Fast Train Odyssey..

Jul 10, 2010

My first introduction to train travel was on the passenger train, with steam engines chugging along from Mangalore to Kanhangad in Kerala where we used to spend our summer holidays with my uncles and aunts. The 50 KM or so of the distance usually took more than 2 hours with stops in every station in between and swarms of people in every station. We remembered it more for the coal dust spewed out by the engine getting into our eyes and nostrils and causing no uncertain amount of irritation.

Still we used to relish it just for the thrill of riding in the train, since train travel was a novelty particularly to us children since only length of train track in undivided DK district was between Mangalore to Kerala border. In fact my train journey used to be a source of amusement and wonder for my class mates in St Mary's Primary School in Kinnigoli Later as I grew up and started working I graduated to Expresses and Super expresses to frequent travels on Rajdhani between Mumbai and Delhi with the best speed of about 120 km/hr.

Hence the super-fast travel in speeds in excess of 300 km in Europe and Japan sounded like a fairy tale from a different planet, until recently when I had the chance to experience the four fastest trains in the World.: KTX(Korean Train Express) at about 300 km/hr, Bullet train of Japan (Shinsanken) about same speed, Eurostar of similar range and TGV of France in excess of 320 km/h though a specially modified one reached 570 km/h during a demo run.

Each of the trains had their own characteristics from the way they look, feel and in their ride comfort. Whereas the KTX and Bullet trains looked more like sleek pointed arrows due to their aerodynamic noses and more muscular, the Eurostar and TGV were much more feminine and less intimidating as one can see in the accompanying photographs. The same applies to the interiors too, the East Asians trains were comfortable and functional whereas European ones were much more warmer and friendly. One finds Japanese and Koreans silent who are immersed in their ipods or mobiles, the crowd on European trains seemed to be friendlier and accommodating.

KTX and Shinkansen have only vending machines on board, no coffee counters with stewards whereas both Eurostar and TGV had elaborate counters with a choice of snacks and drinks with a chatty steward or stewardess. Nevertheless if one is more interested in watching the scenes flashing by at superspeed  these trivial things hardly matter. The scenery outside in Korea and Japan is Mountain, hill, field, city, mountain, hill, field...which repeats in a monotonous manner.

It is slightly different in Europe. It goes....grassland, rolling hill, grassland (occasional cows grazing), green, channel tunnel,  green and more green...and funny sounding stations like Lily, Nice and Cannes.But they are all beautiful in their own and tell their own story. Fascinating indeed...

by Commander GP Mallya
Commander GP Mallya is a native of Kinnigoli and alumni of Pompeii Junior College Talipady, National Institute of Engineering Mysore and Pune University. After graduation in mechanical engineering from Mysore University, he joined the Indian Navy in 1985 as a Marine Engineering Officer and served in various capacities prior to taking up premature retirement in 2007. Since then he is working as a Senior Manager in Samsung Heavy Industries, Geoje Shipyard in South Korea. He is married for over 20 years and stays with his wife Geeta in Korea. His interests include travelling, blogging, music, Quiz master and MCing apart from photography and reading. He can be reached at
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Comment on this article

  • Cdr GP Mallya (retd), Kinnigoli/South Korea

    Sat, Aug 28 2010

    Hi Arjun, thanks for the correction. The last time I travelled between Mangalore and Kanhangad seems to be ages ago so I must have messed up the figures. Good to hear the doubling of tracks is going on. I am eagerly looking forwards to the next opportunity when I can relive all those nostalgic memories on M'lore-K'gad route....

  • Ravi Lobo, Kinnigoli

    Tue, Jul 13 2010

    Mr. Mallya, welcome to Daiji Felt happy to see you here.

    Your travelogues are always very informative and interesting. Good luck with your writing.

  • Arjun, Kanhangad

    Tue, Jul 13 2010

    Kanhangad actually is 90 kms from mlore and takes around 75 minutes these days..Just a bit better because of track doubling !

    Thinking abt it, what tremendous possibilities it would open to thousands if a train can travel from Mlore to Blore in a hour at a tariff of say rs.1000..Commercials, promotions can be done in the one hour journey to keep the tariff affordable..I guess, High time for innovations !

    Gilson, more than naxals I guess we will have to beat the bus lobby first to actualise this idea !!

  • Commander Joseph Rego, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Mon, Jul 12 2010

    Hi GP,
    Good to hear from you through a interesting article. A very informative article too.
    Keep writing.

  • Gilson, Mangalore

    Sun, Jul 11 2010

    I have travelled by few of the fastest trains of the world, at Tianjin to Beijing, Paris - Grenoble - Paris, Toky and Germany.
    Interesting and too short a journey time. I did not have opportunity to try out the Korean one as my trip to Korea was about 17 years ago.

    But considering the risk, I guess it looks highly improbable to have one such a service in our country. To many anti national elements such as naxals, Maoists, et al. One small few mm object placed on the railway track may take life of one and all. It is worth going through the documentary of the oldest fast train of Germany which ran high speed and took toll of all the passengers. Investigation only ended up many many years later where a small metal plate off the chasis was suspected to be cause.

  • Anita, USA

    Sat, Jul 10 2010

    Very interesting reading, GP. Those fast trains are amazing. If at 570 km/hr...and wishful thinking
    then travel time from Mangalore - to
    -Bangalore at 350 km would be less than an hour
    -Bombay at 1000 km would be less than two hours
    -Delhi at 2500 km would be about 4 and half hrs

    Thank you for posting the amazing information. It is always good to read about the knowledge you share.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Sat, Jul 10 2010

    Very interesting travelogue.
    Super fast trains will be competing with the airlines in the
    nearest future especially for
    shorter flight destinations.

  • Prashant Rao, Mangalore/Riyadh

    Sat, Jul 10 2010

    Journey of a lifetime indeed. Thanks for sharing the same

  • Shailesh, Kasaragod/Tokyo

    Fri, Jul 09 2010

    Ya!! GP Malya... Shinkasen is simply superb..

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