On March 3, 1969, Indian Railways turned a new leaf. That day, independent India’s first fully air conditioned, high-speed train from Howrah, Rajdhani Express, embarked on its maiden journey to Delhi, which covered 1,450 km in 17 hours. The feting of passengers travelling on the anniversary day yesterday was a reminder of the iconic status of Rajdhani, which has become synonymous with speed, class and excellence. In a sector, which was relatively backward until the advent of Rajdhani — or Capital — the contribution of India’s fastest train to its railway network can scarcely be over emphasised. Though over the years, the Shatabdi and Duranto Express trains, among others, have come to acquire the elite status that was once the exclusive preserve of Rajdhani, the old queen has not lost a bit of her verve. Last year, it clocked 91.56 km per hour, to be timed as the second fastest train in India after Bhopal Shatabdi, which came first with 91.85 km per hour. It continues to get top priority even today on the railway network, and if the felicitations yesterday are any indication, it will continue to be the apple of the Indian Railway’s eyes in the years to come. Such has been the popularity of the train over the years that it has spawned a number of clones. Today, there are 23 pairs of Rajdhani Express, going to all parts of the country from India’s capital city. In the fitness of things, three former employees of Rajdhani, flagged off the anniversary run from Howrah to Delhi, revealing the sentimentalism attached to this iconic train. It would be safe to suggest that despite newer trains and upgraded technology, and the competition that Indian Railways faces from other faster modes of travel like cheaper air flights, Rajdhani will maintain its niche in the pantheon of travellers.