My Tryst with the Indian Railways – Part 1

This is a small diary on the trains I have travelled in in the last 4 months

12230 – Lucknow Mail

From: Ghaziabad Jn

To: Lucknow Charbagh

Class: 3 AC

Travel Time: 7 hours & 55 min for 466 kms (Avg Speed: 58 km/hr)

I boarded the Lucknow Mail from Ghaziabad Jn. The train arrived on platform number 3 as opposed to number 4 written on the electronic board as well as on indiarailinfo.com. It stopped for close to around 5-7 min on the station as opposed to its scheduled 2 min stoppage. The train has close to around 11 AC coaches. It is one of the most popular trains to travel on between New Delhi and Lucknow. My travel experience was okay. I was given the upper berth. Climbing up to my berth was very uncomfortable as the handle was missing and the curtain rod was fixed too low. My head banged on to the rod and I scratched my elbow in the process of getting onto my berth. Even the berth was bit ripped off where my feet rested on the berth. The train has good speed and reached Lucknow on time.

12215 – Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Bandra Terminus Garib Rath Express

From: Gurgaon

To: Ahmedabad Jn

Class: 3 AC

Travel Time: 15 hours & 26 min for 926 kms (Avg Speed: 60 km/hr)

I wanted to head home Ahmedabad from my office in Gurgaon. I didn’t want to travel all the way to New Delhi to catch a train for that. I had only one option at morning and it was the Garib Rath express. This was my first journey in a Garib Rath. Garib Raths have only 3 AC class and they have the notorious side middle berth in the coaches. The cabin was more crowded than your average 3 AC coach because of the extra berth. However, if you’re willing to travel almost Rs 400 cheaper than the average 3 AC ticket at superfast speed, then I think you can pass the overcrowded cabin. Just make sure you don’t bring too much luggage. The speed of the train was really impressive. It got almost an hour late between Ajmer Jn and Falna, however it recovered quickly and reached Ahmedabad 10 min before time at 01:10 instead of 01:20. The coaches were new and they were passable on cleanliness. The food was okay. The train has the distinction of being the fastest train between Ahmedabad and Borivali covering the distance in 5 hours and 50 mins, a fact that many people are unaware of. The Shatabdi takes 6 hours& 20 min, the Double Decker takes 6 hours & 15 min.

12958 – Swarna Jayanti Rajdhani Express

From: Gurgaon

To: Ahmedabad Jn

Class: First Class

Travel Time: 12 hours & 40 min for 903 kms (Avg Speed: 71 km/hr)

Swarna Jayanti Rajdhani Express is the only train apart from the Ashram Express where I have travelled in all of its classes. Once I travelled between Gurgaon & Ahmedabad in the First Class in June 2013. That was the first time the train got a stoppage at Gurgaon for experimental basis for a period of 6 months. One thing that I liked about the First Class apart from the comfortable upper birth was the food! I loved it! It was served like we do at home in plates and a guy from the pantry comes in rounds and serves different kinds of dishes. You keep taking the helpings till you’re full! I loved the variety of dishes that were served – 2 dry vegetable subzi, one paneer gravy, 2 different daals, rice, raita, salad and ice cream (from what I can recall). They lay out a table for each person in the cabin and you eat your food on it. It’s just perfect. I liked sleeping on the wide and comfortable berth as well. The breakfast was once again a tasty affair with corn flakes n’milk, poha, bread & butter and cutlets with three different varieties of fruit juices up for grabs! Once again eat it to your full! I generally travel in the 2 AC class which is almost equally comfortable sans the awesome food!

In my view, the Rajdhani can be easily speeded up. It is currently giving an average speed of 68. The train reaches Rewari Jn early and because of this stops there for 10-15 min and in the process reaches Gurgaon 5-10 min late. This has happened thrice.

12724 – Andhra Pradesh Express

From: Bhopal Jn

To: Secunderabad Jn

Class: 3 AC

Travel Time: 15 hours & 45 min for 963 kms

We caught the A.P Express from Bhopal Jn at 03:30 at night. Reaching the railway station at that hour was an adventure in itself with one of my friends dropping the two of us at 3 am at night on a triply! The ride from the hotel to the station (a good 7 kms) was a memorable one!

The train reached 30 min late. Our tickets were actually booked for sleeper however we wanted to travel in A.C. We positioned ourselves near the 3 AC coaches and as soon as the train arrived we caught hold of the TT and asked him whether he could find us two empty berths in the coach. Luckily we got the berths however we didn’t knew whether we had the difference amount with us in cash. I quickly calculated the price of the seats from what I had remember and made the estimations.  We boarded the train and jumped on the berths. The TT came and we quickly paid him the difference amount (there is a separate sheet with the TT in order to process the class conversion). We dozed off.

The train is really a superfast. It is the second fastest train between New Delhi and Secunderabad. The entire journey was comfortabl. The average speed between Bhopal and Secunderabad is bit low compared to its speed on other corridors. This is primarily because of the hilly terrain between Bhopal & Betul. The speed of the train is restricted in this corridor.

12721 – Dakshin Express

From: Secunderabad Jn

To: Bhopal Habibganj

Class: SL

Travel Time: 17 hours & 29 min for 957 kms (Avg Speed: 54 km/hr)

A trip made on short notice. We travelled to Bhopal to attend my friend’s engagement with the fiance himself! Due to the paucity of time we could not secure a ticket in the AC and instead got a seat in the sleeper. Now I had not travelled in a sleeper in a long journey (more than 5 hrs in duration) in many years before this trip. The train was nice and fast but it has too many stoppages coming along its course which increases the travel time considerably. At morning I was surprised to find that there were people sitting on the birth on which I was sleeping! We spent most of the day time standing on the door & enjoying the beautiful scenery created by the rains and the lovely hills through which our train passed on entering Madhya Pradesh. The entire route felt like travelling on a route made up of a mix of Konkan Railways and the Kalka – Shimla Rail route! It was mind blowing! The weather was on our side during the trip!!

12429 – Bangalore – Hazrat Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express

From: Secunderabad Jn

To: Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin

Class: 2 AC

Travel Time: 22 hours for 1658 kms (Avg: 75 km/hr)

The best thing about the ride in this train was that the train was reaching each and every station throughout the course of the journey atleast 30 mins early. It even reached Hazrat Nizamuddin almost 25 minutes early to our surprise. The food was passable. The chicken curry tasted like maggi noodles, the same was true for the “shahi paneer” in dinner. The service given by the attendants was terrible. They missed something or the other everytime while serving food and would need to be asked for the missing item 5-6 times. Despite being banned and specifically mentioned in the sheet, the attendants were asking for tip despite their poor service. One thing that I do not like about the new LHB coaches is that the windows are not tinted. This not only exposes the passengers to scorching sunlight during the day time but also dents the privacy when the train is stopped at the stations as the people peep into the cabin through the clear windows. Once you enter Madhya Pradesh the terrain changes dramatically and you’re greeted by lovely hills. During the rains it feels as if you’re travelling up to a hill station. Absolutely stunning views!

12915 – Ashram Express

From: Ahmedabad Jn

To: Gurgaon

Class: First Class

Travel Time: 14 hrs & 36 min for 907 kms (Avg Speed: 62 km/hr)

I have travelled in Ashram Express plenty of times in my childhood. I remember hopping onto this beast of a train whenever we were going to Delhi to meet my grand parents. Getting a ticket on this train during the summers is next to impossible. In this particular journey from Ahmedabad to Gurgaon I travelled in its First Class making it the only train (till I did the same with the Rajdhani) where I have travelled in its every class – First AC, 2 AC, 3 AC and SL. I boarded the train from Ahmedabad and found that I had gotten the coupe. A coupe is  a cabin which is occupied by only 2 persons. It had everything – tables for meals, a wall clock, posters on Incredible India, an intercom and a digital display showing whether a particular toilet has been accompanied or not (first time for me on the Indian Railways). The entire journey was one of the most comfortable journeys I have ever embarked upon. If only they served food in this train…;)