Bhavnagar State Railway
Bhavnagar State Railway was a metre gauge railway line that was started by Bhavnagar State in the year 1880. In November 1878, on the instance of Maharaja Takthasinhji of Bhavnagar State, the Governor of Bombay Sir Richard Temple sanctioned the extension of a meter gauge railway line from Wadhwan to Bhavnagar, which was opened on 18 December 1880. Maharaja Takhtasinhji accorded sanction for construction of a railway from Bhavnagar to Wadhwan in the north and Dhoraji in the west with the line from Dhasa to Dhoraji funded by Gondal State.
During 1863, Maharaja Jaswantsinhji received a proposal to start a Narrow Gauge line like in parts of Gaekwad Railway in Baroda. Maharaja was not inclined, as by that time another company called Ghogha Kathiawad Light Railway Company had been formed and it could be easily joined at Vartej, a mere 10 km away. But nothing materialized.
Meanwhile, the state's proposals to start a railway from Bhavnagar and Wadhwan were objected to by the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI) officials, who feared that such line would take away all their cotton traffic from Surendranagar. Moreover, there was a clause in the Government's guarantee to BB&CI that no competing line will be constructed near 50 miles of their line. Political considerations of the British favored BB&CI.
The famine in 1877 changed all that. The Governor of Bombay, Sir Richard Temple felt the need to use the famine labor in building works of permanent nature. And what better than a new Railway line!! For those doubting the financial returns of the line, Sir Richard Temple said "Think how it will pay in saving life during famine". Not only did the construction provide employment to many and saved them from starvation, in later years also (notably 1899-1900) it was instrumental in distributing tonnes of food and fodder.
To the objection of the BB&CI, Sir Richard Temple pointed out that they were guaranteed against competition of other railways in British territory only and that Wadhwan was not British territory but a Princely State. This removed one of the major hurdles in the path of railways.
The Bhavnagar-Gondal Railway was a joint venture with funds from both states 1839. Bhavnagar contributed Rs. 86 lakhs and Rs.29 lakhs was Gondal's contribution. The Bhavnagar-Wadhwan line had a length of a 166 km; the Dhola-Dhasa-Dhoraji line had a length of 144 km. The work was carried out between 1878 and 1880.
In March 1879, Mr. Alexander Izat was appointed as the Engineer-in-Chief. He was earlier the Chief Engineer of Daund-Manmad line (which had opened in 1878). Mr. R. Proctor Sims who was Bhavnagar's state Engineer had carried out the survey from Bhavnagar to Botad. The survey from Dhasa to Dhoraji was carried out under Mr. Ford who held analogous post in Gondal. An engineer from BB & CI, Mr. Hargreaves did the survey from Botad to Wadhwan.
The earth-work was commenced as a famine work with all possible haste and finished within an astonishingly short time by May 1880. His Highness requested the Governor of Bombay Sir James Ferguson (who had succeeded Sir Richard Temple in March 1879) to inaugurate the line in December and declare it open for traffic.
On 17 December 1880 the Governor and his entourage arrived at Bhavnagar by a special steamer from Bombay named May Frere. Many guests, both European and native, were invited.
On approach of the May Frere at port of Bhavnagar, Colonel Barton (the political Agent), Major Woodhouse (the Assistant Political Agent) and Diwan Sahib Samaldas went in a steam launch and brought the Governor and his party ashore. Takhtsinhji received the Governor at the landing steps and welcomed him. The Governor was then taken to the town and the evening spent in sight seeing and visiting the Gaurishankar Lake.
Early next morning on 18 December 1880, the governor drove the last spike of the permanent way at the city station (now Bhavnagar Terminus) in the presence of a large gathering and declared the railway line from Bhavnagar to Wadhwan open, then went to a welcome at Limdi station.