Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Railways and the Raj * 80

How Were the Railways In British India

How were the Railways in British India? The British brought in the railway in India. However the rail lines were laid not for the benefit of Indians but for the English to connect to the far flung areas of India. The purpose was to move the English rulers from one place to another. Indians could however travel on on the trains.
During the British Raj, the trains had 4 types of accommodation. There was the First class. These were opulent compartments with attached toilets .The cabins were tastefully furnished, but there was a catch as only Britishers could travel in first class. Natives were not allowed.
The next class was the second class. This was for Europeans and those English who were not that well off. This had good accommodation with padded seats but no sleeper berths.
The third class had wooden seat and no toilets. It was meant for Indians and the conditions were terrible. The 4th class was the worst and more like a cattle compartment where Indians just sat and waited till the next station.
The trains also had lavish dining cars, but only for English and Europeans. Bars were also available and the ‘Bada Sahib’ could have a drink and dine in comfort and then go back to his first class compartment to sleep. Indians were not allowed in this dining car.
So anybody who has romantic ideas of the railways in the days of the Raj, one must know that Indian were at the receiving end of facilities.
The British ran a number of mailtrains that are still running now. Most mail trains were generally on time. All engine drivers and guards were mostly Anglo-Indians and over all the Railways were a British preserve. The best rolling stock
 was imported from England and till 1930 the railways had the best of the world.

But after 1930 when the independence movement gathered momentum and the British realized they may have to leave India they stopped all investments in Indian railways. The result was catastrophic as the rollingSTOCK
 became obsolete and by the time India became free in 1947 the British had left behind a moth eaten rail structure.

The best period for the Indian railways was from 1890-1930 when the best of facilities were available on the railways. At that time the British invested a lot of money in railways as they assumed they would never leave India. All this changed after 1930.

Credit must go to the British who opened far flung areas from the North West frontier to Assam and connected them by direct trains from the metro cities. Their mail trains like the Punjab Mail and Frontier mail are legends by themselves. They also constructed the narrow-gauge rail lines in the hills and connected the hill station like Shimla to the plains. Again these were mainly for the benefit of the English, whose families would migrate to the hills in the heat of summer. Those were the days of the Raj and will never return.