17 May 2022

Tape recorded music, phone booths onboard train-- Rajdhani Golden Jubilee evokes nostalgia


• Arrangements for playing tape recorded music through the public address system.
• News in Hindi and English from All India Radio, free newspapers to every passenger free of cost.
• Comfort and luxury of passengers looked after by the train superintendent assisted by a steward.
• In a first there was even a STD PCO in the pantry car in the train in 1990s after a tie-up with VSNL

This is what the article in the brochure of the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express read in the 1970s after it was introduced. In what has been an epitome of comfort, speed and high-class travel, the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express that completes half a century on Tuesday and will run amid fanfare celebrations with a special postal cover and a VIP album being released on the occasion.

The second among the 25th Rajdhani Express trains that ply today, the Mumbai Central-New Delhi Rajdhani Express—India’s premier passenger train—will flagged off on May 17, 1972. “The service started just three years after the first Rajdhani—India’s first fully air-conditioned train—began between New Delhi and Howrah (Kolkata). The train has constantly been upgraded over the last 50 years to maintain its premier position.

When the train started, it used to take 19 hours and 5 minutes and the journey has now been shortened to 15 hours and 50 minutes between Mumbai and Delhi. Till 1988, Rajdhani, with a maximum speed of 120 kmph, was the fastest in Indian Railways.

On introduction, the Bombay Delhi train ran with a single diesel locomotive of WDM–2 class, later by 1993 on electrification in phases a dual current electric locomotive was used as Mumbai was still under the old direct current traction. Now, with seamless AC traction, a hi-speed WAP class loco is used.

The original train was diesel hauled and after electrification in the early 1990s, the train was hauled by electric locomotives. In 2003, the train was upgraded with new Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) class coaches designed for a higher speed and improved safety. Now, the train runs with smart Tejas class coaches with automatic door closing facility.

The train’s length increased to 18 coaches from October 02, 1981. The very next year, 1982, saw Mumbai Rajdhani operating four days a week based on the continuously increasing demand. There was no stopping the Rajdhani as the four-days-aweek affair became six days in 1989. The train was also renumbered from 151Dn/152Up to 2951 Up/2952 Dn.

To cater to the increasing demand of passengers along the route, the presentday 12953/12954 August Kranti Rajdhani was introduced on July 01, 1991. It came as an excellent alternative for passengers between the two cities who were finding it tough to get accommodation in the Mumbai Rajdhani. It was in May 15, 1992, when the Rajdhani first began operating with Three-tier AC coaches. And it took just around eight more years for the train to begin running daily from October 02, 2000. On July 19, 2021, Indian Railways inducted the Tejas rake, which has smart coaches with ultra- modern features. Those amenities make the journey all the more comfortable for passengers.

Red & White Train

Superintendent recalls memories

NK Chawla was the train superintendent of the prestigious Mumbai Delhi Rajdhani Express for over 12 years and now retired calls his memories from the iconic train as Red and White, matching the train’s traditional colour shade.

“I joined the Indian railways in 1980 and retired in 2015. I was posted on the Rajdhani Express between 1998 and 2010. I call it the Red and White train. If I think 35 years backwards, I can still see and feel freshly in my memory, the red and white world of Indian Railways,” Chawla, who always used to greet passengers with Jai Mata Di onboard recalls.

Known for his unique dressing style with a spotless white uniform, Chawla said, “As a sign of purity and innocence, I was known for my unique dressing style, as I would embellish myself with white attire and shoes and graciously greet people “Jai Mata Di”. “As most of you already know, Rajdhani Express was and is exotic, elite and special passenger train that connected the financial capital with the country’s capital and travelled the best in it. I recall it has a STD PCO booth in the pantry car,” he said. Chawla remembers accompanying the country’s most important celebrities onboard the iconic train including Dream Girl Hema Malini, Ajitabh Bachchan, Vijayendra Ghatge etc. It was also a privilege to escort India’s deputy prime minister Dr Lal Krishna Advani onboard the train.
“My job profile was to inspect the train before each trip, assisting passengers with directions, luggage, enforcing rules, doing ticket accounting, studying train orders and physical characteristics of the railroad, ready for emergencies or flag exchanges keeping track of work hours,” he added.
Key dates:|

17/5/72 : 151Dn/152Up Rajdhani exp introduced on Mumbai-Delhi Route

2/10/81 : Number of coaches increased to 18, hauled by two\ engines called as Double headed Rajdhani

19/11/82 : Rajdhani exp started running four days a week

1/11/89 : Made six days a week and renumbered as 2951/2952

1/07/91 : August Kranti Rajdhani exp introduced between Mumbai and Delhi*

15/05/92 : 3AC coaches introduced in Rajdhani

2/10/2000 : Rajdhani started running as daily train

15/12/2003 : LHB coaches introduced in Rajdhani Exp

19/07/2021 : Tejas Type Sleeper coaches(First on Indian Railways) introduced in 12951/52 Mumbai - New Delhi Rajdhani Exp

19 November 2019

Found & Lost-- Old bridge relics at Khar Road station

In 2019, on the birthday of Indian Railways that is April 16, while some heritage hunting at Khar Road station on Mumbai division of Western Railway, I had found these relics of the old Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI Railway)

As per records available, Khar station was set up around July 1924 when the Bombay Development Directorate was promoting suburbs in a big way to decongest the island city. The Khar scheme was to be sold to potential buyers and a railway station was a great selling point. After a delay of about a year, the station opened in the monsoon of 1924.

The finding that one sees in the adjacent photograph is that of a few remains of the old iron bridge that was originally in place. This platform is today used by harbour line trains. The bridge had to go as the station expanded to more platforms and the layout of the station changed. (Original Tweet)

On November 14, 2019, I found these relics gone for ever as they had made way for a new staircase. The adjacent photographs are of the same site.

Practically, it was not possible to save them in situ given the crowd at the station and the pressure to build new bridges to offer easy connectivity. The best thing was to document them going and so here are their final pictures.

The Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI) was a company incorporated in 1855 to undertake the task of constructing a railway line between Bombay and Vadodara in India. BB&CI completed the work in 1864. -- (Pics & text Rajendra B. Aklekar, Mumbai.)

09 November 2019

Striking similarities! AH Wheeler stall - Howrah & Mumbai

Striking similarities!

East and West India. The AH Wheeler's railway book stall at Howrah (above) and Mumbai Central (below).

01 June 2019

New book!

FIRST LOOK! Announcing my third book with Rupa Publications The book weaves together anecdotes from 1830s to 2019, taking the reader on a thrilling ride of over two centuries on an 'express' time machine. Enjoy!!! Pre-orders here: https://www.amazon.in/dp/9353332877/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_bSe8CbA7B5WRB