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Map of the East Indian Railway

George Stephenson1846

Kalakriti Archives

Kalakriti Archives
Hyderabad, India

The construction of the railway system across India during the second half of the 19th Century utterly transformed the subcontinent’s society, communications and economy. Disparate regions and cultures that historically had little contact with one another were now only a matter of a few days, or even hours, away.

The first railway completed in India was a 32 km line of tack running between Bombay and Thane, which opened in 1853.

In 1845, the East Indian Railway Company was formed with the objective of building a line from Calcutta to Delhi. The present map was made following the Company’s initial survey of the projected line, as part of the prospectus for investors who ended up supporting the venture with a £4 million fund – an enormous sum for the time.

The project was delayed by the noticeable lack of cooperation from the atrophied East India Company, which governed India up to 1858. By 1851, construction led by the brilliant engineer George Turnbull was finally underway. However, many challenges beckoned, as vast quantities of supplies need to be imported; wide rivers needed to be forded (included the Son River which was a mile wide); cholera stuck the workers; while much iron was stolen during the Uprising of 1857. Nevertheless the line form Howrah to Allahabad was completed by 1863, and the line to Delhi was opened in 1866. With the completion of the line of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway from Bombay to Allahabad, it was possible to traverse India in only a few days.

While the rail system had the effect of tightening the British Raj’s grip over India, over time, by allowing Indians from different parts of the country to easily interact with one another, it contributed towards fostering a coherent sense of national identity. In this sense it was a critical factor behind the Indian Independence movement. Today the custodian of the national railway system, Indian Railways, employs over 1.3 million people, runs 151,000 km of track and operates over 7,000 stations.

Details

  • Title: Map of the East Indian Railway
  • Creator: George Stephenson
  • Date Published: 1846
  • Location Created: Culcutta
  • Physical Dimensions: 110 x 117 cm
  • Type: Map
  • Publisher: East Indian Railway Company, J. & C. Walker
  • Medium: Lithograph, dissected and mounted on original linen, in original slipcase
  • Title (Original): Map of the East Indian Railway Shewing the Line proposed to be constructed to connect Calcutta with the North West Provinces and the Immediate Civil and Military Stations to Accompany the Report of the Managing Director of the East Indian Railway Company.
  • Creator's Lifetime: 1808/1895

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