Early Indian Railroads

Railroad construction took place at a rapid pace on the Indian subcontinent from the 1850s onwards. Following Dalhousie’s recommendation of a series of arterial “trunk” routes to connect India’s major cities, the first lines were built inland from the regional hubs of Bombay on the west coast, Madras in the south, and Calcutta in the east. Smaller regional lines—built in an alarming variety of gauges—fanned out from these main lines, and by the early 20th century India boasted more than 25,000 miles (40,000km) of track. This map shows the main rail network planned by Dalhousie and built in the colonial era.




A steam locomotive is floated across the Yamuna River on a pontoon at Kalpi, northern India, in the late 1800s. The river was later bridged, but before and during this contruction, workers had to use improvised measures such as this to transport locomotives over the river.


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