Luxury train travel in India: Gilded and garlanded on my transport of delight
From Wes Anderson and Danny Boyle to Michael Palin and Paul Theroux, Indian Railways have entranced dreamers, intrigued authors and inspired filmmakers. That's because there's no other railway like them on Earth.
Indian Railways are very aptly called the lifeline of India...considered to the most safe and reliable mode of transport which as has served the nation for the past 150 years. Indian Railways is also a major employer of the country as it provides jobs to 1.6 million people.
Some notable achievements of Indian railways which can be lauded are
- Providing transport links through 63,140 routes, it is one of the largest railway system in the world
- A wide fleet with 7800 locomotives, 40,000 coaches, 3,26,000 wagons, 9 pairs of Rajdhani and 13 pair of Shatabdi Express currently operated on almost daily basis.
- Indian Railways operates 11,000 trains, and transports more than 1 million tonnes freight regularly. Amongst 11.000 trains, 7000 trains are used by people for commuting purposes.
- The classes of travel available on Indian Railways are 1st AC, 2nd AC, 3rd AC, AC Chair Car, IInd Sleeper and IInd Ordinary Class.
Home to ancient toy trains, royal trains, Mumbai's infamous passenger trains, the new Duronto Express speed trains and even a hospital on wheels, I knew the Indian Railways would have a few tales to tell. Taking a page out of Jules Verne's classic tale, I decided to travel Around India in 80 Trains with Norwegian photographer Harald Haugan in tow, and write a book about the adventure.
Maintained and run by Indian Railways the trains in India connect almost all the state capitals and other important cities and towns of the country. In fact, for tourists no visit to India would be complete without the experience of travelling on trains.
For travelling across India, Indian Railways have a variety of trains including fast, superfast, express and local trains. Passengers choose the trains according to their requirements and budget. Shatabdi and Rajadhani are two high-class trains, running at an speed over 100 km per hour, having all Air-conditioned coaches. Besides, there are hundreds of superfast and express trains running across the country. For short distance the Indian Railways run local passanger trains.
Moutain Railways - Mountain Railways is an special attraction of Indian Railway and also the most convenient way to visit the hill stations of India. Developed by the British government about 100 years back, during their rule over India, Mountain Railways now served as the main mode of transport to hilly areas. Travelling on mountain rail is a thrilling experience, as you get a wonderful chance to see the beautiful green countryside and other amazing wonders of nature. In fact, three of the Mountain Railways namely Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka – Shimla Railway have been declared World heritage properties by UNESCO.
Spend time looking out the windows or carriage door. The ever changing landscape provides a rare and hassle free view everyday life in India.
If you're the talkative type, you won't have a shortage of people to chat to. Finding out as much information as possible about their traveling companions is the number one way that Indians pass the time on these train trips. By western standards, their questions can be quite intrusive. You should feel free to ask the same questions back. Your companions will be pleased you've taken an interest in them and you may receive some fascinating answers.
Be prepared to go to bed early. Indians love to sleep when they have nothing better to do and most people will start retiring for the night around 9.30 p.m.
Indian Railways run these trains keeping in mind the tourism point of view. Most of the luxury trains offers five star facilities to passengers on board. Running for a duration of two days to one week, these trains take you on a once upon a lifetime journey. You find a fine chance to explore the picturesque terrain anlongwith enjoying royal hospitality. Palace of Wheels, Deccan Odyssey, Heritage on Wheels and Fairy Queen are some of the popular luxurious trains in India.
A plan for a rail system in India was first put forward in 1832. The first rail line of the Indian sub-continent came up near Chintadripet Bridge (presently in Chennai) in Madras Presidency in 1836 as an experimental line.
Monisha Rajesh, is the author of the new book "Around India in 80 Trains." The state-run railways and private luxury lines give full view of the country’s people as well as its sights, Ms. Rajesh said. “You could be in first class with ambassadors and politicians in these air-conditioned compartments” she said. “Go down to the other end, you’ll find people sitting on wooden slats.”
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