History of rail transport in India

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Rail transport in India began during the early 19th century.

1832–1852: Industrial railways[edit]

India's first railway proposals were made in Madras in 1832.[1] The Red Hill Railway, the country's first train, ran from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge in Madras in 1837. It was hauled by a rotary steam-engine locomotive manufactured by William Avery. Built by Arthur Cotton, the railway was primarily used to transport laterite stone for road-building work in Madras.[1] In 1845, the Godavari Dam Construction Railway was built at Dowleswaram in Rajahmundry. Also built by Cotton, it supplied stone for the construction of a dam over the Godavari River.[1]

On 8 May 1845, the Madras Railway was incorporated, followed that year by the East India Railway. On 1 August 1849, the Great Indian Peninsular Railway was incorporated by an act of parliament. The "guarantee system", providing free land and a guaranteed five-percent rate of return to private British companies willing to build railways, was finalized on 17 August 1849. In 1851, the Solani Aqueduct Railway was built in Roorkee. It was hauled by the Thomason steam locomotive, named after a British officer-in-charge of that name. The railway transported construction materials for an aqueduct over the Solani River.[1] In 1852, the Madras Guaranteed Railway Company was incorporated.

1853–1924: Passenger railways and expansion[edit]

Thane railway viaducts
The smaller railway viaduct (top) and the longer railway viaduct (bottom) near Thane in 1855.

The country's first passenger train, which ran between Bombay's Bori Bunder station and Thane on 16 April 1853, was dedicated by Lord Dalhousie. The 14-carriage train was hauled by three steam locomotives: the Sahib, Sindh, and Sultan. Travelling 34 kilometres (21 mi), the train carried 400 people. The passenger line was built and operated by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR).[2][3] It was built in 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge, which became the country's standard for railways.

In May 1854, the Bombay–Thane line was extended to Kalyan with the Thane viaducts over the Thane creek[4] (India's first railway bridges). The first passenger train in eastern India ran from Howrah (near Calcutta) to Hoogly, a distance of 24 miles (39 km), on 15 August 1854. The line was built and operated by the East Indian Railway Company (EIR).[5] That year, the GIPR opened its first workshops in Byculla. In 1855, the BB&CI Railway was incorporated.[6] That August, the EIR Express and Fairy Queen steam locomotives were introduced.[7]

South India's first passenger train ran from Royapuram–Veyasarapady (Madras) to Wallajah Road in Arcot, a distance of 60 miles (97 km), on 1 July 1856. It was built and operated by the Madras Railway.[8] The Madras Railway's first workshop opened in Perambur (near Madras) that year, and the Bombay-Thane line was extended to Khopoli. In 1858, the Eastern Bengal Railway was incorporated.[9]

India's first tramway (a horse-drawn tramway) opened in Calcutta between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street, a distance of 3.8 kilometres (2.4 mi), on 24 February 1873.[10] The following year, the Great South Indian and Carnatic Railways merged to form the South Indian Railway Company. On 9 May 1874, a horse-drawn tramway began operation in Bombay between Colaba and Parel. The Calcutta Tramways Company was incorporated in 1880,[11] followed a decade later by the East Coast State Railway.

Lighting in passenger coaches was introduced by many railway companies in 1897. In 1902, the Jodhpur Railway was the first to introduce electric lighting as standard fixtures. Electric signal lighting was introduced between Dadar and Currey Road in Bombay in 1920.

1925–1946: Electrification and further expansion[edit]

The first railway budget was presented in 1924. On 3 February 1925, the first electric passenger train in India ran between Victoria Terminus (VT) and Kurla on 1,500 V DC overhead traction.[12] Cammell Laird and Uerdingen Waggonfabrik(Wagon Factory) manufactured the locomotives for this train. The VT-Bandra section was electrified (with an elevated platform at Sandhurst Road),[12] the Oudh and Rohilkhund Railway was merged with the EIR, the first railway budget was presented in the same year.[13][14] In 1926, the Kurla-Kalyan section was electrified with 1,500 V DC. Electrification to Poona and Igatpuri (both 1,500 V DC) over the Bhore and Thal Ghats was also completed.[12] The Charbagh railway station in Lucknow was built in 1914. The Bandra-Virar section was electrified with 1,500 V DC in January 1928.

The Frontier Mail made its inaugural run between Bombay VT and Peshawar in 1928.[15] The country's first automatic color-light signals became operational, on GIPR's lines between Bombay VT and Byculla.[16] In 1928, the Kanpur Central and Lucknow stations opened. The Grand Trunk Express began running between Peshawar and Mangalore,[17] the Punjab Limited Express began running between Mumbai and Lahore, and automatic color-light signaling was extended to the Byculla-Kurla section the following year. On 1 June 1930, the Deccan Queen began service (hauled by a WCP-1—No. 20024, old number EA/1 4006) with seven coaches on the GIPR's electrified route from Bombay VT to Poona.[18] The Hyderabad Godavari Valley Railway was merged into Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway and the route of the Grand Trunk Express was changed to Delhi-Madras that year.

1947–1950: Partition and aftermath[edit]

After Partition of India Railway Lines were deducted.

1951–1983: Zonal re-organization and further developments[edit]

The re-organisation of railways in India into regional zones began in 1951.[19] On 14 April of that year, the Southern Railway zone was created. On 5 November, the Central and Western Railway zones were created.[20] That year, the post of Chief Commissioner of Railways was abolished and the Railway Board adopted the practice of making its senior-most member the chairman of the board.[20] The government of West Bengal also entered into an agreement with the Calcutta Tramways Company to take over its administrative functions that year. The Northern, Eastern and North Eastern Railway zones were created on 14 April 1952.[20]

Fans and lights were mandated for all compartments in all classes of passenger accommodations in 1952, and sleeping accommodations were introduced in coaches. On 1 August 1955, the South-Eastern zone was split off from the Eastern Railway zone. A divisional system of administration was established for the zones in 1956, and the first fully air-conditioned train was introduced (between Howrah and Delhi).[21]

In 1957, after successful trials in France, SNCF proposed 25 kV AC electrification for India's railways. Indian Railways decided to adopt 25 kV AC electrification, choosing SNCF as a technical consultant.[22] The Main Line Electrification Project (which later became the Railway Electrification Project and, still later, the Central Organisation for Railway Electrification) was established that year.[23] In 1958, the Northeast Frontier Railway zone split off from the North Eastern zone.[20] In 1959, Raj Kharswan to Dangoaposi was the first section electrified with 25 kV AC traction.[22] The first scheduled train using 25 kV AC traction ran on the Raj Kharswan-Dangoaposi section on 11 August 1960.[22] The first containerized freight service began between Bombay and Ahmedabad in 1966, and 25 kV AC electrification of several suburban tracks around Delhi, Madras and Calcutta was completed. In 1979, the Main Line Electrification Project became the Central Organization for Railway Electrification (CORE).

1984 – present: Rapid transit and later developments[edit]

Vande Bharat Express, India's fastest train, 2020

India's first metro train ran from Esplanade to Bhowanipur (now the Netaji Bhawan station) in Calcutta on 24 October 1984,[24] and the Calcutta Metro was the country's first rapid-transit line.[25]

In 1986, computerized ticketing and reservations were introduced in New Delhi.[26] The Shatabdi Express, India's fastest train, was introduced between New Delhi and Jhansi in 1988; the line was later extended to Bhopal.[27] In 1990, the first self-printing ticket machine (SPTM) was introduced in New Delhi. Air-conditioned, three-tier coaches and a sleeper class (separate from Second Class) were introduced in 1993.

On 16 January 1995, the first regularly-scheduled service with 2 x 25 kV traction began on the Bina-Katni line. In September 1996, the CONCERT system of computerized reservations began in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. In 1998, coupon-validating machines (CVMs) were introduced at Mumbai CST. The CONCERT system became operational nationwide on 18 April 1999; the South East Central Railway zone was established and credit cards were accepted for tickets and reservations at some stations that year. In February 2000, the Indian Railways website went online.[28] On 6 July 2002, the East Coast, South Western, South East Central, North Central and West Central Railway zones were created.[29] Indian Railways (IR) began online train reservations and ticketing on 3 August of that year, with Internet ticketing extended to many cities on 1 December.[30] On 5 February 2012, The Western Railway zone (WR) ended its use of 1,500 V DC traction, switching to 25 kV AC traction.[31] The Tatkal system of ticketing was extended to all trains on 26 September 2013.

Gatimaan Express, India's fastest train with a maximum speed of 160 km/h, made its maiden journey from Delhi to Agra on 5 April 2016.[32] The Central Railway zone (CR) ended its use of DC traction in the Mumbai area and on the country's main-line rail network, switching to 25 kV AC traction on 11 April of that year.[33] On 31 March 2017, IR announced that India's entire rail network would be electrified by 2022.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "[IRFCA] India's First Railways". www.irfca.org.
  2. ^ "164 Years Ago On This Day, India's First Train Ran From Mumbai To Thane".
  3. ^ "India's 1st train: When Sahib, Sindh & Sultan blew steam". The Times of India.
  4. ^ "Extracts from the Railway Times". Railway Times. 1854. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  5. ^ "[IRFCA] Indian Railways FAQ: IR History: Early Days - 1". www.irfca.org.
  6. ^ "Western Railway". www.wr.indianrailways.gov.in.
  7. ^ "Fairy Queen". www.irctctourism.com. Archived from the original on 21 April 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Legacy of First Railway Station of South India". RailNews Media India Ltd.
  9. ^ "Eastern Bengal Railway - Graces Guide". www.gracesguide.co.uk.
  10. ^ "Kolkata's trams – A ride through history". 2 March 2016.
  11. ^ "History - The Calcutta Tramways Company [1978] Ltd". calcuttatramways.com.
  12. ^ a b c "Welcome to Official Website of CORE". www.core.indianrailways.gov.in.
  13. ^ indiainfoline.com. "History of Indian Railway Budget".
  14. ^ http://www.nair.indianrailways.gov.in/uploads/files/1430369423822-operating.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  15. ^ "Frontier Mail". iaslic1955.org.
  16. ^ "Signalling in India - Past and Present". signalbox.org.
  17. ^ "The Grand Trunk Express". iaslic1955.org.
  18. ^ "Deccan Queen Facts - General Knowledge for Kids - Mocomi". 26 January 2012.
  19. ^ "History of Railways". www.kportal.indianrailways.gov.in. Archived from the original on 21 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  20. ^ a b c d http://www.indianrail.gov.in/ir_zones.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  21. ^ "160 years of Indian Railways: Here's how AC trains were kept cool". 2 April 2013.
  22. ^ a b c "Welcome to Official Website of CORE". www.core.indianrailways.gov.in.
  23. ^ "Welcome to Official Website of CORE". www.core.indianrailways.gov.in.
  24. ^ "History of Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation - KMRC". 4 December 2015.
  25. ^ "Metro Railway Kolkata / Indian Railways Portal". www.mtp.indianrailways.gov.in.
  26. ^ http://icisa.cag.gov.in/audit_report/2/15db5cf8539e7f66e05214564e6b5d01.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  27. ^ "Shatabdi Express - Shatabdi Express Train, Shatabadi Express Timetable, Shatabadi Express Schedule Booking India". www.iloveindia.com.
  28. ^ "Indian Railway". www.indianrailways.gov.in.
  29. ^ "North Central Railways / Indian Railways Portal". www.ncr.indianrailways.gov.in.
  30. ^ "IRCTC Next Generation eTicketing System". www.irctc.co.in.
  31. ^ UK, DVV Media. "Mumbai switches from DC to AC".
  32. ^ "Gatimaan Express reaches Agra within targeted 100 minutes".
  33. ^ "End of an era: Mumbai bids goodbye to last DC local". 11 April 2016.
  34. ^ "48 per cent rail tracks electrified, aim to double it in 5 years: Govt". 31 March 2017.
  35. ^ "Know More About IRCTC Next Generation Ticket Booking Methods". 15 September 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aklekar, Rajendra B. (2019) Short History Of Indian Railways
  • Andrew, W. P. (1884). Indian Railways. London: W H Allen.
  • Awasthi, A. (1994). History and Development of Railways in India. New Delhi: Deep and Deep Publications.
  • Bhandari, R.R. (2006). Indian railways : Glorious 150 Years (2nd ed.). New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India. ISBN 8123012543.
  • Debroy, Bibek; Chadha, Sanjay; Krishnamurthi, Vidya (2017). Indian Railways: The Weaving of a National Tapestry. Gurgaon, Haryana, India: Penguin Random House India. ISBN 9780143426752.
  • DK. (2020) Indian Railways: Transforming a nation's destiny
  • Ghosh, S. (2002). Railways in India – A Legend. Kolkata: Jogemaya Prokashani.
  • Government of India Railway Board (1919). History of Indian Railways Constructed and In Progress corrected up to 31st March 1918. India: Government Central Press.
  • Hurd, John; Kerr, Ian J. (2012). India's Railway History: A Research Handbook. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 2, South Asia, 27. Leiden; Boston: Brill. ISBN 9789004230033.
  • Huddleston, George (1906). History of the East Indian Railway. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co.
  • Kerr, Ian J. (1995). Building the Railways of the Raj. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Kerr, Ian J. (2001). Railways in Modern India. Oxford in India Readings. New Delhi; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195648285.
  • Kerr, Ian J. (2007). Engines of Change: the railroads that made India. Engines of Change series. Westport, Conn, USA: Praeger. ISBN 978-0275985646.
  • Kerr, Ian J. (2014) "Colonial India, Its Railways and the Cliometricians" The Journal of Transport History 35:1 (June, 2014) 114-120.
  • Kerr, Ian J. (2018) "The Transfer of Railway Technologies and Afro-Asian Labor Processes within the British Empire", HoST – Journal of History of Science and Technology 12#1 (October, 2018) 31-74
  • Khosala, Guradiala Sigha (1988). A History of Indian Railways. New Delhi: Ministry of Railways, Railway Board, Government of India. OCLC 311273060.
  • Law Commission (England and Wales) (2007) "Consultation Paper: Indian Railways Repeal Proposals" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 21 October 2007. (1.62 MiB)
  • McDonald, Angus (2015). India's Disappearing Railways: A Photographic Journey. London: Carlton Books. ISBN 9781783130115.
  • Rao, M.A. (1999). Indian Railways (3rd ed.). New Delhi: National Book Trust, India. ISBN 8123725892.
  • Sahni, Jogendra Nath (1953). Indian Railways: One Hundred Years, 1853 to 1953. New Delhi: Ministry of Railways (Railway Board). OCLC 3153177.
  • Satow, M. & Desmond R. (1980). Railways of the Raj. London: Scolar Press.
  • South Indian Railway Co. (1900). Illustrated Guide to the South Indian Railway Company, Including the Mayavaram-Mutupet and Peralam-Karaikkal Railways. Madras: Higginbotham.
  • South Indian Railway Co. (1910). Illustrated Guide to the South Indian Railway Company. London.
  • South Indian Railway Co. (2004) [1926]. Illustrated Guide to the South Indian Railway Company. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-1889-0.
  • Vaidyanathan, K.R. (2003). 150 Glorious Years of Indian Railways. Mumbai: English Edition Publishers and Distributors (India). ISBN 8187853492.
  • Westwood, J.N. (1974). Railways of India. Newton Abbot, Devon, UK; North Pomfret, Vt, USA: David & Charles. ISBN 071536295X.
  • Wolmar, Christian (2017). Railways & the Raj: How the Age of Steam Transformed India. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 9780857890641.

External links[edit]