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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Rajdhani Express ~ completes 50 years !

Train journeys are enjoyable ~ one can sit down, relax, chat with fellow-passengers, look outside the window seeing landscapes, trees running behind – see a bowler running in, though would never know the fate of that ball, still hung head to see the match, read books and more .. I have travelled many a times from Chennai to Delhi  (36 hours !) by Grand Trunk Express  - have boarded this train hundred times ! at Vijayawada in the midnight to reach Madras.  Now its number is 12615/6 – earlier it had only 4 numbers – the numbering system changed from Dec 2010.

For the regular Quiz Q on when was the first train run in India – the customary answer would be :3:35pm on April 16th, 1853, when a train with 14 railway carriages and 400 guests left Bombay's BoriBunder for Thane, with a 21-gun salute. It was hauled by three locomotives: Sindh, Sultan, and Sahib. The journey took an hour and fifteen minutes.That, however, was just the first commercial passenger service in India. In fact, a few other railways are known to have operated in India prior to 1853, for hauling materials.In 1835, a short experimental line was laid near Chintadripet. In 1845, a railway was built for carriage of stone and construction materials for irrigation works and a dam over the Godavari near Rajahmundry.

Surprised to read that for the better part of the 19th century, the main railway route from Madras to Calcutta and Delhi was through Bombay!  The Madras-Bombay mail train carried through carriages between Madras and Manmad which were detached at Daund. Passengers would then transfer to the Great Indian Peninsular Railway's Calcutta mail at Manmad to proceed to the northern and the eastern parts of the country. Then came the Grand Trunk Express .. .. GT ran from 1st Apr 1929   after the construction of the Kazipet-Balharshah section.  As a prestigious train, it was one of the few to have the early methods of air cooling by ice blocks. It also carried a parcel van for urgent consignments.  'Grand Trunk' express commenced operating as two through carriages running between Peshawar in the North Western Railway (British India) and Mangalore in the South Indian Railway. 

Grand Trunk Express, Tamil Nadu Express, Vaigai Express are all prestigious trains for Tamilnadu.. .. then came India’s first Rajdhani Express, which revolutionised Indian Railways by way of speed and luxury.  Now it  has turned 50 ! -  celebrated as the flower-bedecked train chugged out of Howrah station on its golden jubilee run.   The first Rajdhani was introduced between Howrah and New Delhi on March 1, 1969. It was initially a bi-weekly 8 car train - Brake/Luggage/Generator, AC I, AC Pantry, AC Chair, AC Chair, AC Chair, AC Chair, Brake/Luggage/Generator - hauled by a single WDM-4. It left Howrah on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and left New Delhi on Mondays and Fridays. The first return journey from New Delhi was March 3. The booked speed for the route was 115 km/h and the maximum permissible speed was 120 km/h.

Rajdhani express gets the highest priority on the Indian railway network.  They are fully air-conditioned. Passengers are served meals (food price included in the train fare) during the journey. Depending on the duration and timings of the journey, these could include morning tea, breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner.   All Rajdhani Express trains offer three classes of accommodation: AC First Class (FC) with 2-berth and 4-berth coupès (with locking facility for privacy), AC 2-tier (2T) and AC 3-tier (3T).   Currently there are 25 pairs of trains, connecting New Delhi to important cities across the country. These trains have fewer stops than other express trains and halt only at prominent stations. Recently Dynamic pricing has been introduced on all Rajdhani express trains.

                    At Kolkatta, the red and yellow marigold bedecked train was flagged off by three former staff of Rajdhani Express after a ceremonial cake cutting and release of a greeting stamp to commemorate the epoch-making event. Passengers of the golden jubilee run of the train were treated to some of its old delicacies  including 'rosogollas' apart from ice cream for dessert. Brand new linen and disposable napkins with greetings of "50 Years of Rajdhani Express" were distributed among the passengers, the ER official said. The railway staff on duty in the train wore a badge with the message of celebration of 50 glorious years of Kolkata Rajdhani Express.

The iconic train went through stages of evolution over the years, the official said, adding that the present Kolkata Rajdhani Express was upgraded with elegant makeover of existing LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) coaches in 2017. To us, the  ChennaiRajdhani Express (12433/34) is an important train connecting Chennai to New Delhi. It was first introduced in 1993 and runs twice a week from Delhi and twice from Chennai. Chennai Rajdhani covers a distance of 2176 kilometers in 28 hours 10 minutes as compared to 33 hours and 5 min covered by Tamil Nadu Express and 35 hours and 15 minutes taken by Grand Trunk Express.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Mar 2019.

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