The Railway History - India and the World

The Railway History: First passenger train in the world:

The earliest record of railway dates back to 1320, shows a small wooden mine trolley running in recessed stone guides, possibly originating in ancient Greece.

In February 1804, Richard Trevithick, an engineer, ran the world's first steam engine successfully on rails. The locomotive, with its single vertical cylinder, 8-foot flywheel and long piston rod, managed to haul five wagons, ten tonnes of iron & seventy passengers from the ironworks at Penydarren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal. This was, however, a trial run and cannot be termed as first railway passenger service train.

If it was trade of wool that prompted the journey of the first ever passenger train in England between Stockton and Darlington. In 1821, Edward Pease, a wool merchant and a group of businessmen formed the Stockton & Darlington Railroad company. The Stockton & Darlington Railroad was opened on 27 September, 1825. The engine, built by George Stephenson, pulled 36 wagons, including twelve wagons of coal and flour, six of guests and fourteen wagons full of workmen. This has been recorded as the first passenger train in the world.

Railway in India: Early History of Indian Railway: 

It was trade of cotton; among other things that prompted the journey of the first ever train on the Indian sub-continent. Cotton was produced in various parts of the Indian sub-continent and it took days to bring it to the nearest port to transport it to England through ships. The British then had to build communication from all places to India’s major ports for easy and quicker transport of cotton and other goods. The British also felt that organizing and dispersing the growing native population faster deployment of troops could be better handled by a railway.

In 1843, Lord Dalhousie had first conceived the possibility of opening railway communication in India. He had proposed to linkup the three main ports India, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras by a railway.

The bill to incorporate India’s first railway company, the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company [G.I.P.R] (later it was rechristened as Peninsula), came up before the British Parliament twice. First in March 1847 and later in 1849. The original contract made on August 17, 1849, between the East India Company and the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. The railway line has been referred to as an “Experimental line of Railway” throughout the contract.

The administrative headquarter of GIP Railway is presently known as today’s Central Railway’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station.

The first railway on Indian sub-continent ran from Bombay to Thane on 16th April 1853. In that journey, 400 invited passengers travelled in 14 carriages on a 57 minute journey from Bori Bunder in Bombay (now Mumbai) to Thane covering a distance of 21 miles (34 Kilometres). Since that first journey in 1853, railways have become one of the most important modes of transportation in the country. 

Railway Raj:

India had eight railway companies between 1854 and 1860. Those were, Eastern India Railway, Great India Peninsula Company, Madras Railway, Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway, Scindia Railway, Eastern Bengal Eastern Railway and Calcutta and South Railway Company. The British government took up the responsibility of laying railway lines in India from the East India Company In the years between 1869 and 1881 and thereafter, things began to move rapidly.

Effect on Railway for the partition between India and Pakistan:

The British quit India in 1947, divided the nation into two countries India and Pakistan. As a country was divided, so was its railway system and the two big railway systems, Bengal Assam Railway and North Western Railway, were broken up.
A part of the Jodhpur Railway was given to West Pakistan. Most of the part of the Bengal Assam Railway went to the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The Assam Railway was isolated from the rest of the Indian system.

The Gaikwad Baroda State Railway:

In 1863, just ten years after the first train ran in India, the Gaikwad of Baroda state built a railway, which was of just two and a half feet gauge. This was the first narrow gauge railway in India.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, opened in 1880, is an engineering feat. This little railway has a gauge of 2 ft. and a length of fifty-one miles, with steep gradients and amazing loops. Work starts on building the line in May 1879 and finished in March, 1880, the Viceroy of India. Lord Lytton had a journey on the train. In August 1880, the line was opened for passenger and goods traffic as far as Kurseong, 4,864 ft. above the sea and 32 miles from Siliguri. In July 1881, the line was opened throughout to Darjeeling station.

On December 2, 1999, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway became the second railway site in the world to be designated a World Heritage site. The railway has been added as a world heritage site with “outstanding universal value” by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway:

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, also known as the Blue Mountain Railway. It is a 46-km long 1000 mm gauge railway connecting Mettupalayam (1,069 ft) to Ooty (7228 ft). Its first section up to Coonoor was completed in 1899 by the Nilgiri Railway Company and in 1903, it extended up to to Ooty.

This railway has a gradient of 1 in 12 with curves as sharp as 18 degrees. Due to the gradient and the curves, the permanent way had to be built of the Abt Rack type. This means that two steel racks, the teeth of which break pitch, are laid in the centre of the track and are carried by pedestals, which are firmly bolted down to the sleepers. This is the only rack railway in India.

Patiala State Monorail:

The first section of an unusual railway on the "Ewing System" connecting Bassi and Sirhind (6 miles) started in 1907 in Patiala state. Colonel Bowles, a state engineer, who designed the system was responsible for laying the Patiala State Monorail Train ways. The line was laid for about 50 miles between Sirhind to Alampura and Patiala to Bhawanigarh. The track was a single rail along one side of the road. Today, one can ride this train at the National Railway Museum, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.

The first Locomotive Workshop:

An indigenous locomotive workshop was set up in West Bengal in January 26, 1950 named Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW). It had plans to manufacture 120 steam locomotives annually. The first of the successful WG class steam engines (8401 Deshabandhu) was commissioned on November 1, 1950.

Indian Railway: At Present:

The railway network of India has brought together the whole of country hence creating a feeling of unity among Indians. The Indian Railway is the largest rail web in Asia and the world’s second largest under one management are also credited with having a multi gauge and multi traction system. Today, India has four major gauges - broad (five feet six inches), meter (three feet three inches), two feet six inches (narrow gauge) and two feet (narrow gauge).

With a huge workforce of about 1.65 million, it runs some 11,000 trains every day, including 7,000 passenger trains covers 6,909 stations over a total route length of more than 63,028 kilometers. The track kilometers in broad gauge (1676 mm) are 86, 526 kms, meter gauge (1000 mm) are 18, 529 kms and narrow gauge (762/610 mm) are 3,651 kms. Of the total route of 63,028 kms, 16,001 kms are electrified. The railways have 8000 locomotives, 50,000 coaching vehicles, 222,147 freight wagons, 6853 stations, 300 yards, 2300 good sheds, 700 repair shops. Presently, 9 pairs of Rajdhani and 13 pairs of Shatabdi Express Trains run on the rail tracks of India.

Organization Overview:

The Ministry of Railways controls Indian Railways under Government of India. The Ministry is headed by Union Minister who is generally supported by a Minster of State. The Railway Board consist six members and a chairman. The railway zones are headed by their respective General Managers who in turn report to the Railway Board.
For administrative convenience Indian Railways is primarily divided into 16 zones as stated bellow:

Sl. No.
Railway Zone
Central Railway
MumbaiI (CST)
Bhusawal, Nagpur, Mumbai (CST), Solapur, Pune.
Eastern Railway
Malda, Howarh, Sealdah, Asansol.
Northern Railway
New Delhi
Ambala, Ferozpur, Lucknow, Moradabad, Delhi.
North Eastern Railway
Lucknow, Varanasi, Izatnagar.
Northeast Frontier Railway
Maligaon (Guwahati).
Katihar, Lumding, Tinsukhia, Alipurduar, Rangiya.
Southern Railway
Chennai, Madurai, Palghat,
Trichy, Trivandrum.
South Central Railway
Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Guntakal,
Vijaywada, Guntur, Nanded.
South Eastern Railway
Kharagpur, Chakradharpur, Adra, Ranchi.
Western Railway
Church Gate, Mumbai
Bhavnagar, Mumbai Central, Ratlam, Rajkot, Vadodara, Ahemdabad.
East Central Railway
Danapur, Dhanbad, Sonepur, Mughalsarai, Samastipur.
East Coast Railway
Khurda Road, Waltair, Sambalpur.
North Central Railway
Allahabad, Jhansi, Agra.
North Western Railway
Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Ajmer.
South East Central Railway
Nagpur, Bilaspur, Raipur.
South Western Railway
Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli.
West Central Railway
Jabalpur, Bhopal, Kota.

For simple understanding purpose, here it’s a map of railway zones with their headquarters:

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