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Anisim Lukin
Anisim Lukin

Indian Railways: A Journey Through the Spectacular and Diverse Landscapes of India

Indian Railways: History, Facts, Challenges and Future

Indian Railways is one of the most remarkable achievements of India. It is not only a transport system, but also a lifeline, a cultural icon and a national asset. It connects the length and breadth of the country, carrying millions of passengers and tonnes of freight every day. It is also one of the oldest and largest railway networks in the world, with a rich and complex history. In this article, we will explore the history, facts, challenges and future of Indian Railways.

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What is Indian Railways and why is it important?

Indian Railways (IR) is a statutory body under the ownership of the Ministry of Railways, Government of India that operates India's national railway system. It manages the fourth largest national railway system in the world by size, with a total route length of 68,043 km (42,280 mi), running track length of 102,831 km (63,896 mi) and track length of 128,305 km (79,725 mi) as of 31 March 2022. 58,812 km (36,544 mi) of all the gauge routes are electrified with 25 kV 50 Hz AC electric traction as of 1 April 2023. In 2020, Indian Railways carried 808.6 crore (8.086 billion) passengers and in 2022, Railways transported 1418.1 million tonnes of freight. It runs 13,169 passenger trains daily, on both long-distance and suburban routes, covering 7,325 stations across India.

Indian Railways is important for many reasons. It is one of the largest employers in the world, with more than 1.2 million staff. It is also one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport, using renewable sources such as wind and solar power. It provides affordable and accessible mobility to millions of people, especially in rural areas. It also contributes to the economic growth and development of the country by facilitating trade, commerce How did Indian Railways evolve over time?

Indian Railways has a long and fascinating history that spans over 170 years. It has witnessed many changes and challenges, from the colonial rule to the independence movement, from the partition to the integration, from the steam locomotives to the bullet trains. It has also achieved many milestones and innovations, such as the first passenger train, the first electric train, the first metro rail, the first bio-toilet, the first solar-powered train and many more. Let us take a look at some of the major phases and events in the history of Indian Railways.

History of Indian Railways

The colonial era: 1853-1947

The first passenger train and the expansion of the network

The history of Indian Railways began on 16 April 1853, when the first passenger train in India ran between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) in Mumbai and Thane, covering a distance of 34 km (21 mi) with 14 carriages and 400 passengers. The train was hauled by three steam locomotives named Sahib, Sindh and Sultan. This marked the beginning of the railway era in India, which was then under the British Raj. The train service was operated by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), a private company owned by British investors.

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The first passenger train was followed by many other railway projects in different regions of India, such as the East Indian Railway (EIR), the Madras Railway, the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI), the North-Western Railway (NWR), the Bengal-Nagpur Railway (BNR) and so on. By 1869, India had a railway network of about 9,000 km (5,600 mi), connecting major cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Lahore. By 1900, the network had expanded to about 25,000 km (16,000 mi), covering most of the subcontinent. The railways played a vital role in transporting people, goods and troops across India, as well as facilitating trade and commerce with other countries.

The role of railways in the freedom struggle and the partition

The railways also had a significant impact on the social and political history of India. They helped in spreading education, awareness and nationalism among the masses. They also became a platform for protest and resistance against the British rule. Many freedom fighters and revolutionaries used the railways to mobilize people, spread their messages and carry out their activities. Some examples are:

  • The Swadeshi Movement (1905-1911), which boycotted British goods and promoted indigenous industries, used the railways to transport swadeshi products and burn foreign goods at railway stations.

  • The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922), which aimed to paralyze the British administration through mass civil disobedience, targeted the railways as a symbol of colonial oppression. Many people refused to travel by trains or pay railway taxes. Some also sabotaged railway tracks and bridges.

  • The Quit India Movement (1942-1945), which demanded an immediate end to British rule in India, saw widespread attacks on railway property and personnel by underground activists. Many railway workers also went on strike or resigned from their jobs.

The railways also played a tragic role in the partition of India in 1947, when millions of people were displaced and killed along religious lines. The trains became a site of violence and massacre, as refugees tried to flee from one side to another. Many trains were attacked by mobs or set on fire, resulting in horrific loss of lives and property. The post-independence era: 1947-present

The challenges of integration and modernization

After India gained independence from the British rule in 1947, Indian Railways faced many challenges and opportunities. One of the major challenges was to integrate the various railway systems that were owned and operated by different entities, such as the princely states, the British companies and the government. There were also differences in gauge, equipment, standards and policies among the different systems. To overcome this challenge, the Railway Board was established in 1950 as the apex body to oversee and coordinate the functioning of Indian Railways. The process of integration was completed by 1951, when the existing railway zones were reorganized into six zones: Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Central and North Eastern.

Another challenge was to modernize and improve the railway infrastructure and technology to meet the growing demand and expectations of the passengers and freight customers. Some of the steps taken in this direction were:

  • The introduction of diesel and electric locomotives to replace the steam engines, which increased the speed, efficiency and reliability of train operations. The first diesel locomotive was commissioned in 1954, and the first electric locomotive was commissioned in 1957.

The conversion of narrow gauge and metre gauge tracks to broad gauge, which enhanced the capacity and connectivity of the network. The first gauge conversion project was undertaken in 1956, and the project is still on


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