An Introduction to the Indian Railways

Near Bilaspur
Bilaspur-Katni (MP) line

The Indian Railways (IR) is the world's largest railway system under single management and the largest employer in the world with approx. 1.3 million employees. India's as well as Asia's first train steamed off from Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay) to Thane on April 16th, 1853 covering a distance of 34 kms. India's railway network grew rapidly to encompass a pan-Indian network of almost 40,000 km's.

IR carried approx. 23.4 million booked passengers daily (total 8.53 billion) in 2013-14 (Apr-Mar) out of which ca 47 % was non-suburban passenger traffic. IR's vast rail network (fourth largest in the world) encompasses 65 436 route kilometers (as on 31.3.13) covering approx. 8 500 stations and served by over 12 600 passenger and 7 400 freight trains. 20 884 route kilometers (32 %) have been electrified (mostly 25 kV AC overhead traction). Revenue based freight carried amounted to 1054 million tons in 2013-14. The main commodities handled by IR during 2010-11 include coal (420 mt), raw materials for steel plants, finished steel, pig iron and iron ore (165 mt), cement (99 mt), oil and lubricants or POL (39 mt), fertilizers (48 mt), foodgrains (43 mt) and containers (38 mt). IR's gross revenues amounted to Rs 1.4 trillion (ca USD 23.4 bn) in 2013-14. IR's passenger reservation system (PRS) is the largest of its kind in the world. IR's plan outlay for 2013-14 amounts to Rs 634 bn (ca USD 11½ bn).

IR's e-ticketing service is available for all Superfast, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani trains.

Indian Railways had till recently faced increased competition from low-cost airlines that were luring mainly first class passengers to shift to air travel. As a countermeasure, AC First fares were substantially lowered. Although Indian passenger trains are relatively slow in general, a few exceptions do exist. India's fastest train, the New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi Express, attains a maximum speed of 150 km/h on certain stretches between Delhi and Agra. Rajdhani trains also attain speeds of upto 130 km/h on certain sections. There are plans to introduce modern high-speed trains on certain sections of the network in the future.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - Mumbai
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, is one of India's busiest stations. CST is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List

India's longest scheduled single continous train journey can be experienced on the weekly Vivek Express, connecting Kanyakumari (southern tip of India) with Dibrugarh in Assam. The route distance of 4,286 kms covered in 82 hours as per schedule. IR operates fully airconditioned but affordable Garib Rath trains on selected routes medium/long distance routes. Fares on these trains are about 25 per cent lower than comparable AC 3-tier fares.

Indian Railways operates on three gauges: broad gauge (1.676 m), meter gauge (1.000 m) and narrow gauge (0.762 m and 0.610 m). All major routes are served by broad gauge (55 956 route kms at the end of 2011/12). Rolling stock incl. 5 197 diesel and 4 309 electric locomotives, 7 793 coaches and 239 321 wagons as on 31.3.2012.

The Indian Railways Official Website
Ministry of Railways Website
Trains At a Glance (timetables)
Indian Railways Catering And Tourism Corp.
Online rail booking facilities
Train Running Information
Network Map of the Indian Railways
Accomodation Classes

Kolkata (Calcutta) Trams - Esplanade Depot and a Ride on a New Tram Car
(video duration: 14 mins) Timir Mozumder

August Kranti Rajdhani Express (old rake) whizzes past Bharatpur Junction (Rajasthan) - Timir Mozumder

A train pulls in to Bharatpur Junction Station (Rajasthan) - Timir Mozumder

Bilaspur Junction Station (Chhattisgarh) - Timir Mozumder

Indian Railways Zones
Zone Headquarters Freight Carried
in Million Tons (2004-05)
Central Railway Mumbai (Chhatrapati Shivaji) 42.98
Eastern Railway Kolkata 46.95¹
East Central Hazipur 58.26
South East Central Bilaspur 92.52
West Central Jabalpur 19.97
North Central Allahabad 5.43
East Coast Bhubaneswar 70.46
Kolkata Metro Railway Kolkata
Northern New Delhi 41.4
North Eastern Gorakhpur 2.06
North Western Jaipur 9.05
Northeast Frontier Maligaon-Guwahati 9.94
Southern Railway Chennai 27.4¹ 511¹
South Central Railway Secunderabad 51
South Eastern Kolkata 85.86¹ 157.6
South Western Hubli 31.75
Western Railway Mumbai (Churchgate) 28.35

Rail Museums

Howrah Rail Museum Photo Gallery >>

National Rail Museum Photo Gallery >>

Railway Books

Below is a small selection of Indian railway books available at If you wish to order any of these then just click on the bookcover image to proceed with your online order.

The Imperial Way: Making Tracks from Peshawar to Chittagong >>
Paul Theroux's illustrated book on various train trips in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although a bit dated (published in 1985) it is still a very enjoyable book with many fascinating photographs and essays.
Indian Narrow Gauge Steam Remembered >>
Indian Locomotives: Broad Gauge, 1851-1940 >>
Indian Railway related books available at >>

Railway Videos

Indian Railway videos are rare but I have collected a few high quality and interesting ones available through Just click on the product image you wish to order.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DVD Region 0)
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, A Journey to the Rooftop of the World DVD features the famous Darjeeling "Toy Train". In addition to a 79 min professionally filmed (various angles) video, the DVD includes a fascinating narration by Sherab Tenduf and five extra clips of the train in action, three slide shows and historical photographic scenes. A must buy for any steam engine buff!
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (VHS PAL)
National Geographic Video - The Great Indian Railway (1995)
Although this video is a bit outdated it depicts wonderfully the significance of the railways on networking the vast country that India is. Many different aspects and facets of the gigantic railway web are shown in this 115 min video.
Great Railway Journeys Of The World - India
This rail video, written and presented by Brian Thompson, takes the armchair traveller on a one hour rail journey from Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus to the steamy South including Bangalore, Mysore, Ooty and Kochi. Although this video was released in 1997 it was actually shot in 1987. All in all a very enjoyable rail journey.

Commuter Rail, Metro and Light Rail Networks

Mumbai Railway Vikas Corp. Ltd.
Mumbai's local rail network comprising of three trunk lines, namely Western, Central and Harbour Lines with a total route length of 485 kms is the world's second busiest (ca 7.6 million passengers/day) commuter rail system.

Kolkata Metro Railway
Kolkata metro rail - Dum Dum station
Kolkata metro - Passengers ready to board an arriving metro train at Dum Dum station, the northern terminus of the north-south line. The ground-level station is adjacent to the suburban rail platforms of the station connected via a pedestrian tunnel.
India's first underground rail system became operation on Oct 24 1984 with the opening of a 3.4 km section. The line was gradually extended to its present length of 28.1 kms in July 2013. The north-south line connects Noapara with Kavi Subhash (New Garia) located in southern Kolkata. The line serves over 600,000 passengers on weekdays.
Construction of the long-awaited second line (project value ca Rs 50 bn) with a total length of 14.7 kms connecting Howrah Maidan and Bidhannagar Sector V (a hub for IT/technology companies) began in 2009. Plans are to interconnect the East-West Corridor line with the existing north-south line at the Central metro station. The line would also facilitate a convenient link connecting Kolkata's two busy rail terminals, Howrah and Sealdah. Half of the proposed 12 stations would be underground while the other six would be elevated stations. The line is projected to be operational in 2015. 8.9 kms of the line would be underground. Surface transport would be unobstructed due to the use of tunnel boring machinery. The underground section of the present metro line was constructed using the cut and cover method. A 7+ km elevated line connecting Central Park in Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) with the new terminal coming up at NSCB airport is being planned.
Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC)>>

Kolkata Metro Rail - Southern Section Timir Mozumder

Kolkata Metro train pulling out of a downtown Kolkata station - Timir Mozumder

Kolkata Metro train - Timir Mozumder

Kolkata Light Rail Transit System
An LRTS project with an aim to connect Joka (south of Kolkata) via Esplanade (central Kolkata) with Barrackpore (north of Kolkata) covering a distance of 40 kms was formally launched in Feb '09. The line is expected to be implemented in two phases over a period of 4-5 years from the commencement of construction. The project will be implemented through a joint-venture consortium (West Bengal Government and SREI International and a technical partner from the Czech Republic) special purpose vehicle christened Kolkata Mass Rapid Transit Pvt. Ltd.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation
Delhi Metro Rail - Line 2
Delhi Metro - Line 2 underground section. 198 trains (4 coaches each), each of which can carry upto 1,500 passengers (dense crush load), run from 6 AM to 11 PM. Six coach trains are being introduced and over 100 trains are expected to be six coach sets by the end of 2011. Ridership on weekdays amounts to 1.8-o 1.9 million (single day record over 2.1 million).
The first 22 km line (mostly elevated) of the Phase I (three lines) network was partially opened in December 2002 and runs now from Rithala, crossing the Yamuna river to Shadhara in East Delhi. The 11 km second line, from Vishwavidyalaya to Central Secretariat via Kashmere Gate and Old Delhi Railway Station is fully underground and was extended by 6.36 km (5 stations) extension to Jehangirpuri in north Delhi. The third line (Blue line), the longest of the current three lines at 44 stations and 50 route kms (in addition to a 8.8 km secondary line connecting Yamuna Bank and Vaishali), runs from Noida City Center in East Delhi to the western suburb of Dwarka (Sector 21). Extension work (2.8 kms) on line three upto Sector 21 Dwarka. The metro system currently comprises of six lines totalling 189.7 route kms and 142 stations making it one of the most extensive metro rail systems in the world.
An airport express rail route extends from New Delhi station to to Delhi's IGI airport. The 22.7 km (15.7 km underground and 7 km elevated) line features six stations, three of which will have baggage check-in facilities.
Phase II comprised of 127 route kms. The "Yellow" line was extended to the burgeoning satellite city of Gurgaon in neighbouring Haryana. Delhi Metro ridership has risen to approx. 1,600,000 on weekdays).
DMRC ordered 424 Bombardier MOVIA metro cars the first of which were airlifted from Germany to Delhi. Phase III which was cleared by the Delhi Govt in Oct '10 will comprise of 65 additional route kilometers.

Delhi Metro Rail - Yellow Line - Timir Mozumder

Chennai Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS)
The 19.3 km MRTS line is partly elevated and compliments the suburban rail network of Chennai. The line extends from Chennai Beach to Velachery with 70 train trips carrying ca 80 000 passengers on weekdays.

Chennai Metro Rail

Jaipur Metro Rail
The first phase (9.3 km route length) of the first line is under construction and is planned to opened in the latter half of 2014. Jaipur Metro has planned for two lines (Green and Orange) with 29 stations and a total length of 35.2 kms. The second phase is expected to be ready in June 2017.

Kochi Metro Rail

Hyderabad Multi-Modal Transport System (MMTS)

Bangalore Metro Rail Corp.
The first phase of the Rs 64 bn Bangalore metro system would comprise of two lines totalling 42.3 kms (East-West 18.1 km and North-South 14.9 km). Of this, 6.7 km would be underground. The first Reach (eastern section of the East-West line) was opened on Oct 20 '11 connecting Byappanahalli with M.G. Road. The length of the Reach 1 section is 6.7 kms comprising of six stations.

Mumbai Metro
Phase I of the Mumbai metro project includes the construction of three lines:
1) An 11.4 km elevated metro rail link featuring 12 stations incl. one close to Sahar airport. The line was contracted to Reliance Energy and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and is routed from Versova to Ghatkopar via Andheri. A Chinese company, namely Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock Works, will supply the rolling stock. The line began commercial operation in June 2014.

India's erstwhile tram networks.
Although trams exist only in Kolkata at present quite a few Indian cities had tram service in the past.

Calcutta Tramways
CTC (Calcutta Tramways Corporation) operates the tram network of Kolkata. Kolkata is the only city in India still having a tram network. The first electric tram to run in Calcutta was in 1902, the first in Asia. Horse and steam engine hauled trams were in service by the 1880's. By 1943 the track length of the tram line network had been expanded to over 67 kms but since then has gradually decreased to the present 54 kms served by 18 routes. The rolling stock is of vintage type (old SLC and SLC and some new trams with a polycarbonate ceiling and larger windows, better lighting and piped radio/music). The olders tram cars are around 70 years old. The tram ride in video provided below is in one of the newer tram cars. CTC also runs a few city bus routes.

Kolkata (Calcutta) Trams - Esplanade Depot and a Ride on a New Tram Car - Timir Mozumder

Konkan Railway Corp. Ltd.
Sky Bus Metro
A rail based mass transit system developed in India not yet in commercial use.

Hyderabad Metro
A three line 71 km metro rail network (phase I) has been planned for Hyderabad. The network would comprise of 66 stations. The first section of 8 kms connecting Nagole with Mettuguda on Line 3 and a stretch of 11 kms from Miyapur to S.R. Nagar on Line 1 are planned to be opened for commmercial service in March and August 2015 respectively while the entire network would be operational by the end of 2017.

Mumbai Monorail
The first phase (Wadala to Chembur, a route length of 8.8 kms) of the first line (the 19.5 km long line will connect Jacob Circle/Ghadge Maharaj Chowk and Chembur) began commercial operations in Feb 2014. The entire stretch is projected to ready in the first half of 2015.

Proposed Metro and Light Rail Networks

Patna Metro
Delhi Monorail
A proposed pilot 15 km monorail route is under study and if implemented would provide feeder service to the Delhi Metro system. Monorail Malaysia Technology Sdn Bhd and Ircon International Ltd have signed a MoU to undertake a feasibility study.

Other Rail Related Links

Rail Vikas Nigam Limited
IRFCA (Indian Railways Fan Club Association)
Railway Budget 2006-07
National Rail Museum
Indian Steam Railway Society
Central Organisation for Railway Electrification

Indian Railway Equipment Manufacturers

Titagarh Wagons Ltd., Titagarh/Uttarpara (West Bengal)
Bombardier Transportation India Ltd., Savli near Vadodara (Gujarat)
Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW), Chittaranjan (W.B)
Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), Varanasi (U.P)
Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Perambur (Tamil Nadu)
Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala (Punjab)
Bharat Heavy Electicals Ltd. (BHEL)
Jessop & Co. Ltd, Kolkata
Manufactures EMU's (Electric Multiple Units), a variety of wagons, tram cars etc.
Bharat Earth Movers Ltd., Bangalore
Manufactures rail coaches
Wheel And Axle Plan, Bangalore
Diesel Loco Modernisation Works, Patiala
Railtel Corp. of India Ltd.
Rail Wheel Factory - Yelahanka (Karnataka)

Research and Development

RDSO Research, Designs & Standards Organisation

Mountain Trains

Darjeeling Himalaya Railway
A narrow gauge toy train connecting New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.

The Darjeeling toy train at New Jalpaiguri ready to embark on its 6 hr journey to Darjeeling - Timir Mozumder

World Heritage Tour panographies >>
NHK World Heritage video >>
Darjeeling toy train loco at New Jalpaiguri Darjeeling toy train loco at New Jalpaiguri
Darjeeling toy train loco at New Jalpaiguri
This 96 km long narrow gauge rail line was built in 1903 requiring a lot engineering skills. The longest of the 103 tunnels found on this line is over 1.1 km long at an altitude of 1500 meters.
Nilgiri Mountain Train
Nilgiri Mountain Train (or Blue Mountain) connects Mettupalayam with Udhagamandalam (Ooty) traversing a distance of 45.88 km on a metre gauge rail track . A special rack and pinion system (the only one of its kind in India) keeps the train from slipping down and negotiate the steep gradient while moving up.
Neral - Matheran
Neral, situated 96 km from Mumbai, is the starting point for the two foot gauge rail track toy train to the renowned hill station of Matheran (alt. 2650 ft).

Special Tourist Trains

The Golden Chariot
A luxury train that covers major sights of Karnataka including stops at Bangalore, Mysore, Kabini, Hassan, Hampi and neighbouring Goa.
Heritage on Wheels
A meter gauge luxury train that covers the Rajasthani destinations of Jaipur, Bikaner, Tal Chhapar amd Shekhawati
Palace on Wheels
Route: Delhi-Jaipur-Chittaurgarh-Udaipur-Jaisalmer-Jodhpur-Bharatpur-FatehpurSikri-Agra-Delhi
The Royal Orient train
The Royal Orient covers many interesting points in Rajasthan and Gujarat during the seven day journey departing from Delhi.
Fairy Queen
The Fairy Queen locomotive, manufactured in 1855, is probably the oldest running steam loco in the world. The route covers Delhi and Alwar, including nearby Sariska Tiger Reserve
Deccan Odyssey
A Luxury tourist train service covering the following route: Mumbai-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg-Goa-Pune-Aurangabad-Nashik-Mumbai