Friday, April 17, 2015

Indian Railways Completes 162 Years

On this day one of the world’s largest railway networks is turning 162-years-old. Indian Railways, the lifeline of the country and perhaps its most preferred mode of transport, today completed 162 years in the service of the nation.

It was on this day in 1853, that the country’s first passenger train operated between Bombay and Thane, marking the birth of the railways. It had rolled out of CST after a 21-gun salute and deafening applause from the thousands who had turned up at the station. From that historic day, the railways have come a long way in both technology and infrastructure, but till date Mumbaikars must endure a bone-crunching, unsafe and slow commute.
Built by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the train was drawn by three engines named – Sahib, Sindh and Sultan – and covered the distance of 21 miles in 57 minutes.
The Ministry of Railways marked the occasion today on social media by sharing old, historic and nostalgic photographs, saying – “162 years of Indian Railways!”
The photographs include one of the rare picture of a viaduct between Bomabay and Thane taken during the 1850s, a gate man standing at a level-crossing watching a steam engine puff out in front of him, a Bombay Baroda and Central India (BB & CI) railways train and a coloured image of a stationed freight express hauled by a diesel locomotive hauling at Nangloi.
The other posts shared more recent achievements of the railways, one of the largest networks in the world and one of the biggest employers.
Operated during the colonial time by private-run companies, the firms were amalgamated after Independence into one nationalised entity, Indian Railways.
With around 14,300 trains that run everyday, Indian railways covers a distance equal to three and a half times the distance to moon! Not only this, cutting through various landscapes, the railways carry over 13 million passengers & 1.3 million tons of freight everyday. Truly the railways is the lifeline of our country.
When you step into the Thane station today, know that you are standing on a piece of India’s rich history.
One of India’s busiest stations turns 162 years old on Thursday.
“On April 16, 1853, the first passenger train of the Great Indian Peninsula chugged out of Bori Bunder station, now known as CST, for Tannah (Thane) at 3.35pm. This train took 57 minutes to reach Thane and covered 21 miles (33.9 km),” said Omprakash Sharma, president of Thane District Railway Passengers’ association.
Locomotives named Sultan, Sindh and Sahib pulled the train, which was carrying 400 passengers. The local train that started with just three rounds has today expanded to more than 110 rounds of the station. The few hundred passengers in the 1800s have now grown to six lakh commuters a day, and the station that began with a single platform had 11 today, with two escalators for platforms 3 and 4, and 5 and 6. The station’s revenue is more than Rs 40 lakh day, while the monthly turnover is around Rs 5 crore.
The celebrations at the station, however, will be tined down. “Permission for any kind of celebration on the station premises denied,” said Sharma.
# The Thane station is one of India’s busiest, according to a Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) survey
# 1,100 local trains and 55 outstation trains handled by the station, which has 11 platforms and 24 ticket windows
# Rs 40 lakh is the daily revenue collected at Thane station.
The first train, which took 57 minutes to cover the 34km distance, carried Lady Falkland, wife of the governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, including government officials, dignitaries, sahibs, brown sahibs and zamindars. It only halted at Byculla, then the trading post of Sion, and a few kilometers away to fill water in its engines.
Work on CST-Thane route started in 1851 and took just 25 months. More than 10,000 workers completed the project at 20% less than the expected cost. Records also say April 16, 1853, was such a momentous occasion that it was declared a public holiday.
Commuters were treated to a sumptuous feast. Central Railway records say awe- struck residents compared the train to a divine form and put red tilaks on the engine. Some offered food, money and flowers to it.
Cut to April 16, 2015. On Thursday, both commuters and Central Railway staff celebrated the day. At Thane, a cake was cut; at Dombivli, women garlanded a train.
Many took to Twitter to congratulate railways. Hashtag #162 was created where railway anecdotes, old photos and timetables were shared. The occasion trended in the top ten tweets for most part of the day.
Thane’s Ramesh Gokhale said, “Today we would like to remember that it was railways that transformed the city.” Commuter Sonali Chavan said, “We hope this year is a turning point in suburban railway history, and there are fewer accidents and higher comfort.” Mohit Agarwal added, “Trains are the city’s lifeline. Till date, the most photographed spot in Mumbai is still CST building. However, now it’s time the creaking infrastructure is transformed to ensure suburban railways return to their lost glory.”
Meanwhile, historians rued the apathy of authorities for “failing to maintain” the heritage CST structure.
A few decades ago, Thane also boasted an old ticket window, sunshades over platforms and an arched entry. “There was a ticket window near the existing MSRTC stand where tongas used to halt. Platforms one, two and three were covered with Mangalore-style sloping roof,” said Dawood Dalvi, a noted historian from Thane.
Experts exhort the railways to ensure that Kalwa rail bridge and Parsik tunnel are protected. “Parsik tunnel, built 150 years ago, is the first mile-long tunnel to be constructed in the history of Indian Railways. It was built to shorten the way to Kalyan from Mumbai and is an engineering marvel of its time.” Historians suggest that the railways build a small museum. “It will also attract tourists,” said historian Sadashiv Tetvilkar


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