From the year 1989 to 2010, a 4-digit scheme was used for long-distance passenger trains. These 4-digit numbers were referred to as ‘Universal Numbers’, because they were univocal across different zones. In the old train numbers, these numbers were not unique across different zones. On December 20, 2010, the Indian Railways switched to a new system, where all its train numbers were converted to a 5-digit train numbering scheme.
So, here’s how Indian trains are numbered –
The First Digit – Type of Passenger Train
Number 0 – special (short-term) trains (ex. summer specials, holiday specials)
Number 1 – long-distance trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Sampark Kranti, Garib Rath, Duronto, etc.
Number 2 – also for long-distance trains; but these are used when train numbers starting with 1 are exhausted in any series.
Number 3 – Kolkata suburban trains.
Number 4 – suburban trains in Chennai, New Delhi and other metropolitan areas.
Number 5 – passenger trains with conventional coaches.
Number 6 – MEMU trains.
Number 7 – DMU (DEMU) and railcar services.
Number 8 – currently reserved.
Number 9 – Mumbai area suburban trains
The Second and Third Digit – Zonal Codes/ Zonal Divisions
Number 0 – Konkan Railway
Number 1 – Central Railway, West-Central Railway and North Central Railway
Number 2 is for Superfast trains and some other classes of trains regardless of zones. For these, the next digit is usually the zone code.
Number 3 – Eastern Railway and East-Central Railway
Number 4 – Northern Railway, North Central Railway and North Western Railway
Number 5 – North Eastern Railway and North-east Frontier Railway
Number 6 – Southern Railway and South Western Railway
Number 7 – South Central Railway and South Western Railway
Number 8 – South Eastern Railway and East Coast Railway
Number 9 – Western Railway, North Western Railway and West Central Railway
The second digit indicates the headquarter of the zone (Eastern, Northern, West-Central, etc.) and the third digit indicates the end destination of the train (Howrah, Delhi, Mumbai, etc.)
For example –
Eastern Railway and East-Central Railway
Destination – Howrah
So, the numbering will be – 3 (Zonal Code for Eastern Railway and East-Central Railway) and 0 (End Destination – Howrah)
Therefore, the second and third digit will be 30.
Northern, North Central and North Western Railway
Destination – New Delhi
So, the numbering will be – 4 (Zonal Code for Northern, North Central and North Western Railway) and 0 (End Destination – New Delhi)
Therefore, the second and third digit will be 40.
The Fourth and Fifth Digit
The fourth and fifth digit is the serial number of the train.