By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai: Exactly 150 years ago, the first train on the western coastal lines of Bombay (now, Mumbai) chugged in Nov 28, 1864, heralding a new era of seamless and direct connectivity between Bombay and Gujarat and further north.
The railways contributed in large measure to the socio-economic and overall development of Bombay, then a cluster of fishing villages, which later developed into the country’s financial capital.
That day marked an extension of the first Bombay, Baroda & Central India railway (BB&CI) from Uttran in Gujarat to Bombay, a Western Railway (WR) official said.
In those days, the first terminus on the western line was Grant Road station, and nine years later, in 1873, it was extended further to Colaba, the southernmost tip of the city.
However, Colaba was shut down in 1930 and the terminus was shifted to Churchgate, which remains till date for suburban trains.
Over the years, Mumbai Central and Dadar were developed as separate termini for long-distance trains.
The BB&CI railway was launched in 1855 with the construction of a 47-km broad guage line between Ankleshwar to Uttran in Gujarat; the same was extended to Mumbai in 1864.
Rail travel had earlier been introduced in the country April 16, 1853, with the first railway line opened between Mumbai and Thane.
The Western Railway itself, in its present form, was formed Nov 5, 1951 by the merger of several state-owned railways, including the BB&CI, Saurashtra Railway, Rajputana Railway and Jaipur State Railway, besides the narrow guage lines of the Cutch State Railways.
The project was extended beyond Vadodara towards places like Godhra, Ratlam, Nagda, later Kota, Mathura and finally linked with the erstwhile Great Indian Peninsular Railway, which is now known as Central Railway, headquartered in Mumbai.
The first suburban train services were started in Mumbai in April 1867 with steam engines and by 1900, there were 45 trains in each direction carrying over one million passengers annually.
Today, WR runs a whopping 1,305 suburban services which carry around 3.50 million commuters daily.
To commemorate the historic occasion, WR general manager Hemant Kumar inaugurated a two-day exhibition of rare photographs “Celebrating 150 Years In Mumbai” Thursday.
The exhibition will showcase rare pictures of the erstwhile BB&CI railways dating back to the 19th century, how the railway system grew on the western side of the country, in and around Mumbai.