Saturday, April 25, 2015

For the Love of Indian Railways…

For the Love of Indian Railways…

Published: 18th April 2015 01:03 PM
Last Updated: 21st April 2015 01:26 PM
History took a new track around 162 years back when a 14 carriage long train traveled from Bombay to Thane on April 16, 1853 marking the maiden run for Railways on Indian Soil among loud cheers. And what has continued is there for all to see- years of legacy, decades of exceptional service and scores of happy passengers like me who cannot get enough of Indian Railways.Since from my first ever train ride between Mangalore to Sakleshpur on the Konkan coast in early 90’s to the much improved travels on super-fast Shatabdis today, my love for the railways in India has only multiplied manifold. The window of an Indian Rail is indeed a window that depicts the many aspects of life and terrain in India. The dried up riverbeds, sun kissed paddy fields, the 7x8 huts in slums, sleepish small towns, and playful kids of the countryside are all a common sight when you transverse through the length and breadth of the country on any long train journey. Those sultry summer journeys on Indian trains relishing IRTC meals and tomato soup are probably fond memories of every Indian child.
I have my memories too, those that I can cherish forever. Be it travelling with my family on LTC’s or with friends for Sports Nationals, be it for work or for leisure, rail journeys, almost always, meant midnight pranks, munching on junk food and sitting alone by the window allowing speeding wind to play with your flowing hair. Moreover, meeting new people and knowing mundane and profound details of their life was the best part of Indian Rail Journeys.
As a nation, we have enough reasons to be proud of this mighty organization. The Indian Railways is the seventh largest commercial or utility employer in the world. With over 1.307 million employees, Indian Railways runs around d 11,000 trains every day. The Indian Mountain Railways comprising of seven ‘chottey’ (small) lines in the Himalayas and Western Ghats are also a delight that every train lover should experience. Out of these seven heritage lines, three of them namely the Kalka-Shimla Railway (with its iconic 103 tunnels and 864 bridges), the Nilgiri mountain Railway and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway are collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Hail Indian Railways!
Dating back to 1853, the Indian Railways is one the greatest British legacies we have in our country.
Faster trains, upgradations, scams, innovations- the Indian Railways has also had its fair share of newsy controversies. Remember Lalu Prasad Yadav’s infamous Kullad (tiny clay cups) Chai that was implemented on trains!
However, for a teeming population of India trains are still the main source of commuting to work. For million others, it is also the cheapest means for long distance travel in India. And for many more fans like me trains are synonymous with long journeys, swiftly changing landscapes, screeching whistles and nostalgia! As the Indian Railways continues to amuse us all, here’s wishing them a happy 162nd anniversary.
  • The first railway line from Bombay to Thane covered over 34 kilometers. A salute of 21 guns was given when the engine rolled out of the Boribunder station at 3:30 PM on 16th April, 1853. The train which had 14 railway carriages carried over 400 guests. Today the Indian Railways covers 1,08,706 kilometres of track length all over the country.

  • The Barog tunnel is the longest of the 103 operational tunnels on the UNESCO recognised Kalka-Shimla Railway. Also the considered the straightest tunnel in the world, it is named after Colonel Barog, a British official who committed suicide after he was fined for his miscalculations during the digging of the tunnel. He was later buried at the entrance of the tunnel and locals believe that his ghost still haunts the dark and damp tunnel.

  • The Pamban bridge is a century old railway sea bridge which connects the island town of Rameswaram to mainland India. It is a cantilever bridge which can be raised to let ships pass.

  • In 1924 for the first time, the railway finances of India were separated from the general finances based on the recommendations of a British Railway economist William Acworth. Since then, a separate budget is presented for Railways just a few days ahead of the Union budget. Lalu Prasad Yadav has the rare distinction of presenting the Railway budget six times in a row from 2004 to 2009.

  • The Indian Railways holds the record for the largest known strike in Indian history. The strike led by George Fernandes, the then President of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation in 1974 saw 17 lakh workers demanding a rise in railway pay scale.