At 40, Rajdhani still game for a smooth ride

Forty years ago, Kanailal Shatra was a young man working as a maintenance worker at the Rajdhani Express, India's first super-fast fully air-conditioned train that turned 40 on Tuesday.

Now in his 80's, Shatra had a trip down the memory lane as part of the crowd that flagged off the Rajdhani Express from Sealdah on Tuesday. As he remembered the driver of the first Rajdhani train who has since passed away, Shatra was in tears sharing stories with Ratan Chandra, the catering manager of the first Delhi Rajdhani.

A huge crowd had gathered at Howrah station on Tuesday morning to flag off Rajdhani, which terminates at the New Delhi station after covering 1,445 kilometres in just 17 hours and 20 minutes. Today Kolkata Rajdhani Express 2301 UP, travelling between Howrah and New Delhi, runs daily and has 18 coaches, including 2 AC first class, and 5 AC 2-tier and 7 AC 3-tier ones besides two pantry cars and two power cars-cum-luggage vans.

"I used to work as a maintenance worker on the train. A lot has changed with time. I feel lucky to be a part of this occasion. I regret many of my fellow mates who had been part of the first historic journey are no more with us," said Shatra.

Besides railway staff, singers, musicians and dancers had gathered at the station to celebrate the Rajdhani's Express' "40th birthday" when a huge cake was cut amid much fanfare and revelry.

"My two daughters and one son along with my wife are with me on this historic occasion. I am glad to be part of it as I have been faithful patron of Rajdhani ever since I was a kid. I have always felt that Rajdhani had created history by creating the new speed limit and service," said Mahendra Agarwal, a resident of Howrah, who was going with his family to Delhi.

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