The Indiamike Train carriage - could it pay?

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#1 Feb 13th, 2005, 20:53
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  • steven_ber is offline
#1
I've had an idea for a while now and would appreciate other people's opinions.

There are loads of old First Class (non air-con) broad gauge train carriages available in India, I am thinking of buying one (or two) and converting it to include a veranda bar.

In India, you can attach your own carriage to most trains (in theory, you can go from anywhere to anywhere), the cost is reasonable, the paperwork would however, be a nightmare.

I would take away a few berths, 2 toilets and two doors and replace them with a bar area and a veranda.

If you look at the diagram below, I have drawn a line (2), from that line, everything to the left would be the bar/sitting area, everything to the left of line 1 would be a veranda, (though Im still not sure if it may be better to have that line to the left of the 3 & 4 on the diagram).

The Eastern & Oriental Express (Bangkok Singapore) has a veranda that is close to what Id be aiming for. (see photo below)(Though the Indian broad gauge carriage is a lot wider than the Eastern & oriental carriage)

Berths 9 26 would remain and the whole carriage would be cleaned up with slight modifications, though air-con would NOT be added, good quality bedding and curtains would be supplied (& laundered after each journey)

The idea would be to use the carriage for daytime or overnight journeys on some of the main tourist routes, though some special journeys on scenic routes would also be an option.

I done a lot of research a couple of years ago and partially priced the whole thing (though Ive since lost all the details), I had worked out that a small operational profit is possible, but all costs up to the first journey are highly unlikely to be recouped. (thats a price Id be willing to pay)

The journey price would be almost the same as that paid for First Class (Air-con), an example- Mumbai to Goa for Rs 2000, would this price be too high?

I have more details, but no time to post at the moment.
Attached Images
Seats-+-Berths-in-BG-(First.jpg Oriental Express.jpg 
#2 Feb 13th, 2005, 21:20
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  • kaushiks is offline
#2
Steven, brilliant. I have been thinking of it for ages. What I visualize is something with a glass dome or semi open air (open from the top but glass windows on side to keep the wind away).
Infact, left to me, I will travel in one of those open carriages used for transporting large ship containers. I have been that crazy about riding 'topless' in trains.

I have no clue how you would go about it. I think it is very difficult. I will find a dozen or so people who will be crazy about this. However, when it comes to working towards it, making business out of it etc, its tough.
The problem as I see it is finding a business man who sees money in it. And its tough.

I have discussed this with almost all of my friends. One of them is a railfan. Checkout http://members.tripod.com/~IRFC/ - A railfan site I found.

You should try and meet some of these rail fan guys in person. They meet every week or so in the Rail Musuem, Delhi. They might have some clue how to proceed.


Some thoughts of mine -
It will be tough to find customers on a regular basis but you will find people. So, you should keep it a lounge kind of thing. The whole idea is, it should be expensive enough to keep too much crowd out. However, you need to generate business also. So, let it be a lounge people can come in when they please.

People pay 150Rs for an hour or pay half of third A/C rates to use it through out the journey. If they feel like, they should be able to come out here and enjoy the stars or scenery etc. They can come as often as they want if they pay for the entire journey. Exact price needs some experimentation.

You have to have a modular design, so that everything except the chassis has to be removable. The windows, Glass domes, chairs/tables, etc. If business is running out (say during summers). Take everything off and give the chassi to a goods train to transport containers/oil/steel etc. This way, you may survive and keep experimenting.

However, once it catches on, I think people would love it.

Good luck. If you do this, I will be the first to support you in way I can.
#3 Feb 13th, 2005, 21:39
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  • machadinha is offline
#3
Sounds like an excellent ff'ing idea! Splendid, brilliant!
It would be good if you could find your costs estimate back.
There's no way I could help out financially upfront but hey if a decently-paid-for-local-standards job ever rolls out of it...
Kaushik's dome sounds nice, glass/convertible might be handy for those rainy days no?
Anyway keep us posted, I'll be following this thread.
#4 Feb 13th, 2005, 23:49
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  • Jorge Reverter is offline
#4

Wink

Great idea Steven. It sounds really attractive. As you say, take it easy and ask Kafka how to manage with permissions.

Jorge
#5 Feb 14th, 2005, 01:12
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#5

Brilliant idea!

Steve - I love this idea! - would even be willing to invest some $$ in the start-up costs even though I'm not rolling in dough at the moment.

Are there any Indian lawyers who are IndiaMike-ers who might give advice on the technicalities of acquisition, permits, etc? If not, I know someone who knows someone (you know how that is) - anyway, my friend knows an Indian couple who are both lawyers at a major Delhi firm who could at least refer us to someone who could provide legal advice. (My friend and I are also lawyers in the U.S.) There also must be at least one person on this board who has some "contacts" in the Indian bureaucracy who could give us some general advice. My best contact for bureaucratic stuff is in Sikkim, which unfortunately doesn't have a railroad ... but still, bureaucracy is bureaucracy and general advice on dealing with it might be useful.

Also, my guess is that ownership of the car would have to be held by an Indian citizen or an Indian corporation, so one would have to be formed. And one would have to find reliable "staff" - details, details.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by this possible venture. Feel free to PM me re: this if you want.
#6 Feb 14th, 2005, 01:24
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  • machadinha is offline
#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by dzibead Also, my guess is that ownership of the car would have to be held by an Indian citizen or an Indian corporation, so one would have to be formed. And one would have to find reliable "staff" - details, details.
Well and there you go straightaway -- how's about employment opportunities for local youngsters (and elders), what with maintaining the thing, running the office, maintaining the website, onboard cultural events, etc. and so forth. Have a bit of a social project while you're at it!

I still think it's a wonderful idea. If it's feasible is another thing but where would we ever get without dreaming right.
#7 Feb 14th, 2005, 02:47
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  • Railway is offline
#7
I have also been thinking about buying an entire train
#8 Feb 14th, 2005, 03:12
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  • ashish0608 is offline
#8
Steven_ber : this is great idea!

When do I/My Family get to travel in this?
#9 Feb 14th, 2005, 08:35
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  • SHIMLA is offline
#9
A good idea!

However, if the thought is to have a transparent dome or an open air roof, then the routes on which this carriage can be effectively used get limited.
One will have to use it only on the truly scenic routes and this would narrow the choice to mountain railways, in which case the broad gauge coach would be of no use.

In my opinion, people would not find it attractive to travel in such a carriage on the main trunk routes; where the landscape is pretty much the same throughout, let alone the scenery.

Still, a study can always be conducted on how often do people use the special carriage facility currently being offered by Indian Railways, on which routes, and for what purpose. The findings will provide a pointer to the commercial viability of the proposed project.
Whoever said money can't buy happiness didn't know where to shop !
#10 Feb 14th, 2005, 13:30
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  • steven_ber is offline
#10
A few other things I should have added to the original post.

The roof would remain untouched, only parts of the side and end of the carriage would be removed (& replaced with removable parts for security), the whole carriage strength/support structure would have to remain in case it has to pass any safety checks (and for insurance purposes).

I would employ 2 Indians on a good wage, they would be in charge of most things, they would be able to speak English & Hindi, (and would be able to say repeatedly "which country?", "One pen", and "I show you brothers shop" whenever we have a difficult costumer ).

The most difficult aspect (and a killer of profits) is 'stabling', (what to do/where to put the carriage when not in use), I need to do a lot more research on this.

The carriage would not be competing with the airlines or the railway, if a person wants to get from A to B quickly or cheaply, the carriage isn't for them, the carriage is just a different way of travelling.

Whilst the scenic routes are attractive, I still think the carriage will find a (smaller) market on the 'not so scenic' routes.

The carriage would defiantly appeal to first-timers to India, and may even appeal to Indian families/groups in the busy holiday periods, personally, I would love to travel through India on a carriage like this.

This kind of thing has been tried before, I remember reading about a couple who bought a carriage (though didn't make any changes to it) and used to do tours, a whole tour of a week or more with the same people throughout), I guess it didn't work out as I cant find any info about it on the web.

I think the couple used the name 'Pettits', but I may be wrong, I'd love to speak to these people.
#11 Feb 15th, 2005, 05:00
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#11
Stephen I've read about these people on the web and seen pictures. They did it for years and years. They had some pretty stinging criticism of the Indian Railways bureocracy. Surely someone else remembers the name of the train carriage------- God it's on the tip of my brain.........
If anybody could make it happen again--you could!
Reject violence.
#12 Feb 15th, 2005, 06:42
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#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by steven_ber The carriage would not be competing with the airlines or the railway, if a person wants to get from A to B quickly or cheaply, the carriage isn't for them, the carriage is just a different way of travelling.

Whilst the scenic routes are attractive, I still think the carriage will find a (smaller) market on the 'not so scenic' routes.

The carriage would defiantly appeal to first-timers to India, and may even appeal to Indian families/groups in the busy holiday periods, personally, I would love to travel through India on a carriage like this.
In that case you MUST have air-con. Most parts of India are hot and dusty for the best part of the year; I'm sure nobody would like to traverse the country in such a carriage without airconditioned comfort.
#13 Feb 15th, 2005, 10:36
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  • lonelyaztec is offline
#13
Wow, this idea is great.
#14 Feb 16th, 2005, 02:05
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  • dreamsyndicate is offline
#14
Great idea if the paperwork is manageable ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by steven_ber I would employ 2 Indians on a good wage, they would be in charge of most things, they would be able to speak English & Hindi, (and would be able to say repeatedly "which country?", "One pen", and "I show you brothers shop" whenever we have a difficult costumer ).
#15 Feb 16th, 2005, 03:31
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  • crvlvr is offline
#15
Something tells me that depending on the Indian Railways might be the weakest link in your plan.
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