Frontier (Golden Temple) Mail  


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16 Apr. 1853 - 16 Apr. 2002

Frontier(Golden Temple)Mail













Please note that the color of the panels and links box on this page represents the livery worn by the Frontier Mail. 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. Having left from Colaba, this is the Frontier Mail steaming out of Bombay Central on her inaugural run on 1 Sept. 1928. The train now originates/terminates from Bombay Central, as Colaba station is no more in existance.
The Bombay to Peshawar Frontier Mail made her maiden run from Colaba station on 1 Sept. 1928. Brainchild of the erstwhile Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, the Frontier Mail was put on line to carry passengers and mail from Bombay to Delhi and, in collaboration with the NWR, even beyond to Peshawar, (now in Pakistan) via the Punjab, Lahore and Rawalpindi (which was then the detraining point for Kashmir). The distance between Bombay and Delhi was some 1,393 km., and that to Peshawar a whopping 2,335 km.

During the winter months of September through December, the Frontier Mail used to depart from Ballard Pier Mole station. British journalists at that time used to refer to this train as the 'duplicate portion' of the Frontier Mail. Ballard Pier Mole station was an ideal hop on point for the several British ladies and gentlemen arriving from England by steamer. It was also a pick up point for mail brought in from Europe by the P & O mail steamer. It is interesting to note that when the train left Ballard Pier Mole station, it traversed over the tracks of the Bombay Port Trust Railway, Great Indian Peninsula Railway, and only then eventually crossed onto the metals of the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway.

Today, the train runs out of Bombay Central, and terminates at Amritsar, in the Punjab. The name of the train has also been changed from Frontier Mail to Golden Temple Mail. But more on that later.

2. The Frontier Mail leaving Ballard Pier Mole station in the 1930s. (Picture supplied by John Lacey.)

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The Frontier Mail had another reason for its introduction: the BB & CI Railway wanted to give its arch rival the GIP Railway a run for its money. The GIP Railway already had a train, the Punjab Limited, running between Bombay VT and Peshawar, but it took several days to get there. With the Frontier Mail, the transit time was reduced to a mere 72 hrs.

The competition between the BB & CI and GIP Railways is almost legendary. As long ago as 1855, when the GIP Railway was struggling to obtain approval from England for construction of a line across the Western Ghats, the rival BB& CI Railway jumped in with its proposal that an alternative route via Baroda would be more practicable, it would avoid the arduous ghats, and this new line could connect with the East Indian Railway, something which the GIP Railway had been hoping to achieve once it got permission to cross the ghats anyway. Beginning with that, the competiton carried on till both the Railways had their own trains running from Bombay to Peshawar: the GIP's Punjab Limited, and now the BB & CI's Frontier Mail.

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3. The Frontier Mail hauled by a North British H class 4-6-0 # 533 in 1932. Note the immaculately clad driver in white dress.

The Frontier Mail was considered more than just a train: it was rather a conversation piece, an exotic fast running train that whisked you right along the length of the country, through Muttra (now Mathura), Delhi, and the Punjab and set you down deep into the North West Frontier town of Peshawar. It was a time when the Frontier Mail could lay claim to being India's fastest long distance train. In fact, this fact was recognized even the The Times newspaper on London in 1930, when it described the Frontier Mail as 'one of the most famous express trains within the British Empire'. The Frontier Mail's punctuality too was something to reckon with. It was generally believed that your Rolex watch might let you down, but not the Frontier Mail. In fact, you could set your watch by it, 9 times out of 10!

The Western Railway's Headquarters building outside Churchgate station was the first building to be floodlit in Bombay, in keeping with a similar practice of floodlighting buildings back in England. But the BB & CI building was lit up not to highlight its grandeur. Every evening, when the Frontier Mail arrived at Bombay, the building would be floodlit to announce the safe arrival of the train and its passengers. Of course, in the absence of any skyscrapers in those days, this floodlighting could  be spotted from a distance of about 36 square miles.

The punctuality of the Frontier Mail was in fact of such crucial importance to the fastiduous British sahibs that when on one occasion, in August 1929, exactly 11 months after its inauguration, the train arrived 15 min. late, there was a big uproar among the railway circles, with the driver being asked to explain the reasons for this 'inexcusable' delay. A blemish indeed on the jewel in the BB & CIR crown.

4. A special train steams out of Ballard Pier Mole Station. Although this is not a picture of the Frontier Mail, it could well have been. This picture is intended to show what Mole station looked like. (Picture supplied by Viraf Mulla.)

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The Frontier Mail was an elite train, patronized by the elitist. It used to carry officers of the IPS (Indian Police Service), IFS (Indian Foreign Service) and IES (Indian Education Service) and the like, who were posted along the frontier lines.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Frontier Mail carried 450 passengers in six cars,of which one was an elaborate dining car. This dining car has now been replaced by a pantry car.


Some interesting information about the Frontier Mail's dining car in 1953 has been provided by John Lacey. 

Frontier Mail Dining Car, as in 1953:
Bombay Central dep 1950  Enter Dining Car
Dahanu Road ( no time given) Leave DC
Shamgarh 08 59 Enter DC
Kotah 11.00 Leave DC
Sawai Madhopur 12.54
Gangapur City

Restaurant Cars for the use of Air-Conditioned, First and second Class passengers only.
But passengers with Inter or III tickets may take meals in these cars but will be charged the difference between the Second Class fare and the fare for the class of ticket held for the distance travelled in the Restaurant Car.

On the CR, similar arrangements were made for First and Class passengers in Restaurant Cars attached to the  Punjab mails, Madras Exp, Deccan Queen, Madras mails, Calcutta Mails.

John Lacey

Each first class car on the Frontier Mail was self contained, right down to an attached lavatory and shower bath. The accommodation included specially constructed 'modern' berths, with 'Queen Anne' armchairs in each compartment for use during the day.

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5. On Armstice day, a special 'Frontier Mail' was run by the BB&CI Railway from Bombay. Souvenirs were distributed to the passengers travelling on the train, which was then the fastest daily service in India. The restaurant car was tastefully decorated with poppies as a symbol of Armstice Day. In this pic, taken at the Ballard Pier Station in Bombay, Lady Jackson (wife of Sir Ernst Jackson, Agent, BB&CIR) is seen placing a bouquet of poppies on the engine of the special train. (Picture supplied by John Lacey.)

All the Frontier Mail's upper class cars had electric lighting and fans. The restaurant car was liberally stocked with an abundant supply of newspapers, magazines, 'News Bulletins', books, stationery, and playing cards.

The restuarant car, when not in use, would be kept open for use as a lounge car, serving light refreshments. The rolling stock at that time was of the latest pattern, complete with every modern convenience. In keeping with an almost unanimous desire from the traveling gentry, the train was specifically comprised of 'non corridor' stock throughout,  which offered a certain degree of privacy and space, something so very important on such a long journey. In fact, the snooty British sahebs mention that  'this is also for the first time these facilities have been offered to passengers in India'.

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6 - 7. General view of a new restaurant car for the Frontier Mail, circa 1929 (left), Interior of the car (right). One of the Frontier's restaurant cars was named 'Queen of Rajputana'. (Pictures supplied by John Lacey.)

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" The catering company was D. Aglar and Co. The appointment of the caterer came from the Parliament in New Delhi. What the Frontier Mail was actually looking for was for caterers who offered Continental cuisine, as the train catered to a lot of European passengers.

The BB & CIR was very particular about the quality of food cooked on board the train. The dining car had a complaint book, which was taken very seriously indeed. If any passenger complained, my father ws summoned by the board and he was expected to explain the reasons for the lapse."

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8 - 9. (Left) Having left Colaba station, the Frontier Mail steams into Churchgate, by the seaside! Circa 1929, the train itself is visible to the far right of the picture.  The Frontier Mail is seen at Ballard Pier Mole station. (Right). (Pictures from a set of commemorative cards by the BB&CI Railway)

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Apart from catering, the catering company was also expected to service the rest rooms at various stations in Gujarat. Since the dining car service was offered to first class passengers only, every single detail had to be taken care of. Any tarnished cutlery was sent for replating. Any chipped crockey too was promptly discarded.

The catering business closed down once the Railway decided to take over the dining car. Its a pity that this dining car has now been replaced by a faceless pantry car, churning out meals in an assembly line fashion.

10. The Frontier Mail passes over the Darra viaduct circa 1930 en route to the North West Frontier destination of Peshawar, till which the train ran then. The engine in charge is a XC class 4-6-2, one of the largest engines in use at that time. The XCs were built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1928-29. (Picture supplied by John Lacey.)

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The Frontier Mail's dining car was not very large, but it was spacious. There was no air conditioning, but ceiling fans cooled the car interior quite efficiently. White damask on the tables coupled with white napkins was a cumpolsory feature.

Silver cutlery and exquisite crockery with crystal fruit platters were placed on each table, along with salt and pepper shakers. The table settings had to be perfect,with different forks and knives for each course. Immaculately clean and hygienic, fit for a King. Alas, today's Frontier Mail passengers eating assembly line meals from the pantry car will never be able to experience the right Royal ambience and atmosphere of yore.

There were two rakes (consists) of the Frontier Mail in the early days. Both featured dining cars. The dining cars on one of these trains was named 'Queen of Rajputana'. 

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11. Scanned from a faint photocopy full of spots, this picture shows the menu cards in the Frontier Mail's restaurant car. Behind each card were mentioned the facilities for passengers.

But wait, there is more. Separate menu cards were provided for breakfast, luncheon and dinner. See picture # 11 above.

Behind each menu card was a list of facilities offered to passengers traveling by the Frontier Mail. As an example, the reverse of one of the cards reads: 'For the convenience of 1st and 2nd class passengers, a certain number of luxurious retiring rooms have been provided by the Railway Company at Bombay Central. The following charges are levied: Single Room: Rupees 3, Double Room: Rupees 5 for 24 hrs. or part of 24 hrs. Pillow, bed linen, towels, lights, fans and hot water baths are provided free of charge. Meals can be obtained in the well appointed Refreshment Rooms at very moderate charges. The accommodation and catering at Bombay Central is equal to that of the best hotel in India'.

12. This fabulous picture shows the Frontier Mail behind a WP engine, on the Bassein (now Vasai) Creek Bridge near Bombay. circa 1960s. (Picture supplied by Viraf Mulla.)

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It was a joke in the railway circles of yesteryear that if a youth wanted to lure his lady love into eloping with him, he would entice here to ride on the Frontier Mail. Even today, the Frontier is a much favored train among honeymooners, due to the cosy coupes offered. Of course, all this has changed now, with the cubicle type first class having given way to the air conditioned two and three tier sleepers.

The Frontier Mail was one of the first trains in  India to get an air conditioned car. In fact, the a.c. car started running from 1934. However, the airconditioning system was basic, nothing like the thermostat controlled powerplants we see today.

The airconditioning system in those days used ice blocks, carried in sealed receptacles built beneath the car floor. These were replenished at several halts along the line. A battery operated blower constantly blew air into these receptacles, and the cold air entered the insulated cars through vents. Very basic, very messy, but the effect was very pleasant indeed. Today, the thought of huge ice blocks being pushed into the underfloor ice receptacles at every other stop is daunting enough!

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13. A WP struggles hard with the heavy Frontier Mail in the 1960s. (Picture supplied by John Lacey.This picture is a clone due to non availability of an actual pic of the train behind a WP.)

The motive power of the Frontier had was initially H class 4-6-0s which took the train from Colaba or Ballard Pier Mole station all the way till Baroda. From then, the mighty XC class Pacifics used to take over. (see pic. # 10 above). Considered one of the largest steam locomotives used in India at that time, the XCs were able to sustain the climb beyond Shamgarh between Morak and Dara on the Bombay Delhi run. The WPs then took over, till the train was dieselized in the 1970s. Traction change yet again: the train was hauled by a WCAM/1 upto Baroda, and was then diesel worked till then.

Today, the train leaves Bombay Central behind a WCAM/1, 2 or 2P, which works it on till Baroda. From Baroda, the train is electric hauled right upto New Delhi. This stretch is worked either by a WAM/4 or a WAP/4. Diesel takes over again at New Delhi all the way till Amritsar. This is because the Frontier goes to Amritsar via the unelectrified Meerut - Shaharanpur route, rather than via the Panipat -Ludhiana route, which is electrified.

The train used to cross Delhi at old Delhi, or Delhi Main, as the station was then called. It had a very long halt there before moving on to Amritsar.  The train now bypasses Old Delhi, and touches New Delhi instead. The date of this changeover is not exactly known.

14. The Frontier Mail in the late 1970s, seen here behind diesel power.

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The Frontier Mail was formally renamed as Golden Temple Mail in September 1996. Surprisingly, this renaming was a directive from the Railway Board in Delhi, rather than a Western Railway decision. The reason behind this move to rename this train right from the very top still remains a mystery.

Despite the name change, the Golden Temple Mail is, and will always be, the Frontier Mail to all its faithful followers. With modern operations, and increased number of halts from seven to more than double, at fifteen, coupled with the loss of its restaurant cars, first class cars and a la carte catering, the Frontier Mail is today but a mere shadow of its former glory. Nonetheless, the train has an appeal and charisma that will live on in the hearts of its faithful followers for a long time to come.

The accommodation and halt patterns of the present day Frontier(Golden Temple) Mail are very complicated indeed, and this gave those in charge of computerization of reservations a run for their money. Reservations on the Golden Temple Mail were the last to be computerized. The present day Golden Temple Mail was a superfast upto New Delhi only, after which it was a normal express train. Nowadays however, it is a superfast right from Bombay Central all the way till Amritsar. The train carries airconditioned first class on certain days of the week. One composite first class cum three tier slip coach for Kalka is detatched at New Delhi. The grand old first class non corridor stock have all given way to airconditioned 2 tier and 3 tier sleeper cars, and as already mentioned earlier, the train carries a pantry car in place of the grand old restaurant cars.


Some interesting information about the Frontier Mail's composition in the 1970s and 1980s provided by Pravin Sathe and Vijay Balasubramanian. 

PRAVIN SATHE: Sometime back there was talk of the Frontier Mail having coaches which used to  be detached at DLI etc. for various destinations.

If I remember correctly till the late 70s the train used to run half upto ASR and the other half upto JAT. I think one half used to get detached at Old Delhi and get attached to the Jammu Mail from DLI to Jat.

Also a coach or two used to attach to the HWH-Kalka Mail from DLI.

Thus hardly 8 compartments or so of the original train that would leave BCT would go to ASR.

However after the introduction of 171/172 BCT-JAT S/Fast the Jammu coaches were discontinued while Kalka continued for some time.
Now BDTS-Kalka  four coaches are hauled by 2925/26 Paschim and then detached at Ambala for Chandigarh and then on to Kalka.



VIJAY BALASUBRAMANIAN: That's right.  I spotted the Jammu Tawi Mail at Jammu Tawi station once and saw 6-7 coaches that said Bombay-Jammu. The service to Jammu continued for a couple of years past the introduction of the superfast JAT Exp.  Here is some info. from the 1977 All India Time
Table through service section -
Bombay Central to Jammu Tawi by  3/33 - Four coaches : One AC coach, One
First Class, One 3-tier sleeper, One 3-tier/brake-luggage van.



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15. The modern day Frontier Mail (renamed Golden Temple Mail) seen here behind a dual current WCAM/1 electric locomotive. (Picture supplied by John Lacey.This picture is a clone due to non availability of an actual pic of the train behind a WCAM/1.)



Some interesting information about the Frontier Mail's renaming as 'Golden Temple Mail' is provided by D. Singh.. 

thanks alot for putting up the histories of various trains like
Flying Mail and Punjab Mail. It was really interesting to read the
write ups.

Regarding the Frontier mail and naming it as Golden Temple Mail was a
political move to woo votes in Punjab. First it was the Flying mail
which came up for renaming it to the Golden Temple Mail ( This thing
was going on since mid 1970's) but for some reason it fell throught.
Also some die hard Akali Dal politicans also wanted no smoking in the
train , if it was going to be renamed Golden Temple Express.


Please inform any corrections/changes/additional information to

    Frontier (Golden Temple) Mail  


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