Tourism, Health and Harmony: Special trains run by Indian Railways.
Railways are the most common and cheapest means of transportation around the globe. India being a developing country, railways have always played a crucial role in shaping Indian economy. The first train in India ran from Mumbai to Thane in 1853 and in 1951 the whole system was nationalized as one unit, the Indian Railways. Today Indian railway network is fourth largest in the world with a passenger count of nearly 23 million per day and increasing. Many trains operated by Indian Railways are unique in nature, they provide connectivity throughout the country and to the neighboring country, educate people about the rich Indian past, carry out health services and play a major role in Indian tourism. Here we have compiled a list trains run by Indian Railways that are unique in its nature.
List of Special Trains Operated By India Railways
1: Maitree Express – Maitree is a Hindi word which means friendship and Maitree Express plays an important role in the friendship of two countries i.e. India and Bangladesh. The Maitree Express connects the Indian city of Kolkata to Dhaka (Capital of Bangladesh). The joint efforts of Indian and Bangladeshi government were fruitful when the first train ran on 14th April 2008 and since then the service remains uninterrupted excluding some minor incidents. The Maitree Express is the only train which runs between Kolkata and Dhaka. It runs six days a week from each side. The total distance is 375 and it takes around 10–11 hours to cover the entire distance. For immigration and checking, there are two stoppages one is in Gede (Indian side) and Darshana (Bangladesh side). In local Bengali language, it is known as Moitri Express.
2: Maharajas’ Express– Maharaja’s Express is a luxury train operated by Indian Railways (IRCTC). The
Maharajas Express is most expensive train in the world and a single day charge of traveling in this train is more than $3000 or 2 Lacs INR. The train runs on 5 defined routes and entire journey consists of 8 Days/7 Nights or 4 Days/3 Nights. The train mostly covers the historical and beautiful cities of northern India. The train is 22 cars long and can accommodate 84 passengers. The inaugural journey was in March 2010. There are four types of accommodation: Deluxe Cabin, Junior Suite, Suite and Presidential Suite. All cabins feature large picture windows, LCD televisions, DVD players, telephone, digital climate control and wireless internet access. All have a full en-suite bathroom (sink, shower, toilet) and a full-time butler to tend to your every need.
3: Samjhauta Express– The Samjhauta Express is a bi-weekly train that runs between India and Pakistan. Along with Thar Express, it is one of the two trains that provide connectivity between India and Pakistan. The word “Samjhauta” means an agreement in English and historically train was started on 22 July 1976 following the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan. The train ran between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan), thereby covering a distance of about 42 km. The train has stoppage point at Lahore in Pakistan and Delhi in India and the border crossing takes place between Wagah in Pakistan and Attari in India and at the same place, custom and immigration check is performed. The exact Samjhauta Express runs from Lahore to Attari and once all the paperwork and security check is performed when there is a train from Attari to Delhi (number 4001/4002) with no stoppage in between. In past, the train service was suspended two times one when there was a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament and second after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
4: Palace on Wheels– the Palace on Wheels train is efforts of a joint venture of Indian Railways and the state of
Rajasthan’s tourism office. The train service was started on January 26 in 1983 and at that time it was India’s first hotel train. The train has 14 air-conditioned carriages, each with 4 compartments and two lower beds. Each of the 14 carriages is named after former Rajput states and interior is designed so that it matches the aesthetics and interiors of the royal past. Each compartment has a private sink, toilet, and shower; the compartments also have stereo speakers with a number of music programs available (and an “off” switch if you want silence), intercom and wall-to-wall carpeting. The train has 7 nights & 8 days itinerary. It departs from New Delhi (Day 1), and covers Jaipur (Day 2), Sawai Madhopur and Chittaurgarh (Day 3), Udaipur (Day 4), Jaisalmer (Day 5), Jodhpur (Day 6), Bharatpur and Agra (Day 7), return to New Delhi (Day 8).
5: Mahaparinirvan Express– The Mahaparinirvan Express is a tourist train that was launched by Indian Railways to attract Buddhist Pilgrims. It is also known by Buddhist Circuit Train and this train was launched by IRCTC on March 28, 2007. The train has a total run duration of 8 days/7 nights and during this journey it will cover various Buddhist places across Northern India, making it a spiritual tour. According to Indian Railways data, the train is fully air-conditioned, it has 18 berths in AC-I, 92 in AC-II and 256 in AC-III class. The IRCTC has fixed the fare at Rs 5,280 (AC-I), Rs 3,960 (AC-II) and Rs 3,520 (AC-III sleeper) respectively per day per passenger. Important cities covered during this journey include important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, like Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Varanasi, and Kushinagar.
6: Deccan Odyssey– the Deccan Odyssey is a tourist train ran by joint efforts of Indian Railways and Government of Maharashtra. It is also a luxury train and follows the same model as that of Palace on Wheels. As the name suggests the train covers the important historical cities and locations across the Deccan Plateau region of India. The cities covered in this 8 days/ 7 nights journey are Mumbai – Aurangabad – Tadoba – Ajanta Caves – Nashik – Kolhapur – Goa – Mumbai with minimum fare starting from $800 or 52000 INR. The train has 21
coaches out of which there are 11 passenger cars and 2 presidential suites and two cars are reserved to work as a restaurant. The Deluxe coaches are 95 square feet, with four per car. They have twin double bed and en-suite shower, sink, and toilet. The Presidential suites (205 square feet) each take up half a train car. These suites have a large double bed, separate sitting room, and two bathrooms. The train takes a maximum of 88 guests. The train journey is available during the month of October to April.
7: Lifeline Express– the Lifeline Express is also known as Jeevan Rekha Express in Hindi. The train is running and operated by Impact India Foundation with the help of Indian Railways and Health Ministry of India.
The Lifeline Express is the World’s first hospital train; it was officially inaugurated on 16th July 1991 and still running. The coaches of Lifeline express are specially designed air-conditioned coaches, it has two surgical operation theater, three plus two operating tables, a sterilization area, two recovery rooms for patients, onboard power generators, a pantry car, storage for medical supplies, and accommodation for medical staff. In its initial days of run, the train has three coaches donated by Indian Railways, and equipment from Impact India, a non-profit organization, with its Indian headquarters in Mumbai. Impact India still runs the trains with help from Railways and donations from the corporate and private sector. So far it has medically served over 900,000 people including more than 100,000 surgeries in the remotest rural parts of the country over the course of 160 projects.
8: Royal Rajasthan on Wheels– Palace on Wheels success gave Indian Railways and Rajasthan Government
confidence to run similar tourist trains thus Royal Rajasthan on Wheels came into existence in January 2009. The train is based on the same model as previous tourist trains. The train has 14 luxury cabins which are categorized into deluxe and super deluxe and 2 dining cars which are named as Swarn Mahal and Sheesh Mahal. The naming convention of cabins is also interesting and they get their names from historical forts of India, predominately Rajasthan. Few names are Hawa Mahal, Padmini Mahal, Kishori Mahal, Phool Mahal and Super Deluxe Coach Taj Mahal. This India luxury train tour has 8 Day’s and 7 Night’s journey and the cities covered during this journey are New Delhi (Day 1), Jodhpur (Day 2), Udaipur and Chittaurgarh (Day 3), Ranthambore National Park and Jaipur (Day 4), Khajuraho (Day 5), Varanasi and Sarnath (Day 6), Agra (Day 7) and back to Delhi (Day 8). The important places covered during this journey are Hawa Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Ranthambhore National Park, Chittaurgarh Fort, Sarnath, Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.
9: Thar Express– The Thar express is another international train that connects India with its neighboring country Pakistan. Thar express was started on 17 February 2006 and as its name suggests, during most part of the journey the train travels through the Thar Desert of India. In Indian side, the train starts from Jodhpur (Bhagat Ki Kothi) station and after a journey of nearly 12 hours, it reaches Karachi in Pakistan. For immigration and customs check there are two points Munabao (India side) and Zero Point (Pakistan side). The fare from Jodhpur to Munabao/zero point is about 170 INR, and from Munabao/zero points to Karachi is about 230 INR. The route followed by Thar Express was used by another train called Sindh Mail but the link was destroyed during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Now after 41 years of halt the line was again opened by both governments and the Thar Express is in running status since then.
10: The Golden Chariot– the Golden Chariot is luxurious tourist train that connects the tourist spots in
the southern state of India. It offers two routes, the first route(Pride of the South) covers the entire state of Karnataka and Goa while the other route (Splendor of the South) covers the three states i.e. Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry both routes are of 7 Nights/8 days. The Golden Chariot was started by Indian Railways on 10th March 2008 and since then it has been awarded “Asia’s Leading Luxury Train” many times. The coaches are named after the famous dynasties that once ruled the region. During its journey, it covers many historical cities which are now U.N.E.S.C.O world heritage site like Hampi, provides beautiful natural scenery of backwaters of Kerala and beautiful beaches of Goa. All the coaches of the train are air-conditioned and interconnected to each other. The facility in each cabin includes a wardrobe, vanity desk, LCD Televisions, Electric sockets, private washroom having 5 Star Hotel accessories. It has two Dining Cars and they are called Nala & Ruchi and are inspired by the royal aesthetics of Hampi & Halebid temples. The overall train id of 19 coaches and they are colored purple and gold. The logo of the train is a mythological animal with the head of an elephant and a body of a lion. The best time to travel in this train is from October-March and the minimum ticket fare of journey costs $ 5300 or 170,000 INR.
11: Train between India & Nepal– The border between India and Nepal is one of the few borders in the world without any security or fencing. Every day a large number of people crosses the border from either side but to carry a large number of goods/passengers railways is crucial. Till now there are two railway routes that connect India to Nepal via railways. The first railway line is from Raxaul in India to Sirsiya in Nepal. This line is Broad Gauge (B.G) and mostly used for container traffic. There is only one passenger train that connects Nepal to India. This is a 59 km narrow gauge railway line that runs between Janakpur in Nepal and Jainagar in India. The diesel locomotive running on this track is ZDM 524, which is one of the four locomotives gifted by India to replace steam engine in Nepal and it is now beyond repair. As per the current reports the Janakpur-Jainagar line has been closed and Indian Railways is working on a new broad gauge track. The estimated competition date is 2017.
12: Royal Orient Train– Royal Orient Train is another luxury tourist train that runs between the Indian state of
Rajasthan and Gujrat. This train is a result of a joint venture of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat and the Indian Railways. Like other tourist trains of India, it also covers the historical cities, forts and national parks that are situated in these two states. Royal Orient Train came into the picture in 1994-1995 when there was a need to revive tourism in India and railways was one of the best ways to do due to the large connectivity of railways. In initial days of its run, the train didn’t perform as it was expected and the passenger count was decreasing. After overhaul in train service and facilities and refurbishing of coaches, finally passengers showed their interest and since then it is a profitable train for Indian Railways and Gujrat Tourism. It was after the success of Royal Orient, the Indian government took the initiative to start the similar train to boost Indian tourism and economy.
The train has 13 coaches named after the royal kingdom of Gujrat and Rajasthan. These coaches are equipped with all facilities to give you a five-star feeling inside a train. It has a bar on board and a multi-cuisine restaurant that offers Rajasthani, Gujarati, Indian, Chinese and continental cuisine. If you are a passionate reader and book lover then there’s a library on the Royal Orient train to pass your time with your best companion in your own way. A 7-day/8-night trip covers Delhi (Day1), Chittorgarh/Udaipur (Day 2), Junagarh/Veraval (Day 3), Sasangir/Dilwara (Day 4), Palitana/ Sarkhej( Day 5) Ahmedabad (Day 6) Jaipur(Day 7). Important monuments covered during this journey are Qutub Minar, Chittorgarh Fort, Sabarmati Ashram, the Lake Palace, the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat, the Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar.
13: Fairy Queen– Fairy Queen is basically a locomotive and not complete train but it runs on the same basis as
the other luxury trains in India. The Fairy Queen was built by English company at Leeds in England in 1855 and since then it is in service. In 1998 after providing service for nearly 143 years (with a gap in between), it was certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest train in regular operation. Currently, the train operates between New Delhi to Alwar a distance of nearly 160 km.
14: Red Ribbon Express– Red Ribbon Express is a train ran by Indian Railways to create awareness among people of India about H.I.V/ A.I.D.S. The train was launched in India on World A.I.D.S Day, December 1, 2007. The train was launched with an aim to spread awareness about the deadly disease A.I.D.S, reduce discrimination against AIDS victim, promote safe sex and how small precautions can result in saving someone’s life. At the time of the inauguration of the train, India has the third largest population of HIV/AIDS victims worldwide (with over 2.4 million people affected in 2007).
The train was run by the Indian government in two phases first in 2007 and second in 2009. The train comprises of a large group of volunteers who provide on-platform and off-site communication activities such as exhibits, street plays, and demonstrations. Treatment and counseling services are also available on the coach. In its first phase, the train traveled 27,000 km, covering 180 stations in India, and nearly 50,000 villages. The motto of the Red Ribbon Express is “Embarking on the journey of life”.