Mumbai and “Deccan Queen”

On this saturday our railfan group from Pune decided to visit an exhibition in Mumbai which was display of portraits of different characters found in our Indian Railway system right from General manager to Clerk, Engineers to Gangmen. It was a very poignant exhibition but visiting the exhibition wasn’t only on our mind. I for one was looking forward to meeting fellow railfans from Pune and Mumbai, traveling on Mumbai-Pune section after a long time that too on famed Deccan Queen train and also to visit south Mumbai.

Deccan Queen is a classic train and one of the most prestigious trains in Central Railway. The citations for its prestige include facts like it started in 1930 and one of the first electric trains which ran in India and once used to be definition of royal elite travel complete with uniform, mannerism and presentation. Lately it has received ISO-9001 for quality for service again a first in Indian Railways trains. It is generally used by daily commuters apart from other passengers as it is the fastest train between Pune & Mumbai covering 192 km in 3 hours 20 minutes for just Rs. 87 (less than $2)!! No other method provides such cheap and fast travel between two cities. It also boasts of a very good food service in the form of its pantry. The menu on offer is broad and taste legendary. The snacks on menu include veg cutlet & sandwich, chicken cutlet & sandwich, cheese toast & sandwich apart from regular beverages. The interesting thing is that all these delicacies are prepared on board so one gets all these delicacies right from the oven. I was looking forward to taste all those delicacies. The morning train was at 7:15 AM which left on time and picked up fair speed and continued that way till Lonavala which is its only halt apart from within cities. It generally has a dining car as well where passengers can sit and have snacks but it had gone for regular service. I chose to have veg cutlet which were hot and crispy with bread-butter slices and potato wedges well worth the price Rs 28.

The ghat section between Lonavala and Karjat is scenic stuff. The important points are Khandala, Monkey hill, Duke’s nose etc. One can watch valleys, waterfalls, forest and numerous tunnles as one is glued to the window. As one proceed towards Mumbai proper through suburbs the greenery is overcome by filth, crowd and chaos. Thankfully we whizzed past everything and arrived at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus which was earlier known as Victoria Terminus (VT) earlier.

We had to go to NCPA (National Centre for Performing Arts) gallery which is right at Nariman point. The ride from CST to Nariman point is a treat for folks who have an eye for heritage & architecture. The streets, buildings, shops & people everything oozes with character. The streets are lined with colonial style buildings finding space between new age buildings. The noticeable ones are Victoria terminus which was once called by Queen Elizabeth as “too good for natives”. Then Haj house, Flora fountain, Churchgate, Mumbai municipal corporation, Hilton towers, Air India building, Express building and several unidentified colonial style buildings. The streets are all well paved, clean and tree lined, fast paced but everything in order. I really like this part of south Bombay and one really feels that they are part of historic and modern mega city. We managed to get a double-decker ride which was highly enjoyable. The area around Nariman point is similar to one in Manhattan in New York with several high-rises which houses prominent financial institutions. Also housed here are NCPA apartments which have lately come in news due to astronomical sale price of couple of flats. The latest one being 2000 sqft, 4-bedroom flat for 33 crores!! But then these are one of their kind, right at shore overlooking the Arabian sea and the end of Marine Drive.
After that our destination was jehangir Art gallery near Bombay university but not for any exhibition but to eat at Samovar again a famous eatery. After that we lazily walked back to CST to catch our train back. The train again pulled on time and it was time to feast again. First came the cheese toast which were heavenly. Next was the time for fish cutlets which are served again with bread-butter slices and potato nuggets. Fish cutlets are available only durning return journey as fish is procured from fresh catch. Soon our train came to grinding halt due to some problem further in the line due to which we had to wait for 2-3 agonising hours before we moved. Finally we reached Pune 4 hours late at 1:00 AM. But overall it wasa nice outing for a day.

Thanks, Roopesh.

Photos – http://www.flickr.com/photos/roopesh_kohad/sets/72157607760886465

4 Comments

  • nandanjha says:

    A first short story by you :). How come they still have this fare ?

    I always thought that ‘Deccan Queen’ is some expensive ‘Palace on Wheels’ kind of thing. May be I am mixing something else with this.

  • Roopesh says:

    The luxurious one is Deccan “Odyssey” which goes around Maharashtra.

    The fares are thanks to populist policy of railway ministers. Even though I welcome low fares in trains but I think sections like these should have higher pricing. And Rs. 87 is not the lowest. General express ticket will be lesser with no reservation charges and for frequent commuters there is Monthly Season Ticket (MST) which will average out to half of this!! Even long distance like Panvel to Madgaon some 700 odd kms is only Rs 187 (< $4) that too in fastest mode of transport available all thanks to “telescopic” fares concept. Railway pricing is a huge debate :)

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Good account of a train journey.

    Thought youd have at least a glimpse of the exhibition but it seems your gastronomical interests overshadowed everything :-)

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Beautiful moving account of your journey Roopesh. It was so interesting that like you, I too forgot about the exhibition stuff, that initially caught my attention :)
    Only attentive readers like Patrick could bring to your notice the missng part.

    Well photograph link you have given is not working now. Why don’t you consider posting pgotographs with links that make reading much more interesting.

    Anyway, after reading this account, I am already looking forward to the window seat and all different snacks on the train (san fish cutlet). :)

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