Friday, 1 June 2012

Deccan Queen Turns 83

The legendary Deccan Queen negotiating a curve
Pic courtesy: Deepesh Soni 
To old timers and railway chroniclers, the very name "Deccan Queen" brings back to memory a transport revolution that the Queen brought about in the Bombay--Pune sector. The Deccan Queen Express revolutionized rail travel in India cutting down the journey time between the two cities of Bombay and Pune from a whopping 6 hours under steam traction to an amazing 2 hours 45 minutes with electric traction. There had been a Poona Race Train which had been scheduled to do the distance in 3 hours 26 minutes behind steam traction in 1901. This was including three engine changes and one reversal enroute. The 2 hour 45 minutes of the Deccan Queen was therefore revolutionary for a day train providing a regular service, unlike the seasonal race special. 

The ad for the Deccan Queen in 1930
June 1, 1930 was a red letter for the erstwhile Great Indian Peninsular Railway (the forerunner of the Central Railway) which flagged off the Deccan Queen, India's first superfast deluxe train to run between the commercial capital Bombay and the cultural capital Poona (Pune). An archive from The Times of India dating back to May 20, 1930 reads: "the G.I.P. Railway administration is shortly making another stride forward in catering to comfort and convenience of the travelling public which constitutes a record in Asia. There has for a long time been a demand from the public for a really fast service between Bombay and Pune and it is proposed to meet this demand by the running of what is aptly called the "Deccan Queen"--a train which has no rival in the east for luxury and speed." 

The Deccan Queen has several firsts or 'among the firsts' to her credit. A few being that she was India's first superfast train, she was the first long distance train to be hauled by an electric locomotive. She was also one of the first trains to be connected through vestibules. The Deccan Queen is a symbol of pride for the both the GIPR as well as CR since it was also the first train to have exclusive compartments marked for ladies and also among the first to have a dining car. It is also the only train to have been featured in the 1988 iconic "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" video for national integration. On 7th May 2010, she was also the first train to be banked by three WAG7 electric locomotives when the traction power on the Karjat--Lonavla stretch was changed to 25,000 volts Alternating Current from the earlier 1500 Volts Direct Current. These series of firsts make it an exciting train with a long chequered history. It was the first train in which passengers could carry dogs along and the royals used the train to transport officials to Pune for races while the common man used the train to commute between the cities. 

The Deccan Queen is the only train in India presently to have a Dining Car. The Dining Car offers table services for 32 passengers and has modern pantry facilities such as a microwave oven, deep freezer and a toaster. The Dining Car is tastefully furnished with cushioned chairs and carpets. The Dining Car had been fitted with grills, steam ovens, boilers and was one of the few trains to be introduced by the GIPR with an electric refrigerator to stack cold beverages when it was first introduced. Apart from the usual vadas, cutlets, patties, soup and fries, the Dining Car staff serves even cheese toasts, baked beans and scrambled eggs, food items which are unique only to the Deccan Queen.
The name plate of the Deccan Queen Express

From its inception, apart from providing high standards of comfort to passengers, the train has witnessed various improvements such as the introduction of coaches with roller bearings for the first time in India, replacement of end generating coaches to self-generating compartments with 110 volts systems and the introduction of first and second class chair cars thereby providing increased accommodation to passengers. 

The Deccan Queen is an incongruous part of the history between Mumbai and Pune. The story is inextricably linked with speed and luxury during the pre-independence days. The management systems of the Deccan Queen have been assessed by the International Services Ltd. and were found to comply with their requirements of ISO 9001:2000 under the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand in November 2003, thereby making it the first Indian train to find a place in the Limca Book of Records.  

1 comment:

Deepesh Soni said...

The train was not hauled but banked by WAG-7 locos to between Karjat and Lonavala.:) BTW, the first picture of Deccan Queen used on your blog is mine. Thanks for using it but please give me some credit. Thank you!! :)