Extracts from the Railway Times

Selected extracts from the Railway Times, 1853 - 1887.
Taken from source material made available by the Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History, of the University of York. The material is believed to be out of copyright.

15 January, 1853 - On the opening of the Bombay - Thana line

p. 59

This enterprise will shortly be opened for traffic as far as Tannah, twenty-one miles from the Bombay terminus. A double line is laid the entire distance, and the Tannah viaduct is nearly completed, except the two piers through which the navigation passes. The iron bridge for this opening is on its way out by the 'Balcarras.' The embankments, which have been exposed to the monsoon storms and rains, stand remarkably firm, even better than embankments in England. The Indian Government have approved have approved of the line being extended to Shahpoor, on the Thull Ghaut road, twenty-nine miles from Callian, where it will intercept all the traffic which descends by the Thull Gaut. The locomotives have arrived out, and are being fitted preparatory for placing on the line. In a few weeks, therefore, the iron road that is probably destined to change the habits, manners, customs, and religion of Hindoo, Parsee, and Mussulman, will commence its work in the Indian Peninsula

29 April 1854 - Report on the GIPR

p. 453

This company [the GIPR] continues progressing favourably, and still keeps itself in advance of the the East Indian, both in its operations in the East and the amount of confidence reposed in it at home. We glean from the report that the section between Tannah and Callian will have been opened for passenger traffic by this date. The passenger trains between Bombay and Tannah have continued running without interruption or accident, and an instance has been given to the Government and people of India of the value of railways there in the movement of troops. The receipts from April to December amount to £8,963, presenting an average of £242 per week for twenty-two miles, whilst the working expenses do not exceed forty-six per cent. The surveys for the extensions are being proceeded with as a rapidly as possible: one staff of surveying engineers being engaged on the North-east line via Kandeish, and another on the South-east line via Poonah.

The frank explanations and lucid details given at the meeting cannot fail to inspire the proprietors with additional confidence in the undertaking, and assure them that their guaranteed five per cent. will be more than secured by the actual earnings of the line. To have earned, from passengers alone, a net income equal to three per cent. per annum on the line from Tannah to Callian is one of the surprises for which India is remarkable, and shows that the indolent habits of the natives, as well as their extreme poverty, have not been correctly estimated. As the bulk of revenue has been calculated on to be derived from goods, and as no traffic of that description has yet been carried on the line, it may reasonably be anticipated that a total income greatly exceeding former expectations is shortly to be realised. The great point remaining for settlement is the passage of the Ghauts. There appears to be no want of surveyors, no lack of energy on the part of those employed in this preliminary duty. We may look forward, therefore, to a speedy solution of the difficulty, and then for the 'great stride' in the works so graphically described by the Chairman. Altogether, the Great Indian Peninsula scheme seems destined, in despite of every obstacle, to take the lead in India, alike in economic construction and profitable return, and we sincerely trust that the good fortune with which it has been accompanied may continue with it to the end.

10 October 1857 - Reaction to the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

p. 1428

This article was written after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, addressing the claims in some sections of the British press at the time that a more extensive system of railways in India would have helped the British quell the rebellion more effectively, and prescribing measures for the future to deal with 'barbaric land of Inde'.

It is a complaint that railways have not more rapidly advanced in India. It is also remarked, that, had railways been more extended, troops could have been more rapidly conveyed, and the mutiny more speedily quelled. This is sheer absurdity. Had there been railways in the places of revolt, these railways would have been destroyed. Had the destruction of any particular railway been impossible, there would have been no revolt in that locality. Unless, therefore, India had been covered with railways, and been likewise occupied by immense bodies of troops to protect them, the existence of a few trunk lines would have availed little or nothing in quelling the outbreak. Had there been troops in India to protect all the railways that appear to be required, there would have been no revolt. But, as it was, there were no troops to be conveyed even on the comparatively few miles of line that exist. It is idle, therefore, to speculate on what might have been had all the circumstances under which the mutiny broke out been changed.

But it is of importance to consider how or in an what manner the railway system of India may be extended, perfected, and preserved. This is a large question, and will require not merely calm consideration, but constant ventilation.

In the first place, the whole peninsula must be tranquillised and an assurance fixed upon the English mind that the peace of Hindostan shall not again be disturbed. Until this essential preliminary is established, not a mortgage upon the whole revenues derived under the charter is likely to induce English capital and labour to embark for settlement or operation in India. This sense of security is not to be obtained by a mere chastisement of the mutineers. Our suspicions lead us to imagine that chastisement must follow nearer home. If fear is to be irrevocably impressed upon the native mind, the whole of the civil and military establishments which the mutineers have treated with contempt must be removed. Not merely the men but the system must be changed. Neither Hindoo nor Mussulman must be permitted to imagine that he can repeat his effort a second time. He must be taught, and be made to feel, that the men and the system under which he could revolt have been superseded, and that another, of different characteristics, has been planted in its stead. The iron rule of a Cromwell, rather than of a Clive, is wanted. Severe, yet just, implacable, yet consistent, the next Governors of India must show that they are honest in themselves, honest in their intentions towards the native masses; honest in their encouragement of commerce; honest in their support of Christianity. A repetition of effete routine might no doubt prove the accuracy of the Times, that a century could do little for civilisation, but it would leave India, in some or other of its many provinces, open to periodical insurrection. Let a Governor be sent to India who shall in his life and actions show that he believes Christianity to be a truth, and he will never be troubled by scruples of caste. Let every man under him be compelled to imitate the good example thus set before them - executing justice, loving mercy, avoiding self-aggrandisement, and being content with their wages - living frugally, despising frivolity - like soldiers and servants of a system which has thunders in reserve to strike the guilty, and ready means at hand to support and promote the worthy. Put arms into the hands of no native that has not for a given period (lengthening as years go by) abjured whatever faith the Government of India, by the conduct and example of its servants, shows to be profane.

When such a plan of government is set afoot, and when it exhibits a proselytism equal to the daily increase of human beings born in the territory - then may British rule and modern civilisation consider themselves on the pathway of security. Then also, and not till then, may an extension of the railway system be profitably introduced into what are still the barbaric lands of Inde.

7 May 1859 - Slaughter of Mr William Evans

pp. 533-4

This article was written following an attack on a railway engineering team in 1859.

It is with the deepest sorrow we have to announce the murder of Mr. William Evans, the chief engineer of the Jubbulpore branch of the East Indian. Mr. Evans was out in the district with his staff, Messrs. Limnell, Strong, Campbell, and Heywood, running out the centre line for the Jubbulpore Railway. They had a small guard of forty-eight Seikhs, supplied by the Government of India, but owing to the engineers being compelled, from the nature of their work, to be divided into two parties, the guard had also to be divided; Messrs. Evans, Limnell, and Campbell being together, with a guard of twenty-four men, and Messrs. Strong and Heywood with the remainder of the guard.

It appears that on the morning of 26th March, while the guard were cooking their food, the encampment was suddenly surprised by about a thousand rebels; the Seikhs, though half undressed, flew to their arms, and the engineers jumped on their horses. Mr. Evans, it appears, became perfectly bewildered: the havildar of the guard said to him that if he would clear his front, his men would commence firing upon the rebels, but Mr. Evans waved his hand in the negative, and the engineers then fled in different directions. Mr. Evans and Mr. Limnell's horses became restive with the firing, and rearing, threw their riders. While Mr. Evans was lying on the ground, the rebels came up, speared him first and beheaded him afterwards. Mr. Limnell was made a prisoner, but there can be little hope of his safety. On the contrary, there is a rumour that he has also been killed. Mr. Evans's headless body has been recovered, but nothing has been seen or heard of Mr. Limnell up to the time of writing. Mr. Campbell escaped into Banda, and the Seikh guard also escaped, bringing in all the camels and the money with them.

The attack seems to have been pre-organized. The rebels, consisting of 400 sepoys, 200 matchlockmen, 150 cavalry, and 250 rabble, having heard of Mr. Evans's encampment, made a forced march of sixty miles the previous day, and encamped within sixteen miles of Mr. Evans's camp the same evening. On the next morning they surrounded the camp. The place where the attack was made was at Etwan, south of the Banda district, and it is the general talk of the country that the men were headed by the Rajah of Putturcachar, and Furjind Ali: the former a rebel chief who had lately been pardoned by Lord Canning, and, in fact, treated with every respect and consideration. It is also the general belief that Mr. Evans's servants were parties to the attack, and knew all about it, because they looted the whole camp without the rebels interfering with them in the least; they seemed to have a perfect understanding with the rebels. An additional reason for entertaining this belief is, that Mr. Evans was, encamped in a tope, with a fine open plain all around, and it is difficult to conceive how the rebels could have come across this plain unobserved by the servants.

There is a prevailing belief that if the engineers had remained with the guard they would have been perfectly safe, but there is no tangible ground for entertaining this supposition. It is true that the guard came away quite safely, but it is folly to suppose that if the engineers had stuck by them the guard would have got out so easily. The object of the rebels was European blood, and having obtained their end, it was of little consequence to them what became of the Seikhs, although they did take the trouble to follow them up for a short distance with determined threats of vengeance. Had the engineers remained with the guard the probabilities are that the whole of the little band would have been cut up, for what could twenty-seven men in an open plain do against 1,000, of which number 550 were trained soldiers?

This melancholy event has thrown a gloom over the whole of the railway establishment in Bengal and the north-west. Mr. Evans was one of the oldest and most efficient of the officers of the East Indian; he was one of the trio that first came out into this country, and has been in the service of that company for about eight years. His sad end is an apt commentary on the flourishing accounts that have been sent home of late about the rebellion being at an end and the country quite pacified. It will show that the rebels of India are rebels still, blood-thirsty and cruel to the last. They are wholly unworthy to be dealt with according to the laws of civilized nations. We had thought that we had seen the last of the mutinies, but, alas! another, and perhaps yet another, name will have to be added to the tablet about to be erected by the railway engineers at Cawnpore, in memory of their fallen brethren.

19 February 1887 - Railway Accidents in India

p. 251

Recent returns show that the natives of India are by far the largest sufferers from railway accidents, though the number of accidents generally is happily on the decline. In the quarter ending June last there were 154 fewer accidents than on the corresponding quarter of the previous year. There was a considerable increase in the number of accidents on the Southern Bahratta, South Indian, and Oude and Rohilkand Railways, chiefly attributable to trains running over cattle on the line. But all the other lines showed a decrease. On the Eastern Bengal Railway three passengers were killed and five passengers and one ballast coolie injured by a collision at Habra between a down train and ballast train standing on the siding. The total number of persons, including passengers, servants, and others, as well as suicides, who lost their lives, was 104, as compared with 96 in the corresponding quarter of the previous year, and of those injured 202, as against 230. No fewer than 95 passengers met their deaths in carriages and at stations from causes unconnected with the working of the trains. In England these casualties would represent a large sum in damages, but in India the only penalty they entail is a loss in rolling stock, in injury done to the line, and in the temporary interruption of traffic.

The original source material used on this page is believed to be out of copyright, and/or these extracts are believed to be fall within the scope of fair use under copyright law.