by: S. SHANKAR
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16 Apr. 1853 - 16 Apr. 2002
|Please note that the color of the panels and links box on this page represents the livery worn by the Deccan Queen. This livery is not necessarily the current one, but it certainly was a livery worn by this train at least once during its lifetime.|
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|1. The Deccan Queen shortly after commencement of service, seen here behind a EA/1 (WCP/1) locomotive.|
Queen is one of the Indian Railways best loved trains. Despite the advent
of much faster and more modern trains in recent years, the Queen
continues to stand
out in a class of her own. Indeed,
the Deccan Queen has only aptly been described as the Blue Eyed Babe of the
June 1, 1930. A red letter day for the Indian Railways, when the erstwhile Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR, now Central Railway) flagged off the Deccan Queen, India's first deluxe train, to run between the commercial capital Bombay (now Mumbai), and the cultural capital, Poona (now Pune). The train has aptly been named after the city of Poona (Pune), which is referred to as the Queen of the Deccan. The locals lovingly refer to the train as 'Dakkhan chhi Raani' in the local Marathi language, which literally translates as 'The Queen of the Deccan'.
The Deccan Queen has several firsts or 'among the firsts' to her credit: she was India's first superfast train, she was the first long distance electric hauled passenger train, she was one of India's first vestibuled trains. The Deccan Queen was the first to have a Ladies Only car, and amongst the first to feature a diner. (dining car). The train has an exciting and chequered history.
|2. An advertisement by the GIP Railway announcing the inauguration of the Deccan Queen. (Picture provided by John Lacey)|
Queen initially had two train sets (rakes): one painted silver with scarlet
mouldings, and the other royal blue with golden trim. The underframes of these
cars were built by the Metropolitan Cammel C & W Works in England, while the car bodies and coach work
assembled at the Matunga Carriage and Wagon works, Bombay. The standard of
comfort was distincly colonial, in keeping with the upmarket image of
this train, and the commuting gentry. Each rake (consist) provided
accommodation for 61 first class and 156 second class passengers, with
19 attendants. Its interesting to note that third class passengers were
not allowed on the Deccan Queen at that time.
The glorious Deccan Queen overshadowed the earlier prestigious train on this route, the Poona Mail. Indeed, the Queen revolutionised rail travel in India, cutting down the journey time between Bombay and Poona from a whopping 6 hrs. in steam days to an amazing 2 hr 45 min. behind electric traction. Of course, a Poona Race train had been scheduled to do the distance in 3 hr 26 min behind steam traction in 1901. This was including three engine changes and one reverse enroute, but this was the exception rather than the rule: it would have been impossible to sustain a regular commercial train service with such a breathless schedule and so many engine changes over a mere 192 km of route! The 2 hr 45 min of the Deccan Queen was therefore revolutionary for a day train providing a regular service, unlike the seasonal race special.
It is interesting to note however that the Deccan Queen was originally intended exclusively for the Colonial overlords. Due to this, she was initially run as a weekend special for the 'goraa sahibs' (white gentlemen). For over a decade, it was considered unprofitable to run the train during the week, due the poor patronage on weekdays. It was only by 1943 after Indians were allowed on board did the clientele pick up, and traffic built up enough to justify a daily service. Gradually, the Deccan Queen came to be known as a 'husbands' special', catering to men who spent all week working in Bombay, and returned to their families on weekends. Nonetheless, an increasing number of working women too had become part of the passenger profile of the Deccan Queen.
|3. Though this pic is out of place chronologically, this was the Central Railway's famous poster, showing the Deccan Queen just outside the Parsik Tunnel between Thana and Kalyan. The train is seen here behind a WCM/2 locomotive.|
Queen at that time was provided with separate restaurant cars for first
and second class passengers, with the pantry car in between the two.
Given the short journey time, heavy meals were hardly the need of the
hour, so light to heavy snacks were usually served on board. All the
cooking was done by electricity, and the pantry car was fitted with
grills, a steam oven, fish friers, boilers, and an electric 'Kelvinator'
stacked with ice cold beverages.
There is a little confusion about the accommodation provided on the Deccan Queen. While the Queen was introduced in 1930, the erstwhile Poona Mail had been the most prestigious train on the line till then. The Mail had just received two brand new rakes in 1929. It is mentioned in some sources that the Mail's new rakes were passed on the the Queen. However, the Mail and the Queen both co-existed for several years before the Mail was rescheduled and renamed as the Sahyadri Express. The Queen used to leave Bombay VT at 1710 on its run to Poona, while the Poona Mail used to leave at 1735. Today (2002), the Queen still leaves at 1710, whereas the Sahyadri runs beyond Poona upto Kolhapur, and leaves Bombay VT at 1755.
|4. The Deccan Queen on a viaduct on the Bhor Ghats, circa 1970. The train is seen here behind a WCM/4 locomotive. (Picture from the Indian Railways Magazine, circa 2000)|
|Be that as
it may, Poona's local newspaper 'Poona Herald' (now Maharashtra Herald)
had a very interesting report about the Queen's cars of yesteryear,on
the Queen's Golden Jubilee on 1st June 1980. I found a similar account
in the Railway Gazette of Dec. 1929. Both accounts are identical, which
has one believe that the Poona Mail's new rakes were passed on to the the
Each rake (consist) comprised of three articulated vehicles, and was vestibuled throughout. There were compartments for hand and heavy luggage.The car bogies were built of teak framing with steel panel plates, with the mouldings being mounted on rubber body panels on the underframe. The cars were soundproofed, and rubber floor coverings were used throughout the train.
The interior paneling, decoration and furnishing had been proided by Warring and Gillow, England, and was carried out in various decorative veneers. The second class cars were panelled in figured maple, with panels over the windows of Brazilian zebra wood with walnut mouldings. The second class restaurant car, with room for 16 diners, had panels of birds eye maple with decorative panels, and mouldings of walnut. The seat ends were paneled walnut with tip up seats. The tables were made of quartered veneer with glass tops. The first class restaurant car, with a seating capacity for 18 was finished in silver oak, with decorated panels of zebra wood with sideboard, polished seat ends and glass topped tables to match. The second rake had straight grained walnut interiors.
|5. The Deccan Queen in the 1980s passing through Karjat on her way to Bombay. The train is seen here behind a WCM/2 locomotive. (Picture by Hugh Ballantyne, scanned from a book)|
class cars were divided into compartments, panelled with birds eye
maple decorated with burr walnut and walnut mouldings. The floors
of the first class cars were covered with grey Wilton carpets. The seats
throughout the train were covered with 'Sorbo' rubber covered with
buffalo hide. The trains were brilliantly lit, and provided with the
Patent Lighting Company's fans, the current being supplied by dynamos
and Alconum cells. Ventilation was achieved by the use of 'Air Vac'
ventilators which effectively changed the air in the cars every six or
seven minutes. Windows had gauze and vinetian shutters, while large,
metal framed windows provided an excellent view of the countryside.
Ample luggage racks were provided with metal fittings finished in
oxidized silver. All lavatories were finished in plain mahogany
matchboarding, with water for them being carried in the underframe,
forced up by Stone's water raising apparatus.
As the run to Poona was short, the kitchens were provided for preparation of light meals only. Cooking was done by electricity at 220V, current being supplied by a separate set of axle driven dynamos and Cantrac battery cells. Details of the kitchen cars have already been covered earlier.
|6. The new (1966) Deccan Queen rake speeds through the the Bhor Ghats, circa 1970. The train is seen here behind a WCM/4 locomotive. (Picture from an Indian supplement in the Khaleej Times newspaper, Dubai, circa 1991)|
Queen got a brand new rake in 1966, comprising of Indian Railways
standard integral anti telescopic cars. For the first time since the
history of the train, third class passengers were allowed to travel by
this train. The livery was changed to a standard navy with cream at the
windows initially, later changed to navy with cream above the windows. (see pic. 5
above).The latter livery stuck with the Deccan Queen for nearly three
decades. The Queen once again got a brand new air braked rake (consist)
in 1996. This new rake was flagged off with much fanfare, and a pamphlet
giving the history and interesting details about the DQ was distributed
on the occasion. If you have access to this pamphlet, please do send me
a copy. I can scan it and return it to you.
With the increasing popularity of this train, the load has increased considerably, a far cry indeed from the seven cars of yesteryear. Unfortunately, this has told on the running time of the train, which has increased from 2 hr. 45 min. to the present 3hr. 25 min. With the disappearance of the stiff upper lip from India, the Queen has had to 'desophisticate' herself in several ways. One, the number of second class cars (previously third class) has had to increase to eleven. First class cars have remained at five. That means sixteen cars. Add to that a restaurant car, so with seventeen cars in place of seven, and with nearly 1,300 passengers, no wonder the increased load has told on the speed of the train. Moreover, due to the popularity of the train with daily commuters, several cars are reserved for seasons' ticket holders. Indeed, the Deccan Queen must be one of the very few, if not the only, train in India which has first class cars reserved for seasons ticket holders. In recent times, all of the first class chair cars have been replaced with airconditioned chair cars. In fact, the Deccan Queen must be one of the few trains in India which carries five air conditioned chair cars.
The Deccan Queen has maintained more or less the same departure times at both ends ever since her inception. The difference, if any, has been a mere five minutes at each terminus. The Queen leaves Poona at 0715 in the morning, reaching Bombay at 1040. Three double decker cars were attached to the Deccan Queen in the early 1980s. This shrunk to one due to poor patronage. But this too was eventually taken off when it failed to elicit a proper response.
|7. The double deck car carried by the Deccan Queen in the 1980s. It was taken off due to it unpopularity with commuters. (Picture courtesy: Vijay Balasubramanian.)|
The Deccan Queen's livery has changed several times over the years. From two rakes: one silver and one royal blue, mentioned above, these gave way to navy with cream at the windows. This was changed to navy with cream above the windows, which stuck till the 1980s. In the early 1980s, the Deccan Queen was given the drab IR maroon, though mercifully, this reverted to the navy with cream above the windows within a few months. In the late 1980s, the Queen bore a terrific pure white livery, with a grey band at the windows, and a red ribbon just above wheel level: a copy of a livery used in the UK, though the British livery had the red ribbon just below the windows. A white/grey/red locomotive was added, to match. Though this was probably the most elegant of the liveries, it met with much flak from the commuters, who referred to it as 'ambulance livery'. The present livery is navy with plain white above the windows, with a red ribbon at the point where the navy meets the white. Locomotives too have changed: from EA/1 (later WCP/2), the Deccan Queen has been hauled by WCM/4, WCM/3, WCM/2, WCM/5 and WCM/1 locomotives. The WCM/1s were painted in the terrific white livery. These worked till the late 1990s. The DQ was last being hauled by a WCM/5 lomomotive when the WCAM/3s took over. The Queen has even been hauled on occasion by a WDM/2 diesel. However, the diesel haulage has been on one or two occasions only, during the train's 72 year chequered history, and was to offset a problem with the usual electric locomotive. During the WCM/2 haulage days, during the 1970s-1980s, one of the WCM/2 locomotives which used to haul the Queen was christened 'BLUEBIRD'. This name was boldly displayed in Gothic style lettering on the side of the locomotive. 'BLUEBIRD' survived for several years after she gave up her prestigious positon to a WCM/5.
|8. The Deccan Queen in white livery with a matching WCM/1 locomotive, seen here in the lush greenery of the post monsoon clime of the Bhore Ghats. (Picture by Dr. Shirish Yande)|
There are scores of folks who commute EVERY DAY between Poona and Bombay. Several sub groups and card playing teams have been formed on board. Marriages are made is heaven: some have been made on the Deccan Queen. The closely knit group of commuters celebrate birthdays, festivals, wedding anniversaries, childbirths, promotions, and even increments on board.
|9. The Deccan Queen readies to leave Poona in 1992 behind a WCM/1. Note the changed white/navy livery, and the matched locomotive.|
Catering: ah yes, food!! Along with the regular run of the mill wadas, dosas, cutlets, patties, soup, and the usual items, the Deccan Queen's pantry serves up several dishes which are unique to the Queen. These include baked beans on toast, cheese toast, scrambled eggs, mutton cutlets, and the piece de resistance: fish and chips. Fish is served only on the evening run from Bombay to Poona. A tad pricey, but a real treat nonetheless. French toast must be the worst item on the menu, as several spoonfuls of sugar are heaped upon the bread slice.
Today, the Deccan Queen cannot be matched, only complemented. The Pragati Express was introduced in 1992 as parallel train to the the Queen,so as to ease the load on the grand old lady . It precedes the Queen by some 40 minutes. With a miserable ridership in early days, the loading of the Pragati has improved considerably, still, the Queen goes packed both ways. There is no seasonal loading for the Deccan Queen: she is full all the year round, except probably on Sundays. Deccan Queen: 72 years old, and still radiant, and as popular as ever.
|10. The Deccan Queen in 2000, speeding past Poona's Shivajinagar station behing a dual current WCAM/3 locomotive. What next? With conversion underway of the dc lines around Bombay to ac, the Queen will probably soon be hauled by a WAP/4.|
We wind up this page with two more pictures of the Deccan Queen.
|11. This picture taken on 1 Jan 2001 shows the Deccan Queen breezing her way through Sion suburban station in Bombay, on her way to Poona. (Picture courtesy: Sundar Krishnamurthy.)|
|12. The Deccan Queen sandwiched between two e.m.us rushes through Parel suburban station in Bombay in Feb. 2000. This was when the CR celebrated 75 years of electric traction. The e.m.u. on the left bears a banner to this effect. (Picture courtesy: Sundar Krishnamurthy.)|
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