Indian Railways can be rightly called the lifeline of transportation within the country. Today we have railways covering the longest and some of the remotest of destinations within the country. It is the fourth largest railway network in the world, size-wise. While we pride in having an efficient railway system, we must appreciate the first train journey which took place in the country. The first passenger train ran from Bori Bunder (Mumbai) to Thane on April, 16, 1853. Today marks the 165th anniversary of this first passenger train which was hauled by three steam engines, carried 400 people over a distance of 34 kilometers. It was operated by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR).
After this first journey, developments began and the Mumbai-Thane line was extended to Kalyan. A first railway bridge was constructed over the Ulhas river, making it the first ever railway bridge in the country. The railway companies GIPR and East Indian Railway (EIR) pioneered the railway construction in the country. Gradually passenger trains ran in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country. The Central, Southern, Western and Eastern zones were then created and more and more improvements like the installation of lights, fans and sleeping coaches were introduced.
On the 165th anniversary of the first beginning of the train services, let us look at some of the facts of the Indian Railways:
- The Indian Railways network covers a distance of 127,760 km in the track length and a route distance of 67,368 kms.
- The annual tally is 8421 million passengers with 9921 trains connecting 7,172 stations over the country.
- The first electric train ran between Bombay Victoria Terminus and Kurla on the harbour line on February 3, 1935.
- The longest distance is covered by Vivek Express (Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari). It covers a distance of 4273 kms and has a run time of 80 hours, 15 minutes!
- Indian Railways have a mascot called Bholu, the elephant. It is a cartoon of an elephant holding a signal lamp with green light in one hand. The mascot was unveiled on the 150th year commemoration on 16 April 2002 in Bangalore
- Indian Railways in the eight-largest employer in the world. As of March 2017, there were 1.308 million employees in the service.
- Toilets were introduced in the trains after the service completed about 50 years.
- Computerized reservations began in New Delhi from the year 1986. The IRCTC, railway platform for booking tickets and services online started in 2006-07. And the website IRCTC is said to get close to 12 lakh hits per minute. It has 21 million customers.
- The railways are soon going to launch 'MADAD’ (Mobile Application for Desired Assistance During travel) app for grievances about the railways on your smartphones.
These facts are mind-blowing and show what makes the railways so very efficient and convenient mode of transport. The first plans for the proposal of railways were made in Madras in 1832 and actual running of the train took place on this day in 1853. A largest operating system run by one ministry, a stipulated budget to it every year and also continuous plans of development, Indian Railways is one of the prides of our country! With the railway employees celebrating this day, we too as passengers need to respect the services, despite all the glitches that we may have to face once in a while.