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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Deccan Queen: Why Pune celebrates a train’s birthday

This year, the Deccan Queen’s 'birthday' was celebrated in absentia, as the train continues to be stranded in Mumbai due to the lockdown.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: June 4, 2020 3:03:29 pm
Deccan queen, Deccan queen birthday, Deccan queen history, Mumbai pune train Deccan queen, indian express, indian express, Great Indian Peninsula Railway The Deccan Queen was introduced between Mumbai and Pune on June 1, 1930 by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, the forerunner of the Central Railway. (File)

The historic Deccan Queen train between Mumbai and Pune completed 90 years on Monday (June 1). Probably the only train to have its birthday celebrated, the Deccan Queen’s ‘fans’ and commuters in Pune marked the occasion in absentia, as the train continues to be stranded in Mumbai due to the ongoing lockdown.

This train holds many a record, including that of being India’s first superfast train, first long-distance electric-hauled train, first vestibuled train, the first train to have a ‘women-only’ car, and the first train to feature a dining car. The train’s commuters celebrate its birthday on June 1 every year at Pune railway station.

The Deccan Queen

As per a Ministry of Railways press release from March, the Deccan Queen was introduced between Mumbai and Pune on June 1, 1930 by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the forerunner of the Central Railway. This was the first deluxe train introduced to serve the two important cities of the region, and was named after Pune – also known as the “Queen of Deccan’’ (“Dakkhan ki Rani’’ in Hindi).

The Deccan Queen in its starting years operated only over the weekends, and became a daily train between the two cities in the 1940s, according to the book ‘Indian Railways: The Weaving of a National Tapestry’ by Bibek Debroy, Sanjay Chadha, Vidya Krishnamurthi.

It is among the rare Indian trains that has never been hauled using steam traction, and was always electric-powered; on rare instances running on diesel. The train became popular as a faster alternative to the Poona Mail, which required 6 hours to complete the Mumbai-Pune journey.

The GIPR in the 1940s would run Race Special trains for Mumbai’s horse racing enthusiasts who would come to Pune on weekends and race days.

Initially, the train was introduced with two rakes of seven coaches each, painted in silver with scarlet mouldings, and the other with royal blue with gold lines. The under frames of the coaches of the original rakes were built in England while the coach bodies were built in the Matunga Workshop of the GIPR.

The coaches of the original rakes were replaced in 1966 by anti-telescopic steel-bodied integral coaches built by Integral Coach Factory, Perambur. The new coaches incorporated improved bogie design for better riding comfort as well as improvements in the interior furnishings and fittings. The number of coaches in the rake was also increased to 12 from the original seven.

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In 1995, the rake was changed, further increasing the seating capacity and improving the pantry facilities. Over the years, the number of coaches in the train has been increased to the present level of 17 coaches – 4 AC chair cars, one buffet Car, ten second class chair cars and two second class cum brake vans.

In March this year, the Central Railway decided to give the train a makeover by upgrading its coaches to German-made LHB coaches, which have better safety features, better suspension system and better riding comfort.

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