East India Company can be considered as the pioneer of the Indian Railways and Lord Dalhousie for laying the foundation of rail transport in India. In 1853 the Great India Peninsular Co. built the first line of 33.6 km from Mumbai to Thane.
Currently the Indian railway is the second largest railway system in the world and also the biggest employer. India has 543,760 km of railway line with 6985 stations and over 11,275 locomotives (trains per day). 29% of the total track length is electrified and is second biggest electrified railway system in the world after Russia.
The three type of lines are Broad Gauge (1676 mm) 41,791 km, Meter Gauge (1000 mm) 17,044 km, Narrow Gauge (762 mm and 610 mm) 3,710 km.
First train in India (also in Asia) : 16 April, 1853 between Mumbai and Thane (32 km). Steam engine use coal and is running only few heritage routes. Diesel locomotives run on Diesel and was introduced in 1957. Electric locomotives were introduced in 1929. First electric train in India was Deccan Queen, introduced in 1929 between Kalyan and Thane.
Indian Railway has nine administrative zones - Central Railway (CST, Mumbai), Eastern Railway (Kolkata), Northern Railway (New Delhi), North Eastern Railway (Gorakhpur), North East Frontier (Maligaon in Guwahati), Southern Railway (Chennai), South central Railway (Secunderabad), South Eastern Railway (Kolkata) and Western Railway (Churchgate, Mumbai).
Indrail pass : It allows foreign visitors to travel anywhere in India by train within the period of validity (1 to 90 day). For train timings and reservation of tickets Indian Railways
'Trains at a glance' booklet gives details about train timings and fare (Price Rs 45). It is available at train stations and bookstalls (Wheeler & Co). For 1500 km travel in 3rd AC will cost around Rs 1232, while in 2nd Sleeper costs Rs 480. One can have three month advance reservation. To cancel a ticket on or before 24 hour of departure of the train with a fee of Rs 40.
Tatkal reservation starts 5 days before the proposed date of journey at 8 am. The fare is from the starting station to the destination plus Rs 150 for 2nd Sleeper and Rs 300 for 3rd AC.
With RAC (Reservation Against Cancellation), you will get a seat. With a Waiting list ticket, normally one cannot travel. Current ticket is available for travelling in the General compartment (lowest fare).
High Speed trains
Rajdhani Express : Rajdhani Express trains were introduced in 1969 and they operate at the speed of 130 kmph. Rajdhani Express runs from Delhi to Howrah, Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Thiruvananthapuram, Guwahati, Patna, Chennai, Secunderabad, Jammu Tavi, Ahmedabad and back to Delhi.
Shatabdi Express : Shatabdi Express trains were introduced in 1988 and they operate at the speed of 140 kmph. Shatabdi Express routes are Delhi to Bhopal, Lucknow, Kalka, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Amritsar, Ajmer and back. Chennai to Mysore, Coimbatore and Tirupati, Mumbai to Ahmedabad and Pune, Howrah to Bokaro city and Rourkela, Rajahmundry to Secundrabad and back.
The Palace on Wheels : Highly decorated palace like train running in Rajasthan tourist circuit.
The Royal Orient : The luxury train runs in Gujarat tourist circuit.
Shivalik Deluxe : The luxury train has amenity fittings that match the modern times. It runs from Delhi to Shimla with a single stop at Barog. The train has a sitting capacity of 120 and the journey time is 4 hour 45 minute. The train has wall to wall carpet, wide glass windows, reversible cushioned chairs, improved toilet facilities, cabin for couple, table for meals, tube lights, music system, micro phone for communication with the guard etc.
Shivalik Palace : It runs for the elite class of tourists in Kalka- Shimla route. The train has on board catering, decorative lights, musical cordless bell, music system, variety of indoor games, magazines and books for reading, modern bathroom, dining table with cushioned chair.
Fairy Queen : Built in 1855, this 153 year old pristine beauty, the oldest working steam engine in the world runs a two day trip from Delhi to Alwar on selected days. It departs from Delhi Cant. station at 10 am with 50 passengers for an unforgettable journey.
The toy trains of India
Shimla (2221 m) : The toy train from Kalka to Shimla is through 107 tunnels and lofty arched bridges. The train covers the 96 km in 5 hour.
Ooty (2193 m) : From Mettupalayam (326 m) near Coimbatore, the toy train starts its journey at 33 kmph. The narrow gauge route has 16 tunnels, 31 bridges and tall girder bridges. The train treks across plains, plantations and forest clad hills giving a breathtaking view. The train runs from 1899 on the 46 km long route in 4.5 hour.
Darjeeling (2134 m) : The most famous toy train (in UNESCO's world heritage list) runs from New Jalpaiguri in 7.5 hour. The 86 km route to Darjeeling offers panoramic view of the Himalayas.
Matheran (768 m) : A car free hill station near Neral (39 m) on Mumbai - Pune rail route, narrow gauge toy train connects Neral with Matheran (13 km, 6 hour) and 30 min. by Taxi.
Konkan Railway : The 760 km long scenic sojourn is an adventure on rails. The route connects Roha (near Mumbai) to Mangalore. The construction completed on 26 Jan 1998 after a 8 year long period. The route is over formidable terrain with 179 major bridges, 1819 minor bridges, 92 tunnels (aggregate length of 84 km). The longest bridge (2.065 km) on the route is over river Sharavati near Honavar. The tallest viaduct is near Panval Nanadi near Ratnagiri with a height of 64 m. The longest tunnel (6.5 km) is at Karbude near Ratnagiri.
The modern track has concrete sleepers and the trains can run at even 160 kmph. Of the 59, the important stations are Veer, Khed, Chiplun, Ratnagiri, Rajapur road, Kankavali, Sawantwadi, Thivim, Karmali, Verna, Madgaon, Karwar, Kumta, Bhatkal, Udipi and Surathkal. This route reduces the travel time from Mumbai to Goa (10 hour), Mangalore (26 hour) and Kochi (12 hour) by train.