Best Notes on History of Indian Railway, DFCCIL

History of Indian Railway, DFCCIL: In this article, we are covering the History of Indian Railway Complete Notes which is important for different competitive exams like Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) Exams, Engineering Services Examination (ESE), Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Exams, Civil Services Examination (UPSC CSE), State-Level Competitive Exams, Technical and Management Entrance Exams, Recruitment Exams Conducted by DFCCIL etc.

History of Indian Railway, DFCCIL

This is the Notes of History of Indian Railway where we are going to cover Introduction of Indian Railway, Network of Indian Railway and Indian Railway’s Links with Adjacent Countries.

Indian Railway: Introduction

Indian Railways is a statutory body under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Railways, Government of India that operates India’s national railway system. It manages the fourth-largest railway network in the world by size, with a route length of 67,956 km (42,226 mi) as of 31 March 2020. 45,881 km (28,509 mi) or 71% of all the broad-gauge routes are electrified with 25 kV 50 Hz AC electric traction as of 1 April 2020.

In the fiscal year ending March 2020, IR carried 808.6 crore (8.086 billion) passengers and transported 121.22 crore (1.2122 billion) tonnes of freight. IR runs 13,169 passenger trains daily, on both long-distance and suburban routes, covering 7,325 stations across India. Mail or Express trains, the most common types of trains, run at an average speed of 50.6 km/h (31.4 mph). Suburban EMUs run at an average speed of 37.5 km/h (23.3 mph). Ordinary passenger trains (incl. mixed) run at an average speed of 33.5 km/h (20.8 mph). The maximum speed of passenger trains varies, with the Gatimaan Express running at a peak speed of 160 km/h (99 mph).

  • Indian Railways Headquarters: New Delhi, India
  • Railway Minister: Ashwini Vaishnaw
  • Railway Board Chairman & CEO: Anil Kumar Lahoti
  • Founded: 8 May 1945

Subsidiary Companies

Indian Railways is a major shareholder in 16 public sector undertakings (PSU) and other organizations that are related to rail transport in India. Notable among the list are:

Financing, Construction and Project Implementation

  • Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC)
  • RITES Ltd
  • Indian Railway Construction Corporation (IRCON)
  • Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) (51%)
  • Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL)

Land and Station Development

  • Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA)
  • Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC)

Rail Infrastructure

  • Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL)
  • Pipavav Railway Corporation Ltd (PRCL)

Passenger and Freight Train Operations

  • Konkan Railway Corporation (KRCL)
  • Container Corporation of India (CONCOR)

IT and Communications

  • Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS)
  • RailTel Corporation of India (RCIL)

Catering and Tourism

  • Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC)

Indian Railway: Locomotives

By 1990s, steam locomotives were phased out and electric and diesel locomotives, along with a few CNG (compressed natural gas) locomotives are used. Steam locomotives are used only in heritage trains. Locomotives in India are classified by gauge, motive power, the work they are suited for, and their power or model number. Their four- or five-letter class name includes this information.

The first letter denotes the track gauge, the second their motive power (diesel or electric), and the third their suitable traffic (goods, passenger, multi or shunting). The fourth letter denoted the locomotive’s chronological model number, but in 2002, a new classification was adopted in which the fourth letter in newer diesel locomotives indicate horsepower range.

A locomotive may have a fifth letter in its name, denoting a technical variant, subclass, or sub-type (a variation in the basic model (or series) or a different motor or manufacturer). In the new diesel-locomotive classification, the fifth letter refines the horsepower in 100-hp increments: A for 100 hp, B for 200 hp, C for 300 hp and so on. In this classification, a WDM-3A is a 3100 hp, a WDM-3D a 3400 hp and a WDM-3F a 3600 hp locomotive. Diesel locomotives are fitted with auxiliary power units, which save almost 88 percent of fuel during the idle time when a train is not running.

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Goods Wagons

A new wagon numbering system was adopted in Indian Railways in 2003. Wagons are allocated 11 digits, making it easy for identification and computerization of a wagon’s information. The first two digits indicate the Type of Wagon, the third and fourth digits indicate Owning Railway, the fifth and sixth digits indicate the Year of Manufacture, the seventh to tenth digits indicate Individual Wagon Number, and the last digit is a Check digit.

IR’s bulk requirement of wagons is met by wagon manufacturing units both in public and private sectors as well as other Public Sector Units under the administrative control of Ministry of Railways.

Passenger Coaches

On long-distance routes and also on some shorter routes, IR uses 2 primary types of coach design types. ICF coaches, in production from 1955 until Jan 2018, constitute the bulk of the current stock. These coaches, considered to be having inadequate safety features, are slowly being phased out. As of September 2017, around 40,000 coaches are still in operation. These coaches are being replaced with LHB coaches. Introduced in mid ’90s, these coaches are lighter, safer and are capable of speeds up to 160 km/h (99 mph).

IR has introduced new electric multiple unit (EMU) train sets for long-distance routes. One such, Train-18 is under operation and another, Train-20 is expected to run from 2020. These train sets are expected to replace locomotive-hauled trains on long-distance routes.

On regional short-distance routes, IR runs Mainline electrical multiple unit (MEMU) or Diesel electrical multiple unit (DEMU) trains, depending on the traction available. These train sets are self-propelled with capability for faster acceleration or deceleration and are expected to reduce congestion on dense routes. Passenger locomotive-hauled trains, having frequent stops, are slowly being replaced with train sets across India.


Indian Railways is a vertically-integrated organization that produces majority of its locomotives & rolling stock at in-house production units, with a few recent exceptions.


  • Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in Chittaranjan, West Bengal manufactures electric locomotives.
  • Banaras Locomotive Works in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh manufactures electric locomotives.
  • Diesel Locomotive Factory, Marhowrah, Bihar, a Joint Venture of Indian Railways & General Electric manufactures high capacity diesel locomotives, used especially for freight transportation.
  • Electric Locomotive Factory in Madhepura, Bihar, a Joint Venture of Indian Railways and Alstom SA manufactures electric locomotives.
  • Diesel-Loco Modernisation Works in Patiala, Punjab upgrades and overhauls locomotives. They also manufacture electric locomotives

Rolling Stock

  • Integral Coach Factory in Perambur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  • Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala, Punjab
  • Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh
  • Coach Manufacturing Unit in Haldia, West Bengal

Wheel & Axle

  • Rail Wheel Factory in Bangalore, Karnataka
  • Rail Wheel Plant, Bela in Chhapra, Bihar

Indian Railway: Network


As of 31 March 2020, IR network spans 126,366 km (78,520 mi) of track length, while the route length is 67,956 km (42,226 mi). Track sections are rated for speeds ranging from 80 to 200 km/h (50 to 124 mph), though the maximum speed attained by passenger trains is 180 km/h (110 mph) during trial runs. Almost all the broad-gauge network is equipped with long-welded, high-tensile strength 52kg/60kg 90 UTS rails and pre-stressed concrete (PSC) sleepers with elastic fastenings.

1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge is the predominant gauge used by IR and spans 63,950 km (39,740 mi) of route (94.10% of total route network), as of 31 March 2020. It is the broadest gauge in use across the world for regular passenger movement. Broad gauge generated 100% of the freight output (net tonne-kilometres) and more than 99% of the passenger output (passenger kilometres) in the fiscal year 2019–20.

The 1,000 mm (3 ft 3+3⁄8 in) metre gauge tracks and 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) and 610 mm (2 ft) narrow gauge tracks are present on fewer routes. All of these routes, except the heritage routes, are being converted to broad gauge. The metre gauge tracks were 2,402 kilometres (1,493 mi) (3.53% of total route network) and narrow gauges tracks were 1,604 km (997 mi) (2.36% of total route network) as of 31 March 2020.


As of 1 April 2021, IR has electrified 71% or 45,881 km (28,509 mi) of the total broad-gauge route kilometers. Indian Railway uses 25 kV 50 Hz AC traction on all its electrified tracks.

Railway electrification in India began with the first electric train, between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Kurla on the Harbour Line, on 3 February 1925 on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) at 1500 V DC. Heavy gradients in the Western Ghats necessitated the introduction of electric traction on the GIPR to Igatpuri on the North East line and Pune on the South East line.

On 5 January 1928 1500 V DC traction was introduced on the suburban section of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway between Colaba and Borivili, and between Madras Beach and Tambaram of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway on 11 May 1931, to meet growing traffic needs. The 3000 V DC electrification of the Howrah-Burdwan section of the Eastern Railway was completed in 1958. The first 3000 V DC EMU service began on the Howrah-Sheoraphuli section on 14 December 1957.

Research and trials in Europe, particularly on French Railways (SNCF), indicated that 25 kV AC was an economical electrification system. Indian Railways decided in 1957 to adopt 25 kV AC as its standard, with SNCF their consultant in the early stages. The first 25 kV AC section was Raj Kharswan–Dongoaposi on the South Eastern Railway in 1960. The first 25 kV AC EMUs, for Kolkata suburban service, began service in September 1962. For continuity, the Howrah–Burdwan section of the Eastern Railway and the Madras Beach–Tambaram section of the Southern Railway were converted to 25 kV AC by 1968.

Because of limitations in the DC traction system, a decision was made to convert the electric traction system of the Mumbai suburban rail network of WR and CR from 1.5kV DC to 25 kV AC in 1996–97. The conversion from DC to AC traction was completed in 2012 by Western Railway, and in 2016 by Central Railway. Since then, the entire electrified mainline rail network in India uses 25 kV AC, and DC traction is used only for metros and trams.

Indian Railways announced on 31 March 2017 that the country’s entire rail network would be electrified by 2022. Though not a nascent concept, the electrification in India now has been committed with a fresh investment of ₹35,000 crore (US$4.9 billion) to electrify the entire network and eliminate the cost of fuel under transportation which will amount to a massive savings of ₹10,500 crore (US$1.5 billion) overall. This will be a boon for savings for the Government to channelize the investments in modernization of the railway infrastructure. Close to 30 billion units of electricity will be required for railway electrification on an annual basis by 2022, leading to excellent opportunities for IPPs of conventional power.


Bangladesh is connected by the four times a week Maitree Express that runs from Kolkata to Dhaka and weekly Bandhan Express which began running commercial trips between Kolkata and Khulna in November 2017.

Indian and Bangladeshi governments has started work on a new rail link to ease surface transport. India will build a 13 km (8.1 mi) railway linking Tripura’s capital Agartala with Bangladesh’s southeastern city of Akhaura, an important railway junction connected to Chittagong port, resource-rich Sylhet and Dhaka. An agreement to implement the railway project was signed between the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during the latter’s visit to India in January 2010.

Total cost of the proposed project is estimated at ₹252 crore (US$35 million). The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is constructing the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 13 km (8.1 mi) rail line, 5 km (3.1 mi) of tracks fall in Indian territory. The Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) is laying the connecting tracks for the new rail link on the Indian side, up to Tripura’s southernmost border town, Sabroom – 135 km (84 mi) south of Agartala. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is 72 km (45 mi) away.


An 18 km (11 mi) railway link with Bhutan is being constructed from Hashimara in West Bengal to Toribari in Bhutan.


No rail links currently exist with China.


No rail link currently exists with Myanmar, but a railway line is to be built from Jiribam (in Manipur) to Tamu through Imphal and Moreh. The construction of this missing link, as per the feasibility study conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs through RITES Ltd, is estimated to cost ₹29.41 billion (US$410 million).


Two rail links to Nepal exist: passenger service between Jainagar and Bijalpura and freight services between Raxaul and Birganj.


Two trains operate to Pakistan: the Samjhauta Express between Delhi and Lahore and the Thar Express between Jodhpur and Karachi. However, as of August 2019, they have been cancelled due to the tension over Kashmir.

Sri Lanka

No rail links currently exist with Sri Lanka.

But in the past a Rail link existed between India to Sri Lanka named Boatmail Express. This train was terminated till Rameswaram due to the 1964 Rameswaram cyclone and never extended till date. Formally this train terminates at Dhanushkodi in India and a ferry service was operated till talai mannar island of Sri Lanka and from there rail connectivity is available.

FAQs on History of Indian Railway

When was the first railway line in India established?

The first railway line in India was established in 1853. It ran between Bombay (Mumbai) and Thane, covering a distance of approximately 34 kilometers.

Who is considered the “Father of Indian Railways”?

George Stephenson is often referred to as the “Father of Indian Railways.” He was a British engineer who played a significant role in the development of railway systems in India during the colonial period.

What was the purpose behind the construction of the first Indian railway line?

The primary purpose of the first Indian railway line was to facilitate the transportation of goods, particularly cotton, from the interior regions to the port of Bombay for export. It aimed to improve trade and connectivity.

When was the Indian Railway network nationalized?

The Indian Railway network was nationalized in 1951, after India gained independence from British colonial rule. This led to the integration of various regional railway systems into a single, unified Indian Railways.

What is the significance of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway?

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, often called the “Toy Train,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s known for its narrow-gauge tracks, scenic routes, and historical importance in connecting the hill station of Darjeeling to the plains. It’s a popular tourist attraction and an engineering marvel.

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Last updated: September 19, 2023 Updated on 8:17 AM