History of Rail Transportation in India
In 1849, India had no railways and there were few options for traveling across the country. During British colonial rule, there were multiple attempts to construct railways, but effective construction of linked railway systems did not begin until the late nineteenth century. During the 1850s, British engineers and local workers began to construct what would develop into a vast network of railways linking India's biggest cities and industrial hubs. By the end of the nineteenth century, railways linked the cities of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta.
A slow beginning to modernity
The early twentieth century saw the government takeover of almost all of the railways. Networks spread to reach areas that are today known as Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. The first locomotive appeared in 1907, and development continued until the First World War. During the First World War, the British used India's railways for military efforts, but soon after the war ended, many of India's railways fell into disrepair.
Boom and bust
Between the two world wars, India's railways experienced development and then decline due to the Great Depression. The Second World War severely hampered development and left the railways badly neglected. After India gained independence in 1947, the new Indian government went about repairing and expanding the railways and phasing out individual networks and replacing them with zones.
By 1952, India had phased out all networks and had a total of six new railway zones. India continued to develop and modernize its railways and trains, and expanded the railways to reach remote parts of India.
The digital era
The 1980s saw more modernization, with the introduction of computerized booking systems, first in Bombay and then later in other cities. By 1995, the entire system was standardized, and its staff performed all booking through the railway's intranet.
In a little over 150 years, India's railways have developed from small networks of trains connecting a few major cities to a vast railway system covering huge expanses of the country.