History unfolds

R. Krishna Kumar
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The Railways played a crucial role in the growth of Mysore.— Photo: M.A. Sriram
The Railways played a crucial role in the growth of Mysore.— Photo: M.A. Sriram

The just concluded Railway Week celebrations brought into focus the history of Indian Railways which has completed 160 years of service to the country ever since the first train chugged out from Bori Bunder to Thane on April 16, 1953, hauled by three locomotives, Sindh, Sultan and Sahib. The expansion of the rail network ever since is a remarkable piece of history well chronicled by rail historians.

Likewise, Mysore State too has its share of interesting titbits associated with the railways and Sir Mark Cubbon’s Administration Report of 1854-55 to 1855-56 as quoted in the Mysore Gazetteer by Hayavadhana Rao has this to say under the heading “Rail Road”: “Colonel Green observes nothing of this sort has commenced in Mysore… a branch connecting Mysore with Madras and Calicut line has been conditionally sanctioned…”.

The first railway line in the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom was the broad-gauge line connecting Madras with Bangalore opened to traffic sometime in August 1864. It was completed by Madras Railway Company with the Mysore State providing the land required for the line, notes the Gazette.

The construction of the Bangalore-Mysore line was taken up in 1877-78 and the section between Bangalore and Channapatna was opened for traffic on February 1, 1881. The entire section till Mysore was completed in February 1882, which is within five years of sanctioning the project (contrast this with the present scenario where doubling the same stretch has been taking years).

The date of completion of different stretches along the Bangalore-Mysore section are as follows: Bangalore-Channapatna (February 1, 1881); Channapatna-Mandya (March 20, 1881); Mandya-Mysore (February 25, 1882); Mysore-Nanjangud (December 1, 1891).

The Mysore-Nanjangud railway line stretch of 15 miles was completed by the Southern Mahratta Railway Company and opened for traffic in 1891 and the Mysore-Arsikere line completed and thrown open to freight traffic on September 1, 1917, and to passenger traffic on January 3, 1918, at a cost of Rs. 80.29 lakh.

The Gazetteer, published in 1929 and recalling development works of earlier years, also mentions a few important survey lines that were undertaken for the expansion of the railways in the period. As for instance the Mysore-Coorg line and the Nanjangud-Kakanakote line. While the former is still being surveyed, the latter has not been heard of and even the Gazetteer notes wryly that “there was no likelihood of Nanjangud-Kakanakote line being taken up for construction in the near future…”.

That the railways were perceived to foster growth can be inferred from the following passage in the Gazetteer : “….the development in goods traffic has been very marked and the improvement in communications has equalized prices in case of agricultural produces within reasonable distance from a railway. The opening up of the country has led to a greater demand for manufactured foods from foreign countries and a marked increase in important trade….”

Of the social consequences of the railways, the following extract makes for interesting reading: “…It is not easy to gauge the moral influence which railways have exercised on the habits and customs of the people….. There can, however, be little doubt that increased travel and the mixing up of all castes of people in carriages, which railway travel necessitates, must produce greater tolerance, if it does no more”.

R. Krishna Kumar

The first railway line in the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom was the broad-gauge line connecting Madras with Bangalore, opened to traffic in August, 1864