S. Anil Radhakrishnan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Railways entered the 150th year of its operations in Kerala this March, growing all these years into a lifeline offering a safe and cheap mode of transport and linking the southernmost State to every nook and cranny of India.

The history of Railways in Kerala dates back to March 12, 1861 when the 30.5-km Beypore-Tirur stretch was commissioned. The 14.5-km Tirur-Kuttipuram section followed on May 1, 1861, the 37-km Kuttipuram-Pattambi stretch on September 23, 1862 and the 105-km Pattambi-Podanur stretch on April 14, 1862. The locomotive and the coaches for operating the trains from Beypore arrived by sea at the Beypore port. At present, Beypore does not figure on the railway map. There was a widespread feeling that Railways had made a mistake stopping at Beypore, an insignificant hamlet, and the railway line should have been brought to the district headquarters at Calicut (now Kozhikode), barely 11 km from the terminus. The line to Calicut and the feeder line to Olavakkode and Palakkad were opened on January 2, 1888.

In 1906-07, the Calicut-Azhikkal stretch of the broad-gauge line was extended up to Kanhangad and then progressively to Kasaragod, Kumbala and Mangalore. The people of Mangalore saw the first train whistling into the railway station from Calicut in 1907. The Shoranur-Nilambur section was opened in February 1927.

The efforts for introduction of Railways towards Cochin came about in 1899. The 104-km Shoranur-Ernakulam stretch was laid by the Shoranur-Cochin railway company and thrown open for goods traffic on June 2, 1902 and for passenger traffic on July 16 that year. The Shencottah-Quilon (Kollam) line was opened on November 26, 1904 and the Quilon-Thiruvananthapuram line on January 1, 1918. Of the 174 km of the original line, 81 km was in the British territory. The extension of the line from Quilon to Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram) was taken up in 1913, completed in 1917 andcommissioned in January 1918. But the line was terminated at Chakka on the outskirts of the city. M.E. Watts, Dewan of the erstwhile Travancore, took the initiative to extend the railway line to the heart of the city. On November 4, 1931, the Thiruvananthapuram station started functioning.

The metre-gauge line between Ernakulam and Quilon, originally conceived of in 1921, could be commissioned only on December 24, 1952. The railway line between Ernakulam and Kottayam was opened for traffic in October 1956 and the Kottayam-Quilon stretch in 1958.

The milestones following formation of the Trivandrum division were the addition of lines on the Nagercoil-Tirunelveli section, the Ernakulam-Alappuzha- Kayamkulam section and the Thrissur-Guruvayur section.