Ancient India had traditional means of transport like bullock-carts and horse-drawn carriages and people often traveled great distances just by walking. When the British arrived, they found India to be inadequately equipped for merchants and manufacturers. Trains were first set up by the British to boost the trade business of the British within India and consequently increase British revenues. The proposal for the construction of rail lines was given by Rowland Macdonald Stephenson, promoter of the East Indian Railway (EIR) Company, in 1844.
The EIR Company and the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIP) Company initiated construction of rail lines that originated from Calcutta (now called Kolkata) and Bombay (now called Mumbai). Between 1854 and 1860, contracts for the construction of railways in India were made with many companies. Lord Dalhousie, an able administrator, set policies for all the companies and recommended that a system of trunk lines should be formed to connect the interiors of each Presidency with its principal port and then the several Presidencies with each other. Trunk lines such as a line from Calcutta to Lahore, from Bombay to Madras (now called Chennai), from Madras to Malabar Coast and others were proposed.
On December 22, 1851 the first train came on the track to carry construction material at Roorkee (now in Uttarakhand). After one and a half years, the first passenger train service was introduced between Bori Bunder, Bombay and Thana (now called Thane) on April 16, 1853 indicating the birth of the Indian railways. This rail track covered a distance of 34kms. 14 railway carriages carried around 400 guests in this train service.
During the 1850s, the rail network acquired a mileage of about 14,500kms working mostly through the three major port citiesóBombay, Madras and Calcutta. India started manufacturing its own locomotives by 1895 and in no time, different kingdoms pulled together an independent railway system extending the network to regions including Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Railways thus became a convenient mode of transport for the British and for Indians.
Eventually, all the railway companies were taken over by the British by 1907. The following year, the first electric locomotive emerged. During World War I, the railways were exclusively used by the British to meet their needs. The railways suffered immensely during World War I and II as trains were diverted to the Middle East and railway workshops were converted into weapon workshops. Steam locomotives were replaced by diesel and electric locomotives in 1985.
In 1995, the whole railway system was rationalized with computerisation. The Indian Railways is known to be the largest railway network in Asia.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE INDIAN RAILWAYS
Shortest station name:
Ib near Jharsuguda on the Howrah-Nagpur main line on the South Eastern Railway.
Longest station name:
Venkatanarasimharajuvariapeta (often prefixed with Sri) on the Arakkonam-Renigunta section of the Southern Railway.
Longest run time:
The Himsagar Express that runs between Jammu Tawi and Kanyakumari covers its route of 3,751kms in 74 hours and 55 minutes.
Longest run for a daily train:
The Kerala Express has a daily service and covers 3,054kms in 42.5 hours.
Longest non-stop run distance:
The Trivandrum Rajdhani does not have a technical halt at Ratlam and therefore travels non-stop between Vadodara and Kota covering a distance of 528kms in about 6.5 hours.
Lucknow caters to as many as 64 trains per day.
Trains with no commercial halts en route:
Sampoorna Kranti Express, Howrah Rajdhani, Mumbai Rajdhani, Pragati Express and Pune Shatabdi.
Nagpur-Ajni has scheduled services that are just 3kms in distance. This is mainly a service for crew to travel from Nagpur station to the workshop at Ajni.
Highest number of halts:
Mail and Express trains. The Howrah-Amritsar Express leads in this category with 115 halts.
Stations straddling state lines:
Navapur is a station that is half in Maharashtra and half in Gujarat. Bhawani Mandi station, on the Shamgarh-Kota section of the Mumbai-Delhi line, is half in Madhya Pradesh and half in Rajasthan.
Station with all the three gauges: