#100happytrains: Day 3

Posted on April 3, 2014


Boat Mail: Madras Egmore-Rameswaram

You may search for this train in the timetables, but you will not see a Boat Mail. The train you will be looking for is the Madras-Rameswaram Express. However for the purist, the train will always depart Madras Egmore/Rameswaram as the Boat Mail. The train used to go up Dhanushkodi, the tip of the Indian mainland, from where passengers could hop into a steamer that would take them to Sri Lanka. That was the only railway connection between the countries that existed till 1964, until tragedy struck. It was December and a five day cyclone changed the face of Rameswaram island. Dhanushkodi is now just a ghost town with a hamlet of fisherfolk and the odd tourist visiting it’s remains. The railway line was terminated at Rameswaram and the cantilever Pamban Bridge that was destroyed was rebuilt in record by E Sreedharan, the most celebrated Indian Railways employee of the 20th century. Paul Theroux, the railway writer I admire the most, was on the Boat Mail during his trip for The Great Railway Bazaar. The train, plying via the Madras-Tiruchi main line, may not run in metre gauge anymore, but its symbolic presence will never be forgotten.

Sections covered on this train: Madras-Rameswaram (MG), Tambaram-Rameswaram (MG), Rameswaram-Tambaram (MG), Rameswaram-Madras (MG), Tiruchi-Madras (BG).