Celebrated long-haul train enters 100th year
Mumbai: Once the preferred service for British officials disembarking at Mumbai and travelling north, the Punjab Mail entered its 100th year this month.
It is the first train to achieve this distinction on Indian Railways' broad network and still connects west and north India.
Though the exact date of the start of the Punjab Mail, running between the then Bombay and Peshawar in Pakistan, is unclear, Central Railway has calculated its ‘birth date,' based on an old document and a passenger complaint — about the train arriving late.
"From a cost estimate paper of 1911 and a complaint by an irate passenger dated October 12, 1912, about the late arrival of the train by a few minutes at Delhi station, we have more or less inferred that the Punjab Mail, or Punjab Limited, as she was then called, made her inaugural run from Ballard Pier Mole Station, on June 1, 1912," a Central Railway official told IANS.
This makes the Punjab Mail 16 years older than its sister, the Frontier Mail, on the Western Railway network. Although other trains have completed 100 or more years of service, the Punjab Mail record on the broad gauge is based on available historical material, the officials said.
Mumbai to Punjab
The 24-coach train, a mix of air-conditioned and ordinary sleepers, traverses the 1,930km distance between Mumbai and its terminus, Ferozepur city in Punjab, near the Pakistan border, in 34 hours.
Its regular passengers have remained loyal and appreciative.
"I have always found the journey by Punjab Mail fast, efficient as far as timings are concerned and good service in terms of lodging and boarding en route," said businessman J.S. Kahaan, 60, who is a frequent traveller on the train.
The train used to be popular with British officers, along with their families, who usually disembarked at Mumbai after a two-week steamer voyage from Southampton.
"Since they held tickets combining the sea journey with an inland train journey on the subcontinent to various destinations, the officers and their families hopped on to one of the trains taking them to places like Delhi or Madras [Chennai]," the Central Railway official said.