Punjab Mail, the country’s oldest running passenger train has completed 109 years and enters its 110th running year today, June 1, 2021.
The train journeys between Mumbai and Firozpur Cantonment and takes 34 hours and 15 minutes to cover this 1,930 km long journey.
A History of India’s Oldest Train
While the origin of the initial Bombay to Peshawar Punjab Mail is rather blurry, it is inferred that the train made her maiden run out of Ballard Pier Mole station on 1 June 1912.
This information comes from a Cost Estimate paper circa 1911 and a complaint by an irate passenger circa October 12, 1912 about the ‘late arrival of the train by a few minutes at Delhi’, states Livemint.
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 was the fastest train in British India during the pre-partition period. It crossed Itarsi, Agra, Delhi and Lahore, before terminating its journey at Peshawar Cantonment.
Its route started and terminated on one end at the Bombay VT from 1914, which is now known as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Mumbai. It was after this, the name was loosely set to Punjab Mail, from Punjab Limited, and it became a daily service.
Originally serving only the upper-class white sahibs, the Punjab Mail soon started serving the lower classes too. By the mid-1930s, the train was equipped with third class cars too.
In 1914, the GIP route from Bombay to Delhi turned out to be around 1,541 km, which was covered in 29 hr 30 min by the Punjab Mail. This transit time further reduced to 27 hr 10 min with the start of 1920s, even though the number of intermediate train stoppages went up to 18.
However in 1972, the transit time climbed up to 29 hours.
It was met with an air-conditioned car in 1945, while starting May 1, 1976, the Punjab Mail shifted to diesel locomotives and was completely dieselized.
In 1968, the train ran on diesel upto Jhansi. Its loading capacity also increased from 12 to 15 cars. Dieselization was later expanded from Jhansi to New Delhi, followed by uptil Firozpur, in 1976.
The number of coaches was increased to 18, with two coaches getting added on at Jhansi. 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.
Since 2011, the Punjab Mail journeys through about 55 intermediate stoppages.