For the development of any nation, a well- developed transportation system is extremely crucial. One such mode of transportation is the railways.
Since the time it was invented, railways have played an important role in transportation of goods and people from one place to another, which in turn ensures development and prosperity. In fact, it was the invention of railways that fueled Industrialization and made it profitable. In India too, railways play an important role.
Indian Railways is one of the largest railways in the world. It is also one of the largest employers in the world, providing livelihood to millions of people. It is responsible for serving the country with the second largest population in the world, who are heavily dependent on it.
Indian Railways is run and operated by the Government of India. Till 2016, there used to be a separate budget, just for the Indian Railways. Such is its importance. In present times, Indian Railways is well connected with its presence in almost all corners of India.
It connects even the most remote corners of India to mainland India. But the Indian Railways was not built in a day, or even a few years. Indian Railways have a history behind it, which traces its development to what it is today.
Railways were first introduced in Britain. India was a British colony. The aim of the British was to gain as much profit and resources from India as possible. So, they decided to introduce railways in India, to achieve their objectives.
In 1832, the first recorded proposal for establishing Railways in India were made in Madras. Madras was one of the largest British settlements in colonial India. Soon, construction of railways began in Madras.
Soon, the first train started running in in Madras in 1837. It was called the Red Hill Railway because it ran from Red Hills to Chintadripet bridge. Its main use was for transportation of granite stones.
In 1845, another railway was built at Rajahmundry, in the Madras Settlement. It was named the Godavari Dam Construction Railway. As its name suggest, it was used for transportation of raw materials for the construction of the Godavari Dam.
In 1845, a formal East India Railway company was established. To ensure that private companies agree to work for the construction of railways in India, the British Parliament passed the establishment of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway and introduced a system in which land at no cost and return rate of 5 percent was guaranteed to these private players. However, all the railways that were established were for transporting goods. No passenger trains had been constructed yet.
Finally, after a few years in 1853, the first passenger train in India became operational. It ran between Bombay and Thane. In 1854, the first passenger train in Eastern India became operational. It ran between Howrah and Hooghly. In 1856, the first passenger train in South India started to operate. It ran from Madras to Arcot. Soon, horse drawn tramways were also built in all major cities.
Later, in 1897, railways saw another important development. Electricity in passenger coaches was introduced for the first time in India. In 1902, Jodhpur Railway became the first railway in India to provide electric lights as standard fixtures. Consequently, electric lighting in signals was also introduced.
This made the administration of railways more efficient. In 1925, India’s first fully electric passenger train became operational. It traveled between Victoria terminus and Kurla.
In the same year, the first railway budget was proposed. In this budget, the state decided to take over the administration and control of the East India Railway Company and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Work on the electrification of all the railway lines in India had already begun.
In the bid to make Indian railways more efficient, automatic colour light signals began to be introduced. The first colour light signals were used in lines between Bombay Victoria Terminus and Byculla. After 1929, many new stations were constructed to increase the connectivity on Indian railways. Consequently, Kanpur and Lucknow stations were constructed.
In the same year, the famous Grand Trunk Express started its operation. It ran between Peshawar and Mangalore. In 1930, its route was changed. It then ran between Delhi and Madras.
In 1947, British left India. India had gained her independence. India became a republic. Before Independence, as stated above, it was the state that controlled and operated the Indian Railways. After Independence, the same system was followed.
The Indian Railways began to be operated by the Government of India, through the Ministry of Railways. The system of having a separate budget and allocation for railways was continued. In recent years, the Indian Government led by Narendra Modi has merged the Railway Budget with the main Fiscal Budget.
After Independence, the Indian government decided to re-organise Indian Railways. In 1951, plans to divide the administration of Indian Railways into regional zones began. Soon, Southern Railway, Western Railway and Central Railway were established.
The government also decided to do away with the post of Chief Commissioner of Railways as it was not efficient. In its place, it was decided that the senior- most member of the Board of railways would become the Chairman. Even the administration of Tramways was taken over by the government.
In the following year, Northern Railway, Eastern Railway and North-Eastern Railway were established. Consequently, in 1955, Eastern Railway was split into Eastern Railway and South- Eastern Railway for better and more efficient administration. Following this, in 1958 the North-Eastern Railway split. A new railway branch named the North- East Frontier Railway was established.
Soon, the government made it mandatory for all coached of the trains under Indian Railways that were for passenger, to have fan, lights and basic necessities. Accommodation or berths for the purpose of sleeping were also introduced.
This was a huge development in the Indian Railways. But, it didn’t stop there. Indian Railways were rapidly developing and adopting new systems and ideas available at the time. In 1956, the first fully air- conditioned train in India was introduced.
It ran between the stations of Howrah and Delhi. The electrification system under Indian Railways was also upgraded to the latest technology available at the time. Later in 1966, the first containerized freight services of India began its operation between Bombay and Ahmedabad.
Later, in the 1980s, Indian government decided to introduce Metros in India. Metro System was known for being fast, efficient and safe. The first Metro in India was started in Kolkata.
It ran between Esplanade to Bhowanipore in Kolkata. Now, various cities in India have the Metro system. It is the plan of the present government to introduce Metro in all major cities under the smart city project.
Many other new changes were brought in the Indian Railways in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1986, the first computerized ticketing system was started in India, at New Delhi. The first Shatabdi Express which was the fastest train in India became operational in 1988.
It ran between New Delhi and Jhansi. Consequently, in 1990, Self-Printing Ticket Machine was introduced, which made the ticketing system more efficient. AC 3-Tier system, which is so famous today, was first introduced in 1993. Sleeper class coached also became operational in the same year. Consequently, in 1996, CONCERT system of computerized reservations and in 1998, Coupon Validating Machines (CVMs) was introduced.
In 1998, South central Railway was also established. In February, 2000, another importance development happened. The Indian Railways website started its functioning. Tickets could now be booked online, at the comfort of one’s home.
In 2002, the East Coast, South Western, South East Central, North Central, and West Central zones came into being. April 2016, Gatiman Express became India’s fastest train. It has the speed of 160 km/h, and runs between Delhi and Agra.
This is the history of development of railways in India. Indian Railways have come a long way from its inception till date, but there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, Indian Railways are an important part of this great nation and has contributed to its development and prosperity.