is one of India's most effective networks that keep together the
social, economical, political and cultural fabric of the country
intact. Be it cold, mountainous terrain or the long stretches through
the Rajasthan desert, Indian Railways cover the vast expanse of the
country from north to south, east to west and all in between.
More than a hundred years ago, on the 16 April 1853, a red-letter day
appeared in the glorious history of the Indian Railways. On the day,
the very first railway train in India ran over a stretch of 21 miles
from Bombay to Thane. This pioneer railway train consisting of 14
railway carriages carrying about 400 guests, steamed off at 3:30 pm
amidst the loud applause of a vast multitude and to the salute of 21
guns. It reached Thane at about 4.45 pm. The guests returned to Bombay
at 7 pm on the next day, that is, April 17. On April 18, 1853, Sir
Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, Second Baronet, reserved the whole train and
traveled from Bombay to Thane and back along with some members of his
family and friends.
This was the humble beginning of the modern Indian Railway system
known today for its extraordinary integration of high administrative
efficiency, technical skill, commercial enterprise and
resourcefulness. Today the Indian Railway (IR) is one of the most
specialized industries of the world.
Under the British East India Company's auspices, the Great Indian
Peninsula Railway Company (GIPRC) was formed on July 15, 1844. Events
moved at a fast pace. On October 31, 1850, the ceremony of turning the
first sod for the GIPRC from Bombay to Kalyan was performed. The
opening ceremony of the extension to Kalyan took place on May 1, 1854.
The railway line from Kalyan to Khopoli was opened on May 12, 1856. It
was further extended to Poona on June 14, 1858 when the traffic was
opened for public use.
In the eastern part of India, the first passenger train steamed out of
Howrah station for Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles, on August 15,
1854. This marked the formation of the East Indian Railway. This was
followed by the emergence for the Central Bengal Railway Company.
These small beginnings multiplied and by 1880, the IR system had a
route mileage of 9,000 miles in India.
The Northeastern Railway also developed rapidly. On October 19, 1875,
the train between Hathras Road and Mathura Cantonment was started. By
the winter of 1880-81, the Kanpur-Farukhabad line became operational
and further east, the Dibrugarh-Dinjan line became operational on
August 15, 1882.
In South India, the Madras Railway Company opened the first railway
line between Veyasarpaudy and the Walajah Road (Arcot) on July 1,
1856. This 63-mile line was the first section, which eventually joined
Madras and the west coast. On March 3, 1859, a length of 119 miles was
laid from Allahabad to Kanpur.