East Indian Railway Company

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East Indian Railway 1863

The East Indian Railway Company, later known as the East Indian Railway (EIR), introduced railways to eastern and northern India, while the Companies such as the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, South Indian Railway, Central India Railway and the North-Western Railway operated in other parts of India. The company was established 1 June 1845 in London by a deed of settlement with a capital of £4,000,000, largely raised in London.[1]


The first Board of Directors formed in 1845 comprised thirteen members and Rowland Macdonald Stephenson became the first Managing Director of the company.

Rowland Macdonald Stephenson (later Sir Rowland, but familiarly known as Macdonald Stephenson[2]) and three assistants travelled from England in 1845 and “with diligence and discretion” surveyed, statistically studied and costed the potential traffic for a railway route from Calcutta (the then commercial capital of India) to Delhi via Mirzapur.[3] They assessed that the maximum cost of a twin-track line would not exceed £15000 per mile if the land was available without charge. The East Indian Railway Company was then formed and raised money in London. A contract was signed between the East India Company and the East Indian Railway Company on 17 August 1849, entitling the latter to construct and operate an “experimental” line between Calcutta and Rajmahal, 161 km (100 miles) long at an estimated cost of £1,000,000, which would be later extended to Delhi via Mirzapur.[4]


On 7 May 1850, the East Indian Railway Company’s Managing Director Macdonald Stephenson, George Turnbull, the company’s Chief Engineer, and the engineer Slater made an initial survey from Howrah (across the River Hooghly from Calcutta) to Burdwan on the route to the Raniganj coalfields. By June, there was an impasse, in that the government still did not allow Turnbull and his engineers to mark a route on the ground! Specifications for works were however advertised on 1 July and tenders received on 31 July for six contracts. Bamboo towers 80 feet (24 m) tall were then built above the palm trees at Serampore and Balli Khal to set out the line.


On 29 January 1851 the East Indian Railway Company took possession of its first land. Turnbull and other British engineers began detailed surveys of the line. They chose the critical crossing point on the 5,000-foot-wide (1,500 m) Son River (the largest Gangestributary) on 17 February. The best route to Raniganj was determined in the heat of May and June by riding and in palkees. The plans for Howrah station were submitted on 16 June.

Tenders for 11 contracts arrived on 31 October 1851. In December Turnbull continued his survey: he took levels and defined the line from Burdwan to Rajmahal.[2]


All permanent way, rolling-stocks were transported from England in sailing ships to Calcutta via the Cape of Good Hope (the Suez Canal did not then exist). In April 1854, it was estimated that over 100,000 tons of rails, 27,000 tons of chairs, and some 8000 tons of keys, fish-plates, pins, nuts and bolts were needed.[5]

Rolling stock[edit]

By 1859, there were 77 engines, 228 coaches and 848 freight wagons.[6]


Although immense quantities of sal tree wood for sleepers were delivered from Nepal, yet more were needed: fir sleepers from the Baltic were creosoted in England and shipped to India.[2]


The initial plans were for the many bridges over the Ganges tributaries to be built of bricks: hundreds of millions were needed. Brick-making skills were very limited and often the available clay was found to be unsuitable. Transport by river of suitable clay was difficult. Brick availability became a major problem, such that the decision was made to use vast quantities of ironwork – imported from England as India had no iron works at that time. Much ironwork was stolen during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.[7]

Howrah to Benares line, 1854 to 1863[edit]

First train of the East Indian Railway, 1854

Line openings[edit]

In 1853, The first railway line between Bombay to Thane (32 km stretch) was opened. It had 14 coaches and was driven by 3 engines The 541 miles (871 kilometres) of line from Howrah to Benares were opened to:

  • Hooghly (37 km or 23 miles) for passenger traffic on 15 August 1854. More than 3,000 applications were received from the people wanting a ride in the first train. The first train ran to full capacity. The train left Howrah station at 8:30 a.m. and reached Hooghly in 91 minutes. It had three first-class and two second-class coaches. It also had three trucks for third-class passengers and a brakevan for the guard. All of these were built in India, because the ship ferrying the original coaches from England had unfortunately met with natural disaster in the high seas and consequently sunk. The locomotive however was imported, though not without its own difficulties. The ship bringing the locomotive had initially, due to a navigational error, had sailed to Australia, and had to be re-routed back to India.

During the first 16 weeks, the company was delighted to carry 109,634 passengers: 83,118 third class, 21,005 second class and 5511 first class. The gross earnings, including the receipts of a few tons of merchandise were £6793.[8]

  • Pundooah on 1 September 1854.[4]
  • Burdwan in February 1855.
  • Raniganj with its coalfields on 3 February 1855.[4] In 1855, 617,281 passengers were carried and contracts were made to carry 100,000 tons of coal from the Raniganj colliery to Howrah.
  • Adjai in October 1858.
  • Rajmahal (on the River Ganges) in October 1859. The first train ran from Howrah to Rajmahal via Khana (presently known as the Sahibganj Loop) on 4 July 1860.[9][10] 1,388,714 passengers were carried in 1859.
  • Bhagalpur in 1861.
  • The Loop from Khana Junction to Kiul via Jamalpur, including the Monghyr branch in February 1862. In the same year the line reached Mughal Sarai via the present line beyond Kiul. The sections from Luckee Sarai to Danapore and Danapore to Mughal Sarai was completed in the meantime.[10]
  • Son River. George Turnbull inspected the Son bridge and judged it complete on 4 November 1862.
  • Across the River Ganges from Benares in December 1862.[11]

Including branch lines this totalled 601 miles (967 kilometres).

Bridges, tunnel and cholera[edit]

The most significant bridge was the girder bridge over the Son River (then known in English as the Soane River) which at the time was understood to be the second longest in the world. Other significant bridges were the girder bridges over the Kiul and Hullohurrivers and the masonry bridge over the Adjai. The Monghyr tunnel was a challenge. In late 1859, a horrific cholera epidemic in the Rajmahal district killed some 4000 labourers and many of the British engineers.[12]

Celebrations on completion[edit]

On 5 February 1863, a special train from Howrah took George Turnbull, the Viceroy Lord Elgin, Lt Governor Sir Cecil Beadon and others over two days to Benares inspecting the line on the way.[13] They stopped the first night at Jamalpur near Monghyr. They alighted at the Son bridge and inspected it.[14] In Benares there was a durbar on 7 February to celebrate the building of the railway and particularly the bridging of the Son, the largest tributary of the Ganges.[2]

The Chief Engineer responsible for all this construction from 1851 to 1862 was George Turnbull who was acclaimed in the Indian Official Gazette of 7 February 1863 paragraph 5 as the “First railway engineer of India”.


Some historians like Irfan Habib argue that because the contracts signed between East India Company and EIR in 1849 guaranteed 5 percent return on all capital invested, initially there was no inducement for economy or for employing Indians instead of high-paid Europeans. EIR was stated in 1867 to have spent as much as Rs 3 lakh on each miles of railway, the construction described by a former Finance Member in India as ‘the most extrvagant works ever undertaken.[15]

Other 19th-century developments[edit]

The line from Kanpur to Allahabad was opened in 1859. In 1860, the Kanpur-Etawah section was opened to traffic and between 1862 and 1866 all gaps between Howrah and Delhi were filled and the connection to Agra was built. The bridges over the Yamuna at Allahabad and at Delhi were completed in 1865 and 1866 respectively. In June 1867 the Allahabad-Jabalpur branch was completed and a connection made at Jabalpur with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, thus completing the rail connections between Calcutta and Delhi and Calcutta and Bombay.[10] On 31 December 1879, the British Indian Government purchased the East Indian Railway Company, but leased it back to the company to work under a contract terminable in 1919.

20th-century developments[edit]

On 1 January 1925 the British Indian Government took over the management of the East Indian Railway[16] and divided it into six divisions: Howrah, Asansol, Danapur, Allahabad, Lucknow and Moradabad.

On 14 April 1952, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India inaugurated two new zones of the first six zones of the Indian Railways. One of them, the Northern Railways had the three “up-stream” divisions of East Indian Railway: Allahabad, Lucknow and Moradabad, while the other, the Eastern Railways had the three “down-stream” divisions: Howrah, Asansol and Danapur and the complete Bengal Nagpur Railway.[17]

See also[edit]

  • History of rail transport in India
  • The Richard Strachey Bridge


    Niharjyoti Sarangi
    Mohammad Ayyubi
    Quora User
    Mandeep Singh Grang
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    Vamsy Annabattula
    B Bipin Kumar
    Phutane Uday
    Saurabh Jhunjhunwala
    Amritansh Kmr
    Last asked: 19 Jun


    What are some of the most interesting facts about Indian railways?

    99 Answers

    Niharjyoti Sarangi

    Niharjyoti Sarangi, Seeking to understand the world around me

    Indian Railways is one of the largest railways networks in the world and the largest railways network to be operated by a single Govt.. It has been in operation for nearly 170 years, since April 16, 1853.

    The first railway on Indian sub-continent ran over a  stretch of 21 miles from Bombay to Thane. The idea of a railway to  connect Bombay with Thane, Kalyan and with the Thal and Bhore Ghats  inclines first occurred to Mr. George Clark, the Chief Engineer of the  Bombay Government, during a visit to Bhandup in 1843.
    The formal inauguration ceremony was performed on 16th  April 1853, when 14 railway carriages carrying about 400 guests left  Bori Bunder at 3.30 pm “amidst the loud applause of a vast multitude and  to the salute of 21 guns.” The first passenger train steamed out of  Howrah station destined for Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles, on 15th  August, 1854. Thus the first section of the East Indian Railway was  opened to public traffic, inaugurating the beginning of railway  transport on the Eastern side of the subcontinent.

    In south the first line was opened on Ist July, 1856 by  the Madras Railway Company. It ran between Vyasarpadi Jeeva Nilayam  (Veyasarpandy) and Walajah Road (Arcot), a distance of 63 miles. In the  North a length of 119 miles of line was laid from Allahabad to Kanpur on  3rd March 1859. The first section from Hathras Road to Mathura  Cantonment was opened to traffic on 19th October, 1875.

    The first electric train ran between Bombay VT and Kurla in the year 1925.

    Indian Railways owns the longest railway platform in the world at Kharagpur with a length of 2,733 ft in length.

    Indian railways still has the oldest preserved locomotive in working  order, the Fairy Queen which was made way back in 1855. It is the oldest functioning steam engine in the world, which  finds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and got Heritage Award  at the International Tourist Bureau, Berlin in March, 2000.

    On operational front, Delhi Main station entered the  Guinness Book for having the world’s largest route relay interlocking  system.

    Darjeeling Himalayan Railways attained the World Heritage Status from UNESCO.

    Luxury Trains

    Luxury rail journeys have come a long way in India since the  introduction of Palace on Wheels train in 1982. Nowadays, there are an  array of luxurious tourist trains offering extravagant journeys across  select destinations and regions for enchanting Indian holidays. Train  tours offered by Maharajas Express, the Indian Maharaja, Deccan Odyssey  and the Golden Chariot are the talk of luxury travel circuits around the  world.

    Lounge, Palace on wheels-

    Peacock Restaurant, Maharaja Express

    Conference coach, Deccan Odyssey

    Twin bed deluxe cabin, The Golden Chariot


    1. Fastest: New Delhi-BhopalShatabdi Express clocks a maximum speed of 150km/h on the Faridabad-Agra section. Covers the whole route in less than 8 hrs.
    2. Slowest: Metupalayam Ooty Nilgiri Passenger which runs at a speed of 10kmph, 15 times lower than fastest running train. But since this train runs in hilly region there are speed limits to comply. The one that comes close is Pratapnagar-Jambusar passenger, with a maximum speed of 12km/h and an average speed of 11km/h. It takes 4 hrs for a journey of 44 km.
    3. Least punctual: Guwahati-Trivandrum Express with an average delay on a trip of approximately 11 hrs.
    4. Longest run: Vibek Express(Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh) with approx. 83 hrs is the longest run(time) by a train. Kerala Express travels 3054km in 42.5 hrs making it the longest running train in a day. 
      Himsagar Express covers a distance of 3,751 km between Jammu Tawi and Kanyakumari.
    5. Shortest run: From Nagpur to Ajni (2.8km), introduced for crew to travel from Nagpur to Workshop in Ajni.
    6. Highest number of Stops: Howrah-Amritsar Express with 115 halts has the largest number of stops for an Express train. Trivandrum-H. Nizamuddin Rajdhani express runs the longest stretch (Kota to Vadodara, 528 Km) without any stops.


    1. Longest and shortest station names: Ib in Jharsuguda, Odisha and Sri Venkatanarasimharajuvariipeta near Chennai.
    2. Stations at the extremes: Northernmost railway  station is Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir. Westernmost is Naliya near  Bhuj in Gujarat. Southernmost railway station is Kanyakumari, while the  last station on the east of India is Ledo on branch line from Tinsukia.
    3. Stations at state boundaries: Navapur  (Maharashtra and Gujarat), Bhawani Mandi  (Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan)
    4. Two stations at same location:Srirampur and Belapur are two different stations in Ahmednagar district  of Maharashtra which are both at the same location on the railway route  but on opposite sides of the track.
    5. Busiest station: Lucknow, with 64 trains per day.
    6. Junction with Maximum routes: Mathura junction with 7  routes- Broad Gauge (BG) line to Agra Cantt, BG line to Bharatpur, BG  line to Alwar, BG line to Delhi, Metre Gauge (MG) line to Achnera, MG  line to Vrindavan and MG line to Hathras, Kasganj.
    7. Three Gauges: Siliguri is a station that has all three gauges (Broad gauge, Meter gauge and Narrow gauge) lines present.


    1. To give improved telecommunication systems on Railways,  Optical Fibre based communication systems has been adopted and laying  OFC has increased to 7,700 route kilometer this year. Rail Tel  Corporation has been created to make a nationwide broadband multimedia  network by laying optical fibre cable along the railway tracks.
    2. Anti Collision Device (ACD), state-of-art indigenous  technology of Konkan Railway Corporation (KRC) is currently under-going intensive field trials and is  capable of avoiding collision between trains.
    3. Sky bus metro is another innovative, economic and  eco-friendly mass rapid transportation solution devised by Konkan  Railway.
    4. Self Stablising Track (SST) devised by KRC, which is undergoing  trials at present, will help Railways run the fastest train in the near  future and will make tracks much more safe and sustainable.
    5. Maglev proposals: Govt. of India is currently in the process of reviewing a proposal to start a Maglev train system in India. It has already been estimated that the cost to complete this process would be over $30 Billion.
      Proposals: Mumbai to Pune,which will take 30 minutes along the 200 km stretch. Mumbai-Delhi, Mumbai-Nagpur, Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore are also proposed to have Maglev services.

    National Rail Museum
    Welcome to Indian Railway Passenger reservation Enquiry

    Edit 1: A recent book found in IIT Roorkee library mentions  that the first train in the country had run between Roorkee and Piran  Kaliyar on December 22, 1851 and not two years later as widely known.

    `First train ran between Roorkee and Piran Kaliyar’

    Thanks to Mohammad Nisar for telling this in another answer to this question.

    Edit 2: A newly renovated platform at Gorakhpur Railway Station in Indian  state of Uttar Pradesh has become the world’s longest, measuring  1,366m. Until recently, Kharagpur in the Indian state of West Bengal was  the longest platform at 1,072m, followed by State Street Center subway  station in Chicago at 1,067m.

    Thanks to Anand Ghaywankar for pointing it out in the comments.

    Kush Tripathi

    Kush Tripathi, Quorageous, Quora inspires, conspires, respires within me

    Upvoted by Nikhil Garg, booked many tickets on irctc.com
    1. Fastest train in India New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train in India. The all air-conditioned superfast train clocks a maximum speed of 150km/h on the Faridabad-Agra section. It also has the highest commercial speed – 89.87 km/h- and covers the 704 km New Delhi – Bhopal stretch in 7 hours 50 minutes.

    2. Longest, shortest run by a train Vivek Express from Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari travels a distance of 4273 km, making it the longest run in terms of total time and distance in Indian Railways. Shortest run: Scheduled services between Nagpur and Ajni stations situated just 3km from each other – primarily meant for crew to travel from Nagpur station to the workshop at Ajni.

    3. Longest non-stop travel/ Trains with most stops Trivandrum – H. Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express travels the 528km stretch between Vadodara and Kota non-stop. In second place is the Mumbai Rajdhani Express that travels nonstop between New Delhi and Kota. The record for maximum number of stops by an Express/Mail train is held by Howrah – Amritsar Express 115 halts, followed by Delhi – Howrah Janata Express 109 halts and Jammu Tawi – Sealdah Express 99 halts.

    4. Longest, shortest station names Shortest names: Ib, near Jharsuguda in Odisha and Od, near Anand in Gujarat. Longest name: ‘Venkata narasimha raju vari peta’ on the Arakkonam-Renigunta section near Chennai.

    5. Least punctual train Guwahati-Trivandrum Express is said to be the most unreliable long-distance train in the country. The charted journey time is 65 hours and 5 minutes, but the average delay on a trip is about 10-12 hours.

    6. Two stations at same location Srirampur and Belapur are two different stations in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra which are both at the same location on the railway route but on opposite sides of the track.

    7. Most powerful locomotive Electric locomotive WAG-9 used for hauling heavy freight rakes is the most powerful locomotive in Indian Railways’ fleet. The 6,350 horsepower beast is homed at Gomoh, Ajni,Lallaguda,Tughlakabad and Bhilai. Modified version of WAG-9 named WAP 7 is IR’s workhouse for high speed passenger service. It is capable of hauling 24 coach trains at speeds ranging between 140 and 160 km per hour. WAP-7 has similar horsepower as that of WAG-9 but comes with modified gear ratios for faster acceleration.

    8. Last stations in North-South-East-West direction Northernmost railway station is Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir. Westernmost is Naliya near Bhuj in Gujarat. Southernmost railway station is Kanyakumari, while the last station on the east of India is Ledo on branch line from Tinsukia.

    9. Junction with most number of routes originating from it Mathura junction with 7 routes- Broad Gauge (BG) line to Agra Cantt, BG line to Bharatpur, BG line to Alwar, BG line to Delhi, Metre Gauge (MG) line to Achnera, MG line to Vrindavan and MG line to Hathras, Kasganj. Six route junction – Bhatinda. Five route junctions – Lucknow, Guntakal, Katni, Varanasi, Kanpur Central, Villupuram, Dabhoi, and Nagpur.

    10. Most number of parallel tracks/ Three gauges at one stationSeven parallel tracks between Bandra Terminus and Andheri – 10km. Siliguri station on NFR holds the distinction of having three different gauges present.

    IRCTC the Indian Railways subsidiary Facts

    IRCTC website is the slowest and thousands of people complaint but

    • IRCTC is the leading travel e-commerce site in the country with the highest transaction share in the travel category.
    • One out of five online users in India visits the Indian Railways site, with almost 12 million unique visitors monthly and majority of the traffic is seen between 10 am to 12 pm.
    • About 11.57 lakh berths and seats are booked a day, out of which tatkal accounts for 1.71 lakh seats and berths on 2677 trains.
    • Tatkal booking yielded a revenue of Rs. 847 crore during 2011-12.(Ref:Hindu).
    • IRCTC receives a lot of flak for its slow, sluggish performance,server inability, low bandwidth. Currently, it is said to sell about 40-45,000 Tatkal railway tickets between 10 am and 11 am (usually its 10 and 11, because all tickets are sold in one hour – in fact, 45 mins)

    For Funny Facts
    Read this Answer
    Kush Tripathi’s answer to What is the most funny or weird scene you have encountered while travelling on Indian Rail?

    Sudharsan Arvind

    Sudharsan Arvind, Mechanical Engineer, Hindu mythology enthusiast

    Classification of Indian Locomotives

    You should have seen the letters WDP-3A ,WDM-3F or some thing like this painted on the front and sides of an engine,but have you guys ever wondered what these letters stand for?
    Well,these letters are used to classify these locos according to their track gauge,the motive power,the work they are suited for and their power or model number.

    The first letter (gauge)

    The second letter (motive power)

    • D – diesel
    • C – DC electric (can run under DC overhead line only)
    • A – AC electric (can run under AC overhead line only)
    • CA – both DC and AC (can run under both AC and DC overhead line); ‘CA’ is considered a single letter
    • B – Battery electric locomotive (rare)

    The third letter (job type)

    • G – goods
    • P – passenger
    • M – mixed; both goods and passenger
    • S – shunting (also known as switching engines or switchers in the USA and some other countries)
    • U – electric multiple unit (used to carry commuters in city suburbs)
    • R – Railcar

    The fourth letter is used to denote locomotives’ chronological model number. However, from 2002 a new classification scheme has been adopted. Under this system, for newer diesel locomotives, the fourth letter will denote theirhorsepower range. Electric locomotives don’t come under this scheme and even all diesel locos are not covered. For them this letter denotes their model number as usual.

    • For example, in “WDM 3A“:
    • “W” means broad gauge
    • “D” means diesel motive power
    • “M” means suitable for both goods and passenger service
    • “3A” means the locomotive’s power is 3,100 hp (‘3’ stands for 3000 hp, ‘A’ denotes 100 hp more)

    Or, in “WAP 5“:

    • “W” means broad gauge
    • “A” mean AC electric traction motive power
    • “P” means suitable for Passenger service
    • “5” denotes that this locomotive is chronologically the fifth electric locomotive model used by the railways for passenger service

    A locomotive may sometimes have a fifth letter in its name which generally denotes a technical variant or subclass or subtype. This fifth letter indicates some smaller variation in the basic model or series, perhaps different motors, or a different manufacturer. With the new scheme for classifying diesel locomotives (as mentioned above) the fifth item is a letter that further refines the horsepower indication in 100 hp increments: ‘A’ for 100 hp, ‘B’ for 200 hp, ‘C’ for 300 hp, etc. So in this scheme, a WDP-3A refers to a 3100 hp loco, while a WDM-3F would be a 3600 hp loco.


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