Till 2016, a train going by name of Shakuntalal Express ran between the stations of Yavatmal and Achalpur in the cotton growing areas of Maharasthtra, India. This was India’s last operational private train.
Killick, Nixon and Company, set up in 1857, created the Central Provinces Railway Company (CPRC) to act as its agents. The company built the 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge line in 1903. The company built this narrow-gauge line in 1903 to carry cotton from cotton-rich interior areas of Vidarbha to the Murtajapur Junction on main broad gauge line to Mumbai from where it was shipped to Manchester, England. In 1920 line from Darwha-Pusad was dismantled. Though, working autonomously, the CPRC was grouped in 1952 under the Central Railways. A ZD-steam engine, built in 1921 in Manchester, pulled the train for more than 70 long years after being put in service in 1923. It was withdrawn on 15 April 1994, and replaced by a diesel engine. (Source Wikipedia) The steam locomotive now rests in a shed in Pune, in north-western Maharashtra.
In 2016, Indian Railways cleared a proposal to take over the narrow gauge line and convert it into broad gauge at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore. However, no progress has been made on this project. There are also a string of legal wrangles that need to be sorted out with CRPC.
London-based train enthusiast David Breaker formed a Shakuntala Railway Society and Shakuntala Protection Committee in 2002.
With the help of rail enthusiasts and historians in India, the committee aims to save the Shakuntala Express. The committee is toying with the idea of running daily diesel trains for local people, and weekend “steam specials” to restore the vintage steam train to its former glory.
So for now, Shakuntala Railways is all but forgotton.