(Last Updated on : 28/10/2010)
The colonial era of India is glorified by the beginning of westernisation in the country. For improvising good communication, the East India Company had laid the foundation of railway networking in the whole of Indian subcontinent. Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor General of India, took the initiative of supervising the work in a meticulous manner. Stretching up to a distance of 33.6 km, the Great Indian Peninsular Company constructed the first line from Mumbai to Thane (previously Thana). Later new lines of Indian railways were opened. The permanent way, covering 3396,031 km, flourished by the year 1900. At the time of Indian Independence, i.e. in 1947, total length covered was 543,760 km.
That was just the beginning of a new journey. To further improve upon its services, the Indian Railways have commenced upon various schemes, which are massively motivated. The railway has changed from metre gauge to broad gauge and the people have given it a warm welcome. Now, there are the impressive looking locomotives that haul the 21st-century harbingers-the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis at speeds of 145 kmph with all amenities and comfort. With these, the inconvenience of changing to a different gauge en route to a destination will no longer be felt.
The Research, Designing, and Standardising Organisation at Lucknow, the largest railway research organisation in the world was constituted in 1957. It is constantly devising improvements in the signaling systems, track design and layout, coach interiors for better riding comfort and capacity. etc along with improvements in locomotives. The workshops of the railways too have been given new equipments to create sophisticated coaches at Perambur and Kapurthala and diesel engine parts at Patiala. Locomotives are being made at Chittaranjan and Varanasi. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier British belief that only minor repairs would be possible in India, so all spare parts including nuts and bolts for locomotives would have to be imported from England.
More trains and routes are constantly being added to the railway network and services. The British legacy lives on in our railway system, transformed but never forgotten. The network of lines has grown to about 62,000 kilometers. But, the variety of Indian Railways is unlimited. It still has the idealistic toy trains on narrow gauge hill sections, metre gauge beauties on other and broad gauge bonanzas as one visits places of tourist interest. They are an acknowledgement of the Railways that tourism as an industry has to be promoted and that India is full of unique beauty.
The Calcutta Metro is a fine example of highly complex engineering techniques that has been adopted to lay an underground railway in the densely built-up areas of Calcutta city. It is a treat to be seen. Calcutta is also the only city where the Metro Railway started operating from September 27, 1995 over a length of 16.45 km. There is also a Circular Railway from Dum Dum to Princep Ghats covering 13.50 km to provide commuter trains.
Till date, the Indian railways have retained their past heritage. Much improvement also has been brought about. In recent times Indian Railways were acclaimed to be the 2nd largest railway system in the entire world. Indian Railways offer the principal mode of transporting specially for freight and passengers. By connecting people of far off countries, Indian railways have facilitated the growth of commerce, education and tourism industry of the country. Its pioneering role in enhancing economic and socio-political growth is undeniable. Electrification has been done which has furthered its growth by leaps and bounds.