By Jatin Bhavsar
The Deccan Queen
The name creates a picture of pride & glory days of IR. The train was inaugurated on 1st June 1930. Running with an electric loco, it used to cover the distance between Mumbai and Pune in 2 hr 45 mins. Today, 90 years later, it takes 3 hrs and 15 mins.
During my childhood, we couldn’t afford a second class ticket of DQ. So, we always travelled by Sinhagad both ways. I vaguely remember travelling once in the ’90s by DQ. The seat cushion was very different. Seats were 3 x 2 and very comfortable. It had a curve at the bottom to make you feel comfortable at the back. It was all prestige inside.
It is often said people use to adjust their wristwatches with DQ – this was the proof of its punctuality.
From August 2003, I have been a regular Monthly Season Ticket holder of DQ. I’ve seen the wrath of regular MST holders when I boarded the coach for the first time.
Liveries of the Deccan Queen’s Recent Past
I remember DQ from it’s ambulance livery days. It was a revelation to me that originally it was in royal blue which features in Ashok Kumar’s Jewel Thief movie. Later it was converted to the ‘ambulance livery.’
When Suresh Kalmadi became the Railway Minister, he introduced standard day livery for all CR trains. This is where DQ lost its unique ambulance livery.
Deccan Queen: The Highest Priority Train
Those DC days of CR are still memorable.
All EMUs were of Jessop with MPS at 90. DQ used to overtake EMU at Chinchwad and then it was a breeze till Lonavala. DC days DQ used to reach Dadar very comfortably at 10:10 hrs. The WCAM-3 used to do an awesome job.
We used to love the DC blower sound of the WCAM-3 while coming back – my coach was second from the loco. From LNL khalasi would come and give a letter stating ‘Caution Order NIL.’ And then, a race against time used to begin.
Except for permanent caution orders at Kamshet (90 km/h), Talegaon (85 km/h) and Chinchwad (90 km/h), the DQ used to breeze through. Though scheduled arrival at SVJR was 20:10, I’ve alighted from DQ at 19:55 once, and mostly at 20:05. Anything above 20:05 wasn’t acceptable.
There have been many incidents of overtaking trains. One was 12164 Chennai Egmore DR SF at Ambernath siding. The Shirdi Mumbai passenger too was overtaken many times. The Deccan Queen has also overtaken Sinhagad at Kalyan on many occasions when it was delayed.
The Deccan Queen has always enjoyed a priority in up and down runs in Mumbai Division. On the other end, hand Pune Division always treated it as just another train. In the monsoons, if incidents of trees falling on overhead wires occurred, the DQ always operated as a local train between Lonavala and Pune.
The Famous Deccan Queen Dining Car
DQ has unique feature of Dining Car. It used to serve an amazing food. Mostly public would come in after lonavala to enjoy scenic ghat with tasty omelette, cutlet, baked beans & Chai coffee.
It was a bad decision to hand over the pantry to an outside contractor. Quality went for a toss. Of late it has been good but we still miss the older days. In evening Mumbai’s famous Parsi Dairy Kulfi used to be sold. I’ve bought those home many times. It was provided packed with dry ice and parcel used to be handed over around Khadki stn in return.
Some Occasions When The Deccan Queen Didn’t Run
I was present on that uneventful day the DQ was set on fire at Ulhasnagar. Since the morning, news of some statue being defaced was aired. There was stone-pelting and rail roko at Dapodi. Some MST holders deboarded there and came back to Pune.
I and my other friends decided to continue the journey to Mumbai. It was all good till Ulhasnagar. We had an unusual halt. Later news came in of rail roko and stone-pelting on AC coaches. We heard stories that LPG cylinders have been stolen from dining car. It was around 11:30 am and we were still at Ulhasnagar.
No train was passing towards Karjat as well. Local public arranged shelter for us and asked us to take rest there till trains start operation. We reached the nearby hall where food and water was offered to us. Later we could see our rake set ablaze. We went there at around 4 pm and the entire rake of DQ was damaged and simmering hot.
The rake was back in 7 days if I remember correctly. After 26/07 Mumbai rains, the Deccan Queen rested for 15 days due to track washout. Once a WCAM3 had a failure before Lonavala. That day DQ was hauled by Twin WCG2 locomotives from LNL to CST.
DQ is not just a train for me. It’s my second home. My extended family. It’s always a joyous feeling of watching & discussing the Deccan Queen. Long live DQ!