How India developed around its railway

How India developed around its railway

Although the trade of cotton was the first motivation to use train in India as a means of transportation, it has since then become an essential part of the nation. Being the largest network of railroads in Asia and the second largest in world owned under only one management, it stands out for being such a integral part of India and their citizens way of life. It has connected all of its population for over 160 years.  This massive network runs approximately 11,000 trains daily, of which7,000 are passenger trains. For this operation to run it employs over 1.65 million Indians. The Indian railway was by no mean the first railroad in history to have passenger cars.

Earlier predecessors of the railroad, independent of the mechanism and cargo, can be tracked back to the times of Greece, but the first recorded passenger train in the world was a Stockton and Darlington Railroad train on September 27, 1825. This was a 38-wagon train carrying coal and flour in the first twelve wagons and then six wagons for guests and the rest for the workers. After this passenger journeys by train have only gained force.

How it all started in India

At the time the demand for cotton was higher than ever and the only supplier was America, who unfortunately was having a dry spell and was going through a major crop failure in 1846. Great Britain concerned started to see what other alternatives they could find and ended up turning to one of their colonies. India was rich in cotton crop and turned out to be a solution to this big dilemma to a certain extent. Now, the question became how they were going to transport the cotton from the different remote locations in India to the nearest ports so it could be shipped to England. The British found a possible solution in introducing the railroad system in India and thus being able to supply the increasing demand for cotton.

After some lobbying on both parties, the first proposals were designed in the 1830s. Despite this, India was not quite ready yet, as it still had opponents, both Indian and British, who knew the topography and insisted that it was an expensive and dangerous expedition due to the extreme climates, high mountains, deserts and forests in the Indian layout. Even though each had their reasons and motives for standing by their position, this was something that was already underway and the construction of a railway had become almost inevitable.

The Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company (G.I.P.R.C), was initially rejected in1847, but later passed with the Act of August 1, 1849 that approved the creation of this company, now known as the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. The GIP, in alliance with the East India Company, were granted a budget and were now on their way to make the railroads in India a reality.

Image courtesy of Lloyd at
Image courtesy of Lloyd at

Though the first train officially inaugurated on April 16, 1853, there was a test run in November 1852 with some of the engineers and directors. It traveled from Boree Bunder (Mumbai) to Thane for a distance of 34 kms. This was such an important milestone in Indian history and culture that it was even set aside as an official holiday by the government. On this debut run it carried up to 400 passengers in 14 coaches, hauled by its three engines. At the end of the railway there was an exquisite meal set up for the passengers.

India had already been witness to trains, even though the previously mentioned was an important breakthrough for being the first passenger train. Since 1851 there were trains transporting mud and earth for the construction of the Solani aqueduct, along with a few others for very specific purposes. But it was only until April 1852 that India officially had railroads connecting its cities.

The expansion

The journey for the expansion of the Indian railway in all directions becomes a matter of negotiations and luck. It slowly but surely starts breaking ground in all directions expanding its lines to the Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, in the south. The eastern rail finally opened in August 1854, whereas in the south the first train didn’t steam out until June 1856, with an expansion to Bangalore in August 1864. And in the north it wasn’t until March 3, 1859 that the first train traveled from Allahabad to Kanpur.

Between 1854 and 1860 the railroad industry grew to the point that now it had eight railroad companies, but it wasn’t until the British government intervened in 1869 that things really started to speed up. They took full responsibility of laying down the new lines until 1881. Since then the Indian railroads and its trains have only continued to expand across India with new technology and different trains allowing for faster transportation, even surviving its partition after World War II.


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