History of Indian Railways – 1853 to 2018

Indian Railways is the world’s fourth-largest railway system. Founded in 19th century, this system serves millions of tourists and locals, every day. The first passenger train of India took 400 people for 1.6 km from Mumbai to Thane. From there, the Indian Railways has evolved into a superpower industry.

Past of Indian Railways

History Of Railways




16 April, 1853, Amalgamation on 1947


New Delhi

Area served



Railways and Locomotives


Government of India

Let us dive into the history of Indian rails starting from the mid of 19th century, the colonial time of India under British to today’s Nano technology era of 21th century.

Suggested Read: Train 18 – Interesting Things About India’s Fastest Train

1853 – 1869

Although the concept of railway system entered India in 1850, trains came to India in 1853 only. There were many political barricades to cross in acquiring land, resource, labor and others. The first train had only 14 cars. Controlled by East India Company, the system gradually grew and made additional lines like Calcutta – Delhi, Allahabad – Jabalpur and others. By the end of this era, Indian Railways covered 4000 miles in area.

Check Here Luxury Train Maharajas Express Fare

By 1860, eight railway companies were launched in the country including Eastern India Railway, Madras Railway, Great India Peninsula Company and others. Most of these companies were approved and commissioned by the then kings of India.

Must Read: New Rules Set by Indian Railways for Hassle-free Traveling!

1870 – 1900

This reign liquidated many companies and external contractors were hired for controlling the railway. The length of the railway system reached 9000 miles in this region, mainly around Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. By the end of 1890, the trains started to gain many amenities like toilet, electric lights and others. The mountain trains, now called as the toy trains were first proposed in 1854.

However, the first mountain train started its maiden trip on 1881. The first mountain train of the country is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways. Later, many other mountain train routes were linked connecting highland towns with the rest of the country.  (Source)

Also Read:  Top 10 Superfast and High-Speed Trains in India

First toilets were introduced in the first class coaches in 1891. Only by 1907, the lower classes were provided toilets.

1901 – 1925

By the beginning of this century, Indian Railways started to make profit. Under the rule of Lord Curzon, the railway department started to flourish. East Indian Railways and GIPR were nationalized by the end of this reign.

During the First World War, the service of Indian railways degraded monumentally. The fund and other resources of the railway department were routed to the war needs by the British government in India.


This era saw the first electrical train. The size of the system grew and started serving an average of 620 million passengers, each year. During the final years of British rule, the railway department was financially crashing as, people preferred wagons instead of rails.

Also Read : 10 Most Busiest Railway Stations in India


After Independence and separation of states, numerous rail routes were built to connect different regions. The first train between India and Pakistan started in 1951. All the trains were electrified and modernized. This was the bloom period for Indian Railways.

In 1982, the first enquiry counter was set up in Mumbai suburban station to indicate the upcoming trains. It was a crude manual system in which the staffs turned the clock hands to denote the next train timing, every 2-3 minutes.

Suggested Read: Indian Railways to Introduce Luxury Coaches with Glass Ceiling


Technology started to gain more momentum and metro system started in India. The major revolution of Indian Railway, luxury train started in India. The run of luxury train started with Palace on Wheels in 1982 by Government of Rajasthan and Tourism department of India.

Must Read: The Origin Of Luxury Trains – How They Started A Revolution

Below, you will find a detailed history of luxury train in India. By 1995, the countrywide network provided reservation and ticketing system to Indian railways.

2000-present day

Metros and monorails are thriving within cities. Online ticketing system started in 2000’s and is one of the major ways of booking train ticket, today. 4.5 billion km was additionally covered in just ten years (2001-2010). Now, the train tracks cover more than 120,000 km of area in India and special amenities like Wi-Fi, customer information system, ergogenic designs and green technologies have taken Indian Railways to the next level.

Also Read:  New Rules Set by Indian Railways for Hassle-free Traveling!

Also Read : How To Make Reservation In Indian Railway?

Recent developments of railway system include technological amenities in unreserved class, high horsepower electric locomotive, GPS based passenger information system, sliding doors, private catering services and many others. (Source)

There is always a next step for Indian Railway. By 2019, more than 7000 stations around the world would receive free Wi-Fi service. The technology team is diving deep into finding greener source of powers. 

2018 – Forth Largest Rail Network in the World

Today, the Indian Railways manages the track more than 120,000 km of the country. The changing face of Indian Railways is preparing for the future with the much more initiative. The current Rail Minister “Piyush Goyal” of Indian Railways said in May the free WiFi services would be provided at more than 7,000 stations in 2019.

Indian Railways

Also Read: World-Class! Indian Railways to Transform Stations into Airport-like Transit Hubs

Indian Railway Zones


Name of Railways



Date Established


Northern Railway



14 April, 1952


North Eastern Railway






Northeast Frontier Railway






Eastern Railway



April, 1952


South Eastern Railway






South Central Railway



2 October, 1966


Southern Railway



14 April, 1951


Central Railway



5 November, 1951


Western Railway



5 November, 1951


South Western Railway



1 April, 2003


North Western Railway



1 Oct, 2002


West Central Railway



1 April, 2003


North Central Railway



1 April, 2003


South East Central Railway


Bilaspur, CG

1 April, 2003


East Coast Railway



1 April, 2003


East Central Railway



1 Oct, 2002


Konkan Railway†


Navi Mumbai

26 Jan, 1998


History of Luxury Trains in India

Trains were introduced to India by British. Back then, every train had a luxury saloon for the royals of the land and British rulers. The trains never belonged to any of the kings of India. However, the royal saloons were dedicated to the blue bloods of the land. The locals were never allowed to board in this luxury saloon. The most prestigious luxury train of the country during British Rule is the Indian Imperial Mail. It ran between Calcutta and Bombay.

Also Read:  Ramayana Express Trains for Madurai, Rajkot and Jaipur

In 1933, this luxury train was put on track for a four-week itinerary covering Calcutta (former Kolkata), Darjeeling, Benaras (former Varanasi), Lucknow, Cawnpore (now Kanpur), Agra, Delhi, Lahore (now in Pakistan), Amritsar, Peshawar (now in Pakistan), Jaipur, Udaipur and Bombay (now Mumbai). Later, 7 days long itinerary and ten days long itineraries were also provided. Many regular trains also started to have a few tourist saloons in them, later. (Source)

After Independence, these luxury saloons were left to rust as the kingdom rule fell in the country. During 1980’s, the government of Rajasthan took an initiative to re-use these luxury saloons to create the first tourism luxury train Palace on Wheels to promote tourism in Rajasthan. Today, the Palace on Wheels provide a much clarified and tuned itinerary in just eight days and seven nights.

Check out the link to book Palace On Wheels Tickets

Inside View of Palace on Wheels

Interesting statistics about Indian Railways

  • Today, more than 14,300 trains run every day. Prior to Independence, there were a mere 42 trains in the country. The total distance covered by all the trains is 3 ½ times the distance between Earth and Moon.
  • Indian Railways carry more than 23 million people every day and the system employs more than a million people.
  • The longest railway platform of the world is located in Gorakhpur of India (4,483 ft length).
  • The longest distance covered by an Indian train is 3,715 km by Vivek Express. It takes 71 hours to complete one journey. The shortest route is covered between Nagpur and Ajni, which is just three km.
  • The oldest train of the world, still working is located in India. Fairy Queen of 1855 is still on tracks.

Further Read:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *