India's Demand for Transportation (1920)
W. E. Weld, "India's Demand for Transportation", Columbia University Press, New York, 1920.
Made available by the Internet Archive.
Source: Robarts Library of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Toronto
Edited by R Sivaramakrishnan. Posted to IRFCA on: January 8, 2008.
In pages 62 - 79, the history of the development of the Indian Railways is dealt with in three phases: 1843-70, 1870-80 and 1880-1914.
The Indian gauge of 5' 6" was advised in 1846 by Mr Simms, an engineer sent to India the Honourable Court of Directors of the East India Company, as a compromise between the 7' gauge then prevalent in England and the standard gauge of 4' 8.5" adopted elsewhere: it was thought that any gauge less than 5' 6" would not ensure safety against cyclones and Lord Dalhousie accepted this conclusion [pp. 63 64]. The lines built before 1870 cost on the average 17,000 pounds sterling per mile. When it became evident that such high investments could not continue to be made, for evolving an adequate system of railways, Lord Lawrence in 1869 advocated the use of lesser gauges, ushering in the second phase of development, from 1870-80.
The first railway to be purchased by the state was the East Indian Railway in 1879, paid for in annuities; followed by the purchase of the East Bengal Railway in 1884 at which time it was amalgamated with the North Bengal State Railway; the Sind-Punjab-Delhi railway was acquired in 1886 and was amalgamated with the Indus Railway and the Punhab Northern State Railway under the name of North-Western state Railway; the Oudh and Rohilkhand in 1889; the G.I.P. in 1900 and was made over to a company for operation. The Madras Railway was acquired in 1907 and amalgamated with the Southern Mahratta Railway [pp. 74-75]
When the railways were first considered for India it was thought that they would not be greatly used for passenger transportation ... due to caste restrictions... Time has proved this idea wrong. The people, as passengers, have used the railways from the beginning. When a Brahman enters the third-class compartment of the railway carriage, certain caste rules are suspended until he has reached his destination.
In chapter V, the author outlines his prescriptions for meeting the transportation demands of India: opening of feeder (branch) railway lines, better roads but not all of which need to be metalled, due to absence of snow especially for reaching the villages and co-ordination with road transport.
His unobjectionable prescriptions have indeed come to be adopted, going one better by laying asphalted roads to most of the villages in India. But the India of today is different from what the author had envisaged independent, badly bruised by the Partition, and growing stronger by the day, despite continuous hiccups.