With steam billowing from its smoke stack, an engine lugged five coaches and three trucks for 24 miles from Howrah to Hooghly on August 15, 1854 marking the arrival of the railways to Eastern India. The Eastern Railway commemorated the event here on Sunday by running a heritage train along the same route.
The first train of the East India Railway was flagged off 155 years ago from a tin shed with a single-window booking office that served as the station at Howrah back then. Today, the Eastern Railway runs 1,585 trains everyday and the Howrah station has been recognised as a world heritage site.
A set of four postage stamps, on four railway stations that are recognised as World Heritage sites at Howrah, Chennai, Mumbai and Old Delhi was also released by E. Ahmed, Union Minister of State for Railways.
On Sunday, a 1947-make steam engine hauled 17 coaches from Howrah to Bandel, in Hooghly. Of the 17 coaches, four were of historic importance, including the carriage in which The Prince of Wales travelled during his 1921 visit to India, and an 1853 restaurant car.
The 102.4-tonne engine, a WP 7200 that is capable of running at 110 kmph, was aided by a modern diesel one at the back.
The WP locomotive was a class of steam engines introduced in India in 1947. The WP 7200, among the first batch of 16 engines in the series, was in operation for 40 years before it was decommissioned in 1987.
The East India Railway would have run the first commercial passenger train in India in 1853, but missed its date with history as the engine was dispatched to Australia instead, as the ship that was bringing the coaches sank in the Hooghly.
The distinction later went to the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, which ran a 14-coach train from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Thane on April 16, 1853.
There cannot be a more befitting manner of commemorating the running of a train more than 150 years than by running a heritage train on the same route, said Mr. Ahmed before flagging off the train.