India’s Only Privately Owned Railway Line – The Shakuntala Railways

Have you ever heard of Shakuntala Railways? It is the only railway in the country that is still not owned by the Indian government. Strange, right? The reason for the same is not too clear. In 1952, when the entire railways segment was nationalised, this was the only line, which was not included.

A remnant of the colonial era railways, Shakuntala Express continues to enthrall train lovers across the globe. The antique train runs from Murtazapur to Yavatmal in Maharashtra, covering 190 km with an average speed of 20 km/hour. Though the train is not very famous in the country but it serves as a lifeline for locals.

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In 1910, during the era of private railroad companies, Shakuntala Railways was founded by a company called Killick-Nixon, a British firm. By 1916, trains started running on the tracks and soon started carrying passengers too. They were operated by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR) in central India. It continued even after the GIPR became a part of Indian Railways after independence. Shakuntala Railway is still owned by CPRC because the government has not nationalised it yet.

The train was pulled by a ZD-steam engine for more than 70 years, which was later replaced by a diesel engine in the year 1994. Central Railway, which runs the trains on the two sections, pays a royalty to its private partner and CPRC. This contract is renewed in every 10 years and has been renewed six times till now.

Interesting Fact: As there is no staff at most of the stations on the route, guards also perform the work of ticket clerks.