Choog, Choog, Choog, Choog... Tweeeeeet!
June 13, 2009 2:00 AM   Subscribe

Come, take a Train Ride through India. You could take the Palace on Wheels, and opt for a Luxurious Travel. Or, you can take one of the Super-Fast Trains here, according to Indian standards that is. And hey, while you're at it, how about taking a train ride to one of our Hill Stations?

Some of the Trains have even made it to the Best Train Rail Adventures list in the World...

And Ashok Kumar's song (watch it till the end) Rail Gaadi, which means Train in English, is not to be missed... even if you don't understand Hindi--learn it (please)!
posted by hadjiboy (36 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
ah, so much time spent sitting or lying on those pale blue 2nd-class sleeper carriages, with bars on the windows and endless indian countryside passing by...

and of course, "aaah, chai chai chai, garam chai!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:20 AM on June 13, 2009

er, on the pale blue benches, not on the carriages themselves
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:37 AM on June 13, 2009

er, on the pale blue benches, not on the carriages themselves
What, too fancy to get out on the roof with the rest of the common folk? You dirty snob, Ubu.
posted by Abiezer at 2:38 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

I couldn't find the place on the triplicate reservation form to specify "open air".
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:49 AM on June 13, 2009

Open air=smell the ripe human shit
posted by longsleeves at 2:54 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I love Indian trains and training it around the amazing subcontinent. The train hawkers. So much to enjoy and wonder at looking out the window. Enjoyed the charming Rail Gaadi song.

Adding the amazing Bollywood train clip, Chaiyya Chaiyya l buying lunch from the train at a train station l narrow gauge train passing through town, inches from shops.
posted by nickyskye at 3:02 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sadly, never been to India myself, but I do love train travel. Perhaps some happy day, though even with the border open now given the geography suppose it'll be a long time before they link the two rail networks, if ever.
posted by Abiezer at 3:07 AM on June 13, 2009

Ooh, tell a lie - presumably you can get from Kathmandu on to India by train, so that's a future trip to pencil in.
posted by Abiezer at 3:12 AM on June 13, 2009

That sounded very unlikely, Abiezer, so checking the article revealed that it's actually more like a rail link from Tibet to Nepal. To India, you'd be looking at buses.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:29 AM on June 13, 2009

Gah - I thought Lhasa to Kathmandu would be the tricky bit. Some other article I found implies there may be other routes up to the border with Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, which would be pretty spectacular if it ever happens.
posted by Abiezer at 3:46 AM on June 13, 2009

One day my wife wants us to go back and take the train ride up into Darjeeling where she grew up. Compared to the foothills of the Himalayas, the Texas coastal plain must be pretty boring.
posted by beowulf573 at 4:54 AM on June 13, 2009

Don't be in a hurry and check your connections.

We'd been up to S(h)imla from Kalka on the spectacular toy train and then back down to Chandigarh on the bus. We'd reached the less-planned part of the trip and my wife had decided that the Corbett Tiger Park was compelling and seemingly on our way, but the guide book said travel from Delhi. That would have meant another 30-40 hours train travel, so we resigned ourselves to not doing it.

But a lovely retired civil servant we met at Chandigarh bus station gave us renewed confidence. He found the way to the exceptionally well-concealed tourist office behind closed doors upstairs and down a quiet corridor of the bus station and patiently chiselled the required information out of the surprised-to-be-disturbed functionary we found there. Mere hours later we had tickets to Corbett and went off to enjoy the sights of Chandigarh with the garrulous Mr Singh.

The foggy winter was delaying trains all over the north, so it was no surprise that the train got going four hours late. What set slight alarm bells ringing was that the conductor on the sleeper was unsure whether we'd want blankets. As it turned out we weren't going that far on that train.

At about 1 a.m. we alighted in Moradabad. Our train for Ramnagar was due about six. We were the most interesting thing to happen in that part of Moradabad for some time and attracted a small crowd of bemused locals who were wondering what we were doing settling in on a cold station platform at that time of the night. It took some time to explain that we were wondering about that too.

On our way back down the branch line after the (great) tiger park, our time at Moradabad was briefer and spent comfortably on a carriage waiting to be picked up by our connecting train which was running a full 30 hours late due to fog. But - as ever - the staff and passengers were well prepared and all proceeded towards Varanasi as conditions permitted.
posted by hawthorne at 5:21 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

The key to long train rides is an upper berth and some sort of bhang product.
posted by gman at 5:34 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

This morning I took one of those stupid Facebook quizzes, this one called "What is your Ethnicity?"--though I am anglo-american the quiz revealed I am "Actually Indian."
I've never been to India, I'd like to go someday, but what I'd really like is to know where I can get an outfit like Ashok Kumar is wearing in that "Rail Gaadi" clip
posted by Restless Day at 6:09 AM on June 13, 2009

Great post, hadjiboy - I have wanted to take an Indian train trip ever since viewing this intriguing clip of an Indian railway tour.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:14 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Saying mantras on long Indian train rides is good too, goes with the rhythmic clackety clack of the locomotion.

Crossing Pakistan and arriving in India in 1975, the trains then were wonderful black behemoths, steam engines with coal fires, incredible clouds of steam coming out of them as they huffed and chugged into the station.
posted by nickyskye at 6:40 AM on June 13, 2009

No post on Indian Rail could be complete without a link to the Bible Gita: Trains at a Glance.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:42 AM on June 13, 2009

routes up to the border with Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, which would be pretty spectacular if it ever happens.

um, yeh. i had to get a special permit to enter sikkim from the office of the district magistrate in darjeeling. it was stamped into my passport, as sikkim is technically a separate state, under hindustani protection or something - as you could imagine, this took a few days, and restricted me to areas well clear of the border. as for the northeastern hillstates like arunachal pradesh, shiva h vishnu, nobody but smugglers paying off the police are crossing the borders in these places.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:08 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

One day my wife wants us to go back and take the train ride up into Darjeeling where she grew up.

I love the Darjeeling railway, even though I've only ever seen it on TV. Here's a short YouTube clip about it. I especially love the two guys hanging off the front of the locomotive, leaning down and sprinkling sand on the rails to increase traction.
posted by FishBike at 7:42 AM on June 13, 2009

yeh, as far as i know, the toy trains to the hill stations of darjeeling, shimla & ooty are the last ones left. annoyingly, the darjeeling one was out of service when i visited; i just missed my train to the shimla railhead *damned old delhi cycle rickshaw traffic jam!* and ooty is still to be visited.

at least i saw the stations & trains in shimla & darjeeling :-\
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2009

At $350 USD per night, that's a palace I don't think I'll be riding. Pretty, though.
posted by rokusan at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2009

as for the northeastern hillstates like arunachal pradesh, shiva h vishnu, nobody but smugglers paying off the police are crossing the borders in these places.

UbuRoivas, not entirely correct. According to the former state governor, I'm the only Westerner to have spent as long a time living and working in Arunachal -- 2005-2006 -- since the time of the British. Very difficult to get a protected area permit, or PAP, for any real length of time but it can be done, particularly for short tourist stays. In fact, entry requirements have recently been relaxed, and Arunachal now has a rather nice-looking tourism page.
posted by junebug at 9:26 AM on June 13, 2009

Restless Day, you asked where you could get an outfit like Ashok Kumar in the Rail Gaadi clip. He's wearing a dhoti and V neck kurta. Plain white men's kurta.
posted by nickyskye at 10:03 AM on June 13, 2009

The best train ride in India is the Himsagar Express. It's 3 days long and 75 hours–the longest Indian train route in both time & distance. It stretches from Jammu in the north all the way to Kanniyakumari at the southernmost tip of India, thus giving it the name Himsagar (Himā' - snow; Sagarā - sea).
posted by ageispolis at 10:04 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I loved traveling in India by train, but I will say, I was very often groped up at night, and once I defended a 10-year old bunkmate of mine (overbooked train) from a similar fate.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:18 AM on June 13, 2009

I have many train stories. This is one of them.

Many years ago, I went on a crazy solo cycling trip from Mangalore to Kanyakumari, along one of the busiest highways in India complete with maniacal truck drivers. The trip was through Kerala, and since I don't speak Malayalam, I did most of the trip in silence, tot he extent that I ended up having to talk to myself to keep myself sane. So at the end of the trip, I decided to head back to Bangalore by train, since I didn't want to do the 1000km trip again. Coincidentally, I met this guy from New Zealand, who was a colleague at the time, taking the same trip back to Bangalore. As usual I hadn't reserved a seat so when I went to get the tickets all i could manage was a third class seat, this is the cheapest option, and where the seats are just wooden slats and the compartments are packed to the brim. I was too exhausted to wait around in Kanyakumari, so I bought the ticket anyway, even though traveling in third class is really one of the worst ways to travel. It was a very long ride, maybe 24 hrs I don't know, and I couldn't leave my seat because then I'd lose it and I'd have to stand. So I was sitting here in this seat for freaking eternity, when at one of the stops, this NZ guy come over to the third class compartment, and asks me if he could share my seat. Guy left his comfy Air conditioned seat to come join me sharing my already miserable seat in order to get an experience of the 'real India'. I would have really enjoyed swapping with him, but I bit my tongue and endure god knows how many hours of traveling jam packed in the compartment with not even a full seat to relax in. It was the longest rip of my life.
posted by dhruva at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2009

trip. trip. dammit.
posted by dhruva at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2009

Hey all, thanks for replying--yeah, the train trips over here can be quite memorable, huh?

I've only been to Mumbai, and Delhi, Mumbai taking me up to 16 hours and Delhi a good day, and these were by the Super Fast Trains, so I can't imagine anything past that. Oh, I did have to go to Jamshedpur once, for my Sister's Wedding, next to (Calcutta) Kolkatta, and it was absolutely the worst trip of my life.

The train just keeps going and going and going--for eternity... :)

Hey nickyskye, madamjujujive, Ubu--love you guys.
posted by hadjiboy at 12:21 PM on June 13, 2009

Hey nickyskye, madamjujujive, Ubu--love you guys.

Hey nickyskye, madamjujujive, Ubu and all--love you guys.

posted by hadjiboy at 12:23 PM on June 13, 2009

I love the Darjeeling Railway link too, thanks FishBike!
posted by hadjiboy at 12:31 PM on June 13, 2009

And you are loved hadjiboy. :)
posted by nickyskye at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2009

I thank you nickyskye for the dhoti kurta links, I guess what I really need is some sort of instructional video that shows how to tie a dhoti, and how much material is used--the written instructions I've found are no help at all. Your "dhoti" link says the store is closed and the website for sale . . .
Sorry hadjiboy I should take this to AskMeFi
posted by Restless Day at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2009

You know, like this instructional video.
posted by Restless Day at 2:13 PM on June 13, 2009

One of my favorite travel memories is riding a real shit train through India, smoking cigarettes between the cars, drinking chai from the chaiwalla, and hanging out of the doorway, Bollywood-style, as we ripped through the Rajasthani desert, stopping only at the occasional remote town where little girls would run up to you, dogs following, with various foodstuffs for sale. Good times.
posted by nitsuj at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2009

Restless Day, optional dhoti link. The dhoti comes ready made, it's usually about 5 yards in length. I've always liked guys in lungis.
posted by nickyskye at 3:15 PM on June 13, 2009

I'm trying to remember the writer who compared the Indian rail system with the Indian Civil Service, and then with life in general: (paraphrasing)

"So, you are having ticket from Mumbai to Delhi. This does not mean you will get to Delhi according to timetable, or even at all. Train could be delayed. Train could be diverted. It is only theoretical possibility of you reaching Delhi, nothing more."

(the head wiggle should be at "theoretical possibility")
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:28 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

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