Obliterating the Baroda State Railway

Rail Enthusiasts' Society

Take a trip down the memory lane to explore the history of Baroda State Railway which features the oldest narrow gauge line in the world. 

In the early 1850s, Khanderao, the Maharaja of Baroda (now Vadodara), built a line between Miyagam Karjan and Dabhoi. It was on 2’6” gauge, with rails weighing 13 lbs. to a yard. The line was designed and constructed by A.W. Forde.

Initially, a pair of oxen used to haul trains composed of four to six vehicles.

In 1863, Khanderao purchased three steam locomotives, built by Neilson and Co., Glasgow. These 0-4-0 ST locomotives proved to be too heavy for the rails and there was no option other than replacing the rails with the heavier ones.

This was undertaken during the reign of Malharrao, in 1871.

Today, the part of the line from Miyagam to Choranda is the oldest narrow gauge line in the world still in use for commercial traffic.

The 32.3 kms. Miyagam-Dabhoi line, which had been closed, was reopened on the 8th of April, 1873.

In the picture: Narrow gauge rail manufactured by Barrow Steel, in 1878.

A number of narrow gauge lines were added to the original route and by 2003, five lines branched out from Dabhoi.

The rich heritage of the once extensive narrow gauge network has been well documented and preserved. Under the able stewardship of A. K. Srivastava, the then Divisional Railway Manager of the Vadodara division, heritage parks had been established at Dabhoi and Pratap Nagar.

Dabhoi Heritage Park
The Dabhoi heritage park is located next to the Dabhoi-Miyagam line. The park has 15 panels which displays Gaekwar’s old grandeur of Dabhoi. Apart from using panels displayed on bent narrow gauge rails, the park also displays some original Railway documents.

In the picture: A panel at Dabhoi heritage shed depicts the early history of the Baroda State Railway.

The panels at the park give details regarding the financial performance of the lines. These panels show that since its time inception, the Dabhoi lines were generating surpluses. Old time tables are also displayed in some panels.

The park is a pioneering effort in popularising railway history by linking it with people and places where the railways evolved and attempts to weave an interesting story.

Pratap Nagar Heritage Park
Pratap Nagar (then known as Goya gate) was the place where the narrow gauge Railway first came to Vadodara, on 1st July, 1880. It was also the location for the first narrow gauge workshop established in 1919, the headquarters for Gaekwar’s railway and a colony built on the pattern of Tergnier in France, which was established by Compagnie du Nord.

The panels at the Pratap Nagar Heritage Shed display information about the first railway run in India, the arrival of the first train in Baroda, in 1861 and organisation of the narrow gauge network over the years.

A narrow gauge coach SR 699 can be seen at the station modelled after the old Goya Gate station. People can have tea and snacks inside the narrow gauge coach, which is converted into a dining car.

The rolling stock park, at the Pratap Nagar Heritage Shed (near the Pratap Nagar Heritage Park), features the old narrow gauge rails and narrow gauge rolling stock.

The video gives a quick view of Pratap Nagar Heritage Park

The Pratap Nagar Heritage Park also has an old turn table, which was built in 1874, by Ormerod Crierson & Co.Ltd.

Narrow Gauge Museum
The Narrow Gauge Museum near the Pratap Nagar Heritage Park, has been given a facelift. Though inaugurated in 1958, it was in a bad shape till it was revived by A. K. Srivastava, with extensive display of old photographs of the narrow gauge railway line and its locomotives.

Above: The logo of Gaekwar's Baroda State Railways.

While the advantages of the uni-gauge policy of the Indian Railways are understood, the erstwhile narrow gauge lines were the lifeline of innumerable small towns and villages. The lines may have closed down but the memories still remain.

This old photograph shows the Bombay, Baroda Central Railway (BB&CI) advertising its Christmas discounts on return tickets of the train, in English and Gujarati.

Besides displaying old photographs, the museum also has information panels on popular cartoon characters who had a railway connection, Bollywood films' connection with the railways and famous books with railway themes.

Author: Vikas Singh
Credits: Story

Author: Vikas Singh

Credits: All media
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