Assam-Bengal Railway

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Assam-Bengal Railway
Assam Bengal Railway logo.jpg
Assam-Bengal Railway device
System timeline
1892 Company formed to manage state line
Constituent companies / lines
1892 Assam-Bengal Railway
Noakhali (Bengal) Railway
Key locations
Headquarters Chittagong
Workshops Chittagong (Pahartali)
Chandpur up to 1935
Dibrugarh from 1935
See Assam-Bengal Railway Workshops
Major Stations
Successor system / organisation
1942 Bengal and Assam Railway
System mileage
Metre gauge 775 miles (1905)
Associated auxiliary force
Assam Bengal Railway Battalion
How to interpret this infobox
Assam-Bengal Railway
[[Image:|150px| ]]
Line of route
Chittagong to Tinsukia
Lumding to Gauhati
Lakshar to Chandpur (branch)
Badarpur to Silchar (branch)
Gauge / mileage
Metre gauge 740 miles (1905)
1891 Construction started
1898 First section opened to traffic
1904 Traffic running throughout the length of the railway
Key locations
Presidency Bengal
System agency
1892 Assam-Bengal Railway
1942 Bengal and Assam Railway
How to interpret this infobox

The Assam-Bengal Railway (ABR) was a metre gauge(MG) railway built to connect the highlands of Assam with the port of Chittagong. [1]

Assam-Bengal Railway Map 1909
Assam-Bengal Railway System 1937 Map

Survey and Construction

The Government of India(GoI) carried out surveys for the route between 1882 and 1887; one of these being the Chittagong, Chandpur and Comilla Railway Survey. The GoI started the construction of the railway in 1891 from Gauhati to Dimapur. In 1892 the ‘Assam and Bengal Railway Co’ was formed in London to construct and operate the railway. The line was 740 miles long and the construction was divided into three sections numbered I, II and III.

The construction of Section I and III was straightforward. Work commenced on Section I in 1892-93, and completed by 1899. Section III had been commenced by the GoI in 1891 and the ABR commenced work in 1893-94, and fully completed by 1903 [2].

Section II was a more complex section of the line to construct and was not completed until the end of 1903. Work commenced in 1895 and a contract was given to ‘Lewis Jones & Co’ for the construction of the earthworks and tunnels [2].
The Imperial Gazetteer [3] gives the following account:- “This section runs through shale of the worst description, often intermixed with bands of kaolinite, which swells when exposed and causes heavy slips, or exerts immense pressure on the sides of tunnels. To counteract this pressure, very heavy masonry was required, cuttings had to be arched in, and special measures taken to allow drainage to escape. Though the hill section was only 113 miles in length, it container 24 tunnels, 7 covered ways, and 74 major bridges, the longest being 650 feet, and the highest 113 feet above the river bed; while many of the banks and cuttings approach 100 feet in height and depth respectively. Apart from the special engineering difficulties, great inconvenience was experienced owing to the absence of local labour and food-supplies, and to the unhealthiness of the country traversed. At one time, in addition to the railway materials, food for more than 25,000 men had to be carried into the hills on elephants, bullocks, ponies and other pack animals. The result is that the cost of construction of the hill section has been extremely heavy.”

By the end of Apr 1901 track had been laid 36 miles(58km) north from Badarpur and 40 miles(64km) south from Lumding. Track was laid throughout Section III ib May 1903 when goods trains started running. The line opened to passenger traffic on 16 Feb 1904 [2].

Development of the ABR

ABR Initial Line and Branches

Main Line from Chittagong Port to Tinsukia, 574 miles(924km) where it joined the Dibru-Sadiya Railway, fully opened 1903. Some records refer to this as the 'Assam Valley Branch Railway'

Later ABR Branches

The following Branches were constructed [4]:-

  • Noakhali Branch Railway’, 30 miles(48km), opened 1903 from Laksam to Noakhali,
  • Chadnpur Branch Railway’, 32 miles(km), opened 1895 from Laksam to Chandpur
  • Tangi Branch Railway’, 61 miles(98km), opened 1910-16 in stages:-
    • Bhairab Bazar Branch Railway’, 19 miles(30km), opened 1910), from Akhaura to Ashuganj on the banks of the Meghna opposite the village of Bhairab Bazar , the commercial centre of the District and site of a cattle market.
    • ‘Tangi Extension’ via the wagon ferry at Assuganj on the Magna River to connected through to Tangi, to meet with the Eastern Bengal Railway near Dacca..
  • Sylhet Branch Railway’, 31 miles(50km), opened to Fenchuganj Ghat 1912 and to Sylhet with opening of Kusiyara Bridge, 1916.
  • ‘Silchar Branch Railway’, 19 miles(km), opened 1898 from Badarpur to Silchar
  • ‘Gauhati Branch Railway’, 117 miles(km), from Pandu to Lumding. The 5 mile(8km) ‘Pandu to Gauhati Section’ opened 1910 by East Bengal Railway and transferred to ABR 1922. The ‘Gauti to Lumding Section’, 112 miles(180km) opened 1897-1900
  • Dikhow Extension Railway’, 6.7 miles(10.7km), opened 1913 from Sibsagar Road to Bihubar
  • Naginimara Branch Railway’, 2.3 miles(3.7km), a further extension to the Dikhow Extension Railway above, opened 1917 from Bihubar to Naginimara
  • ‘Khowang Branch’, 39 miles(63km), opened 1927 from Simaluguri to Kowong
  • ‘Karimganj-Longai Valley Branch’, 40 miles(64km), opened 1928-29 from Karimganj to Kalkali Ghat and Baraigram to Dullabehera.
  • ‘Shaistaganj-Habiganj Branch’, 8½ miles(14km), opened 1928 from Shaistaganj to Habiganj
  • ‘Netralona-Mohanganj Branch’, 17½ miles(28km), opened 1929 from Netralona to Mohanganj
  • ‘Chittagong-Nazirhat Branch’, 23 miles(37km), opened 1929-30 from Chittagong to Nazirhat
  • ‘Feni-Belonia Branch’, 17 miles(27km), opened 1929 from Feni to Belonia
  • ‘Shaislogonj-Balla Branch’, 17 miles(27km), opened 1929 from Shaislogonj to Balla
  • ‘Senchoa-Mairabari Branch’, 30 miles(48km), opened 1930 from Senchoa to Mairabari
  • ‘Sholashahar(Cchittagong) Dohazari Branch, 25 miles(40km), opened 1931 from Sholashahar(Ccittagong) to Dohazari

Lines worked by ABR

Routes Surveyed by ABR

ABR System 1937

The ‘Statistics of Working’ refer to the ABR System show the year-by-year financial results from 1913-14 through to 1936-37 with a total System line length of 1306 miles(2102km) and comprising the following railways [4]:-

Assam-Bengal Railway metre gauge(MG) 1131 miles (1820km)
Chaparmukh Silghat Railway metre gauge(MG) 51 miles (82km)
Katakhal Lalbazar Railway metre gauge(MG) 23½ miles (48km)
Mymensingh-Bhairab Bazar Railway metre gauge(MG) 100½ miles (162km)


Indian Railway Classification of 1926 – Class 1 railway system.

The end of ABR

On 1 January 1942 the ABR combined with the Eastern Bengal Railway(EBR) to form the Bengal and Assam Railway see separate page

At time of partition in 1947 the Bengal and Assam Railway was split up [5].


Refer to FIBIS Fact File #4: “Research sources for Indian Railways, 1845-1947” - available from the Fibis shop. This Fact File contains invaluable advice on 'Researching ancestors in the UK records of Indian Railways' with particular reference to the India Office Records (IOR) held at the British Library

An on-line search of the IOR records relating to this railway [6] gives 65 references. The most important being:-

  • L/AG/46/1 “Records of the Assam Bengal Railway Company; 1892-1941”
  • L/F/7/141-145 “Finance Department - Assam Bengal Railway Company; 1892-1941”

As a state managed railway a search of the following may provide information: -

  • L/F/8/1-20 "Appointments to State Railways made in the UK 1855-1946"
  • Z/L/F/8/1-2 Index to Appointments to State Railways made in the UK 1855-1946"


The 1905 Civil List records the following deployment from the Public Works Department - State Railways:-

External links