The zoo that is Indian Railways

In the beginning there were Mail trains, Express trains and Passenger trains besides goods trains. So you also had Mixed trains, slow trains which had passenger coaches as well as goods wagons. Some of these may still exist on minor branch lines.

After Independence new varieties came along, such as the Janatha Expresses (only 3rd class) and Deluxe Expresses (with a small number of AC chair and AC I coaches).

In 1969 the first Rajdhani Express ran. A few years later we had the Jayanthi Janatha Express. These ran on a number of routes, though the only one which lasted long enough with this name was the first one between Nizamuddin and Mangalore, with a few coaches to Cochin. It still survives with a completely different route and name (the Mangala Express via the Konkan route to Ernakulam via Mangaluru Jn). Other short-lived phenomena included the DC (Diesel Car) Express which ran on metre gauge between Kanpur and Lucknow, and a few other MG routes on the NER.

In the late 70s came the “classless” trains such as the Gitanjali Express, basically all 2nd class sleeper with cushioned berths. In the mean time 3rd class had vanished and had become 2nd class just by using a bit of red paint to change III to II.

Still later, various Railway Ministers kept introducing various new ideas for express trains. No new Mail trains were introduced since the 70s. The last one appears to have been the Tinsukia Mail in c.1974, which became the Brahmaputra Mail. Some Mails were transformed into Expresses, such as the Bombay/Poona Mail to the Mahalaxmi Express (if I remember right). And the one-time 1/2 Delhi/Ahmedabad Mail first became the Haridwar Mail and then the Yoga Express (Don’t ask me why. Swami Ramdev might know).

The Shatabdis, Jan Shatabdis, Durontos, Garib Raths, Double Decker, Jan Sadharan and Sampark Kranti Expresses should be familiar enough now. I must have missed out a few species. Right now the new Railway Minister has unleashed several new beasts, for which you can refer to this news item:

and this older reference:

The new timetable from October 1, 2016 will include these:

Deendayalu appears to be a type of coach rather than a train. Probably these coaches will run on the Antodaya trains.

So now you have it. India does have the most variety of trains of any railway system in the world.

Just waiting for Uday Expresses to run to these places:

As you would guess, the “original” Udaipur is the one on the right while the one on the left is in Tripura (where the local language is Bengali).

The real original Udaipur station existed until 1964 when the new route from Udaipur to Himatnagar was built. It now goes by this name:


Update to the Lumding-Silchar line

This is an update to my earlier post of June 25-you may like to have a look at it first:

As things turned out, our optimism was misplaced and the Commissioner of Railway Safety felt that the line was not fit for passenger traffic, although goods trains continued to run.

After all approvals, regular passenger services were formally inaugurated on Nov 21. The only passenger train on this section is a passenger train from Guwahati, which has  SL and unreserved class at the moment. It can be called a fast passenger as it has only one stop between Guwahati and Lumding.

Here are the timetables for these trains:





This also marked the resumption of direct trains between these cities, which had stopped since the early 1990s when the broad gauge reached Lumding. Prior to that there were two express trains, the 11/12 Barak Valley Express and the 201/202 Cachar Express running on this route. In Nov 1983 there were two other passenger trains on this route, one between Lumding and Badarpur and another called the Tripura Passenger, between Lumding and the then railhead at Dharmanagar.

It will be instructive to compare the timings of these trains from the Nov 1983 Bradshaw with the present timings.

Barak Valley TT

The broad gauge conversion and associated realignment (which shortened the route by about 16 km) has resulted in considerable speeding up-13 hours as compared to 17-19 hours in the past. Presumably these trains were hauled by YDM-4s at that time.

More trains can be expected on this route in the near future. Once the connecting lines to Agartala and elsewhere are completed, we can look forward to Rajdhani and Sampark Kranti Expresses as well.



Famous Indian trains of the past-and what happened to them (Part 2)

Continuing our study on the famous trains numbered 1 and 2 on the Indian Railways in the past.

In 1976, the newcomer  was the 1/2 Golconda Express between Guntur and Secunderabad. This appears to have started running in the late 1960s, probably soon after the new South Central zone came into existence. It still runs on the same route with slightly slower timings, and is ranked as superfast. The only difference you will see is that it now has two rakes instead of one.


The story of the 1/2 Gujarat Mail is different in that it has been around for a long time, but like the Golconda Express it runs on the same route and similar timings. In the 1970s it was said to be having more first class coaches than any other Indian train. (At that time there were only two pairs of Rajdhanis and no Shatabdis). It has the classic late night-early morning pattern of the old Mails. Over the years its timings have improved only marginally.


The 1/2 Delhi/Ahmedabad Mail even lost its number one status on the Northern railway between Rewari and Delhi, where it became 201/202 (presumably to distinguish it from the 1/2 Kalka Mail on broad gauge)

It has a sad story. It remained a Mail until renamed the Yoga Express a few months ago, and never got superfast status. It was earlier considered the best train on the MG route between Ahmedabad and Delhi, but got competition from the Ashram Express since the 70s. Once this route was converted to BG in the 90s, it was extended to Haridwar thus becoming the Ahmedabad-Haridwar Mail and finally the Yoga Express of today. In the mean time a Rajdhani as well as the Ashram Express became more popular on the Ahmedabad-Delhi route. Anyway, gauge conversion has reduced its running time between Ahmedabad and Delhi from 22 hours to 19 hours. It now takes a small detour to stop at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. In case you were wondering, this was before the incumbent became Prime Minister. But the change to Yoga Express did occur during his tenure.

ADI Mail

Finally there is the fastest (?) narrow gauge train which used to run between Gondia and Jabalpur which had its number 1/2 though the SER had the 1/2 Calcutta Mail on the broad gauge as well. It was sometimes listed as the Satpura Express. Today conversion has taken away the first quarter of the route and it runs between Balaghat and Jabalpur. This is likely to be converted to broad gauge by 2016, although the 10001/10002 Express still runs as of date.


Thus ends our sample study of the trains numbered 1 and 2 in 1976 and how they were faring in 2014. Sometime later I plan to go back further to compare the 1/2 of the 1930s with their counterparts of today. This would add a few more such as the Darjeeling Mail, once the pride of the Eastern Bengal Railway.

Famous Indian trains of the past-and what happened to them (Part 1)

In the “romantic” old days of the Indian Railways, the most important trains in each jurisdiction had low numbers-and often the most important trains were the pair 1 and 2 which were invariably Mail trains. We take a look back to the year 1976 (when the system was quite similar to today’s, except that the number of zones was less) and see what happened to the trains numbered 1 and 2 then. Some are still important (if not the most important trains on their route) while others have become quite unimportant.

These were: 1/2 Bombay VT/Howrah Mails via Nagpur (also called the Calcutta Mails via Nagpur) 1/2 Howrah/Kalka Mails via Delhi 1/2 Lucknow/Gauhati Avadh Tirhut Mails (metre gauge) 1/2 Madras/Mangalore Mails 1/2 Guntur/Secunderabad Golconda Expresses 1/2 Bombay Central/Ahmedabad Gujarat Mails 1/2 Ahmedabad/Delhi Mails (though renumbered 201/202 between Rewari and Delhi), metre gauge and even 1/2 Gondia/Jabalpur Expresses on the narrow gauge. We can see that all of these trains had been around for a long time (probably since the 19th century) except for the Golconda Express which was started by the new South Central Railway in the late 1960s. Over the years cities and stations were renamed, the train numbering changed to four digits for most long-distance trains around 1990 and then to 5 digits for all trains in 2010. To begin with, we look at the 1/2 Bombay/Howrah Mails as they were in 1976:

At that time this was the top train on this route as the Geetanjali Express was yet to start. It had the classical Mail timings of the olden days, leaving at night and reaching in the early morning (though in this case there was an intervening day). In 2014, this pair of trains has the rather uninteresting numbers 12809/12810. Those more familiar with the railways can deduce that this pair of trains are superfast (for what it is worth) and “belong” to the South Eastern Railway. The timings then and now:


The entire route is electrified now (about half was electrified in 1976) and timings have come down by about 2 hours. There are other faster trains on the route such as the Geetanjali and Duronto, but the Mail is still considered prestigious by the older generation-particularly in the eastern part of the country.

Now for the 1/2 Howrah/Kalka Mails:

At that time the Rajdhani had been running for several years but was still considered to be too extravagant for most travellers. The Poorva Expresses (often called the AC or Deluxe) were gradually becoming popular. The entire route between Delhi and Howrah was electrified around this time. By 2014, the 1/2 Mails had become 12311/12312, meaning that they were superfast and run by the Eastern Railway. These were the timings:

Kalka Mail

As we can see, they take almost exactly the same time between Delhi and Howrah. In the mean time there are two Rajdhanis daily which have attracted the upmarket travellers besides two Durontos. So the Kalka Mail has moved down the pecking order although, as in the previous case, the older travellers from eastern India still have high regard for the trains.

On the metre gauge, one of the long hauls was on the 1/2 Avadh Tirhut Mails between Lucknow (LJN) and Guwahati. Even in the late 70s, there was no broad gauge link from Northern India to the North-East, so this Mail and its poor cousin the 15/16 Express were the only links on this route. There was also the Assam Mail which ran on the broad gauge from New Delhi to Barauni, which connected with the metre gauge Mail all the way to Dibrugarh Town.

But over the years it lost its prestige with the coming of the broad gauge on the NER and NFR. By the 90s it became the Avadh Assam Express (demoted from Mail status) was running on BG on practically the same route up to New Jalpaiguri. It was then extended westwards to Delhi and finally to Lalgarh near Bikaner. Eastward it was extended to New Tinsukia. Worse still, it was not even a superfast but merely the 15909/15910 Avadh Assam Express. The 37-hour run between Lucknow and Guwahati (formerly Gauhati) had been reduced to 33 hours. Otherwise, time had not been kind to this train as it was involved in one of India’s worst rail accidents in 1999. (At that time it was running between Delhi and Guwahati). Here is the timetable of the old Mail and of its extended run in 2014. Note that it reaches its destination on the 4th day and has one of the longest runs of any passenger service in India.


To conclude this section we have the 1/2 Madras/Mangalore Mail. I am not sure how old it is as the timetables of the 1930s and 40s show only the Malabar Express on this route. By the 1960s the Mail appeared in its present form. Later the Malabar Express started running from Cochin (and still later further south from Trivandrum) to Mangalore while the 1/2 Mail got a companion West Coast Express by the mid-60s.

Here are the timings in 1976 and of its avatar of 2014, when it had become the 12601/12602 Chennai/Mangaluru Mail (fortunately still superfast) with these timings:


Here the 18-hour run has been reduced to 16 hours although a fair portion of the route is not electrified.

We will take up a few more “number ones” in the next section, which would be up on Aug 11.