Rolling Stock - I

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Passenger Coaches and Other Coaching Stock

Q. What are the loading gauge restrictions (maximum dimensions) on IR coaches?

Please see the latest 2004 standards (PDF file) for rolling stock dimensions. These additions were made to primarily accommodate double decker and other taller coaches. The 1971 standards for rolling stock dimensions can be seen here and the older 1929 standards are available here. Also of potential interest in this connection are the dimensions of tracks.

Q. How are passenger coaches and coaching stock in general classified by IR?

Coaching stock in general is divided into two categories, Passenger Coaching Vehicles (PCV) (sometimes ‘Passenger Carrying Vehicles’) which are coaches that carry passengers, and Other Coaching Vehicles (OCV), which include service coaches such as pantry cars, parcel vans, mail vans, etc.

Coaching stock is classified using the codes shown below. Note that these codes are according to the structural features and used for rolling stock management. Separate codes are used for indicating the types of accommodations available in PCV coaches for ticketing and reservation purposes, etc.


  • W: Vestibuled
  • Y: Suburban
  • G: Self-generating (lighting by axle generators) (Usually omitted)
  • E: 4-wheeled stock (not in use any more)
  • L: LHB coaches
  • M: Owned by the military

In the past, ‘W’ was the first prefix because coaches were exclusively based on ICF design, but with the introduction of LHB coaches, ‘L’ occupies the first place, with ‘W’ following.

Classes of accommodation

  • F: First Class
  • S: Second Class
  • T: Third Class (obsolete)

In the past, ‘M’ was denoted for as a class of accommodation for military coaches, but in 2006, ‘M’ was changed to a prefix for coaches owned by the military.

Type of coach

  • CN: 3-tier sleeper coach
  • CW: 2-tier sleeper coach
  • CZ: Chair car
  • AC: Air-conditioned
  • CB: Pantry/kitchen/hot buffet car
  • CD: Dining car
  • CR: State saloon
  • CT: Tourist car (includes bathrooms, kitchen, and sitting and sleeping compartments)
  • D: Double-decker coach

Some types of coaches and codes made obsolete or not in use are below:

  • CL: Kitchen car (used in the past for Palace on Wheels or other luxury trains)
  • CTS: Tourist car (second class, used in the past for Palace on Wheels coaches. Coaches on the current PoW with suites have the ‘F’ letter in the code to designate first class, all other coaches are CT)
  • CG: 3-tier sleeper plus sitting
  • CF: 2-tier sleeper plus sitting
  • C: For tourist coaches that had coupes
  • Y: Ladies compartment (usually a 6-berth bay with a locking door/shutter.

Parcel vans, postal vans, generator cars etc.

  • L: Luggage van or luggage cubicle (suburban: motorman's cabin + luggage space)
  • R: Brake van/guard van
  • RA: Inspection carriage (administrative)
  • RAAC: Air-conditioned inspection carriage (administrative)
  • RB: Inspection carriage (divisional officers), also Rail Bus
  • RR: (in combination) End-on generator car
  • M: (suffix) Equipped with a generator
  • VP: Parcel van
  • VPH: High capacity parcel van
  • VPU: Motor cum parcel van
  • VPR: Refrigerated parcel van
  • VVN: Milk van
  • NMG: Motor car carrier coach
  • PP: Postal van (RMS/mail van)
  • RT: Accident relief and tool van
  • RH: Medical van
  • RE: Training/inspection van
  • RU: Self-propelled tower car

Codes for parcel, postal and other vans not in use or obsolete:

  • RC: Inspection carriage
  • D: (suburban) Motoroman’s cabin (EMU/DMU)
  • V: Brake van, ordinary goods
  • VPAC: Air-cooled parcel van
  • VK: Motor van (8-wheeled)
  • VF: Fruit van
  • VE: Fish van
  • VG: Poultry van
  • VR: Refrigerated parcel/fish van
  • EN: Power supplied by end-on generator
  • BV : Brake van (also BVG: brake van, goods; BVZI: extra-long brake van)
  • PPS: Full postal van
  • PPT: Three-quarter postal van
  • PPH: Half postal van
  • PPQ: Quarter postal van
  • P: Full postal unit (RMS coach — mail carried, letter could be posted on train)

See the section on train services for more on RMS and postal vans. Newer full postal vans have arrangements for some mail sorting, package sealing, etc.

Miscellaneous, less common codes

  • A: Articulated coach (obsolete)
  • D: Vendor's compartment (non-suburban)
  • FF: Upper class (obsolete)
  • HH: Horse box (rare)
  • J: Ice compartment (obsolete)
  • JJ: Refrigerator compartment (obsolete)
  • LL: Combined Luggage van and Lavatory (obsolete)
  • N: Self-generating with diesel generator (obsolete)
  • N: Non-vegetarian restaurant car (pre-1960’s, obsolete)
  • Q: Attendants' compartment
  • R: Restaurant, western style (pre-1960’s, obsolete)
  • RQ: Staff van (training van) (obsolete, RE in use at present)
  • RR: (by itself) Train crew rest van
  • RZ: (by itself) Track recording car
  • S: Food stall on train (pre-1960's), also Special (obsolete)
  • U: Kitchen car (obsolete)
  • V: Vegetarian restaurant car (pre-1960’s, obsolete)
  • W: Waiting Room (pre-1960’s, obsolete)
  • ZZ : Self-powered: EMU, DMU, or Steam or Motor Rail car

LHB coaches also have the suffixes SG (Self-generating) or EOG (Non-self-generating, requiring EOG for hotel power) sometimes.

Codes may be aggregated to indicate composite coaches, e.g. WGCWNAC is a composite coach with 2-tier and 3-tier AC sleeping arrangements. In the past, gauge indication codes were prefixed (Y for MG; Z for NG).

A list of the most commonly used coach codes are below. These are from 2006 and later and include the newer LHB coaches and their modifications. Please note that this list is not exhaustive.

LHB coaches

  • LWFAC: A/C First Class Coach (EOG)
  • LWGFAC: A/C First Class Coach (SG)
  • LWFCWAC: Composite A/C First Class + 2-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • LWFCWACA: Composite A/C First Class + 2-tier Sleeper Coach (with pneumatic secondary suspension (EOG)
  • LWACCW: A/C 2-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • LWGACCW: A/C 2-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • LWACCN: A/C 3-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • LWACCNE: A/C 3-tier Economy Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • LWACCNA: A/C 3-tier Sleeper Coach (with high-capacity air spring suspension (EOG)
  • LWGACCN: A/C 3-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • LWFCZAC: A/C Executive Chair Car (EOG)
  • LWSCZAC: A/C Chair Car (EOG)
  • LWCBAC: A/C Hot Buffet Car (EOG)
  • LWCZDAC: A/C Double Decker Chair Car (EOG)
  • LWCTZAC: A/C Vistadome Chair Car (EOG)
  • LWLRRM: Brake, Luggage cum Generator Car
  • LWSCN: 3-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • LWGSCN: 3-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • LWSCZ: Chair Car (EOG)
  • LWSCZA: Chair Car (with air spring secondary suspension)(EOG)
  • LS: Second Class Coach (EOG)
  • LGS: Second Class Coach (SG)

ICF Coaches

  • WGFAC: A/C First Class Coach (SG)
  • WFAC: A/C First Class Coach (EOG)
  • WGACCW: A/C 2-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • WACCW: A/C 2-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • WGACCN: A/C 3-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • WACCN: A/C 3-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • WGFCWAC: Composite A/C First Class + 2-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • WFCWAC: Composite A/C First Class + 2-tier Sleeper Coach (EOG)
  • WGCWNAC: Composite A/C 2-tier + 3-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • WGSCZAC: A/C Chair Car (SG)
  • WFCZAC: A/C Executive Chair Car (EOG)
  • WSCZAC: A/C Chair Car (EOG)
  • WGFC: First Class Coach (SG)
  • WGFCZ: First Class Chair Car (SG)
  • WGSCN: 3-tier Sleeper Coach (SG)
  • GS: Second Class Coach (SG)
  • WGSCZ: Second Class Day Coach With Sitting Accommodation (SG)
  • GSD: Second Class Double Decker Coach (SG)
  • GSLR: Second Class Cum Luggage & Brake Van (SG)
  • GSLRD: Second Class Cum Luggage & Brake Van With Disabled Friendly Compartment (SG)
  • GSLRDAC: Second Class Cum Luggage & Brake Van With A/C Disabled Friendly Compartment (SG)
  • GSRD: Second Class Brake Van With Disabled Friendly Compartment (SG)
  • WLLRM: Brake Luggage and Generator Car
  • WGCB: Pantry Car (SG)
  • WCBAC: A/C Pantry Car (EOG)
  • WGSCZACJ: A/C Chair Car for Jan Shatabdi (SG)
  • WGSCZJ: Second Class Chair Car for Jan Shatabdi (SG)
  • WGSCZRJ: Second Class Chair Car Cum Brake Van for Jan Shatabdi (SG)
  • WACCNH: A/C 3-tier Sleeper Coach for Garib Rath (EOG)
  • WSCZACH: A/C Coach with Sitting Accommodation for Garib Rath (EOG)
  • WRRMDAC: Brake, Generator Car with A/C Disabled Friendly Compartment for Garib Rath
  • WRB: Rail Bus

Some older coach codes not in use:

  • SYLR: Second Class Ladies Coach with a Luggage Cubicle and a Guard's Cabin
  • FC: First-class coupe coach
  • FS: First-class/second-class composite
  • FCS: Composite of First-class with coupe/second-class
  • SC: Second-class with coupe (obsolete)
  • ACFC: Air-conditioned first-class with coupe
  • WFSY: Vestibuled first and second class coach with ladies cabin (obsolete)
  • SYLR: SLR with ladies' cubicle
  • SPPH: Second-class/half postal van composite (obsolete)
  • SPPQ: Second-class/quarter postal van composite (obsolete)
  • SRRM: Second-class with brake van and generator (obsolete)
  • WCDN: Vestibuled twin-set dining car (obsolete)
  • WCDAC: Vestibuled air-conditioned dining car (obsolete)
  • WP: Older RMS coach (obsolete)
  • MS: Military special (obsolete?)
  • MK: Military coach with kitchen (obsolete)
  • TLR: Third-class with luggage cubicle and brake van (obsolete)
  • FSQ: First and second class composite with attendants van (obsolete)
  • EVP: 4-wheeled parcel van (obsolete)
  • ERA, ERB, ERC : 4-wheeler inspection carriage (obsolete)
  • HHVP: Horse van/parcel van composite

Pantry cars have various classifications. The standard pantry cars and kitchen cars are dedicated units with equipment and facilities for food service but no passenger accommodation (although they do feature bays and berths for staff to rest). Composite pantry cars with second class sitting are in use, but their coach codes are not known. The Gharib Nawaz Express used to run with a composite pantry car/chair car. A similar one was used in 2002 for the MG Ahmedabad - Patan Intercity Express, marked GSCHCZ (number 81653). The Egmore - Madurai Vaigai Express had one such for a number of years starting 2003.

Q. How are coaches numbered by IR?

Towards the end of July 2018, IR switched to a 6-digit numbering scheme for all newly produced passenger coaching stock (LHB, EMU, DMU etc.) The first two digits are for the year of manufacture, with the last four being a sequence allocated to coaches of different types as follows:

For DEMU/EMU/MEMU: 8001 to 9999 (for a total of 1998 numbers)

For all other coaches: 1001 to 7999 (for a total of 6998 numbers)

Spare for special cases: 0001 to 0999 (for a total of 998 numbers)

Currently, it is not known whether sequences for classes begin at a certain point or the numbering is plainly serial. The numbers are allocated by a centralised planning and information system that all production units use so that no duplication occurs.

Starting sometime in the early 90s until July 2018, IR followed a 5-digit numbering scheme. The first two digits were the year of manufacture, the next 3 digits formed a serially allowed number within ranges that usually indicate the type of coach, as show below. The serial number was allotted chronologically in the order in which the coach was received by the zonal railway, within the range for the coach type.

  • 001-025: AC first class. In 2000-2001, some NER MG First Class coaches had these too.
  • 026-050: Composite 1AC + AC-2T
  • 051-100: AC-2T
  • 101-150: AC-3T
  • 151-200: CC (AC Chair Car)
  • 201-400: SL (2nd class sleeper)
  • 401-600: GS (General 2nd class)
  • 601-700: 2S (2nd class sitting / Jan Shatabdi chair cars)
  • 701-800: SLR
  • 801+: Pantry car, VPU, RMS mail coach, generator car, etc.

So, for instance, a coach numbered 12110 is the the ninth AC 3-tier made in 2012. Further distinction for a zone is made by stencilling their initials.

A vast majority of coaches on IR still have these 5-digit numbers. It is not known whether they will be updated to the 6-digit number during one of their overhaul schedules.

Confusingly, some zones in the late 90s started using 6-digit numbering that are adhoc. These numbering schemes continue to be in use in these zones for coaches manufactured until July 2018. SER began adding ‘8’ (being its zone code) as the third digit. ER and NFR also followed this pattern for a while (but no longer). WR uses a variant - a last sixth digit is added to indicate the divisional code of the coaching depot that maintains the rake. NR also uses 6-digit numbering only for its LHB coaches, but its scheme is not known.

In many cases, an alphabetic suffix may also be added to the coaches (see below). So that a coach number may be ‘SE 978052/A’ for instance.

In the past when a 4-digit number was used, the first two digits denoted the year of manufacturing (e.g., 8439, a coach made in 1984). Exceptions during the 4-digit scheme were Rajdhani coaches belonging to NR; these had numbers beginning with 1 and were numbered 1XXXX. Not all Rajdhanis had them though.

In the 5-digit scheme, If there were more coaches of a particular type than numbers available in the allotted range as described above, the excess coaches were allotted numbers in the high 800's, usually 875 and above. For instance, sleeper coaches have been spotted marked SR 96886A, and AC-3T coaches spotted marked SC 97906A. The ranges are also sometimes redistributed.

Trivia: In 1999, ER was to get a lot of AC 3-tier coaches for Rajdhani rakes and the new Sealdah Rajdhani. Hence, its only AC Chair Car of that year was renumbered ER 99181A, keeping 30 numbers between 151 and 180 free for AC-3T coaches (in the event, it turned out that these were not used after all).


The most commonly used suffix is ‘C’, indicating CBC couplers. In the past, an ‘X’ suffix indicated a 110DC electrical system, upgraded from the older 24V system. An ‘A’ or ‘AB’ suffix indicated air-braked stock (frame-mounted or bogie-mounted respectively), for coaches that were upgraded from vacuum brakes (see below),

On CR and WR, EMU coaches have alphabetic suffixes (A for YFYS coaches, B for YSZZ, and C for YSYL). More information is in the EMU/DMU section.

Air-brake indication

An ‘A’ or ‘AB’ suffix (e.g., 92383 AB, or 93120/A) as mentioned above indicated air-brakes. ‘AB’ was used for coaches with bogie-mounted air-brake equipment, and 'A' for coaches with the air-brake equipment mounted to the bottom of the carriage. Sometimes symbols such as ‘/A’ or ‘/A-X’ were marked instead at either end or next to the coach serial number (as an additional annotation) to indicate an air-braked coach. In 2005, when air-braked coaches were the most common type of passenger rolling stock and the older vacuum braked ones retrofitted, these ‘A’ and ‘AB’ suffixes stared being phased out during repainting. A few rare coaches that had dual brake facilities had a suffix ‘A/V’ after the serial number. When they were introduced, air-braked stock continued to the use the old maroon livery, but in the early 1990s, they were being painted in a dark blue/light blue livery.

Zone indication

The railway zone that owns a coach is usually indicated by its standard initials in Roman characters and Devanagari characters on the sides of the coach (e.g., NR, ‘u re’ for Northern Railway). After the creation of the new zones in 2002-2003, it was seen in some cases that rather than repainting coaches, the zone indication was redone in an ad hoc manner, sometimes with an extra letter just squeezed into the existing initials, e.g., ’N R’ become ‘NWR’ or 'S R' becoming ‘SWR’, with similar contortions in the Devanagari initials. This practice continues to the day when coaches are transferred between zones!

Q. What are the common configurations of IR coaches?

The BG 3-tier sleeper coach is very common, and provides accommodation for 72 persons. Each compartment in it has 6 berths: 3 seats forming a bench on either side of the compartment; these form two bunks, the back-rests of the seats fold out to become bunks at night, and lastly, there are two bunks further up. Across the aisle from a compartment two shorter berths are provided along the length of the coach. Air-conditioned 2-tier sleeper coaches have 48 berths, 4 berths to a compartment and two berths across the aisle, along the length of the compartment. This class used to have 45 or 46 berths depending on equipment placement, but these coaches have been phased out now. The AC 3-tier sleeper coaches have 64 berths.

The newer LHB coaches have the same compartment arrangements in their classes, but have an additional bay (8 bays on ICF vs 9 here). So these coaches can accommodate 80 in non A/C 3-tier sleeper (one berth here is taken up by equipment), 72 in A/C 3-tier sleeper (some have 75 berths due to placement of equipment overhead), 54 in A/C 2-tier sleeper. A new 81-seat configuration for A/C 3-tier is being rolled out slowly (03/2021), with narrower compartment lengths and smaller berth widths.

AC Chair cars have 73 to 78 seats depending on whether they are ICF or LHB (and when they were made). AC Chair Cars (and First Class Chair Cars) in the past had 64 seats. Until the late 1960s or so, First Class coaches had three 2' windows for each compartment (two for coupes); later first-class coaches had two extra-wide (3') windows (one for coupes). The later first-class coaches were also more spacious with seats 560mm wide (510mm earlier) and backrests 785mm high (645mm earlier).

Older second-class chair cars had 72 seats (3 and 2 across the aisle). Newer second-class chair cars, since 1995, are more cramped, with 108 seats in the same space (seating 3 and 3 across). Executive chair car coaches have seating and 2 on each side of the aisle. Jan Shatabdi chair cars have a capacity of 103.

First class AC coaches have compartments with doors for privacy; the compartments are all along one side, without any seats or berths on the other side across the aisle. The first-class compartments are either cabins (two facing sets of berths), or coupes (one set of berths).

The composite first and second class AC coaches (AC1 cum AC2T, also marked ‘HA’ in accommodation charts) have 10 berths, two cabins and a coupe in first class, and 20 (or 24) berths in second class, arranged in 3 (or 4, if LHB) bays of 6 berths each and a 2 berths in a half-bay at the end.

The A/C 3-tier cars have always had extra-wide (3') windows (one per compartment). AC 2-tier cars used to have two normal windows, but since 2001, all AC 2-tier coaches have extra-wide windows.

A sleeper coach with special accommodation for ladies ('Y' classification) usually had one compartment (6 berths) partitioned off with the provision of locking doors to form the ladies' cubicle. These have now been discontinued.

There were also a few composite AC first-class coaches with one section of the coach having sleeping accommodation and the rest being a chair car. In the mid-1990s a few trains such as the Coalfield Exp. had AC1 coaches with 2x2 sitting accommodation; these appear to have been short-lived experiments, and disappeared after this train was changed to have air brakes.

Two-tier non-AC sleepers were also in use for sometime, but they were discontinued in the early 90s. In 2000, a new composite first and second class coach was introduced, which had two first-class compartments (one 4-berth, one 2-berth) in an otherwise second-class sleeper coach with 59 berths (7 full bays + one 3-berth formation). There were only a handful of these, all on NR (#12226A being one of them), and were seen occasionally (01/2005) on trains like the Brahmaputra Mail. These are different from the older First Class / Second Class composite coaches which had 10 First Class berths with the rest being Second Class sleeper compartments.

Earlier there used to be an odd mixed accommodation coach which was like a 2-tier sleeper coach but provided sleeping accommodation only for some of the passengers in the upper berths (24); the lower berths were seated accommodation only, for the remaining passengers for the night (48). A 64-passenger version of this is also said to have been in use. In these the sleeping berth was often in a different compartment within the coach than where the passenger was allotted his or her sitting space! Some old 3-tier BG coaches could be seen until the late 1980s with wooden seats and accommodation for 75 passengers (in contrast to the 72 in today's 3-tier coaches).

On MG, the composite AC1/AC2 coaches used to be 4+18 berths. First class (AC or non-AC) coaches had showers. On MG AC1/FC composites had an AC coupe for 2, a saloon for 4, and a First Class compartment for 6.

On NG, in addition to the usual Second Class sitting accommodation, there were a few First Class coaches (seen on the Gwalior - Sheopur Kalan, Nagpur - Jabalpur, and Jabalpur - Balaghat routes (the later in the mid 2000s)), as well as some air-conditioned coaches (Jabalpur-Gondia Satpura Exp. had some). The Gwalior - Sheopur Kalan route used to have overnight trains with Second Class sleeper accommodation as well — the sleeping berths were aligned longitudinally, along the sides of the coach. In the First Class NG coaches three seat benches double as sleeping berths, and there are a further two berths that open out from the coach walls. The coaches were of the non-corridor type, with 4 to 6 berths per compartment and an attached bathroom.

Air-conditioned coaches

IR has many classes of air-conditioned accommodation, usually referred to by their acronyms:

  • Air-conditioned chair car: AC CC
  • Air-conditioned executive class: AC Exec
  • Air-conditioned three tier: AC 3T
  • Air-conditioned two tier: AC 2T
  • Air-conditioned first class: AC I

The ‘chair-car’ classes provide only seating accommodation, while the others have sleeping accommodations as well.

LHB Coaches

(See below for more information on the Alstom LHB coaches.) The AC 2-tier and AC 3-tier versions of the LHB coaches have 9 compartments instead of 8 as in the older ICF stock. The GS and SCN versions have 10 compartments instead of 9 in the older stock.

Q. What is the history of passenger stock and accommodations?

As railway operations in India were handled by a large number of companies at first, there was a lot of variety in the kinds of stock used and the classes of accommodation provided. Larger railways tended to have three or four classes of accommodation, from First through Fourth (and many special-purpose luxury saloons and the like in addition).

Many smaller lines started with a simple division of Upper and Lower class (e.g., Bengal and Northwestern Rly. (MG) and the Barsi Light Rly. (NG)) — this economized on rolling stock, especially if (as was often the case), classes other than First and Third were not well patronized. At the 1870 Railway Conference, there were even suggestions to have just a single class of carriage as with the practice then in the USA, however, it was felt necessary to have at least two, perhaps more, classes to accommodate social distinctions.

From 1874 onwards most large and medium railways standardized on roughly the same levels of accommodations for each of the three classes First through Third. Fourth class carriages were essentially like box cars as they did not have any seats, not even benches. Although most railways had them at some time or the other in the 1860s, they were already going out of favour by the 1870s so that by the early 1880s not many lines had Fourth class.

In 1885 Fourth class was generally abolished by the expedient of providing benches in the carriages, and reclassifying the carriages as Third class. The existing Third class was then renamed the 'Inter' class (for Intermediate). Inter class was seen as providing an economical form of travel for those Indians who were better off than the poorer majority who could only afford the lowest class of accommodations, and where they would not be bothered by the ‘low-class’ travellers (Indians or Europeans) travelling in Third class. First class and Second class were generally the domain of Europeans, although very wealthy Indians did occasionally travel in First class.

From about the 1930s, Inter and Second began to be provided only in Composite carriages, reflecting a very low demand for the service. Some lines began to phase out Inter altogether, though this process was far from complete by 1947. In 1955, there was another reclassification, and the Second class became First class, and the Inter class became Second class. (Third remained Third.)

The old super-luxurious First class coaches survived but were phased out over time. These pre-1955 First class coaches were non-corridor coaches, so the compartment ran the full width of the car. They had one 6-berth compartment, two 2-berth compartments, and three 4-berth compartments. Each compartment had an attached shower and lavatory. These coaches usually also had one narrow compartment at one end with a bench and sometimes a single berth above, for the travellers' domestic servants; this was used as the compartment for cabin attendants later. Such coaches with these ‘servant quarters’ were built as late as 1940. Some First class coaches were composites. They all had timber bodies, on a 68-foot underframe.

1955 was the year that the ICF was established, and began producing the integral coaches on the 70-foot body. (Interestingly, the prototype ICF coach actually had an Inter compartment.) The post-1955 First class coaches are the corridor type which survived for well over 60 years. Some of the old wooden-bodied non-corridor First class coaches were still running even as late as 1987 on MG, and some of the old composite First class coaches until 1980 on BG. Non-composite pre-1955 First class coaches were seen in some sections in the 1970s. In some ways, the successor of the old luxurious First class is today's air-conditioned First class.

Second (ex-Inter) class was officially abolished on 1st July 1974, and the remaining Second Class compartments were redesignated Third class, so that for a short while there were only First and Third classes. But Third class was then renamed Second class not too long after.

Wooden seats and berths were the most common until the 1970s in Second and Third classes. Cushioned sleeping berths and seats began appearing in the late 1970s. The variations on air-conditioned accommodations, and different kinds of chair-cars were introduced in recent years.

The older non-airconditioned First Class coaches gradually started being phased out by the early 2000s, with no new coaches being manufactured after that. Some of these coaches ran until 2016 on trains that were primarily used by long distance commuters, but as of now (03/2021), none are in service. They had much more spacious and well-appointed seating and sleeping accommodations than the Second Class coaches. Seating capacity 28 per coach. Until about the 1980's, there was still much old stock in use from the 1940's and 1950's where coaches were configured as non-corridor first class coaches, giving a measure of privacy and spaciousness not seen today.

Composite coaches (first class/1AC) survived on MG for quite a while; these usually also had coupe and 4-berth compartments in addition to the more standard 6-berth compartments.

There also used to be a few combined first-class/second-class coaches where half the coach was first-class, separated from the rest by a door in the aisle, with 32 berths for the second-class section. Only a few of these were retrofitted with air-brakes and were soon scrapped.

Q. Who were the early manufacturers of IR stock?

Some early coaching stock was built in Great Britain and imported to India. This included ‘pattern’ coaches of the 1850s, many prototype steel coaches from 1913 and much EMU stock well into the 1960s until ICF's production built up. However, most coaching stock was built on underframes which had been imported ready-made or in completely-knocked-down (CKD) form from Great Britain. Imperial preference excluded most other suppliers.

Virtually all railway workshops with a woodworking capability built coaching stock until well after Independence. including Parel, (old) Perambur, Hubli, Gorakhpur, Moghalpura, and others. Many of the smaller works did too, and there was much rebuilding and rebodying, which went on until the early 1950s at least. In fact some of the shops in Saurashtra were rebodying MG 4-wheel stock until the early 1950s!

A rebody could often be spotted because of its unusual size or shape. For example, the standard NG carriage underframe is 34' 6", and new stock built since its adoption will be no longer than 35'. But many lines have modern-looking stock which is anywhere from 29' 6" to 42' in length, showing that it is a new body on an old underframe.

Incidentally, wagon building in India followed a similar path, except that steel wagons began to be built around 1902, and three Calcutta firms, Martin Burn, Indian Standard, and Jessops, became dominant. Eventually the only imported components were wheels, and even this changed after the Wheel and Axle Plant took up production of wheels.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), at Bangalore, started producing all-metal railway coaches in 1950. Many of the workforce that were assigned to the coach-building unit of HAL were skilled aircraft engineers. HAL built about 10 coaches a month in the early 1950s. When the Toofan Mail suffered a collision in 1950, the only coach that was not completely destroyed turned out to be an all-metal indigenous coach built by HAL.

Q. When were barred windows on coaches first introduced?

A characteristic feature of most passenger stock on IR today is the presence of welded bars on the windows. These were apparently introduced at first on night trains to provide security against theft by persons at stations, around the 1970s, but in the 1980s their use spread to most trains and now they are universal.

The barred windows are obviously problematic in emergency situations, and IR’s coaches now have multiple windows that can be opened from the inside in an emergency and have no bars running across.

Q. Where are present day IR coaches manufactured?

Passenger coaches are manufactured at three principal places: Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur, Railway Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala, and Modern Coach Factory (MCF) at Raebareli. A fourth unit, Marathwada Rail Coach Factory (MRCF) at Latur began producing coach shells in December 2020.

Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML) at Bangalore also produced coaches for IR for a long time, until their focus shifted to building cars for Metro systems (BEML still produces MEMU coaches). A few coaches were also manufactured by Hindustan Aircraft Ltd. (HAL) and Jessop.

Some auxiliary equipment and repair works are carried out at Liluah Carriage and Wagon Workshops. The Amritsar workshops manufacture ICF and UIC bogies for passenger and freight stock.

In the past, coaches have been supplied by Burn Standard, Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon works, Brush, GEC, Indian Standard Wagon Co., Richardson & Cruddas (Bombay), Braithewaters (Calcutta), and other manufacturers as well. Kharagpur Workshops manufactured many AC coaches.

The Matunga workshops of CR also refurbish some EMU coaches with new interiors and amenities. The Golden Rock workshops have built small quantities of various special-purpose coaches and vans.

Spotting BEML coaches

ICF-built cars tend to have more rounded corners for windows, whereas BEML cars have sharper corners for the windows (especially at the bottom). BEML car ends are slightly tapered (the body shell tapers down at the ends). The roofs of the cars are also not as rounded as with ICF coaches, and have sharper edges. (10/2004) Some newer coaches have padded grab rails for easier access to the middle & upper berths. They also sport grey upholstery instead of the normal blue.

On the whole, the BEML coaches also have their floor level slightly higher than the ICF/RCF coaches. BEML coaches include GS and SLR units — there used to be many GSCN coaches too, but most of those have been decommissioned.

The history of BEML coaches

Just after Independence, when the need for coaching stock was very acute, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) entered into a deal with M.A.N. of Germany to produce all-steel coaching stock for IR. Their first models were produced very soon after the War, and were originally to the old 10' width standard until 10' 8" was sanctioned around 1948.

Models 404 and 407, both centre-lav, all-thirds on IRS standard underframes, were produced in large numbers. The first true integral stock for BG was the 41x series, recognizable by the small high window on the toilets (also found on 404/7) and by the bogies with swing-arm support for the axlebox. There was also a MG series, of boxy Thirds with four windows, a door, eight windows, another door, and four more windows. They were all 58' long, to fit the IRS MG standard underframes of 56' 6" length. The earliest version had lots of external rivets, but later production was welded and presented a smoother surface. These had a very flat side by comparison with the later and longer ICF integral stock.

This part of HAL's business was hived off to BEML sometime during the 1970s, hence the stock tends to be referred to as BEML, not MAN/HAL, as it was in earlier years.

Q. What's an ‘integral’ coach?

The ‘integral’ coaches built by ICF have monocoque or single-shell bodies (based on a 1950's Swiss design, ‘Schlieren’ Swiss Car and Elevator Manufacturing Co.) with the floor being part of the body; it is an anti-telescopic design, which prevents coaches from being crushed lengthwise in the event of a train collision. Since they were brought into use, they have substantially reduced the number of passenger deaths in various cases of head-on collisions of trains. They are welded coaches fabricated from steel.

The single-shell design features a stressed skin. The shell acts as a hollow girder - the underframe, the walls, and the roof are joined with one another to form a single structural tube. The hollow girder offers resistance to bending and torsional stresses with efficient use of material, allowing reduction in the total weight of the coach compared to some earlier heavy designs that attempted to achieve strength and stability simply through increased weight of the frame structures. The hollow shell also features high resistance to compression stresses along the length of the passenger section. The compression resistance is further increased by providing pressed grooves or welded ribs on the walls, and by the use of corrugated sheets and carlines for the underframe and roof respectively. The end zones of the coach (normally the vestibules and/or lavatory or utility areas) are intentionally designed to offer lower resistance to compression. In the event of a collision, therefore, the areas at either end act as ‘crumple zones’ and preferentially buckle and absorb the kinetic energy of the collision while the passenger area of the coach remains safe from crumpling or telescoping.

Before these were introduced various other non-integral designs (with shell separate from underframe) were in use (and continued to be in use for decades later too). Steel underframes were first introduced in 1885; prior to that coaches were entirely wooden. Wooden shells for coaches continued well into the 20th century.

Q. What other coaches have been used lately?

In the late 1990's RCF, under the auspices of a UN-assisted program, came out with some prototype coaches of new designs, classified IRX/IR15 (IRW?), IRY/IR20, and IRZ/IR30. The first part of the code (e.g., IRY) refers to the shell design, and the second part (e.g. IR20) to the bogie design.) The IR20 bogies were based on the Eurofima design (in fact, they are said to be more or less an exact copy of the design).

The IRW coach was said to have had a variety of passenger-friendly and track-friendly features such as chemical toilets. As its production costs were projected to be too high, this design never entered serial production. The sole coach of this design made by RCF never entered service with IR (was still (12/2004) at RCF). The IRZ coach was said to have encountered various design problems and was abandoned after a few trials.

The IRY/IR20 coach, which was designed for a max. speed of 140km/h, did enter serial production in small numbers. Some of the IRY/IR20 coaches, with a ribbed or corrugated shell design for strength, were used for a while (02/2002) with the Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi. Another rake of IRY/IR20 coaches was being used for the Bareilly Shatabdi. In late 2004 one of these rakes were withdrawn from service, being cannibalised as a source of spare parts for the second. The second rake was also withdrawn sometime in the early 2010s. Improvements in these IRY/IR20 coaches included better ride quality, larger windows, improved noise reduction, improvements in the air-conditioning system and ducts, and modified pantry equipment including trolleys, drink dispensers, etc.

The bogies for these (IR-20) were planned to be further manufactured for use with MG coaches with service speeds of 100km/h, but these coaches never materialised for IR. There were also reports of them being exported (Vietnam, some African countries), but current status is unknown.

In November 1999, ICF manufactured an AC-2T coach fabricated out of stainless steel. This sole prototype has not been followed up by more units.

Q. What are LHB coaches?

In February 2000, IR received a consignment of new lightweight all-metal passenger coaches from Alstom LHB (Germany). The initial units were earmarked for the New Delhi - Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi, but later (05/2001) allotted to the new New Delhi - Lucknow Swarna Shatabdi.

A total of 24 new coaches were imported initially (19 second-class AC chair cars, 2 AC First Chair cars, 3 generator-cum-brake vans). Later shipments from Alstom included composite first-class/AC sleeper coaches, second-class AC sleeper coaches (2-tier and 3-tier), and AC buffet coaches.

Under a technology transfer agreement, RCF Kapurthala was tasked with manufacturing these indigenously first. Subsequently, ICF too started producing these.

The coaches are approximately 2.2m longer than the standard ICF-built integral coaches (two additional rows for the chair cars, one additional sleeping bay for the sleeper coaches). The imported coaches had a body made by Alstom LHB, with a stainless steel construction, mounted on Fiat bogies with disc brakes. The chair cars are lighter about 10% lighter than the standard IR integral coaches, having a tare weight of 40.3 tonnes.

Improvements for the passengers' comfort include better air flow for the air-conditioning, larger windows, lamps for all seats, and sound insulation. The coaches are also provided with ‘anti-climbing’ features to reduce casualties in case of collisions.

LHB coaches have an IGBT-based battery charger. The air-conditioned stock uses a 6kW alternator while the non-air-conditioned stock uses a 4.5kW alternator. Air-conditioning equipment is roof-mounted.

At first, these coaches were not compatible with existing designs of ICF/RCF coaches, having two sets of brake and feed pipes and a different electrical coupler, and hence were initially run in block rakes consisting entirely of the new coaches. But subsequent coaches produced by RCF (and ICF) had electrical couplers that were similar to the ones used on the rest of IR.

RDSO had the task (starting in June 2000) of developing specifications for all the variant designs of the LHB coaches. In addition to the layout of the compartments and specifications for the passenger accommodations, RDSO also worked on the design for the suspension, alternator drives, and other such details. The design of the General Second Class (GS) coach was done by July 2002, and by 2003 ten variants of the LHB coaches had been designed by RDSO. These include self-generating versions as well as versions powered by end-on generator cars, of air-conditioned first class, 2-tier, and 3-tier coaches, as well as general second class sitting and sleeper coaches.

The speed potential for all the AC variants of the LHB coaches is 160km/h, while the non-AC variants have a speed potential of 130km/h (initially these were 120km/h).

The Mumbai Rajdhani in 2003 became the first train to be operated with sleeper variants of these coaches.

In late 2001 the LHB coaches were taken out of service following a series of incidents where the couplers parted. They were brought back into service on Jan. 1, 2002. Some problems also developed with certain bearings used by these coaches, which were later resolved.

Comparison of ICF and LHB coaching stock — passenger carrying capacity
Type Passengers - ICF Passengers - LHB
AC-1 (EOG) 18 24
AC-2 (EOG) 46 54
AC-3 (EOG) 64 72
AC-1 (SG) 18 24
AC-2 (SG) 46 54
AC-3 (SG) 64 72
SCN (SG) 72 78
GS (SG) 90 99
SLR 24 36

EOG = Coach needs power from end-on generator car; SG = self-generating.

See below for dimensions of LHB stock (and comparison of dimensions with ICF stock.)

Q. What are the maximum speeds at which IR passenger stock runs?

The typical maximum speed specification for passenger coaches in good condition is 110km/h. For LHB coaches, this number is 130km/h. Older coaches and those in poor condition can be seen with annotations restricting their maximum speed to something lower, such as 80km/h. Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains and other fast trains with LHB coaches in all A/C configurations of course have stock that can be hauled at higher speeds (typically 160km/h). Operationally, however, almost all of these trains are run at 130km/h.

Older Rajdhani/Shatabdi A/C ICF coaches were rated at 140km/h. In (04/2005), ordinary ICF integral coaches were spotted occasionally bearing annotations for a maximum speed of 120km/h (e.g., on the Jammu Tawi - Howrah Exp.)

Q. What are the various marks and annotations on a passenger coach?

There are a great many indications, marks, and annotations that can be found on the typical coach. The most prominent, of course, are the indications of the accommodations (class, whether sleeper or not, air-conditioned or not, etc.) along with the coach serial number that is on the side of the coach, above the windows. Small destination boards usually have the train termini or the name of the train on them; these are also above the windows, near the roof.

On the ends of the coach the classification code of the coach may be found ('WGSCNY', etc.) along with annotations of the base shed that is responsible for its maintenance (e.g., 'BASE: JAT'). 'CDO' stands for 'Coaching Depot'; a notation such as 'CDO/MYS' indicates that the rake belongs to the Coaching Depot at Mysore. Overhaul dates are also shown ('IOH' followed by a date for intermediate overhaul; and something like ‘R-9/19’ for a periodic overhaul date (the 'R' stands for 'Return').

Some other technical details and electrical data may also be found stencilled on at the ends. An annotation such as, e.g., '70T' refers to the 70-tonne rating for the couplers. On the ends, or near the ends on the sides of the coach, there are sometimes some annotations like 'Fit for 110km/h', 'Not to exceed 75km/h' or 'For passenger train only', etc. These are usually restrictions noted based on the age and condition of the coach. (Similar restrictions can sometimes be seen on older locomotives as well.)

At the bottom left on the end of the coach, a small patch of yellow diagonal stripes indicated the coach had anti-telescopic construction. Larger patches of diagonal yellow stripes on the sides of the coach, above the last window indicated a general, unreserved second-class coach. Except that for EMUs, diagonal yellow (and red) stripes generally indicate first-class coaches!

Rakes with CBC couplers have a yellow strip running the height of the coach at the end.

In the past, SR and SCR coaches sometimes had notations such as ‘RAKE1’, ‘RAKE2’, or a specific train number or numbers stencilled on them. These very likely indicated that the rakes in question were earmarked for specific trains.

Rarely in the past a paint scheme indication was also often seen. ‘MAROON’ was used when the coach was painted in the former IR standard rust-red colours. ‘VIBGYOR’ was used when the coach had the newer blue-on-blue livery, although it is not clear why the colours of the rainbow are mentioned here! The practice of mentioning the date of the last repainting continues.

In recent times, IR has also taken to branding certain classes of coaches and trains, so markings like ‘Deen Dayalu Coach’ (second-class sitting with better fittings and water dispensers), ‘Humsafar’ (a new category of train with all 3-tier A/C accommodation), ‘Tejas’ (2-tier and 3-tier AC coaches with upgraded interiors, automatically closing doors and an updated suspension) are also seen.

Q. What are the dimensions of IR's passenger coaching stock?


The IRS standard underframe for BG, adopted in 1925, was 68' long over headstocks. Side buffers are always 2' 2", giving a total length of 72'4" (22m) over buffers. After World War II, some stock was built on this underframe to 70' (21.3m) length, but most before that date was 68' or a fraction over. The ICF integral stock, and the similar all-steel stock built by Jessops and HAL/BEML was all to 70' (21.3m) length. BG EMU coaches are slightly shorter, at 66' or 18.2m.

LHB coaches are longer, of course.


Up to the adoption of the new wider dimensions in the late 1940s, all IR stock was built to a maximum body width of 10' (3m), with an absolute maximum of 10' 6" to allow for projections. The new dimensions, which apply to nearly all modern steel stock based on ICF designs, are 10'8" (3.25m) body width, with a tiny allowance for projections (about 2 inches) and requires all handrails and similar projections to be recessed. LHB designs have a slightly narrower body width (3.240m).


The height from rail level to cantrail before the 1940s was standardized at 11' 2-1/2"; it became 11'6" maximum. The first series of ICF coaches, with the centre lavatories, were 12'9" from rail level to rooftop; later this dimension was increased to 4025mm (13'2-1/2"), to provide increased space for water tanks.

Comparison of ICF and LHB coaching stock — dimensions
ICF coaches LHB coaches
Length over Body 21.77m 23.54m
Length over Buffers 22.28m 24.70m
Width of Body 3.245m 3.240m
Inside width 3.065m 3.120m
Windows 1.220m x 0.610m 1.180m x 0.760m

Q. How many passenger coaches does IR have in its fleet?

As of 2019, IR had about 55,000 passenger coaches, in addition to over 10,000 EMU and 1,800 DMU coaches.

Q. Are there any double-decker coaches in use today in India?

Double-decker coaches are found in several trains across IR. The newer LHB bogie-based ones are all air-conditioned and feature 120 seats split across the upper and lower decks, as well as some in the landing area. The newer coaches have been branded to run as ‘Uday’ Expresses. These all are capable of being run at 160km/h.

Older, non-airconditioned double-decker stock primarily run on WR’s Flying Ranee Express. Occasional coaches are also found in the several commuter shuttles and passengers between Virar and Vadodara. In the past, these coaches went all the way to Ahmedabad on some passengers. These are all air-braked.

The Gujarat Express and a few shuttles had the older vacuum braked versions of these coaches, but they were soon phased out.

In the past, the Deccan Queen has briefly run with double-decker passenger stock; the double-deckers were meant for monthly pass-holders. The Gujarat Mail from Ahmedabad and the Saurashtra Mail also had double-decker coaches as general coaches.

The Sinhagad Exp. ran for quite some time with double-decker coaching. The Sinhagad's rake (10 double-decker coaches) was then used for the Pune-Daund-Baramati shuttle, and the Sinhagad reverted to a normal 18-coach rake. There were proposals for an air-conditioned double-decker rake for the Sinhagad but these came to naught.

The Sahyadri Exp. (then 7303 down) ran with two double-decker coaches between Bombay and Pune; the coaches were re-used in the up direction by attaching to the Sinhagad rake. The Panchavati Exp. also ran with double-decker stock for some time. The Brindavan Exp. also ran with double-decker coaches a few times in the late 70s. The Howrah-Dhanbad Black Diamond Exp. also had double-decker coaches (until 1994); the double-decker rake used to be stabled at Asansol. It was condemned at Bally yard and sold for scrap by 1995.

Another train that had double-decker coaches at one time was the Ernakulam-Trivandrum Vanchinad Exp. (around 1981, for about 3 years). The Venad Express is also said to have had double-decker coaches at one time.

The non-airconditioned double-deckers in use today on WR are ICF designs and modified from the basic integral shell used for most coaches. They have a single level at either end, with the double-deck portion forming most of the middle of the coach. The underframe of the coach has a well that gives the lower deck sufficient space.

In 2002, RCF began working on producing new double-decker coaches based on a newer design (but still with the integral shell design which is used for most IR coaches). These coaches were supposed to have a seating capacity of 136. This design did not pan out and was abandoned.

In 2010, IR started on a new push for the double-decker coaches, with RCF finally coming up with the design that’s in use today. The coaches are made of stainless steel. The overall height is about 4.5 inches more than that of normal coaches.

Apart from these recent ones, the East Indian Railway tried out double-decker coaches in 1862. The BBCI Rly. also experimented with these in the 1860s (an illustration of one of these appears in several books on IR). These designs used 4-wheel stock with very limited headroom on both decks because of restrictions from the loading gauge. A vice-regal carriage was also in use which was a double-decker carriage, with the lower deck being an extremely constrained space for servants. In the 1890s, a double-decker using bogie stock was designed by Mr Pearce, the C&W Superintendent of the EIR, but this was never manufactured.

Q. When were through vestibuled trains introduced in India?

The GIPR's Poona Race Special trains had vestibuled rakes back in 1906. Later, the prestigious Deccan Queen (Bombay - Poona), starting in 1930, regularly had a vestibuled rake.

Today, almost all trains are vestibuled (though general coaches at the front and rear of the train with unreserved accommodation have their vestibules folded and locked to prevent passengers encroaching on reserved seats).

NG trains, because of the short lengths of rakes (6-8, sometimes just 4 coaches) are not vestibuled. The sole exception was the ‘Royal Saloon’, a set of two coaches that run as a tourist train on SECR’s Nagpur division. These were later used as inspection coaches. One of the coaches was a dining car, leading into an observation car with windows in the rear wall.

Q. What are the ‘X’ marks or concentric circles painted on the ends of some coaches?

A large yellow ‘X’, or a series of concentric circles (yellow or white) are painted on the end of a coach which is used as the last coach in a rake — it allows station crew or signalmen to visually check that the rake is intact by sighting this last vehicle indication. At night, a small red lamp is used at the end (this used to be an oil lamp in days past), and sometimes a board with the words 'Last Vehicle' (or ‘LV’) can also be spotted.

Q. What kinds of special-purpose coaches exist on IR?

There are several kinds of special-purpose coaches that may be spotted on IR. There are various kinds of inspection cars and manager's saloons used by railway officials on their travels. These may often be spotted stabled at sidings off from the main tracks at various stations. Two very special coaches are the Presidential Saloon coaches.

There are several variations on cars with pantry or kitchen facilities, accident relief vans and medical relief vans, tool vans, etc. The typical accident relief medical rake is configured with two coaches, one of which has rescue and repair equipment, a kitchen, a tool compartment, and a diesel generator set; and the other which has an air-conditioned operation theatre and 12 hospital beds and space for medical supplies. It is self-propelled with a diesel-hydraulic transmission and an underslung powerpack.

Various military cars can be spotted on IR. They range from minor variations on general coaches for troops, to luxuriously appointed saloons for officers and their families. Railfans please note that, understandably, security is very tight around these, and attempts to inspect them or photograph them may land you in trouble, regardless of permits or other papers you may have.

The military also runs its own versions of medical coaches, known as ward cars; these have 34 beds for injured personnel and have double-leaf doors for easy movement of stretchers.

Finally, there are various flavours of OHE inspection cars, the NETRA car, tower cars, etc. See the multiple units/self-propelled units section for more information on these.

Air Conditioning

Q. When was air-conditioning introduced in IR?

The North-Western Railway introduced air-conditioned stock in the late 1930's (the earliest was probably the Frontier Mail in 1936 or 1937). BBCI Railways also experimented with air-conditioning at about the same time. By the early 1950's, air-conditioning was available on several long-distance trains. For example, in 1952-53 there were air-conditioned services between Bombay and Howrah, Delhi and Madras (Grand Trunk Exp.), Bombay and Delhi, Bombay-Amritsar (Frontier Mail), Bombay-Viramgam (Saurashtra Mail), and Bombay-Ahmedabad (Gujarat Mail).

These all used AC units that were mounted beneath the coach body (underslung), interconnected by pipes. Self-contained roof-mounted units appeared much later in the 1980's.

The first fully air-conditioned train was introduced in 1956 between Howrah and Delhi. Popularly known as the AC Express, it ran on the Grand Chord; later there were two, one running on the Grand Chord and the other on the Main Line. Another train popularly known as the AC Express was the Dakshin Exp. between Madras and New Delhi in the 1960s.

AC Chair Car stock was introduced around 1955. Until about 1979, air-conditioning was available only in these and in AC First Class cars. Around 1979, the first two-tier AC coaches were introduced. The first 3-tier AC coaches were introduced in 1993 (RCF) and used on the Howrah Rajdhani via Patna. (The first such coach was ER 2301A, later changed to ER 94101A.) The first 60 or so of the three-tier AC coaches had 67 berths each, while all later ones have 64 berths.

Q. What's the history behind air-conditioning in IR?

Prior to the 1930's, various arrangements for cooling the interiors of passenger coaches existed, mostly for the first-class coaches. From the 1860's onwards, it was quite common to hang moistened mats of khas to cool the air by evaporation.

In 1872, the Saunders system was introduced, which consisted of a long duct running along the length of the coach and beneath it, with a funnel for air intake on one side, and multiple sheets of wet khas matting in the middle, which both filtered the dust out of the air and cooled it by evaporation; the cooled air was admitted into the coaches by apertures in the floor.

Often, the simple expedient of placing large blocks of ice (in bamboo or wicker containers) in the compartments was adopted. After electric fans were introduced, this method of cooling continued to be in use, with the ice placed in the path of a fan's air-stream. As late as 1958 on the Vijayawada division, for instance, passengers could rent an open zinc-lined box that carried a hundredweight (114lb, approx. 50kg) block of ice. The electric fans of the compartments would then be trained on it, and bottles or other containers could also be cooled in the box.

The ice could be replenished at any major station en route, and in fact the Conductor/Guard (the equivalent then of the Train Superintendent) would check on the ice blocks now and then and notify the station ahead if replenishments were needed. This was a popular service because it was easier and cheaper than riding in the air-conditioned cars (which often cost as much as twice the normal fare, besides rarely having space available).

Most air-conditioned stock of recent decades was built with underfloor machinery with blowers located near the ends of the coaches. Newer air-conditioned coaches (since about 1999) have the machinery located on the roof, with an air-distribution duct that goes along the roof of the coach with diffusers in every compartment, providing a much more uniform cooling effect.

Q. Are there/were there any meter-gauge or narrow-gauge air-conditioned coaches?

(09/2021) IR has been introducing air-conditioned ‘Vistadome’ coaches on some NG routes for tourists. Like their BG counterparts, these coaches feature large windows and plush interiors. Some early versions had off the shelf split AC units crudely installed at the ends of the coaches, but recent ones feature IR’s regular roof-mounted design.

In the past, NG air-conditioned chair car coaches existed, and were used on the Gondia-Jabalpur Satpura Express.

MG air-conditioned coaches were comparatively more common. AC Chair Cars were present on the Tiruchi - Tambaram Cholan Exp., the Chennai - Madurai Vaigai Exp. (1977-1997), Chennai - Tiruchirapalli Pallavan Exp. (1985-1997), Pink City Exp., Ashram Exp., Bangalore - Mysore Tipu Exp., Bangalore - Mysore Chamundi Exp. etc,. A newer version of the MG AC Chair Car Coach with a roof-mounted AC unit was introduced in 2005.

Q. Who uses saloons on IR today?

Saloon cars, commonly used for luxury travel by the nobility and high-ranking officials in the past, are now far less common. A few air-conditioned saloon cars are kept for the exclusive use of General Managers of zonal railways and members of the Railway Board. Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) have exclusive use of a non-air-conditioned saloon at the divisional level. Other officials such as the ADRM, Senior DEE, Senior DME, Senior DOM, Senior DEN, Senior DPO, and others usually have to share one other non-air-conditioned saloon at the divisional level. (Also read about the presidential saloon.)

Preserved Rolling Stock

Q. Where can I see some preserved coaches, wagons, and other rolling stock?

Note: This list is not exhaustive and might be out of date. Preserved rolling stock is often moved between locations and sometimes even scrapped.

The National Railway Museum has the following:

Broad gauge:

  • Oudh and Rohilkund Railway Saloon of 1890 4 wheel saloon
  • Oudh and Rohilkund Railway Covered wagon 148 Central Workshops Alambagh, Lucknow 1879
  • Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway Saloon Parel workshops of BBCI 1886
  • MSMR 6 wheel Saloon built by Southern Railway at Perambur
  • EIR Sheep wagon Lilluah Workshops 1929
  • GIPR Dynamometer Car WRK2483 Met Cammel 1930
  • BBCI hand crane Ransome and Rapier 1883
  • PWD Punjab 4WG (chain drive) Sentinel 6273/1926

Metre gauge:

  • BBCI Armoured Train Ajmer Workshops. wagons built 1886-1890
  • Nilgiri Railway Composite Coach Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co
  • Rajputana Malwa Railway Prince of Wales Saloon Agra Workshops of RMR 1875
  • Mysore State Railway Maharaja's saloon, Bangalore Workshop 1899, at Morbi (Morvi)
  • Maharaja's saloon from the old Gondal Railway, at the Palace Guest House hotel in Gondal (between Rajkot and Jetalsar). The saloon is used as guest accommodation by the hotel.
  • BBCI Viceregal Dining Car Ajmer workshops 1889
  • Bikaner State Railway ET-1445 4 wheel 3rd class carriage Bikaner workshops 1902

The following Palace on Wheels carriages are in the museum:

  • CT3 Bikaner 1889
  • CT9s Navanagar built 1922 at Bhavnagar Workshops
  • CT17 Jaipur 1913
  • CT34756/56 Hyderabad 1917 for Nizam's State Railway
  • CT3457/814 built for Maharajah of Porbunder in 1907

2'6" Gauge:

  • Barsi Light Railway Composite brake/third BLR-32 Metropolitan Amalgamated
  • Railway Carriage and Wagon Co 1905
  • Mourbhaji Light Railway 8 wheeled composite coach

2' Gauge:

  • Matheran Light Railway Carriage-852 (3rd class) 4 wheeled
  • Matheran Light Railway Carriage -812 1st class
  • DHR 3rd class carriage ET/119 Tindharia workshops 1902

The Mysore Railway Museum has the following:

  • South Central Railway Patent centre/side discharge wagon. Leeds Forge Company 1913
  • Southern railway Travelling Crane 033993 5 ton hand crane by Cowans Sheldon 1885
  • SR FD 034013 Crane support truck
  • SR ECE 07327 inspection car Mysore workshops 1901
  • SRVH 38163 Brake van Stableford 1923
  • Mysore State Railway CR 7342 Maharani's saloon
  • Mysore State Railway CR 7345 Dining/Kitchen car
  • Mysore State Railway SR TLR No 45 coach of 1927

An old riveted wagon with striker castings with SIR number C 30178 and plate number 1853 has been preserved at Golden Rock Workshops.

In addition to these, there are a number of old coaches, saloons, and special-purpose cars that are still maintained in working order and used now and then for special runs (often steam-hauled), heritage excursions, or even as luxury saloons for VIPs. Two very special coaches are the Presidential saloon cars.

More rolling stock information (including freight wagons) can be found in part 2.