Indian Railways, one of the most wide-spread rail networks in the world, is full of activity. This busy rail network is completely owned by the Central Government of India and is administered by the Ministry of Railways.
Railways formally commenced its passenger services on 16th April, 1853 with a small rail link connecting Bombay (now Mumbai) to Thane. However, by the end of 1880, the Railway system had spread its limbs about 9000 miles across the length and the breadth of the country.
Railways has a young and energetic mascot, a cartoon elephant, ‘Bholu’ clothed elegantly in blue and white like a train guard with a flag in hand.
The corporation has its auxiliary wing, Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation that controls the catering and hospitality, budget and luxury tourism and web based reservation services related to Indian Railways.
The Railway website developed to undertake online reservations is operational 18 hours a day. From midnight to early morning, the website undergoes maintenance and servicing activities and hence is not available for customer support, reservations and status verifications. The website is best browsed with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or its other versions.
There are several comprehensible and user-friendly services provided by Indian Railways. These services have been designed to take some load off the railway ticketing and reservation department all over the country.
Passengers can check their reservation status and send an enquiry to the department of railways through an SMS. There are pre-defined keywords that are assigned to different types of queries.
Online booking and advanced reservation of rail tickets is another important feature provided by the Indian Railways to facilitate convenient booking, saving the time and energy of both the corporation and the passenger.
Tatkal Scheme is a specialised service designed to allow urgent bookings in all classes except First AC and Executive class. Tatkal e-ticket service is available on selected trains and the reservation can be done as early as 2 days time up to chart preparation.
Railways operates certain reasonably priced tour packages across the nation for domestic as well as foreign tourists. These tour packages are categorised under the ‘Bharat Darshan’ plan, with wide-ranging destinations and tourism packages. Tourism trains also ply in varied parts of the country to introduce, re-introduce, live and re-live the real, ancient India, its heritage and culture.
World Heritage sites in Indian Railways
International World Heritage Programme maintains a list of World Heritage Sites. This list is retained by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. Indian Railways has been honoured with the pleasure of possessing world heritage sites:
Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Mumbai, is a historic railway station formerly known as Victoria Terminus, or Bombay VT.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Designated as ‘toy train’, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is another of the World Heritage Sites in Indian Railways, running on a narrow-gauge from Siliguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Nilgiri Mountain Railway, one of the oldest mountain railways in India, was included in the World Heritage Sites.
Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railway
Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railways, a significant 96.6 km railway line is the latest candidate in the World Heritage Sites in Indian Railways.
Heritage and Luxury Trains
Apart from passenger and travel service, Indian Railways also presents deluxe and heritage packages and services through special luxury/heritage and tourist trains such as Palace on Wheels, Royal Orient Express, Golden Chariot, Deccan Odyssey, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, The Fairy Queen, Heritage of Wheels and Mahaparivivan Special Train.