Indian Branch Railway

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The Indian Branch Railway Company (IBR) was formed in 1862 [1] to construct short branches and feeder lines in northern India, with a 20-year subsidy from the Government of India(GoI) but no guarantee [2].

These terms failed to attract capital, and only one line had been constructed, the Nalhati-Azimganj Railway, which opened in 1863. Therefore in 1867 a contract was entered into with the Indian Branch Railway Company, which soon after changed its name to the Awadh and Rohilkhand Railway Company, guaranteeing interest at 5 per cent per annum on conditions similar to those laid down for the period 1854-60 [3].

Around 1872 the ‘Indian Branch Railway’/‘Awadh and Rohilkhand Railway’ was absorbed into the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway(O&RR).

Nalhati-Azimganj Railway

The ‘Nalhati-Azimganj Railway’, opened in 1863 as a 4ft(1222mm) unique rail gauge, constructed and worked by the ‘Indian Branch Railway Company’. The line was taken over by the Government in 1872, and by named as the Nalhati State Railway; converted to Broad Gauge(BG) in 1892 and becoming the ‘Azimganj Branch Line’ of the First Chord EIR Line ; 27 miles(43km) [4] - See separate page for further information

Cawnpore-Lucknow-Fyzabad Railway

The line from Cawnpore via Lucknow to Fyzabad was surveyed in 1862 by the IBR and an engineer examined the proposed route [5]. Construction of the line progressed very slowly; and the 42 miles (67km) long, was opened on 23 Apr 1867. This became the ‘Cawnpore Branch’ of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway(O&RR). The gauge of the original line is not known but was to Broad Gauge(BG) specification and became part of the O&RR network [6].

Later History

In 1866, without a guaranteed return from the Government of India(GoI), the IBR found it impossible to continue and in 1867, secured a new contract from the GoI on terms similar to those on offer in the 1850s i.e. a guaranteed return on capital employed.

The contract between the Secretary of State and the ‘Indian Branch Railway Company’ in August 1867 specified ‘for the construction and working of a light system of 36lbs rails at slow speed - 15 miles per hour, in North West Provinces and Oudh. The original lines proposed were from Lucknow to Byramghat, via Dilserai, and from Dilserai via Shahgunj and Jounpore to Benares, with a branch from Shahgunj to Fyzabad’ [7] .

The spelling of the place names in the above make interpretation of the proposed route difficult, many of the places cannot be identified but must be the following:-

The Benares-Shahganj-Bilwal-Malipur-Akbarpur-Fyzabad-Bara Banki- Lucknow, a length of 199 miles(319km), was opened from 1872 and completed 1874 and became the ‘Benares-Lucknow Loop’ of the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway(O&RR) [6]. This clearly was originally under construction by IBR when absorbed into O&RR. It is possible that this line was first constructed as a Metre Gauge(MG)) but certainly later was operated by O&RR as part of its Broad Gauge(BG) network.

Around 1872 the IBR was absorbed into the Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway(O&RR). The O&RR being merged into the East Indian Railway (EIR) in 1925.


An on-line search of the IOR records relating to this railway [8] gives the following: -

  • L/F/8/11/875 “Indian Branch Railway Company Limited, Duplicate contract ; 1867”
  • L/PWD/2/168-170 “Home and Overseas Correspondence of the Indian Branch Railway Company; 1862-1867”(not catalogued)


Unfortunately, there are no IBR staff records held in the India Office Records at the British Library.

  • Directors. The London based Directors for the ‘Indian Branch Railway Company’ are indexed in Grace's Guide from the 1867 Thacker’s Directory [9].
  • Agent and Engineer-in-Chief, Cawnpore - James E Wilson [9]

Further Information

See Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway from 1872