Railway Heritage: Bangladesh Railway and its railway heritage

- Engr. Dulal Kumar Roy

Dulal Kumar Roy

The Stockton Darlington Railway (1825) is recognized as the starting of railway age, because they were the first “Railway”  to use a steam locomotive on iron rails to haul a load. It was a load of 38 carriages laden with passengers and goods to run between Stockton to Darlington. The railway line was actually commenced in 1821, but it took 4 years to complete the construction.

The evidence of a Wagonways (or tramways), a predecessor of the railway is thought to have developed in Germany in the 1550s to facilitate the transport of ore tubs to and from mines, utilising primitive wooden rails.

Wagonways were relatively common in Europe (typically in mining) from about 1500 to 1800 AD. Mechanised rail transport systems first appeared in England in the 1820s. These systems, which made use of the steam locomotive, were critical to the Industrial revolution and to the development of export economies across the world.

The history of modern train industry started with the appearance of first steam engines, which enabled human race for the first time to transport goods and people using fast, reliable and cheap way that sparked new age in the life of industrial revolution, human expansion and global economy. With the initial great expansion of railways and locomotive designs, countless inventors focused their careers on improving trains and enabling goods and people to be transported much safer and faster than ever before, reaching the current times where diesel engines, electrical trains and maglev high-speed bullet train encompass the entire earth. But all those trains had to start from one point, and that point was steam engines.

Steam engines were introduced to the public during 1770s, but their Scottish inventor James Watt sat on the patent and did not allow anyone to gain any commercial benefit from his designs. When his patent expired in 1800s, floodgates of innovation opened all around the world and many inventors jumped to the opportunity to create their own vision of automated locomotive powered by steam.

Richard Trevithick’s was first one who took this chance. But much more success is today contributed to English inventor Matthew Murray who in 1804 created first moving steam locomotive, and more famous twin-cylinder Salamanca locomotive that was used publicly in 1812. However he was not the inventor who designed steam locomotive that was used on the first public railway system. That honor went to George Stephenson, famous English engineer

who created “Locomotion” in 1825 for the Stockton and Darlington Railway in north-east England.

The success of the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 encouraged the rich investors of the rapidly industrialising North West of England to embark upon a project to link the rich cotton manufacturing town of Manchester with the thriving port of Liverpool.

 

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first modern railway, in that both the goods and passenger traffic was operated by scheduled or timetabled locomotive hauled trains.

The promoters were mainly interested in goods traffic, but after the line opened on 15 September 1830, they found to their amazement that passenger traffic was just as remunerative.

By the 1850s, many steam-powered railways had reached the fringes of built-up London. But the new lines were not permitted to demolish enough property to penetrate the City or the West End, so passengers had to disembark at Paddington, Euston, Kings Cross, Fenchurch Street, Charing Cross, Waterloo or Victoria and then make their own way via hackney carriage or on foot into the centre, thereby massively increasing congestion in the city. A Metropolitan Railway was built under the ground to connect several of these separate railway terminals, and thus became the world’s first “Metro.”

By the 1940s, India had the fourth longest railway network in the world.

The core of the pressure for building railways in India came from London in 1840s. Some mention should be made of the role of Indian businessmen played in the early years. There were Indian merchants, both in Kolkata and Bombay who took an interest in founding of the railways. The most prominent of these was a remarkable Bengali merchant Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, grandfather of Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. Dwarkanath’s firm Carr, Tagore & Company, is reported to have offered in 1844, to raise one-third of the capital required for a railway from Calcutta northwest to the coalfields above, Ranigonj Burdwan.

After Dwarkanath’s premature death, a few years later the other Indian businessmen played only a passive role. The conception, promotion and launching of India’s railways were all British.

The Railway Age dawned in India on 16th. April 1853, when the first train ran from Bombay to Thane, a distance of 21 miles(33.81 Km.) For some years before that the idea of building railways in India had taken concrete shape with the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London. The East India Company had obtained a foothold in India as a trading company, but gradually lost most of its privileges it had enjoyed as an instrument of commerce.

It had, however been made responsible for the governance of India under the supervision of a Court of Directors in London. The final authority lay , of course , with the British Cabinet, who acted on the advice of its special Board of \control for Indian Affairs. There was a Governor General at Fort William in Calcutta, having superintending authority over the administration of India.

The first proposals for construction of railways in India were presented in 1844 to East India Company in London by, (a) East Indian Railway Company (EIR) headed by R.McDonald Stephenson, and (b) Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company (GIPR).

George Stephenson the great British Locomotive inventor was one the first Directors of GIPR and his son Robert Stephenson was appointed as the consulting engineer based at London.

Both E.I.R. and G.I.P.R were incorporated in England for the purpose of constructing railway lines in Calcutta and Bombay presidencies respectively. Though GIPR company was formed in 1844. George Stephenson could not see his Locomotives run on Indian soil as he died in 1848.