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এক রাজ্য, দুই রাণী।নাম তাদের, শালিমার ও আলিপুরদুয়ার রাজ্যরানী - Dip

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Blog Entry# 3285165
Posted: Apr 09 2018 (15:33)

27 Responses
Last Response: Jun 16 (09:20)
Rail Fanning
Apr 09 2018 (15:33)   12615/Grand Trunk (GT) Express (PT)

HOG WAM4 WAP1~   5147 blog posts
Entry# 3285165            Tags   Past Edits
-------The Humble Origins of the Grand Trunk Express and the history of the railway connections between the South and the North--------
* Commemorating the train’s 89th anniversary on 1st April, 2018
For the better part of the 19th century, the route from Madras to Calcutta and the Delhi was a torturous one. The only railway connection between the South and the railway networks of the North and the East, was the mail train between Madras and Bombay. In addition to carrying through coaches to Hyderabad
and Bangalore, the mail also carried through coaches between Madras and Manmad. At Manmad, the passengers would switch to the Great Indian Peninsular Railway’s (GIPR) Bombay-Calcutta mail and proceed to their northern destinations. With a single train service covering this huge distance, the service was often inadequate and a journey from Madras to Calcutta and Delhi was almost 5 days long!
The first relief came about in the year 1900 when the East coast line between Madras and Calcutta was opened through-out. This reduced the Madras-Calcutta journey to 2 days and gave some relief to the Madras-Manmad service. It would take 3 decades more before Madras was connected to Delhi with a similar, short route.
The idea for a long-distance North-South train materialized for the first time in 1921 when a military regiment was moved from Peshawar to Cannanore (Kerala) in a single through coach without changing carriages en route. This effort was the result of 4 railways working together, the NWR, GIPR, M&SMR and the SIR. The demonstration proved that a regular North-South service was an achievable option. The only missing link in the North-South connection at the time was the line between Kazipet and Balharshah. Following the successful experiment with the military train, works on the missing link progressed quickly, and on November 15th, 1928, the Madras-Delhi railway line was opened throughout.
Arrangements for the through North-South train progressed quickly. The new service was prominently featured at the Railway Publicity exhibition held at Delhi in February 1929. Following the fanfare and publicity, the ‘Grand Trunk express’ finally steamed out of Mangalore station on April 1st, 1929.
To call it the ‘Grand Trunk express’ however, was a bit of an exaggeration. It was not a standalone train and indeed, the name was only given to it in the Madras-Itarsi section where it operated as a standalone train. For the rest of its route it ran as a through coach service attached to various trains. The train composed of 2 through-coaches, a composite First-cum-Second class coach and a composite Third-cum-Luggage coach. Both coaches commenced their journey from Mangalore attached to the Mangalore-Madras mail. After reaching Madras the following morning, through coaches to other destinations were added and the coaches made their way to Itarsi, passing through the Nizam’s state railway (NSR) where they picked up through coaches from Hyderabad at Kazipet. At Itarsi, the two through coaches from Manglaore were attached to the GIPR’s Bombay Delhi express (The Punjab mail of later days) and ran with it till Delhi. At Delhi, the two coaches were transferred to the BB&CIR’s Frontier mail for the final leg of the journey to Peshawar. At that time, the Frontier mail took the Delhi-Bathinda-Ferozepur-Lahore route to Peshawar. Thus the 2-coach service dubbed the ‘Grand Trunk Express’ numbered 3/4 on the M&SMR, covered the 2497-mile journey between Mangalore and Peshawar in a little over 96 hours. The XA class Pacifics of the GIPR and the NSR powered the train for most of it’s run before Delhi.
However, the train ran into problems almost immediately. The train towards Delhi started from Madras at 7:30AM, providing hardly 30 minutes of buffer time for passengers arriving at Madras Egmore station by the Ceylon Boat mail (arriving at 7:00AM). In the return, the train from Delhi arrived at Madras Central at 8:15PM, while the Boat mail departed from Egmore station at 8:40PM, causing passengers to miss the connection on almost all occasions. In addition, there was insufficient end-to-end traffic on the route, which prompted several changes in the operations.
From the 15th of October, 1929, the through coach service was restricted to run between Mettupalayam and Delhi, running with the newly inaugurated ‘Blue Mountains (Nilgiri) express’ between Mettupalayam and Madras with the subsequent run between Madras and Delhi being unchanged. Further changes came into force from 1st March, 1930, when the through coach service was extended and operated between Mettupalayam and Lahore. With a lot of military personnel using the train, the 2-coach service soon proved insufficient for handling the traffic on the route. As a result, from September 1st, 1930, the 3/4 Grand Trunk express was started as a stand-alone train service between Madras and Delhi.
The change in the operations however, did not bring about any improvement in the service. For the following 2 decades, passengers and representatives complained about the train’s lack of punctuality, lack of facilities and a general disregard for the train from the operating railways. The train was a cause of constant headache to the operating railways as it needed coordination between 3 railway entities (MSMR, NSR and GIPR) with poor financial returns because of the exceedingly high operational costs. In fact, the rake for the train was supplied by the GIPR, which did not even have a terminal facility in Delhi for regular maintenance of the train!
The train particularly suffered on the lines of the Nizam’s railway, where it had an exceedingly slow run, catering to intermediate stations and ran without any dining facilities for the long-distance passengers. (The GIPR had a restaurant car between Delhi and Balharshah, while the MSMR operated one between Bezwada and Madras).
Following protests from representatives the timings of the train were revised from March 1st, 1931 to provide a suitable connection at Madras for passengers taking the Boat mail. The schedule was as follows:
-------------------------------------------------- ------
Madras: Dep – 7:50AM Delhi: ARR – 9:25AM
Delhi: Dep – 8:35PM Madras: ARR – 7:50AM
-------------------------------------------------- -----
This good period was short lived, and by September of the same year, the train was slowed down by almost 2 hours. To add insult to injury, the MSMR started running it as a passenger train between Madras and Bitragunta, halting at all stations en route, to better manage their operations.
However, despite being ill-treated by the railways, the train itself was the sole link between the North and the South. For more than 40 years, it carried through coaches between Bangalore-Delhi, Madras-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Delhi and many more short-lived services, providing an invaluable service to the passengers. Mere words will not be sufficient to explain the significance of the train during this period, when it was the sole ruler of the Grand Trunk route.
While occasional speed-ups and changes in schedule followed in the years following Independence, the train was really speeded up in the 1960’s upon the introduction of the Southern (Dakshin) express between Delhi and Madras/Hyderabad. The Dakshin express took up the GT’s old, slow schedule, while the GT moved to a faster schedule which it shared for a few years with a fully air-conditioned express between Madras and Delhi. During this period, the GT ran for 5 days a week, while the A/C service operated for the remaining two days.
Despite the advent of faster trains like the Tamil Nadu express, and later, the Rajdhani/Duronto and Garibrath trains, the GT manages to hold its place with an aggressive schedule, good timings and a generally good quality of service.
The Grand Trunk express is legend, not because of its longevity or any fancy history. It is a legend because of its invaluable service. For decades, it bore the burden of interstate connectivity in the South along with its main duty of connecting the North and the South – a service that will remain unmatched for a long time.
Pic 1: A poster depicting the route of the Grand Trunk express at the Railway exhibition in Delhi (February, 1929) - The poster in the background to the right.
Pic 2: The GIPR restaurant car running on the GT between Delhi and Balharshah. In addition, the MSMR also operated a dining car and some sectional coaches between Vijayawada and Madras
Pic 3: The schedule of the GT in 1938. The train took about 2 full days to complete the journey at the time. Only the major halts are shown in the timetable. The train itself had many more halts.

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