Antiqua Print Gallery History of Indian Railways
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History of Indian Railways

A rail system in India was first proposed in 1832 in Madras but it never materialised. In the 1840s, other proposals were forwarded to the British East India Company who governed India. The Governor-General of India at that time, Lord Hardinge deliberated on the proposal from the commercial, military and political viewpoints. He came to the conclusion that the East India Company should assist private capitalists who sought to setup a rail system in India, regardless of the commercial viability of their project.
In 1832 a proposal was made to build a railroad between Madras and Bangalore, and in 1836 a survey was conducted for this line.
On September 22, 1842, British civil engineer Charles Blacker Vignoles, submitted a Report on a Proposed Railway in India to the East India Company. By 1845, two companies, the East Indian Railway Company operating from Calcutta, and the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) operating from Bombay, were formed. The first train in India was operational on December 22, 1851, used for the hauling of construction material in Roorkee. A few years later, on April 16, 1853, the first passenger train between Bori Bunder, Bombay and Thana covering a distance of 34 km (21 miles) was inaugurated, formally heralding the birth of railways in India.
The British government encouraged the setting up of railways by private investors under a scheme that would guarantee an annual return of 5% during the initial years of operation. Once completed, the company would be passed under government ownership, but would be operated by the company that built them.
The East Indian Railway Company's Chief Engineer George Turnbull built the first railway from Calcutta (the then commercial capital of India). It opened for passenger traffic from Howrah station to Hooghly on 15 August 1854. The 541 miles (871 kilometres) to Benares opened to passenger traffic in December 1862.
Robert Maitland Brereton, a British engineer was responsible for the expansion of the railways from 1857 onwards. In March 1870, he was responsible for the linking of both the rail systems, which by then had a network of 6,400 km (4,000 miles). By 1875, about £95 million were invested by British companies in Indian guaranteed railways.
By 1880 the network had a route mileage of about 14,500 km (9,000 miles), mostly radiating inward from the three major port cities of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. By 1895, India had started building its own locomotives, and in 1896 sent engineers and locomotives to help build the Ugandan Railways.
In 1900, the GIPR became a government owned company. The network spread to modern day states of Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh and soon various independent kingdoms began to have their own rail systems. In 1901, an early Railway Board was constituted, but the powers were formally invested under Lord Curzon. It served under the Department of Commerce and Industry and had a government railway official serving as chairman, and a railway manager from England and an agent of one of the company railways as the other two members. For the first time in its history, the Railways began to make a profit.
In 1907 almost all the rail companies were taken over by the government. The following year, the first electric locomotive makes its appearance. With the arrival of World War I, the railways were used to meet the needs of the British outside India. With the end of the war, the state of the railways was in disrepair and collapse.

(Source Wikipedia)