The railway network in India is the fourth largest in the world
India’s railway network transports over 6 billion passengers and 350 million tonnes of freight annually
Railways in India traverse the length and breadth of the country, with about 7000 stations and total route length of over 63,000 km. About 28% of the route length has been electrified

History of railways in India

The first railway line in the Indian subcontinent was established in Madras in 1836. The first line was established near Chintadripet Bridge on an experimental basis. In 1837, a 3.5 mile line was commissioned between Red Hills and the stone quarries at St Thomas Mount
The regular first train in India was operationalised in 1851 for localised hauling of canal construction material in Roorkee
Two railways companies – the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR) and the East Indian Railway (EIR) were created in 1853 to construct and operate experimental railway lines near Bombay and Calcutta respectively
The first passenger train service in India was inaugurated between Bombay (Bori Bundar) and Thane in 1853
In 1923, both the GIPR and the EIR were nationalised
Upon Independence in 1947, forty two separate railway systems in India were amalgamated into a single unit christened the Indian Railways. The Indian Railways thus became one of the largest railway networks in the world
Railway zones were established in 1951

The Indian Railways is the state-owned railway company of India, which owns and operates most of India’s rail transport
The Indian Railways was formed in 1947 by the amalgamation of 42 disparate railway networks
The Indian Railways functions under the Ministry of Railways
The Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest commercial employers with over 1.4 million employees
The Indian Railways operates both long distance and suburban rail services

Railway zones

The Indian Railways is divided into 16 zones, which are further subdivided into divisions
The Kolkata Metro, although owned and operated by the Indian Railways, is part of any zone
Each of the 16 zones is headed by a General Manager. Divisions are headed by Divisional Railway Managers
The oldest railway zone is the Southern Railways, established in Apr 1951

The Indian Railways uses four gauges
Indian Broad Gauge: 1676 mm (5ft 6in). This is the most widely used gauge in India. It is broader than the international Standard Gauge (1435 mm i.e. 4ft 8.5in)
Meter Gauge: 1000 mm (3ft 3.5in)
Narrow Gauge: 762 mm (2ft 6in)
Narrow Gauge: 610 mm (2ft)
Project Unigauge was launched in 1980 to convert all portions of track to broad gauge
Narrow gauge is presently used on Kalka-Simla Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Almost all electrified sections of track use 25,000 V AC traction through overhead catenaries
Exceptions to this include
Mumbai section, which uses 1500 V DC traction
Kolkata Metro which uses 750 V DC, delivered via third rail

Suburban railways

Suburban railways are currently operational in Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and Lucknow-Kanpur
The New Delhi Metro, Kolkata Metro and Chennai MRTS have their own dedicated track
Suburban trains handling passenger traffic usually use Electric Multiple Units (EMU)
The oldest underground railway network in India is the Kolkata Metro, commissioned in 1984. The second underground network, the Delhi Metro, started operations in 2002

Special railways in India

There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the Indian Railways
Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus), Mumbai

Mountain railways of India

The Mountain Railways of India consists of three separate railway systems i.e. the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Simla Railway

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

It is a 2ft narrow gauge railway
Operates between Siliguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal
Built 1889-1891. Added to UNESCO World Heritage List 1999

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The rack and pinion system on the Nilgiri Mountain Railways Uses a 3ft 3 3/8 in metre gauge
Connects Mettupalayam with Ooty in Tamil Nadu
Only railway in India to use rack-and-pinion system
Has the highest railway gradient in India (average of 4%, at places as high as 8%)
Added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005

Kalka-Simla Railway

It is a 2ft 6in narrow gauge railway
Operates between Kalka in Haryana and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh
Added to UNESCO World Heritage List 2008

Konkan Railway

The Konkan Railway runs along the Konkan coast of India, between Mangalore in Karnataka and Mumbai in Maharashtra. It was opened in 1998
The Konkan Railway introduced India’s first Roll on Roll off (RORO) freight service in 1999, which allows trucks to be transported on flatbed trailers

Kashmir Railway

The Kashmir Railway, also known as Jammu Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Rail Link (JUSBRL) is intended to connect to Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country by means of railways
Currently under construction, the project is expected to complete in 2017. The first phase of the project, between Jammu and Udhampur was completed in 2005
When completed the Kashmir Railway will connect Jammu with Baramulla, a distance of 345 km
The entire project has been divided in four legs or phases
Leg 0: Jammu-Udhampur (53 km). Completed Apr 2005
Leg 1: Udhampur-Katra (25 km). Expected completion 2012
Leg 2: Katra-Qazigund (148 km). Expected completion 2017
Leg 3: Qazigund-Baramulla (119 km). Completed Oct 2009
The route crosses major earthquake zones, and is subject to extreme temperatures and inhospitable terrain
The Kashmir Railway has the highest railway bridge in India: 77m over the Tawi river in the Jammu-Udhampur section.
When the Kashmir Railway is completed, the Chenab Bridge will be the highest railway structure in the world (359 m above river bed), making it taller than the Eiffel Tower

The Palace on Wheels is India’s first luxury train. It was launched in 1962. It travels from New Delhi to Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Agra
The Fairy Queen, built in 1855, is the world’s oldest steam engine still in active use. It currently operates a special tourist service from New Delhi to Alwar in Rajasthan, to the Sariska Tiger Reserve
The Lifeline Express, commissioned in 1991, is India’s mobile hospital train run by the Impact India Foundation, in collaboration with the Indian Railways and the Ministry of Health
The Himsagar Express, between Kanyakumari and Jammu Tawi, has the longest run in terms of distance and time in the Indian Railways. It covers a distance of 3745 km about 75 hours
The Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train in India, having a maximum operating speed of 150 kmph
The Kharagpur Railways Station has the world’s longest railway platform (1072 m)

International rail links

India has rail links with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh
India-Pakistan rail links
Samjhauta Express: Amritsar (Punjab, India) – Lahore (Punjab, Pakistan)
Thar Express:
Munabao (Rajasthan, India) – Khokhrapar (Sindh, Pakistan)
India-Bangladesh rail links
There are two freight links between India and Bangladesh. However there is no passenger rail link
Mahishasan (West Bengal, India) – Shahbazpur (Bangladesh)
Radhikapur (West Bengal, India) – Birol (Bangladesh)
India-Nepal rail links
Raxaul (Bihar, India) – Sirsiya (Parsa, Nepal)
Jaynagar (Bihar, India) – Khajuri (Dhanusa, Nepal)

Private railways in India

Although the Indian Railways enjoys a near monopoly on rail transport in India, a few private railways do exist
Private railways are also owned and operated by companies for their own purposes such as harbours, ports, steel mills, mines etc
Private railways in India are principally for freight and not for passenger transport
The Bombay Port Trust, Madras Port Trust and Calcutta Port Trust all run their own broad gauge lines
The Tatas operate furnicular railways (inclined railways) at Bhira and Bhivpuri Road in Maharashtra
The Kutch Railway Company, a joint venture between the Gujarat government and private companies is in the process of building a Gandhidham-Palanpur railway line