The History of India's Lifeline: The Indian Railways

The Railway service is considered the lifeline of India. Today it plays a very vital role in our every life especially for the middle-class category peoples and poor class peoples.

Jun 14, 2021 - 20:44
The History of India's Lifeline: The Indian Railways
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~By, Bhaskar Ghosh.

The Railway service is considered the lifeline of India. Today it plays a very vital role in our every life especially for the middle-class category peoples and poor class peoples. Local trains are termed as the lifeline of Mumbai, Metro services are termed as essential for Kolkata, these both play a vital role in people's life. Whether to travel within the cities for everyday commuting or to travel long-distance journeys, the railway became an essential part of our lives.

Mumbai Local crowd (Left) Kolkata Metro, Dakhineshwar Metro Station (Right)

The railway service of India is spread throughout the country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Assam, Tripura; Railway plays an important role in connecting the remote parts of the country. The government is introducing new plans and budgets in the Parliament to improve the services of railways and also introducing new fast trains for less time-consuming travels to far distances. Such as Rajdhani Express, Satabdi Express, Duranto Express etc. Long-distance trains usually include a pantry car and food is served at the passengers' berth or seat. 

Besides all these, the Indian Railway operates tourist train or coach services on popular tourist circuits in different regions of the country. The service offers tour packages inclusive of rail travel, local transportation, accommodation, food and guided tours. IR offers various tourist services in this segment including Luxury tourist trains, Semi luxury trains, Buddhist special trains, Bharat Darshan trains, Aastha Circuit trains, and Steam trains.

Other than that, special trains are also run into neighbouring countries to maintain a friendly relation between those countries. Such as Bangladesh is connected by the four times a week Maitree Express that runs from Kolkata station (Chitpur station) to Dhaka and weekly Bandhan Express which began running commercial trips between Kolkata station (Chitpur station)  and Khulna in November 2017.

The railway services in India were initially proposed during the 1830s by the Colonial Government during the British Raj.
The name of India's first train was Red Hill Railway which ran from Red Hills to the Chintadripet bridge in Madras( Present-day Chennai) in 1837; This train was a freight carrying train which's main aim was to transport granite for road-building activities. After 8 years of this, In 1845, the Godavari Dam Construction Railway was built at Dowleswaram in Rajahmundry (Present-day at Andhra Pradesh state) to supply stone for the construction of a dam over the Godavari river. In 1851, the Solani Aqueduct Railway was built in Roorkee to transport construction materials for an aqueduct over the Solani River.

First Locomotive Train of India.

The first passenger train ran from Bori Bundar to Thane (Present-day Mumbai) at a distance of 34 kms on 16th April 1853. Though this is the first train that ran in the Western part of India. The passenger train of  Eastern India first ran from Howrah to Hoogly on 15th August 1854 at a distance of 39 kms. While the first passenger train of South India first ran from Royapuram- Veyasarapady of Madras to Wallajah Road of Arcot on 1st July 1856 at a distance of 97 kms.

On 24th February 1873, a Horse-drawn 3.8 km (2.4 mi) tram opened in Calcutta( present-day Kolkata) between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street. On 9th May 1874, a horse-drawn tramway began operation in Bombay between Colaba and Parel. In 1879, the Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway was established which built several railway lines across the then Hyderabad State with Kachiguda Railway Station serving as its headquarters. In 1897, lighting in passenger coaches was introduced by many railway companies. On 3rd February 1925, India's first electric passenger train ran between Victoria Terminus and Kurla at Bombay.

The organization of Indian railways into regional zones began in 1951, namely the Southern zone on 14th April 1951, the Central zone on 5th November 1951, and the Western zone on 5th November 1951 on the very same day, these zones were created. Sleeping accommodations were introduced in coaches. In 1956, Poorva Express which ran from Howrah Jn. to Delhi became the first fully air-conditioned train in the history of Indian Railways. And in 1966, the first containerised freight service began between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. 

In 1986, computerized ticketing and reservations were introduced in New Delhi. After couples of years, i.e. in 1988, the first Shatabdi Express was introduced between New Delhi and Jhansi; it was later extended to Bhopal. In 1993, air-conditioned three-tier coaches and a sleeper class; not to be confused with second class, were introduced on Indian Railways. The CONCERT system of computerized reservations was deployed in New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai in September 1996. In 1998, coupon validating machines (CVMs) were introduced at Mumbai CST. The nationwide concierge system began operation on 18th April 1999. In February 2000, the Indian Railways website went online. On 3rd August 2002, Indian Railways began online train reservations and ticketing.

Locomotive train of Darjeeling

On 31st March 2017, Indian Railways announced that the country's entire rail network would be electrified by 2022 or 2023, and become a net-zero railway by 2030.

However, a drastic change occurs in the history of Indian Railways. On 22nd March 2020, it announced a nationwide shutdown of passenger rail service to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This became part of a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The railway shutdown was initially scheduled to last from 23rd to 31st March, but the nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th March 2020 was to last 21 days. Although the national rail network maintained its freight operations during the lockdown, to transport essential goods. On 29th March, Indian Railways announced that it would start service for special parcel trains to transport essential goods, in addition to regular freight service. The national rail operator has also announced plans to convert coaches into isolation wards for patients of COVID-19. In the time of crisis, Indian Railways also ran special trains for the passengers to travel during pandemic through strict covid protocols.

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