104 years and counting, Punjab Mail chugs into history books

  • PTI, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 01, 2016 20:19 IST

Punjab Mail, which ferries passengers from this Maharashtra metropolis to Ferozepur in Punjab, has become the first Indian train to complete 104 years of operation. The Punjab Limited, as it was known in the pre-Independence days, was started in 1912, a Central Railway statement said on Wednesday here.

“The origins of the Bombay (now Mumbai)-to-Peshawar Punjab Mail are rather unclear. Based on a 1911 cost estimate paper and a complaint by an irate passenger on October 12, 1912, about its late arrival by a few minutes in Delhi, it has been more or less inferred that the Punjab Mail made her maiden run out of Ballard Pier Mole station on June 1, 1912,” it said.

Punjab Mail was a popular advertising vehicle as well for family planning. Here, in this picture from September 16, 1968, it carries the message ‘Two or Three Children, No More’. The birth control signs on locomotives of several trains carried the red triangle-symbol of family planning in India. At the time, India's population was 550 million (55 crore), and was increasing by nearly 10 million (1 crore) every year. It stands close to 1.5 billion (150 crore) now. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

The statement suggests the Punjab Limited ran on fixed mail days from Bombay’s (now Mumbai’s) Ballard Pier Mole station to Peshawar via the GIP route, covering 2,496 kilometres in about 47 hours. The train then comprised six cars; three for passengers and three for postal goods and mail. The three passenger cars had a capacity of 96 only. These were all sparkling, corridor cars, made up of first-class and dual-berth compartments.

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Catering as they were to the upper-class gentry, the cars were pretty well appointed, offering lavatories, bathrooms, a restaurant car, and a compartment for luggage and the servants of the ‘white sahibs’. The train started originating and terminating at Bombay Victoria (now Chhatrapati Shivaji) Terminus, from 1914, coming to be known as the Punjab Mail loosely, and became a daily service, soon catering to the lower classes, too. The third-class cars started appearing on the Punjab Mail by the mid-1930s.

This train now takes 34 hours to cover the 1,930-km distance between Mumbai and Ferozepur Cantonment. The present version is electric-hauled and the restaurant car has been replaced by a pantry car. It has one air-conditioned-first-class-cum-AC2 tier, one AC2 tier, five AC3 tier, 10 sleeper class, one pantry car, and three general second-class coaches, besides two general second class compartments that include guard’s brake vans.

How the journey started

Original name: The Punjab Limited

Original run: In 1912 (approximate)

Original engine: UK-made WL big, steam engine

Original route: Through Agra, Delhi, Amritsar, and Lahore before terminating at Peshawar Cantonment, one of the biggest towns in North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunwala in Pakistan)

Original schedule: Ran on fixed mail days from Bombay’s Ballard Pier Mole station to Peshawar, covering 2,496 km in 47 hours to be one of the fastest trains of British India

Original experience: Old-timers remember it to be one of the most elite trains in undivided India

Big change: The destination station of Ferozepur in Punjab was changed from Peshwar to Ferozpur after Partition and today the journey is of 36 hours and 1,929 km

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