The Fascination of the Indian Railways: A History
of Stubbornness and Glory
If you ever want to visit India, then you need to experience
the Indian railways, as they are a vital part of the history
of this country, some of the last remains of what the
British left behind, what and how they influenced the
Indian lifestyle and culture. In order to start your journey
right, here are some facts you need to know about these
History of the Indian Railways
The construction of the first railway started in the mid-1800,
and, in less than 100 years, 66.000 km of railway was
built in almost all the important districts of the country.
This was a great investment, as the trains carried around
620 million passengers a year, as well as 90 million tons
In all this fuss about the creation of the Indian railways,
there is one man whose name should never be forgotten:
Robert Brereton, a British engineer who expanded the railways
starting with 1857, linking Calcutta, Bombay and Allahabad,
a route who was opened really fast, in 1870.
The interest and fascination were so big, that the development
went on quite well, with India building its own locomotives
by the end of the 19th century and sending engineers and
locomotives in Uganda to help build their railway system,
starting with 1896.
The government took over almost all the railway companies
by 1907, introducing the first electric locomotive one
year later. But the arrival of the First World War interrupted
the development of the railways, leaving them in a state
of shabbiness and collapse.
Once the central management was improved, the Indian railways
experienced a period of economic boom, between 1920 and
1929, which was, again, crippled by a new conflict, the
Second World War. The railways survived, but, by 1946
they were all controlled by the government.
Their glory was short-lived, as India, which obtained
its independence in 1947, had now to face a decaying rail
network. This led to the creation of the Southern railway
system, in 1951, through the merging of three big railways,
expanded over an overflowing and culturally opulent area
of states, covering the greatest part of the Southern
Peninsula. The blooming continued with the creation of
six railway zones in 1952, maintained until 2003, when
seven other zones were added.
Finally, computerization was first introduced in 1987,
in Bombay, with the entire railway system being modernized
Infrastructure of the Indian Railways
The Indian railway network is considered the second longest
in the world, running under a single management, of over
62.725 km, out of which 21.5% are electrified. After China,
India is placed second in terms of freight concentration.
But the infrastructure of the railway network still lags
behind compared to other railways in the world, requiring
a lot of attention and an extensive improvement plan.
A program was launched to shrink terminal delays and to
boost time on the Indian railways’ rolling stock,
thou progress is reportedly slow. The government also
changed its approach over the years, inviting the private
sector to participate in freight movements.
Traveling by train in India might be a one-in-a-lifetime
experience, but, if you want to really enjoy the journey,
then you need to make a railway reservation. Do not worry
about losing your money or getting tricked, as, when booking,
you will receive a number of 10 digits, called PNR that
you can find on the top left corner of your ticket.
You can check the PNR
status of your booking online, as the website
of the Indian railways can easily show you how to do that.
The prices are already good for Indian trains, but, if
you book 90 days in advance, you can rest assured knowing
that you get a seat (these ones are sold the fastest),
and you also get a better price, almost a bargain.
Your IRCTC PNR status can also be checked on
a website designed particularly for this purpose, http://www.pnrstatus.info/,
whose informal and clean interface makes it friendly even
to users who have never been to India or have never travelled
by train in India. You can even reserve seats, for a sleeper,
1, 2 or 3 AC carriages (air conditioners of different
classes) or also a chair car. The choice of luxury for
food and comfort depends only on you.
But, if you really want to enjoy a great trip in India
and if you want to benefit from the easiest way to travel
by train and to see a great deal of this country, then
the best thing you can do for yourself is to book online
and with as much time in advance as possible. Print your
ticket, take your passport with you and you can travel
easy and safe.
To conclude, the Indian railways are the best way to visit
India and make the most of your visit.