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The mystery of Up and Down of Indian Railway trains

The Up and Down on the trains in India denote the direction from where the are coming and going

All of us are familiar with the jargons ‘Up’ and ‘Down’ being used by the Indian Railways for the trains run by them but not many are sure what they mean. Many even wonder as to how does this mammoth organisation decide the Up and Down direction of the trains?

When a train is designated as Down it means that it is departing from zonal/ divisional headquarters, that is the home railway. Likewise, Up denotes that the train is travelling to its zonal/divisional headquarters.

For instance, the 2903 DN Frontier Down Mail travels away from its Mumbai headquarters but the train with the number 2904 UP will move in the direction of the Mumbai headquarters. Another interesting aspect is that in general, Down trains carry odd numbers while even numbers are used for the Up trains. Also one can observe that the numbers of the Up and Down trains vary by just one digit.

In case of special trains like Shatabdi, the odd number shows the Down journey but the Up one is indicated by even number. Thus New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi is numbered 2001 DN (departs from Delhi) while the 2002 UP travels towards the Capital, Delhi.

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What about those intermediate trains that are not emanating from the headquarters? Their numbering is based on the direction of away/towards the headquarters.

Adding a nice twist to this system is that this procedure is not applicable to all zones. In the case of the Howrah zone, the Kalka Mail Up is numbered 1 and Down is numbered 2, while the Howrah-Bombay Mail Up is numbered 2 and Down is numbered 1.

In Delhi, the Ring Railway follows another system as those trains moving in clockwise direction are marked Up in their timetable.

The method of designating Up and Down was first adopted by Great Indian Peninsula Railway for the Bombay and Madras railway. The East Indian Railway named the trains towards its base, Calcutta as Down trains and this convention was also adopted by the Bengal-Nagpur Railway.