Tamilnadu Express 

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16 Apr. 1853 - 16 Apr. 2002

Tamilnadu Express




Special thanks to Gutam Parthasarathy for providing most of the information on this page.

Please note that the color of the panels and links box on this page represents the livery worn by the Tamilnadu Express. 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. This early picture of the Tamilnadu Express (circa 1970s) shows the train behind a single Itarsi WDM/2.  (Picture by Apurva Bahadur.This picture is a clone due to non availability of an actual pic of the train behind a WDM/2.)
Why a classic train status for the Tamilnadu Express, I hear several of you ask. There is no aura of mystique associated with this train. It did not run during the grand old days of the Raj. It did not run to exotic destinations like Peshawar or Lahore. In fact, there is no history associated with this train. The name 'Tamilnadu Express' does not kindle a feeling of nostalgia, it does not take you for a ride down memory lane, nor does it conjure up wild imagination about the glorious days gone by, exotic images of the British Empire, or of the days that were, as is the case of its twin sister the Grand Trunk Express. The Tamilnadu Express was never hauled by one of those glorious 'mail' engines, or even by a WP. In fact, the train has never been steam hauled at all. There is not a tinge of exotica or images of a romantic monument associated with the train, as is the case with the Taj Express.

No. On the contrary, the Tamilnadu Express is one of those commercial, modern day supertrains like the Rajdhani or Shatabdi. Well, in that case, is the inclusion of the train on these pages really justified?

2. This fabulous scene shows the 21 car double WDM/2 headed Kerala Karnataka (KK) Express entering New Delhi station in the early morning circa 1981. Barring the livery, the Tamilnadu Express was identical in appearance. (Picture scanned from an IR brochure circa 1982.)

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Maybe not entirely. The train is a little over thirty years old (2002), and started off on diesel traction. But like the Taj Express, it did acquire an air of respect, awe  and fascination around it. In fact, acquired a classic status within a few years of its introduction. The reputation and image of the this supertrain was solely responsible for its classic status.

The Tamilnadu Express runs between New Delhi and Madras. It was put on line in the late 1970s. Started off as train # 121/122, the train was 13 cars long (later increased to 16), and was hauled by a single WDM/2 locomotive. After the Madras to Vijayawada line was electrified, the train was hauled by a single WAM/4 electric on that stretch, and a single WDM/2 from Vijayawada all the way to New Delhi.

What made the Tamilnadu Express radically different was the halt pattern. The train had only FIVE halts on its long 2190 km. run between Madras and New Delhi. The halts were: Starting Madras: Vijayawada, Ballarshah, Nagpur, Bhopal and Jhansi before the final destination, New Delhi. Ballarshah was primarily a technical halt for a crew change. In addition, the Up train had a halt at Amla for operational reasons.

The train was, and still is, the fastest non-Rajdhani express train in the country. The 1,493 km. run between Madras and Bhopal was covered in a very respectable 19 hr 50 min. Today's Tamilnadu Express takes approx. 20 hr.55 min. for the same stretch, running at an average speed of 72.16 kmph. Even today, the train has a 65+ kmph average speed, only seven intermediate halts, and an average 270 km. inter-halt distance, the longest for any non-Rajdhani train in the country. This of course, excludes the technical (operational) halt at Itarsi, and the regular halt at Nizamuddin. Although this is a marked deterioration from a 73 kmph average speed, only five intermediate halts, and a 370+ km. average inter-halt distance in the 1970s, this has not told upon the status of the train: it still is the fastest non Rajdhani train in India with the longest inter-halt distance. In fact, the Madras-Vijayawada non stop run of 441 km is the longest inter-halt distance for any non-Rajdhani super express in the country. The Tamilnadu Express gets the honors in both directions. Of course, there are one or two other trains on the route as well which share a similar honor, but only upto Vijayawada. The TN is the absolute king overall. All of the TN's halts are at reasonably large stations.

Another unique feature of the Tamilnadu Express was the provision of a library car on the train. Located in the S1 second class car, one could borrow books and magazines for in-train reading on payment of a security deposit and a nominal fee.

The train's cars were initially labelled A, B, C, D etc.: another very unusual feature with this train. The train used to run tri-weekly till the mid 1980s.

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3. This picture shot at a bizzare angle shows the sheer length of the modern day Tamilnadu Express, hauled by a single WAP/4 locomotive. Shot from the S9 coach, 19th from the engine, there are six more cars are behind the photographer. Location is near Wardha (now Sewagram). Despite the sharp curvature, the speed limit on this curve is 50 kmph. (Picture courtesy Gautam Parthasarathy.)
So far, so good. But then things changed dramatically for the Tamilnadu Express in the early 1980s. The load was increased from 16 cars to 21 cars, to be hauled by twin WDM/2 diesel engines. The frequency of the train was increased from tri-weekly to daily.

The 21 car train hauled by twin diesels soon became a trendsetter. Suddenly, everyone seemed to want to travel by the Tamilnadu Express, or TN as it was commonly referred to. The train earned an enviable reputation for its speed, punctuality, comfort, and reliability.

So much so that the other neighboring Southern states wanted to have trains from their own State capitals to New Delhi as well, emulating the Tamilnadu Express pattern of 21 cars, twin diesel engines and very limited halts. Hence, the Hyderabad-New Delhi Andhra Pradesh Express and the Bangalore/Trivandrum-New Delhi Kerala-Karnataka Express (or KK Express as it was then known) were born. All these trains are still immensely popular, and run till this very day. But none could match the ambience and image of the Tamilnadu Express. The KK Express was eventually split up, with the Trivandrum version becoming the Kerala Mangala Express running upto Mangalore, with one portion going on to Trivandrum. The KK now runs as the Karnataka Express between Bangalore and New Delhi.

The 21 cars may sound no big deal in today's world where 24 cars are the standard loading on several important expresses, with 26 car trains under trial. But it was quite something at a time when average loads were 15 to 17 cars, with the ultimate loading being 18 or 19 cars. In that secenario, the '21 car with twin diesel engine' trains had an almost cult following. Space was always at a premium, and seats were booked months in advance on the Tamilnadu, and her new sisters the Andhra Pradesh Express and the Karnataka Express.



Here is a fascinating account about the Tamil Nadu Express from delighted railfan Shirish Paranjpe:

Hello Shankar,

 I am Shirish, a rail-fan. Read the contents of your above mentioned site with great interest. Could not agree more!

Just some info., which you might already know:

C: Tamilnadu Exp: Your narration is entirely true.

 I must add that it had AC Chair car coaches (late 70s) before the advent of AC2T. These had piped music, and also TV sets. The TV transmission had pre-recorded Delhi Doordarshan news and some films and features, cartoons etc. Black & white, obviously. 

Those days they were powered by TKD (Tuklakabad) WDM2s right through the journey. As you said, one halt per state - JHS, BPL, NGP, BZA and MAS. TN (121/122) ran 3 days a week. Its sisters AP (123/124) ran 2 days a week, same schedule. KK (125/126)the remaining 2 days.

 TN assumed double-heading first. 2xTKD WDM2s. I used to come to Itarsi stn. at 1705 to see these thunder by. The drivers always had sparkling clean white handerchiefs tied to their foreheads. 

I also saw the inagural TN (Up) at NGP stn. The loco had a replica of the Meenakshi temple right at its front. I have never seen anything like that on any train.

 What also sets apart trains such as GT, TN, AP etc. was the impressive quality of the food served on these trains. Even as late as 1985, we would get "special" veg. meals (puri or rumali roti, pulav, fried vegetable, curds, pickle and a sweet!). It was the best meal money could buy. I have had jalebi on one occassion, leaving NDLS by 2616 GT Exp. Fond memories!

More later. I get carried away while writing about railways!


Shirish Paranjape

(slightly edited to ensure continuity.)



4. As the fastest non Rajdhani train in India, the Tamilnadu Express blasts past our photographer in the chill of early morning.(Picture courtesy Shashanka Nanda.This picture is a clone.)

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Part electrification in the late 1980s of the Madras - New Delhi route meant two engine changes for the Tamilnadu Express: WAM/4 from Madras Central to Vijayawada, twin WDM/2 diesels (usually Itarsi shed) from Vijayawada to Itarsi, and again WAM/4 electric between Itarsi and New Delhi. The number of halts  was increaded to include Kazipet (till the electrification was complete), Warangal, Itarsi (operational halt) and Gwalior (political halt, courtesy the high flying computer age minister the late Madhav Rao Scindia). 

The last phase of electrification of the New Delhi - Madras line was Itarsi to Nagpur. At this time, the train was electric hauled between New Delhi - Itarsi and Nagpur - Madras, and twin diesel hauled between Itarsi and Nagpur.

During the 21 car stage, rakes were regularly interchanged between the Grand Trunk Express and the Tamilnadu Express. The library car however did not function when the TN rake was used on the GT. This swapping does not take place any more.

Today, the Tamilnadu Express is a 24 car train, and is hauled by a single WAP/4 electric  locomotive from Madras Central all the way to New Delhi. The library car is gone, additional halts have been introduced, but still, the Tamilnadu Express is considered the fastest non Rajdhani train in the country.

Talking of which, there is a Rajdhani Express on the Madras -New Delhi route now, but the Tamilnadu still remains immensely popular due to a similar speed at normal express train fares, a supplementary charge notwithstanding. Livery of the train is now standard airbraked dark blue/light blue livery. The train offers a wide range of accommodation like First Class a.c., 2 tier a.c., 3 tier a.c, sleeper cars and second class unreserved. A pantry car is included in the train.

Livery of the train has changed over the years. The train started off with Rajdhani type red/cream livery. In the late 1980s, this was changed to orange/cream. The late 1990s saw the Tamilnadu sport a maroon/cream livery. The present livery is the IR air braked standard dark blue/light blue.

The Tamilnadu was hauled on one occasion by a WDG/2 diesel goods locomotive when there was a massive power failure in the New Delhi area in 2000.

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5. A WAP/4 retrofitted with twin sealed beam headlights speeds past with the Tamilnadu Express. (Picture courtesy Shashanka Nanda.)
The Tamilnadu has now well and truly become a classic train. Ahead by a long margin even from her identical  cousins, the Karnataka Express and the Andhra Pradesh Express. There are many faithful followers of the classic Tamilnadu or TN who wouldn't dream of taking any other train on their annual journey from Madras to New Delhi.

We wind up this page with three more pictures of the TN.

4. The Tamilnadu Express livery in the 1990s. By the late 1990s, this had changed to maroon/cream. (Picture courtesy Sridhar Shankar.)

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5. The Tamilnadu Express blasting through Basin Bridge junction at high speed, just prior to her arrival at Madras Central a few minutes later. A WAP/4 is in charge. The blur gives a true idea of the train's speed.  (Picture courtesy Shriram Chellappan and V. Anand.)
4. The present livery of the Tamilnadu: standard IR airbraked darkblue/light blue. The train is about to enter Madras Central, and is pictured here at Basin Bridge. In the foreground is a WAP/4 locomotive, the class of locomotive that hauls the TN all the way from Madras to New Delhi and back. (Picture courtesy Sridhar Shankar.)

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Please inform any corrections/changes/additional information to


       Tamilnadu Express 

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