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Train Stuff in India

everything you need to know about train travel in India

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Finding your train at the station and your coach in the train

Railway stations can be bewildering places, especially the larger ones.  Where is the train?  How do you locate the correct platform?  

Help is at hand!

If you're at a small station with only one or two platforms, it isn't too difficult -  usually, trains heading one way use one platform, and trains heading the other way use the other.  While there are plenty of exceptions to this, it shouldn't be too much of a problem - ask anybody waiting on the platform.  Another easy give away is if one platform is empty and the other full, especially when your train is expected.

Platform announcements are made at most stations.  Some examples:

"Train number 16732 Tuticorin Express from Mysore to Tuticorin will arrive shortly on platform number 6"

"Train number 12028 Shatabdi Express bound for Chennai is ready for departure on platform number 7"

These announcements are made in three languages; English, Hindi and the local language.

Bigger stations can be complicated, especially when they're crowded - i.e. most of the time.  However, if you're entering through the main entrances, you will probably find large screens telling you which train leaves from which platform.  The word "platform" is often abbreviated to "PF"

 It is a good idea to note down the number of your train to avoid any confusion.  Most people would know the first train mentioned on the board as the Udyan Express, and "BANGALORE - MUMB" doesn't even faintly resemble it.

The railways have also introduced a facility that sends you an SMS alert with the platform number of your train.  You need to send an SMS to the number 139 in the following format:

PLATFORM <Train Number> <Station's STD Code>

For example, if I want to find out which platform the New Delhi - Bhopal Shatabdi Express leaves from at New Delhi, I would need to send the following SMS:

PLATFORM 12002 022

..where 12002 is the train's number and 022 the STD code of New Delhi.

Having said this, I've found this service a hit and miss affair - the service failing to provide me accurate information (or any information at all) on sending them such an SMS.  This isn't something I'd depend on too much.

Update:  A few stations have started uploading real-time arrival/departure and platform information online.  The stations are:

New Delhi/Hazrat Nizamuddin/Old Delhi

Bangalore City

Secunderabad

Hyderabad

Kacheguda

Guntakal

Vijayawada

Tirupati

Guntur

Nanded

It's the same website for the last eight stations.  When you log onto the website, click on the specific station for which you need platform information.

If there are no boards or if the boards aren't working, you can try asking at the information booth, if there is one.  If not, your best bet will be to ask a porter - men who carry your luggage to your coach for a small fee - which platform your train is due.  They know the layout of the station like the back of their hand and are very clued in to train operations.  Porters are easily distinguishable by their red coats.

Now that you know which platform your train will arrive on, you also need to find your coach.  Coaches of a train usually have their number mentioned on a small board in the middle of the coach, like in the image below. The larger boards above mention the train's origin and destination in many languages.

Indian trains can be very long, stretching to 24 coaches.  If the train you're taking starts from the station you're boarding at, this shouldn't be too much of a problem; arrive about half an hour early and find your coach with leisure.  On the other hand, if you're boarding a train from an intermediate station, you might not have the luxury of time - train halts can be as short as a minute!  

In this case, you have a few options. If you've hired a porter to carry your luggage, he will do the needful.  If you haven't, the simplest method is to look at the coach display indicators on the platform.  These are small boxes spaced roughly every 15-20 metres along the platform that flash the train's number and the number of the coach that is expected to stop there.

However, not every station has these display indicators, and even if it does, they might not be working.  If so, you could ask any nearby vendor if s/he knows where your coach will stop.  

It's also possible to find out the order of coaches of your train in advance.  For that, India Rail Info is your best friend.

Visit the website and enter your train's name or number in the train name/number space in the middle of the page.  It will provide suggestions as to which train you're looking for:

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

If the suggestion is correct, click on it.  The suggestion will turn into a box (highlighted in the image below)

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

Hover your mouse above the box and choose the "Time-Table" option.  When the train's timetable is displayed, look at the "Rake/Coach Composition Box" (highlighted in red in the image below), which tells you the order of coaches from the train's engine. Let us assume we're travelling in coach A1 of this train.

Screenshot from www.indiarailinfo.com

..then our coach would be fourth from the engine (loco).  You will need to find out which direction the train is arriving from, but once you do, you can position yourself in roughly the correct place where your coach will stop.  Many stations have boards that display how far away you are from the engine.

Also keep an eye out on the Rake Reversals box (highlighted in green above).  A rake reversal means the train changes direction - it arrives at a station and then heads out in the opposite direction.  If you're boarding at a station after one rake reversal, the coach positions will be entirely reversed.  For example, if we board the same train at Karur (which is a station after Erode, where the train reverses direction), coach A1 will now be 18th from the engine.  On the other hand, if we board the train at Budalur, which is the station after Tiruchchirapalli (where the train reverses for the second time), coach A1 will again be fourth from the engine.  

Whew!  Life can be so complicated.

By the way, did anybody spot the error in the coach composition box?  Coach S5 is mentioned twice.

Occasionally, your ticket's online PNR status might also indicate the position of your coach in the train's formation (see the red highlighted box in the image below):

Screenshot from www.erail.in 

For more information on interpreting your PNR status, read this article.

Last updated on 2 September 2014.