The history of Indian Railways is 168 years old. It began with the British rule in India. The first train in the country was run between Thane to Bori Bunder Station (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal) in Bombay on 16 April 1853. About 400 passengers travelled on this train. The first train went on the 34-kilometre long railway section. The introduction of the railroad in India at that time was a significant achievement of the country. The first train was run through a steam engine.
First official heritage and toy train announcement
The first heritage train in India was named “Fairy Queen”. The world’s oldest steam engine was installed in this train, which was built in 1855 by the British company Kitson. After 1997, this train started running as a heritage train. People come from far and wide to travel on this train.
The “Toy Train” officially ran for the first time in the Northeast in 1881. This train runs on a two feet wide narrow gauge track and has a very low speed. This train has the status of World Heritage Site from UNESCO. This toy train goes to Ghoom, India’s highest railway station.
Historic Trains of India
These are some of the historic trains of India that define the history of Indian railways.
1. Punjab Mail
The Punjab Mail, one of the oldest long-distance trains of the Indian Railways, completed 108 years on 1 June. However, this train did not run on its 108th anniversary due to COVID-19. The Punjab Mail was inaugurated on 1 June 1912, when it was known as Punjab Limited.
British officers, civil servants and their families were transported from England’s South Hampton harbour to Ballard Pier Mole Station Mumbai. Then by this train, they were brought to Peshawar railway station via Manmad, Bhopal, Jhansi, Gwalior, Mathura, Delhi, Ferozepur, Lahore. In 1914, this train started departing from Victoria Terminus (now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus). After the partition of India, the terminal station of the oldest train in India was made Ferozepur Cantt.
Before independence, this vintage train of India travelled 2496 kilometres traversing Itarsi, Agra, Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore and Peshawar during the British era. Now its one-way journey is 1,930 km. Initially, it was run only for the white British officers. However, from 1930 onwards, third class coaches were also installed for the general public.
Two years before independence, air-conditioned bogies were added to the Punjab Mail for the first time in 1945. Since independence in 1947, this train has been running between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) of Mumbai to Ferozepur in Punjab. In this train with 24 coaches, general and sleeper class bogies are also fitted with AC.
2. Frontier Mail
Do you know that there is another ‘Golden Temple’ in the country, which is 91 years old and the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was arrested from here by the British?
We are talking about the Golden Temple Mail. This train is also known as Frontier Mail in the Indian railways. This train is the oldest train to run on Delhi-Tapri railway line, and it completed 91 years of running on 1 September 2019. This train is a witness to independence. Mahatma Gandhi was arrested by the British in Palwal on this train from Mumbai to Lahore, while in 1944 Subhash Chandra Bose also travelled in this train.
This Frontier Mail (currently Golden Temple Mail), which runs between Mumbai and Peshawar (Pakistan) during the British rule, entered its 92nd year on 1 September after completing its 91st year. It was one of the popular trains of the British. A coach of this train had prepared an air-conditioned coach using ice ingots, in which senior British officers used to travel. The train used to cover 2335 kilometres of Mumbai and Peshawar in about 72 hours.
In 1996, Frontier Mail was renamed Golden Temple Mail, which now runs between Amritsar and Mumbai Central. This train was started on 1 September 1928 in response to the Punjab Mail of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (running from Lahore to Mumbai via Ferozepur, now running between Ferozepur and Mumbai). At that time, the Ballard Pier train in Mumbai used to run from Mol station to Peshawar, when the Ballard station was closed, the train started from Colaba terminal.
Pantry cars and dining coaches were also added to this train. This train travelled 2335 kilometres traversing Vadodara, Ratlam, Mathura, Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore, Rawalpindi and reached Peshawar in 72 hours. In this train, radio was arranged for British officers, and playing cards were also provided for entertainment. After the Indo-Pak Partition, the distance of 2335 km was reduced to 1883 km. Now the said train runs between Amritsar and Mumbai.
3. Kalka Mail
In India, the train connects Howrah near Kolkata in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal to Kalka, Haryana, on the Kalka-Shimla railway. It connects it to Shimla, the hill station capital of Himachal Pradesh and the one-time summer capital of India.
Run by the East Indian Railway Company, the train (initially 1 UP/2DN) began to operate as an “East Indian Railway Mail” between Calcutta and Delhi in 1866. In 1891 its route was extended from Delhi to Kalka.
The train was the primary medium by which British civil servants moved from Calcutta to Shimla (the summer capital of India at that time). With full government machinery onboard the train at the beginning of the summer months, it connected both stations, Howrah and Kalka, towards the end of the summer. Internal carriageways were running on the platform so that the Viceroy and other high ranking officers could reach their rail coaches.
The carriageway is still used in Howrah and is running between platforms 8 and 9, but the carriageway in Kalka has been converted into a platform. With the rationalization of the rail number in the 1990s, Kalka Mail lost its 1UP/2DN numbering and is now 12311 from Howrah and 12312 from Kalka.
Currently, Kalka Mail is one of the oldest trains running in the country. It has a total of 24 coaches (11 Sleeper, 2 SLR, 3 General, 1 1st AC, 3 3-Tier AC, 3 2-Tier AC, 1 Pantry Car). And it has a total of 4 rakes. This train is classified as superfast and runs at a maximum speed of 115 km/hour. The engine associated with this train is the modern 6350 hp, WAP-7 located in Howrah. Between Howrah and Kalka, the train stops at 37 stations.
Passengers boarding the train must comply with the distance restriction: the minimum travel distance is 160 km in AC classes and 480 km in 2S and Sleeper class.
So, these are some of the oldest and vintage trains of India.