Development of Railways in India: A Short Note with Fun Facts

5 minute read
Development of Railways in India

The history of Indian railways dates back to 1853 when the first train chugged between Mumbai (then Bombay) and Thane in Maharashtra. The line was just 34 kilometres long but marked the beginning of a transformative journey for the country. The British colonial administration recognised the potential of railways as a means of transportation, connecting different parts of India efficiently. In this blog, we will learn about the development of railways in India and how it has impacted the Indian Society.

History of the Development of Railways in India

In 1832, the first proposal of establishing a railway line in India came into existence. By 1835, the railway track between Red Hills and Chintadripet in Madras was constructed, paving the way for the development of railways in India. On 1st August 1849, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway was incorporated to carry forward the construction of railways. In 1852, the first steam locomotive, which was imported from Europe was tested in Byculla.

In April 1853, the first Indian Railway Network was inaugurated in India for public convenience between Mumbai and Thane.

  • One year later, in 1854 the tracks were stretched till Kalyan and by 1858, the track was completed and finally reached the segment Khandala-Pune route. 
  • Another line was also being built that ran for 37 kilometres from the eastern side from Howrah to Hugli.
  • It became operational in the year 1854 and stretched till Pundooah.
  • By the year 1855, the line reached Raniganj Coal Mines.
  • Subsequently, in the following year, the southern section of the railways got its First 105 km long stretch.  
  • Following this milestone, another route from Haora-Khana- Rajmahal section was completed by 1860 and a segment from Kanpur-Etawah was inaugurated in 860. The route from Kanpur to Allahabad was also operational in 1859.
  • In 1861, the railways started developing from Kadalundi, Kerala along with repairing all the bottlenecks in between the route from Howrah to Delhi in the years 1862 and 1866.
  • Finally, in 1870, the all-rail connection between Kolkata and Mumbai began to operate. 
  • Another railway line between Mughal Sarai to Lahore was also completed along with a different line from Mumbai to Chennai.
  • Thus, most of India’s major cities had railway connectivity between 1853 and 1871 with an overall coverage of 39,834 km by the beginning of the 19th century. 
  • Eventually, the line increased to 66,234 kilometres by 1940.

During independence, the total length of the railways in India was 65,217 out of which 10,523 km were in Pakistan. But with the partition of India-Pakistan, India was left with 53,596 kilometres of railway line spread in the nation.  

The initial phase of railway development in India focused on connecting major port cities, such as Bombay, Madras (now Chennai), and Calcutta (now Kolkata). Gradually, the network expanded across the country, with the “Great Indian Peninsula Railway” and the “East India Railway Company” leading the way. 

Railways development over river bridges.

Vande Bharat express

What are the Factors Responsible for the Development of Railways in India?

Several factors have contributed to the growth and development of railways in India. These factors have influenced the expansion, modernization, and integration of the railway network, making it a lifeline for the nation. Some key factors include:

  1. Geographical Factor –  Many regions strategically were not interconnected well to the rest of the nation. Several regions like Bihar and Assam had flood-prone areas while the Southern Indian plateau was not suitable for railroads. The Himalayan region made it difficult too. Thus, these locations in turn became difficult for proper communication, trade, business and other prospects. But the Indian Railways has reached these regions, making it accessible to all.
  2. Economic factor – Before railways, it was difficult to trade in other unreachable places or far-off places, even if it did, the cost of the product was lesser than the transportation cost. Railways contributed immensely to the economic growth of the nation. With the connectivity, it promoted business and trade from one place to another in a cheaper way, leading to growth and internationalization.
  3. Political Factor –  When the Britishers established the railway line, one of the factors was to administer India and have political stability by efficiently exchanging information within the East India Company. Thus contributing to the development of railways.

What were the Impact of Railways in India?

The development of railways in India has had a profound and wide-ranging impact on the nation, encompassing social, economic, and environmental aspects. Some notable impacts include:

  1. Economic Growth: One crucial factor was the economic potential it unlocked, by facilitating the movement of goods and commuters across the country. The transportation of raw materials, finished goods, and agricultural produce has increased trade, industrial growth, and job opportunities. 
  2. Job Creation: The railway industry has been a significant source of employment, providing opportunities to millions of individuals across various skill levels. From engineers and technicians to railway staff and vendors, the sector has actively contributed to reducing unemployment and uplifting livelihoods.
  3. Infrastructure Development: The establishment of railway lines has necessitated the construction of bridges, tunnels, stations, and maintenance facilities. This has not only enhanced transportation infrastructure but also spurred the creation of industrial clusters and urban centres along railway routes.

Toy Train of Darjeeling
Toy Train of Darjeeling
  1. Social Impact: Railways have empowered individuals by providing them with better access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. They have also facilitated migration, bringing people from rural areas to cities in search of better prospects. This has also led to cultural exchange, business collaborations and tourism growth. Ultimately empowering national integration.
  2. Tourism Boost: The railways have played a crucial role in promoting tourism within India. Iconic train journeys like the Palace on Wheels, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and the Konkan Railway have become major attractions for both domestic and international tourists, showcasing the rich cultural and natural heritage of the country.
  3. Environmental Impact: Rail transport is considered one of the most sustainable modes of transportation, emitting lower greenhouse gases compared to road or air transport. The expansion of railways in India has helped reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion resulting in a cleaner and greener environment.

The development of railways in India has been a monumental achievement, transforming the nation’s transportation and connecting its people. From its humble beginnings in the 19th century to the vast network it is today, Indian Railways has overcome numerous challenges to become a symbol of progress and unity. As India continues to invest in the modernization and expansion of its railway infrastructure, the nation’s journey towards progress and prosperity receives an undeniable boost with its railway connectivity.

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