The history of rail transport dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when the first rail was introduced in 1853 by the British. We have come a long way from those times as the railway industry generates ₹1.683 trillion in revenue and has employed at least 1.3 million people. It can be easily deduced that railway as a mode of transportation has acquired an important place among Indians.
The month of June 2017 is special for Indian Railways as one of the oldest long distance trains, the Punjab Mail, has completed 105 years. The train, also known as the Punjab Limited, made its first run out of Ballard Pier Mole station on June 1, 1912. Its route comprised of running between Bombay and Peshawar.
Interestingly, the origins of this train are not clearly known. The Central Railways authorities have been able to conclude upon a date on the basis of a complaint by an enraged traveler on October 12, 1912, about its late arrival by a few minutes at Delhi. The Punjab Mail used to run on the Great Indian Peninsular route covering 2,496 km in about 47 hours. There were fixed mail days from Bombay’s Ballard Pier Mole Station to Peshawar.
The Punjab Mail was one of the most prestigious trains which had only 3 first class and 3 postal goods bogies initially. The passenger corridor cars had a capacity of merely 96 people. These were made up of first class dual berth compartments with a restaurant car.
There was a dedicated compartment for the luggage and servants of white sahibs. As is evident, the train was meant primarily for the upper class only.By the mid-1930s, third class cars started appearing on the Punjab Mail. The train passed through Agra, Delhi, Amritsar, Lahore, and Itarsi. It was also considered to be the fastest train of the pre-partition era of British India.
The Punjab Mail is one of the oldest marvels in India and a precursor to advancements we were to see in the coming years. It will tell us about many legacies from the past as the number of years keep adding to the day of its origin.