India’s first passenger train journey is the subject of Tuesday’s Google doodle. The day marks 160 years since the a passenger train set out on its maiden journey in India.
Railways were introduced to India in 1853 from Mumbai to Thane, and by the time of India’s independence in 1947 they had grown to forty-two rail systems. In 1951 the systems were nationalised as one unit—Indian Railways—to form one of the largest networks in the world. The broad gauge is the majority and original standard gauge in India; more recent networks of metre and narrow gauge are being replaced by broad gauge under Project Unigauge. The steam locomotives have been replaced over the years with diesel and electric locomotives.
A plan for a rail system in India was first put forward in 1832. The first rail line of the Indian sub-continent came up near Chintadripet Bridge (presently in Chennai) in Madras Presidency in 1836 as an experimental line. In 1837, a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) long rail line was established between Red Hills and stone quarries near St. Thomas Mount. In 1844, the Governor-General of India Lord Hardinge allowed private entrepreneurs to set up a rail system in India. The East India Company (and later the British Government) encouraged new railway companies backed by private investors under a scheme that would provide land and guarantee an annual return of up to five percent during the initial years of operation. The companies were to build and operate the lines under a 99 year lease, with the government having the option to buy them earlier.
In 1854 Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor-General of India, formulated a plan to construct a network of trunk lines connecting the principal regions of India. Encouraged by the government guarantees, investment flowed in and a series of new rail companies were established, leading to rapid expansion of the rail system in India.
Indian Railways use a specialised classification code for identifying its locomotives. The code is usually three or four letters, followed by a digit identifying the model (either assigned chronologically or encoding the power rating of the locomotive). This could be followed by other codes for minor variations in the base model.
India has rail links with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It also plans to install a rail system in southern Bhutan. A move to link the railways of India and Sri Lanka never materialised.
The Google doodle celebrates the 160th anniversary of this journey – rather inaccurately some might say – by depicting a single steam engine lugging a train towards the reader. The front part of the engine form the first ‘O’ in Google.