EASTERN RAILWAY – A BRIEF PROFILE
On 15th August 1854, East Indian Railway (EIR)’s first train ran from Howrah to Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles. Regular services were introduced from that day, with stops at Bally, Serampore and Chandannagore.
In 1862, EIR extended upto the west bank of Yamuna on its way to Delhi. In 1864, in a bid to connect Calcutta and Delhi, trains started running between the two cities without any bridge on Yamuna by ferrying the coaches on boats across the river at Allahabad. In 1865 the Yamuna Bridge at Allahabad opened. In 1867 EIR branch line extended from Allahabad to Jubbalpore.
After the Government of India took over the management of EIR in 1925, it was splitted into six divisions — Howrah, Asansol and Dinapore known as the lower divisions and Allahabad, Lucknow and Moradabad known as the upper divisions.
Eastern Railway (ER) was formed on 14th April, 1952 by integration of the East Indian Railway (EIR) consisting of Sealdah, Howrah, Asansol and Danapur Divisions and the entire Bengal – Nagpur Railway (BNR). The jurisdiction of ER extended from Howrah to Mughalsarai in the North, upto Visakhapatnam in the South and upto Nagpur in the Central area. The three Upper divisions of E.I.R. were added to Northern Railway.
Later, the portions of BNR stretching from Howrah to Visakhapatnam in the South, Howrah to Nagpur in the Central area and upto Katni in the North Central Region were separated from Eastern Railway and formed as “South Eastern Railway” with effect from 1st August 1955.
Asansol Division was formed in 1925, Dhanbad Division in 1964, Mughulsarai Division in 1975 and Malda Division in 1984 as part of ER.
After redistribution and construction of new lines over a period of time, Eastern Railway as on 30th September 2002, stretched over 4245.61 kilometres.
On 01-10-2002, three divisions viz. Dhanbad, Mughalsarai and Danapur were separated from Eastern Railway to create new East Central Railway zone with headquarters at Hajipur. Eastern Railway as on October 2019 consists of 2815 Route Kilometres spread over four divisions viz. Sealdah, Howrah, Asansoland Malda out of which 2118 route kilometres are electrified on 25 KV AC traction.
Eastern Railway extends to Bangaladesh border in the East upto Lalgola, Benapole and Gede. Malda and Kiul to the North, Namkhana near Ganga Sagar to the South and Asansol and Jhajha in the West.
Starting from Howrah, the trunk route of Eastern Railway runs 221 kms. to Sitarampur from where it takes two directions towards Delhi, one via Patna and other via Dhanbad – Gaya. Both these routes converge again at Mughalsarai Station of East Central Railway. Adjoining railways are North East Frontier Railway to the north, East Central Railway to the west and South Eastern Railway to the south.
The area served by Eastern Railway is important to the economy of the country, as apart from serving the most densely populated region in the country, this Railway serves the areas rich in minerals, agriculture and industry.
Units & Branches
Apart from four open line divisions i.e Sealdah, Howrah, Asansol and Malda, this Railway has three major Workshops situated at Liluah, Kanchraparaand Jamalpur.
To meet up the requirement of rolling stock of railways, the Carriage and Wagon Workshop at Liluah was set up in 1900. The workshop was primarily assigned the task of manufacturing passenger coaches and freight wagons as well as their periodic overhaul. The coach manufacturing was undertaken up to 1972 and about 3000 coaches were produced. Wagon manufacturing was discontinued after 1947.
Liluah is currently undertaking periodic overhauling (POH) of various types of coaches and freight wagons. It has become the largest coaching POH workshop in the country. With an effluent treatment plant, the workshop has been certified with ISO 9002.
Kanchrapara workshop was set up in 1863 by the then Eastern Bengal Railway as a combined workshop for repairs to steam locomotives, wooden bodied carriage and wagons. The management of this workshop was taken over by the state on 1st July, 1864. With the introduction of electric traction, this workshop has now undertaken the work of repairs and periodic overhaul of Electric locomotives and Electric Multiple Units (EMU).
The Locomotive Engineering Workshop at Jamalpur (as it was originally known) was established 150 years ago on the 8th of February, 1862. It enjoys the distinction of being the largest and the oldest locomotive repair workshop with the most diversified manufacturing activities within the Indian Railways. On 15th January 1935, the Jamalpur Workshop along with the entire railway colony was destroyed by an earth-quake. It took 3 years to rebuild it from scratch. Jamalpur workshop undertakes manufacturing and repairing of various types of wagons, periodic overhauling of diesel locomotives, 140 ton cranes, tower-wagons and whiting jacks.
Mechanical Signal Workshop, Howrah
Apart from the above, Eastern Railway has one Mechanical Signal Workshop situated on the west bank of river Hooghly at Howrah. It manufactures and repairs mechanical signalling gears and electrical and electro-mechanical signalling instruments which are supplied to all the zonal railways on IR.
Eastern Railway provides long distance passenger traffic service in the form of several prestigious Mail/Express trains. The Rajdhani Express was introduced for the first time on Indian Railways between Howrah and New Delhi over Eastern and Northern Railways in 1969.
The honour of running the fastest long-distance train of Indian Railways has again gone to Eastern Railway with the introduction of Duronto Express trains. The first Duronto Express on Indian Railways ran from Sealdah to New Delhi on 18-09-2009.
On the suburban front, Howrah and Sealdah divisions of Eastern Railway are catering to the needs of the Greater Kolkata suburban passengers. Most of the suburban routes are electrified and more than 1300 EMUs/MEMUs are run everyday making ER the second largest suburban network on Indian Railways.
Eastern Railway has also been the pioneer in introducing Diesel Multiple Units service for the first time in the country to meet the requirements of passengers in those sections which are not electrified.
On other electrified routes, Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) have been introduced for passenger services in non-suburban areas. This service is widely appreciated by the commuters.
Eastern Railway has the honour of running international Mail - Express train - The “Maitree Express” between India and Bangladesh, which runs from Kolkata to Dhaka via Gede, made its first run on 14-04-2008.
Eastern Railway also has the distinction of running another Mail Express train - "Bandhan Express "which was flagged off on 9th November ,2016 from Kolkata to Khulna.
Eastern railway is an important freight zone. It is 7th in position for originating freight loading with 67.66 MT achieved in 2018-19. It is also an important freight terminal railway which is catering to goods requirement of whole of west Bengal except some portion which come in SER and NFR. Also it caters to some area of Jharkhand and Bihar. ER is gateway to North Eastern states for the traffic originating from Eastern region and Southern region and vice versa.
Before bifurcation of ER in October, 2002 into East Central Railway and Eastern Railway, it was loading 69.190 MT loading in 2001-02. The main contributors were coal and steel material. Coal was loaded mainly from Dhanbad division and Asansol division with main contribution coming from Dhanbad. In 2002-03, the year of bifurcation, ER loaded 31.754 MT with contribution of coal of 23.447MT. Thus there was a sharp decline in new zone because Dhanbad division which was contributing around 55% of total freight went to ECR. From there, ER has progressed steadily over the years and reached to the level of 67.66 MT in 2018-19 with main commodities as coal (41.94MT), stone and ballast (13.8MT), steel (4.45MT) and cement (3.810MT).
Eastern Railways is the prime mover of coal from Eastern Coalfields of CIL with 80% of coal loading of ER coming from ECL and 98% of ECL rail movement is being done by ER. The other coal contributors are BCCL, CCL and ICML. The stone traffic is mainly concentrated in Jharkhand districts of Pakur and Sahibganj. Eastern Railway is prime provider of Ballast to ECR, NFR and SER. There are two major integrated steel plants of SAIL in ER namely Durgapur Steel Plant and IISCO Steel Plant of capacities 2.1 MT and 2.5 MT per annum respectively. There are 7 cement grinding units in Easter Railway of NUVOCO, ULTRATECH, AMBUJA and BIRLA. Other than these main commodities, ER loads containers from KPDOC, fly ash generated in different power plants in ER and jute from the numerous small jute plants across west Bengal.
Along with major loading railway, ER is also one of the heavy unloading terminal railway. Most of the inward demand of West Bengal is met by ER with some of the demand of Jharkhand and Bihar is also looked after by ER. The main unloading commodities are coal, Iron Ore, Cement, Food grain, fertiliser, sugar and salt. There are 3 power plants of WBDCL(Bakreshwar, Sagardighi and Bendal), 3 power plants of DVC ( Mejia, Andal and Waria) and 2 power plants of NTPC ( Farakka and Kahalgaon) which are served by ER for their coal requirement. ER not only provides coal from its own loading to them but also carry coal for these plants from other zones. There are many small steel plants and sponge iron plants which require Iron Ore and other Raw material for their production. ER has provided goods sheds at appropriate places for unloading of these commodities in the near vicinity of these plants.
Eastern Railway is a very important link in overall movement of Indian Railways. It serves as the gateway to North Eastern Region of country for the traffic which originates in Eastern and Southern zone of country. Also the movement from NE region to Eastern and southern region is through ER. On an average 20 trains are run out to NFR for fulfilling the goods demand of NE states. Also ER acts as one of the main routes for international traffic to Bangladesh via GEDE and PETRAPOLE. The main commodities going are stone and fly ash. Along with this ER acts as major feeder of BOXN and BCN rakes to SER and ECR for their loading.
Thus ER is as much an unloading railway as much a loading zone and is an important link between the NE region and southern zone of country. It acts as the major logistic provider for the demand of goods for West Bengal.
Places of Interest
Eastern Railway has the honour of having a prestigious railway museum at Howrah spread over an area of 4 acres. It was inaugurated on April 07, 2006. Presently about 25,000 visitors every month enjoy the rich heritage of railway at this unique institution. It has become a must visit destination for the tourists and railway enthusiasts.Another museum (Gitanjali) in the memory of Gurudev Rabindranath has been opened in July 27, 2012 at Bolpur and highlights the extraordinary life and contributions of the Kabiguru.
Places of Tourist Interest
Important places of interest being served by Eastern Railway are Kolkata, Belurmath, Bolpur/Shantiniketan, Sundarbans, Deoghar/Baidyanathdham, Mandarhill, Munger (International School of Yoga), Mayapur (ISKCON), Furfurasharif, Tarapith, Gour Malda etc.