Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nostalgic Train Journey

“Railgadi……. Railgadi,
Beechwale station bole ruk ruk ruk,
Jaye yahan se , jaye Wahan se,
Dhadak Bhadak, Lohe ki sadak
Remember this classic song on train sung by veteran actor Ashok Kumar in a Hindi film called ‘Aashirwad’?
Trains have always fascinated me from childhood. I remember them as far as in 1957 when I used to watch the trains called ‘railgadi’ from the windows of my house. The trains were driven by coal engines. ‘Janata express’ and ‘Grant trunk express’ were the trains connecting the then Madras (Chennai) with Delhi. Later on first superfast train was introduced called “Deluxe express”. It was cream in color and we used to watch its speed with amazement.
 People with their baggage just used to walk in the train but used to get berth as well as seat without any hassles of prior reservation. Those days people used to carry number of luggage consisting of heavy trunks made of zinc sheet, a ‘Holdal’ for keeping rugs, bed sheets, pillow etc all rolled in to one, big size Tiffin carriers for food & snacks and water in brass vessel (called ‘Kuje Chombu’ in Tamil) as well as in insulated water jug (normally carried by army jawans) and earthen pot called ‘Surahi’ covered with jute mat from outside to keep the inside temperature cool. . All stations had ‘Coolie’ to carry this luggage for a sum. Now, with the ‘travel light’ concept, the breed of ‘coolie’ is slowly vanishing
Water used to be supplied at the station in earthen pots carried on a wooden hand cart and through water taps for which passengers had to run as soon as train stops at a station. The pushy and mighty type of people used to fill all their utensils with water leaving the meeker one to try their luck at the next station. Few trains had the facility of attached ‘Dinning Car’ (A full fledged restaurant on wheel) wherein people used to hop in /hop out for lunch/dinner at each station.  Other trains used to stop at a junction during lunch/dinner time for all the passengers to embark, take their meals in restaurant meant for this purpose and the train used to wait till everybody finishes!
During night times, the train guard used carry a lantern in hand with green and red filters over the glass through which he used to signal the driver of the engine to stop or proceed by shaking the lantern left and right. During night times, smaller stations would be lit with kerosene lamp posts and a railway employee would be announcing the name of the station loudly for the traveler’s information.
Being driven by coal engines, those sitting near the windows had to bear the onslaught of coal dust and pieces coming out from the engine furnace at regular intervals. Watching the train taking a round turn at ‘ghat’ sections and inside a tunnel used to be exhilarating experience despite coal dust pricking the eyes. Sometimes there used to be water showers coming from the window on to your face indicating that some body is washing his or her hand after finishing sumptuous food from the next window or compartment!
While sitting near the window, have you ever tried to sing a song along with the sound emanating from the running train? It will appear as if the sound of rails matches with your song- ‘Dhadak bhadak…Lohe ki sadak’! Try it in your next train journey. Slowly with the advent of technology, these coal engines were replaced by diesel or electric engines making them a part of history and museum. Now we are in jet age, bullet trains, metro and mono rails. Railways in our country have come a long way in providing cleaner, comfortable and faster train journey and instant ticketing/ reservation through click of a mouse!. Internationally, China is developing a non stop super train wherein a passenger can get in or get out of the moving train!


  1. really..that was soo nostalgic! guard with lanterns :) But today rail has got a amazing makeover. I will miss those quaint memories :)

  2. Those were the real trains, real train journey had different fun.
    What we have today is different--it is not the same

  3. That was a nostalgic post, SRA. I do remember the train journeys of those days too and have in fact written a post on it.I would like you to read and comment :)
    http://cybernag.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/train-friends-…iffin-carriers/ ‎

  4. By Mail from B.D.Ayyangar-
    After reading, my mind also goes back to those days.At the starting station v used to give chhadar etc to the coolie to grab the bearths!!V used to b xited when the train entered a bogadha(tunnel). and when it used to take aturn it was a treat to c the whole train peeping out of the window without bars!

  5. By mail from ARK Prasad-
    The article makes a good reading and brings out the nostalgia involved. I can really appreciate the facts as I have been travelling by G.T Express which had a bogie for Bangalore which used to be attached to Bangalore Express in Madras. We used to have a break of 4-5 hours in Madras!! The Coal engine belching smoke with sparks and people collecting water from stations all come alive when reading it. Enjoyed reading it.

  6. Nice post! The railway guard with the red lantern is almost a thing of the past! These day, you will never find it with the modern signalling system! But those were days! :)

  7. You have a very nice blog:) Such a lively article about trains, although I never sat in one. Maybe I’ll get to opportunity to experience a train journey if I ever visit India;) Indians out here in Suriname are called coolie’s:) We all carry things, so we all are coolie’s…haha. Keep up the good work!;)

  8. Nostalgia is something we all suffer from at some point or other in our life. Thanks. Your blog brough back memories of my first ever travel to New Delhi by GT Express which used to be one of the prestigeous trains, known for its punctuality arriving in Platform No.1 in New Delhi station. The mutka panee and chai at various stations on the way used to be specialities. Thanks.

    T N Neelakantan

  9. this post brought back nostalgic feelings. reminded me of those days when even we used to travel without reservations, with iron trunks, beddings, surahi, and tiffin full of 3-4 meals.and how the kids were made to sleep in between the seats on the floor, and how we used to jump from the windows to occupy the seats
    gone are the days and how we used to get down at every station to fill those surahis or bottles with the common tap water.
    now a train travel is generally avoided ( thanx to all those low budget airlines) and if it has to be a train journey then nothing less than AC compartment with mineral water bottles . times have changed

  10. I love train journeys...The thoughts and emotions of the return journey are so different from those of the onward one...I love analyzing my reactions to understand myself.
    the final hour home is what I relish the most!

  11. There is lot of similarities in our posts.
    But, when you travel by train you will always have a long lasting memory of it.

  12. Very well written, can see the memories clearly :)

  13. My first train journey was from Bangalore to Nanjanagudu in the year 1948 when I was 8 years old with my parents and Siblings. Actually we were shifting from Bangalore to Nanjanagudu as my father who was Second Class Magistrate in Bangalore was transferred as Subdivision officer in Nanjanagudu. Those days moving the entire family by Government officials the only easy mode of Transport used to be Trains and Goods Trains