Are you aware of the fact that many royal kings of India once were the proud owners of Indian railways?
Although it sounds unbelievable, it’s true that several erstwhile kingdoms had their own tracks where trains were seen chugging. However, with the passage of time, Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI) took over the control of railways and the royal history of railways lost its sheen under the glitz, glamour and glory of the British rule.
The Indian Railways has a rich history. This richness in its legacy is a result of an extensive contribution made by kings from the erstwhile era. They were the ones who triggered a ‘trains on wheels’ era. Chugging slowly on tracks, these trains helped in running smooth business and promised comfortable transportation of people and goods. Let’s sneak a peek into the glorious past of railways where kings introduced trains to their kingdoms
HYDERABAD–GODAVARI VALLEY RAILWAY
The Nizam of Hyderabad introduced the Hyderabad– Godavari Valley Railway as a part of the Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway. John Wallace Pringle was appointed as the superintending engineer for the survey and construction of the Hyderabad–Godavari Valley Railway in 1896. The total capital expenditure of the Nizam’s State Railway at the end of 1904 was `4.3 crore. The Hyderabad–Godavari Valley Railway had cost `2.6 crore, and earned 7.7 lakh net in the same year, which is nearly 3 per cent, but in 1901 and 1902, the earnings increased to about 3½ per cent. The Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway was owned by a company under the guarantee of the Hyderabad State, capital for which was raised by the issue of redeemable mortgage debentures.
THE RAJPUTANA–MALWA RAILWAY
In 1881-82, the Rajputana-Malwa State Railway (RMSR) was created amalgamating, under single management, the following State Railways:-
Holkar State Railway: The Holkar State Railway was opened in the year 1874 as a metre gauge (MG) line from Khandwa which reached Indore in 1876. The line was owned by the Princely Holkar State. In 1870, Maharaja Holkar offered `100 lakh loan for the construction of a rail-line to his capital city, Indore, becoming the first ever king in India who sanctioned loan for developing railways.
Scindia-Neemuch Railway: Maharaja of Scindia agreed to grant a loan of `75 lakhs at 4 per cent per annum interest for the project and the railway was hence renamed as ‘Scindia- Neemuch Railway’. It ran from Indore to Neemuch and included a branch line from Indore to Ujjain. It opened in August 1876 while the entire line was completed in 1879-80.
Neemuch-Nasirabad State Railway: The construction work of Neemuch-Nasirabad State Railway running from Neemuch to Ajmer was completed in March 1881. The management of Rajputana-Malwa Railway was taken over by the BB&CI in 1889 and it was absorbed into BB&CI in 1900.
GAEKWAD’S BARODA STATE RAILWAY (GBSR)
GBSR was a metre gauge railway line owned by the Princely State of Baroda, which was ruled by the Gaekwad dynasty.
The first rail tracks here were laid by Sir Khanderao Gaekwad who ruled Baroda from 1828 to 1870. In 1862, he inaugurated railway line from Dabhoi to Miyagam. Oxen were used to haul the train.
This railway track enjoys the distinction of being the first narrowgauge line to be laid in British India, as well as being the first railway to be owned by any Princely State of India.
During the rule of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the railway’s network was further expanded. In 1873, the Dabhoi-Miyagam line was re-laid with stronger rails allowing usage of locomotives rather than oxen. The network is still the largest narrow-gauge railway network in the world.
In 1949, the GBSR was merged with the BB&CI.
THE KUTCH STATE RAILWAY
The railway, in an isolated Princely State of Kutch, ran north from the port of Tuna towards Anjar in the Kutch and was financed by the Maharao Khengarji Bawa of Kutch. Its initial section to Anjar was opened in 1905. An extension from Anjar to the state capital of Bhuj was later made and lines opened in 1908, giving a total length of 36.25 miles. Further lines were later added east of Anjar. The narrow gauge lines of Kutch State Railway were laid by Mistris of Kutch. However, services of British Engineers were also employed.
The Maharao owned a petrol railcar which was used as a shooting car during his hunting expeditions. This was designed by a British Engineer, E. R. Calthrop.
Further addition of 32 miles were done in 1912 from Varsamedi (near Anjar) to Bhachau and further extension of 15 miles up to Kandla was started in the end of 1930 and completed in 1932.
The Kutch State Railways continued to operate as separate system (even after independence of India & merger of Princely State of Kutch ) from August 15, 1947 till the railway was merged into the Western Railway on November 5, 1951, at which time the total length was 72 miles.
Saurashtra Railway came into being in April 1948 with the amalgamation of State Railways like Bhavnagar State Railway, Gondal Railway, Porbandar Railway, Jamnagar & Dwarka Railway, Morvi Railway, Dhrangadhra Railway, Okhamandal Railway, Junagadh State Railway, Baria Light Railway, Rajpipla Railway, Bhavnagar Tramway, etc.
As States of Saurahstra and Kathiawar were merged to make Saurashtra State, the Government of India, similarly merged the various State Railways of Gujarat into a separate entity called Saurashtra Railway.
On November 5, 1951, Saurashtra Railway, along with BB&CI, Rajputana Railway, Jaipur State Railway & Kutch State Railway were merged and Western Railway came into existence.
Text: Archana Sharma