Thursday, February 18, 2016

By Akhila Damodaran  THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS 18th February 2016 

More than 50 trains pass by this station every day
1. Maximum number of trains starting from Bengaluru City Junction halt here.
his ticket booking centre is located in the new building built after the station was remodelled.
The street in front of the railway station is mostly busy

BENGALURU: Bengaluru’s first railway line ran from Bangalore Cantonment railway station. It started its operations in 1864 with the inauguration of Jolarpettai - Bangalore Cantonment branch line by the Madras Railway Company.

According to the City Railway Divisional office, eight years after the maiden run of the steam-engine train on the Southern Peninsula (between Chennai’s Royapuram and Wallajah Road) in 1856, Bengaluru found a place on the railway map of India.

It may also be of interest to note that, in the same year, Madras-Bangalore Mail started its run. According to the website of the Indian Railway Fans Club Association, in 1868, Madras Railway extended its network, with a new terminus at Royapuram, to Salem, and also finished the Jolarpettai - Bangalore Cantonment branch.

After 18 years of city’s first rail link, in 1882, the Madras Railway Company linked the Bangalore City station to Bangalore Cantonment.


In 1806, the British established the cantonment which became a centrally located military hub for the South. 

Arun Prasad, historian and researcher, says, “There were good transport links to the Madras Presidency by road but no railway links.”

According to the historians, it was Sir Mark Cubbon who took the initiative to link the Madras Presidency with Bangalore by rail. He was the Chief Commissioner of Mysore State from 1834 to 1861.

Meera, co-convener of INTACH Bangalore, says,“The idea was enthusiastically received because Bangalore was an important military station. It felt important to link it to Madras.”

Prasad adds that the work on railway line began in 1859 during the tenure of Mark Cubbon but it was inaugurated in 1864 when L B Bowring was the Chief Commissioner of the Mysore State. 

The station is located on the Higher Grounds, on the bunds of the Miller’s lake. Initially, it was used for military purposes. Prasad says, “It was used to transport arms and ammunitions and food grains for the army.”

Later, the service was open to general public as well. “Bengaluru then witnessed a huge influx of people from the other states. Tamil population started pouring in. The potters started settling here. That’s how the locality Pottery Town came into existence,” he says. 

“According to Bowring himself, the town became the nucleus of trade of the whole country,” adds Meera.


In 1972, the foundation stone was laid by K Hanumanthaiya, who was then the minister of railways, for remodelling of the Cantonment railway station. Three years later, it was opened by D Devaraj Urs, the then chief minister of Karnataka.


The colonial style of architecture has wide spanned arches and rhythmically collonaded corridors. Colonial principles of harmony, symmetry and balance can be observed here, says Namita R, an architect. The brick structure has concrete column bases. The overhangs on the opposite platform is wooden slats with a centralised quatrefoil opening.

The station was built primarily with granite and stone and the arches adorn the beautiful stone columns. The monkey top (the wooden slats that drop from the roof), which was commonly added by the British in various structures, in strictly classical style was ideal for the Bangalore weather. It helped keep away the sunlight in summer and rains during the rainy season. The stone columns and arches still stand there. “The remains of the military godown stand as a testimony of the past era,” adds Arun. 

Present Scenario

P Narayan has been working as a pointsman at the Cantonment station for the past 30 years. He’s been manning the setting points (instruments to divert tracks), attaching or detaching engines or compartments from the train. He says, “Now, the work has increased as the number of trains has gone up to more than 50 a day. When I joined, there were more goods trains but now, there are more passenger trains.”

The porters are having it tough, losing customers to trolley bags.

Sadashivan has been working as a porter since 1994 here. “Now, even the children pull these bags and suitcases. We see them asking their parents for the bags. So, we don’t understand how to approach them. If we at least get what the rate card prescribes, we can make some earning,” he says. He also adds that the station is not being maintained well. “Many VIPs travel from this station. Still, it is not kept clean and neat. For example, there are no parking sheds,” he adds.

Absent to History

Most of the employees here are new, working here for a year or two, and have little or no idea of the Cantonment station’s history. The station master S A K Jeelani refused to comment, saying central government employees are not allowed to speak to the media.



The Cantonment Railway station was built and the first rail line was inaugurated


Foundation stone laid for remodelling


Station opened after remodelling


Computerised Passenger Reservation Centre inaugurated.


Electrification of Jolarpettai - Bangalore section Extension of Lines

Extension of Lines

The Madras Railway Company started the rail operations between Royapuram – Wallajah Road in 1856. The company had extended its operations to Kadalundi in 1861 and Calicut in 1888. The Jolarpet – Bangalore Cantonment section opened in 1864 and was extended to Bangalore City in 1882. By 1862, the railway extended up to Renigunta and the line was further extended to Raichur by 1871.

Integration of Rail Lines

After India’s independence, the railways were integrated into different zones. The Southern Railway Zone (9,654 route km) was the first to be formed on 14 April, 1952, after merging the Madras and Southern Mahratta, the South Indian and the Mysore State Railway. According to a brochure released by the South Western Railway to mark the golden jubilee of Southern Railway,

the amalgamation helped a great deal in streamlining and organising the railways.


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