Shakuntala Railways – India’s only railway line that does not belong to India

Often while making a list, we forget to add one last thing. Probably, something like this must have happened back in 1951 when Indian Railways were nationalized.

Last weekend, I was on a trip to Amravati and I was lucky enough to come across Shakuntala Express. This usual name of a train bears a really unusual story of its existence.

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Shakuntala Express at Achalpur Railway Station

Shakuntala Railways is a 189 km narrow gauge railway line that is owned by Central Provinces Railway Company. The CPRC was founded in 1910 by Killick, Nixon & Company to act as its agents when every railway line was operated by private companies in the British Raj.

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Achalpur Railway Station
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Translates to “Motorcycle on the platform is not allowed.”

After the nationalization of Railways, the Shakuntala Railways was mysteriously not on the list. As a result, it became the only privately owned railway line in India.
Shakuntala Express runs between Yavatmal & Achalpur in Central India. It was founded to carry cotton from the cotton-rich areas to Murtazapur and from there to Mumbai.

Later, it was transported to Manchester. Believe it or not, Indian Railways used to pay Rs 1.2 crore as royalty for running Shakuntala Express on it.

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Passangers at Achalpur Railway Station

Soon, the Shakuntala Express started ferrying passengers. It still is a lifeline for the poorest.

The Achalpur-Yawatmal-Murtazapur route will soon have a broad gauge railway as announced by the railway minister in 2016.

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Though the train now runs on a diesel engine instead of steam, it’s wooden interior, broken windows and small 2 feet iron tracks will surely give you a throwback in the colonial era.

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