Railways were first introduced to India in 1853 from Bombay to Thane. In 1951 the systems were nationalized as one unit, the Indian Railways, becoming one of the largest networks in the world. IR operates both long distance and suburban rail systems on a multi-gauge network of broad metre and narrow gauges. It also owns locomotive and coach production facilities at several places in India and are assigned codes identifying their gauge, kind of power and type of operation. Its operations cover twenty four states and three union territories and also provides limited international services to Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Indian Railways is the world’s ninth largest commercial or utility employer, by number of employees, with over 1.4 million employees. As for rolling stock, IR holds over 229,381 Freigh Wagons, 59,713 Passenger Coaches and 9,213 Locomotives. The trains have a 5 digit numbering system as the Indian Railways runs about 10,000 trains daily. As of 31 March 2012, 22,224 km (13,809 mi) (34%) of the total 65,000 km (40,000 mi) km route length was electrified. Since 1960, almost all electrified sections on IR use 25,000 Volt AC traction through overhead catenary delivery.
The history of rail transport in India began in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1849, there was not a single kilometre of railway line in India. A British engineer, Robert Maitland Brereton, was responsible for the expansion of the railways from 1857 onwards. The Allahabad-Jubbulpore branch line of the East India Railway had been opened in June 1867. Brereton was responsible for linking this with the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, resulting in a combined network of 6,400 km (4,000 mi). Hence it became possible to travel directly from Mumbai to Calcutta. This route was officially opened on 7 March 1870 and it was part of the inspiration for French writer Jules Verne’s book Around the World in Eighty Days. At the opening ceremony, the Viceroy Lord Mayo concluded that “it was thought desirable that, if possible, at the earliest possible moment, the whole country should be covered with a network of lines in a uniform system”.
In 1907 almost all the rail companies were taken over by the government. The following year, the first electric locomotive made its appearance. With the arrival of World War I, the railways were used to meet the needs of the British outside India. With the end of the war, the railways were in a state of disappeair and collapse.
In 1920, with the network having expanded to 61,220 km, a need for central management was mooted by Sir William Acworth. Based on the East India Railway Committee chaired by Acworth, the government took over the management of the Railways and detached the finances of the Railways from other governmental revenues.
The period between 1920 and 1929 was a period of economic boom; there were 41,000 miles of railway lines serving the country; the railways represented a capital value of some 687 million sterling; and they carried over 620 million passengers and approximately 90 million tons of goods each year. Following the Great Depression, the railways suffered economically for the next eight years. The Second World War severely crippled the railways. Starting 1939, about 40% of the rolling stock including locomotives and coaches was taken to the Middle East, the railways workshops were converted to ammunitions workshops and many railway tracks were dismantled to help the British in their war. By 1946 all rail systems had been taken over by the government.
Indian Railways is divided into several zones, which are further sub-divided into divisions. The number of zones in Indian Railways increased from six to eight in 1951, nine in 1952 and sixteen in 2003. Each zonal railway is made up of a certain number of divisions, each having a divisional headquarters. There are a total of sixty-eight divisions.
Each of the sixteen zones is headed by a General Manager (GM) who reports directly to the Railway Board. The zones are further divided into divisions under the control of Divisional Railway Managers (DRM). The divisional officers of engineering, mechanical, electrical, signal and telecommunication, accounts, personnel, operating, commercial and safety branches report to the respective Divisional Manager and are in charge of operation and maintenance of assets. Further down the hierarchy tree are the Station Masters who control individual stations and the train movement through the track territory under their stations’ administration.