Indian Railways is the fourth largest Railway network in the world having 119630 km of total track with running track of 92081 km a route of 66687 km. Indian Railways is also considered the backbone of transport system within the country.
It is owned by the government through Ministry of Railways and is the largest single employer within the country and 8th largest employer in the world. According to the latest data, there are around 7216 stations and Railways carry 8.1 billion passengers annually which accounts for 22 million passengers in a day and 1.1 million tons of freight in a year.
If we look back at the history the Railways in India was introduced in the year 1830 for freight purposes and it was only in the year 1853 the first passenger train ran from Bombay to Thane.
1. Indian Railways and Tourism Industry
The tourism in India cannot be possible without the train journey since it is a commonly used mode of public transportation in the country. Trains are not only cheaper and reliable mode of transport in India but also touch almost all important and less important places of tourism.
They encourage tourism by offering different promotional schemes, tour packages, special trains, charter trains, luxurious trains, coaches to tourist domestic as well as foreign. In the country like India having a vast geographical structure, it cannot be possible to have a sustainable growth of tourism without Railways as a mode of transportation within the destinations in the country. Railways throughout the world offer a Mass Rapid Transport System.
These are considered to be the most cost effective, convenient and ecofriendly transport system which can cover longer distances while providing enriching experience of travel. To explore the tourist resources of
India Indian Railways is the best option that’s vast network spreads all over the country and connecting most of the destinations. The large network also provides enriching experience to the tourist giving an opportunity to interact with the local people and also to have the glimpses of the countryside during the journey.
It is worthwhile to say that Indian Railways is the lifeline of the nation and while playing an important role in transporting people from one place to another on the same time it played a very significant role in the transportation of the goods all over the country. There is a tremendous role played by the Railways in providing the primary transport for all type of tourist be it International or domestic.
Indian Railway also played a significant role by offering promotional schemes from time to time, tour packages, running special tourist train, chartered trains which provide the glimpses of Indian culture and tradition to the tourist boarding them.
Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation is the wing of Indian Railways which provide a wide range of luxury services to the tourist travelling within India. For catering the need of the tourism industry Indian Railway run many tourist trains and the special category superfast trains along with the mountain railways in the different parts of the country.
The exclusive services of trains offered by Indian Railways are as under;
• Rail tour packages
• Bharat Darshan tour packages
• Educational tour packages
• Hill Charter packages
• Luxury tourist trains
• Buddhist circuit special tourist trains
2. Mountain Railways of India
|Pic credit- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/travel/things-to-do/mountain-railways-of-india-to-have-ac-coaches-soon/as63643303.cms
The Indian Mountain Railways one of the few narrow-gauge lines in the world. These were built during the British Colonial rule in the 19th and early 20th century and since then their catering to the needs of the local people and the tourist. They are 6 in number including the Kashmir Railway which was operational since 2005 across India and Indian Railways run them. They are;
- Nilgiri Mountain Railways (constructed in 1908)
- The Kalka Shimla mountain Railway (built in 1898)
- Kashmir Railways (built in 2005)
- Kangra valley Railway (built in 1924)
- Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (built in 1881)
We will discuss very briefly about these railways along with some other mountain railways hereunder:
Nilgiri Mountain Railways
|Pic credit- https://www.india.com/travel/articles/everything-you-should-know-about-nilgiri-mountain-railway-3239888/
Out of the 6 mountain Railways in India the Nilgiri Mountain Railways is the only one constructed on meter gauge and probably it is the most advanced in terms of technological aspects. This Railway passes through the beautiful Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu and having single track of 46 km length.
This track was initially proposed in 1854 but due to the challenges offered by the topography the work only started in the year 1891 which was completed in 1908. The Uphill journey in the Nilgiri Mountain Railway took around 5 hours which process through 16 channels and 250 bridges. These Railways is having the achievement of the tag given by UNESCO as World Heritage site in July 2005.
The Kalka Shimla mountain Railway
|Pic credit- https://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/kalka-shimla-toy-train-the-most-beautiful-railway-journey-on-earth/
Shimla was the summer capital of the Britishers and in the present scenario is the famous destination for the holiday makers. Out of many attractions the one major attraction is the journey on board heritage Kalka Shimla railway. It was built in 1898 and covers the distance of 96 km crossing over 864 bridges and through 102 tunnels.
This Himalayan railway line also enjoys the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. This train immediately climbs after it starts from Kalka railway station and whistling through the Deodar, Pine and Oak trees with the speed of 22 km per hour it took around 4 and half hours to reach Shimla.
• Kashmir Railways
|Pic credit- https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/jammu-kashmir-connected-rest-india-through-rail-december-2021-1635170-2020-01-09
The recently constructed strategically important Railways by the government of India is the
Kashmir mountain Railways. The official name of this Railway is ‘Jammu-Udhampur-Srinagar Baramulla Railway link and it connects Kashmir with the rest of the country. The project of the Kashmir Railway was declared a national project in 2002 considering the inhospitable terrain which presented the extreme challenges to this engineering project.
• Kangra valley Railway
The Kangra valley railway line covers a distance of 163 km from Pathankot to Joginder Nagar. The selection by the creators indeed praiseworthy as the Railways crosses over the magnificence of the scenery, majesty of the northern mountain barriers, the beauty of its grandeur of the streams and the religious places in the Kangra valley.
This mountain Railway run through a track of 142 km which encounter steep slopes and 971 uniquely designed bridges along with 2 tunnels also. The journey to the train also provides the spectacular view of the Dhauladhar range.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
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One of the most famous trains in India is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which connects the town of New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling. The journey process through the breath-taking landscapes, orchids and beautiful lush green tea gardens. This train runs on the world’s narrowest track that is 2 feet among all the narrow-gauge lines in the world. UNESCO has conferred the status of World Heritage site to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway which is really a tourist’s delight in 1999. The total length of the track is 88 km which goes to the elevation of 2200 m at Darjeeling from 100 m in Siliguri. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway also offers charter trips on demand to the tourist and it is also high in demand for the film makers.
• South-East Railways
With a total route length of 7400 km, and meandering through six mineral states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra with diverse language, culture, customs and traditions, South Eastern Railway epitomizes the true spirit of India – bringing unity in diversity. It encompasses a magnificent region, a veritable melting pot of fascinating cultures, history, folklores and people.
Talking about the place of tourist interest in South East India, one cannot escape the majesty of the mountain ranges, the beauty of its landscapes, the richness of the flora and fauna or the picturesqueness of golden sea beaches that dot the map of South East Railway. This is a land teeming with hoary traditions and ageless history kept alive in carved stones, stuccoes and marbles. Ruins of ancient cities, temples, forts, mosques of yore bear mute testimony to the glorious history and rich cultural heritage of this region.
• Eastern Railway
Our country is the favourite playground of the God Almighty. It is this land which has, perhaps the oldest history of civilization, the glorious achievements of the mankind and natural beauties. The sheer view of all, these fill the heart with a fountain of joy. This is perhaps the reason why our country has attracted many a celebrity from all over the world from ancient times.
We all nurse the intention of enjoying the beauty to our heart‘s content. But the people in general do not have either the means or the capabilities to travel to all those places on their own. Indian Railways have laid its tracks connecting various corners of the beautiful country to act as the bridge between such intention and capabilities. That is why the railway is not only a transport mode; it is indeed everybody ‘s companion (Indian Railways, Nov., 1999). South-Central Railway:
The South-Central Railway covers an extensive network stretching across the Deccan Peninsula from Bay of Bengal in the east of Arabian Sea on the west traversing through a region richly steeped in tradition providing a many splendored panoramas of history, art, religion and culture.
The network which traverses through the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa besides a small stretch of Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu beckons tourists to encounter an enlightened experience worth cherishing a life time, a passage through a journey that never ends (Sinha, 1999).
• Northern Railway
The Northern Railway Zone of Indian Railways is the largest amongst all the zones in size, covering as it does a route kilometre age of 11,023.03 kms. It also covers the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh along with significantly portions of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The terrain that falls in Northern Railway is also varies from the mountainous Shivalik range to the undulating deserts of Thar, the lush Tarai region and the majestic Gangetic plains. The trains running on Northern Railway also serve one of the most densely populated regions of the country. In such a varied land, there are bound to be several places of tourist interest.
Some of the most popular holiday resorts pilgrimage towns, historical places, modern cities, administrative centres and seats of learning of the country fall within this Zone. Northern Railway provides convenient train services to these destinations for all class of travellers. Some of these destinations may be reached directly by a train, while for others; the passengers may need to use road transport from the most conveniently located rail-head (Mehta, 1999).
3. Luxury Tourist Trains
As we discussed earlier in this module that Indian Railways in association with its wing Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) operates luxury tourist trains specifically catering to the need of high-end inbound tourist.
The marketing and promotion part of these luxury tourist trains is done by IRCTC whereas the operations part is handled by the Indian Railways. Here in this part of module will discuss about these luxury tourist trains in brief-
• Palace on Wheels
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The Palace on Wheels is the benchmark and probably the most popular luxury train of India among the foreign nationals. The prime motive for its launch is to promote tourism in Rajasthan and it remained popular since its launch and again it was refurbished and relaunched in 2009 with all new decor and luxury standards.
The concept of the train was derived from the coaches of the rulers in the past and interior was designed in such a way to give the feel of the royal along with the latest amenities like satellite television, music, Wi-Fi, attached toilet, running hot and cold water, personal attendants, air conditioning and almost all those things which is the demand of the luxury.
• The Maharaja express
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The Maharajas Express is a luxury train that is owned and operated by IRCTC which runs on 5 circuits covering more than 12 destinations in the North West and central India. Two of which started from Delhi includes visit to Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple and the remaining three itineraries are for the Pan India. This train is voted 5 times for the world’s leading Luxury train during world travel award from 2012 till 2016 and it is the most expensive luxury train in the world.
The Maharaja Express started its operations in 2010 having 23 carriages which include accommodation, dining, bar, fine dining restaurant, Business Centre etc. and it can carry 84 passengers at a time.
• The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
Pic credit- https://www.pearljourneys.in/destinations/royal-rajasthan-on-wheels/
After the success of Palace on Wheel on the similar terms this train was introduced to give a feel of the royalness of the Rajasthan to the tourist. It was launched in 2009 by the Indian Railways and covers the attractions Hawa Mahal, Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Ranthambore National Park Chittorgarh Fort, Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Agra fort and Taj Mahal.
• The Golden Chariot
|Pic credit- https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/golden-chariot-20-back-on-track-from-march-22/article30795700.ece
This is a Luxury train which runs in the Western Ghats of the peninsular India. It runs between Karnataka and Goa and named after stone chariot Vithala temple at Hampi. The Golden Chariot operates weekly with 19 coaches in the train which are colored in gold with logo of a mythological animal having the head of an elephant and a body of a lion.
This train started its operations in 2008 and is run by Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation. The coaches of the train and named after the dynasties that ruled the region and having the amenities matching to a good five-star hotel.
• The Royal Orient
The royal Orient takes the tourist for the majestic journey of Gujarat and Rajasthan which are the states of historically and culturally vibrancy. This is a seasonal train which runs from September to April and starts journey from Delhi every Wednesday.
• The Fairy Queen
The Fairy Queen provides the glimpses of the history to the tourist as it uses the treasure chest of Indian Railways in the form of its steam engine which is 145 years old and is the oldest locomotive working on steam in the world.
This train provides first class accommodation to 60 passengers and takes them to an unforgettable two-day weekend trip from Delhi to Alwar on selected days. The itinerary also includes a visit to the Tiger Reserve Sariska.
• The Deccan Odyssey
|Pic credit- https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/Deccan-Odyssey-arrives-in-Vijayapura/article16760953.ece
The concept of Deccan Odyssey is also taken from the palace on wheels to boost tourism in the Maharashtra by the Indian Railway. This train is a joint venture of Government of India, Ministry of Railways and government of Maharashtra.
Besides covering the tourist destinations this train also provides a five star accommodation on wheels having two restaurants, a bar, sauna, business centre and other luxury manatees on board. Deccan Odyssey covers the tourist destinations in the Western Ghats, Deccan Plateau and the Konkan region.
4. Other High-Speed Trains and Some Passenger Trains
• The Duronto
• The Rajdhani
• The Shatabdi Express.
• Gatimaan Express
• Tejas Express
• The Jan Shatabdi Express
• Metro rails
• Mahamana Express, etc.