You take left and then take right towards Chinamantala and then you will need to cross four road bumpers, three interrupted his friend, and then for the next two minutes, both of them discussed if we have to cross three road bumpers or four road bumpers. Finally, they conclude that there will be three real road bumpers and an additional fourth one if we consider a smaller one as a real bumper. All these bumper theories were driving me insane and finally the owner of the brick factory who was telling me the direction towards the old Achipur Post Office understood that I was utterly confused so he just came up with the best possible solution. He just asked me to drive straight and take the first right next to Submarine Sporting Club. As if things were not adventurous enough we have to now lookout for a local sporting club that too named Submarine.
I start driving as per the initial direction and start counting the road bumpers before I reach Submarine Sporting Club. Finally, after four proper road bumpers, I could spot the club and a road right after it towards the right. After riding around fifty meters I reach a gate and without thinking twice just drive through it and behold there it was an old dilapidating two-storied building. We have finally managed to reach the old Achipur Post Office.
We were not the only ones out there, I mean there were a dozen kids all in their football kit practicing around the empty ground which I assume was a part of the original Achipur Post Office compound.
Remaining Structures Of Achipur Post Office
Overall the outer structures of the building are in better condition than the interior ones. According to the locals, the post office was still functional around ten years back and with the crumbling state of the building and no maintenance the post office was forced to move out.
There is a huge staircase made of bricks which takes you to the second floor and there you will still be able to see the two locked rooms on the north side full of old chairs, tables, and other furniture which once belonged to the post office. The rooms on the southern sides have no remaining floors and can be seen from the ground floor.
The ground floor is no better with tiles falling off the roof and a huge iron joist that has come off and it’s one side is lying on the floor. The local boys use this building to take shelter from the rain or just to spend leisure hours playing on their mobile phones.
Originally this building was constructed a telegraph office. It may surprise you that this was part of the first telegraph lines to be installed in India which connected Calcutta to Diamond Harbour. The need of installing telegraph messaging centers and relaying centers all along Hooghly River. The main purpose of these telegraph stations was to pass on information about ship movements from Sagar Island where normally a ship would enter from the Bay of Bengal to Hooghly River to the port authorities in Calcutta.
William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was the man responsible for initiating telegraphy in India and was the one responsible for laying this first telegraph cable from Calcutta to Diamond Harbour. On the 30th of March 1852, the first telegraphic message was sent from Calcutta to Kedgeree (Khejuri).
This section of the lines was constructed in the year 1852 thus we can assume the age of this Achipur Post Office to be around that.
One of the most interesting structures found in this post office is the three-storied half-circular structure in the front-facing towards the river. Unlike the rest of the building which is having a typical square structure, this portion resembles exactly like a half Semaphore Tower. There was a purpose why this structure was built this way and it has everything to do with the river and the ships.
Historically Semaphore signaling predated the telegraph messaging system and in India, many such standalone Semaphore Towers were built to relay messages from one point to the other. They were built so that one tower could see the signal from the previous tower and can relay the information to the next.
These towers had signaling mast on the top. This mast would usually have a signal indicator on an axis, depending on the position of this indicator arm relative alphabets could be spelled out. There were many different forms of semaphore signaling and some also used flags and other indicating objects.
Ships back then did not have a wireless telegraph which came into existence only after 1910. So there was no possible way to communicate with the ship crews in the event any messages from the port in Calcutta or rather from anywhere could be relayed to them.
This building was originally built as a telegraph office which also had the facility of relaying Semaphore signals to ships. Anyone could send a message to the ship by sending a telegraph message to the Achipur station and then the signal would then be relayed to the ships using Semaphore signals from its Semaphore tower.
When sending a message for relaying as a semaphore message the sender needs to follow certain guidelines as mentioned in the handbook this way the operator will know it’s for Semaphore signaling.
End Of An Era
With the advent of wireless telegraphy, there was no need for Semaphore messaging thus slowly most of these Semaphores towers ceased its operation and over the years most of them either are in complete damaged state or have vanished altogether. The one in Achipur survived since it was also a Telegraph and Post office catering to this region of Bengal.
On the 15th of July 2013, the last telegram was dispatched by India Post thus signaling the end of telegraphic communication in India that had started way back in 1856.
Over the years with little or no maintenance the Achipur Post Office slowly became inhabitable and the post office out here finally ceased to exist. Another nail in the coffin comes down on the very first telegraph network in India.
Location Of Old Achipur Post Office
Posts And Telegraphs Manual Vol Xi Traffic Instructions Part I And II Up To Oct 1938
Imperial gazetteer of India by Sir William Wilson Hunter 1840 – 1900
Records Of The Bengal Government – No.7 by William Brooke O’Shaughnessy