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 kms. India and Japan have signed an agreement for the construction of a Shinkansen type highspeed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. This is one of seven corridors currently under consideration for highspeed train service.

IR carried approx. 23.4 million booked passengers daily (total 8.43 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 65 806 route kilometers (as on 31.3.14) of which 58 175 kms is broad gauge. 450 kms of new line became operational in 2013-14 and 1350 kms were electrified. The network covers 7172 stations and is served by over 12 800 daily passenger and 7400 freight trains. 26 269 route kilometers 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 2013-14 include coal (508 million tons), raw materials for steel plants, finished steel, pig iron and iron ore (163 mt), cement (110 mt), oil and lubricants or POL (41 mt), fertilizers (45 mt), foodgrains (55 mt) and containers (44 mt). IR's gross revenues amounted to approx. ₹ 1.6 trillion (ca USD 24 bn) in 2014-15. IR's passenger reservation system (PRS) is the largest of its kind in the world. IR's plan outlay for 2014-15 amounts to ca ₹ one trillion (ca USD 15 bn).

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

Selected Fast Trains/Routes Between Major Cities /Towns
From To Train Frequency Halts Distance (kms)
Average Speed km/h (incl. stops)
Scheduled Travel Time
Howrah (Kolkata) Mumbai CST Duronto Express 4xweekly nonstop 1974
26h 25m
Mumbai Central New Delhi Rajdhani Daily 5 1388
15h 35m
Howrah (Kolkata) New Delhi Rajdhani 6xweekly 6 1463
17h 05m
Kolkata Sealdah New Delhi Duronto 4xweekly nonstop 1473
Kolkata Sealdah New Delhi Rajdhani Daily 6 1473
17h 35m
Howrah (Kolkata) Chennai Central Coromandel Daily 12 1665
26h 30m
New Delhi Agra Cantt. Bhopal Shatabdi Daily 1 195
1h 57m
Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin Agra Cantt. Gatimaan Express 6xweekly 1 188
1h 40m
Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin Chennai Central Rajdhani 2xweekly 7 2166
28h 20m
Guwahati Thiruvananthapuram Express 2xweekly 48 3560
64h 15m

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 at present, the Gatimaan Express, attains a maximum speed of 160 km/h between Delhi and Agra. Rajdhani trains operate upto speeds of upto 130 km/h on certain sections. Gatimaan Express was launched in April 2016 and completes the 195 km journey from New Delhi Nizamudding to Agra Cantonment in 2 hours.

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 4 282 kms is covered in 83 hours including 55 intermediate stops. 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 (58 175 route kms at the end of 2013-14). Rolling stock incl. 5 749 diesel and 5 000 electric locomotives, over 63 500 BG passenger coaches and over 245 000 wagons in 2013-14.

The Indian Railways Official
Ministry of Railways
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 Railway Bilaspur 92.52
West Central Railway Jabalpur 19.97
North Central Railway Allahabad 5.43
East Coast Railway Bhubaneswar 70.46
Kolkata Metro Railway Kolkata
Northern Railway New Delhi 41.4
North Eastern Railway Gorakhpur 2.06
North Western Railway Jaipur 9.05
North East Frontier Railway Maligaon-Guwahati 9.94
Southern Railway Chennai 27.4¹ 511¹
South Central Railway Secunderabad 51
South Eastern Railway Kolkata 85.86¹ 157.6
South Western Railway 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 (extension is planned upto Dakshineswar) with Kavi Subhash (New Garia) located in southern Kolkata and 22 stations in between. The line serves over 650,000 passengers on weekdays.
Construction of the long-awaited second line 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 first phase of the line (Salt Lake Sector V to Kolkata Central) is projected to be operational by mid-2018 and the remaining section a few years later. 8.9 kms of the full line would be underground. Surface transport would be unobstructed due to the use of tunnel boring machinery. The rakes have been ordered from BEML. The underground section of the present metro line was constructed using the cut and cover method. Three other lines are under various stages of construction - these lines include Joka to Esplanade, Airport to New Garia and the northern extension of Line 1 from Noapara to Dakhhineswar. The present operating line will receive 14 new AC rakes from Dalian, China with the first rake expected in June '17. 27 rakes (of which 13 are AC) are currently in use including a set of completely to be refurbished non-AC old rakes.
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

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation
Delhi Metro Rail - Line 2
Delhi Metro - Line 2 underground section. 220 train sets and close to 1400 coaches are in use running from 6 AM to 11 PM. Ridership on weekdays averages at 2.8 million (single day record till date is 3.3 million) passengers.
The first 25 km line (also known as Red Line) of the Phase I (three lines) network was partially opened in December 2002 and runs now from Rithala, crossing the Yamuna river to Dishad Gardenin East Delhi. The 49 km second line (Yellow Line) runs from Samaypur Badli in North Delhi all the way to HUDA City Center in adjoining Gurgaon. The third line (Blue line) is the longest of the current six lines with 50 stations and 56.8 route kms (incl. a branch line forking out of Yamuna Bank and terminating at Vaishali, located in Ghaziabad, UP), runs from Noida City Center in UP to the western suburb of Dwarka (Sector 21). The metro system currently comprises of six lines totalling 213 route kms and 160 stations making it one of the most extensive metro rail systems in the world. Other more recently opened lines include the Green and Violet lines, the latter running from Kashmere Gate in Old Delhi to Escorts Mujesar in the satellite town of Faridabad.
An airport express rail route extends from New Delhi station to Dwarka sector 21 via Delhi's IGI airport terminal. The 22.7 km (15.7 km underground and 7 km elevated) line features six stations. Air India offers baggage check-in facilities. Trains run from 4:45 AM till 11:30 PM at 10/15 min intervals.
Phase II comprised (completed) of 124.6 route kms and 85 stations. Delhi Metro ridership has risen to approx. 2.6 million on weekdays. Phase III has been planned to include a total of 103 additional route kms and 69 stations while Phase IV (planned to be completed by 2021) will add another 113 kms to the network. Once all the four phases are completed, the network coverage would amount 413 kms, longer than London's, Moscow's or New York City's present underground / metro networks.
DMRC ordered 162 Bombardier MOVIA metro cars for expansion of the train fleet to 776 coaches by 2018.

Delhi Metro Network (Phases I,II and III) >>

Delhi Metro Rail - Yellow Line - Timir Mozumder

Chennai Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS)
The 19.3 km 18 station 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 100 000 passengers on weekdays. The elevated line is being extended, albeit at a slow pace mainly due to litigation issues, to St Thomas Mount (ca 5 km extension from Velachery) interconnecting with the upcoming Chennai Metro line.

Chennai Metro Rail
The first phase (10.2 km route length with seven stations from Koyambedu to Alandur of the Chennai Central - St. Thomas Mount Green Line) of the first line began commercial operations in June '15 while a 8.6 km long section linking the airport with 5 stations upto Little Mount was opened in Sep '16. The line intersects with the Green Line at Alandur station. Work is presently in progress for the remaining sections of the Phase I with a total length of 45 kms, including airport connectivity on the Blue Line. The first phase is expected to be fully completed in 2017.

Jaipur Metro Rail
The first phase (9.3 km route length) of the first line began commercial operations in June '15. 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 2017.

Kochi Metro Rail
A 25.6 km 23 station metro line (elevated) is under construction in Kochi. The first phase section from Aluva to Maharajah's College is expected to be operational in Apr 2017.

Lucknow Metro Rail
The first (in a north-south direction) corridor of two planned is under construction. The two lines will comprise of 33 stations spanning 34 kms in route length. The first section (8 kms, Transportnagar to Charbagh) of the north-south line is expected to be inaugurated by the end of Q1/2017 while the full line should begin full operations in 2019.

Nagpur Metro Rail
Construction is underway for the upcoming planned two line metro rail network for the growing city of Nagpur.

Metro Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA)
A two-line metro rail network is under construction in Ahmedabad. The network will consist of 33 stations on two lines with a combined route length of 37.8 kms.

Hyderabad Multi-Modal Transport System (MMTS)
The MMTS suburban rail network covers a distance of 43 kms over three lines and 27 stations. Trains run from Falaknuma to Lingampalli via Secunderabad, Falaknuma to Nampally and Nampally to Lingampalli. A separate suburban train operates from Secunderabad to Manoharabad.

Navi Mumbai Metro
The first line of Navi Mumbai Metro is expected to commence operations in 2017. The total route length of the line is 23.4 with 20 stations divided into three phases.

Bangalore Metro Rail Corp.

The first phase of the ₹ 64 bn Bangalore metro system would comprise of two lines totalling 42.3 kms (Purple Line 18.1 kms/17 stations and Green Line 24.2 kms/24 stations). 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. 31.1 kms of line has been opened on both lines as at May '16. The first phase is planned to be fully operation by end-2016.

Mumbai Metro
Phase I of the Mumbai metro project originally included the construction of three lines. A 11.4 km elevated metro rail line featuring 12 stations incl. one close to Sahar airport began commercial operation in June 2014. 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 supplied the rolling stock. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Oct '16 for Line 3 (contract value ₹ 196 bn) which will extend from Colaba in South Mumbai upto SEEPZ in North Mumbai. The line will extend over 33½ kms connecting among others the financial district of South Mumbai, CST, Churchgate and Mumbai Central railway stations, Worli and CSIA airport.

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

Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon
Rapid MetroRail operates a light 5 km metro loop line connecting six stations in Gurgaon. The line has connectivity with Delhi Metro's Yellow Line at Sikandarpur station. The line is being extended by 6 kms toward the southern reaches of the city at Sector-56. The extension is expected to opened by the end of 2016.
Hyderabad Metro
A three line 71 km metro metro rail network (phase I) is under construction Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (de jure till 2024). The network would comprise of 66 stations. The first sections to become operational during the first quarter of 2016 include the 20 kms of route network covering the sections of Mettuguda-Nagole and Miyapur-SR Nagar wile 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 20 km long line will connect Jacob Circle/Ghadge Maharaj Chowk and Chembur) began commercial operations in Feb 2014. The entire stretch is projected to be ready by mid-2016. Present daily ridership on the opened stretch is 15-17 000.

Proposed Metro and Light Rail Networks

Vijayawada Metro Rail
Visakhapatnam Metro Rail
Patna Metro
Delhi Monorail

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

Alstom India
Alstom operates a rolling stock (metro cars) plant at Sri City (Andhra Pradesh). Alstom is setting up a electric locomotive plant at Madhepura (Bihar) for the manufacturing of 800 9000KW "Prima" range of locomotives. The locomotives are expected to be delivered between 2018 and 2028.
General Electric is setting up a diesel locomotive plant at Marhowra (Bihar) for the manufacturing of 1000 Evolution Series locomotives over a period of 11 years.
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