Howrah District (1909)
"Howrah" by L. S. S. O'Malley and M. Chakravarti in the Bengal District Gazetteer Series, Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, Calcutta (1909)
Made available by the Internet Archive.
Source: Library of the University of California, San Diego
Edited by R Sivaramakrishnan. Posted to IRFCA on: August 18, 2008.
What is Howrah without THE bridge? It is interesting to learn that the original floating bridge, constructed in 1874, derived its revenues mainly from a small toll on railway traffic at the rate of Re. 1 per 100 maunds of goods, which was paid by the East Indian Railway:
in Howrah town several bridges have been built over the East Indian Railway and the Bengal-Nagpur Railway lines, the finest being the Buckland Bridge leading to Howrah station, which is more than a quarter mile long.
By far the most important bridge, however, is the Howrah Bridge over the river Hooghly, which connects Howrah with Calcutta. This is a floating bridge, the middle section of which is movable so as to allow of the passage of vessels up and down the river. It is 1,528 feet between abutments and has a roadway for carriages, 48 feet in width, with footpaths, 7 feet wide, on either side. The construction of a bridge over the Hooghly at or near Calcutta was mooted over half a century ago, a committee being appointed to consider the project in 1855-56; but the idea was given up in 1859-60. The question was revived in 1868, and it was eventually decided that Government should construct the bridge and that its management should be handed over to a Trust. In 1871 an Act was passed empowering the Lieutenant-Governor to have the bridge constructed with
[ p. 122]
Government capital, to make and maintain ways and approaches, to authorize the levy of tolls and to appoint Port Commissioners to carry out the purposes of the Act. A contract was entered into with Sir Bradford Leslie for its construction, and the work was forthwith commenced in England, the different portions of the bridge being sent out and put together in Calcutta. The work of construction was completed in 1874; and the bridge having been opened to traffic in October of that year, was made over to the Port Commissioners for management under Act IX of 1871, the cost, 22 lakhs of rupees with interest at Rs. 4 1/2 per cent., being made the first charge to be repaid in thirty instalments. The total net revenue of the bridge since it was opened in 1874 amounts to Rs. 34,11,410. The main item in the receipts consists of a small toll on railway traffic at the rate of Re. 1 per 100 maunds of goods, which is paid by the East Indian Railway. The income from this toll has been growing steadily, rising from Rs. 1,46,695 in 1899-1900 to Rs. 2,16,360 in 1907-08. In that year the total receipts amounted to Rs. 2,40,593 and the expenditure to Rs. 2,21,111. Of the latter Rs. 62,603 were spent on establishment and Rs. 90,847 on repairs while Rs. 13,000 wore paid as a contribution to the Calcutta Port Trust on account of management. Before 1906, the bridge was opened for the passage of vessels only in the daytime, but since June of that year it has been opened at night for all vessels except ocean steamers, which have to pass through by day. The number of openings was thus raised to 24, while the average number of day openings was reduced from 13 to 4 in a month, with much less inconvenience to general traffic. In 1907-08, 130 sea-going vessels, 2,033 flats and inland steamers, 715 launches and steam tugs, 133 Port Commissioners' vessels, and 9 Government steamers with flats passed through the bridge in all 3,020.
About the railways themselves, and, of course, the tramways:
The district is traversed by two broad (5 feet 6 inches) gauge railways, the East Indian Railway and the Bengal-Nagpur Railway, and by two light railways (2 feet gauge), the Howrah-Amta and Howrah-Shiakhala Railways. The East Indian Railway has only a very short length in this district, viz., 6 miles to Bally and 2 miles to Shalimar; but as Howrah is its terminus, the growth and prosperity of the town, and indirectly of the whole district, is intimately connected with the line. Survey was begun in 1845, and construction in 1851; and the first section from Howrah to Hooghly was opened in 1854. In 1855 the line was opened as far as Raniganj and in 1862 up to Benares. It is unnecessary to refer to the further development of the railway, such as its extension to Delhi and elsewhere, the shortening of the route by the Chord line and in 1907 by the Grand Chord line, the opening of branch lines, the acquisition of collieries, and the expansion of traffic.
During recent years numerous improvements have been made on the line within this district. The Howrah station was, remodelled and improved first after the opening of the Hooghly bridge, and later on the formation of a joint station with the Bengal-Nagpur Railway. The old station buildings have been made over to the latter; and the East Indian Railway has now a large imposing building with sis long platforms for trains. Outside, a long row of godowns has been erected for the enormous goods traffic, especially in coal, wheat, rice, and oil-seeds, which comes to Howrah. Quarters have also been built at Howrah and its suburb Bamangachhi for the European staff. A small branch line has been run along the Hooghly to Shalimar so as to establish connection with the Kidderpore Docks. A large area has been acquired at Liluah, to which the carriage and wagon building shops have been removed, and a shunting yard for goods wagons has been laid out at the
same place. Lastly, for the convenience of suburban passengers there is a succession of trains running from Howrah to Uttarpara, in addition to ordinary mail and passenger trains.
The other great line, the Bengal-Nagpur Railway, was extended to Howrah in 1900, thus connecting the district with the Central Provinces and Bombay on the west, and with Orissa and Madras on the south. It enters the district by a fine bridge over the Rupnarayan, goes east up to Uluberia, running for several miles parallel to the Grand Trunk Road and the High Level Canal, and then north-east along the Hooghly river to Howrah. A short branch, 3 miles long, from Santragachhi to Shalimar station carries the heavy traffic intended for export overseas direct to the Kidderpore Docks, the train crossing the Hooghly in large ferry steamers. As far as this district is concerned, the line has developed the goods traffic from the Uluberia subdivision and has given increased facilities ~ for passenger traffic from that part to Howrah and Calcutta.
The light railways had their origin in an agreement, dated 12 June 1889 between the District Board of Howrah and Messrs. Walsh, Lovett & Co., which was subsequently renewed with Messrs. Martin & Co., and sanctioned by Government notification in the Calcutta Gazette of March 27th, 1895. The capital of the Howrah-Shiakhala line is six lakhs ; while the capital of the Howrah-Amta line was raised from nine lakhs to sixteen lakhs by the issue of additional shares for four lakhs and of debentures for three lakhs. Under the contract all profits in excess of four per cent, on the capital are distributed in equal shares between the companies and the District Boards of Howrah and Hooghly in the case of the Howrah-Amta line with the Howrah Board and of the Howrah-Shiakhala line with the Hooghly Board. The Boards on their part have made over their roads for the use of the railways and guarantee an interest of 4 per cent.
The Howrah-Amta line was opened up to Dumjor in 1897, and to Amta in 1898. An extension from Bargachhia (Bargechhe) junction to Antpur was opened in 1904, and a further extension to Champadanga in 1908. This extension, however, lies almost exclusively in the Serampore subdivision. Both the Howrah- Amta and Howrah-Shiakhala lines start from Telkalghat on the Hooghly river, and skirting the Court maidan pass through the crowded Panchauantala road to Kadamtala station. Here they separate, the Howrah-Sliiakhala line running north-west along the Benares road to the border of the district, and thence to Shiukhala in the Serampore subdivision. The Howrah-Amta line runs west, chiefly along the side of the Jagatballabhpur road,
and then goes south-west to Amta, a length of nearly 29 miles. Both lines, and especially the Howrah-Amta line, have proved profitable concerns, and a remarkable expansion has taken place in goods and passenger traffic. The gross earnings of the Howrah-Amta line increased from Rs. 2,56,418 in 1900 to Rs. 3,28,722 in 1905 ; and in 1905-06 and the two succeeding years the Howrah Board received as its share Rs. 39,563, Rs. 38,680 and Rs. 39,696 respectively.
The Calcutta Tramways Co. has now extended its operations to Howrah. In pursuance of a license granted, under notification No. 9, dated 26th November 1907, the Company has established a central power station at the corner of the Dobson and Golabari Roads, and is laying down tram lines (4 feet 8 1/2 inches gauge) along four routes. The southern section was opened for traflfic on 10th June 1908. Beginning from the Howrah bridge the line in this section runs over the railway overbridge and across the Court maidan to Kaoraparaghat road, Sibpur, for a distance of nearly two miles. Both the northern routes start from the bridge and terminate at the southern end of Ghusuri road, one passing by Howrah road and Grolabari road, the other by the Grand Trunk Road and Haraganj road. The fourth route connects the Ghusuri road with Kaoraparaghat road, Sibpur, passing over the crowded Haraganj and Grand Trunk Roads.
The main conditions of the license are (1) that the Company shall finish the work within two years from the date of the license, (2) that a continuous current at a pressure of 550 volts shall be transmitted from the central generating station by means of underground cables to over-head trolly-wires from which the cars will derive the necessary electric power and (3) that the Municipality or the Local Government shall have the option of purchasing the undertaking at 25 times the difference between the average gross annual receipts and the working expenses either on 1st January 1931 or at the end of every subsequent period of seven years thereafter.