by: S. SHANKAR

   

  Grand Trunk Exp  

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16 Apr. 1853 - 16 Apr. 2002

Grand Trunk Express

MADRAS CNTRL. - NEW DELHI

GRAND TRUNK EXPRESS

NEW DELHI - MADRAS CNTRL. 

previously

METTUPALAYAM - LAHORE

GRAND TRUNK EXPRESS

LAHORE - METTUPALAYAM 

previously

MANGALORE - PESHAWAR

GRAND TRUNK EXPRESS

PESHAWAR - MANGALORE

 

Please note that the color of the panels and links box on this page represents the livery worn by the Grand Trunk 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. WP 7489 hauls the Grand Trunk through Tondiarpet near Madras at the fag end of a long journey from New Delhi in 1961. Note the heterogenous collection of stock in an era when the standard anti telescopic ICF cars had not yet come in.
The Grand Trunk Express is as exotic as its name. For decades, the Grand Trunk Express, or GT as it was affectionately know by its fans, was the fastest way to get to New Delhi from Madras. The only serious competitors then were a Madras-Delhi Southern Express, and a Madras-Delhi Janata Express. The Grand Trunk or GT was radically faster than both these trains, and was a shoulder's height above them in terms of speed, prestige, comfort and ambience.

Today, the Madras-New Delhi GT is still an important and a very heavily subscribed train, though the Tamilnadu Express is a much faster alternative. Not to  mention the Madras - New Delhi Rajdhani. The Grand Trunk Express has unfortunately fallen prey to politics and has deteriorated a great deal speedwise. Its superfast status notwithstanding, so many additional halts have been added to the grand old GT's schedule that it is difficult to count! Comfort and convenience wise however, its still a great train.

2. The Grand Trunk Express in the early 1970s leaving New Delhi for Madras behind an Itarsi WP locomotive. The train was dieselized shortly afterwards. (Picture courtesy John Lacey. This picture is a clone, due to non availability of an actual pic of the train behind a WP.) 

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Information about the Grand Trunk Express is very sparse, and virtually no details of this train are available on the web. The GT started running in 1929, on completion of the Kazipet - Ballarshah line, which was the last missing link in the Delhi - Madras trunk route. When introduced, the train ran between Peshawar and Mangalore, almost the length of the country and beyond. If fact, the GT was probably one of the longest running trains in the country at that time. The Peshawar to Mangalore run took about 104 hrs in all. No further information was obtainable about the stock, composition of the rake (consist) etc. 

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3. The Grand Trunk Express in diesel days being hauled by a single Kazipet WDM/2 locomotive.   (This picture is a clone, due to non availability of an actual pic of the train behind a WDM/2.) 
The end points were later changed to Lahore and Mettupalayam. Hence, the Mangalore - Peshawar Grand Trunk Express now became the Mettupalayam - Lahore Grand Trunk Express. The train probably provided the goraa sahibs (white gentlemen) an escape route into the Nilgiri Hills to the popular hill station of Ootacamund (Ooty), in order to escape the oppressive heat of Southern India. As you know, Mettupalayam was the hop off point for the m.g. Nilgiri Mountain Railway to Ooty.

One year later however, in 1930, the route was heavily curtailed, and the GT began to run from New Delhi to Madras, which it does till this very day.

No further information is available about the GT.

Being a very prestigious train, THE most prestigious train of that route during that time as a matter of fact, the GT got an air conditioned chair car fairly early in its career. This a.c. chair car used the ice blocks method of airconditioning. Details of this form of airconditioning can be had on the Frontier Mail page of this website.

4. The New Delhi bound Grand Trunk Express leaving Madras Central in August 2001. (Picture courtesy Shriram Chellappan and V. Anand.)

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At a time when there were no direct trains to Delhi from several of the Southern cities like Mangalore, Cochin, Trivandrum, Bangalore etc., the GT provided a vital North - South link. Government officials and Civil Servants from the Southern States used the GT in their hordes, to travel from their homes to go to work at the Government offices in Delhi. Hyderabad based travelers could take the GT at Kazipet to reach their work places in Delhi and the Northern states.

It is due to this kind of traveling gentry that airconditioned accommodation was offered from a very early stage.

Another unique feature of the GT was the provision of a parcel car, which probably made the GT one of the very few prestige trains to carry parcels. In the earlier years, it helped the traveling 'goraa sahibs' and later the Government officials to carry much of their personal effects with them, when they left their homes in the Southern states to go to work in the North. The officers on transfer were referred to in the South as 'transfer cases'!

In modern times, the parcel car was used by the Railways in their attempt to offer an 'express parcel service': a premium service where parcels could be carried at super express speeds with guaranteed delivery at destination on the third day or your money back.

The Grand Trunk also used to carry a restaurant car, which has now been replaced by a pantry car, selling a lot of food to varying tastes: Northerners as well as Southerners, moving to and from each others' territory, form home to work and back. Even today,the pantry car of the GT has a very good reputation for dishing out various culinary delights, the assembly line fashion notwithstanding.  

The prestige of the Grand Trunk Express therefore increased because of this factor as well: it was an ambassador of Southern India, calling on the Indian capital Delhi. It would not be wrong to believe at that time that the entire South travelled to Delhi on the GT!!  The Southern ambassador to New Delhi, so to speak. This was because at that time, this was probably the only train which linked the South of India to the North.

During the 60s, maybe even a bit into 70s, it was called AC/GT Exp. Reason being that for 5 days, it was GT, and the remaining two days it was AC Exp. Entirely Airconditioned. Those were the days before AC2T and AC3T were born. It had First AC and AC Chair cars. The timings of two trains were however different, with the AC Express being a shade faster. According to information provided by railfan Sundar Coimbatore, around 1962, the GT used to depart Madras Central and
1200 and reach New Delhi at 0800.The A/C Express used to depart at 1600 and reach at 1000.

 

THEY SAID IT!

Here is a fascinating account about the Grand Trunk 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:

B. Grand Trunk Exp: Has been my THE FAVOURITE train, even now. 

During the 60s, maybe even a bit into 70s, it was called AC/GT Exp. Reason being that for 5 days, it was GT, and the remaining two days it was AC Exp. Entirely Airconditioned. Those were the days before AC2T and AC3T were born. It had First AC and AC Chair cars. 

The destination boards outside each coah were done beautifully, with beedings etc. Have never seen anything like that on any train. 

The First AC coaches were perhaps the best run on IR. I travelled AC Chair car between Itarsi & Nagpur on a fare of Rs. 28/-, as a "gift" to me by my family on the 16 Up AC Exp. 

GT was the train where we could find good/new things. One of, if not THE first for: 

-- thermos flasks for serving tea/ coffee

 -- first class corridor coaches with LARGE windows

 -- coaches with better suspension (GT/TN would always arrive in at great speed, but with correspondingly far less thud-thud sound. Their coaches always had better suspension).

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!

Regards

Shirish Paranjape

(slightly edited to ensure continuity.)

 

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5. The Grand Trunk Express with a WAP/4 in charge overtakes the WAM/4 hauled Andaman Express at Barsali, near Hyderabad in Nov. 2001. The GT locomotive is one of the newer WAP/4s with smoothed ends, recessed headlights and three color red/cream/grey (sometimes black) livery. (Picture courtesy Shashanka Nanda.)
The GT got a 21 car rake (consist) in the 1980s, this was increased to 22 when the parcel car was re-introduced after a gap of some years. Despite the substantially larger number of stops in comparison to her more upmarket sister the Tamilnadu Express, the fact still remains that at least due to her historical relevance and longer standing in the market, the GT is still a more prestigious train than the Tamilnadu Express. If fact, it was probably due to this that the GT got her 24 car rake (consist) long before the Tamilnadu did. The Tamilnadu Express has the speed, but the GT still retains the old time classic status and prestige.

During its earliest days, the GT used to reverse twice during its journey from the South to the North and back. The reverse used to take place at Kazipet, and then at Wardha Junction. The Wardha reversal was the first to be done away with, once Wardha East (now Sewagram) station was put up with a bypass line. This was in the 1960s. Later,the train used to call at Kazipet, rather than bypass it and halt at Khammam. Once the Kazipet bypass was completed however, this reversal too was no longer necessary. The train now runs straight through in both directions, with no reversals.

Livery of the GT has changed over the years. During its lifetime, the GT has borne several liveries: the red and cream Rajdhani livery, spinach egg yellow green, and IR standard maroon, to name a few. Probably the most brilliant livery was applied in the late 1970s/early 1980s: deep navy blue, with scarlet red at the windows. This livery was taken off shortly afterwards, but has been revived in the late 1990s when some diesel multiple units on the NR and the Konkan Railway were outshopped with paint scheme.

Thanks to meddling by politicians who consider the IR their personal fiefdom, several additional halts have been added to the GT's schedule, including Vidisha, Hinganghat, Ghoradongri, Pandhurna, Narkher, Manchiriyal, etc. to name just a few. The Dornakal halt has now been replaced: the train halts at Khammam instead.

 

THEY SAID IT!

Here is a minefield of additional information about the Grand Trunk Express from railfan Shirish Paranjpe:

 Dear Shankar

Further to what I wrote earlier, I would like to point out the following correction in the text. This is relating to the "reversing". 

It has been stated that Kazipet was the only reversal. You would know that there was another point of reversal, namely Wardha Junction. This was before the Wardha East Jn (now called Sewagram station) was built. The northbound train would go in to Wardha. A new CR WP loco (either Jhansi or Itarsi) would take it further in the other direction. I do not know the exact year when Wardha East was built, but probably it was in early 60s. Thus GT went through 2 reversals during that period. 

I have seen that even after Wardha East was built, some trains such as Madras-Delhi Janata (17Dn/18Up) would go into Wardha Jn., and get reversed. But GT would take the straight route. 

Some other info.

 GT used to haul Bangalore-New Delhi slip coaches till as recently as 1980! The KK was there, but these coaches used to run daily. From Bangalore City to Madras Central by morning 7:30 departure SBC-MAS Exp. arriving at about 4 pm at MAS. Then at siding for a while, before getting connected to 15Dn . Definitely 2 coaches (could be more). One was 3-tier sleeper, and the other composite FC+general coach. 

I had undertaken a 72-hour journey starting Bangalore and ending Suratgarh in Rajasthan. By SBC-MAS-NDLS by GT coaches, then DLI-Suratgarh by Punjab Mail (5Dn CR renumbered as 37Dn on NR) upto Bhatinda, and then by Chandigarh Exp coming from Chandigarh, going to Suratgarh. 

Delhi-Suratgarh was, again, slip coaches. 

The Southern Exp (21/22) had the boards "New Delhi-Hyderabad" on the guards coach and sometimes the loco too. There were NDLS-MAS coaches attached to that for the benefit of Chennai bound passengers. These would be bifurgated at Kazipet. The 21/22 also carried Varanasi-Hyderabad & Varanasi-Madras coaches, which would be coupled in/out of 21/22 at Itarsi. They would do the ET-BSB journey by 27/28 Kashi Exp (Dadar-Varanasi Exp). This arrangement lasted till early eighties. This used to be there even after Ganga-Kaveri (139/140) was started between BSB & MAS, then twice a week. 

While on slip coaches, the GT, for a couple of years carried 2 or 3rd class 3-tier coaches only between New Delhi and Itarsi. This was when it was dieselised between NDLS-ET, but would go with steam ET southwards. 

These two 3-tier coaches would come out together with the WDM2 at ET. These were the days of the blue livery with white and red bands, which was perhaps the best GT ever had! Yes, we still had 3rd class that time, though it probably became 2nd class around that time. But I distinctly recall the "Teen shayanyaan teen tier" words used then on these NDLS-ET coaches. These coaches would benefit the BPL-NDLS passengers, because GT was the only good overnight connection for them for many years. 

I hope you do not mind me troubling you with this barrage of data. I suppose you will find this useful.

 Regards 

Shirish Paranjape

(slightly edited to ensure continuity.)

 

6. A red coat porter at Madras Central adjusts his dhoti (sarong) as he readies to meet the Grand Trunk Express which is arriving from New Delhi early in the morning in August 2001. The Tamilnadu Express has arrived a few minutes earlier.  (Picture courtesy Shriram Chellappan and V. Anand.)

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When the GT used to run with 21 cars, the GT and Tamilnadu Express rakes (consists) used to be freely interchanged, the only difference being that the Tamilnadu's library car would not function on the GT.

Today, despite the advent of several trains from the many important Southern cities to New Delhi, and the introduction of faster trains from Madras to New Delhi itself, the GT still retains its old charm, and continues to be heavily subscribed, with seats being sold out months in advance. Today, the GT runs with a 24 car rake (consist), just like her more modern sister the Tamilnadu Express. And just like the TN, the GT too is hauled by a WAP/4 electric throughout.

The train offers air conditioned first class, 2 tier a.c. sleeper, 3 tier a.c.sleeper, sleeper cars and second class unreserved. A pantry car and parcel van are also included.

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7. A new Jhansi WAP/4 with air smoothed front, recessed headlights and red/cream/black livery regains here breath after arriving in Madras Central with the Grand Trunk Express, which she has hauled all the way from New Delhi. (Picture courtesy Sridhar Shankar.)

Please inform any corrections/changes/additional information to frontier_mail@yahoo.com

   

  Grand Trunk Exp  

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