Home General Knowledge GENERAL KNOWLEDGE BOOSTER : "History of Indian Railway"
GENERAL KNOWLEDGE BOOSTER : "History of Indian Railway"
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Saturday, 07 February 2015 07:27





"History of Indian Railway"


-> Indian Railways, abbreviated as IR, is the state owned railway network of India. The Ministry of Railways is responsible for the operation, maintenance and growth of the rail network in India, the fifth largest network in the world in terms of track length,behind the United States, Russia, Canada and the People's Republic of China. The railway ministry is headed by a cabinet rank Railways Minister, while the department is managed by the Railway Board.

->IR has a total state monopoly on India's rail transport. It is one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting eighteen million passengers and more than two million tonnes of freight daily. IR is the world's largest commercial or utility employer, with more than 1.4 million employees.

->The railways traverse the length and breadth of the country. IR's routes cover 7,137 stations over a total length of more than 63,327 kilometres (39,350 mi),of which 18,145 kilometres (11,275 mi) were electrified as of March 31, 2008. As of 2007, IR owned a total of 197,357 wagons, 45,796 coaches and 7,612 locomotives of rolling stock and ran more than 18,000 trains daily, including about 8,984 passenger trains and 9,387 goods trains.

->Railways were first introduced to India in 1853. By 1947, the year of India's independence, there were forty-two rail systems. In 1951 the systems were nationalised as one unit, becoming one of the largest networks in the world. IR operates both long distance and suburban rail systems.

->A plan for a rail system in India was first put forward in 1832, but no further steps were taken for more than a decade. In 1844, the Governor-General of India Lord Hardinge allowed private entrepreneurs to set up a rail system in India. Two new railway companies were created and the East India Company was asked to assist them. Interest from investors in the UK led to the rapid creation of a rail system over the next few years. The first train in India became operational on 22 December 1851, and was used for the hauling of construction material in Roorkee. A year and a half later, on 16 April 1853, the first passenger train service was inaugurated between Bori Bunder in Bombay and Thane. Covering a distance of 34 kilometres (21 mi), it was hauled by three locomotives, Sahib, Sindh, and Sultan.

->The British government encouraged new railway companies backed by private investors under a scheme that would guarantee an annual return of five percent during the initial years of operation. Once established, the company would be transferred to the government, with the original company retaining operational control. By 1875, about £95 million were invested by British companies in Indian guaranteed railways. The route mileage of this network was about 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mi) by 1880, mostly radiating inward from the three major port cities of Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta ( Kolkata). By 1895, India had started building its own locomotives, and in 1896 sent engineers and locomotives to help build the Uganda Railway.Extent of Great Indian Peninsular Railway network in 1870. The GIPR was one of the largest rail companies at that time.

->Soon various independent kingdoms built their own rail systems and the network spread to the regions that became the modern-day states of Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. A Railway Board was constituted in 1901, but decision-making power was retained by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon. The Railway Board operated under aegis of the Department of Commerce and Industry and had three members: a government railway official serving as chairman, a railway manager from England and an agent of one of the company railways. For the first time in its history, the Railways began to make a tidy profit. In 1907, almost all the rail companies were taken over by the government.

->The following year, the first electric locomotive appeared. With the arrival of the First World War, the railways were used to meet the needs of the British outside India. By the end of the First World War, the railways had suffered immensely and were in a poor state. The government took over the management of the Railways and removed the link between the financing of the Railways and other governmental revenues in 1920, a practice that continues to date with a separate railway budget.

->The Second World War severely crippled the railways as rolling stock was diverted to the Middle East, and the railway workshops were converted into munitions workshops. At the time of independence in 1947, about 40 per cent of the railways then went to newly-created nation of Pakistan. A total of forty-two separate railway systems, including thirty-two lines owned by the former Indian princely states, were amalgamated as a single unit which was christened as the Indian Railways.

->The existing rail networks were abandoned in favour of zones in 1951 and a total of six zones came into being in 1952. As the economy of India improved, almost all railway production units were 'indigenised' (produced in India). By 1985, steam locomotives were phased out in favour of diesel and electric locomotives. The entire railway reservation system was streamlined with computerisation between 1987 and 1995.





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