President Ram Nath Kovind's train trip to his hometown in Uttar Pradesh was a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" and a "moment of pride" for the railway employees involved in its operation.
This was the first time in 15 years that a President took a train ride. Kovind has also become the first President not to travel on a presidential saloon car.
He travelled to his hometown Paraunkh in Kanpur Dehat district on Friday in a coach comparable to the ones in luxurious Maharaja Express trains which are booked by tourists, sources said.
In 2018, President Kovind had written to the then railway minister asking him to decommission the vintage presidential saloon car, which, he said, put unnecessary pressure on the exchequer for maintenance and upkeep.
During the journey on Friday, Kovind's train made two stopovers at Jhinjhak and Rura stations in North Central Railway's Prayagraj division.
Railway officials said it was the first time that a President came out of his special train to interact with the people and address the gatherings.
"It was the most unforgettable moment of my life. Being the guard of the presidential train was an opportunity of a lifetime. It gave me the deepest sense of fulfilment, delight and happiness," said Akshay Deep Chauhan, the Guard of the Presidential train from Delhi's Safdarjung station to Kanpur Central.
Hoping that such trips by the President will encourage more people to travel by trains, Sanjay Kumar Singh, the loco pilot of the train, said it was a "moment of pride" for him.
Another pilot, Anil Kumar Dixit, said of the many trains operated by him this was the happiest one for him.
The last time a President travelled by train was in 2006 when Dr A P J Abdul Kalam boarded a special train from Delhi to Dehradun to attend the passing out parade of cadets at the Indian Military Academy.
It was the country's first president Dr Rajendra Prasad who undertook train journeys often.
People at Delhi's Safdarjung station hailed Kovind for travelling on the common man's transport and termed him a 'People's President'.
The Railways, in close coordination with the civil administration, had made elaborate arrangements to ensure a safe and secure journey for nations' first citizen.
One such person involved in ensuring the safe movement of the train was Vinod, a trolleyman in the track maintenance department at Dadri station.
"We inspected the tracks thoroughly before the passing of this train. I was standing at the station when the train passed and felt proud as a railwayman since our president is using a train as a mode of conveyance," he said.
Vivek Kumar who is a gateman at a level crossing en route said he felt very excited when the train passed and he exchanged 'All Right Signal'.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who was present at Safdarjang Station when President Kovind was boarding the train, thanked him for using the railways for his travels and expressed the hope that the vast rail network would be helpful in regaining the economic glory of the country post-corona pandemic.
President Kovind arrived in Kanpur on Friday. On June 28, he will board the train at Kanpur Central railway station to reach Lucknow for his two-day visit to the Uttar Pradesh capital. He will return to New Delhi on June 29.