Some unknown facts about Indian Railways

  • Some time ago, it was possible to reach Colombo by train

The Boat Mail was a train and steamer ferry service between India and Sri Lanka. In the late 19th century, the railway route in India was from Madras to Tuticorin. At Tuticorin, passengers embarked on a steamer to Colombo.

Connecting Chennai and Colombo, the system initially utilised a rail-to-sea operation, but changed to a rail-to-sea-to-rail operation.

After the Pamban Bridge was built, the train’s route changed and it went from Madras to Dhanushkodi. A much shorter ferry service then took the passengers to Talaimannar in Ceylon, from where another train went to Colombo.

In 1964 the Boat Mail was washed into the sea by huge waves during a cyclone, and the tracks to Dhanushkodi were also destroyed.

At one time the South Indian Railway considered constructing a bridge 12 miles (19 km) long across the shallow waters and sand shoals and reefs known as Adam’s Bridge between India and Sri Lanka. However, this plan was shelved when World War I broke out.

  • The Indian railways is  pursuing to build the highest railway track in the world

The total expected length of Bilaspur–Mandi–Leh railway is  500 km (310 miles). It would become the highest railway track in the world, overtaking the current record of ChinaQinghai–Tibet Railway.

Once this railway line is completed, Leh will be directly connected to Himachal Pradesh and the rest of India by railway.

Taglang La station, a part of the line is will become the highest railway station in the world at 5,359 m (17,582 ft) above the sea level overtaking the current record of Tanggula Railway Station in China at 5,086 m (16,686 ft).

  • India’s longest train has a length of 1.4 km

The Central Railway (CR) runs a few 118 coach long freight trains.

The 1,373-metre long train with a trailing load of 9,000-10,000 tons,  hauled by four electric engines (two in front and two in the middle).

  • The Presidential Saloon, a two coach train reserved for exclusive use by the President of India.

The coaches have a dining room that doubles as a visiting room, a lounge room or conference room, and the president’s bedroom. There is also a kitchen and chambers for the president’s secretaries and staff as well as the railway staff who accompany him. The coaches are luxuriously appointed with teak furniture and silk drapes and cushion covers.

The Presidential Saloon was used regularly by many presidents in the 1960s and early 1970s. A tradition developed of having the president on the completion of his term use the coaches for his outbound journey from New Delhi to his residence elsewhere in the country although it’s not certain when that started.

The last president to use these coaches frequently in this way as Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, in 1977. After that, the coaches fell into disuse for reasons of security and convenience, although they were regularly maintained and inspected at New Delhi despite not being used.

After a hiatus of about 26 years, the coaches were used again on May 30, 2003 when the president, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam used it for a 60km journey from Harnaut to Patna.

  • The Jeevan Rekha Express (Lifeline Express) is the World’s first hospital train

It was developed in collaboration with the Indian Railways and Health Ministry. It started on 16 July 1991; as of 2010 the service had completed almost 120 projects, benefiting over 600,000 rural Indians.

The Lifeline express was started to provide on-the-spot diagnostic, medical and advanced surgical treatment for preventive and curative interventions for disabled adults and children for outreach into inaccessible rural areas where medical services are not available.


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