Pune: Deccan Queen and Punjab Mail: Celebrating 95 and 113 Years of Railway Legacy

Pune: Deccan Queen and Punjab Mail: Celebrating 95 and 113 Years of Railway Legacy

Pune: Deccan Queen and Punjab Mail: Celebrating 95 and 113 Years of Railway Legacy

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An ode to railway heritage: Deccan Queen and Punjab Mail’s birthday at Pune Station.

31 May 2024

By Payoshi Bisht

Railway enthusiasts and officials alike are gearing up for a momentous occasion as the iconic Deccan Queen and Punjab Mail trains mark their 95th and 113th birthdays respectively. The celebrations are set to take place at Pune Railway Station on 1st June, 2024, at 6:45 AM, with Harsha Shah, President of the Railway Pravasi Group, extending a warm invitation to all.

The Deccan Queen, fondly known as the “Pride of Maharashtra,” and the Punjab Mail, recognised as one of India’s oldest and most esteemed train services, have etched their names into the annals of Indian railway history. These trains have not only served as modes of transportation but also as cultural symbols, connecting communities and facilitating the exchange of ideas and traditions.

Harsha Shah, President of Pune Railway Pravasi Community, said, “I have been celebrating this occasion since I was five years old. Even during Covid, when we couldn’t have such a big ceremony, I still baked a cake at home and celebrated it. We will be expecting guests to join us at platform number 4 and 5 tomorrow for the celebration. My vision is to convert the Deccan Queen into a bullet train of its kind. I urge Vande Bharat to look into this idea.”

Punjab Mail History:

The origins of the Bombay to Peshawar Punjab Mail are rather unclear. Based on a Cost Estimate paper circa 1911 and a complaint by an irate passenger in October 12, 1912 about the ‘late arrival of the train by a few minutes at Delhi’, it has been more or less inferred that the Punjab Mail made her maiden run out of Ballard Pier Mole station on from 1912. Punjab Mail is over 16 years older than the more glamorous Frontier Mail. Ballard Pier Mole station was actually a hub for GIPR services. The Punjab Mail, or Punjab Limited as she was then called, finally steamed out on 1st June 1912. To begin with, there were the P & O steamers bringing in the mail, and the Officers of the Raj, along with their wives, on their first posting in Colonial India. The steamer voyage between Southampton and Bombay lasted thirteen days. As the British officials held combined tickets both for their voyage to Bombay, as well as their inland journey by train to their place of posting, they would, after disembarking, simply board one of the trains bound for either Madras, Calcutta or Delhi. The Punjab Limited used to run on fixed mail days from Bombay’s Ballard Pier Mole station all the way to Peshawar, via the GIP route, covering the distance of 2,496 km in about 47 hrs. The train comprised of six cars: three for passengers, and three for postal goods and mail. The three passenger carrying cars had a capacity of 96 passengers only. During the pre-partition period, the Punjab Limited was the fastest train in British India. The Punjab Limited’s route ran over GIP track for the large part, and passed through Itarsi, Agra, Delhi and Lahore, before terminating at Peshawar Cantonment. The train started originating and terminating at Bombay VT (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Mumbai) from 1914. The train then loosely came to be known as the Punjab Mail, rather than Punjab Limited, and became a daily service. Third class cars started appearing on the Punjab Mail by the mid-1930s. In 1914, the GIP route from Bombay to Delhi was some 1,541 km and the train covered it in 29 hrs 30 minutes. In the early 1920s, this transit time was further reduced to 27 hrs 10 minutes. In 1972, the transit time was again pushed up to 29 hrs. In 2011, the Punjab Mail has as many as 55 intermediate stops. The Punjab Mail got an air-conditioned car in 1945. In 1968, the train was dieselized upto Jhansi, later extended from Jhansi till New Delhi, then by 1976, onwards till Firozpur. In the late 1970/early 1980s, WCAM/1 dual current locomotive to run the Punjab Mail on electric traction right upto Bhusaval, with the changeover from DC to AC traction at Igatpuri. The Punjab Mail takes 32 hrs and 35 minutes to cover the 1,930 km between Mumbai and Firozpur Cantonment with an average speed of 59 kms per hour despite 52 intermediate stoppages. The train is electric hauled. The restaurant car has been replaced by a pantry car. The Punjab Mail restarted its journey with LHB coaches from 1.12.2020 after the Covid pandemic. Presently, Punjab Mail running with an occupancy of more than 250%, has one AC First Class cum AC-2 Tier, Two AC-2 Tier, Six AC-3 Tier, 6 Sleeper Class, one pantry car, 5 general second class coaches and one generator van. — —