Bombay Calcutta Railway Link Completes 150 Years

Rail connectivity between Bombay (as Mumbai was then called) and Calcutta (as Kolkata was then called) just completed 150 years of its existence on March 7, 2020.

According to the official report filed by Juland Danvers, the then Government Director on the Board of Railway Companies in India, the connection happened on March 7, 1870.

In his report to the Secretary of State for India in Council on Railways in India, he wrote: “The most important event which has marked the history of Indian Railways during this year is the junction of the Great Indian Peninsula and the East Indian Railways at Jubbulpore, whereby the whole breadth of the Peninsula is spanned, and Bombay and Calcutta, as well as Bombay, Delhi, and Lahore, are brought into railway communication with each other.”

“The line in question proceeds from Bombay up the Thull Ghat via Jubbulpore to Allahabad; thence it follows the valley of the Ganges to Calcutta.”

“Before the end of the year a more direct route will be opened for the latter part of the line by the completion of the chord line of the East Indian Railway from Luckeserai via Raneegungee to Calcutta. The distance from Bombay to Calcutta by the present route is 1,470 miles. It will then be 1,400 miles,” he added.

The chord line between Luckeeserai and Raneegunge was completed on January 1, 1871 as envisaged (see table 1 below).

Tickets for the 70- hour journey cost about 14 pounds by first class, seven pounds by second class and two pounds and 13 shillings by third class Danvers wrote.

Railways in India enabled the British Government to send mail for free. The railway also carried troops and provisions at a subsidized rate across the Indian sub-continent.

By the end of that year (1869-70), a total of 4268.25 miles of railway lines had been laid in India. There were nine companies engaged in constructing and working railways in India.

More than half of this was under EIR and GIPR. To be precise, 1356.25 miles were under EIR and 1184 miles under GIPR.

EIR side since 1867

East Indian Railway had completed its Jubbulpore branch line on August 1, 1867 nearly three years prior to Great Indian Peninsula Railway.

Table 1 (East India Railway line opening details)

FromToDate of Opening for Commercial OperationsDistance (In Miles)Railway Company
HowrahHooghlyAugust 15, 185423.28East Indian
HooghlyPundooahSeptember 1, 185414.31East Indian
PundooahKhana JunctionFebruary 3, 185536.85East Indian
Khana JunctionRiver AdjaiOctober 3, 185819East Indian
River AdjaiCynthea (Sainthia)September 3, 185925.12East Indian
Cynthea (Sainthia)TinpaharOctober 15, 186076.12East Indian
TinpaharBhagalpurNovember 1, 186169.15East Indian
BhagalpurJamalpurFebruary 10, 186233.08East Indian
JamalpurLuckeeseraiNovember 17, 186228East Indian
Khana JunctionRaneegungeFebruary 1, 185582East Indian
RaneegungeSiarsol (Near Asansol)July 21, 18631.7East Indian
Siarsol (Near Asansol)SitarampurJanuary 1, 186515.15East Indian
SitarampurLuckeeserai JunctionJanuary 1, 1871124.59East Indian
Luckeeserai JunctionDinapurNovember 17, 186282.42East Indian
DinapurMoghal SaraiDecember 22, 1862125.57East Indian
Moghal SaraiMirzapurJanuary 1, 186439.28East Indian
MirzapurSouth Bank JumnaApril 4, 186452.95East Indian
Jumna BridgeAllahabadAugust 15, 18652.7East Indian
Naini JunctionJubbulporeAugust 1, 1867224.49East Indian

Trains from Calcutta to Allahabad used to go via Khana Bhagalpur and Luckeeserai until the chord line between Raneegunge and Luckeeserai was commissioned on January 1, 1871. Thus, train services between Calcutta and Bombay were re-routed via the new chord line.

EIR did not start making money until the connection to Bombay was established. Revenue started flowing as the connectivity was established. This is evident from the operating ratio of EIR after 1870 onwards (see table 2).

This was observed by Danvers in his report.

He wrote, “the completion of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway to Jubbulpore, where it joins the East Indian Railway system, will have a beneficial effect upon this Company’s operations, which have necessarily been seriously checked by the abrupt termination of the Jubbulpore line in the centre of India.”

Table 2- East Indian Railway Jubbulpore line Operating Ratio from 1867-77

Calendar yearOperating ratio (working expenses as a percentage of gross earnings )
August 1, 1867 -December 31, 186788.66
Jan-Dec 186876.17
Jan -Dec 1869108.18
Jan-Dec 187085.61
Jan-Dec 187172.34
Jan-Dec 187245.11
Jan-Dec 187356.95
Jan-Dec 187442.58
Jan-Dec 187558
Jan-Dec 187648.96
Jan-Dec 187737.27

Simply put, in the calendar year 1870, EIR, for every 20 shillings earned (20 shillings equalled one British pound in those days) spent only 17 shillings.

GIPR’s woes

By the late 1850s, GIPR has estimated the target date of completion from Wassind up to Jubbulpore as follows:

Table 3

FromToTarget Date of CompletionDistance (In Miles)Railway Company
WassindFoot of Thull Ghat (Kasara)August 186025Great Indian Peninsula
Foot of Thull Ghat (Kasara)Summit of thull ghat (Igatpuri)18619Great Indian Peninsula
Summit of thull ghat (Igatpuri)MunmarJuly 186077Great Indian Peninsula
MunmarBhosawell1861113Great Indian Peninsula
BhosawellJubbulpore1862332Great Indian Peninsula

However, this was not to be. The connectivity from the GIPR side was delayed after Jalgaon due to several reasons.

First among them was the Thull ghat incline. Nine miles in length, the incline between Kasara and Igatpuri saw an elevation in altitude by 972 feet.

The steepest gradient was 1 in 37 for 4 miles 44 chains; the sharpest curve was 15 chains radius for 20 chains 50 links ; the length of tunnelling is 1,962 yards, and the estimated cost 49,988 pounds per mile [One mile = 80 chains, one chain = 22 yards or 100 links].

Then, there were important bridges over the rivers Taptee, Nerbudda, Wangoon, and Bola on the North-East line which took time to construct.

Eventually, the line was extended up to Bhosawell only in  May 1863 (see table 4) as against the envisaged target of 1861 (see table 3)

While all this was happening, over a score of bridges and viaducts (made of stone arches) on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway up to Bhosawell started cracking.

In 1867, a consulting engineer was sent to inspect these structures. He found the design and specifications of these bridges/viaducts to be imperfect. In addition, the use of inferior materials, and a lax system of supervision while construction was going on only made matters worse. The contractor firms constructing these lines from Bhosawell to Jubbulpore and the Nagpore branch threw up their contracts.

Under this backdrop, in July 1868, Robert Maitland Brereton, was made chief engineer in charge of the North East Line- from Bhosawell to Jubbulpore and the Nagpore branch.

(Read the story here https://www.railpost.in/150-years-of-bombay-calcutta-connection-the-inauguration/)

He completed the task in 19 months, two months ahead of schedule and delivered the line on March 7, 1870. The Duke of Edinburgh inaugurated the Bombay Calcutta rail connectivity at Jubbulpore in the presence of several dignitaries including Viceroy Lord Mayo, Governor of Bombay, and the Maharajahs of Holkar, Kewal, Punnah, Rewah, Negode and Myhere.

Table 4: Great Indian Peninsular Railway line opening details

FromToDate of Opening for Commercial OperationsDistance (In Miles)Railway Company
Victoria TerminusThanaApril 18, 185321Great Indian Peninsula
ThanaKalyanMay 1, 185412.41Great Indian Peninsula
KalyanVasindOctober 1, 185516.14Great Indian Peninsula
VasindAsangaonFebruary 6, 18603.75Great Indian Peninsula
AsangaonKasaraJanuary 1, 186121.84Great Indian Peninsula
KasaraIgatpuri (Thal Ghat)January 1, 18659.89Great Indian Peninsula
IgatpuriNasikJanuary 28, 186131.43Great Indian Peninsula
NasikChalisgaonOctober 1, 186187.24Great Indian Peninsula
ChalisgaonJalgaonOctober 6, 186257.48Great Indian Peninsula
JalgaonBhusavalMay 20, 186315.04Great Indian Peninsula
BhusavalBurhanpurNovember 20, 186533.73Great Indian Peninsula
BurhanpurKhandwaSeptember 3, 186642.78Great Indian Peninsula
KhandwaBirFebruary 17, 186821.15Great Indian Peninsula
BirItarsiJanuary 1, 187089.27Great Indian Peninsula
ItarsiSohagpurFebruary 1, 187030.69Great Indian Peninsula
SohagpurJubbulporeMarch 8, 1870121.65Great Indian Peninsula

Terms of GIPR-EIR traffic inter-change

Upon the eve of the junction of the EIR and GIPR at Jubbulpore, the boards of the two companies met to consider the traffic arrangements to be made.

They decided upon laying down the principle of a free and unrestricted interchange of traffic between the two railways.

The agents and managers of these two companies in India were empowered to carry that principle into practice in a manner that would be beneficial to the public and the companies.

It was decided to provide spacious saloon carriages for the long journey, with all such comforts and conveniences for refreshment and repose so as to ensure passengers experienced minimum fatigue.

Thus was completed the trans-peninsula line between Bombay and Calcutta in March 1870.

More on 150 Years of the Bombay Calcutta Railway Connection

The Inauguration

The Alfred Viaduct

Bagra Tawa Today

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About the Author: Raghavendra Rao

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