Eminent Railwaymen of Yesteryears

Article received by Mr B M S Bisht, Retired GM of Northeast Frontier Railway, in personal correspondence from Mr R R Bhandari, Retired Member (Mechanical) of the Railway Board, and is posted here by permission. Article posted to IRFCA 2008-07-31.


Sir Rowland Macdonald Stephenson

The Stephenson Family had been engaged in commerce and interested in India for several generations before the birth of Rowland Macdonald in 1808. Stephenson's father, after whom young Rowland had been named, was a well known and respected figure. Young Rowland Macdonald Stephenson studied Engineering at Harrow. For some time he worked as the secretary of the Curtis' East Indian Steam Navigation Company , a rival of the P&O. After the P & O's victory, Stephenson turned his attention for the introduction of railways in India. When he made his first private proposal to the East India Company in 1841, he was rebuffed as the proponent of "a wild project". In 1842, he took to journalism. He sailed in 1843 for Calcutta to argue his case with the officials of the Government of India.

Stephenson's work in India was a classic example of successful promotion. Finding that knowledge of railways was quite scanty, he refrained from hasty publicizing his own project. Instead, he made the public, railway conscious. From time to time he published in Indian as well as English local journals, the reports of the various European railway companies, with statements of their expenditure and income, the traffic in goods and passengers as well as the general effect on social life where railways had been laid down.

In the Englishman of Calcutta dated January 1, 1844, Stephenson outlined six major lines. His chief project (see map) consisted of :

a) A line from Calcutta through the coalfields to Mirzapur and Delhi, with an extension onwards to Firozpur.

b) This line to be bisected at Mirzapur by a line coming from Bombay.

c) Another line from Bombay to Hyderabad and onwards to Calcutta.

d) A line from Hyderabad down to Madras.

e) A line from Madras to Bangalore, Mysore and Calicut.

f) A line from Madras to southernmost tip of India via Arcot, Tiruchirapally and Tirunevli.

This shows Stephenson's characteristic breadth of outlook. The basic consideration which guided him were :

(i) The rail-lines should help military measures for better security with less outlay, and

(ii) To connect interior with ports for easy export of raw materials and import of finished goods from England.

In July, 1844 he asked for Government support. Reply from Government was encouraging. With Government support ensured, main purpose of Stephenson's stay in India was achieved. He left London after reinforcing his position with the merchants of Bengal. Back in England, Stephenson proposed formation of a company with title East Indian Railway (EIR) Company.

Now Stephenson asked East India Company (the rulers) to underwrite the prospective railway undertaking against the possibility of any loss to EIR shareholders. This was not asked for in any of the earlier correspondence. It first originated in November, 1844. The Court of Directors of East India Company were not moved by this request. Six months of campaigning resulted in Court of Directors asking Government of India to examine Stephenson's proposal. This was encouraging to Stephenson's group as the Court had recognised the potential value of Railways, had welcomed private companies to come forward and had indicated a willingness to consider some form of aid.

East Indian Railway Company was formally established in May 1845 with a power to raise a capital of 4 million pound sterling.

Stephenson was the first Agent and Chief Engineer of East Indian Railway and he played the most important role in development of railways in that era.

Stephenson visualised that railways would need a large number of technical personnel for survey, track-laying, and maintenance and operation of its system. England could send only the higher echelon of technical staff, while the on-line supervisors and artisans will have to come from the natives. In 1850, there was not a single institution in the Bengal Presidency to train technicians, surveyors etc. Stephenson started free classes at Calcutta to train local people in mensuration, technical personnel for EIR. Mr. Thomason of Roorkee fame and Mr. Stephenson's efforts in starting technical education in India have few parallels.

Development of East Indian Railway in 1850s and 1860s is well known to most of our readers. I would therefore like to bring out that facade of Stephenson's work which is less known. Stephenson dreamt about a Railway line connecting London and Calcutta save for two small breaks, one at the English channel and another at the Dardanelles. He submitted a detailed proposal for the rail line in the title of National Highway extracts of this proposal are reproduced below :

From : R.M.Stephenson, Esquire

To : The Right Hon'ble Viscount Palmerston, D/London January 1st 1850

My Lord,

I have the honour to address your Lordship upon a subject for which I have during many years anxiously and not unsuccessfully laboured - the shortening of the period and the improvement of the means of communication with and throughout British possessions in India.


The prominent feature in the national aspect of the plan consists in the employment which for some years will be afforded to the numerous classes in Great Britain, whose skilled labour, metals and machinery will be mainly instrumental in the construction and conduct of the foreign capital of the traversed states and in the advantages to be secured by special Treaty under which English exports and produce and merchandise from the East imported into England shall be conveyed for a term of years at low fixed rates. The employment of British workmen and materials would be a not unreasonable stipulation, were it not indicated as a measure of self interest.


The outline of the plans (see map ), I have in view may be briefly defined as :

The European lines already completed are from the port on the British channel to Vienna, the distance about 1000 miles which will be hereafter reduced to about 700 miles. The Austrian extension to the frontier will be 300 miles. The distance on either side of Istanbul will be through European Turkey 500 miles and through Asiatic Turkey 1300 miles, in all 2800 miles from the channel port to the port on the Persian Gulf. This would constitute the first step, the passage to Bombay 1600 miles, being made by steamer and thence by railway to Calcutta and the interiors of India. The second step embraces the extension from the port on the Persian Gulf through Persia 550 miles and through Baluchistan 550 miles to the Indus, a distance of 1100 miles. The connection with the North West Province and southward with the Narmada Valley would complete the chain of communication by the East Indian, and Indian Peninsular lines with Calcutta and Bombay. The third step which will connect the East Indian trunk line through the Nepalese range of the Himalayas with the river Tsangpo will open up to the entire trade with China and the Eastern seas by means of the river Yangtze-kiang and Mekong." ............

Viscount Palmerston passed on this proposal to the British ambassadors in the courts of various states through which 'National Highway' was proposed to traverse. Comments from these British agents form a good study but due to the lack of space, are not included in this article.

After the successful opening of lines emerging out from Howrah in 1854 and EIR extensions in 1855, Mr. Ronald Stephenson resubmitted his proposal of National Highway to Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General of British India, on 11th January 1856.

On this Proposal Lord Dalhousie minuted on 18th January 1856 as below :

"Mr. Ronald Stephenson waited upon me some days ago, for the purpose of submitting a plan which he had projected for uniting Europe with India by a line of Railway communication continued through Asiatic Turkey. It has been at my suggestion that the plan is not laid before the Government of India.

Mr.Stephenson has stated in his letter that the project was brought by him under the consideration of the English Government in 1850 and that it was favourably entertained at the several continental courts.

The project consists of a proposal for continuing the European Railways, already completed (I am informed) as far as Belgrade and about to be constructed from Belgrade to Istanbul by a line of rail and from Istanbul through Asiatic Turkey to Basra. The project contemplates hereafter a prolongation of the line from Basra through Persia and Baluchistan, but at present the scheme would complete the communication with India by steamers from the mouth of the Euphrates down the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Stephenson desires to elicit from the Government of India an expression of its approval of his project, and of its readiness to render assistance in the way of surveys and otherwise.

This great project is of course in the merest outline at present. It would, no doubt, be very easy to raise objections against the plan founded on the difficulty of obtaining the necessary capital, on the wide extent of country to be traversed, the natural obstacles which obstruct its surface, and the lawless and unmanageable character of a large portion of its people.

I abstain from entering into any such details at present.

Even after all that has been already achieved it cannot be defined or doubted that the formation and maintenance of a line of Railway from Istanbul to Basra would be a gigantic undertaking. But as little can it be doubtful that such an undertaking, once completed and reducing the distance between England and the dominions in India to little more than ten days journey, would prove of vast national importance, and would be a great step in the progress of the world.

I make no question that the Government of India will be prepared to express to that extent its approval of Mr. Stephenson's project and that it will be willing to state its readiness at the proper time to give such assistance in respect of surveys and otherwise as its authority and the means at its command may enable it to contribute."

The vision of Sir Rowland Macdonald Stephenson in 1840s and 1850s will have less parallels in the history of Railways. The Road link to Europe is still a distant dream, not because of any engineering difficulties but due to political problems in Central Asia.

Stephenson remained at the helm of affairs for East Indian Railway for over a decade and during his time the EIR rail network was extended to Delhi and Jabalpur.

James J. Berkeley

The enterprising merchants and government officials of Bombay foregathered on July 13, 1844, approved a prospectus which had been drafted beforehand, formed themselves on the spot into a Provisional Committee of the Bombay Great Eastern Railway and composed a letter to the Government of Bombay announcing their existence and soliciting appropriate support for a rail-line from Bombay to the Western ghats. 'Inland Railway Association' succeeded 'Great Eastern Railway' in early 1845 with more elaborate understanding and areas of interest.

Simultaneously in London, in 1844, John Chapman formed a provisional committee to back his proposal for a rail-line emerging from Bombay in the title of 'Great Indian Railway'. John Chapman came to Bombay in September 1845 and noted the progress of 'Inland Railway Association' in advancing a proposal for a rail-line. He persuaded the members of Inland Railway Association' in advancing a proposal for a rail-line. He persuaded the members of Inland Railway Association to become the local Bombay group of his proposed railway. This resulted in the formation of Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIP). With a dramatic touch prefiguring the public relations techniques of the twentieth century. The merger was simultaneously announced in Bombay and London in the first week of November, 1845.

The acts of incorporation of the GIP, passed into law on August 1, 1849, with the signing of the agreement of the East India Company with GIP. Now search for its first 'Chief Engineer' began. The man selected was James J.Berkeley who appointed as GIP's first Chief Engineer on 14th November 1849. He formed a distinct link with the Stephensons - father and son, having been an assistant to Robert Stephenson who was also Consulting Engineer to the GIP Company. Berkeley learnt his profession technicians and formed the Bombay Mechanics Institute for preparing the technical personnel for the GIP. Berkeley's photographs shows him as a serious minded man, albeit a man of fashion, for his moustache and beard were trimmed in the fashion, set by the Prince Consort and afterwards called Prince Albert.

Berkeley remained as Chief Engineer, upto 1862 and during his leadership GIP lines were extended upto Jalgaon in Northeast and Sholapur in the Southeast direction save for the small stretches of Thal ghat and Bhore ghat where major portion of the works were completed during his tenure. Dates of opening of various stretches under Berkeley's guidance tabulated below :-

GIP lines opened during Berkeley's tenure

North East Line
SectionDate of Opening Miles
Bombay VT-Thane 16.4.1853 21.79
Thane to Kalyan 1.05.1854 10.79
Kalyan to Vasind 1.10.1854 17.28
Vasind to Asangaon 6.02.1860 3.75
Asangaon to Kasara 1.01.1861 21.84
Kasara to Igatpuri 1.01.1865 9.89
(Thal ghat)    
Igatpuri to Nasik 1.10.1861 87.24
Nasik to Chalisgaon 1.10.1861 32.60
Chalisgaon to Jalgaon 6.10.1862 57.48
Sub-Total   262.66
South East Line
Kalyan to Palasdhari 12.5.1856 31.33
Palasdhari to Khandala 14.5.1863 12.99
(Bhore ghat)  
Khandala to Poona 14.6.1858 43.64
Poona to Diksal 15.12.1859 64.25
Diksal to Kurudwadi 23.10.1859 50.60
Kurudwadi to Mohol 21.1.1860 28.51
Mohol to Sholapur 6.6.1860 20.51
Sub-Total   251.64
Grand Total   514.30

The readers will observe that Berkeley concentrated on the South East line during the years 1858 to 1860 and opened the line right upto Sholapur even though the small stretch on the Bhore ghat was yet under construction. Activities picked up on the North East line from 1861 and in the years 1861 and 1862, lines were opened right upto Jalgaon. In 4 1/2 years from 1858 to 1862, over four hundred miles of rail line were constructed and opened for traffic though small stretches on Bhore ghat and Thal ghat were yet to be opened. Imagine tens of locomotives, hundreds of wagons and lakhs of rails and sleepers had to be transported on the cart-road so that lines could be opened to Jalgaon and Sholapur ! A locomotive needed upto 400 pack animals for its movement on the cart-road over the ghats ! A Herculean task indeed!

On the inauguration of India's first rail-line on 16th April 1853, the officiating Chairman of GIP spoke thus: "On this occasion, I beg to be permitted to mention the gentlemen to whose services the Railway Company are indebted for their works having arrived at their present stage. The first I would bring to your notice are the talented Chief Engineer, Mr. Berkeley and his very efficient staff by whom the works have been planned and under whose direction and superintendence they are being carried out".

I am now reproducing a small portion of Berkeley's speech on this occasion acknowledging the contribution of the lowest of the cadres for the construction of our first rail-line.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the materials of this country have proved to be abundant and suitable for the construction of the Railway. We have found, too, that, notwithstanding the severity of the climate, we have been able to maintain the constant and vigilant European superintendence of the works, which is so essential to their proper execution. The native labourers have far exceeded our expectations. To the many commanding officers of native troops it would be vain to me to speak of their docility, their endurance, and their discipline, to the civilians, who have conducted the business of those large efficient offices in Bombay, it would be vain to speak of their talent and their industry, but Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a fresh source of encouragement to be derived from the construction of the Railway, that the very lowest caste of natives, upon whose members we must mainly rely for executing the works upon our extensions, are capable of becoming skilful and handy artisans, and that, notwithstanding those superstitions which so many affirmed to be indomitable, they have really adopted the use of new mechanical appliances."

The inaugural train was hauled by three Vulcan Foundry built locomotives. A sketch of the first locomotive [appeared on the cover page of the IR magazine]. All the three engines have been cutup long back and sold as scrap. One of the three engines named 'SINDH' did survive the two great wars but could not see the independent India.

James J.Berkeley attained fame for the pace at which the Western ghats-Bhore ghat and Thal ghat were railed. In a matter of four years connections were made across these unsurmountable natural obstacles. " Berkeley presented a paper before the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1859-60 mentioning the engineering marvels of GIP in that era. 'A rail-line across the Western ghats' involved problems and difficulties greater and more complicated that had hitherto confronted railway engineers anywhere in the world". Some of the special features of these lines are described now:

The Thal Ghat

The first section of the railway line from Kalyan to northeast and in the direction of the Thal ghat is nearly 42 miles in length, extending from Kalyan to Kasara. On this length the line gradually climbs by steep gradients of 1 in 100 and by sharp curves down to a radius of 30 chains to an elevation of 948 feet above sea level at Kasara. The works on the section are of a heavy character. The earthwork formation consisted of over half a million cubic yards of cutting through hard trap and basaltic rocks and over one and one-third cubic yards of embankment.

The second section about nine and a half miles, was later opened from Kasara to Igatpuri. The line from Kasara to Igatpuri is a difficult ghat section abounding in sharp curves and steep gradients. About three-fourths of its length is laid over curves, the sharpest curve being 17 chains in radius in a length of 2,170 feet. Another curve of 20 chains has a length of 3,000 feet. The line has to cross over several nullahs, ravines and reefs, and passes through numerous tunnels, keeping virtually to a constant gradient of 1 in 37, to rise from a level of 948 feet to 1,918 feet above sea level, in a distance of nine and a half miles.

The quantity of earthwork, consisting for the most part of hard rock material, was no less than two and a half million cubic yards, the quantity in cuttings and embankment respectively being about equal. The greatest depth of cutting is 60 feet and the maximum height of the embankment above the level is 90 feet.

Some of the viaducts and tunnels on this line are considered outstanding achievements in Civil Engineering and are among the finest works in the world.

The Ehegaon viaduct is a magnificent structure, 750 feet long and 182 feet high. The viaduct is situated in a steep valley nestling in the midst of hills that skirt around it in the tunnels and then is carried across the yawning chasm on a tall imposing structure known as the 'Ehegaon Viaduct'.

The viaduct originally consisted of three pin-truss deck spans with two girders under each track, and three 40 feet masonry arches at each end. The girders were fabricated on the ground, and jacked up through the whole 182 feet height, their ends and the jacks being in vertical grooves or recesses in the pier masonry, which was built up to fill the grooves as the jacking progressed.

The Bhore Ghat

The works necessary for laying of the line upto the Bhore ghat have also been of extraordinary magnitude and difficulty. The line on the Bhore ghat ascends similarly over mountains in which the geological formation is the same and physical difficulties almost identical. The attitudes of the two ghats closely correspond : the summit of the Bhore ghat incline being 2,027 feet and that of the Thal ghat 1,912 feet. The maximum gradient of both inclines is the same : 1 in 37. The extreme curvature is almost identical, that of the Bhore ghat being 15 chains as against the 17 chains radius on the Thal ghat. In the case of the Bhore ghat, however, engineers found the mountains frequently scraped and had to deal with deep faces of bare rock. The works on the Bhore ghat comprised 25 tunnels of a total length of nearly 4,000 yards, two of the longest being 435 yards and 341 yards respectively. The Bhore ghat have eight lofty viaducts having a total length of 2,961 feet. Two of the largest are more than 500 feet long with a maximum height of 1160 and 163 feet. There are 22 bridges of spans from 7 to 30 feet and 81 culverts of various sizes.

The Western Ghats presented a big obstacle to the railway engineers at that time. The work on the ghat lines in real earnest commenced in 1860. Forty thousand workers were engaged for four years for construction of these lines. The average daily consumption of gun powder was 2 1/2 tons during this period. The quantity of earth work, consisting, for most part, of hard rock material was over five million cubic yards, the quantity of cutting and embankments were roughly equal. These two lines across Bhore ghat and Thal ghat were opened for traffic in 1864. Completion of such gigantic works in toughest of terrains in four years time, without the aid of 'dynamite' and 'pneumatic tools' have less parallels in the technical history.

James J. Berkeley played the lead-role in the construction of rail-lines across the Western ghats and would be remembered for long for his contribution in developing easier means of transport on the Indian Peninsula.

Col. J. P. Kennedy

J.P.Kennedy left his landmarks on three items.

a) Grand Hindustan and Tibet Road-a novel way of getting things organised,

b) His philosophy about rail-line alignment and construction, and

c) BB&CI-its origin and success.

We shall start with his first achievement i.e. the construction of the Grand Hindustan and Tibet Road.

Grand Hindostan and Tibet Road

J.P.Kennedy, an engineer by profession joined the cadre of East India Company and started his career in the army in early 1840s. In 1849, Sir Charles Napier took over the charge of Commander-in-Chief and Kennedy was appointed as C-in-C's Military Secretary. The Grand Hindustan and Tibet Road, leading to Simla was built mainly due to the ingenuity of Kennedy during 1849-52.

To quote William Edwards , the Superintendent of Hill States:

"During the previous two years of my incumbency as Superintendent of these States, my attention had been much directed to the extreme misery and hardship inflicted upon the poor inhabitants of the Hills by having to serve as forced porters for the conveyance of the baggage of Government establishments, regiments, and private individuals travelling to and from the plains and the different hill stations. The men hitherto plying for hire of their own free will as porters were quite inadequate, as the stations became more resorted to, for even the wants of private parties, while for the public service, 15,000 or 20,000 men had on more than one occasion to be collected together from great distances and for very inadequate remuneration. The hardship was increased as the men might be detained, unavoidably, weeks from their homes, and that too in seed-time or in harvest, when their presence at home was most required. There seemed to me but one way of remedying this sad state of things, and that was by the construction of a road from the plains to Simla and the other stations, which might be practicable for wheeled carriages and beasts of burden, and so substitute animal carriage for human portage. With this view one of my assistants and myself were endeavouring to lay out a new line of road and had marked by flags a considerable part of it, when I was called to meet the new Commander-in-Chief, Sir Charles Napier, and accompany His Excellency from the plains to Simla. As we rode along the old road the flags attracted the attention of His Excellency's Military Secretary, Colonel J.Pitt Kennedy, one of the first engineers of the age. The object in view, when explained to him seemed to his large and benevolent mind, to be of the highest importance and he immediately offered to survey and lay out a line of road suited for wheeled carriages. I was most thankful to accept his offer in substitution of my own crude and imperfect attempt.

Some labourers were shortly after placed at Colonel Kennedy's disposal, and in a very short time, but after great labour and trouble, and with much personal risk, he succeeded in planning out a line by which Simla could be reached from the plains by a gradual and easy ascent the whole way. The next thing was to induce the Government to accede to its construction; but all my proposals for this purpose were looked on very coldly, and I almost despaired of success. At last Colonel Kennedy suggested that I should place all the prisoners in my gaol, ninety in number, at his disposal, in order that he might open out by their means a mile of road on his new principle, parallel with a very steep and tortuous portion of the way leading to Lord Dalhousie's country residence, which might attract his lordship's attention on passing and repassing. Colonel Kennedy was convinced that the Governor General's practical mind would not fail to notice the experimental portion, and acknowledge its superiority over the old system, and perhaps be led in consequence to sanction the proposed new road, being constructed on the same principle. The prisoners were accordingly made over to Colonel Kennedy, who placing them under the orders of some sapper privates acting as non-commissioned officers, opened out a piece of perfectly level road superseding one of the worst ascents and descents in the Governor General's daily journeys. The result was as the Colonel expected, his lordship was so pleased with the experiment that he sanctioned the construction of the road to the plains on the same principle, and directed it to be immediately commenced.

As soon as the Governor General had formally sanctioned its construction, the work was set about with the greatest earnestness. Colonel Macmurdo and other officers on His Excellency Sir Charles Napier's staff, placed themselves as volunteer assistants under Colonel Kennedy, and were each assigned a section of the road, with a fixed number of sappers as non-commissioned officers under them, each incharge of a gang of labourers. By this means, all was scientific, skillful work; no man's labour was misdirected, and not a spadeful of earth was wasted, and the road was opened up in an incredibly short space of time for loaded animals and travellers.

Colonel Kennedy left Simla and returned to England before the line was wide enough for carts. The work was carried on, however, under his energetic and most able, successor, Major Briggs, and now, instead of human portage, wagon trains, drawn by bullocks or horses, ply for the conveyance of goods and baggage between the plains and Simla; and enforced labour on this line is a thing of the past ".

Kennedy's philosophy of rail-line construction

Kennedy impressed Lord Dalhousie, extracts from two of his private letters are reproduced below:-

"Muhasoo-October 7th 1850, Major Kennedy was appointed as Government Railway Engineer on 2500 pound sterling a year. he was earlier military secretary to Sir Charles Napier C-in-C."

"November 5th 1851, Kennedy whose nomination as railway engineer I mentioned, has had some awkward warnings and is obliged by 'The Sun' to resign. He is a very grievous loss to the government, for he would have effected an infinity of good for us by his energy and experience, we groan over the loss accordingly".

Kennedy's ideas of railway alignment created ripples in the Public Works Department. To quote G. W. MacGeorge, Consulting Engineer to the Government of India for Railways:

"Amongst the most prominent of the many elaborate and startling theories broached on the eve of Indian railway construction was one which emanated from Colonel Kennedy, R.E; for a short time Consulting Engineer to the Government of India for Railways, and subsequently Consulting Engineer to the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company. In a report or memorandum written at the close of the year 1851, addressed to the Honourable Court of Directors, Colonel Kennedy drew up a kind of code of rules and regulations for the proposed guidance of railway authorities in India containing some essentially novel views and opinions, which, coming from a man in his prominent position, necessarily demanded attention and careful consideration. Dealing first with the military and economical aspects of the question of railways in India, Colonel Kennedy proceeded, in twelve proposed regulations, to lay down the broad general principles on which the whole railway system of the country ought, in his opinion, to be guided, and, in unsparing language, he condemned all that had hitherto been done by railway engineers.

In opposition to the contemplated direct route of the 'East Indian Railway' from Calcutta to Mirzapur, passing through the Shergotty range of hills, and the ascent of the line of Western ghats by the proposed 'Great Indian Peninsula Railway' from Bombay, he argued in favour of a sort of Median and Persian Government decree, that no trunk line of railway in India should have a ruling gradient of more than 1 foot in every 2000 feet, or 1 in 330 on secondary or branch lines; that no line should be undertaken which was estimated to cost more than 5000 a mile, exclusive of bridging the larger rivers; and in order to secure the necessary flat gradients, and on the hasty assumption that the rivers of the country were everywhere the main arteries of commerce, he proposed that lines of railway should be constructed skirting the whole coast line of India , and thence be carried all over the interior of the country by closely following the lines of the great river valleys. Thus the line of the 'East Indian Railway' should closely follow the course of the Ganges from Calcutta, via the great bend at Rajmahal; and the line of 'Great Indian Peninsula Railway' from Bombay, instead of recklessly ascending the Western ghats on a necessarily steep and most expensive alignment, should follow the natural routes to the interior in the north, via the coast line and the Tapti and Narbada valleys; and on the south to Madras, via the coast, the gap in the ghats near Coimbatore, and the Kaveri valley to the eastern coast line.

The twelve general rules and principles advocated by Colonel Kennedy, although in their most essential features not adopted, had nevertheless, the advantageous result of compelling the close attention of the Government authorities to many matters of the highest importance in connection with the first location and construction of railways on a new and virgin soil, and this manner may possibly have hastened the arrival at precise and definite conclusions respecting them. In the early part of the year 1853, Lord Dalhousie, then Governor-General of India, after having received the reports and opinions of all the various consulting engineers and railway experts in the country, reviewed in a masterly minute, at once clear and exhaustive, the whole question of railway routes for the earlier trunk lines, and the guiding principles to be adopted on all the main points of controversy which had been so long under discussion".

Kennedy's plan of Indian Railways as proposed in 1851 has been shown in the accompanying map [not available].

Origin and Success of B.B. & C.I.Railway

Engulfed in various controversies over his posting and subsequent resignation as the Consulting Engineer to Government of India for the Railways, Kennedy left for England in 1851.

There he formed a Company in the title of 'Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company' and became its first Managing Director and Engineer in Chief. He submitted his proposals of a rail-line based on his 12 principles enumerated earlier. On 10th of August 1853, the BB&CI Company was authorised by the Court of Directors of the East India Company to execute a survey of their projected line of railway.

On 20th September 1853, the first surveying party of nine engineers left England. Kennedy completed the survey work in one season and submitted his report of about 150 pages giving detail survey of each portion of the proposed rail construction to the Directors of BB&CI Company and to the Government of Bombay in April 1854.

"The product of every district of Central and North Western India", Kennedy reported with conviction-"to which our lines and its branches are proposed to extend, shall be brought to us on the shortest and the most level line to their respective markets and to the nearest ports for embarkation". Surat being then still a vital centre of trade, the Tapti valley basin was of far greater importance than at present. Further, all along the coastline from Bombay to Surat there was constant heavy merchandise traffic, and hence the proximity of the sea to the new rail line, skirting Bombay, Broach and thence Surat was an all important argument in its favour. Sea and rail would become vital partners in the rapid development of trade in the country.

From Baroda as the pivot, the rail line purported "to swing", so to say, north-east, north-west and again eastward, and lo! it had all the wealth of the country to cover. The new project Kennedy assiduously argued "opened a communication from Bombay by the best possible lines with the territories of the northern Konkan, Surat, Broach, Gujrat, Khandesh, Rajputana, Malwa, Sind, Punjab, Peshawar and the North West Province all of which any line over the Seshadri Ghats must either wholly neglect or cater at enormous disadvantages both in respect of distance and gradients".

However well Kennedy argued, it appeared to be no easy sailing. For a month his report was chewed and digested, and a long note of severe criticism was issued by Major D. G. Crawford, Superintendent Engineer, Railway Department, Bombay bitter controversy flared up-a conflict of vested trade interests, for supremacy in rail transport meant a giant's power on an alien land. In the midst of this conflict, the destiny of a great railway thus hung in the balance.

Crawford's criticism aimed at taking full advantage of the conservative element that prevailed in general, and specially in Government circles then. Traffic had already begun to move on the already established rail line and it would be difficult, Crawford vehemently argued, to persuade the merchants to move their goods along the new line. This was all the more so, as innumerable nullahs and rivers, crossed the proposed construction. Besides, the hinterland of thick marshy forests around it, infested with wild animals, and filled with disease and pestilence, would not be conducive to its development.

Soon after, the controversy was brought up before Mount-Stuart Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay. With a foresight characteristic of an astute statesman, Elphinstone at once viewed the new project under a long-range perspective and lifted the controversy to the highest level. The question before the Government was, Elphinstone put it, -"which line was the best for the general interests of the Presidency and of British India? "It was the good of the Empire that was to be borne in mind, neither the advantage of one area nor the interest of one company or the other.

Elphinstone put forward the case with both vision and skill. Although the proposed rail construction may give a circuitous communication between Bombay and Khandesh, which the existing rail line would connect by a more direct route, the new line, he pointed out would provide "rail communication with Gujarat, the richest province under this Presidency,- and the one from which we derive the bulk of our exports; it will give us the preferable line of railway to the North West Provinces, and it would promote the eventual extension of railways to Sind and the Punjab. It would give even Khandesh and Berar a shorter and more level route to the sea, should it be found to be worth while to ship the cotton of those provinces at Surat, instead of bringing it by railway to Bombay".

Crawford had made much of the rivers and nullahs that lay on the route of the new rail line. Elphinstone countered it by pointing out that these obstacles were not greater than the ascent of the steep ghats which the existing line had to face, and time has subsequently proved his words for BB&CI engineers have overcome all the obstacles in this respect.

It was on 3rd November 1854 that the momentous communique from Fort William was issued, laying at rest the troubled fears and anxiety of the enterprising new company and sanctioning the construction of the line.

The authorised surveys were for lines from Bombay via Surat, Baroda and Neemuch to Agra; and from Surat by the Valley of Tapti into Khandesh with an extension to the valley of the Narmada. The results of these surveys, reported by Col.Kennedy in 1854, were considered favourably as regards the coast line from Bombay to Baroda. On 21 November 1855, arrangements were made with the Company to undertake construction and working of the line from Surat to Baroda. Government sanctioned the commencement of the works which were to be carried on under the direct management of Railway engineers without the intervention of a contractor. They broke ground on the first section of the Surat-Broach line on 1st May 1856. Another contract dated February 2,1859 authorised the company to construct and work a line from Bombay to Surat. The BB&CI line was opened to Bombay in 1864, though their first section near Broach was opened on 22-6-1860, and the line was brought to Baroda on 9.1.1861. The line included two of the most magnificent bridges-one on river Narmada near Broach, 4628 feet long and another the South Bassein Bridge, 4361 feet long.

Kennedy is known as one of the greatest builders of bridges not only in India but also in the U.S.A. and South America. More details of Bassein Bridge follow.

The original Bassein Bridges, which were first opened to traffic on 28th November 1864, were located at a site 120 feet west of the existing bridges, and evidence of their existence is visible to the discerning eye in the approach embankment which still stands today as a relic of the past. These old bridges spanned the Bassein creek which separates the island of Salsette from the mainland. The two bridges which are separated from each other by the island of Panjoo, half a mile broad at its widest point, were 4313' and 1563' in length. They were carried on 60 ft. span wrought iron girders supported on piers consisting of a single row of three cast iron poles, each 2 1/2 feet in diameter screwed down into the soil to a maximum depth of 78' below low water level. About 1896, these girders were replaced by mild steel girders and the piers strengthened by the addition of two more piles.

After the opening of the first sections of BB&CI, Kennedy left India to look after the affairs of the Company from England as its Managing Director. The entire Bombay to Viramgam line was opened by 1871, under Kennedy's directions statue of Col.Kennedy is lying unceremoniously in the ante-chamber of the Chief Safety Superintendent of Western Railway and so does an oil portrait(about 3'x2')at Rail Transport Museum, Delhi, which the author brought from U.K. in 1980.


1) William Edwards, Reminiscences of a Bengal Civilian, 1866.

2) Dalhousie, Private letters of the Marquess of Dalhousie to Sir George Couper, Bart.

3) MacGeorge G.W., Ways and Works in India, Westminster, 1894.

4) Kennedy J.P., Report on the project of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company, 1854.

5) History of Defunct Railways, Government of India, Ministry of Railways, 1964.

6) Westrail News, The Bassein Bridges, January 1961.

Col. F. S. Stanton

The Terms of Contracts of the railway Companies formed unto 1859 provided:

a) that the Government will give land for all railway purposes free of charge for a term of 99 years.

b) that the Companies were to raise the capital upon which the Government guaranteed an interest of 5%.

c) that the affairs of the Railway Companies were to be under the general supervision and control of the Government.

d) that the Government mails were to be carried free and the Government troops on duty at concessional fare.

e) that after the first term of 25 years or the second term of 50 years, the Government had the right of purchasing the railway. Similarly the Companies had the right to surrender and relinquish the railways to the Government.

Public opinion both in India and in England, official as well as non-official was highly critical of what were characterised as unduly generous terms given to the British investors at the expense of Indian taxpayers.

Col. R. Strachey, Secretary, Public Works Department was an ardent supporter of 'State Railways' i.e. construction and management of railways through the agency of State. In 1863,the Anderson Committee, of which Strachey was a member, (examining the proposals of GIP and BB&CI railway companies for a rail-line in Rajputana and Central India hinted that the State should step into the business of railways. Subsequent years saw the swelling of PWD cadre and a number of engineers were assigned jobs solely for the railways. This included Col. (later Lt. General) Trevor who became the first Director General and Major (later Col.) F. S. Stanton who succeeded Trevor as Director General.

Rajputana Railway,the foremost Imperial State Railway was formed in 1869 and was placed under the control of the Government of North-West Province. It was divided into two districts; the Agra District from Agra to Ajmer and the Delhi District from Delhi to a point of junction of the two districts (chosen later at Bandikui). Each District was supervised by a Superintending Engineer.

Survey of Delhi-Rewari line began in May 1869 and the project was sanctioned by the autumn. The earth work on this line on 5 feet 6 inch gauge (BG) alignment began in April 1870 and was done departmentally. In January 1871, it was determined that the entire Rajputana Railway should be constructed on metre gauge (MG) alignment and the estimates were revised accordingly. Major F. S. Stanton entered the scene at this stage to head the Delhi Division.

Construction of metre gauge alignment rail-lines began the era of 'financial viable' railway projects. Costs of construction came down drastically from Rs.100,000/- per mile to Rs.40,000/- per mile. Such railway systems did not depend on the doles of the state treasury even in the very first years of their operation.

Construction phase in the first two years was rather slow. The system had to be re-designed for the metre gauge alignment. It took little longer time before the material i.e.rails, fasteners, locomotives, coaches and wagons landed at Delhi via the port of Calcutta.

Stanton took over the charge of Superintending Engineer, Delhi District in March 1871 and was able to open the first metre gauge line in less than two years. The dates of the opening of the rail-lines under his supervision are tabulated below:-

Rajputana Railway-Delhi District
Delhi-Rewari and the Salt Branch 14.02.1873 59
Rewari-Alwar 15.09.1874 46.25
Alwar-Bandikui 07.12.1874 37.50
Total   142.75

Stanton got the complete works of Delhi District constructed under the departmental agency unlike the Agra District which got its line constructed through the contractors.

The most important river crossed was Sabi, and that unfortunately was met with twice; a loop had to be crossed in reaching Rewari from Delhi, and proceeding from thence to Alwar. The Sabi has its rise in the hilly country west of Alwar with a catchment area of about 1600 square miles. In August 1873, Sabi over-flowed and extensive damages to rail-line occurred. The bridges on Sabi need a little more description. At the crossing nearest Delhi at Jitowli, the flood water is about 2 miles wide and six bridges aggregating 3356 lineal feet waterway were built, the slopes of the embankments connecting these bridges were pitched with stone. At Ajerka, the second crossing on Sabi, the flood is less extended and one bridge of 1972 feet waterway was provided.

To quote from a report published in October 1875:

"The stations in the Delhi District are particularly neat and nice, although the limited accommodation which is needed in such a thinly populated country gives little scope for architectural effect.Major Stanton has succeeded in making the little stations look very pretty, indeed they might be taken as models in their way".

A station building built in 1874 for the Maharao Raja at Alwar adjacent to the Rajputana Railway's station to the design of Shri Teeka Ram, head-draftsman of Rajputana Railway impress many a visitors even in 1993.

Tussles between the Public and Private sector did exist in Stanton's time. The engineers of the State Railways were a dedicated lot. They considered themselves more devoted then their counterparts of guaranteed railways. To quote C.H.G.Jenkinson, an Assistant Engineer of Western Rajputana Railway from his writings of September 1873:

"Ask why all the Indian Railways have on an average cost enormous sums, out of all proportions to the wealth of the country. They traverse an exceptionally plain country for the greater part of their length, and the average of heavy works on them cannot be said to be exceptionally high. Is the reason this- that the proprietors of the lines and their servants have not sufficient interest in the country, and because the former, living in England and never thinking of their property, except to receive 5 per cent on it when it becomes due; the latter only of their pay, and contemplating only a short residence in the country, do not consult the best interest of the inhabitants for doing what the public servants of this country have ever been justly famed? This accusation is not to be denied, and no one can have travelled far in this country by railway without marking the profuse liberality with which money has been spent, without the smallest regard to the wants of the country, or indeed to the habits of the natives. The Government therefore has been wise to undertake the construction of new lines itself,and to entrust the work to men who look forward to a lengthened residence in India, and who can hardly help in a measure identifying themselves with the interests of the country they have adopted for the best years of their lives".

Stanton is credited to have constructed rail-lines at speeds never achieved previously. Excerpts from his writings (edited for easier reading) are reproduced:

Late on the evening of February 10, 1874, Stanton received a telegram from the Secretary to the Government of India, PWD which read as below:

"A tramway is required from Chumpta Ghat on left bank of Ganges opposite Barh Station to Darbhanga 44 miles long. You are placed in charge: come down sharp with sufficient engineering staff and plate laying gangs, and bring tools and trollies. Materials for 50 miles will be concentrated at Barh, rails and all fastenings will be sent from Calcutta, except 8 tons of fish-plates and 19 tons fang bolts, which you must supply from Delhi. Furnivall will dispatch one lakh sleepers on advice from you; make immediate arrangements for receipt of stores at Barh; telegraph if you want assistance. Arrange for forty ballast wagons to follow you from Delhi. Two engines expected from England. If there is delay arrange so that two may come from Delhi. Make over charge to Furnivall; bring camp equipage and horses ready to take the field".

The construction of this metre gauge line, the fore-runner of the present North Eastern Railway was faster than 'a mile a day'. Stanton moved his staff and equipment 656 miles east of Delhi and the first train ran into Darbhanga on April 15, 1874, the length of railway made being really 51 miles, exclusive of sidings, instead of 44 as mentioned in the telegram. Construction of this line is an interesting study and will therefore be dealt in more detail.

Stanton, the Superintending Engineer of Rajputana Railway at Delhi warned his staff for the duty on the morning of the 11th February.

He spared and made arrangements for the conduct of the duties of one executive engineer, two assistant engineer, and four supervisors (all native Indians) during their absence and they were asked to start at once, excepting one platelayer to follow a few days later, along with all his gangs. Horses were sent off on the 13th, and the camp equipage, tools, plants, trollies, etc. left on the 14th. Arrangements were also made for one locomotive and twenty ballast wagons to be sent down as quickly as they could be loaded. Stanton and his party left Delhi on 17th February. The Barh station of East Indian Railway, on Howrah-Patna main line, is situated about a mile from the bank of the Ganges, a siding almost close to the river had been laid in to facilitate the transport of grain. A separate branch from the end of this siding was laid for the railway material. On the 18th, Stanton conferred with the Commissioner of Patna for country boats and a steamer for transport of material across the Ganges. On the 19th, Stanton crossed the river to Chumpta Ghat, 6 miles from Barh, surveyed the neighbouring country and decided that the railway line should start from Sultanpur, a ghat opposite the town of Barh. Rails and fastenings from Calcutta, 300 miles from Barh, and sleepers from Agra, 542 miles from Barh commenced arriving on the 23rd, but as no fish plates arrived before the 3rd March, little progress could be made before this date. On the 26th, Stanton went to Darbhanga to get a general idea of the country and to confer with Stevens, who was appointed as Superintendent of Works for the Railway. The track geography was decided without extensive survey and arrangements were also made for the commencement of work from the Darbhanga end of the line.

On arrival at Barh on the 18th February, Stanton applied for the services of two companies of Sappers (Military Engineers), the application was granted, and they arrived at Barh from Roorkee (770 miles) on the 27th and 28th February. Another company, the 32nd Pioneers, also arrived at Barh from Ambala on the 7th March. The engine from Delhi arrived at Barh on the 24th February, unloaded on the 28th, by which time a jetty had been built, and rails laid down on an incline to the jetty, the engine and five ballast wagons were placed on the barge on the 1st March, taken across the river and safely landed on the north bank of the river on the 3rd March. This engine, an A class 2-4-0 tank design, was steamed on the 5th and the same day, it carried a train-load of material to the rail head, 5 miles from Sultanpur. From this day, the work commenced in real earnest, as until a train was ready to carry forward materials from the ghat to rail-head, the progress could be but nominal, owing to want of carriage.

From Sultanpur Ghat to Chumpta Ghat, about 4 miles, the line skirted the bank of the Ganges, thence to Bazetpur it crossed the Ganges Khadir, laid for the most part of the surface of the ground; there were, however, several depressions or water channels in this portion of the line which were crossed on the raised embankments. From Bazetpur, the line was laid generally on the surface of the ground to the 13th mile, where the Balan river was crossed on embankment with a small opening to prevent any heading up.

From the 13th mile to Boor-gandak (Boorhi Gandak) river at the 29th mile, the line was laid mostly on the surface of the ground. At Boor-gandak, a pile bridge was necessary as the width of water in the dry season was over 200 feet, and the depth varying from five to eight feet. Pile engine was brought from the Oudh and Rohilkund Railway, the first pile was driven on the 21st March and the bridge consisting of 7 spans of 15 feet each was completed by the 28th, on which day the first rain passed over it. The Sappers and Pioneers worked in reliefs night and day, in order to get the bridge completed by the time the plate laying reached the river.

From Boor Gandak, the line was taken partly along a raised road and partly on a newly-formed embankment to Bagmati river at the 40th mile, where another pile bridge, consisting of four spans of 15 feet each, was built. From Bagmati to the Koraye river at the 42nd mile, the road was utilised for a part of the way. Koraye river was crossed by another bridge, also of 4 spans of 15 feet each. On completion of the Boor Gandak bridge, the Sappers were moved on to Bagmati river whereas the Pioneers were sent to Koraye river. The first train passed over the Bagmati bridge on the 4th April and over the Koraye bridge on the 7th April.

After passing the Koraye river, there were no further difficulties to be encountered and the plate laying went on steadily, the first train reaching Darbhanga on the 15th April. The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal officially opened the line on the 17th of April, 1874, on which day the first grain train ran to Darbhanga, giving a great relief to the famine hit populace. During the next one month, over 30,000 tons of grain and cattle fodder was carried over this temporary line which was built in 65 days from the day of its conception.

The plate laying was the most important part of the work. The rails used were flat-footed, weighing 40 lbs, to the yard, 24 feet long, requiring six sleepers to each pair of rails, they were jointed with fish plates, and bolts, and spiked to cross sleepers. One gang would lift the rails on the sleepers, placing them butting one on another on each side. Another gang then followed distributing fish plates and bolts at each joint, when the men told off for the purpose immediately attached the fish plates at the rail joints. These men were closely followed by the auger and spike men who with their rail gauges applied, spiked down the rails to the sleepers at the joints, and the alternate sleepers only between joints, thus spiking five out of the nine sleepers to a rail. Following these men came a party with levers to straighten the line and partially packing it. This gang was then followed by an entirely separate gang, which completed the joints, spiking and properly packed the road.

The Ganges river intervening between the railway and its base of operations at Barh was the most serious obstacle to the rapid construction of the work. More than 6,000 tons of permanent way material, 10 locomotives and 233 vehicles were transported across the river. The rolling stock was supplied from various sources; two engines were sent from Agra and seven new ones from Calcutta. Of the new ones, two were erected at Barh, one at Bazetpur and the other four at East Indian Railway shops at Jamalpur. The wagons were sent from Bombay, Khundwa, Calcutta, Agra and Delhi.

While the line was in progress, temporary houses for the staff were erected at Bazetpur and other stations.

Exclusive of the labour employed on the heavy earthwork in the cuttings at the river approaches and on the new embankments, intended for more permanent line, the average number of men employed daily, inclusive of Sappers and Pioneers, was about 1,000.

The maximum length of plate laying done on any one day was two miles. The average, excluding the work up to the 5th March, which was negligible, was over a mile a day, the last 46 miles, exclusive of sidings, being completed in 41 days. A good speed or indeed 'God Speed'.

And now comes the Stanton's final phase. After completing the works of Delhi District of Rajputana Railway and that of Darbhanga line, Stanton returned to U.K. on a well earned furlough. He returned back to join the cadre of Indian State Railways in its administrative offices. The progress of State Railways from 1870 to 1880 was phenomenal. The administrative machinery had to keep pace with the speed of construction of rail-lines. From a scratch in 1870, the State Railway system became a formidable organisation in next one decade. A few Administrative Reports are quoted for better appreciation of the various organisational changes that took place in that decade:

'The supervision of the works of the Rajputana Railway was carried on during the year 1869-70 and 1870-71 by the Government of North Western Provinces through the Secretary, Public Works Department and Chief Engineer of N.W.P'.

'In 1871,the control of the State Railways in Northern and Eastern India was taken away from the local Governments of Bengal, North Western Provinces and Punjab, and placed in the hands of Government of India. A Director of State Railways immediately under the Government of India, was appointed in the same year.'

'The State Railways had developed so rapidly till April 1874, that it became necessary to separate, to some extent, the direct control of their administration from the Public Works Department. Proposals were made by the Government of India to the Secretary of State for the constitution of a State Railway Directorate and in January 1874, the Duke of Argyle approved it. In April 1874, effect was given to these arrangements, the Director of State Railways was, however, ordered to act under the general instructions of the Secretary, PWD. The Consulting Engineer to the Government of India for the State Railways was associated with the Director, minor affairs were settled directly by them while for major items, Public Works Department was referred'.

It was decided that in place of one director, there should be three directors of State Railway System and one separate director for Railway Stores. This became effective from 1-5-1877. The three directors looked after the three geographically separate State Railway Systems, viz:-

a) Central System- comprising of Rajputana, Holkar, Scindia- Neemuch, Nasirabad-Neemuch and Western Rajputana Railways. Total line: 1179 miles.

b) Western System- comprising of Indus Valley and Punjab Northern Railways. Total lines: 927 miles.

c) North Eastern System- comprising of North Bengal, Tirhut, Nalhati and Calcutta. Total lines: 830 miles.

The three directorates of State Railways were merged into one Director General for Railways in 1880. Lt. General Trevor R.E. became the first Director General duly assisted by Col. F.S.Stanton, who had played the lead role in the administrative scenario of Indian State Railways. In 1882, Stanton succeeded Trevor as the Director General of the Indian State Railways with lines extending all over the Indian Sub-continent. Stanton's career as Director General of Indian Railways from 1882 to 1884 was full of laurels. The State Railways opened up the country, earned modest profits and competed well with the private guaranteed Company railways. However a reversal in the Government policy was in the offing and a new guaranteed system was evolved in 1885, the State Railways withdrawing from the lead role and paving way again to private companies.Perhaps Stanton did not like this policy and withdrew from the top post. The new guarantee scheme for private companies did not last long and by the turn of the century, Indian Railways entered into its final phase: State's assumption of the role of construction and management of rail-lines.

Sir T. R. Wynne

Trevredyn Rashleigh Wynne joined the Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) in 1887 as its first Agent and Chief Engineer. BNR was formed to take over the then existing Nagpur Chhatisgarh Railway (149 miles), convert it to broad gauge and extend the system to join the East Indian Railway at Asansol and also to construct a branch 161 mile long northwards from Bilaspur to Umaria coal-fields and thus connect Katni, a station on the Jabalpur branch of the East Indian Railway. The allotted task for the young Wynne was stupendous by all records. By then Wynne was in early thirties and had been on job for only thirteen years. BNR was not a fore-runner on the Indian Railway scene. It was a generation younger than the leaders viz., the East Indian and the Great Indian Peninsula Railways. Though a latecomer, it captured the lost ground fast and in a couple of years, it was a major railway system competing with the premiers. The success of BNR is the story of success of T.R.Wynne who guided its path for over 48 years!

T. R. Wynne did his engineering in 1874 from R. I. E. College, Cooper's Hill, London. This institute was patronised by the East India Company and later by their successors. T. R. Wynne was one of the fifty engineers of 1874 batch appointed by the Public Works Department of India. These 50 engineers sailed for India in October 1874 from Southampton.

After reporting at Calcutta, Mr. Wynne was posted as an Assistant Engineer, Rajputana Railway on 18th November 1874. He was instrumental in completing the Yumuna Bridge near Agra. After completion of Yamuna Bridge, Mr. Wynne worked on 'Dhond and Manmad Railway from February 1877 to October 1879.

On his promotion as an Executive Engineer he joined 'Kathiawar State Railway' in November 1879. He worked there till May 1883 and later had two small stints at 'Bengal and North Western Railway' and 'Sind-Sagar Railway' and for a short while worked as Deputy Consulting Engineer to Government of India for the Guaranteed Railways in 1886.

Wynne resigned government service in 1887 to take up the appointment of Agent and Chief Engineer BNR in April 1887. He remained Agent of BNR till 1905 save for a long furlough from June 1902 to November 1903 when he was engaged in China as incharge of an Engineering and Mining Company. Wynne's tenure as Agent and Chief Engineer of BNR is full of laurels. Starting from a scratch in 1887 the lines in 1905 stretched to 1966 miles of length with a capital outlay of Rs.26 crores and an operating ratio less than 50 percent.

Wynne was appointed a Member of the Railway Board on its formation in 1905. Three years later Wynne became its President on the retirement of Sir F. R. Upcott in May 1908. He was appointed Knight Commander of the most eminent order of the Indian Empire in 1909 followed by Knight Commander of the most exalted order of the Star of India in 1911. He was Chairman Railway Board upto 1913.

Sir T. R. Wynne, KCSI, KCIE, VD, MICE could not remain idle for long. After his retirement from the Railway Board he joined the BNR Company as its Managing Director and remained on that position from 1915 to 1930. Again not to retire but to become its Chairman and be on the top position for a period of 5 years. This is thus the story of a railwayman who spent 61 years of his life in active service of railways.

I am enclosing a map of Bengal Nagpur Railway of 1935 which was built under his leadership either as a field officer or as its MD or as its Chairman. To repeat when he joined BNR in 1887 it did not exist and when he finally left BNR the total mileage was 3380.

Wynne used to visit BNR almost every year even after becoming it Managing Director. His identity with the success of BNR was so compelling that his name would appear in many references. The house magazine of BNR published two limericks in March 1929, the same are reproduced as:

(a) There's a line called the Bengal-Nagpore
Constructed in days of long yore
By the worthy Sir Trev'
Who made the wheels rev'
Till it earned every month half a crore.

(b) There's a line called the Bengal-Nagpore
which has suffered sad losses galore.
yet a "Carroll" it sings
For each cold weather brings
A great "Wynne" to the Railways once more.

(Mr. Carrol was the Agent, BNR at that time.)

Mr. Wynne can be given the credit of construction of rail-lines at a speed unbelievable in modern times. To give a glimpse of the construction activity, I am reproducing extracts from the administrative report of l888-89 - two years after the inception of BNR.

"The section from Raj Nandgaon to Raipur was opened for traffic on 4th December, 1888. The section from Raipur to Bilaspur was opened to goods traffic on 10th January and for passenger traffic on 14th February, 1889, thus increasing the total B.G. line worked by BNR to 293 miles. In addition to it, rails have been laid and construction trains are working over them for a distance of 195 miles. Construction work is now in progress over the whole of the system as detailed below:-


Nagpur to Bilaspur Opened for traffic.

Bilaspur to Raigarh Earthwork practically completed. Bridges nearly complete except those over the Hasdeo (5 spans of 200 feet girders) and Mand (9 spans of 100 feet girders).

Raigarh to Sogra Good progress with earthwork and masonry. At the Eb river bridge (9 spans of 150 feet girders), well foundations are progressing satisfactorily.

Sogra to Monarpur Earthwork is well advanced. At the Brahmini river the bridge(9 spans of 150 feet girders) is progressing.

Monarpur to Goilkera Great difficulty is being experienced in getting labour to stay in the Saranda jungle.

Goilkera to Purulia Earthwork practically complete. Masonry of all bridges except the Suburnarekha are nearly finished.

Purulia to Asansol Rails laid, line ready for inspection.

Branch Line:

Umaria to Pendra Earthwork bridges etc. well advanced.

Pendra to Bilaspur Earthwork practically completed"

One year later at the close of the official year 1889-90, the state of work on various sections were:-

Main Line:

Nagpur to Raigarh Opened for traffic

Raigarh to Sambalpur Road This section is complete except for the Eb bridge.

Sambalpur Road to Goilkera Earthwork far advanced. All the piers of Brahmini river bridge well advanced, would be complete before rains of 1890.

Goilkera to Chakradharpur Lines ready to open for traffic. Saranda tunnel progressing well.

Chakradharpur to Asansol Lines opened for public traffic

Branch Line:

Bilaspur to Khodri Work almost finished. Tunnels three quarters completed.

Khodri to Umaria Earthwork completed, plate laying in progress.

Umaria to Katni Line opened for traffic."

The main line of BNR from Nagpur to Asansol was opened through for goods traffic on the 1st February, 1891. Extracts of two letters from the Agent to the Managing Director, BNR, London giving information about the opening ceremony are reproduced below:-

"Dated Nagpur 5th February 1891-

I have much pleasure in informing the Board that, the Viceroy has telegraphed that he will gladly be present at an opening ceremony of the Railway and has fixed the 3rd of March as the date that will suit him. The station selected for the proceedings is Chakradharpur, and the prepared arrangements consist of a breakfast at Chakradharpur, to which all leading officials and merchants interested in the Railway will be invited, to be followed in the afternoon by an excursion to the Saranda forests and back".

"Dated Nagpur 12th March 1891-

I confirm my telegram to you of the 5th instant. Opening Ceremony by Viceroy most successful. Chairman now here. Traffic very brisk, stock insufficient".

The Saranda tunnel was completed and opened for traffic on 1st October 1892, the diversion over which traffic previously passed being eliminated from that day.

The Bilaspur-Katni branch was opened through for goods traffic on 1st February 1891 and for passenger traffic on 9th March 1891. The close of the financial year 1890-91 marked completion of all the projected lines originally included in the contract of 9th March 1887. Thus at a time when there were no excavators bulldozers, scrapers, front end loaders or heavy lorries and most of the work done by simple hand tools, a rate of progress of laying 330 km of line/year was achieved - all bridges tunnels, stations, yard, loco sheds included. Year wise progress of construction is tabulated below:

YearRoute mileage open at the end of the year Route mileage opened during the year Total capital outlay at the end of the year (Rs. in crore)
1888 224.50 224.50 5.24
1889 348.18 123.68 7.09
1890 586.01 237.93 8.15
1891 831.58 245.57 9.08

Construction of rail lines at good speed! Can such feat be repeated? Wynne was usually associated with his 'BNR' man. A sketch showing his active association with BNR man and BNR locomotives give a glimpse of it.

Walter Home

Jodhpur Railway

A through connection between Delhi and Bombay with transhipment at Ahmedabad was established on November 15,1879, thus shortening the then GIP/EIR route via Jabalpur and Allahabad by a big margin. The new metre gauge line connecting Ahmedabad and Ajmer excluded Pali, a principal town of Jodhpur State as it was a little out of way.

In late 1879, Maharaja Jaswant Singh, decided to build a railway line from Bitoora (later Marwar Junction) to his capital city Jodhpur. D.Joscelyne an executive engineer was appointed for this work. The work on Bitoora-Pali section was commenced on February 16,1881 and was completed on February 28, 1882.

Walter Home succeeded Joscelyne on April 20, 1882 and was appointed as Manager, Jodhpur Railway and Incharge of Public Works Department, Marwar State. Walter Home built Jodhpur Railway from a scratch and after a quarter century, at the time of his departure to U.K. on October 4, 1906, Jodhpur Railway was having operations over 828 miles in the territories of Sind(under British control) and in territories of the States of Jodhpur and Bikaner.

The first section of Jodhpur Railway from Marwar Junction to Pali was opened for traffic on June 24,1882. No telegraph lines were provided and the trains were worked on the Train Staff and Ticket System, something analogous to one engine system. In the absence of telegraph lines, the consulting engineer imposed a speed restriction of 12 miles an hour over the entire section.

In order to popularise the new railway at this time, Home issued orders that intending passengers could be picked up at any point between stations, fares being charged as from the last station passed. Thus the revenue increased and the Railway made a net profit in the first complete year of operation i.e., 1883-84.

After the inauguration of Marwar-Pali section, Maharaja Pratap Singh asked Home to bring the rail line to Jodhpur. On June 17, 1884, twenty five mile long Pali-Luni section was opened for traffic. Work now progressed at full notch for its approach to the capital city of Jodhpur. Provision was however made for a connection to Pachpadra, though it meant a detour and slightly long alignment. On March 9, 1885, the first train entered the city of Jodhpur. Telegraph lines were laid by this time, a change was therefore made to telegraphic Line Clear System and the 12 m.p.h. speed restriction was removed.

In 1885, there was a complete failure of the salt supply from Sambhar, resulting in larger demands from Pachpadra. The construction of 60 mile Luni-Pachpadra section was commenced at once. However, owing to the delay in the delivery of rails, this section could be opened only on March 22, 1887.

In 1887, a proposal was put forward for linking up Jodhpur with other important towns of the State like Nagaur and Makrana and with a possible rail link to Bikaner. Both these were given due consideration in forming the expansion proposals of Jodhpur Railway. The outcome was an agreement dated July 13,1889, between the British Government, Maharaja of Jodhpur and Maharaja of Bikaner for the construction of railway from Jodhpur to Bikaner. Extracts from this agreement are reproduced below:-

Maharaja of Jodhpur agrees to construct in conjunction with Maharaja of Bikaner, a line of railway to connect Jodhpur with Bikaner. The Railway will be called Jodhpur-Bikaner Railway. It will be the exclusive property of the two Native States, each of which will receive all the profits derived from the working of the portion of the line running through its territory.

The Bikaner state will provide all the capital required for the construction, maintenance and working of the Bikaner Section, the Jodhpur state providing the same for its portion. The line will be on the metre gauge and will be constructed in accordance with the standard dimensions prescribed by the Government of India.

Maharaja of Bikaner agrees to advance to the Jodhpur state on behalf of the project, twenty lakhs of rupees at 4% interest. This sum will be repaid by the Jodhpur state by annual instalments of three lakhs, to be disbursed from the Salt treaty payment received by the Jodhpur state.

The construction and management of the proposed line shall be entrusted to the Manager, for the time being of the Jodhpur Railway, who shall also be the Manager of the Jodhpur Bikaner Railway. The work shall commence from the Jodhpur side.

The line shall be worked in accordance with the general rules and regulations in force on Indian State Railways."

This agreement of 1889 was unique, in that, it was first of its kind in which two native rulers decided to co-operate and invest in an enterprise for the benefit of both and public at large. The title of Jodhpur Railway was changed to Jodhpur Bikaner Railway (JBR). Walter Home now the Manager of JBR was promoted and placed in the list of Superintending Engineers.

After the formation of Jodhpur Bikaner Railway, the construction of Jodhpur-Bikaner line was done at a rapid pace. By mid 1890, survey for the entire section was completed. Jodhpur - Merta Road (64 mile) was opened on April 8, 1891. Merta Road - Nagaur (35 mile) was opened on October 16,1891, and Nagaur - Bikaner (72 mile) was opened on December 9,1891. Thus in one calendar year, 171 miles of railway line was constructed and opened for traffic, an excellent rate of construction, indeed!

After constructing the line to Merta, immediate consideration was to tap the revenue from salt traffic from the Western side of Sambhar lake. Sambhar lake was a joint property of Jodhpur and Jaipur States, South Western portion under the control of Jodhpur and North Eastern under the control of Jaipur state. Rajputana Malwa Railway (RMR) had opened a siding in the Jaipur territory in 1875. Further extensions of this siding to Japog and Jhowra were built in 1876 and 1879 respectively. The total length of RMR sidings was 33.4 miles and it was able to transport most of the salt produce from the Sambhar lake.

On the South-West side, lack of means of communication restricted the production of Salt at Kuchaman and neighbouring area. Maharaja of Jodhpur now decided to extend his Merta branch to Sambhar so as to tap the salt traffic from this side of the lake. Seventy three mile long Metra Road-Kuchaman Road-Sambhar connection was built in 1893 and with that JBR had two junction points with RMR one at Marwar junction and another at Phulera. This necessitated realignment of take-off point, at Marwar junction.

Bhatinda was an important trading centre in Punjab well connected by Broad Gauge network, it was also close to Bikaner State frontier. Bikaner Maharaja decided to extend JBR line to Bhatinda in the North and thus lay a line to pass through two important towns of Dulmera and Suratgarh. The first section of this project, Bikaner-Dulmera (42 mile) was opened for traffic on June 2,1896, Dulmera-Suratgarh section (72 mile) was opened for traffic on January 1,1901 and Suratgarh-Bhatinda section(88 mile)was opened for traffic on September 9,1902.

In 1887, the public of Sind started an agitation for a rail connection from Hyderabad (Sind) to the Eastern Part of the country. To satisfy their demand, British Government constructed 55 mile long BG line from Hyderabad to Shadipalli in 1892, with plans to extend it further towards Balotra. The experience was bitter for the British Government. The earnings of Hyderabad - Shadipalli BG section were meagre and losses were mounting. British Government abandoned their plan for the extension and requested JBR to open a connection from Balotra to Shadipalli. Home in consultation with the Maharaja of Jodhpur decided to lay lines right unto Shadipalli. Balotra-Barmer section (60 mile) was opened for traffic on May 15, 1899.

On December 2, 1990, one hundred and forty three mile Barmer-Shadipalli section was opened for traffic. Opening of such a long section partly under a native ruler and partly under the sovereign Government had never occurred before. Never in the history of Indian Railways, the construction and management of a railway line in British territory was entrusted to a native state. The responsibility of Walter Home now extended beyond the frontiers of Jodhpur and Bikaner state. On the same day an agreement between the Government of India and Maharajas of Jodhpur and Bikaner was signed for the construction and working of Balotra-Hyderabad line. Extracts from the agreement:-

"1. *Working of the line*- The line shall be worked as a part of the JBR system, the Manager of the JBR will be the Manager of the amalgamated undertaking.

2. *Rolling Stock*- The whole of the rolling stock required for working the Jodhpur Hyderabad line shall be provided by and at the cost of the Jodhpur and Bikaner states, and the Government of India shall pay to the states in each year a sum equal to 5% of the cost of the stock, and this payment shall be in addition to the working expenses".

Jodhpur Hyderabad line, under the management of JBR was managed in most business like manner. The consistently losing British section soon came out of the red. In the year 1900, Hyderabad Shadipalli BG section, had a gross earning of Rs. 1.93 lakhs and net losses to the tune of Rs.1.13 lakhs on a capital outlay of Rs. 41.71 lakhs. Six years later, the same section with almost the same capital outlay, under Home's management had gross earnings of Rs. 8.91 lakhs, net profit of Rs.3.54 lakhs and a net return of 8.7%.

In late 1900, JBR decided to convert the BG line of Hyderabad -S hadipalli section to Metre Gauge. The conversion of 55.5 mile section was completed on October 20,1901. This is one of the rare examples where a BG line was converted to a metre gauge line. JBR was managed as one district system till 1900. With the merger of Sind lines, the railway network increased to 613.5 miles. For smoother functioning, JBR was divided into three districts- Eastern District comprised of Bikaner section and was operated from Bikaner; Western District comprised of British section i.e. Sind Lines and its connection with Jodhpur and Marwar and, Central District comprised of the lines in Jodhpur state territories. Western and Central Districts were operated from Jodhpur. Each of the three Districts were headed by a District Manager who controlled General and Traffic departments. The Loco and Carriage Superintendent, based at Jodhpur, was common for all the three districts and likewise the auditor managed his work, in all the three districts, from one place. Manager JBR, the big boss, had an assistant, who was also the incharge of the stores department for the complete system.

Financial Statistics of J.B.R., have been tabulated for every fifth year from 1883 onwards and reveal the business acumen of Walter Home in managing a system in Jodhpur Bikaner and British territories.

Jodhpur Bikaner Railway
Lines opened during Walter Home's management
Section Date of opening Miles
Jodhpur Section
Main Line
Kuchaman Road to Merta Road 13.03.1893 73.00
Merta Road to Jodhpur 08.04.1891 64.00
Jodhpur to Luni Junction 09.03.1885 20.00
Luni Junction to Balotra 22.03.1887 50.51
Balotra to Barmer 15.05.1899 60.00
Barmer to the Marwar Frontier 22.12.1900 74.44
Sub-total   341.95
Marwar Railway Junction extension
Luni Junction to Marwar Pali 17.6.1884 25.00
Marwar Pali to Marwar junction 24.6.1882 19.00
Sub-total   44.00
Merta City Branch
Merta Road to Merta City 18.1.1905 18.95
Bhagu extension
Merta Road to Nagaur 16.10.1891 35.00
Nagaur to Marwar frontier 09.12.1891 24.50
Sub-total   59.50
Total   454.40
Bikaner Section
Main line
Marwar Frontier to Bikaner 09.12.1891 47.75
Bikaner to Dulmera 02.06.1898 42.00
Dulmera to Suratgarh 01.01.1901 71.85
Suratgarh to Bhatinda 09.09.1902 88.00
Total   249.60
Hyderabad Section
Hyderabad to Shadipalli 18.08.1892 55.49
Shadipalli to Jodhpur Frontier 22.12.1900 68.49
Total   123.98
Grand Total   827.98

The line from Shadipalli was originally on the 5'6" gauge but was converted to the metre gauge and opened on the 20th October 1901.

Burma Railway

Survey for the first portion of the Burma Railway between Rangoon and Prome (161 miles) was made in 1869, construction commenced in 1874, and the line was opened for traffic on 1st May 1877 under the name of Rangoon and Irrawady Valley State Railway. Metre gauge was chosen for this line.

Further construction followed, the line to Mandalay (386 miles from Rangoon) was completed in 1889, and an extension of the Mandalay line to Lashio was made in March 1903.

The railway system was originally worked by the State but in 1896, the entire railway system was leased to the Burma Railway Co. Ltd. For sometime Burma Railway Co. Ltd. continued to manage the affairs through the engineers of the erstwhile State Railway.

In 1906, Walter Home resigned from Jodhpur Railway and proceeded to England. After a short while Walter found himself on the driving seat of the losing Burma Railway Company. Walter's appointment was mainly due to his experience of a quarter century on Jodhpur Railway and his managing a metre gauge line on most profitable basis. When Walter took his charge, Burma Railway had about 600 miles of route open for traffic. Home served as Managing Director of Burma Railway Company for about two decades. And at the close of his era, Burma Railway extended its operations over 1800 miles. The situation has not changed much since Walter Home's time.

The line from Rangoon to Mandalay was doubled in stretches in 1911. In February 1915, a branch line into the Southern Shan States, running eastward from Thazi was opened to Heho (Shwanyaung). The southernmost portion of line from Moulmein to Ye and branch line from Pyinmana westwards to Sagaina and Alon was constructed in 1923-4.

Walter Home chose the latest type of bogie vehicles for the mail and express trains to give maximum comfort to the travellers. The engines for the Burma Railway were also of the latest type and were very powerful. Special reference needs to be made for the "N" class Mallet compound articulated locomotives for the severely graded sections of Burma Railway. Some of the branch lines namely the Pegu-Moulemein, the Henzada-Kyangin and Southern Shan States line continued to be owned by the state, but were worked by the Burma Railway Company under the supervision of Walter Home; a position similar to what he experienced (or created!)for the Jodhpur Railway managing the British lines in Hyderabad-Sind territory.

Burma Railway Company also owned five steam boats and train ferries were operated between Henzada and Sagaing for the transport of goods wagons and occasional passenger stock.

Jodhpur-Bikaner Railway - Financial Statistics under Home's management
YearCapital Outlay (Rs. in lakhs) Gross Earnings (Rs. in lakhs) Net earnings (Rs. in lakhs) % of Net Earnings to Capital Outlay Section Operating Ratio
1883 05.00 0.40 0.23 4.62 42.74
1888 22.80 3.61 1.92 8.40 46.91
Jodhpur Section
1893 64.75 8.32 4.34 6.70 47.83
1898 100.85 12.23 7.31 7.25 42.22
1903 119.31 16.35 8.91 7.47 45.48
1906 122.77 20.9 12.23 9.97 41.50
1893 9.66 0.67 0.26 2.66 61.43
Bikaner Section
1898 23.14 1.37 0.77 3.35 43.54
1903 51.31 5.25 2.66 5.19 49.33
1906 52.70 10.92 4.75 9.00 56.58
British Section
1900 41.71 1.93 -1.13 -2.70 159.07
1903 40.45 5.84 2.62 6.49 55.08 *
1906 40.71 8.91 5.12 12.58 42.57

*After taking over of British Section by Home in 1900, this section was converted to Metre gauge, reducing the capital outlay and ensuring profitability.

Franklin Prestage

In 1870s Franklin Prestage was the Agent of the Eastern Bengal Railway (EBR). In its original contract of EBR with the Secretary of State for India, this guaranteed railway company was to open up a rail-line to Darjeeling. However, in early 1870s, the Government of India took a decision to stop expansion of rail-lines under the auspices of guaranteed companies in new areas and instead decided to construct and manage rail-lines as state enterprises. For construction of rail-lines in north Bengal, a state railway in the title of Northern Bengal Railway (NBR) was formed. NBR took off from the northern bank of Ganges river at Sara and built a metre gauge line unto Siliguri. NBR had no plans to take the rail-line to Darjeeling as the mountain railway was considered a formidable sphere. Where EBR and NBR failed as corporate organisations, Prestage succeeded as an individual entrepreneur.

Prestage's confidence was based on the belief that a line could substantially reduce the cost of bullock-cart transport between the plains and Darjeeling. Rice was Rs.98 a ton at Siliguri and Rs.238 at Darjeeling. A railway could cut down the cartage rate by as much as half and still earn a good profit.

In 1878, Prestage submitted a detailed scheme to the Government of Bengal, which was sanctioned by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Ashely Eden. Despite the fact that the Viceroy Lord Lytton himself was also a share holder, the Public Works Department of the Indian Government felt that Bengal had exceeded its powers in terms of the concessions granted, and insisted on cancellation of the contract. Another agreement was therefore signed on April 8,1879, wherein the Government of Bengal undertook to make up the gross receipts to 2 lakhs of rupees should they fail to reach that sum. After the first five years the net profits of any year in excess of 5 per cent on the paid up capital had to be applied first in repayment to the Government of the amount expended that year on the maintenance of cart road, or in making good the deficiency of gross receipts below Rs. 2 lakhs. If the Government did take over, it had to pay the value of the line as a dividend earner, plus an additional bonus of 20 per cent over and above that value.

Prestage settled for a 2 ft. rail gauge, and formed the Darjeeling Steam Tramway Co. with capital fully subscribed in India. On September 15,1881, title of the company was changed to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway( DHR) Co. and this company remained effective until the line was taken over by the Indian Government on Oct.20, 1948.

Z reversing stations and Loops are the speciality of DHR. The highest point on DHR is at Ghoom station with the elevation board reading 7408 feet. The steepest gradient is 1 in 23. Other engineering features are described thus:

After taking off from Siliguri, the first stoppage takes place at Sukna (height 533 feet above sea level), which is 7 1/8 miles from Siliguri (height 400 feet). Between Siliguri and Sukna, the line crosses river Mahanadi by an iron bridge 700 feet in length (7 spans of 100 feet each); otherwise bridges are few, the only ones are those carrying the line over itself at loops. Sukna is the point whence trains have to begin their actual ascent to mountains. At 11 1/2 mile, is the first spiral or loop in the line. A stop takes place for water at the 12 3/4 mile. From here the line turns nearly south on to a long spur, where another and somewhat complicated loop occurs. The line then returns north and eastward, runs for a shorter distance along the road, and gradually passes below it, till a third spiral or loop is reached at the 16th mile post.

Tindharia, the first reversing station, on the line is an opportune moment to recall the success story of Mr. Franklin Prestage who made this fairy-tale ride possible. It was here that he received his first set-back. A deep erosion in the hill side made it impossible to employ a gradient within the limits of rail-transport. There seemed to be no alternative but to admit failure, and this, so the story goes, he was ready to do when his wife saved the situation. 'Darling', she suggested, 'if you can't go ahead, why don't you come back'. This brilliant scheme, of climbing mountains, also known as Z reversing stations, is as simple as it is clever. The train runs forward almost to the edge of the cliff, then backwards at an oblique angle up the hill side, then forward again this time high enough above the original track to avoid the problem of land erosion which there faced it. The line thus follows an elongated form of Z.

For almost 40 years from the beginning, there were four complete loops and four Z reversing stations. In 1919, the 1 in 20 grade on northern descent to Darjeeling was eased by constructing a double spiral known as the Batasia loop: and during World War II, when traffic was intense, the very small radius double loop (then No.2), between Rangtong and Chunabati was replaced by a newly-built Z reversing station to gain 140 ft. altitude more easily for uphill trains. Thus the line now has four loops and five Z reversing stations.

Franklin Prestage took special interest in the locomotives for DHR. His suggestions brought out the famous B class of DHR locomotives, a few of which are plying on the line even after a century of faithful service. The evolution of DHR locomotives show another facade of Franklin Prestage.

Four tank engines for line service were ordered from M/s.Sharp Stewart & Co.Ltd, Manchester in 1879, followed by an order for four more in the same year. All eight were set to work in 1880; they were numbered 1 to 8 (known as class 1) in the Steam Tramway list, and continued as such in the DHR stock. These engines had 8"x14" cylinders and 26" wheels. Both wood and coal were used as fuel. Trailing load uphill was 18 tons; but the first season's working showed the need for more powerful engines and in 1881 an order was placed with M/s. Sharp Stewart for a larger type. This order was for two locomotives of well tank 0-4- 0 WT design, with an outside Walschaerts motion actuating slide valves above 10"x14" outside cylinders, which were inclined at 1 in 8. This lay-out gave a low centre of gravity desirable for sharp curves of DHR.

In 1881-82 four successive orders of two locomotives each were placed with Sharp Stewart for this type. The engines bore DHR running Nos.9 to 16 and were known as class 2. Sharp Stewart subcontracted the order for four locomotives (DHR Nos.11 to 14) to Hunslet Engine Co. These engines were coal burners only and could haul a trailing load uphill of 27 tons, an increase of 50% over the earlier locomotives. As time went on, the locos numbered 8 to 16 were significantly altered.

As early as in 1886, though the well tanks and under cylinder wings were retained, a narrow saddle tank was inserted between the dome and the chimney, partly to get increased water capacity and partly to get better balance between the axle loads with the pull on the draw bar. DHR workshop at Tindharia made a number of alterations in these and other locos and claimed credit by fitting an oval plate reading Rebuilt Tindharia Works. These engines began to be withdrawn from service around the turn of the century, though the first one No.9 continued in service till 1954.

Prestage felt the need for new and more powerful engines and wrote in 1887, " I would suggest the Sharp Stewart type of locomotive with longer boilers and bigger cylinders and better balance". He then referred to the saddle tanks of the rebuilds, thus paving way for a new design of the locomotives.

Four engines to a new specification following these thoughts were ordered in 1887 and delivered in 1888-89. They were numbered 1-B to 4-B. Thus was initiated the class B and locomotive Nos. 9 to 16 came to be known as Class A. The earlier engines Nos. 1 to 8 were then regarded as class C With the introduction of these classes A, B and C, the earlier classification of class 1 and class 2 went into disuse.

No. 2-B (DHR running number 18, ISR No.777) has been preserved at the Rail Transport Museum while No. 3-B (DHR running number 19, ISR No.778) is privately preserved in U.S.A.

No.4-B (DHR running number 20, ISR No.779) has completed a century of working on DHR.No. 799 has recently been brought to Delhi and kept on a pedestal outside Rail-Bhavan.

Class B was the last standard evolved for the DHR. This design was ordered in 13 different batches over a period of 39 years. Even in 1993, a few of these locos regularly ply on DHR. A sketch of 779, drawn by Mr. Allan Marshall depict the beauty of this class and has been shown [on the cover page of the IR magazine].

The DHR contract dated April 8,1879, between the Secretary of State and Franklin Prestage gave a number of concessions to the company. The Government land and the right to use the existing cart road was granted free of cost. Other land necessary was acquired by the Government and transferred to the Company at cost price. The Government of Bengal undertook to pay to the Company any sum required to make up its gross receipts to two lakh rupees annually, including charges for carriage of mails, troops or stores. With such favourable intentions on the part of the Government, the revenue was to shoot up and it did rather fast. It is interesting to note that DHR never needed Government's financial support, and was a profiteering venture till its nationalisation.

Estimated to cost Rs. 14,00,000, the actual sum spent on DHR including rolling stock was Rs. 17,00,000. By 1887, the cost of DHR shot up to Rs. 28,00,000 which included diversions taken in hand from 1883 and acquisition of new rolling stock including sixteen locomotives. By 1891, total investment was Rs. 30,00,000, equal to Rs. 60,000 a mile. This was made up of Rs. 16,900 a mile for earthwork, cuttings and bridges; Rs.13,800 for ballast and permanent way; Rs. 8,000 for stations; Rs. 10,000 for locomotives and rolling stock; and Rs. 11,300 for other items.

While construction activity was in full swing, Prestage made no efforts to bring out the half yearly reports, thus no dividend was paid. An irate shareholder from Madras made a complaint through the Calcutta based newspaper thus :

The Statesman

(Letter to Editor)

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

To the Editor,

Sir, -We are now in the middle of October, yet has no half yearly report of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway been furnished to the shareholders, Surely, it cannot be a very difficult matter to bring out the half yearly report for a small line of 50 miles in length, within two months after the close of the half year. It is hard for shareholders not only to see the market value of their property decreasing, but also to be kept out of the dividend on their shares for so long a period.


Madras, October 11,1882

While one may blame Franklin Prestage for not bringing out the half yearly reports in time, progress of construction of DHR line was remarkable as could be seen from the table:

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Construction progress
Line Date of Opening Miles
Siliguri to Kurseong 23.8.1880 31
Kurseong to Sonada 01.2.1881 10
Sonada to Jore Bungalow 05.4.1881 6
Jore Bungalow to Darjeeling 04.7.1881 3
Darjeeling to Darjeeling Bazaar 16.6.1886 1/4
Total   51

To conclude, the outstanding work done by Mr. Franklin Prestage could be summed up as:

1. To open the first mountain railway in the Indian Sub-continent and construct it in less than 2 years.

2. To construct it on most economic grounds and manage it without any burden on the public exchequer.

3. Active involvement in selection, modification and design of the locomotives, thus developing the famous B class locomotives which prove as useful at the close of twentieth century as they were in 1880s.

Michael G. Satow O.B.E.

In the death of M.G. Satow on 13th November 1993, Indian Railways have lost one of its greatest supporters of all times. Satow worked as honorary adviser to the Ministry of Railways for 24 years from 1970 till his death, and was the person who built the Rail Transport Museum, New Delhi.

To quote G.P.Warrier, ex-Chairman, Railway Board, from his book 'Time and Tide and My Railway Days',

"Another land mark was the completion of the Transport Museum at Delhi in idyllic surroundings. It was opened in the early part of 1977. From the very first day, after its opening, the Transport Museum has been attracting tourists from all over. For foreign tourists, the old steam locomotives and the saloons used by Maharajas in a by-gone age, are rare sights. They are, therefore thrilled to get in and see them at close quarters. It has proved to be one of the best Transport Museums of the World. The brain behind this Museum was one Satow, who had retired from the position of Managing Director in Imperial Chemical Industries in India. Steam locomotives were his passion and the older it was the more ardent the passion became. Even when he was in service, I have seen him making models in a well equipped workshop in his elegant bungalow at Alipore Road. After retirement, this hobby became an all consuming passion, and all this he poured into the concept and completion of the Delhi Transport Museum. We wanted to honour him at the function and put a plaque as a memento to his services. He did not agree to any thing; he wanted to remain completely in the background. It was just a labour of love and we must be grateful to him. It is difficult to find a person so dedicated to a cause like Satow".

Perhaps we may honour that great man by installing a fitting tribute at Rail Transport Museum, though the museum itself is a living monument of Michael G. Satow or simply Mike to me and thousands of his admirers. Its heart reverberates with chuckling steam from the Fairy Queen (c 1855 vintage) or from the ubiquitous monorail of Patiala State (c 1907 vintage) or from many of the locomotives tastefully preserved under his guidance. Mike did not join the railway cadre in the normal way but was nominated as honorary adviser to the Ministry of Railways for Rail Transport Museum in 1970. He served on that assignment for almost two dozen years, till his last breath. History, Preservation and above all Engineering are the issues with which Mike lived.

In the words of Mike recorded in 1970; 'One often hears the question', "what is the use of preserving it- it belongs to the past". There can be no future without a past and our teaching of today is based on the learning from the past. Why preserve the great architectural masterpieces of the past, or paintings or writings or for that matter any of our cultural heritage? The railways played a significant part in the development of communications and trade, a part which is clearly definable, but which is rapidly being supplemented and, in many cases superseded by other forms of ground and air travel. Each of these had its own place in history of organised transport, but the railways are now yielding their precedence, the steam locomotive, which made it all possible is nearing extinction and has already disappeared in the West, and soon much else will have followed it into fading memory'.

Mike was born on 15th June 1916. And now let us hear Mike's story as he would have narrated:

I am an engineer. Heavy engineering. My father was an engineer so I must have inherited something from him. Certainly never wanted to do anything else....though I did teach myself shorthand and typing once. They have always been useful skills to me'.

'Life is rather strange, you know. The shorthand and typing I learned while flat on my back in hospital. Was there for nine months and decided I had to do something useful to help pass the time.'

Paradoxically, it was the period in hospital which cut short his academic education. He was at school at Stowe when he broke a hip playing rugby. By the time he was discharged it was too late to rejoin his contemporaries so he decided to leave and go into industry.

'I got 14s 2d a week to start. It was a company manufacturing and fitting heavy engineering equipment and the background training was ideal. Apart from production work in the factory I managed to go out with the erectors and follow the job to completion'.

'I remember doing one job down in South Wales. There was the erector and myself as his unqualified assistant. Before we had got properly started, this chap fell ill and had to go off to hospital. Appendicitis, well, in those days you were away for at least a month'.

'I rang up the company in a flap and asked what I should do. They told me they would send down another apprentice but it was up to me to take over. I'm sure the customer didn't realize how inexperience and terrified we were. But we just got stuck in, did the job and it worked'.

It was some time after that when he performed the somewhat unusual feat of spending some time in a mortuary-as an 'inmate', if that is the word. He was working on a refrigeration unit when it exploded.

'I was a bit of a mess. They thought I was dead and crated me off to the mortuary. Then someone discovered there was still a tiny spark left and I was whipped off the slab and into bed. Actually, I was unconscious for five days'.

Hardly surprisingly, details of his two spells in hospital with serious injuries are not among those he cared to dwell on. But that he should have recovered from both, virtually physically and obviously mentally unscathed is some indication of the man's resilience.

Mike Satow recalls with some schoolboyish pleasure that he 'never actually filled an application form to join ICI'. He did a condensed course in engineering at Loughborugh after his second discharge from hospital, joined Mather & Platts from there, and then was, as he puts it, 'sent' to ICI. His career with the Company began to grow in 1942, He volunteered for active service in light coastal forces, but was sent back to concentrate on essential war production. In that year he was put in charge of engineering at Ellesmere Port. There followed a spell in Huddersfield before he moved to Billingham-his introduction to life in the north-east. First he was works engineer in nylon. Then, in '56, he was Senior Dyestuffs Engineer. In that year his career changed dramatically when he was singled out for 'big things' in India.

At that time Satow was 40, married with two boys and a girl, solidly entrenched in England in engineering management. He made the transition to India with no great trauma and by 1960 was ICI's Engineering Director there. Three years later he was a Joint Managing Director and, in '67, four years before retirement at 55, he took over the senior job- Managing Director of operations in India.

'We were based in Calcutta. It was incredibly hard work and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. The people were intellectually stimulating, hard-working, friendly. I wept at the thought of having to leave, little knowing I'd been asked to come back.'

It was not ICI who asked him, but the Ministry of Railways. He had always had an interest in the history of transport, but seldom looked hard at Railways. There were enough people doing that already, he thought.

But one wet afternoon in London, when he had finished some business at Millbank, the headquarters of ICI, he decided to fill in a couple of hours at Clapham Railway Museum. That chance visit was to lead to his great interest in restoration, renovation and reproduction of railway engines and warships.

'At Clapham I was approached by the Curator who asked if I could help in transporting a railway coach built in 1870 in Lucknow out to the Railway Museum being established in Delhi. I said yes, I could manage something, and that got me involved with old engines in India'.

'When the time came for us to return to England for good, the Ministry asked if I would be prepared to act as an Honorary Consultant for some years on the development of the museum. Having had such a marvellous time in India I jumped at the chance and have been going back to Delhi every now and then'.

Mike's association with the Rail Transport Museum started in 1970. He brought the ornate 1870 model of a coach built at Charbagh workshop of ORR back to India after a lapse of a century. Ideas took shape for the first museum of its kind in our country in 1970. Shri V.V.Giri the then President of India laid the foundation for the museum at its present site in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi on October 7, 1971, The museum was designed and built under the guidance of Mike Satow. It was inaugurated by Shri Kamalapati Tripathi on 1st February 1977.

The first of its kind in the country, the museum covers a land area of over 10 acres and comprises an elegantly designed octagonal building, having six display galleries, and a large open display area laid out to simulate the atmosphere of a railway yard. In this open space are exhibited some of the most exquisite specimens of railway engines and coaches carefully spaced for better photographic view.

Mike did the selection for over 50 original exhibits consisting of about 30 locomotives of different vintage and speciality. Being the Managing Director of ICI, he was able to use its private planes to go from place to place in search of the specimens and then organise their repairs at many of the railway workshops. Some of the exhibits which bear Mike's personal touch are described in more detail.

1. Fairy Queen is the matriarch of the ancient and sprawling clan. Built in 1855 by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson of U.K., this locomotive was used to haul light mail trains between Howrah and Raniganj. After its withdrawal from service, it was placed on a pedestal outside Howrah station from 1909 to 1943 and then was placed at the Zonal Training School, Chandausi from 1943 to 1972. It was brought to the museum in 1972 and was restored to perfect working order and painted in its original colour scheme. For a number of years, it retained the title of 'Oldest Working Locomotive anywhere in the World'.

2. Ramgotty named after Ramgotty Mukerjee, the last general manager of the 4 feet gauge Nalhati-Azimganj Light Railway was built in 1862 by M/s Anjubault of Paris, France. East Indian Railway regauged it to 5 ft. 6 in. in 1892 and it became a shunting engine at Jamalpur. It ended its working life in 1951 at Calcutta Corporation hauling refuse. In its centenary year, Ramgotty expired, but in 1974, it was rescued after Mike has spotted it, returned to Jamalpur where a number of missing parts, including motion was built under Mike's supervision. It now reposes at the Museum.

3. Patiala State Monorail Tramway in 1907 purchased four extraordinary locomotives with outriggers to operate the line from Patiala towards Sunam. They finished work in 1914 and was dumped in the PWD godown. In 1964 one Mr. Ambler wrote an article published in 'Railway World' describing about an extraordinary monorail system operated in Patiala from 1907 to 1914. Taking clues from this article Mike made a search and found the remains of 4 locomotives and a number of carriages half buried in the PWD scrap yard at Patiala. One seemingly good locomotive was moved to Amritsar, of course after a lot of bureaucratic hassles. At the Railway Workshop of Amritsar, this too was rebuilt under Mike's guidance and now works regularly at the museum.

Mike's love for locomotives specially if it involved rebuilding was beyond description. At Calcutta, he bought a tiny loco from Rishra, took it to U.K. rebuilt it. It now bears the name of 'RISHRA' and operates on the Leighton Buzzard preserved railway.

Mike located 10 beautiful 1:4 scale models of coaches sent from India for the Wembley exhibition in 1921 and kept in British Museums, though the records continued to show exhibits on 'loan' from Indian Railways. He organised for their transfer back to India and are now on display at the Museum.

Things were going quite well till early 1993. He was always as energetic as a youngster in thirties would be. He had passed through a bad year when his wife was ailing for many months and almost lost her eyes. His association with many of the preservation societies was as usual and he had been visiting places both in U.K. and elsewhere taking and working his exhibits from Tokyo to Sacremento in U.S.A. But early 1993, he showed signs of disintegration of bones. In the last week of July, I was able to see him in good shape mainly due to a heavy dose of painkillers. His wife Peggy was full of sorrow in describing Mike's terminal illness though Mike was assuring me, "Ratan, I am not going to give up so easily. I am going to fight this battle". Alas! he could not continue and breathed his last on 13th November 1993.

Indian Railways are indebted to this great man who served honorarily for twenty four years in the cause of bringing out glimpses of our hoary past. But for him many a chapters of the history and development of Indian Railways would have been buried in debris of dust and so would have many a locomotives cut up and sold.

E. R. Calthrop

The Barsi Light Railway owes its original conception to the refusal, in 1886, of the Secretary of State for India to permit the G.I.P. Railway to construct a branch line of standard (5 ft 6 in) gauge, which led Mr Everard R Calthrop to apply in the following year to the Bombay Government for permission to construct a line of 2 ft 7 in gauge alongside the then existing Government road to Barsi. Mr Calthrop had to pursue his point doggedly for nearly eight years before obtaining success, and in 1895 a contract between the Secretary to State and the Barsi Light Railway Company was signed; this was followed by the issue of pound sterling 75,000 capital in ordinary shares, and the work of construction began on January 1st, 1896. The original line, 21 miles long, extending from Barsi Road, a station on the GIP Railway midway between Dhond and Sholapur, to Barsi town in the Nizam's Dominions, was opened on March 18, 1897. On September 6, 1894, an extension from Barsi to Tadwale, a distance of 26 miles, was commenced, which was opened for traffic on May 1, 1906; for this development a further issue of pound sterling 85,000 ordinary shares was effected, though the actual cost was well within the estimates. On May 25, 1905, work was commenced on a southward extension from Barsi Road to Pandharpur, 31 miles, to meet the cost of which pound sterling 140,000 debenture stock was issued, and this line was opened on December 1, 1907.

In 1907, it was intended to extend the line in both directions, from Tadwale to Latur, 36 miles, and from Pandharpur to Miraj, 84 miles. Both these extensions were in the territory of the Nizam of Hyderabad. The first extension to Latur was completed on 1st May, 1911 while the extension to Miraj had to wait for a long time and could be completed on 3rd November, 1927.

The Barsi Light Railway continued to manage its affairs as owned by a private company registered on the 11th of June, 1895 in the UK even after independence. The contract was determined on the 31st December, 1953 and the line was purchased by the Government of India and merged with the Central Railway with effect from the 1st January 1954. The railway under its company ownership was a profit making enterprise as could be seen from the table given below:

Barsi Light Railway Financial Statistics
Year Route km Capital Outlay (Rs. in lakhs) Gross earnings (Rs. in lakhs) Net earnings (Rs. in lakhs) Profit % Operating Ratio
1913-14 186.42 71.47 13.19 08.47 11.45 35.38
1923-24 189.09 90.71 18.65 09.53 10.50 48.90
1933-34 326.25 186.69 20.02 08.07 04.32 59.69
1943-44 326.25 184.28 35.37 20.88 11.33 40.95
1952-53 326.25 207.72 56.40 12.27 05.91 78.22

In designing the permanent way and rolling stock of this light railway, Mr Calthrop had in view the devising of a railway which, while retaining a proper traffic capacity in respect of vehicles and train loads, would reduce the cost per mile of track to a figure much below that of the metre gauge. How far this result had been attained may be gathered from the fact that , despite the restrictions of the gauge to that of almost a 'toy' railway, 'it required one and a half broad gauge (5 ft 6 in) wagons to take the ordinary load of one Barsi narrow gauge wagon; and the hauling capacity of the Barsi Locomotives was sufficient, notwithstanding the restrictions of axle load to 5 tons to carry, train for train, the same loads of goods and passengers on rails 35 lb per yard, as the broad gauge Great Indian Peninsula Railway ordinarily carried over equal gradients on rails nearly three times the weight.'

The original engines were eight-coupled in front, outside cylinder tank engines, with a four wheeled swing-link bogie truck at the trailing end. They had 13 in by 18 in cylinders, and 2 ft 6 in coupled wheels, and the boiler carried a pressure of 150 lb per sq in; they measured 29 ft 6 in over buffers, and weighed 29 tons 8 cwt in working order. An ordinary train hauled by one of these locomotives between Barsi Town and Barsi Road would consist of 18 vehicles. 14 wagons and 4 passenger coaches, weighing a total of from 250 to 260 tons. Messrs. Kitson & Co. Ltd., of Leeds supplied the locomotives designed by Mr Calthrop. The first lot as described in the above para was of 0-8-4 T configuration named as 'A' class and built in 1896. The cover page of this magazine shows one of these earliest locomotives.

The second lot of locomotives were of slightly greater power and were of 4-8-4 T configuration. Built in 1905 and 1907, some of these locomotives served for over 70 years. One of these, No.710 BS class, built in 1907 has been preserved and beautify Rail Nilayam, the headquarters of South Central Railway.

Barsi Light Railway also procured few sentinel design locomotives and two railcars from sentinel design locomotives and two railcars from Sentinel Waggon Works Ltd., Shrewsbury.

Calthrop designed coaches and wagons to suit BLR. The motto was 'Never refuse any consignment.' Leeds forgings and pressings played an important role in the design of rolling stock. A good example of BLR wagon has been preserved at Rail Transport Museum, New Delhi. A few details of the rolling stock taken from the magazine 'The Locomotive' of January 15, 1907:

'A new type of carriage stock specially provided for the Pandharpur extension of the line, which is intended to cater for the traffic to and from the Pandharpur Fairs, consists of made-up or 'set-trains' of four Pilgrim coaches. Each of these coaches is 42 ft long overhead stocks, 45 ft over buffers, with the body 7 ft 6 in wide, and accommodates a minimum of 67 passengers (with the generous allowance of 19 in required by Government regulations). These coaches are beautifully finished inside and out, and lighted by electricity by means of a dynamo and accumulators fitted to one of each set of four; two composite brake vans fitted with dynamos or batteries of which may be out of order. The latest type of locomotive is capable of hauling four of these 'set-trains' coupled together, during the rush of the Fair seasons, from 1,200 to 1,500 passengers can be accommodated in each Pilgrim train.

'All the wagon stock is of the double bogie type, and has the same general dimensions, 25 ft long over headstocks and 6 ft 7 in wide inside. It consists of three different capacities of wagon: low side, with a tare of 4 tons 2 cwt and paying load of 15 tons 18 cwt.; high side, with a tare of 5 tons 7 cwt., and paying load of 14 tons 13 cwt.; and covered, with a tare of 5 tons 18 cwt., and paying load of 14 tons 2 cwt. There is also a newer type of covered wagon having a tare of 6 tons 6 cwt., with its body built to the extreme limits of the loading gauge, which is intended to accommodate six horses or eight ponies under military conditions. *It is a proud boast that no article, however heavy or bulky, has ever been refused transport by the Barsi Light Railway*, and as a confirmation of this may be mentioned that Galloway boilers, 28 ft 6 in long and 7 ft 6 in in diameter, weighing 14 tons, have been carried, each on a single low-side wagon, which was well within the limit of weight imposed by the rule of 5 tons per axle. It may also be mentioned that these and other similar boilers carried by the Light Railway required two standard gauge wagons each to convey them over the GIP system.'

The author would gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by Dr R S Fitzgerald, Curator of Leeds Industrial Museum, Leeds, U.K. in providing substantial material for this article (copies of 'The Locomotive' and 'Engineering' magazines published in 1896, 1897 and 1907). Dr Fitzgerald also took the author to Newlay where extensive trials of the rolling stock was organised in October, 1896. A test track was laid at Newlay, near Leeds, for the purpose of illustrating the method of working adopted on the Barsi Light Railway. The exhibition was organised by the Leeds Forge Company, who pressed steel bogies and under frames used in the construction of the rolling stock. Plan and profile of the experimental line is reproduced from 'Engineering' dated January 22, 1897. It will be seen that on the loop round the dining and exhibition tents, there is a curve first of 150 ft radius and then of 175 ft radius, next to which is a reverse curve of 150 ft radius. Steepest gradient of 1 in 57 was chosen for the test track. The test train weighed 229 tons, 342 ft 6 in long and ran on rails 30 lb to 35 lb per yard. The accompanied sketch gives the Newlay layout as it was in 1896.

Details of dates of opening of Barsi Light Railway has been tabulated. All the construction took place while Mr Calthrop was on the helm of affairs of the Company, initially as managing director but in later years as its consulting engineer.

Barsi Light Railway
Section Date of Opening Route km
Main line
Kurduwadi to Barsi Town 01.03.1897 34.75
Extension in British Territory
Barsi Town to Kuslamb 15.06.1905 10.20
Kuslamb to Tadwale 01.05.190632.77
Kurduwadi to Pandharpur Town 02.12.190652.53
Tadwale to Latur 01.05.191159.34
Pandharpur to Miraj 03.11.1927136.66
Total open kilometerage  326.25
Material provided by R R Bhandari, Copyright © 2008.
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