Solani River Aquaduct Construction Railway

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Solani River Aquaduct Construction Railway


  • 1846: One of India's first railways opened in 1846. It was constructed to convey materials for a major irrigation project with the aqueduct being constructed to carry the Upper Ganga Canal across the Solani River and a minor stream at Roorkee, a cantonnement in Saharanpur District, United Provinces. Major Baker, in writing to the Military Board on the 22nd August 1846, pointed out the necessity for using rails and wagons on the northern side of the aqueduct. He requested the ironwork to be dispatched from England for a number of wagons whilst the timber would be procured locally. This was to move the earth from distant cuttings to build the embankments for the aqueduct. The full length of which is 15,688 feet with a base of 100 feet 12 inches below the surface of the canal [1].

Thomason College at Roorkee was established for Military Engineers studying to join the Public Works Department and Headquarters for the Bengal Sappers and Royal Engineers in Bengal. and linked to the construction of the Upper Ganga Canal, the most important irrigation project being undertaken at the time. In his proposal submitted to Government, the Lt. Governor James Thomason, had justified the location on the basis that the establishment forming at Roorkee, near the Solani Aqueduct on the Ganga Canal, afforded particular facilities for instructing Civil Engineers.[2].

Solani River Aquaduct Construction Railway
Solani River Aquaduct Construction Railway
Solani River Aquaduct Construction Railway
  • 1847-48: The 1847-48 annual report states that 59 feet(17.8 metres) of track had been laid and was being extended. By the following year 4,916 feet(1500 metres) completed at Mehwar and 1,150 feet(350 metres) at Roorkee [3].
  • 1848: Captain Goodwyn and Mr Finn commenced in April 1848 to organise the railways to connect the Brick Works at Roorkee and Muhewur on each side of the Aqueduct. First the brick fields were laid out in a uniform shape with the lines of rail running parallel and close to the kilns, these formed branch lines which were connected to the main line laid along the axis of the canal. The Mainline was a double line whilst the branch lines were single track. The railways were extended as the work progressed. On the left bank at Muhewur the slope was with the natural flow of water of the canal. The line was carried on a slope of 1 in 5 per mile. Earthworks were pushed out until they reached the Solani River. Where the Brickwork aqueduct started. The railway was laid 3 inches above the true bed of the canal. At the shore end the rails were in a depression and the two branches to the brick-fields and the Line warehouse, which were situated on high ground, the other great brick factory was near Muhewur village. The first line was 2050 feet in length and connected to the main line on a 300ft curve on a gradient of 1 foot in 133feet. This was banked with the outer side 3 inches above the inner. The other line crossed some low-lying land on a bridge and embankment 20 feet high and on 100 feet to the Brick Kilns. On the right-side or the Roorkee side, after completing the flooring and foundation of the bridge a similar line was laid from the bridge towards the valley as seen in Diagram 138. The main line on a uniform gradient started on a high elevation until the embankment was built (A-H) whereas the parallel line (A—L) which was specifically designed for bricks from the kilns was depressed so at point A they are level and joined the main line [1].
  • 1849-50: The 1849-50 report names the railway as the Mahewar & Roorkee Railway with at Mewehar 8,615 feet(2625 metres) double track and 1,000 feet(305 metres) single track and 2,500 feet(760 metres) of branches and sidings in use. This equates to about 5½ miles(8.8km) of single line railway and there were 102 ballast trucks hauled either by human or animal power [3].
  • 1850: The first rails were flat iron bars varying from ¼ to 3/4 inch screwed to longitudinal sleepers, held into position by cross-bars or transoms. With a little modification, this was the system used throughout. There was a good deal of wear and were more difficult to retain in position than the English Rail which was introduced in 1850; but they did what they were required to do. In 1850 30,000 running feet of light rail bars arrived from England at the works. They were fixed as the original track. Another order was placed and eventually giving 60,000 running feet. The approximate cost all-inclusive was on the Muhewur side Rs 18,974-12-8 per mile and on the Rookee side 18,760-12-2 per mile. Each side was under separate Supervisor and separate accounts. Although the English Rail was more expensive the cost of wear and tear was much less and therefore more economical. The wagons were developed with side tipping mechanisms that would distribute the earth left and right of the line building up the embankment which was wider than the railway. Each truck carried 50 cubic feet of soil and there were 450 employed either on the works at Roorkee or those on the Rutmoo River at Dhunowri the cost was Rs 358-0-4 [1].

The canal also crossed the Burrumpoor Nulla at C before it enters the Solani River west of Muhewur [1].

  • 1851-52: The work sites using the railway in 1851-52 were stated to be Dhunnowree with 2,912 feet(890 metres) single line with two bridges; Peerunkulleer with 1000 feet(300 metres) laid and 5,000 feet(1520 metres) in progress; Mehwar main and branch lines total 32,848 feet(10,000 metres) completed with one wooden trussed bridge; Roorkee with 11,570 feet(3,520 metres). This giving 8½ miles(13.6km) of line in use with 162 wagons. By 1852-53 this had increased to 10½ miles(16.8km) with 148 earth and brick wagons in use [3].
  • 1853-54: The last mention of the railway was in the 1853-54 report when it was stated that ‘sundry lines of rails at Dhunnowree, Peerunkulleer, Kulleear, Mehwar and Roorkee were constructed and kept in repair’ [3].

Little is known about the identity of the locomotives, the first reference to a steam locomotive is in 1852 [3].


The above information is also available on-line from IRFCA "India's First Railways" by Simon Darvill, Dec. 2011 [4].

Further Information

See Early Railway Experiments and Proposals for more information and background.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 British Library India Office Records V/27/733/10 “Report on the Ganges Canal Works from commencent until the opening of the canal in 1854” by Colonel Sir Proby T. Cautley, K. C. B. F. R. S.; Vol II, Chapter IX Page 419 to 428
  2. Water Resources Development: The Role of Roorkee University of Roorkee
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of India and South Asia” compiled by Simon Darvill. Published by ‘The Industrial Railway Society’ 2013. ISBN 978 1 901556 82-7. Available at Reference: Entry UT05 page ....
  4. IRFCA "India's First Railways" by Simon Darvill, Dec. 2011; reproduced by IRFCA Indian Railways Fan Club. Information obtained from the British Library IOR/V/27/773/9 to /11; "Report on the Ganges Canal Works" from the commencement until the opening of the canal in 1854 Vol 1 to 3