IR History: Early Days - II

Chronology of railways in India, Part 2 (1870 - 1899)

  • 1870
  • March 7: GIPR connection over the Thull Ghat reaches Jubbulpore (Jabalpur) from Itarsi, linking up with EIR track there from Allahabad, and establishing connectivity between Bombay and Calcutta.
  • BBCI Railway runs direct trains between Ahmedabad and Bombay.
  • October: Sind, Punjab, and Delhi Railway completes Amritsar-Saharanpur-Ghaziabad line, linking Punjab Railway with the EIR and providing connectivity between Multan and Delhi.
  • Mughalsarai - Lahore main line is also completed.
  • Lord Mayo introduces meter gauge as a compromise between proposals for narrow gauges less thand 3' and broad gauge, for use in areas with limited traffic.
  • Mobile post-office services in trains on EIR.
  • The Nizam of Hyderabad pays for the construction of a railway linking Hyderabad to the GIPR.
  • Jamalpur workshop gets a rolling mill of its own.
  • 1871
  • South-east of Kalyan, the GIPR line extended over the Bhore Ghat to reach Raichur, connecting with the Madras Railway, whose branch line out of Arakkonam reaches Raichur by now.
  • BB&CI line to Viramgam.
  • The 'Shorter Main Line' on the Delhi-Calcutta route (via Jhajha, Patna) is in place with the completion of the section from Raniganj to Kiul.
  • EBR line from Calcutta to Goalundo opens.
  • EIR trackage totals 1350 miles; other railways: GIPR -- 875, Madras Railway -- 680, Sind and Punjab -- 400, BBCI -- 300, East Bengal -- 115, and Great Southern -- 170.
  • 1872
  • Bombay suburban services extended to Arthur Bunder in Colaba.
  • First (??) MG line from Delhi to Farukh Nagar is built.
  • The Saunders system of air-cooling first-class coaches is introduced on the GIPR.
  • BB&CI line to Wadhwan (Surendranagar)
  • GSIR merged with with the MG Carnatic Rly.
  • Oudh & Rohilkund Rly. opens line from Benares (Varanasi) to Lucknow.
  • 1873
  • Colaba Terminus commissioned, envisioned as a temporary station pending completion of a permanent line between Marine Lines and Churchgate, making Marine Lines the new terminus.
  • The world's first commercial MG sevice runs from Delhi to Rewari.
  • Dabhoi-Miyagam line (the first 2'6" line) is re-laid with stronger rails to allow locomotives to be used (earlier oxen were the motive power) although locomotives were not used regularly on this until 1880. This later becomes part of the Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway.
  • Early attempts to set up a horse-drawn tram system in Calcutta, between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street (3.8km). This service opened on Feb. 24 and closed by Nov. 20 for lack of patronage.
  • Stearnes and Kittredge get contract for horse-drawn tram system in Bombay.
  • 1874-1880
  • Famines in several areas of India result in more railway lines being bulit for relief.
  • 1874
  • Wadi-Secunderabad railway line built with financing from the Nizam of Hyderabad, and later becomes part of the Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway. Secunderabad railway station built by this railway.
  • Delhi-Bandikui, Bandikui-Agra lines of Rajputana State Railway opened, and Alwar line is under construction (all MG).
  • Fourth Class accommodation is introduced on several railways, consisting of coaches with no seats in them, or just a few benches, as a way of alleviating overcrowding.
  • Lord Salisbury, Secretary of State for India, stipulates the use of BG to settle the gauge debate, and work begins on relaying many MG lines to BG.
  • "F" class 0-6-0 MG locomotives are introduced, soon to be among the most widely-used in India for just about all kinds of duties. Dubs & co. of Glasgow built the first few.
  • GSIR and Carnatic Rly. merger is now renamed the South Indian Railway.
  • ORR extends line from Lucknow to Moradabad.
  • Tirhoot State Rly. opens MG lines to Samastipur and Darbhanga.
  • SIR on July 1 takes over GSIR (BG) and Carnatic Rly. (MG).
  • May 9: Horse-drawn tram system begins operation in Bombay, betwen Parel and Colaba. Operated by Stearnes and Kittredge with a stable of 900 horses.
  • 1875
  • Hathras Road - Mathura Cantt. section opened to traffic. The first train runs here on Oct. 19.
  • Rajputana State Railway MG line reaches Ajmer.
  • Special train built for the Prince of Wales on his visit to India; this train is later used as the vice-regal train for the next 3 decades.
  • Former GSIR Nagapatnam - Trichinopoly BG line converted to MG.
  • 1877
  • Indian Railway Conference Association (IRCA) formed.
  • 1877
  • Construction work begins on the Ajmer workshops of the Rajputana-Malwa State Rly.
  • Masjid, Parel, Ghatkopar, Diva, and Chinchpokli stations opened for Mumbai local services.
  • (Possibly 1876?) Emile Moreau, a French author, and T K Bannerjee, an Indian businessman, start the bookstore chain 'A H Wheeler & Co.', which later spread to have its book stalls in a great many small and big railway stations in India, especially in the north. The company was also the one that published Rudyard Kipling in 1988 when he was all but unknown. The company's name was borrowed from a then-successful London bookstore, Arthur Henry Wheeler's.
  • 1878
  • Punjab Northern State Railway builds the Lahore-Jhelum line (parts that opened as MG in 1876 are converted to BG).
  • Railway line laid across the Bolan Pass to help move men and materiel during hostilities in Afghanistan.
  • Indus Valley State Rly. opens Multan-Kotri line.
  • Khandwa-Indore MG line of Holkar State Railway under construction, passing the Mhow ghat section by 1878.
  • Construction of Victoria Terminus begins in Bombay.
  • Construction of the Siliguri-Darjeeling line, the first hill railway in India (not counting the ghat sections near Bombay).
  • 1879
  • In a reversal of the broad-gauge policy instituted under Lord Salisbury, the Rajputana-Malwa Railway is authorized to build its lines to meter-gauge.
  • Continuous vacuum brakes are brought into use for passenger rakes.
  • BB&CI extends BG network to Wadhwan (Surendranagar) in Kathiawar.
  • Ahmedabad-Palanpur MG section opened.
  • All of the former GSIR lines (now in SIR) are converted to MG from BG.
  • The state takes over the Nizam's Railway.
  • North Bengal State Rly. opens Parbatipur-Kaunia MG line.
  • (1877?) Following an agreement between the British and the French, an MG line is laid between Pondicherry and Villupuram.
  • Parel workshops established.
  • 1880
  • About 9,000 miles of railways in India, of which 2,175 miles are state-owned. Famine Commission suggests creating another 5,000 miles of railways, and private construction of railways is resumed.
  • EIR taken over by the state (1879?), but the construction and operation of the railway are handed back to the company.
  • The Kandahar State Railway from Ruk to Sibi is formed; 133.5 miles of track are laid in 101 days!
  • The Darjeeling Steam Tramway (later the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) starts services on its first section, the Siliguri-Darjeeling line.
  • The durable 'L' class 4-6-0 tender locos make their appearance.
  • GIPR runs about 14 local services in each direction in Mumbai, including five terminating at Kurla. It is believed that at this time Currey Road station is used for loading and unloading horses for the races at Mahalaxmi.
  • Bhavnagar-Wadhwan (Surendranagar) line opened by Kathiawar State Rly. (later part of Bhavnagar State Rly.). (MG)
  • Kanpur-Farukhabad section is operational.
  • Dec. 22 : Calcutta Tramways Co. incorporated.
  • Early 1880's
  • Bengal and North Western, Bengal Central, Rohilkhand-Kumaon, and Indian Midland Railways formed without guarantees; Southern Mahratta Railways formed with guarantees.
  • 1881
  • Ajmer-Ahmedabad line (MG) opens, and becomes part of the Rajputana State Railway.
  • September: Darjeeling Steam Tramway becomes the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
  • The Maharaja Sindia of Gwalior opens the Agra-Gwalior line of what became the Sindia State Rly.
  • Jan.: Horse-drawn trams begin regular operation in Calcutta.
  • 1882
  • BB&CI trunk route reaches Godhra.
  • Khandwa-Indore line extended to Ajmer.
  • Rajputana State Rly. merged into Rajputana Malwa Rly.
  • Bangalore-Mysore MG line opened by the Mysore State Rly. (this line later went to the Southern Mahratta Railway Co. which was chartered in 1882 to operate some famine-relief lines opened by the state).
  • Marwar-Pali section opened on June 24 as part of the new Jodhpur Railway.
  • Bangalore City linked to Bangalore Cantonment by Madras Railway.
  • Assam Rly. and Trading Co. opens Dibrugarh/Amlapatty - Dinjan Stream MG section as part of the Dibru-Sadia Railway (section operational on Aug. 15).
  • Railway Watch and Ward, the predecessor of the RPF, constituted.
  • Post of Director General of Railways is created in the Central Public Works Department.
  • Jan 1: Victoria Terminus, still under construction, is opened to the public.
  • First 'A' class tank locomotives built for the DHR.
  • Nagpur-Rajnandgaon MG line opened.
  • Steam tramway system begins operating in Calcutta.
  • 1883
  • Punjab Northern State Railway line extended from Jhelum to Peshawar.
  • Attock bridge across the Indus is constructed.
  • 1884
  • Bengal-Nagpur Railway (a private company) sanctioned, with guarantees.
  • A Select Committee in the House of Commons recommends continuing the policy of using MG for local and secondary lines only, and suggests that feeder lines to BG should also be BG.
  • Amlapatty - Dinjan route extended to Tinsukia and Margherita.
  • Pali-Luni section of Jodhpur Railway opens on June 17.
  • Delhi-Mathura line opened
  • Calcutta-Khulna line opened by Bengal Central Rly.
  • Bhopal-Itarsi line opened by the Begum of Bhopal.
  • Southern Mahratta Rly. Co. opens Hospet-Bellary and Gadag-Hotgi lines.
  • April: Bengal & North-Western Rly. opens Nawabganz-Gonda-Bahraich line (MG).
  • MG lines: Assam Behar State Rly. builds to Parbatipur; Bangalore-Tumkur-Gubbi (Mysore State Rly.); Rohilkund-Kumaon Rly. builds line to Kathgodam.
  • Budni-Burkhera ghat section opened.
  • NG lines: Two lines from Kaunia to Dharlla river (part of the East Bengal State Rly.)
  • Meridian Conference in Washington, DC, sets the foundation for worldwide standard time zones from which, eventually, Indian Standard Time emerged in the 20th century.
  • 1885
  • Jodhpur is connected (via Luni) to the Rajputana Malwa Railway network (first train on March 9) (MG). This line later becomes part of the Jodhpur Bikaner Rly.
  • Seats are provided in Fourth Class accommodation. Simultaneously, accommodation classes are reorganized so that the Fourth Class becomes Third Class, Third Class is renamed Second Class, and Second Class is transformed to "Inter" Class.
  • First coaches (wooden-bodied) with steel underframes introduced.
  • Assam Rlys. & Trading Co. builds Dibru-Sadiya Rly. (MG)
  • Narayangang-Mymensingh MG line opened by Dacca State Rly.
  • DHR line extended to Darjeeling Bazaar.
  • April 20: A steam tramway opens in Karachi.
  • Victoria Terminus - Byculla track is doubled.
  • 1886
  • ORR line extended to Saharanpur.
  • NG lines: Cherra-Companyganj Rly. (Cherrapunjee Mountain Rly.) builds line from Companyganj to Therria Ghat and across it to Cherrapunji with 7 gradients worked by rope mechanisms.
  • Miraj-Pune MG line opened.
  • Karachi's steam tramway is replaced by a horse-drawn system.
  • 1887
  • Dufferin Bridge constructed over the Ganga at Varanasi, allowing EIR trains to go from Mughalsarai to Varanasi.
  • Victoria Terminus named after Queen Victoria on Jubilee Day.
  • 1888
  • Madras Railway trunk route from Madras extended along the west coast to Calicut.
  • Construction of Bombay's Victoria Terminus building is completed. The cost was estimated at Rs 1,640,000
  • Landsdowne bridge over the Indus (at Sukkur).
  • Kushtia-Siliguri line (MG) of North Bengal State Railway.
  • A. H. Wheeler and Co. introduce their Indian Railway Library series of publications.
  • Southern Mahratta Rly.'s main eastward route connects with other lines going until Bezwada (Vijayawada), which were later taken over by the SMR. The section in Goa worked by SMR for West of India Portuguese Rly. terminating at Marmagoa opens.
  • 1889
  • Nizam's State Railway's main line is extended to Bezwada (Vijayawada).
  • Delhi-Ambala-Kalka line laid.
  • A Select Committee in the House of Commons recommends against laying any new MG lines outside areas where MG was dominant.
  • Jamshedpur workshops work on putting together some locos (but the first complete loco is not built in India until 1895 at Ajmer).
  • EIR appoints the first Signal Engineer in India (Mr S T Dutton).
  • Jodhpur Bikaner Railway formed.
  • First 'B' class locomotives of the DHR built.
  • Indian Midland Rly. opens lines from Jhansi to Gwalior, Kanpur, Manikpur, and Bhopal.
  • Assam Behar State Rly.'s Parbatipur MG line is extended to Katihar.
  • Jamlpur-Jagannathganj Rly. open to traffic.
  • Gubbi-Birur-Harihar MG line opened by Mysore State Rly.
  • Six platforms constructed at Bombay Victoria Terminus.
  • 1890
  • Goa-Guntakal MG line completed by the Southern Mahratta Rly Co., with branches from Londa to Poona (connecting to Mysore via Bangalore, and also with Gadag-Hotgi), and Bezwada (Vijayawada) to Marmagoa.
  • East Coast State Railway (government-owned) sanctioned.
  • SIR taken over by the state, but working of lines is by a reconstituted SIR company (1891?).
  • NG lines: Wadhwan-Morvi-Rajkot line opened (later converted to BG); Shahjahanpur-Powayan (Powayan Steam Tramways).
  • (Approximate date) Some time in the 1890s third class passengers are allowed on the prestigious Mail trains.
  • Railways Act passed by the government defining the framework for railway construction and operation.
  • 1891
  • Jodhpur connected to Bikaner by MG (Jodhpur - Merta Road opened April 8, Merta Road - Nagaur on Oct. 16, and Nagaur-Bikaner on Dec. 9).
  • Following political and passenger demands, toilet facilities are introduced on a large scale in first class carriages.
  • Khojak tunnel opens, the westernmost point of the Kandahar State Rly. (Chaman Extension Rly.) which was to reach Afghanistan but which in fact never crossed the frontier from British India beyond Chaman. At the time, this was the longest railway tunnel in the subcontinent.
  • Construction begins for the Nilgiri railway.
  • Delhi-Ambala-Kalka line opened.
  • Rope-worked section over Therria Ghat of Cherra-Companyganj Rly. dismantled.
  • Dec. 1: Mysore - Nanjangud line (24km, MG) opened.
  • 1892
  • Assam Bengal Railway incorporated (MG).
  • Early use of simple mechnanical interlocking devices (List and List & Morse systems) at six single line crossings of NWR.
  • BB&CI line to Godhra
  • Yeshwantpur-Dodballapur MG line by Mysore State Rly.
  • 1893
  • The government-built Godhra-Nagda link is handed over to the BB&CI Railway for operation.
  • Cabin interlocking introduced in some places by the GIPR on the Bombay-Delhi route. (Equipment supplied by Saxby and Farmer.)
  • First railway foundry set up at Jamalpur Workshops
  • Merta - Kuchaman section opened to carry salt traffic from the Rajputana areas.
  • Bengal Dooars Rly. opens (MG).
  • Cuttack - Khurda Road - Puri line opened by the East Coast Rly.
  • MG line from Yeshwantpur extended to Mysore frontier by Mysore State Rly.
  • 1894
  • List & Morse interlocking system introduced for 29 single line crossings between Lahore and Ghaziabad.
  • NG lines: Powayan Steam Tramways extended to Mailani on the Rohilkund-Kumaon Rly.
  • 1895
  • First locomotive built in India at the Ajmer works, an 'F' class 0-6-0 MG loco for the Rajputana Malwa Railway (F-734). This is now preserved at the National Rail Museum.
  • Udaipur-Chittorgarh MG line built by the Mewar Darbar.
  • NG lines: Tezpore-Balipara; Tarakeshwar-Howrah (Bengal Provincial Rly. Co.)
  • Madras trams begin operating, with a conduit system. (This is replaced in 1905 with electric traction.)
  • Howrah station gets its third platform.
  • 1896
  • Indian railway staff and some MG locos are sent overseas to help build the Uganda Railway.
  • BB&CI line to Nagda and Ujjain.
  • 1897
  • The first section of the NG Barsi Light Railway is built from Barsi Road Junction to Barsi Town.
  • (Late 1890's) Lighting in passenger coaches introduced by many railway companies. Lower classes tended to get gas lamps, whereas upper classes sometimes got electric lights, but often gas or oil lamps.
  • First Godavari bridge built near Rajahmundry, helping Chennai-Howrah traffic.
  • Hoogly (Hooghly) bridge built.
  • Strategic considerations from the War Department force all new narrow-gauge lines to be laid to 2'6" gauge instead of 2' gauge from 1897 onwards. 2'6" was the narrow-gauge standard for all the imperial colonies.
  • Rajkot - Jamnagar MG section opened by Jamnagar Rly.
  • Mettupalayam-Coonoor rail line constructed.
  • Delhi - Bhatinda - Samasatta line opened by Southern Punjab Railway Co.
  • 1898
  • August: Mettupalayam-Coonoor rail line opens, but is soon closed after heavy rains cause severe damage to the track.
  • NG lines: Howrah-Amta, Howrah-Sheakhala (2' gauge, Martin & Co.).
  • 1899
  • Maharaj Scindia of Gwalior opens NG (2') railway lines from Gwalior to Bhind and Shivpuri. These later become part of the Gwalior Light Railways.
  • Jamalpur Workshops officially begin producing steam locomotives (earlier they were putting together locomotives with parts from other locomotives, etc.). The first engine is CA 764, Lady Curzon.
  • July 12: Mysore-Nanjangud extended to Nanjangud Town station.
  • Nov. 1 : Through BG connection between Bezwada (Vijayawada) and Madras (Chennai) opens.
  • Mettupalaiyam-Coonoor section of the Nilgiri Mountain Rly. re-opens after repair and restoration.
  • Bina-Baran line opened.
  • South Indian Railway begins Madras - Tuticorin service connecting with the boat to Ceylon, using vestibuled coaches for both First and Second class. The trip takes nearly 22 hours for the 443 mile route.
  • Electric traction for trams introduced in Calcutta.

The chronology continues in Part 3, listing events from 1900 - 1947. Part 4 covers 1947 to 1970. Modern times are listed in Part 5 - 1970 to 1995 & Part 6 - 1995 to 1999, and Part 7 - 2000 to the present.

The chronology begins in Part 1 (1832 - 1870).


Victoria Terminus Plaque

The Great Indian Peninsular Railway Administrative and Station offices Victoria Terminus

This building was erected by the railway company under the immediate orders of their chief engineer from designs by F. W. Stevens, F.R.I.B.A., A.M.I.C.E., who also supervised the work during its erection.

The building was commenced in the month of May 1878, and was completed in the month of May 1888.

Wilson Bell, M.I.C.E., chief engineer Colonel James Holland, Chairman of the Board of Directors Thomas Watt, Managing Director George A. Barnett C.I.E. Agent of the Company of India.


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