Famous Trains

Tourist Trains

Palace On Wheels

[3/99] This is a tourist train operated by IR. It covers the route Delhi - Jaipur - Chittorgarh/Udaipur - Sawai Madhopur - Jaisalmer - Jodhpur - Bharatpur/Agra - Delhi, including visits to historical sites, palaces, wildlife sanctuaries, etc. along the way, taking about 8 days in all. Fares range from $425 per person per day for single occupancy, going down with double ($300) or triple occupancy ($250).

The Palace On Wheels initially ran on MG, with coaches dating back to 1917. After the original rake was deemed unsuitable for passenger service, a new MG rake was brought into use, with an unusual all-white (or ivory) livery. When the Palace on Wheels was converted to a broad-gauge train in 1992, this rake was repainted blue and used for the Royal Orient (see below).

Royal Orient

[3/99] The Royal Orient was started as a joint effort between the state of Gujarat and WR some time in 1994-95. The itinerary is Chittorgarh - Udaipur - Palitana - Somnath - Diu - Ahmedpur - Mandvi - Sasangir National Park - Junagarh - Ahmedabad - Jaipur - Delhi, taking 7 days. Fares range from $350 per person per day going down with double occupancy ($200) and triple occupancy ($175).

The rake used was the replacement rake for the ageing Palace on Wheels rolling stock (which ran the POW service from 1992 to about 1994, when the BG rake for POW was introduced). This new ICF-built replacement rake was rendered useless until Gujarat Tourism and WR decided to run it as the Royal Orient. The livery was changed to a blue scheme. It originates from Delhi Cantt MG station and traverses a fair part of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Royal Orient rake is maintained at the WR workshops at Ajmer.

Fairy Queen

[3/99] One of the oldest working steam locomotives in the world (possibly the oldest still working regularly), and certainly the oldest working loco in India, the Fairy Queen is a 2-2-2WT BG loco built in 1855 by Kitson, Thompson, & Hewitson, (Leeds, UK) formerly loco No. 22 of the East Indian Railway. It used to work on the Howrah-Raniganj line and later in Bihar. IR now uses it to haul a two-car tourist train which has a two-day itinerary from Delhi to Alwar (Rajasthan) and back, including a trip to a tiger sanctuary. (See the section on steam locos for more information on old locos.)

The Kangra Queen

The Kangra Queen is a tourist train that goes through the scenic Kangra Valley route, from Pathankot to Palampur in Himachal Pradesh. It covers 128km in 4.5 hours (one train each way everyday).

The Desert Queen

The Desert Queen is a tourist train announced in August 2000, which is supposed to cover the Nawalgarh - Fatehpur - Pidawa - Mukungarh - Shekhawat route in Rajasthan, in 3 days and 3 nights. Price to be US $485 per night.

The Great Indian Rover

The Great Indian Rover was a tourist train introduced on Feb. 10, 1983, and aimed at tourists who wished to visit places of Buddhist interest. It had various itineraries of 3 to 7 days from Calcutta, including stops at Gorakhpur (for Lumbini), Gaya, Patna, Sarnath, etc., and going to Puri, Varanasi, and (for the 7-day one-way itinerary) ending at New Delhi. Individual saloon cars could be booked for the journey. It stopped running some time in the late 1980s, and was the forerunner to the present-day Buddhist special 'Buddha Parikrama' launched in 1998 (1999?).

Other tourist trains

Recently [2002-2003] various new luxury tourist trains have been proposed or announced by IR or various state governments and their tourism departments. Most of them are modelled on the Palace on Wheels and Royal Orient, and generally aimed at the luxury tourism market.

One of these is the Deccan Odyssey. Beginning the journey from Mumbai, the train will travel to Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Goa, Pune, Aurangabad , Ajanta-Ellora, Nashik and then back to Mumbai, and is a venture of the Maharashtra Government and the Taj Group. In addition to being a train that touches tourist spots, this really aims to be a complete 5-star hotel on wheels, with two restaurants and a bar, a sauna, business centre and other such amenities on board. It has recently [1/04] completed trials and is expected to begin running on Jan. 15, 2004.

The Karnataka government is also considering introducing a luxury tourist train. This train, to run year-round, is expected to have a dedicated 18-coach rake with 11 air-conditioned salon cars, one air-conditioned bar car, a conference car, an air-conditioned restaurant car, a staff car, and two power cars (all to be built by the ICF).

[2008] IRCTC and the tourism operator Cox and Kings India have formed a company, The Royal Indian Rail Tours, to run some luxury and economy tourist trains. Proposed are: The Princely India Tour (Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Udaipur-Jodhpur-Jaisalmer-Jaipur-Delhi), and the Classical India Tour (Delhi-Agra-Gwalior-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Patna), the Buddhist Circuit, Bharat Darshan and others. Four luxury trains run on different routes under the name 'Maharaja Express'.

[2009] Several new luxury tourist trains have been introduced recently, such as the 'Royal Rajasthan on Wheels', 'Indian Maharaja', and 'Splendour of the South'.

Hill Railways

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

[3/99] The Darjeeling railway was conceived by Franklin Prestage, the Agent or General Manager of the Eastern Bengal State Railway. Tea estates had opened in the Darjeeling area in the 1870s, and the newly opened Calcutta-Siliguri line saw considerable traffic. Prestage proposed in 1878 to build a 2' NG railway line on the Hill Cart Road. The original line of the DHR was constructed between 1879 and 1885 and was originally named the Darjeeling Steam Tramway Co. The DHR was actually opened to traffic in 1881, when it became the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Co. The ruling gradient is 1:16, and the sharpest curve is of radius 18m. There are five zig-zags (switchbacks) and four full loops, of which two are double spirals. Services are operated today with several ancient steam locos kept alive by the Tindharia Works. The working locos date from as far back as 1899 and 1904; the newest ones are from 1925. These are the famous 'B' class locos developed Sharp, Stewart of Manchester, UK, in 1889. They are 0-4-0 saddle tank locos, and each loco weighs 14 tons, with 26" coupled wheels and 11"x14" cylinders. Originally, the locos hauled four coaches (24' bogie stock) and a four-wheeler van. Thirty four were built in all. The ones that survive today use parts cannibalized from locos no longer in service. Of the locos that are no longer in operation, a few have been preserved. See the DHR loco list. The DHR also used a Beyer-Garratt articulated loco, bought in 1911 but not used much. A couple of narrow-gauge diesel locos have been pressed into service on the DHR in recent years.

The crew for the trains in the old days generally consisted of a driver, a fireman, a coal breaker, a coal passer, and two sanders who stood at the front of the engine. Cargo hauled included rice and tea, other mixed freight, and passengers from Siliguri (500' altitude) to Ghum (7407'), and finally to Darjeeling (7000') over 51 miles (82km). The DHR locos typically racked up 1200 to 1300 miles in each month of service.

Originally, the DHR had two branches. The Kishanganj branch, running west-south-west of Siliguri, was 107km long and was converted to MG and connected to the NER system at Barsoi during the construction of the Assam Rail Link in 1948. The Kishanganj branch used 'A' class Pacifics, none of which survive today. The other branch was the Kalimpong Road (Gelkhola) branch, following the Teesta valley, 36km long, which was closed in 1950 following floods that swept away the trackbeds.

Currently, it operates three routes

  • Kurseong - Darjeeling - Kurseong (daily)
  • New Jalpaiguri - Darjeeling - New Jalpaiguri (daily)
  • New Jalpaiguri - Silliguri Jn. - New Jalpaiguri (??)

Shorter excursions between Ghum and Darjeeling are run often, known as the 'Joy Train' services and intended for tourists. These are always steam-hauled, while the other services are sometimes steam-hauled and sometimes diesel-hauled these days.

See the steam section and also DHR loco lists for some more information on DHR locos. See the section on organizations for some more information on groups interested in the DHR. Lists of locomotives and their current dispositions, detailed maps, etc. are available from some of them.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (or the Ooty Rack Railway)

[2/99] The meter-gauge line from Mettupalaiyam to Conoor (the Ooty line) is a rack railway. It is not connected to other meter-gauge lines. The normal MG locos and rolling-stock cannot run on this line because of the sharp curves, so it has special equipment. This is the only example of a rack railway in India.

The Mettupalayam - Coonoor line was constructed in 1897 and opened in 1899 (it was actually opened in August 1898 but then closed after track damage from heavy rain). Four 2-4-0T Beyer-Peacock locomotives were used initially. The extension from Coonoor to Ootacamund was built in 1908. Niklaus Riggenbach (Switzerland) and J L L Morant (Royal Engineers, UK) were the engineers who conceived of and designed the line.

The "X" class locos were built by SLM (Winterthur, Switzerland) a long time back, and it has been extremely difficult to keep the line running because of the lack of spare parts and impossibility of obtaining replacements. There are now some plans to commission new locos based on modified designs of the X class.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway ascends to the highest point on meter-gauge in India. Mettupalaiyam is at 310m (1071'). The terminus, Ootacamund (Ooty) is at 2204m (7228'), but the previous station, Fernhill, is at 2218m (7275'). The actual summit occurs just before Fernhill and is at 2226m (7300').

Kateri Road was a station (now closed) between Runnymede and Coonoor which was very interesting technically, as the gradient there was so steep that the rack could not have any gaps anywhere. Thus even the points had racks. This station was closed (and the rack points removed) in 1982 when the gradient was eased.

On Oct. 31, 2009, a YDM-4 locomotive was used in a trial run between Mettupalaiyam and Hillgrove over the rack section (8.2km). It hauled 5 coaches in the critical section where the gradient is 1:12.5.

Some experiments with converting steam locos to use oil were tried out and on February 20, 2011, Golden Rock workshops dispatched the first oil-fired steam locomotive for the NMR to enter regular service. A total of 4 will be in service eventually.

"Toy trains" : The NG hill trains

Other than the DHR and Ooty railways, there are other narrow gauge trains run by IR, popularly (and perhaps rather too dismissively) known as "toy trains". These include the Kalka - Shimla trains (the Shivalik Deluxe train and the Shivalik Palace tourist coach) which go through some gorgeous hill scenery. The Shivalik Palace Tourist coach provides private accommodations for 6 persons.

The Kalka-Shimla route is 96km long with 102 tunnels (although because of a misnumbering -- tunnel #46 is not used -- the count is often given as 103), 869 bridges, and 919 curves. Barog tunnel is the longest at 1,144m. The entire route was actually built to 2' gauge and then regauged to 2'6". Petrol railcars ran on this route in 1911.

Another interesting 2'NG section is the Neral-Matheran line (the 'Matheran Light Railway' or MLR) which is accessible from the main Mumbai-Pune section. The NG passenger trains run only during daylight hours. Matheran is a hill station. The line was built by Abdul Hussain, son of a renowned businessman Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy of Bombay, who visited Matheran often and wanted to build a railway to make it easier to get there. Hussain's plans for the railway were formulated in 1900 and construction started in 1904. The line was open to traffic by 1907. Neral, the starting point, is about midway between Mumbai and Pune. The 2' NG line runs parallel to the BG line to the west of Hardal Hill and then turns east to ascend to Matheran. The rail alignment and the roadway meet near Jumappati and meet again after a brief separation, at Bhekra Khud. Following a small level stretch, there is a sharp ascent just before Mount Barry. A large horseshoe embankment was built to avoid a reversing station here. The line runs for a mile or so northwards around this and then turns around to take a tunnel through -- 'One Kiss Tunnel', a reference to how short it is! Two more zig-zags through deep cuttings remain before Panorama Point is reached, and then the line bends back to Simpson's Tank and terminates at Matheran. In all, the line is about 20km long. Originally, the tracks were laid with 30lb rails but now has 42lb rails. Ruling gradient is 1:20 and speeds are limited to 20km/h. The line was generally closed in the monsoons because of the danger of landslides. Starting in the 1980s (1982?), the line was kept open often even in the rainy season. On July 26, 2005, landslides following heavy rain washed away large parts of the track and destroyed 37 bridges on the line, and services were suspended for a long time. Services partially resumed on March 5, 2007 following the relaying of tracks and reconstruction of bridges from Neral to Jummapatti, with more work remaining to be done on the last leg to Matheran. Steam: A 'B' class loco #794 from the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway has been transferred to the Neral-Matheran line to test the feasibility of steam excursions. An MLR loco, #741 (Orenstein and Koppel #1767, built 1905) is preserved at Matheran station. The line observed its centenary on April 15th, 2007.


Rajdhani trains are fast passenger trains connecting various cities to the New Delhi area (the capital; "Rajdhani" means a capital city in Hindi). They are generally given operational priority as they are "prestige" trains. The early Rajdhanis all had AC chair-car accommodations; however, now they all have AC sleeper accommodations.

One peculiar feature of the Rajdhanis used to be that ticketing could only be done from the starting station or to the terminating station; it was not possible to buy a ticket for a journey between two intermediate points. However this rule no longer holds now.

Q. Which was the first Rajdhani and when was it introduced?

The first Rajdhani was introduced between Howrah and New Delhi on March 1, 1969. It was initially a bi-weekly 8 car train - Brake/Luggage/Generator, AC I, AC Pantry, AC Chair, AC Chair, AC Chair, AC Chair, Brake/Luggage/Generator - hauled by a single WDM-4. It left Howrah on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and left New Delhi on Mondays and Fridays. The first return journey from New Delhi was March 3. The booked speed for the route was 115 km/h and the maximum permissible speed was 120 km/h. (At the time, the only train allowed this speed.) Later it ran 5 days a week, and also had a mid-train generator car. Still later it became a daily train, with two runs (Tuesday and Friday) going via Patna. After 1993, the train reverted to having just two generator cars at either end, although some reporters say they have seen it with the mid-train generator car on occasion since then.

Initially, the Rajdhani covered the 1441km route in 17 hours and 20 minutes but this was later speeded up to 16 hours 35 minutes (from Delhi) and 16 hours 55 minutes (return). The New Delhi - Kanpur time was 268 minutes, and the Mughalsarai to Dhanbad time was 240 minutes, which compare very favourably with the timings of fast trains today!

The ticket issued for the journey was Rs. 280 for AC sleeper and Rs. 90 for AC Chair car. The train offered a true express service between New Delhi and Howrah with no booking of passengers for any station enroute. It ran on the Grand Chord with intermediate halts were restricted to Kanpur Central, Mughalsarai and Gomoh, for service requirements like refilling of overhead water tanks and replenishing of catering stores.

Two years later (July 1971), Kanpur Central was converted to a passenger halt when ten seats in the AC Chair car were set apart for Kanpur residents. On Nov. 1971, the train's speed was increased to 120/130 booked/max. resulting in a reduction of 30/45 minutes in the Up/Dn journey times. In a few years, Mughalsarai and Dhanbad became passenger halts and the Gomoh halt was removed.

It continued to be hauled by a WDM-4 even after the complete electrification of the Howrah - N. Delhi route (via the Grand Chord). These WDM-4s had a superior bogie design which meant that the train could accelerate faster and brake at higher speeds. They were also rated at 130 km/h, a little above the 120 km/h of the WAM-4 locos. Mughalsarai had workshop facilities to handle the maintenance of these locos.; this explained the 12-minute halt there (sometimes the loco was changed there as well).

IR introduced the higher speed WAP-1 AC electric locomotive some time in 1983, which could haul an 18 coach Rajdhani at a max. speed of 120 km/h. A single Ghaziabad WAP-1 usually hauled the train through the late 1980s, although occasionally twin WAP-1 locos were also used. Later WAP-2's were occasionally used. In 1986 it changed to using air-braked stock and was allocated the first air-braked WAP-1 locos, from Ghaziabad shed. After 1985 WAG-5 locos were sometimes used if the allocated WAP-1 had a problem, since WAG-5's were among the few locos then that had air train brakes. Since then various WAP models have been used to haul Rajdhanis. It was also the first train to be hauled by a WAP-5 loco. In the early days of the WAP-5 locos, the train was hauled by WAP-1 locos on Tuesdays and Fridays (when it went through Patna) and dual WDM-2 locos hauled it from Mughalsarai onwards. On occasion, even until recently, it was hauled by Kanpur or Howrah WAP-4 locos. It is now also occasionally hauled by a WAP-7 from Ghaziabad.

In 2009, at the time of its 40th anniversary, the Howrah Rajdhani took 17 hours and 10 minutes for its run, and had passenger stops at Dhanbad, Parasnath, Gaya, Mughalsarai, Allahabad, and Kanpur Central. It uses a rake of 18 LHB coaches.

Q. What about the Bombay Rajdhani?

The Bombay Rajdhani was introduced on May 17, 1972 with a maximum speed of 120 km/h and booked speed of 115 km/h. It covered the 1384km route in about 19 hours. It was a biweekly train. The cost was Rs. 343 by AC sleeper and Rs. 114 by AC Chair car. Composition - 1 AC sleeper with 18 berths, 4 AC chair cars with 71 seats each, 1 pantry-cum-chair car with 10 seats, 2 luggage-cum-power cars. An additional AC Chair car with 71 seats ran as and when traffic justified it. There was no booking of passengers for stations enroute.

The Bombay - New Delhi Rajdhani was initially hauled by a single specially regeared Ratlam WDM-2 loco. There were operational halts at Vadodara, Ratlam, Gangapur City and Mathura, for watering, engine changing, change of crew, issue of caution orders, etc. A few years later, Vadodara and Ratlam became passenger halts, Gangapur City still existed as a service halt and Mathura had been removed.

In 1984, the train became double-headed (WDM-2's) with 18 air-braked coaches (the first long-distance train to get air-braked stock for regular operations). At the time electric traction was not continuous all the way between New Delhi and Bombay, and most electric locos were not fitted with air brakes, hence the choice of the twin WDM-2 locos. Further, the change to DC traction after Virar towards Bombay would have necessitated a change of locos in any case, lengthening the trip time. Except for a couple of patches in the Nagda-Kota section, the entire Bombay-New Delhi section was double-tracked - so journey time had been cut down to about 17-1/2 hours. By the late 1980s, a WAP-1 (from Vadodara shed) would take over in the Ratlam - New Delhi section (or sometimes from Vadodara onwards), thus increasing the speed to 120/130 booked/max. in this section. Later WAP-3 and other WAP series locos were used.

The WAP locos couldn't run all the way to Bombay because of the change of traction at Virar, and the diesel shed at Ratlam was conveniently situated to handle the WDM-2's required for that run of the Rajdhani. With the WAP locos hauling the train for part of the way, the running time was brought down to about 16-1/2 hrs. Kota was included as a passenger halt and Gangapur City was removed from the list.

With the introduction of the high-speed dual-voltage (AC/DC) WCAM-2P locos (which were also air-braked) in 1993-94, the Rajdhani could electric hauled all the way. A WCAM-2P hauled it on the Mumbai Central - Vadodara section, and a WAP series loco hauled it for the rest of the route to New Delhi.

On December 15th 2003, a new LHB rake was assigned to the Mumbai Rajdhani. The new coaches incorporate advanced features such as anti-skid disc brakes, a modular pantry, a food warmer/cooler, and anti-telescopic and anti-climbing features. The new coaches have higher passenger-carrying capacity and are designed for a higher speed rating of 140kmh.

How many Rajdhanis are there now?

More than a dozen. Please see the list of train names which lists the Rajdhanis and other named trains.


Q. When were Shatabdis introduced? Which was the first one?

The Shatabdi Express trains are fast inter-city express trains which aim to provide daytime service noticeably faster than the other "superfast" trains over medium distances, generally providing for a same-day return (leave early in the morning, and return late at night). They are aimed primarily at businessmen and tourists. The Shatabdis have airconditioned rakes and two classes of accommodation: executive chair car and ordinary chair car. The price of meals and refreshments is included in the fare.

"Shatabdi" indicates a century in Hindi; the service was started to commemorate the Nehru centenary in 1989. The first Shatabdi between New Delhi and Jhansi was flagged off in July 1988. In 1989 it was extended to Bhopal. In 1989 another Shatabdi was started between New Delhi and Kanpur, and later extended to Lucknow.

The Bhopal Shatabdi is booked to run at a speed of 140km/h between New Delhi and Agra, and at 130km/h between Agra and Bhopal, making it the fastest train in the country. It was also the first train to cover the New Delhi - Agra section in under two hours, taking 115 minutes, handily beating the Taj Exp. which was the previous speed record holder on that section (it takes around 2.5 hours for the same stretch).

Later Shatabdis have in general not been as fast as the Bhopal Shatabdi, but they do normally achieve speeds of 120-130km/h. Some Shatabdis (including the Bhopal one) use WAP3 locos, others use WAP1's and also WDM2's in unlectrified sections. One of the newer Shatabdis, the Swarna Shatabdi Exp. between Amritsar and New Delhi has a dedicated rake with several new features. The new [5/01] fast train between New Delhi and Lucknow with Alstom-LHB coaches capable of running at 160km/h is also called a Swarna Shatabdi Express.

Q. How many Shatabdis are there now?

Quite a few. See the list of train names which lists these and other named trains.

Other Famous Trains

The Grand Trunk Express

This train, affectionately known as the 'GT' started running in 1929 just after the construction of the Kazipet-Balharshah section, which was the last link in the Delhi-Madras route. Initially it ran from Peshawar to Mangalore and took about 104 hours, one of the longest train routes. Later this service was changed to Lahore-Mettupalaiyam. In 1930 it reached its present status while running between Delhi and Madras.

As a prestigious train, it was one of the few to have the early methods of air cooling by ice blocks. It also carried a parcel van for urgent consignments. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the train used to run with a completely air-conditioned rake (First AC and AC Chair Car) on two days of the week, and with its usual rake on other days, and hence was sometimes known as the AC/GT Express. The train had a 21-coach rake in the 1980s, later extended to 22 and finally 24 coaches. Its first-class coaches were of the corridor type with extra large windows. The GT's coaches (along with those of other premier trains in the 1970s) also had noticeably better suspension as well.

Frontier Mail

The Frontier Mail was flagged off on Sep. 1, 1928, from Colaba Terminus, the main station on the BB&CI (later Western Railway). It was a replacement for the earlier Mumbai-Peshawar Mail. In winter (Sep. - Dec.), the Frontier Mail started from Ballard Pier (Mole Station) to connect with P&O steamships; this is the portion referred to as the "Duplicate" section of the Frontier Mail in old railway schedules and articles.

Leaving from Mole Station the train ran for a short while on tracks of the Bombay Port Railway and the GIPR via Bandra Jn. finally reaching its home tracks of the BB&CI Railway. For the rest of the year the train terminated at Colaba, but a separate train ran to Ballard Pier for the steamer connection. There were also times when the train ran this extra bit on some days of the week alternating with the normal route.

The train's route took it through Baroda, Ratlam, Mathura, Delhi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and finally to Peshawar. (The section beyond Delhi was run by the North Western Railway as train No. 3.) Peshawar was close to the frontier of British India in those days, hence the name of the train. It used to be the fastest long-distance train in the subcontinent.

Originally the BB&CI introduced it to rival the Punjab Limited of the GIPR, which also went from Bombay to Peshawar. The train had a reputation for being unusually punctual. Originally the rake had 5 coaches and a luxury dining car cum lounge car. As a prestige train of the BB&CI, the train offered plush conveniences on board, and the passengers had access to luxurious retiring rooms at stations along the way. It had air-cooled cars (using ice blocks) from about 1934.

After Independence, it went only up to Amritsar, via Delhi, from Bombay. The train has now [1996] been renamed "Golden Temple Mail".

Punjab Mail

The Punjab Mail runs between Bombay and Firozpur. This was the GIPR train; there was another train of the same name that ran for a while between Calcutta and Delhi on the East Indian Railway. The Punjab Mail made its debut on 1st June 1912. Like the later Frontier Mail, the Punjab Mail too used to connect with the P&O steamships on fixed mail days and would steam off from the Mole Station; on other days it departed from Bombay's Victoria Terminus.

For a brief period, an extended service called The Punjab Limited operated between Bombay VT and Peshawar, on the GIPR and NWR; this was a rival to the Frontier Mail, but does not seem to have lasted as a service for long. (There is some doubt whether the Punjab Limited was an entirely separate special service or a special extension of the Punjab Mail.) The Punjab Mail was among the fastest trains in pre-Independence India (probably the fastest one at various times). The train had air-cooled cars in 1945.

It was hauled by a variety of locos. XC locos were used after the rake was extended by the addition of third-class cars in the 1930s. In 1929-1930 EA/1 electric locos were used experimentally. The train later ran electric-hauled until Manmad, where a WP took over. From 1968 the train was diesel-hauled until Jhansi and by 1976 or so it became diesel-hauled all the way. A WCAM-1 loco was used a few times in an attempt to provide continuous haulage without locomotive changes, in the 1970s. Since then, and continuing today, it is hauled by a DC locomotive until Igatpuri and an AC locomotive thereafter towards Delhi and Firozpur.

Flying Ranee

The Flying Ranee ('ranee' = queen) runs between Mumbai Central and Surat. The origin of the Flying Ranee was a BB&CI Weekend Special in 1906. This stopped running after April 24, 1914. The train was restarted as the Flying Queen on 1st May 1937 (at the inauguration ceremony the train was also referred to as the 'Flying Ranee, Queen of the West Coast'). This time it was aimed at business travellers and it did the Bombay - Surat route in 4 hours flat, hauled by an H class 4-6-0 with poppet valves. Speeds regularly averaged 50mph, in those days (and still) a remarkable performance. The train was again discontinued in 1939 owing to the war situation.

On 1st November 1950 the train again steamed off from Surat at 6am, this time as the Flying Ranee and has been running since then. The Flying Ranee was one of the few trains in India to have an observation car, and one of the earliest to have an on-train telephone service. Among other luxuries for this prestige train were a radio and gramophone located in the dining car. With an average speed of 80km/h, it was one of the fastest medium-haul trains in India until the late 1960s.

Around 1965 it was hauled by WP locos dedicated for this train. In June 1977 the train switched to electric traction, being hauled by a WCAM-1; this arrangement lasted even today with a WCAM-2P ocassionally taking charge. On Dec. 18, 1979, double-decker cars were added to the Flying Ranee's rake (the second such train in post-Independence India, the first being the Sinhagad Exp.). The rake today usually has 18 cars.

Deccan Queen

The Deccan Queen between Mumbai and Pune is one of the more prestigious and popular trains with a long history. It started running on June 1, 1930, on the GIPR's DC electrified route, hauled by EA/1 class loco No. 4006 (new class WCP-2, new No. 20024).

When inaugurated, it had two custom-built 7-car rakes; one with a silver livery with scarlet trim, and the other with a navy-blue livery with gold trim. These had accommodation for 61 first-class passengers and 156 second-class passengers (initially the train had only first-class accommodation). These were replaced by the standard ICF-built anti-telescopic coaches in 1966.

The train has been almost always electrically hauled. The train has been hauled by many different classes of DC locos: WCM-4, WCM-2, WCM-1, sometimes WCM-5. On one occasion when the WCM-1 in charge failed, a WCG-1 (EF/1) hauled it from Lonavala to Mumbai. It has been hauled a few times by WCAM-2P locos; it is now hauled by a WCAM-3 loco. On rare occasions it has been hauled by a WDM-2.

When introduced, as the first passenger train to be electrically hauled, it cut down travel time between Mumbai and Pune to 2h 45m. (The previous best time for this being 3h 26m with steam traction -- the Poona Race Specials of the GIPR from about 1901, which required three locomotive changes and one reversal en route. The regular service on this route by the Poona Mail took about 6 hours!) The Deccan Queen was one of the earlier trains to regularly get a vestibuled rake, and was perhaps the first also to have a dining car and a ladies coach.

Originally a weekend train, in the 1940s it became a daily service. It now has a run time of nearly 3.5 hours, with a rake of 16 coaches and a restaurant car. Unusually, several coaches on this train are reserved entirely for season ticket holders.

The Boat Mail

The Boat Mail was a train and steamer ferry service between India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka, as it then was). In the late 19th century, the railway route in India was from Madras to Tuticorin. At Tuticorin, passengers embarked on a steamer to Colombo. The train took 21 hours and 50 minutes for the journey from Madras to Tuticorin. The Boat Mail was one of the early trains to get vestibuled carriages, in 1898.

After the Pamban Bridge was built, the train's route changed and it went from Madras to Dhanushkodi. A much shorter ferry service then took the passengers to Talaimannar in Ceylon, from where another train went to Colombo. In 1964 the Boat Mail was washed into the sea by huge waves during a cyclone, and the tracks to Dhanushkodi were also destroyed.

At one time the South Indian Railway considered constructing a bridge (12 miles (19km) long) across the shallow waters and sand shoals and reefs known as Adam's Bridge between India and Sri Lanka. However, this plan was shelved when World War I broke out.

The Imperial Indian Mail

A prestigious train of yesteryears. The East Indian Railway and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway introduced this train in 1926 between Bombay and Calcutta. The train's schedule was such that the departures from Bombay made for convenient connections for passengers arriving by ship at Ballard Pier from Great Britain and other places. The train was known for a high level of luxurious accommodation. It carried only about 32 first-class passengers, their servants, and the mail. This train is the forerunner of the Calcutta Mail trains of later years.

Janata Express, Jansewa Express, Matribhumi Express, Jana Shatabdi Express, Garib Rath trains

Starting with the Jayanti Janata Express introduced in 1973 (Jan. 26) between New Delhi and Ernakulam / Mangalore, IR has periodically tried out "classless" trains as a populist measure. The Janata ("People") Expresses of the 1970s had only 2nd-class non-airconditioned coaches. More such trains were introduced later (Coromandel, Gitanjali, Minar, Himgiri, etc.) but several eventually did acquire air-conditioned or first-class coaches. A few Janata Expresses still survive. More recently Jansewa Expresses were introduced along the same lines, and in 2001, IR announced several new Matribhumi ("Motherland") Expresses with only second-class sitting and sleeping accommodations.

The Janata Expresses were quite successful in their day, especially as they were IR's first attempt to build a brand of sorts in terms of service quality. For instance, these trains all had drinking water available in all the coaches, a novelty at the time.

[2/02] Jana Shatabdi ("People's Shatabdi") Expresses were introduced in 2002. These are supposed to be trains that have the running speeds and operational precedence of the Shatabdi Expresses, but with only second-class accommodation (including, for the day-time trains, second-class non-AC chair-car coaches).

[3/06] The Garib Rath ('Chariots of the Poor') expresses were introduced as a more affordable version of the AC-3T long-distance trains. These have all-AC rakes, but fares are intended to be up to 25% or so lower than those of the regular air-conditioned long-distance trains. Four of these were introduced in 2006 as an experiment.

Samjhauta Express

The Samjhauta Express is a bi-weekly train that runs between India and Pakistan, the only rail connection between the two countries. It has been running, with just one break of service, since 1976. It was a daily train when the service started, and changed to a bi-weekly schedule in 1994. Earlier the rakes were returned to the home country the same day but later [4/00] the rake remained overnight.

Its termini are Lahore in Pakistan and Amritsar in India. The border crossing takes place between Wagah in Pakistan and Attari in India. Originally, this was a through service with the same rake going all the way between the termini; now the Pakistani rake stops at Attari at which point passengers have to change trains. The train service was set up with an agreement between IR and Pakistan Railways to alternately use an Indian and a Pakistani rake and locomotive for the train, six months at a time.

The train usually has between 4 and 8 coaches. The rake supplied by Pakistan is usually hauled by an Alco DL-543 class ALU20 diesel loco (Lahore shed), with the entire train in the standard dark green livery of PR. There was [4/00] a proposal to have an Indian rake go from Amritsar to Wagah across the border.

[12/02] Tensions between the two countries have resulted in the train service being suspended. Read more about this and other details about links to Pakistan in the section on international connections. Update: [1/04] The train is set to resume running on January 15, 2004. International ticketing for journeys from Lahore to 8 Indian cities and from Delhi to 8 Pakistani cities has also been set up.

Lifeline Express

The Lifeline Express or Jeevan Rekha Express is a mobile hospital in a train. There are actually two such trains. Each train, with specially designed air-conditioned coaches, has two surgical operation theatres with three operating tables, a sterilizing room, several patient wards, on-board power generators, a pantry car, storage for medical supplies, and accommodation for medical staff.

The train visits different parts of the country, usually rural areas with insufficient medical facilities, or areas hit by natural disasters, etc., and stays in each place for several days while medical care (routine as well as major surgery) is provided to the local people.

The Lifeline Exp. was started on July 16, 1991, with three coaches donated by IR, and equipment from Impact India, a non-profit health service provider based in New York. Impact India still runs the trains with help from IR and corporate and private donors.

Patiala State Monorail

The Patiala State Monorail was opened in 1907, connecting Bassi and Sirhind in Patiala (10 km). Subsequently it was extended to connect Sirhind to Alampura and Patiala to Sunam and Bhawanigarh for a total route length of about 80km.

It is unusual in being a single-track system (monorail). The track runs alongside a normal road; the train rode on the rail and had an extra wheel that rode on the road surface, to stabilize it. The rail-riding wheels are double-flanged, 3' in diameter and 6" wide. About 95% of the weight was to be borne by these. The outrigger wheel was 5' in diameter and was to bear 5% of the weight. Motive power was originally in the form of mules and oxen, but in March 1909 four monorail locomotives were supplied by Orenstein & Koppel of Berlin. One section, the Morrinda line, never had locomotives for its entire lifetime, depending on oxen instead into the 20th century. The monorail system is known as the 'Ewing System'. The Patiala monorail was the first commercial use of this system, and its proponent was Col. C W Bowles, the engineer who designed the Patiala railway.

The line was at first run by Marshland, Price & Co., but later taken over by the state of Patiala. Operating difficulties and competition from other transport systems caused the line to close in 1927. After being discarded for 35 years (!) the rolling stock and locomotives were found, rescued, and preserved. One loco was restored to full working order in 1976, and is currently at the National Railway Museum. At the museum, it has a monorail car also attached, which is a reproduction on an original underframe. One coach (Col. Bowles' private saloon, is also on display.

Further reading: The Railway Magazine article on the PSMT.

Also see: Don Dickens' page on the PSMT.

Locomotive Info

  • Builder: Orenstein & Koppel, Berlin, Germany.
  • Year built: 1907
  • Wheel arrangement: 0-3-0T (double flanged wheels)
  • Balancing wheel: One flange-less wheel, 39" diameter
  • Cylinders: Two outside cylinders, 5-1/2" X 14"

The Presidential Saloon

The Presidential Saloon is not a train, but a pair of twin coaches (numbered 9000 and 9001) reserved for exclusive use by the President of India. The coaches were built in 1956 and are usually stabled at New Delhi station. The coaches have a dining room that doubles as a visiting room, a lounge room or conference room, and the president's bedroom. There is also a kitchen and chambers for the president's secretaries and staff as well as the railway staff who accompany him. The coaches are luxuriously appointed with teak furniture and silk drapes and cushion covers.

The Presidential Saloon was used regularly by many presidents in the 1960s and early 1970s. A tradition developed of having the president on the completion of his term use the coaches for his outbound journey from New Delhi to his residence elsewhere in the country although it's not certain when that started. The last president to use the coaches in this way as Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, in 1977.

After that, the coaches fell into disuse for reasons of security and convenience, although they were regularly maintained and inspected at New Delhi despite not being used. After a hiatus of about 26 years, the coaches were used again on May 30, 2003 when the president, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam used it for a 60km journey from Harnaut to Patna. For his use, the coaches were renovated and provided with modern equipment such as satellite-based communication systems.


The predecessor of the Presidential Saloon was the Vice Regal Coach used in the 19th century and the early 20th century by the Viceroy of India. This was kept at Calcutta until 1927 when it was brought to New Delhi when that city became the capital of British India. The Vice Regal Coach was furnished with Persian carpets, a 'sinking sofa', and -- a novelty in Indian trains then -- hot and cold running water. It was not air-conditioned, but used 'khas' mats for air cooling. The first Indian president Dr Rajendra Prasad used this coach after 1950, and used it to travel from New Delhi to Kurukshetra, among other places.

Also see S Shankar's pages on the Classic Trains of India.

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