Trains of fame and locos with a name - Part 2

by Joydeep Dutta and Harsh Vardhan

This article was originally published by the Indian Steam Railway Society (ISRS) in its newsletter, and is reproduced here by permission, which is gratefully acknowledged. Copyright for the material here rests with the ISRS and the author(s) of the article. The ISRS is the premier organization in India engaged in preservation and efforts to promote awareness of the country's railway heritage.

This article originally appeared in the FNRM Newsletter No. 3/4, Autumn/Winter 1998.

(Part 1 appeared in the previous issue.)

One of the most luxurious service of its time was the 'Imperial Mail' from Bombay to Calcutta. The train left Bombay every Friday with 32 passengers and the 'mail' from Britain which arrived by sea at the Bombay port. The train covered the distance at an average speed of 60 km/br, had first class facilities for passengers and could be compared to the best in the world.

'Howrah-Kalka Mail' known popularly as the I Up/2Dn has been in service for more than a hundred years. Simla was the summer capital of India during the days of the Raj and the Kalka Mail carried the VIPs and government officials from Howrah to Kalka and was thus the top priority train of the East India Railway(EIR). The Kalka Mail continues to be the pride of Eastern Railway. An important train during the imperial days which left Howrah was the 'Punjab Mail' to Lahore which still is in service upto Amritsar. Although now it is officially known simply as Howrah-Amritsar Mail for a long time, the travelling public chooses to refer it as Punjab Mail. Another train introduced on this route more recently which follows the mail and called Howrah Amritsar Express is generally ascribed as 'Duplicate Punjab Mail'.

Though the 'Mails' were the most important services, the fastest service in British India was run by the GIP in the form of the famous 'Deccan Queen' from Bombay to Poona. The Deccan Queen can well claim to be the first electric tractioned express service in India/During the mid 1930's, the 'Deccan Queen' covered the 195 kilometers to Poona through the tough Ghat sections in 2 hrs 45 minutes reeling off the first hundred kilometers at an average of 84 km/hr. By 1946, still India's fastest train, the Deccan Queen ran the distance in 3 hours. Currently the Deccan Queen covers the distance in 3 hours 40 minutes although it has been provided with a modern air-brake rake and is hauled by a powerful WCM5 class electric locomotive!

On the meter-gauge the best schedule in British India was maintained by the Delhi - Ahmedabad Mail. In North Eastern part of the country, two legendary mails used to operate. The 'Darjeeling Mail carried passengers from Sealdah to Siliguri via Parbatipur & Santhahar Junction (now in Bangladesh). The 'Assam Mail' is a name known to everyone who resides on the N.F. Rly and the railwaymen here take its name with pride and it was popularly known as the 3 Up/ 4 Dn. Originally it ran from Santhahar to Guwahati. After independence the train ran from New Delhi to Dibrugarh, with broad-gauge part running upto Barauni Junction from where the meter-gauge part continued up to Dibrugarh. With the BG extension to Guwahati, the Assam Mail was renamed as the North East Express and this legendary train of N.F. Railway went into oblivion.

After independence, passenger train services in the country have undergone a sea change. There was also a change in the style on naming of the trains. All the new trains that were introduced were named as 'Expresses' rather than 'Mails'. The 'Tinsukia Mail' which was introduced in 1972 was probably the last Mail train to be introduced. Initially it ran from Delhi to New Bongaigaon over the newly built Farraka Barrage. This train now runs upto Dibrugarh under the new name of 'Brahmaputra Mail'.

An important day in the history of Indian passenger train services is 11th March 1969, On which the first 'Rajdhani Express' from New Delhi to Howrah was inaugurated. This fully air-conditioned train, which was booked to run at a top speed of 120 km/hr broke the age old 100 km/hr barrier of the Indian Railways and ushered in a new era of speed and comfort. Initially, the Rajdhani Express was composed of nine coaches of which, there were two generator cars cum brake vans, an airconditioned pantry car and six airconditioned chair cars. It was hauled by a WDM4 diesel-electric locomotive. It took 17 hours & 10 minutes to complete the 1441 km journey with one immediate stoppage at Kanpur and a crew changing stop at Mughalsarai. Later, the rake formation was increased to 18 coaches by introducing A.C. sleeper and 1st A.C. coaches along with the A.C. chair cars. In this formation a twin WDM2 haulage was preferred over WAM4 and this arrangement continued till the mid-eighties when the 3900 HP. WAP1 electric locomotive was pressed into the Rajdhani Service. The maximum speed of the Rajdhani Express was increased to 130 km/hr and by that time Rajdhani Express was stopping at Dhanbad and Mughalsarai. Later, Gaya and Allahabad were also declared as the stopping points for the great express. From July 1996, the Rajdhani Express is being hauled by the State of the art, 600& HP 3 phase asynchronous WAP5 locomotive built by ABB. Forty minutes reduction of running time has been achieved by WAP5 haulage.Following the Rajdhani Express to Calcutta, in 1972 a Rajdhani Express to Bombay was also introduced. In 1992, to commemorate the 50 years of 'the revolution of August 1942', another Rajdhani Express was put into service on the Bombay - Delhi Route, and was named as the 'August Kranti Rajdhani Express'.

During the late seventies, several fast trains were introduced to connect the important state capitals to the national capital. These trains were designated as super fast trains and were allowed to run upto 110 km/hr. Of these trains, the notable ones are the Tamilnadu express, Andhra Pradesh Express, Kerala Express and Karnataka Express. From Calcutta and Bombay two air-conditioned express popularly called as 'Deluxe' were introduced to Amritsar via Delhi. Gradually due to popular demands one or two 3-tier coaches were attached to these services. Currently these trains have only four to five air-conditioned coaches out of the 21 coaches and the rest are sleeper coaches. The one from Bombay is now called the 'Paschim Express' and the one from Howrah is called 'Poorva Express'. Poorva now terminates at Delhi while the Paschim continues to Amritsar.

Among the other important broad-gauge services introduced after independence, the Taj Express and Brindavan Express deserve special mention. They may be thought of as the forerunner of the 'Shatabdi Express' services that we find today. The Taj Express was identified with its blue and white livery. It would whisk tourists to Agra for the day and then bring them back to Delhi by night. The Brindavan Express made it possible to travel from Madras to Bangalore in just five hours in day time. Currently the 'Brindavan Express' takes 6 hours to do the journey due to an increased number of stoppages. The newly introduced 'Lal Bagh Express' and the 'Shatabdi Express' have taken its place.

The Assam Rail Link Project in 1949 connected Siliguri with Alipurduar by meter gauge. Over this route the great 'Assam Mail' traveled to Barauni. Another train popularly called the A.T. Mail (Avadh Trihut Mail) traveled over this route on its way to Guwahati from Lucknow. The A.T. Mail may be called as the 'Blue Train' of India as the whole train had a deep blue colour with two white stripes above and below the window panels. The connection of Assam with Calcutta was strengthened with a new broad-gauge route to New Bongaigaon with a pivotal station at New Jalpaiguri. The completion of the Farraka Barrage in 1972 paved the way for the introduction of the 'Kamrup Express' and the 'Tinsukia Mail'.

The East Coast route of South Eastern Railway got a new lease of life with the introduction of the 'Coromandal Express' which ran between Howrah and Madras with a schedule much better than the Howrah-Madras Mail. But with the demand of increased stoppages, mostly in Orissa, the running time of this superfast express has increased and its punctuality over the past few years has been so poor, that some people may prefer the mail over it! The 'Geetanjali Express' from Howrah to Bombay was introduced with a better schedule than the 'mail via Nagpur' but unfortunately its fate turned out to be quite similar to that of Coromandal Express.

Meter-gauge trains were restricted to run at 75 km/hr, though higher speeds were possible on cer- tain routes. The "Pink City Express" which ran from Jaipur to Delhi in 5 1/2 hours was the first 100km/h train on the meter-gauge. In the South the "Vaigai Express" stole the show by covering the distance of 492 kms between Madras (Egmore) and Madurai in just seven hours. The Vaigai express holds the record of possessing the first meter-gauge A.C. chair car in India. We are certain that the memory of these great trains would linger long after the meter gauge is gone!

Curiously, some very famous train-names belong to the narrow-gauge, the oldest of which undoubtedly is 'Darjeeling Mail' which used to run between Siliguri and Darjeeling(later extended to originate from New Jalpaiguri) to make connection with the Darjeeling Mail from Calcutta. On the Kalka-Simla section, mail and express trains have been operating since the beginning of the line albeit without a name! Recently a superfast Shivalik Express has been introduced on this route with stoppage only at Barog and a journey time of little less than five hours. On the iabalpur-Gondia section of the erstwhile Bengal Nagpur Railway(BNR), the legendary Satpura Express operates. This train holds the unique distinction of pioneering and operating the only AC chair car service on the Narrow Gauge!

Finally, in the short and medium distance travel sectors, some important trains have been added in the last decade. The flagship among these trains are the various 'Shatabdi Express' services spread throughout the country. It was another great day for IR When the WAP3 22005 rolled the Shatabdi Express out of Delhi on its way to ihansi(later extended to Bhopal). This Shatabdi express. the first in India is booked to run at 140 km/hr. Now the Shatabdi Express has been introduced on various intercity routes in India. These fully air-conditioned trains are now the hallmark of fast and comfortable daytime intercity travel in the country.

(In the concluding part of this series in the next issue we shall discuss the naming pattern of the locomotives).