Engineers Day Particular: How was India’s first railway line constructed and opened in 1853?


Engineers Day Special: How was India's first railway line built and opened in 1853?

India’s first 33.79 km railway line between Bombay and Thane was opened in 1853. Nonetheless, there have been earlier plans to construct a line from Calcutta to Delhi, and from 1846 a uncommon map, which helped within the rise of contemporary India, was drawn up. Preliminary survey of the East India Railway Firm.

The development of the railway system throughout India in the course of the second half of the nineteenth century utterly modified the society, communication and financial system of the subcontinent. The person areas had been separated by journey that would have taken weeks, now might take days, if not hours.

Individuals and cultures that traditionally had little contact with one another can now work together extra simply. Merchandise that had been removed from the market in rural India can now be delivered to cities and ports quicker.

From a political perspective, this allowed British colonial rule to shortly transfer troops and civil servants throughout the nation, consolidating its management over India.

The primary railway accomplished in India was the 33.79 km lengthy line operating between Bombay and Thane, which was opened in 1853.

Though seemingly a modest success, everybody knew it was the prelude to a revolution – a pan-India railway community.

The East Indian Railway Firm was shaped in 1845 with the intention of constructing a line from Calcutta to Delhi. Such a railway firm would join the Raj capital with the traditional Mughal capital and would serve to unite probably the most populous areas of India.

The Gangetic plain was India’s bread basket and lots of cities similar to Kanpur and Allahabad had been more and more necessary industrial centres.

The railways promised that, for the primary time, merchandise and folks may very well be simply transported throughout the plains and even to the port of Calcutta. The potential was huge, and, if the railway was realized, it will dramatically rework northern and northeastern India.

The East Indian Railway Firm was formally began on 1 June 1845 with £4 million in funding capital – a really massive sum for the time.

Rowland MacDonald Stephenson (1808–95), a veteran railway engineer, was chosen as the corporate’s first managing director.

Stephenson and three surveyors instantly reached Calcutta in July 1845.

Stephenson strikes on, says George Huddleston, later Director Basic of Railways

With diligence and discretion to survey the road from Calcutta to Delhi through Mirzapur, which can’t be really helpful too flippantly [Mirzapur], and the efforts of myself and the employees had been so nice and decided that, in April 1846, the survey of the whole line was accomplished; Obtained necessary statistical data and despatched an in depth report back to your administrators in London.

Copies of Stephenson’s manuscript surveys got to the official map maker of the British East India Firm (EIC) J. & C. Walker’s agency.

The Walker agency grafted Stephenson’s proposed route of the railway onto one in every of its present common topographic maps exhibiting central and northern India and printed the present bespoke map. Copies of the maps had been supplied to the administrators together with Stephenson’s report.

The map is extraordinarily uncommon as solely a small variety of examples had been launched. Nonetheless, it will have performed a vital function as the one official graphic illustration of the railway.

The East India Firm, as soon as an formidable and hyperactive organisation, by this time was beset by institutional fatigue and paucity of funds. Whereas it acknowledged the worth of railways for India’s future, it proved too tiring to supply any management and offered solely bureaucratic hurdles for railway builders.

It was no shock that after the Revolt of 1857, Queen Victoria would carry the “Honorable Firm” out of its distress and substitute it with Crown rule over India.

After a delay of three years, in 1849, the EIC lastly allowed the East Indian Railway Firm to construct an “experimental line” from Calcutta to Rajmahal (Jharkhand) with a size of 100 miles.

In 1850, Stephenson employed George Turnbull (1809–89), a extremely skilled Scottish railway engineer, to guide the development efforts. Turnbull was later praised as “India’s first railway engineer”.

Turnbull went on to survey the precise line of the brand new route and design the Howrah terminus throughout the Hooghly from Calcutta, which might quickly change into Asia’s largest railway station with 23 platforms. Development started in 1851 and progressed slowly as a result of provide issues and a continued lack of cooperation from the EIC.

The primary line from Howrah to Hooghly, solely 23 miles lengthy, was opened for visitors in 1854. Development then continued within the route of the palace.

Progress was additional slowed by the insurrection of 1857, throughout which many provides and items of monitor had been stolen. In 1859, an epidemic of cholera killed greater than 4,000 railway employees. Nonetheless, the undertaking nonetheless went forward.

The most important technical hurdle was the development of a bridge over a 1 mile vast span of the Son River, the biggest southern tributary of the Ganges.

This bridge (in the present day’s Koiler or Abdul Bari Bridge) would show to be an excellent feat of engineering, being the longest bridge in India constructed earlier than 1900. Begun in 1856, it was not accomplished till 1862.

The road operating from Howrah to Banaras was opened in 1862.

One other part of the road was being constructed individually alongside the Ganges valley, a line connecting Kanpur to Allahabad being accomplished in 1860, whereas Banaras and Allahabad had been added in 1863.

By 1866, all of the gaps between Howrah and Delhi had been crammed and direct service began alongside the whole line.

In the meantime, the pioneering, but brief, Bombay–Thane line had developed into the Nice Indian Peninsula Railway. Till 1870, it ran from Bombay to Allahabad, connecting the 2 nice railways and making it attainable to cross India in a matter of days.

Whereas the rail system had the impact of tightening the British Raj’s maintain on India, over time, by permitting Indians from completely different components of the nation to work together simply with one another, it fostered a coherent sense of nationwide id. contributed to the giving. As such, it was an necessary pre-condition for the rise of the Indian independence motion.

As we speak, the Indian Railways, the custodian of a unified nationwide railway system, employs over 1.3 million individuals, runs 151,000 km of monitor, and operates over 7,000 stations.

In some circumstances the story depicted might have been created by an impartial third celebration and should not at all times signify the views of the establishments listed under which have provided the fabric.

1. cf. George Huddleston, George (1906), Historical past of East Indian Railway(Calcutta, 1906)
2. Hena Mukherjee (1995), Early Historical past of the East Indian Railway 1845-1879(Calcutta, 1995)
3. MA Rao, Indian Rail(New Delhi, 1988)

Particular due to Dr. Alex Johnson.


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