Railways with UNESCO World Heritage Status, world beating luxury trains, the world’s oldest operational steam engine, pilgrimage routes, tourist trains and everything else you can possibly image runs up, down and around the continent. India’s railways are a world wonder in themselves.
There are 14,300 plus trains on the books of the Indian Railways taking over 23 million people and 1.3 million tonnes of freight to different places around the subcontinent early day.
You’ll not be surprised to hear that there’s loads of variety, so here’s Namaste New Delhi’s guide to Indian Railways. A 101 introduction to the wonders of the Indian Railway.
Indian Railways 101: What’s what
With a staggering eight different classes of travel, combined with waiting lists, foreigners reservations and Taktal rules, it’s no wonder that foreign travellers get confused when they come face to face with Indian Railways for the first time. But getting a grip of the Indian railway is simple if you take a little time out.
This guide gives you the lowdown on what’s what and where and how to book. Click here to start the journey.
Mountain Railways of India: The Toy Trains
As the title suggests there is more than one. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka Shimla Railway, are a massive international draw achieving UNESCO world heritage status along the way.
Incredible feats of engineering taking place in amazing mountain ranges. Two good reasons to let the train take the strain, but remember to book ahead as far as you can.
These trains get busy because they are so spectacular. Book the Mountain Railways on IRTRC website (see the Indian Railways 101 Guide)
Full steam ahead: the Fairy Queen is back!
After spending five years in the maintenance shed the world record breaking Fairy Queen is back on the tracks and picking up passengers in Delhi. If you want a ticket move quick: the Fairy Queen came back into service in 2017 but is only making three trips (next up 11th March and then 8th April). Find out more about the beautiful engine at this post.
Pilgrimage Tours with Indian Railways
Religious festivals see millions of people on the move and with so many temples, shrines, stupas and religious and spiritual places to see, Indian Railways has pulled together pilgrimage tours to help the faithful fulfil religious quests.
As well as the Buddhist Circuit Tourist Train, there’s the Bharat Darshan and the Astha Circuit Special. Keep an eye on the website, tours change based on the time of year and the relevant position of the stars and planets.
Semi-Luxury Tourist Trains
There’s the Tiger Express, taking in Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Ranthambore, the Desert Circuit showing passengers to the Rajasthan and Jaisalmer, Jodphur and Jaipur.
These semi luxury tourist trains depart from Delhi Safdarjung. Like Pilgrimage Tours, the itinerary varies depending on the time of year so keep checking the website to see what’s what.
Maharaja Express: Totally luxurious
Winner of the World’s Leading Luxury Train award at the World Travel Awards for five consecutive years from 2012 to 2016, the Maharaja Express is not your normal type of train.
Rather than read my words, watch this 30 second You Tube click to get an idea of whether it’s for you. If it is, head on over to this link to see if you can afford it! Maharaja Express offers six different tours.
Planning a trip? Let the train take the strain.
Fairy Queen Photo credit: Thanks to Ramesh Lalwani