Palace on Wheels


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Palace On Wheels - Romance of The Rail

The royal families travelled in style - it came naturally to them. Which is why their saloons were so luxurious. They were wood-panelled, had separate bedrooms, dining rooms, libraries, lounges, and formal drawing rooms. They had changing rooms and luxurious bathrooms. Attendants travelled in separate coaches and catered to their every choice: whether meals, or services.

Because it was not a single train, each coach was different, as were the trappings. This lent it a quaint charm, and visitors could be seen leaping from their coaches (the train could not be vestibuled since the carriages were old) at stations at night, to go into different carriages and spend time there, experiencing their regal, but romantic aura. The meals came from an attached dining car, and were served in a restaurant on wheels. There was a charming library and bar. And attendants in full regalia stayed up odd hours and times to be able to serve passengers on the royal yatra late into the night, and from very early in the morning. The train began its week-ling tour of Rajasthan from Delhi, and ended it in the capital too. Passengers could take the entire tour, or any part of it. By night, they gathered in the train to rest, relax, make new friends, converse, dine and sleep. And every morning the train world arrive at a new destination, a new princely city, to a new welcome, a new regal ambience, but a fittingly royal experience.

Because these carriages were old, it was felt that they could not continue indefinitely, but the package had been so popular that pulling it out was simply not an answer. Instead, a new train was recreated in the same flavour, though it now had inbuilt advantages such as vestibuling and air-conditioning. In all other ways, it was a faithful copy of the original. Carpeted corridors, a comfortable lounge and a more spacious dining room added to its amenities. It proved such a good copy that most visitors could not make out that it was, in fact, not the original Palace on Wheels.

Bar Inside Palace on Wheels

By now, of course, other things were changing. Though the new train had been developed on the original metre gauge tracks, most inter-city tracks had been changed to broad gauge. It was clearly time to phase out the new Palace on Wheels. But it was a smart product: instead of wasting it the Ministry of Railways decided to use it on a different route, and so The Royal Orient was created, a journey that begins from Delhi, includes a bit of Rajasthan, but spends much of its time chugging through the neighbouring state of Gujarat.

But, clearly, it was time for a still newer Palace on Wheels.

And what a train it is! Even the original could not have been as luxurious, or as magnificent. It may not be historic, but it wears the patina of history lightly, its inspiration clearly the past. Had the maharajas still be able to, it is just such a train they would have ordered.

Palace On Wheels

It stands on its tracks, a gleaming, sealed carriage, every bit as royal as the original, and perhaps more. The air-conditioning works silently, creating a space where only the excitement of the history of the Rajput kingdoms permeates through, cleverly captured in contemporary mode. In all, there are fourteen saloons, each equipped with two twin-bedded and two double-bedded chambers, with attached baths that have been thoughtfully provided, sofas to sink into, strategically placed lights to read by wonderfully appointed beds with comfortable furnishings, inbuilt wardrobes for the storage of one's clothes and bags, and huge plate glass windows to watch the countryside roll past.

Outside the bedrooms, each coach also has a seating lounge where passengers can get together, just sit, watch the cities as they glide past outside the windows, or enjoy a quiet cup of tea. An attached pantry with each saloon helps provide beverages and refreshments to the accompaniment of soothing, piped music. Should you seed company, there is the comfortable bar cum lounge were you relax over your favourite drink, burrow in a book, or converse with co-passengers. Attached to it are two restaurant cars, Maharaja and Maharani respectively, with opulently draped curtains, exquisitely crafted lights, and table settings that world do a modern city restaurant proud. Here, accompanying chefs serve up a choice of Indian, including Rajasthani, Continental, and even Chinese cuisines that are a feast for the palett.

Welcome To Palace on Wheels

The train chugs out of Delhi Cantonment on a week-long run through Rajasthan every Wednesday night, with a trip also inbuilt to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Turban-wearing attendants take over from the moment you arrive at the platform, assigning you your coupes, and detailing all the facilities that are on board. The train moves by night, and arrives each morning at a new destination, where new experiences await you. If you are an early riser, you will see the sun rise over the horizon of the desert, a golden orb that flames in pastel colours before it ignites into brilliant orange as it mounts higher. So it has done for millions of years, and so it has been watched on its journey for thousands of them by the residents of the desert: Suryavanshi and Chandravanshi, moon- incredible how easy it is to believe it all possible!

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