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Old 6th October 2009, 22:35   #1
Ram
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Default World's first Broad-Gauge Railcar Restaurant

Friends:

I took a few days off (1st to 5th October 2009) for a breather at Bhopal, M.P.

A restaurant I dined out with my elderly uncle and aunt turned out to be an unusual experience.

It was a railway coach converted into a diner, parked at the unlikeliest of places, atop a hill, 7.7 km away from the nearest railway line !

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This is the Shan--Bhopal restaurant at the Hotel Lake View, Ashok. The restaurant is inside a railway coach, parked at a near authentic railway platform, created for it.

Its signboard proudly proclaims: World's first Broad-Gauge Railcoach Restaurant.

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Makes sense, considering that India has the world's broadest broad gauge at 5 feet 6 inches [1676 mm]. And this may well be India's first restaurant-in-a-railcoach -- not a dining car -- a proper restaurant.

The coach-restaurant was at the Hotel Lake View Ashok. I have eaten at another restaurant at that hotel before. And as expected, the food at the restaurant was excellent.

The entrance to the restaurant has a make-believe level crossing boom barrier, like what one would find at small railroad crossings in rural India. The fencing is also made of discarded rails painted white, like that used for fencing at small-town Indian railway properties.

Creator
This was the brainchild of Mr. Ashwani Lohani, Managing Director of the MP State Tourism Development Corp.
He holds the Limca Book of Records recognition for getting 4 BEs in 1979 at the age of 21. He has a BE in Mechanical, Metallurgical, Electrical and ExTc Engg. from the Institute of Engineers Kolkata.
He was the director who supposedly revived the National Rail Museum, New Delhi. He set the Guiness World Record (1998) by running the Indian Railways' Fairey Queen Express hauled by the world's oldest working steam locomotive. That locomotive was built in 1855 and is called the Fairey Queen. He also got World Heritage Site recognitions for the Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Railway and has also written a book, "Smoking Beauties: Steam Engines Of The World"

The rail-coach restaurant
Ashwani Lohani and his team started work on this rail-coach restaurant in June 2006.
The coach was a decommissioned 2nd class integral coach, procured from the Nishatpura Railway Workshop in September 2006.
The restorers, created a small section of broad gauge railway track, erected a railway platform and placed the 40-tonne railway coach on it.

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The platform has a yellow signboard and there are yellow train-name plates on the rail-coach.
The platform has period benches with wrought-iron sides and wooden webbing, wrought iron chairs and tables with stone table tops.

There is also the essential platform clock, period lanterns, bookstall and pan-wala.

Actual sounds of a railway station -- the rumble of engines, multi-tone locomotive horns, vendors hawking their wares, were recorded at the Bhopal railway station and play on the audio system.

The serving capacity of the restaurant is 80 people, with 32 places inside the railway coach and 48 on the platform.

They have painted a Great Indian Peninsula Railways (GIPR) logo from 1849 on the coach.
The same logo is also on the table place-mats inside the coach.

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It was apparently a herculean feat to transport a 40-tonne railway coach from Nishatpura Railway workshop, all the way up Shyamla Hills to the Lake View Hotel Ashok.

A complete semaphore-arm type railway signal post with red and green lights has also been procured, restored and installed
The arm and lights actually work to indicate if the restaurant is open or closed.

The coach is positioned north-south on the western perimeter of the Hotel Lake View Ashok.

All the twenty windows on the eastern flank of the coach, look out onto the railway platform.
But all the twenty windows on the western flank of the coach, from door to door have LCD monitors in them.

Computer software shows a realistic panoramic video on all these twenty monitors -- actual footage of the view from the windows of a train with the sun glinting off rails, rocky outcrops, trees, fields, mountains, sky, signal-posts, bridges over rivers and over dry-river beds, railway stations, level crossings, signal cabins, passing locomotives and trains, with home-theatre sound playing in the coach-restaurant.


Background sound inside the coach consists of recorded sounds of a railway platform, locomotive whistles, the rumbling and clicking and clacking of the train on the rails, and railway station announcements.

The serving waiters were dressed in the stock red coolie tunic, complete with brass badge.
The order-taking stewards were dressed like Traveling Ticket Examiners (TTE) with white shirt and black jacket and black peaked cap.

A novel idea and a truly unique experience.

Ram

OT: All pics and video taken with my Nokia N82 mobile phone. Isn't ubiquitous availability of a photographic device -- the camera-equipped mobile phone -- at unlikely places and times, a blessing of our times?
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Old 6th October 2009, 22:54   #2
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A unique restaurant. I have never ever seen any railway coach restaurant in my life. I wonder how a state tourism can get hold of decommissioned railway coach. Working on it would be tough as they are really built like tanks to take a lot of abuse.
Next time I visit Bhopal I will make sure I will visit this unique place. Seating space is quite good too considering that quite a bit of footprint will be occupied by tables.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ram View Post
Actual sounds of a railway station -- the rumble of engines, multi-tone locomotive horns, vendors hawking their wares, were recorded at the Bhopal railway station and play on the audio system.
IMHO, this is something that will not be liked by everybody. Nobody wants to listen to all the chaos, but its just me.


EDIT :
Just saw the video. The way they have installed those monitors and they show the recording, one almost feels that he is actually traveling in that coach. Excellent concept that is implemented quite well.

Last edited by aaggoswami : 6th October 2009 at 23:01.
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Old 7th October 2009, 00:33   #3
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Very unique concept, Ram. Looks in-line with the relaxation you wanted when you went to Bhopal!
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Old 7th October 2009, 10:27   #4
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Very unique idea. may be "Mr. Ashwani Lohani" would had the blessing of Laluji when he started this. BTW there was no comments on the food quality, afterall that is the reason we got to a restaurant!
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Old 7th October 2009, 10:43   #5
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Fantastic idea. Actually there is a restaurant on a bus theme here in kodambakkam. It is not a bus though.
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Old 7th October 2009, 11:26   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gadadhar View Post
Very unique idea. may be "Mr. Ashwani Lohani" would had the blessing of Laluji when he started this. BTW there was no comments on the food quality, afterall that is the reason we got to a restaurant!
Quote:
Originally Posted by ram
The coach-restaurant was at the Hotel Lake View Ashok. I have eaten at another restaurant at that hotel before. And as expected, the food at the restaurant was excellent.
Excellent idea and implementation, would love to go there sometime
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Old 7th October 2009, 11:29   #7
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This is defeinitely a wonderful concept.
Is the noise level high even inside?
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Old 7th October 2009, 11:30   #8
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Lovely idea. How was food? rates/quality?

But for del/hyd/blr walas there is something very slightly similar but with awesome NV food - Sahib Sindh Sultan
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Old 7th October 2009, 17:39   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MuraliR View Post
This is definitely a wonderful concept.
Is the noise level high even inside?
The noise level is just right for a theme restaurant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
Lovely idea. How was food? rates/quality?
I have eaten at another restaurant at the hotel Lake View Ashoka before. And as expected, the food at the restaurant was excellent.
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Old 7th October 2009, 18:21   #10
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Nice concept there. However, there is a restuarant in Hyderabad called "Metro" from Ohri's group which opened quite a few years ago ( maybe 5-6 years or more) is based on the London Underground theme. They too have seating exactly as you sit in a train and food is served inside the compartment.

Ohri's is a renowed restuarant group in Hyderabad and have over 15 top class restuarants in Hyd.

However, this one looks to be on slightly larger scale. Thanks for sharing
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Old 5th February 2010, 16:39   #11
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My native place is bhopal and I have been to this place.
there is a restaurent next to this named lake view ashoka.

It has a spectacular view of bhopal upper lake.
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Old 5th February 2010, 17:26   #12
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Certainly unique and since you say the food is equally good, this place figures in my next list of places to visit. Thank you for sharing.
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Old 6th February 2010, 19:20   #13
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Ram, Very unique idea, and really aptly put into reality. never thought this concept can be put into a restaurant kind of reality. hats off !!

Abhi
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