A strong reminder of the colonial roots and strength of Indian Railways, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly Victoria Terminus, completes 125 years this month.
A rare combo of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and Mughal beauty, the world heritage building came up in 1888. The busiest railway station in the country is a terminus for long-distance as well as Mumbai suburban trains.
It is the only operational world heritage station building.
It is the place where the first page of Indian Railways history was written 160 years ago on April 16, 1853, when the first train was started between Bori Bunder and Tannah (CSTM and Thane) in Mumbai. The initial four services a day ferried about 1,000 passengers.
Today, 1,618 services from the station cater to about 65 lakh commuters every day.
When the British introduced the service for personal convenience they would not have imagined it would one day spread to such proportions covering the length and breadth of the country, 65,000 km in all, and bring about a geographical and socio-economic sea change.
Of the 65,000 km rail network, 54,600 km is broad gauge.
Central Railway then general manager and at present member engineering, railway board, Delhi, Subodh Jain, who has completed 37 years in service, narrates the story of Indian Railways which graduated from narrow/metre gauge (serving “narrow-minded people”) to broad gauge (serving the “broad-minded”).
He explains Cotton Green (a station for suburban trains in Mumbai), dak bungalows and mails.
Before railways, all vehicles were animal-driven. Once James Watt harnessed the power of steam, horse power was replaced.
Subsequently, George Stephenson invented the first steam engine locomotive in 1816 — Rocket.
The first passenger train ran in India on April 13, 1853, and the next day a Parsi booked all its seats for a “joyride”.
Prior to this, trains would bring cotton to Bombay Port to be shipped to Manchester, England.
This is how Cotton Green came into being. It was an exchange where cotton would be brought from different parts of the country for trade.
To start with, horse riders, called dakiye (postmen), would bring mail for viceroys in Peshawar, Delhi, Kanpur and other places.
The places where dakiyes and tired horses would rest and mail change hands came to be known as dak bungalows.
Trains followed the same system and came to be known as mails and loco sheds replaced dak bungalows.
At loco sheds, steam engines low on fuel would be detached and fresh ones loaded with coal would be attached. This was also the time train drivers would go to running rooms for rest.
Initially, all trains carried the suffix mail as their objective was to carry mail, not passengers. So it was Punjab Mail, Frontier Mail.
When the talk of carrying passengers began, Lord Dalhousie suggested Hindustan should have broad gauge, not metre or narrow gauge.
After Dalhousie returned to Britain, Indian kings sought narrow or metre gauge.
In 1873, permission was granted to maharajas and Indian rail companies to lay metre gauge lines for passenger transport and a network of chhoti lines was established.
In 1892, it was realised metre gauge caused loss, the service was poor and speed less. This prompted a uni-gauge — one gauge all over India — policy.
Soon, conversion of metre gauge to broad gauge began. Areas that already had broad gauge lines saw rapid industrial development with an influx of labour. Labourers migrating from metre gauge areas — Kutch in Gujarat, north Bihar — to broad gauge areas initially faced ridicule. Dekho, ye chhoti line ka admi hai!
Thus, populations were gauged — residents of developed areas (broad gauge), those of backward areas (metre gauge) and of no-development areas (no rail network).
Bombay Baroda Central Indian Railway was initially Central Indian Railways. But when the British sought to lay a rail line in Baroda, the king of Baroda told them the company name should also include the state name.
This is why Dadar is both BB (Bombay Baroda) and TT (Tram Terminus). The trams would run between Regal Cinema and Dadar.