Why is it that Railways always fascinate readers? Whatever be the reasons, my notes on the SIR (Miscellany, June 16) have brought me a pile of comments and addenda. Reader A. Sitaraman tells me that he had heard that there had been railway lines owned by the District Boards in the early days of railway travel in the South and that the South Indian Railway was only the ‘manager’ of these services which brought the District Boards a regular income. He says the District Board line he had been told about was the Tinnevelly-Tiruchendur Line.
Well, my search for that line didn’t turn up any information on it, but it did turn up two bits of corroboration.
R.R. Bhandari says such funding of railway lines was “entirely a new concept and opened the way for the provision of railways for which Government was unable to find the money for funds, either by the District Board itself raising the capital…or by giving a guarantee to a company.”
The other bit of information I turned up was that the Tanjore District Board funded the Mayavaram-Aranthangi line which was proposed in 1890. The 100-mile metre gauge line was opened in 1903. Initially, the Board and the Government of Madras shared the cost, but in January 1900 the Board took over Government’s portion as a loan. The Board levied a special cess from the areas served by the line to fund it.
“Not correct”, says reader S. Srinivasan referring to my statement that “This broad gauge line was then extended from Trichinopoly to Erode.” The Negapatam to Trichy line was always a metre gauge line and was only recently made a broad gauge one, he writes and adds, “The Trichy-Erode line was always broad gauge; in fact, this necessitated having separate platforms at Trichy Junction for Erode and Tanjore trains.”
The source which I had quoted told the story rather differently. It stated that all Greater Southern of India Railway lines were broad gauge lines and it was only on the formation of the South Indian Railway that Negapatam to Tanjore, Cuddalore to Tanjore, and Cuddalore to Trichy were converted to metre gauge in 1875 and Trichy to Karur and Karur to Erode in 1879. More significantly, Trichy to Erode was reconverted to broad gauge in 1929!
I was referring to the beginning, reader Srinivasan to later history.