The country's first super-fast train, the Deccan Queen Express, completed 85 years of service yesterday and a birthday bash befitting royalty was thrown for it.

Deccan Queen Express

Platform number 1 at the Pune railway station, from where the train has been departing to Mumbai for over eight decades now, was decked with fresh flowers and balloons to mark the momentous day. Hundreds of loyal commuters joined in the birthday celebrations and former President Pratibha Patil and her husband Devisingh Shekhawat were invited to grace the occasion as chief guests.

Momentous occasion: Former President Pratibha Patil cuts a  train shaped cake, which was part of the celebration attended by hundreds of commuters (top) yesterday. Pics/Mohan Patil  

As the train, embellished with flowers, snaked into the platform, a birthday cake was awaiting it. Pratiba Patil, in the presence of Pune railway station manager Suneel Kamthan and president of Pune railway pravasi group Harsha Shah, cut the cake amidst thunderous applause.

Started in June 1930, the Deccan Queen was the first train that bridged the gap for trade and inter-city commuters from Mumbai and Pune.

Shortly after the train departed at 7.15 am yesterday, the former president became nostalgic. “I have often travelled by the Deccan Queen Express with some of the prominent leaders in the past.

The service is very efficient and the train staff ensures the best possible service to passengers. The train unifies people, breaking all barriers of caste, religion and wealth,” said the former president. Her husband, too, spoke about the journeys the couple undertook on the train after marriage.

The train is regarded as a lifeline for the thousands of office-goers who live in the city and commute to work in Mumbai and vice-versa. Making its way through the picturesque Western Ghats, the train covers the 192-km journey in 3 hours and 10 minutes. Given its record of on-time performance, it is the preferred choice, despite competition from other trains on this sector.

“I have been travelling by the Deccan Queen for the last 45 years and it has become my second home. We treat it as our mother and are happy to celebrate its birthday today. My entire family decided to come here to join in the festivities,” said Mangilal Solanki, a regular commuter.

Another passenger Hemant Talpale said, “It’s a matter of pride to be associated with the country’s most efficient train for so many years now. There have been some hitches in the past, but the train has chugged along without a single holiday. We are thankful to the Railways for this train.”