History and General Features of Indian Railways


The history of railways is closely linked with civilization. As the necessity arose, human beings developed various methods of transporting goods from one place to another. In the primitive days goods were carried as head loads or in carts drawn by men or animals. Then efforts were made to replace animal power with mechanical power. In 1769, Nicholes Carnot, a Frenchman, carried out the pioneering work of developing steam energy. This work had very limited success and it was only in the year 1804 that Richard Trevithick designed and constructed a steam locomotive. This locomotive, however, could be used for traction on roads only. The credit of perfecting the design goes to George Stephenson, who in 1814 produced the first steam locomotive used for traction in railways.

The first public railway in the world was opened to traffic on 27 September 1825 between Stockton and Darlington in the UK. Simultaneously, other countries in Europe also developed such railway systems; most introduced trains for carriage of passenger traffic during that time. The first railway in Germany was opened from Nurenberg to Furth in 1835. The USA opened its first railway line between Mohawk and Hudson in 1833.

The first railway line in India was opened in 1853. The first train, consisting of one steam engine and four coaches, made its maiden trip on 16 April 1853, when it traversed a 21-mile stretch between Bombay (now Mumbai) and Thane in 1.25 hours. Starting from this humble beginning, Indian Railways has grown today into a giant network consisting of 63,221 route km and criss-crossing this great country from the Himalayan foothills in the north to Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari) in the south and from Dibrugarh in the east to Dwarka in the west. Indian Railways has a glorious past of more than 150 years. The developments in Indian Railways, its organization, and its working are explained in the following sections of this chapter.

RAILWAY ENGINEERING | Developments in Indian Railways