first railway bridge “Thane Creek Bridge” in India and Asia as well in 1852. The same is appeared on 2004 issue of stamp on 150 years of India Post. I think the author could have covered this important part of history of Indian Railways. By giving a very abstract form of bibliography, the author has not adopted the standard notations for bibliography. Thus it is not useful to any reader to make out a search in the market.

In short this colorful book is fully illustrative one with exhaustive philatelic illustrations to serve the very purpose of the author. For novice philatelist on Indian Railways, it will serve as a good handy tool. It will not impress the hard core and sincere philatelists collecting on this theme. They have to look elsewhere. I firmly believe that with clever use of space for illustrations, number of pages could have been reduced and thereby the cost. Still the author makes a very good effort and his work can be a welcome addition in the philatelic library.