Rolling Stock - I

Passenger Coaches and Other Coaching Stock

Q. What are the loading gauge restrictions (maximum dimensions) on IR coaches?

Please see the 1971 standards for rolling stock dimensions and also the older, 1929 standards for rolling stock dimensions. Also of potential interest in this connection are the dimensions of tracks.

Q. How are passenger coaches and coaching stock in general classified by IR?

Coaching stock in general is divided into two categories, Passenger Coaching Vehicles (PCV) (sometimes 'Passenger Carrying Vehicles') which are coaches that carry passengers, and Other Coaching Vehicles (OCV), which include service coaches such as pantry cars, parcel vans, mail vans, etc.

Coaching stock is classified using the codes shown below. Note that these codes are according to the structural features and used for rolling stock management. Separate codes are used for indicating the types of accommodations available in PCV coaches for ticketing and reservation purposes, etc. Those coach designations and class indications are explained in the section on travel.

  • Prefixes
    • W : (prefix) Vestibuled
    • Y : (prefix) Suburban
    • G : Self-generating (lighting by axle generators) (omitted)
    • E : 4-wheeled stock
    • L : (prefix) LHB coaches
    The 'W' prefix for BG is omitted in many cases (e.g., the new LHB coaches) since almost all new stock is now BG. The 'G' code to indicate a self-generating coach is omitted for the new LHB coaches, which get a '/SG' suffix. It is also omitted in other cases.
  • Classes of accomodation
    • F : First Class
    • S : Second Class
    • T : Third Class (obsolete)
    • M : Military
  • Type of coach
    • CN : 3-tier sleeper coach
    • CW : 2-tier sleeper coach
    • CZ : Chair car
    • CD : Dining Car
    • CB : Pantry/kitchen car/buffet car
    • CL : Kitchen car
    • CR : State saloon
    • CT : Tourist car (first class) (includes bathrooms, kitchen, and sitting and sleeping compartments)
    • CTS : Tourist car (second class) (includes bathrooms, kitchen, and sitting and sleeping compartments)
    • C : (except as above) With Coupe
    • D : Double-decker (?)
    • Y : (not as prefix) With Ladies' compartment (usually 6-berth compartment with locking door)
    • AC : Air-conditioned
  • Parcel vans, etc.
    • L : Luggage van or luggage cubicle (suburban: motorman's cabin + luggage space)
    • R : Brake van / guard van
    • RA : Inspection carriage (administrative)
    • RB : Inspection carriage (divisional officers), also Rail Bus
    • RC : Inspection carriage (?)
    • D : (suburban) Motorman's cabin (EMU/DMU)
    • EN : Power supplied by end-on generator
    • V : Brake van, ordinary goods
    • VM : Brake van, medium goods
    • VH : Brake van, heavy goods
    • VP : Parcel van (8-wheeled)
    • VPH : High-capacity parcel van
    • VPAC : Air-cooled parcel van
    • VK : Motor van (8-wheeled)
    • VPU : Parcel van / motor car carrier composite (old, 8-wheeled))
    • VF : Fruit van
    • VE : Fish van
    • VG : Poultry van
    • VR : Refrigerated parcel / fish van
    • VV : Milk van
    • BV : Brake van (also BVG : brake van, goods; BVZI : extra-long brake van)
  • Postal facilities
    • PP : Postal Car (RMS/mail van)
    • PPS : Full postal van
    • PPT : Three-quarter postal van
    • PPH : Half postal van
    • PPQ : Quarter postal van
    • P : Full postal unit: RMS coach -- mail carried, letters can be posted on the train (less common now -- see PP codes above)
    See the section on train services for more on RMS and postal vans. Newer full postal vans have arrangements for some mail sorting, package sealing, etc.
  • Miscellaneous, less common codes
    • A : Articulated coach
    • D : Vendor's compartment (non-suburban)
    • FF : Upper class (obsolete)
    • HH : Horse box (rare)
    • J : Ice compartment
    • JJ : Refrigerator compartment
    • K : Kitchen (obsolete)
    • LL : Combined Luggage van and Lavatory (rare)
    • M : (suffix) Equipped with generator
    • N : Self-generating with diesel generator
    • N : Non-vegetarian restaurant car (pre-1960's)
    • Q : Attendants' compartment
    • R : Restaurant, western style (pre-1960's)
    • RQ : Staff van (training van)
    • RR : (in combination) End-on Generator car for Rajdhanis, etc.
    • RR : (by itself) Train crew rest van
    • RZ : (by itself) Track recording car
    • RU : (by itself) OHE inspection car
    • S : Food stall on train (pre-1960's), also Special
    • U : Kitchen car
    • V : Vegetarian restaurant car (pre-1960's)
    • W : Waiting Room (pre-1960's)
    • ZZ : Self-powered: EMU, DMU, or Steam or Motor Rail car
  • LHB Coach suffixes
    • /SG : Self-generating
    • /EOG : Non-self-generating, requiring EOG for hotel power.

Codes may be aggregated to indicate composite coaches, E.g. FCS is a composite coach with first-class with coupe (FC) and second-class (S). For suburban EMU stock, YSYL indicates a composite second-class coach (YS) and a motorman's cabin / luggage coach (YL).

A gauge indication code (Y for MG, Z for NG) may be prefixed; it is usually omitted. Examples :

MEMU stock doesn't fit into this scheme. An MEMU trailer coach, for instance, may simply have the indication 'MEMU/TC' on it. 'GSDMU' is a code often seen on DMU cars with General (GS) accommodation.

SYLR Second Class Ladies Coach with a Luggage Cubicle and a Guard's Cabin

FC First-class coupe coach

FAC (WGFAC) First-class air-conditioned coach

FS First-class / second-class composite

FCS Composite of First-class with coupe / second-class

GS Second-class coach (self-generating), non-vestibuled. Note that 'GS' also stands for General Second-class in accommodation types, and this can be confusing as SLR coaches also have GS accommodation!

WGS Vestibuiled second-class coach (self-generating)

SC Second-class with coupe

ACFC Air-conditioned first-class with coupe

WAC Air-conditioned coach, vestibuled

WGSCN Vestibuled self-generating second-class 3-tier sleeper

WGSCNY Vestibuled self-generating second-class 3-tier sleeper with ladies cabin

WGSCZ Vestibuled self-generating second-class chair-car (used on InterCity Express trains)

GSCZAC Self-generating AC chair car second-class

WFSY Vestibuled first and second class coach with ladies cabin.

WGACCN Vestibuled self-generating air-conditioned 3-tier sleeper

WACCWEN Vestibuled AC 2-tier sleeper with end-on generated power supply

WGACCNW (Proposed) BG 2-tier / 3-tier AC composite

LACCN/EOG LHB AC 3-tier sleeper, non-self-generating

LACCW/EOG LHB AC 2-tier sleeper, non-self-generating

LACCW/SG LHB AC 2-tier sleeper, self-generating

LFAC LHB AC First Class

WGFACCZFirst Class Chair Car (Executive Chair Car)

WGFACCWFirst Class / 2-tier AC Sleeper composite

WGACCWAC 2-tier Sleeper

WGACCZAC Chair Car

LWLRRM LHB - EOG ??

LACCB LHB AC Pantry Car

SLR Second-class Luggage/parcel van + guard van ('G' missing). See note for 'GS' above.

SYLR SLR with ladies' cubicle

WGSCNLR BG 3-tier sleeper with luggage cubicle and guard's compartment.

YF Suburban first-class

YS Suburban second-class

YFYS Suburban first-class and second-class composite coach

YSYL Suburban second-class with motorman's cabin / luggage compartment

YTYL Suburban third-class (?) with motorman's cabin / luggage compartment

YSD Suburban coach, 2nd class, with motorman's cabin (older)

YZZ Suburban coach, 2nd class, self-propelled (i.e., with motor and pantograph)

SPPH Second-class / half postal van composite

SPPQ Second-class / quarter postal van composite

SRRM Second-class with brake van and generator

WCD Restaurant / dining car (vestibuled)

WCDN Vestibuled twin-set dining car

WCDAC Vestibuled air-conditioned dining car

WCB, WGCB Kitchen / pantry / buffet cars

CB Pantry services (no access on the run)

CD Non-vestibuled dining car (must enter and leave at specific stations)

WP Older RMS coach

VPU Older motor-cum-parcel vans (could carry 2 automobiles, with end ramps for loading/unloading).

GSR Second-class car with guard's van

WLRRMAC End-on Generator car for Rajdhani (??) (half for pantry facilities)

WLRRMEN End-on Generator car for Rajdhani (??)

MS Military special (obsolete?)

TLR Third-class with luggage cubicle and brake van (obsolete)

FSQ First and second class composite with attendants' van (obsolete)

EVP 4-wheeled parcel van

EVPU 4-wheeled parcel van with motor van

EVK 4-wheeled motor van

LR Luggage van / brake van composite

CTAC Tourist car, air-conditioned

ERA 4-wheeler inspection carriage

ERB 4-wheeler inspection carriage

ERC 4-wheeler inspection carriage

ERU 4-wheeler OHE inspection cars

RU 8-wheeler (bogie stock) OHE inspection cars

ECR 4-wheeler state saloon

MK Military coach with kitchen (obsolete?)

BVGT Brake van for goods, with transition coupling

BVGC Brake van for goods, with CBC coupling

BVZI An extra-long brake van for goods, developed by RDSO, providing greater comfort for the guard. Max 100km/h.

HHVP Horse van / parcel van composite

WPCTAC Saloon car for Palace on Wheels

WRB Rail Bus

VPH High-capacity parcel van (23t, 130km/h).

VVN Milk van, air-braked (?)

WGD Double-decker coaches??

See also the section on travel for information on codes used for indicating coach accommodations, etc.

Pantry cars have various classifications. The standard pantry cars and kitchen cars are dedicated units with equipment and facilities for food service but no passenger accommodations. A few combination pantry or kitchen cars with passenger accommodation have been spotted. The Gharib Nawaz Express used to run with a composite pantry car / chair car. A similar one was used in 2002 for the MG Ahmedabad - Patan Intercity Express, marked GSCHCZ (number 81653). [12/03] The Egmore - Madurai Vaigai Express runs with a composite pantry/chair car.

Q. How are coaches numbered by IR?

Coaches usually have a 4-, 5-, or 6-digit number, where the first two digits denote the year of construction (e.g., 8439 denoting a coach built in 1984, or 92132 denoting a coach built in 1992). In some cases the first two digits may represent the year the coach was transfered to the zonal railway, and sometimes the year represented is the year the coach was rebuilt. One exception are some of the Rajdhani rakes of Northern Railway, which have coaches numbered 1XXXX (15XXX). (Not all NR Rajdhanis have such coach numbers; 2951/2, 2953/4 don't.)

An alphabetic suffix may also appear (see below). Many older coaches which had 3-, 4-, or 5-digit serial numbers are being renumbered to conform to this scheme. Often the zonal abbreviation is prefixed to the number, so that a coach may be ‘ER 89472 A’, or ‘SE 978052 A’ for instance.

From 2000 onwards, the year of manufacture is indicated ‘00’, ‘01’, etc., as expected, in the initial digits, e.g., ‘SE 018051 A’. Occasionally, some combination zonal prefixes are seen, e.g., ‘SK 01252 AB’ (seen on a WGSCN coach of the Hazrat Nizamuddin - Vasco Goa Express [6/03]), where the ‘SK’ indicates a coach jointly belonging to / maintained by South Central Railway and Konkan Railway.

On SER, many coaches have 6-digit numbers (e.g., 898439/A) where an ‘8’ has been inserted as the third digit into a 5-digit number in the above scheme. ‘8’ is the zonal number of SER in the train numbering system. For some time (1998-99), ER and NFR also followed this pattern, adding a ‘3’ or ‘5’ as the third digit, respectively. Recently [3/05] it's been seen that some coaches with 5-digit numbers, e.g., on WR, have been renumbered with an extra '0' at the end, e.g., 00452AB is now renumbered as 004520AB.

Following the first block of digits described above, the next 2 or 3 digits form a serially allotted number within ranges that usually indicate the type of coach, as shown below. (Recent coaches all have 3 digits for this (a 5 digit number on the whole), using a leading 0 for the 1-99 range.) The serial number is allotted chronologically in the order in which the coach is received by the zonal railway, within the range for the coach type.

  • 001-025 : AC first class. On NER, some MG FC coaches from 2000/2001.
  • 026-050 : Composite 1AC + AC-2T
  • 051-100 : AC-2T
  • 101-150 : AC-3T
  • 151-200 : CC (AC Chair Car)
  • 201-400 : SL (2nd class sleeper)
  • 401-600 : GS (General 2nd class)
  • 601-700 : 2S (2nd class sitting / Jan Shatabdi chair cars)
  • 701-800 : SLR
  • 801+ : Pantry car, VPU, RMS mail coach, generator car, etc.

So, for instance, a coach with number 92172 is the twenty-second AC Chair Car coach received by the zonal railway in 1992.

If there are more coaches of a particular type than numbers available in the allotted range as described above, the excess coaches are allotted numbers in the high 800's, usually 875 and above. For instance, sleeper coaches have been spotted marked SR 96886A, and AC-3T coaches spotted marked SC 97906A. The ranges are also sometimes redistributed.

In 1999, ER was to get a lot of AC-3T coaches for Rajdhani rakes and the new Sealdah Shatabdi. Hence, its only AC Chair Car of that year was renumbered ER 99181A, keeping 30 numbers between 151 and 180 free for AC-3T coaches (in the event, it turned out that these were not used after all).

Suffixes

An 'X' suffix indicates 110V DC electrical systems (upgraded from the older 24V systems). An 'A' or 'AB' suffix indicates air-braked stock (frame-mounted or bogie-mounted, respectively), especially for coaches upgraded from vacuum brakes (see below for more). A 'C' suffix indicates CBC couplers (as with the new LHB coaches). On WR, EMU coaches have alphabetic prefixes (A for YFYS coaches, B for YSZZ, and C for YSYL). CR EMUs have 76xxx for YSYL, 70xxx for YSZZ and 72xxx for YFYS, where ‘xxx’ is a 3-digit serial number. More information is in the EMU/DMU section.

Air-brake indication

An ‘A’ or ‘AB’ suffix (e.g., 92383 AB, or 93120/A) as mentioned above indicates air-brakes. 'AB' is thought to be used for coaches with bogie-mounted air-brake equipment, and 'A' for coaches with the air-brake equipment mounted to the bottom of the carriage. Sometimes symbols such as ‘/A’ or ‘/A-X’ are marked instead at either end or next to the coach serial number (as an additional annotation) to indicate an air-braked coach. Recently [4/05] it's been observed that in a few of the zonal railways the 'A', 'AB', or '/A' suffix has been removed or omitted upon re-painting, possibly because it is now considered redundant since the majority of coaches are air-braked, and/or because all newer coaches have air brakes as original equipment. Update [7/06]: It appears that the trend of omitting the 'AB' or 'A' suffix for air-braked coaches appears to be spreading and it has been observed that newly repainted coaches of many zones have plain serial numbers. A few rare coaches that are dual braked have a suffix ‘A/V’ after the serial number. The newer dark blue / light blue livery also indicates air-braked stock, and for recent ICF stock, may be the only indication of air brakes, since there is no alphabetic suffix or anything else to indicate it. The blue on blue livery was introduced in the early 1990s or thereabouts; air-braked stock from before that (8xxxx series) continued for a while in the older maroon livery even after brake conversion.

Zone Indication

The railway zone that owns a coach is usually indicated by its standard initials in Roman characters and Devanagari characters on the sides of the coach (e.g., NR, 'u re' for Northern Railway). After the creation of new zones, it's been seen that in some cases rather than repainting the coaches, the zone indication has been redone in an ad hoc manner, sometimes with an extra letter just squeezed into the existing initials, e.g., 'N R' become 'NWR' or 'S R' becoming 'SWR', with similar contortions in the Devanagari initials.

Q. What are the common configurations of IR coaches?

Please consult Royston Ellis's ‘Rail Across India’ or other travel guides for up-to-date and specific information on different kinds of accommodation available on IR.

The BG 3-tier sleeper coach is very common, and provides accommodation for 72 persons. Each compartment in it has 6 berths: 3 seats forming a bench on either side of the compartment; these form two bunks, the back-rests of the seats fold out to become bunks at night, and lastly, there are two bunks further up. Across the aisle from a compartment two shorter berths are provided along the length of the coach. Air-conditioned 2-tier sleeper coaches have 46 berths (there is space for 48, but two slots for berths are taken up by equipment, either overhead or on one side at one end. The LHB 2-tier AC coaches have 54 berths. The AC 3-tier sleeper coaches have 64 berths while the LHB AC 3-tier coaches accommodate 75. (Both the 2-tier and 3-tier AC conventional coaches have 8 bays or compartments while the LHB versions have 9; non-AC sleeper coaches have 9 bays.) Jan Shatabdi second-class sleepers accommodate 78, while the Jan Shatabdi AC Chair Cars accommodate 73 passengers. [12/06] IR is contemplating introducing a newer version of the AC-3T coach that will accommodate 81 passengers.

First-class or AC chair cars have 64 seats. Until the late 1960s or so, they had three 2' windows for each compartment (two for coupes); later first-class coaches have two extra-wide (3') windows (one for coupes). The later first-class coaches are also more spacious with seats 560mm wide (510mm earlier) and backrests 785mm high (645mm earlier). Older second-class chair cars have 72 seats (3 and 2 across the aisle). Newer second-class chair cars, since 1995, are more cramped, with 108 seats in the same space (seating 3 and 3 across)). Executive chair car coaches have seating and 2 on each side of the aisle. Jan Shatabdi chair cars have a capacity of 103.

A sleeper coach with special accommodation for ladies ('Y' classification) usually has one compartment (6 berths) partitioned off with the provision of locking doors to form the ladies' cubicle. These have now generally been discontinued and are rarely seen.

First class AC coaches have compartments with doors for privacy; the compartments are all along one side, without any seats or berths on the other side across the aisle. The first-class compartments are either cabins (two facing sets of berths), or coupes (one set of berths).

The combination first and second class AC coaches (AC1 cum AC2T, also marked 'HA' in accommodation charts) have 10 berths, two cabins and a coupe in first class, and 20 (rarely 22 or 24?) berths in second class, arranged in 3 bays of 6 berths each and a 2 berths in a half-bay at the end. The 3-tier cars have extra-wide (3') windows (one per compartment). AC 2-tier cars used to have normal windows, A few AC 2-tier cars made by RCF had the extra-wide windows; now, since 2001, even the ICF-built AC 2-tier coaches have extra-wide windows.

There are also a few composite AC first-class coaches with one section of the coach having sleeping accommodation and the rest being a chair car. In the mid-1990s a few trains such as the Coalfield Exp. had AC1 coaches with 2x2 sitting accommodation; these appear to have been short-lived experiments, and have disappeared after this train, as with most others, was changed to have air brakes.

Two-tier sleeper cars (non-AC) are being discontinued in preference to the 3-tier sleeper cars which can carry more passengers. [9/00] A new composite first and second class coach has been introduced, which has two first-class compartments (one 4-berth, one 2-berth) in an otherwise second-class sleeper coach with 59 berths (7 full bays + one 3-berth formation). There are only a handful of these, all on NR (#12226A being one of them), and are seen occasionally [1/05] on trains like the Brahmaputra Mail. These are different from the older First Class / Second Class composite coaches which had 10 First Class berths with the rest being Second Class sleeper compartments. These are no longer in use now.

Earlier there used to be an odd mixed accommodation coach which was like a 2-tier sleeper coach but provided sleeping accommodation only for some of the passengers in the upper berths (24); the lower berths were seated accommodation only, for the remaining passengers for the night (48). A 64-passenger version of this is also said to have been in use. In these the sleeping berth was often in a different compartment within the coach than where the passenger was allotted his or her sitting space! Some old 3-tier BG coaches could be seen until the late 1980s with wooden seats and accommodation for 75 passengers (in contrast to the 72 in today's 3-tier coaches).

On MG, the composite AC1/AC2 coaches have 4+18 berths. First class (AC or non-AC) coaches have showers. A few AC1 / non-AC First Class composites, as well as a few AC1 / AC Chair Car composites are in service on a few routes. On MG AC1/FC composites have an AC coupe for 2, a saloon for 4, and a First Class compartment for 6. These composites are now rare.

On NG, in addition to the usual Second Class sitting accommodation, there are a few First Class coaches (seen on the Gwalior - Sheopur Kalan route, Nagpur - Jabalpur 1 NHJ / 2 NHJ, 1 Up / 2 Dn Satpur Exp. and 1 BJ / 2 BJ Passengers between Jabalpur and Balaghat [2005]), as well as some air-conditioned coaches (Jabalpur-Gondia Satpura Exp. had some). The Gwalior - Sheopur Kalan route used to have overnight trains with Second Class sleeper accommodation as well -- the sleeping berths were aligned longitudinally, along the sides of the coach. (These sleeper coaches appear to have been withdrawn now.) In the First Class NG coaches three seat benches double as sleeping berths, and there are a further two berths that open out from the coach walls. The coaches are of the non-corridor type, with 4 to 6 berths per compartment and an attached bathroom.

Air-conditioned coaches

IR has many classes of air-conditioned accommodation, usually referred to by their acronyms:

  • Air-conditioned chair car: AC CC
  • Air-conditioned executive class: AC Exec
  • Air-conditioned three tier: AC 3T
  • Air-conditioned two tier: AC 2T
  • Air-conditioned first class: AC I

The ‘chair-car’ classes provide only seating accommodation, while the others have sleeping accommodations as well.

LHB Coaches

(See below for more information on the Alstom LHB coaches.) The AC 2-tier and AC 3-tier versions of the LHB coaches have 9 cabins instead 8 in the older stock. The GS and SCN versions have 10 cabins instead of 9 in the older stock.

Q. What is the history of passenger stock and accommodations?

As railway operations in India were handled by a large number of companies at first, there was a lot of variety in the kinds of stock used and the classes of accommodation provided. Larger railways tended to have three or four classes of accommodation, from First through Fourth (and many special-purpose luxury saloons and the like in addition).

Many smaller lines started with a simple division of Upper and Lower class (e.g., Bengal and Northwestern Rly. (MG) and the Barsi Light Rly. (NG)) -- this economized on rolling stock, especially if (as was often the case), classes other than First and Third were not well patronized. At the 1870 Railway Conference, there were even suggestions to have just a single class of carriage as with the practice then in the USA, however, it was felt necessary to have at least two, perhaps more, classes to accommodate social distinctions.

From 1874 onwards most large and medium railways standardized on roughly the same levels of accommodations for each of the three classes First through Third. Fourth class carriages were essentially like box cars as they did not have any seats, not even benches. Although most railways had them at some time or the other in the 1860s, they were already going out of favour by the 1870s so that by the early 1880s not many lines had Fourth class.

In 1885 Fourth class was generally abolished by the expedient of providing benches in the carriages, and reclassifying the carriages as Third class. The existing Third class was then renamed the 'Inter' class (for Intermediate). Inter class was seen as providing an economical form of travel for those Indians who were better off than the poorer majority who could only afford the lowest class of accommodations, and where they would not be bothered by the 'low-class' travellers (Indians or Europeans) travelling in Third class. First class and Second class were generally the domain of Europeans, although very wealthy Indians did occasionally travel in First class.

From about the 1930s, Inter and Second began to be provided only in Composite carriages, reflecting a very low demand for the service. Some lines began to phase out Inter altogether, though this process was far from complete by 1947. In 1955, there was another reclassification, and the Second class became First class, and the Inter class became Second class. (Third remained Third.)

The old super-luxurious First class coaches survived but were phased out over time. These pre-1955 First class coaches were non-corridor coaches, so the compartment ran the full width of the car. They had one 6-berth compartment, two 2-berth compartments, and three 4-berth compartments. Each compartment had an attached shower and lavatory. These coaches usually also had one narrow compartment at one end with a bench and sometimes a single berth above, for the travellers' domestic servants; this was used as the compartment for cabin attendants later. Such coaches with these 'servant quarters' were built as late as 1940. Some First class coaches were composites. They all had timber bodies, on a 68-foot underframe.

1955 was the year that the ICF was established, and began producing the integral coaches on the 70-foot body. (Interestingly, the prototype ICF coach actually had an Inter compartment.) The post-1955 First class coaches are the corridor type which survive today. Some of the old wooden-bodied non-corridor First class coaches were still running even as late as 1987 on MG, and some of the old composite First class coaches until 1980 on BG. Non-composite pre-1955 First class coaches were seen in some sections in the 1970s. In some ways, the successor of the old luxurious First class is today's air-conditioned First class.

Second (ex-Inter) class was officially abolished on 1st July 1974, and the remaining Second Class compartments were redesignated Third class, so that for a short while there were only First and Third classes. But Third class was then renamed Second cass not too long after.

Wooden seats and berths were the most common until the 1970s in Second and Third classes. Cushioned sleeping berths and seats began appearing in the late 1970s. The variations on air-conditioned accommodations, and different kinds of chair-cars were introduced in recent years.

The older non-airconditioned First Class coaches are gradually being phased out and no new coaches of this kind are being manufactured now [4/00]. They had much more spacious and well-appointed seating and sleeping accommodations than the Second Class coaches. Seating capacity 28 per coach. Until about the 1980's, there was still much old stock in use from the 1940's and 1950's where coaches were configured as non-corridor first class coaches, giving a measure of privacy and spaciousness not seen today.

Composite coaches (first class / 1AC) survived on MG for quite a while, and all first-class coaches are still seen quite often on MG; these usually also had coupe and 4-berth compartments in addition to the more standard 6-berth compartments.

There also used to be a few combined first-class / second-class coaches where half the coach was first-class, separated from the rest by a door in the aisle, with 32 berths for the second-class section. Only a few of the old first-class coaches have been retrofitted with air-brakes for use in air-braked rakes employed by the fast trains today, and so only a few trains such as the Nilgiri, Pandyan, and Kanyakumari Expresses have these coaches now.

Q. Who were the early manufacturers of IR stock?

Some early coaching stock was built in Great Britain and imported to India. This included 'pattern' coaches of the 1850s, many prototype steel coaches from 1913 and much EMU stock well into the 1960s until ICF's production built up. However, most coaching stock was built on underframes which had been imported ready-made or in completely-knocked-down (CKD) form from Great Britain. Imperial preference excluded most other suppliers.

Virtually all railway workshops with a woodworking capability built coaching stock until well after Independence. including Parel, (old) Perambur, Hubli, Gorakhpur, Moghalpura, and others. Many of the smaller works did too, and there was much rebuilding and rebodying, which went on until the early 1950s at least. In fact some of the shops in Saurashtra were rebodying MG 4-wheel stock until the early 1950s!

A rebody can often be spotted because of its unusual size or shape. For example, the standard NG carriage underframe is 34' 6", and new stock built since its adoption will be no longer than 35'. But many lines have modern-looking stock which is anywhere from 29' 6" to 42' in length, showing that it is a new body on an old underframe.

Incidentally, wagon building in India followed a similar path, except that steel wagons began to be built around 1902, and three Calcutta firms, Martin Burn, Indian Standard, and Jessops, became dominant. Eventually the only imported components were wheels, and even this changed after the Wheel and Axle Plant took up production of wheels.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), at Bangalore, started producing all-metal railway coaches in 1950. Many of the workforce that were assigned to the coach-building unit of HAL were skilled aircraft engineers. HAL built about 10 coaches a month in the early 1950s. When the Toofan Mail suffered a collision in 1950, the only coach that was not completely destroyed turned out to be an all-metal indigenous coach built by HAL.

Q. When were barred windows on coaches first introduced?

A characteristic feature of most passenger stock on IR today [7/02] is the presence of welded bars on the windows. These were apparently introduced at first on night trains to provide security against theft by persons at stations, around the 1970s, but in the 1980s their use spread to most trains and now they are almost universal. Very few older coaches remain that have windows that open fully.

The barred windows are obviously problematic in emergency situations, and IR is now introducing windows that can be opened from the inside in an emergency. Older stock is still occasionally seen with square windows and bars held in sockets on the side instead of being welded to the car body.

Q. Where are present day IR coaches manufactured?

Passenger coaches are manufactured at three principal places: Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur, Railway Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala, and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML) at Bangalore. A few coaches are (or were) also manufactured by Hindustan Aircraft Ltd. (HAL) and Jessop. Some auxiliary equipment and repair works are carried out at Liluah Carriage and Wagon Workshops. The Amritsar workshops manufacture ICF and UIC bogies for passenger and freight stock.

[2007] A new coach factory with a capacity for producting 1000 coaches a year has been proposed to be set up at Lalganj in Rae Bareilly district. As of [1/10] production had not yet started, and was slated to begin in 2011. In 2010, plans were also announced for a new coach factory at Kanjikode, or Palakkad, and another at Kanchrapara. There has also been mention of a possible site at Singur for a coach factory.

In the past, coaches have been supplied by Burn Standard, Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon works, Brush, GEC, Indian Standard Wagon Co., Richardson & Cruddas (Bombay), Braithewaters (Calcutta), and other manufacturers as well. Kharapur Workshops manufactured many AC coaches.

Most recently Alstom LHB have supplied a rake of coaches for the Swarna Shatabdi to Lucknow under a technology-transfer agreement with IR. (More information on these LHB coaches below.) The Matunga workshops of CR have been refurbishing some EMU coaches with stainless-steel interiors and new amenities. The Golden Rock workshops have built small quantities of various special-purpose coaches and vans.

ICF accounts for most of the railway coaches seen in India today (more than 26,000 (?) of the 40,000+ regular coaches, and almost all (4,000+) of the suburban EMU coaches (4,600+). [2002]).

Spotting BEML coaches

ICF-built cars tend to have more rounded corners for windows, whereas BEML cars have sharper corners for the windows (especially at the bottom). BEML car ends are slightly tapered (the body shell tapers down at the ends). The roofs of the cars are also not as rounded as with ICF coaches, and have sharper edges. [10/04] Some newer coaches have padded grab rails for easier access to the middle & upper berths. They also sport grey upholstery instead of the normal blue.

On the whole, the BEML coaches also have their floor level slightly higher than the ICF/RCF coaches. BEML coaches include GS and SLR units -- there used to be many GSCN coaches too, but most of those have been decommissioned.

[12/08] A proposal to set up a railway coach factory at Rae Bareilly has been jeopardized by litigation over land acquisition.

The history of BEML coaches Just after Independence, when the need for coaching stock was very acute, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) entered into a deal with M.A.N. of Germany to produce all-steel coaching stock for IR. Their first models were produced very soon after the War, and were originally to the old 10' width, standard until 10' 8" was sanctioned around 1948. Models 404 and 407, both centre-lav all-thirds on IRS standard underframes, were produced in large numbers. The first true integral stock for BG was the 41x series, recognizable by the small high window on the toilets (also found on 404/7) and by the bogies with swing-arm support for the axlebox. There was also a MG series, of boxy Thirds with four windows, a door, eight windows, another door, and four more windows. They were all 58' long, to fit the IRS MG standard underframes of 56' 6" length. The earliest version had lots of external rivets, but later production was welded and presented a smoother surface. These had a very flat side by comparison with the later and longer ICF integral stock. This part of HAL's business was hived off to BEML sometime during the 1970s, hence the stock tends to be referred to as BEML, not MAN/HAL, as it was in earlier years.

Q. What's an ‘integral’ coach?

The ‘integral’ coaches built by ICF have monocoque or single-shell bodies (based on a 1950's Swiss design, ‘Schlieren’ Swiss Car and Elevator Manufacturing Co.) with the floor being part of the body; it is an anti-telescopic design, which prevents coaches from being crushed lengthwise in the event of a train collision. Since they were brought into use, they have substantially reduced the number of passenger deaths in various cases of head-on collisions of trains. They are welded coaches fabricated from steel.

The single-shell design features a stressed skin. The shell acts as a hollow girder - the underframe, the walls, and the roof are joined with one another to form a single structural tube. The hollow girder offers resistance to bending and torsional stresses with efficient use of material, allowing reduction in the total weight of the coach compared to some earlier heavy designs that attempted to achieve strength and stability simply through increased weight of the frame structures. The hollow shell also features high resistance to compression stresses along the length of the passenger section. The compression resistance is further increased by providing pressed grooves or welded ribs on the walls, and by the use of corrugated sheets and carlines for the underframe and roof respectively. The end zones of the coach (normally the vestibules and/or lavatory or utility areas) are intentionally designed to offer lower resistance to compression. In the event of a collision, therefore, the areas at either end act as 'crumple zones' and preferentially buckle and absorb the kinetic energy of the collision while the passenger area of the coach remains safe from crumpling or telescoping.

Before these were introduced various other non-integral designs (with shell separate from underframe) were in use (and continued to be in use for decades later too). Steel underframes were first introduced in 1885; prior to that coaches were entirely wooden. Wooden shells for coaches continued well into the 20th century.

Q. What other coaches have been used lately?

In the late 1990's RCF, under the auspices of a UN-assisted program, came out with some prototype coaches of new designs, classified IRX/IR15 (IRW?), IRY/IR20, and IRZ/IR30. The first part of the code (e.g., IRY) refers to the shell design, and the second part (e.g. IR20) to the bogie design.) The IR20 bogies are based on the Eurofima design (in fact, they are said to be more or less an exact copy of the design).

The IRW coach is said to have had a variety of passenger-friendly and track-friendly features such as chemical toilets. As its production costs were projected to be too high, this design never entered serial production. The sole coach of this design made by RCF never entered service with IR (and is still [12/04] at RCF). The IRZ coach is said to have encountered various design problems and was abandoned after a few trials.

The IRY/IR20 coach, which was designed for a max. speed of 140km/h, did enter serial production in small numbers (more below). One or two isolated examples of other RCF-built coaches with features different from the normal ICF coaches have been spotted on rare occasions (e.g., there is a report of one 3A coach used with the Grand Trunk Express in 2001), although information about these experiments (which is presumably what they were) is very sparse.

Some of the IRY/IR20 coaches, with a ribbed or corrugated shell design for strength, were used for a while ([2/02] and are still used occasionally) with the Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi. Another rake of IRY/IR20 coaches was being used for the Bareilly Shatabdi. Apart from that these coaches do not seem to be in use elsewhere [5/01]. Update [12/04]: One of the IRY/IR20 rakes is no longer in service, being cannibalized as a source of spare parts for the second. Improvements in these IRY/IR20 coaches include better ride quality, larger windows, improved noise reduction, improvements in the air-conditioning system and ducts, and modified pantry equipment including trolleys, drink dispensers, etc. The bogies for these (IR-20) will continue to be manufactured for use with MG coaches with service speeds of 100km/h, besides also being exported (Vietnam, some African countries). Meanwhile for coach bodies/shells, RCF has switched to production of the LHB coaches (see below).

In November 1999, ICF manufactured an AC-2T coach fabricated out of stainless steel. This sole prototype has not been followed up by more units.

Q. What are the maximum speeds at which IR passenger stock runs?

The typical maximum speed specification for passenger coaches in good condition is 100km/h. Older coaches and those in poor condition can be seen with annotations restricting their maximum speed to something lower, such as 80km/h. Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains and other fast trains of course have stock that can be hauled at higher speeds. The newer LHB design coaches (see below) can also be hauled at high speeds, 160km/h for the air-conditioned cars and 120km/h for the non-air-conditioned ones. Recently [4/05] ordinary ICF integral coaches have been spotted occasionally bearing annotations for a maximum speed of 120km/h (e.g., on the Jammu Tawi - Howrah Exp.)

Q. What are LHB coaches?

[2/02] In February 2000, IR received a consignment of new lightweight all-metal passenger coaches from Alsthom LHB (Germany). The initial units were earmarked for the New Delhi - Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi, but later [5/01] allotted to the new New Delhi - Lucknow Swarna Shatabdi.

The coaches are approximately 2.2m longer than the standard ICF-built integral coaches (two additional rows for the chair cars, one additional sleeping bay for the sleeper coaches). The AC coaches are expected to carry 78 passengers. The body is by Alsthom LHB, with a stainless steel construction, mounted on Fiat bogies with disc brakes. The chair cars are lighter about 10% lighter than the standard IR integral coaches, having a tare weight of 40.3 tonnes.

Improvements for the passengers' comfort include better air flow for the air-conditioning, larger windows, lamps for all seats, and sound insulation. The coaches are also provided with 'anti-climbing' features to reduce casualties in case of collisions. As a move to greater cleanliness at stations, the toilets are designed to allow waste discharge only when the train is in motion.

LHB coaches have an IGBT-based battery charger. The air-conditioned stock uses a 6kW alternator while the non-air-conditioned stock uses a 4.5kW alternator. Air-conditioning equipment is roof-mounted.

These coaches are not compatible with existing designs of ICF/RCF coaches, having two sets of brake and feed pipes and a different electrical coupler, and hence will initially be run in block rakes consisting entirely of the new coaches, until RCF begins producing them with modifications to make them compatible with existing passenger stock.

A total of 24 new coaches are expected to be imported initially (19 second-class AC chair cars, 2 AC chair cars, 3 generator-cum-brake vans), following which a technology transfer arrangement will enable RCF, Kapurthala, to manufacture these models. Later shipments from Alsthom will include composite first-class / AC sleeper coaches, second-class AC sleeper coaches (2-tier and 3-tier), and AC buffet coaches. (See above for some information on the interior arrangements.)

RDSO had the task (starting in June 2000) of developing specifications for all the variant designs of the LHB coaches. In addition to the layout of the compartments and specifications for the passenger accommodations, RDSO also worked on the design for the suspension, alternator drives, and other such details. The design of the General Second Class (GS) coach was done by July 2002, and by 2003 ten variants of the LHB coaches had been designed by RDSO. These include self-generating versions as well as versions powered by end-on generator cars, of air-conditioned first class, 2-tier, and 3-tier coaches, as well as general second class sitting and sleeper coaches.

The speed potential for all the AC variants of the LHB coaches is 160km/h, while the non-AC variants have a speed potential of 120km/h.

Now [2/03] ICF Perambur is also expected to produced these coaches. [1/03] Prototype versions of the AC 3-tier LHB coach have been spotted at New Delhi and are [3/03] undergoing trials on the New Delhi - Kanpur and New Delhi - Moradabad - Lucknow sections. [11/03] The second LHB rake, thought to be meant for the Mumbai Rajdhani, has been spotted around Mumbai (Jogeshwari yard, etc.). Update: [1/05] LHB rakes are used for the Mumbai Rajdhani as well as the August Kranti Rajdhani.

In late 2001 the LHB coaches were taken out of service following a series of incidents where the couplers parted. They were brought back into service on Jan. 1, 2002. Some problems also developed with certain bearings used by these coaches, which were later resolved. Now [3/03] they are expected to also be brought into use for trains other than the Swarna Shatabdis, such as the Mumbai Rajdhani.

Comparison of ICF and LHB coaching stock -- passenger carrying capacity

EOG = Coach needs power from end-on generator car; SG = self-generating.

TypePassengers - ICFPassengers - LHB
AC-1 (EOG)1824
AC-2 (EOG)4654
AC-3 (EOG)6472
AC-1 (SG)1824
AC-2 (SG)4654
AC-3 (SG)6472
SCN (SG)7278
GS (SG)9099
SLR 2436

See below for dimensions of LHB stock (and comparison of dimensions with ICF stock.)

Q. What are the various marks and annotations on a passenger coach?

There are a great many indications, marks, and annotations that can be found on the typical coach. The most prominent, of course, are the indications of the accommodations (class, whether sleeper or not, air-conditioned or not, etc.) along with the coach serial number that is on the side of the coach, above the windows. Small destination boards usually have the train termini or the name of the train on them; these are also above the windows, near the roof.

On the ends of the coach the classification code of the coach may be found ('WGSCNY', etc.) along with annotations of the base shed that is responsible for its maintenance (e.g., 'BASE: JAT'). 'CDO' stands for 'Coaching Depot'; a notation such as 'CDO/MYS' indicates that the rake belongs to the Coaching Depot at Mysore. Overhaul dates are also shown ('IOH' followed by a date for intermediate overhaul; and something like 'R-9/03' for a periodic overhaul date (the 'R' stands for 'Return').

Some other technical details and electrical data may also be found stencilled on at the ends. An annotation such as, e.g., '70T' refers to the 70-tonne rating for the couplers. On the ends, or near the ends on the sides of the coach, there are sometimes some annotations like 'Fit for 110km/h', 'Not to exceed 75km/h' or 'For passenger train only', etc. These are usually restrictions noted based on the age and condition of the coach. (Similar restrictions can sometimes be seen on older locomotives as well.)

At the bottom left on the end of the coach, a small patch of yellow diagonal stripes indicates the coach has anti-telescopic construction. Larger patches of diagonal yellow stripes on the sides of the coach, above the last window indicate a general, unreserved second-class coach. Except that for EMUs, diagonal yellow (and red) stripes generally indicate first-class coaches!

SR and SCR coaches sometimes have notations such as 'RAKE1', 'RAKE2', or a specific train number or numbers stencilled on them. These very likely indicate that the rakes in question have been earmarked for specific trains.

A paint scheme indication is often seen. 'MAROON' is used when the coach is painted in the former IR standard rust-red colours. 'VIBGYOR' is used when the coach has the newer blue-on-blue livery, although it is not clear why the colours of the rainbow are mentioned here! Other annotations are used for other paint schemes. The date of the last repainting is also indicated.

Q. What are the dimensions of IR's passenger coaching stock?

Length

The IRS standard underframe for BG, adopted in 1925, was 68' long over headstocks. Side buffers are always 2' 2", giving a total length of 72'4" (22m) over buffers. After World War II, some stock was built on this underframe to 70' (21.3m) length, but most before that date was 68' or a fraction over. The ICF integral stock, and the similar all-steel stock built by Jessops and HAL/BEML was all to 70' (21.3m) length. BG EMU coaches are slightly shorter, at 66' or 18.2m.

Width

Up to the adoption of the new wider dimensions in the late 1940s, all IR stock was built to a maximum body width of 10' (3m), with an absolute maximum of 10' 6" to allow for projections. The new dimensions, which apply to nearly all modern steel stock, are 10'8" (3.25m) body width, with a tiny allowance for projections (about 2 inches) and requires all handrails and similar projections to be recessed. See the 1971 standards for rolling stock dimensions and also the older, 1929 standards for rolling stock dimensions.

Height

The height from rail level to cantrail before the 1940s was standardized at 11' 2-1/2"; it became 11'6" maximum. The first series of ICF coaches, with the centre lavatories, were 12'9" from rail level to rooftop; later this dimension was increased to 4025mm (13'2-1/2"), to provide increased space for water tanks.

Comparison of ICF and LHB coaching stock -- Dimensions

 ICF coachesLHB coaches
Length over Body21.77m23.54m
Length over Buffers22.28m24.70m
Width of Body3.245m3.240m
Inside width3.065m3.120m
Windows1.220m x 0.610m1.180m x 0.760m

Q. How many passenger coaches does IR have in its fleet?

As of 2003, IR had over 40,000 passenger coaches, in addition to almost 4,500 EMU coaches.

Q. Are there any double-decker coaches in use today in India?

Much of the information here is likely out of date! Double-decker coaches are found on several WR trains such as the 9021 dn Flying Ranee running between Surat and Mumbai Central (WR), Saurashtra Exp., the Bharuch-Virar shuttle, Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Anand Passenger, and the Valsad Fast Passenger. The Pune - Daund Passenger on CR had double-decker rakes until late 2001 or early 2002.

The Flying Ranee double-decker rake is air-braked. Recently [2/02] The Mumbai-Ahmedabad Gujarat Express acquired some double-decker coaches in its rake. These are believed to be vacuum-braked. Newer [3/03] reports are that around 12-14 double-decker coaches are allocated to the Gujarat Exp. rake. [1/04] The Gujarat express no longer runs with double-decker coaches.

In the past, the Deccan Queen has briefly run with double-decker passenger stock; the double-deckers were meant for monthly pass-holders. The Gujarat Mail from Ahmedabad and the Saurashtra Mail also had double-decker coaches as general coaches.

The Sinhagad Exp. ran for quite some time with double-decker coaching. The Sinhagad's rake (10 double-decker coaches) is now used for the Pune-Daund-Baramati shuttle, and the Sinhagad has reverted to a normal 18-coach rake. There were proposals for an air-conditioned double-decker rake for the Sinhagad but these came to naught.

The Sahyadri Exp. (7303 down) ran with two double-decker coaches between Bombay and Pune; the coaches were re-used in the up direction by attaching to the Sinhagad rake. The Panchavati Exp. also ran with double-decker stock for some time. The Brindavan Exp. also ran with double-decker coaches a few times (dates?). The Howrah-Dhanbad Black Diamond Exp. also had double-decker coaches (until 1994); the double-decker rake used to be stabled at Asansol. It was condemned at Bally yard and sold for scrap by 1995.

Another train that had double-decker coaches at one time was the Ernakulam-Trivandrum Vanchinad Exp. (around 1981, for about 3 years). The Venad Express is also said to have had double-decker coaches at one time.

The double-deckers in use today are ICF designs and modified from the basic integral shell used for most coaches. They have a single level at either end, with the double-deck portion forming most of the middle of the coach. The underframe of the coach has a well that gives the lower deck sufficient space. RCF is currently [2/02] working on producing new double-decker coaches based on a newer design (but still with the integral shell design which is used for most IR coaches). These newer coaches will have a seating capacity of 136.

Double-decker rakes in general were never very popular for a variety of reasons (too cramped -- not enough space for luggage, restrictions on using the windows, too hot in the upper deck, inconvenient access from the windows to platform vendors, etc.).

In 2010, IR started on a new push for double-decker coaches, with RCF manufacturing a new design of air-conditioned double-decker coaches seating 128 passengers and capable of being run at 160km/h. The shell design is said to be new. Suspension uses Eurofima bogies with air springs. The coaches are made of stainless steel. The overall height is about 4.5 inches more than that of normal coaches. Among other things, these coaches have controlled-discharge toilets and several safety-related features as well.

Apart from these recent onces, the East Indian Railway tried out double-decker coaches in 1862. The BBCI Rly. also experimented with these in the 1860s (an illustration of one of these appears in several books on IR). These designs used 4-wheel stock with very limited headroom on both decks because of restrictions from the loading gauge. A vice-regal carriage was also in use which was a double-decker carriage, with the lower deck being an extremely constrained space for servants. In the 1890s, a double-decker using bogie stock was designed by Mr Pearce, the C&W Superintendent of the EIR, but this was never manufactured.

Q. When were through vestibuled trains introduced in India?

The GIPR's Poona Race Special trains had vestibuled rakes back in 1906. Later, the prestigious Deccan Queen (Bombay - Poona), starting in 1930, regularly had a vestibuled rake.

Today most long-distance trains are vestibuled. NG trains, because of the short lengths of rakes (6-8, sometimes just 4 coaches) are not vestibuled, the sole exception being the 'Royal Saloon', a tourist train run by the SECR's Nagpur division.

Q. What are the 'X' marks or concentric circles painted on the ends of some coaches?

A large yellow 'X', or a series of concentric circles (yellow or white) are painted on the end of a coach which is used as the last coach in a rake -- it allows station crew or signalmen to visually check that the rake is intact by sighting this last vehicle indication. At night, a small red lamp is used at the end (this used to be an oil lamp in days past), and sometimes a board with the words 'Last Vehicle' can also be spotted.

Q. What kinds of special-purpose coaches exist on IR?

There are several kinds of special-purpose coaches that may be spotted on IR. There are various kinds of inspection cars and manager's saloons used by railway officials on their travels. These may often be spotted stabled at sidings off from the main tracks at various stations. Two very special coaches are the Presidential Saloon coaches.

There are several variations on cars with pantry or kitchen facilities, accident relief vans and medical relief vans, tool vans, etc. The typical accident relief medical rake is configured with two coaches, one of which has rescue and repair equipment, a kitchen, a tool compartment, and a diesel generator set; and the other which has an air-conditioned operation theatre and 12 hospital beds and space for medical supplies. It is self-propelled with a diesel-hydraulic transmission and an underslung powerpack

Various military cars can be spotted on IR. They range from minor variations on general coaches for troops, to luxuriously appointed saloons for officers and their families. Railfans please note that, understandably, security is very tight around these, and attempts to inspect them or photograph them may land you in trouble, regardless of permits or other papers you may have.

The military also runs its own versions of medical coaches, known as ward cars; these have 34 beds for injured personnel and have double-leaf doors for easy movement of stretchers. Finally, there are various flavours of OHE inspection cars, the NETRA car, tower cars, etc. See the multiple units / self-propelled units section for more information on these.

Air Conditioning

Q. When was air-conditioning introduced in IR?

The North-Western Railway introduced air-conditioned stock in the late 1930's (the earliest was probably the Frontier Mail in 1936 or 1937). BBCI Railways also experimented with air-conditioning at about the same time. By the early 1950's, air-conditioning was available on several long-distance trains. For example, in 1952-53 there were air-conditioned services between Bombay and Howrah, Delhi and Madras (Grand Trunk Exp.), Bombay and Delhi, Bombay-Amritsar (Frontier Mail), Bombay-Viramgam (Saurashtra Mail), and Bombay-Ahmedabad (Gujarat Mail).

These all used AC units that were mounted beneath the coach body (underslung), interconnected by pipes. Self-contained roof-mounted units appeared much later (1980's?).

The first fully air-conditioned train was introduced in 1956 between Howrah and Delhi. Popularly known as the AC Express, it ran on the Grand Chord; later there were two, one running on the Grand Chord and the other on the Main Line. Another train popularly known as the AC Express was the Dakshin Exp. between Madras and New Delhi in the 1960s.

AC Chair Car stock was introduced around 1955. Until about 1979, air-conditioning was available only in these and in AC First Class cars. Around 1979 the first two-tier AC coaches were introduced. The first 3-tier AC coaches were introduced in 1993 (RCF) and used on the Howrah Rajdhani via Patna. (The first such coach was ER 2301A, later changed to ER 94101A.) The first 60 or so of the three-tier AC coaches had 67 berths each, while all later ones have 64 berths.

Q. What's the history behind air-conditioning in IR?

Prior to the 1930's, various arrangements for cooling the interiors of passenger coaches existed, mostly for the first-class coaches. From the 1860's onwards, it was quite common to hang moistened mats of khas to cool the air by evaporation.

In 1872, the Saunders system was introduced, which consisted of a long duct running along the length of the coach and beneath it, with a funnel for air intake on one side, and multiple sheets of wet khas matting in the middle, which both filtered the dust out of the air and cooled it by evaporation; the cooled air was admitted into the coaches by apertures in the floor.

Often, the simple expedient of placing large blocks of ice (in bamboo or wicker containers) in the compartments was adopted. After electric fans were introduced, this method of cooling continued to be in use, with the ice placed in the path of a fan's air-stream. As late as 1958 on the Vijayawada division, for instance, passengers could rent an open zinc-lined box that carried a hundredweight (114lb, ~50kg) block of ice. The electric fans of the compartments would then be trained on it, and bottles or other containers could also be cooled in the box.

The ice could be replenished at any major station en route, and in fact the Conductor/Guard (the equivalent then of the Train Superintendent) would check on the ice blocks now and then and notify the station ahead if replenishments were needed. This was a popular service because it was easier and cheaper than riding in the air-conditioned cars (which often cost as much as twice the normal fare, besides rarely having space available).

Most air-conditioned stock of recent decades was built with underfloor machinery with blowers located near the ends of the coaches. Newer air-conditioned coaches (since about 1999) have the machinery located on the roof, with an air-distribution duct that goes along the roof of the coach with diffusers in every compartment, providing a much more uniform cooling effect.

Q. Are there / were there any meter-gauge or narrow-gauge air-conditioned coaches?

A rarity and curiosity on IR, NG air-conditioned coaches do exist, and were (perhaps are still?) used on the Gondia-Jabalpur Satpura Express. MG air-conditioned coaches were comparatively more common. AC Chair Cars were present on the Tiruchi - Tambaram Cholan Exp., the Chennai - Madurai Vaigai Exp. (1977-1997), chennai - Tiruchirapalli Pallavan Exp. (1985-1997), Pink City Exp., Ashram Exp., Bangalore - Mysore Tipu Exp., Bangalore - Mysore Chamundi Exp. A newer version of the MG AC Chair Car Coach with a roof-mounted AC unit was introduced in 2005.

Q. Who uses saloons on IR today?

Saloon cars, commonly used for luxury travel by the nobility and high-ranking officials in the past, are now far less common. A few air-conditioned saloon cars are kept for the exclusive use of General Managers of zonal railways and members of the Railway Board. Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) have exclusive use of a non-air-conditioned saloon at the divisional level. Other officials such as the ADRM, Senior DEE, Senior DME, Senior DOM, Senior DEN, Senior DPO, and others usually have to share one other non-air-conditioned saloon at the divisional level. (Also read about the presidential saloon.)

Preserved rollling stock

Q. Where can I see some preserved coaches, wagons, and other rolling stock?

The National Railway Museum has the following:

Broad gauge

  • Oudh and Rohilkund Railway Saloon of 1890 4 wheel saloon
  • Oudh and Rohilkund Railway Covered wagon 148 Central Workshops Alambagh, Lucknow 1879
  • Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway Saloon Parel workshops of BBCI 1886
  • MSMR 6 wheel Saloon built by Southern Railway at Perambur
  • EIR Sheep wagon Lilluah Workshops 1929
  • GIPR Dynamometer Car WRK2483 Met Cammel 1930
  • BBCI hand crane Ransome and Rapier 1883
  • PWD Punjab 4WG (chain drive) Sentinel 6273/1926

Meter gauge

  • BBCI Armoured Train Ajmer Workshops. wagons built 1886-1890
  • Nilgiri Railway Composite Coach Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co
  • Rajputana Malwa Railway Prince of Wales Saloon Agra Workshops of RMR 1875
  • Mysore State Railway Maharaja's saloon, Bangalore Workshop 1899, at Morbi (Morvi)
  • Maharaja's saloon from the old Gondal Railway, at the Palace Guest House hotel in Gondal (between Rajkot and Jetalsar). The saloon is used as guest accommodation by the hotel.
  • BBCI Viceregal Dining Car Ajmer workshops 1889
  • Bikaner State Railway ET-1445 4 wheel 3rd class carriage Bikaner workshops 1902

The following Palace on Wheels carriages are in the museum:

  • CT3 Bikaner 1889
  • CT9s Navanagar built 1922 at Bhavnagar Workshops
  • CT17 Jaipur 1913
  • CT34756/56 Hyderabad 1917 for Nizam's State Railway
  • CT3457/814 built for Maharajah of Porbunder in 1907

2'6" Gauge:

  • Barsi Light Railway Composite brake/third BLR-32 Metropolitan Amalgamated
  • Railway Carriage and Wagon Co 1905
  • Mourbhaji Light Railway 8 wheeled composite coach

2' Gauge:

  • Matheran Light Railway Carriage-852 (3rd class) 4 wheeled
  • Matheran Light Railway Carriage -812 1st class
  • DHR 3rd class carriage ET/119 Tindharia workshops 1902

The Mysore Railway Museum has the following:

  • South Central Railway Patent centre/side discharge wagon. Leeds Forge Company 1913
  • Southern railway Travelling Crane 033993 5 ton hand crane by Cowans Sheldon 1885
  • SR FD 034013 Crane support truck
  • SR ECE 07327 inspection car Mysore workshops 1901
  • SRVH 38163 Brake van Stableford 1923
  • Mysore State Railway CR 7342 Maharani's saloon
  • Mysore State Railway CR 7345 Dining/Kitchen car
  • Mysore State Railway SR TLR No 45 coach of 1927

An old riveted wagon with striker castings with SIR number C 30178 and plate number 1853 has been preserved at Golden Rock Workshops.

In addition to these, there are a number of old coaches, saloons, and special-purpose cars that are still maintained in working order and used now and then for special runs (often steam-hauled), heritage excursions, or even as luxury saloons for VIPs. Two very special coaches are the Presidential saloon cars.


More rolling stock information (including freight wagons) can be found in Part 2.

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