Members of the public now have a chance to experience train travel in the luxury of well-appointed saloon coaches.
The first such saloon coach left from Old Delhi Railway Station on Friday, carrying six persons on board on its journey to Katra in Jammu. This particular trip, booked through a private tour operator, is reported to have cost about Rs 2 lakhs.
According to Indian Railways officials, these saloon coaches are suitable for two families with four to six persons for trips of up to five days.
Operated by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the saloon car has two exclusive bedrooms with a bath; a spacious living-cum-dining room and a well-equipped kitchenette.
IRCTC is operating first Railway Saloon Coach tour which will depart today from Old Delhi Railway Station. It is like a moving house having two exclusive bedrooms with attached bath, a large living cum dining room, kitchenette and rear window for watching the spectacular views. pic.twitter.com/LIbf9XEzNH
— IRCTC (@IRCTCofficial) March 30, 2018
The first saloon coach had an AC attendant and a valet on board.
Privacy And Exclusivity
ICRTC says that these saloons coaches are an ideal choice for “those who seek privacy and exclusivity while travelling in a group/family”. They have adequate space and facilities for meetings while on the move, incentive trips and destination weddings.
For those who want to soak in the experience of travelling by train, the saloons also have a trailing window cabin. One can sit here and gaze at the landscape outside when a train is on the move.
A sample itinerary on the IRCTC website for a 3 nights/4 days trip on the Delhi-Agra-Delhi-Jaipur circuits pegs the tentative cost at Rs 1.70 lakhs per coach.
Bookings can be made through IRCTC.
A Taste of Luxury
The Indian Railways is reported to have 336 saloon cars across the country, including 62 that are air-conditioned. Right now, however, only two of the air-conditioned coaches are available to the public and these will start and end their journey in Delhi.
The idea is to give people other than top railway officials a taste of the luxury that train travels can provide.
The decision to make luxurious saloons available to the public came after a meeting between Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani and representatives of the travel and tourism industry in January this year.
India offers luxury travel on special trains like the Palace on Wheels and the Maharajas Express. In February, the authorities had organised a promotional tour, The Great Indian Bog Train, for 60 bloggers from around the world on four of these luxury trains.
What Are Saloon Coaches?
Saloon coaches have been used by senior railway officials like the General Manager (GM) of a Railway Zone since the British era for inspection tours to areas not easily accessible by road or air.
Here is an image of a window trailing inspection shared on Twitter by Eastern Railway.
Shri Harindra Rao, General Manager, Eastern Railway conducting Window trailing inspection in Kiul-Jamalpur – Bhagalpur section this morning in presence of DRM/Malda. pic.twitter.com/FjQ6X3HkaN
— Eastern Railway (@EasternRailway) February 5, 2018
These coaches or cars are attached to trains on scheduled services to the area that needs to be visited. The trailing window cabin is particularly useful when it comes to inspecting the track and attendant technical facilities.