Kathiawar Peninsula Railway and Tramway Systems

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Kathiawar Peninsula Railway and Tramway Systems

Kathiawar is a peninsula, originally known as Saurastra. In the 18th Century the name was changed to Kathiawar and today forms part of the Indian State of Gujarat.

The peninsula covers an area of 23,345 sq. miles (60,720 sq. Km) and in 1901 had a population of 2,645,805[1]. Most of the area was under the jurisdiction of the Government of India, and also Portugal had the island colony of Diu on the peninsular which covered 20 sq. miles (51.8sq. Km) with a population of 14,614 [2].

Kathiawar in the late 1800’s was governed by 193 small Princely States, ruled by local potentates who acknowledged British control in return for local sovereignty. These States comprised the ‘Kathiawar Agency’. The rest of the peninsula, chiefly in the east along the Gulf of Cambay, were districts ruled directly by the British as part of British India's Bombay Presidency, which included part of the peninsula [3].

The ‘Kathiawar Agency’ was a political unit formed in 1822 with headquarters at Rajkot, the town where the British Political Agent used to reside. He reported to the Political Department office at Bombay [4]. The area was divided the area into four regions these being Halar, Jhalavad, Sorath and Gohelvad [1].

In 1872, the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway(BB&CIR) railway extension from Virangam reached Wadhwan[5]. This started a period of growth in metre gauge railways financed and operated by the Native States. The problem was that there were many small states which were crossed. Only the three larger States could afford to build such constructions which led to problems and many partners leading to appeals for compensation from the local Durbar Governments [6].

There were 3 main operating companies that developed using the metre gauge(MG) :-

  • Morvi Railway originally a 2ft 6in/762mm narrow gauge(NG) 2’ 6” Tramway, converted to MG (except for a short length which remaind NG). This railway, owned by Morvi Durbar worked independently of all others in the peninsular and was the cause of many disputes and disagreements.

Also the State railways:-

which worked together with other minor railways:-

This network was worked under the administrative coalition of the Bhavnagar-Gondal-Junagad-Porbandar Railway(BGJPR). The coalition was dissolved in 1911, with the constituents going their independent ways. These railways were to come together again, with others in 1948 to form the Saurashtra Railway (after the original pre 18th Century name).


The Kathiawar Map produced by the Government Photographic Department, Poona dated 1878 [7] has been marked up with colour coding to aid identification and provide the time scale of the construction and other proposals of the Railways/Tramways in the Peninsula.

Customs Union of British India

and the development of the Railways in Kathiawar [8].

The ‘Government of India Act’ of 1858 brought India under the direct control of the British Crown. Kathiawar by its nature as a collection of individual autonomous States did not fall into the provision of the Act. The Gaikwar of Baroda had already handed their right to the area over to the British India as part of the settlement of 1807 which saw the Government in Bombay dealing with the political development of the peninsular. In 1882 Lord Lytton Wrote “The British Government now undertakes the duty to protect all Native States in India prom external enemies and preserving internal order by measures necessary for securing the people in misgovernment and for supporting the lawful Authority of the Ruler”.

The raising of taxes and tariffs was left to the individual States. Some states such Rajkot, Palitana and Bhavnagar instituted Legislative Assemblies although these were partly a cosmetic attempted to start a democratisation of the States. The right to levy taxes on the people and interstate was a privilege the princely families was not going to give up easily. The result was higher and higher tariff walls within the province. Some of the larger States like Gondal and Palitana did not charge duties, making the transit of goods via those states preferable. With the Maritime States, the tariffs were set to encourage Imports and exports from the interior to their respective ports. This only produced what only could be termed economic warfare and the over development of their ports the only thing it actually produced was bad feelings between the various states and a encouragement of imports over local development of the hinterland States.

As these tariffs caused barriers in the development of the peninsular there was a call for a unification and removal of these barriers this idea was turned down by the Durbars at the time as late as the 1820’s. The import of British Manufactured goods was the cause of the decline in the Indian craft industries. The States had no trading agreements with The East India Company nor the British Government but the development of the ports took trade away from the British Ports and Bombay, the exception was Bhavnagar which had been accorded the status of a British Port. The railways gave it a fast and vital link into parts of northern and Central India and with the subsidies it gave the import of goods a lucrative trade. In 1917 the Ports were admitted into the British Customs Union and further development of the Ports and links took place.

Timeline 1863-1900

The development of the Network followed a chequered history with many false starts.

  • 1863:: Ghogha Kathiawad Light Railway Proposal
There is an unconfirmed record that states ‘During 1863, Maharaja Jaswantsinhji received a proposal to start a Narrow Gauge line like in parts of Gaekwad Railway in Baroda. Maharaja was not inclined, as by that time another company called Ghogha Kathiawad Light Railway Company had been formed... But nothing materialised.’ [9].
  • 1869: Gondal-Ghogha Port Railway Proposal shown in PINK on map.
A railway to connect Gondal to the sea at Ghoga, in the Bay of Cambay was considered important to develop the region. The railway from Gogha Port to Gondal was planned by private enterprise, but no surveys were made [10].
Another variant of Ghogha/Ghoga is Gogo.[11]
  • 1869: Junagadh-Verval Railway Proposal
The Kathiawar reports from 1869 notes that a survey had been made for a Railway line from Junagadh to Verval was finished but the cost of 40 to 50 Lakhs of Rupees was too high for the Durbar to go ahead. Proposals for a light railway system were being looked at [12].
  • 1872: Veraval-Junagadh-Dhoraji Railway Proposal Final 1888-89 route shown in GREEN on map - see note.
'Another line was proposed from Veraval to Junagadh and Dhoraji and was surveyed by Mr A W Forde C E, but the cost was beyond the means of Junagadh Durbar. This proposal came to nothing' [10].

It seems probable these two accounts of 1869 and 1872 refer to the same proposal, which was not implemented.

Note – it was only in 1888-89 that the Junagadh State Railway(JunSR) opened the line from the docks at Veraval via Junagadh to Jetalsar [13] - (see 1888-89 below) where it connected to the Bhavnagar State Railway at Dhoraji .
This 39 mile(63km) broad gauge (BG) branch line from Virangam to Wadhwan opened on 23 May 1872 [5]. This being the first railway in the peninsular.
It was subsequently converted to metre gauge(MG) in 1902[5].
  • 1874: Bhavnagar to Wadhwan Railway Proposal Final 1879-80 route shown in BLUE on map - see note.
‘In 1874 a third line was considered from Bhavnagar to Wadhwan , but a difference of opinion as to the proper route and the probable cost prevented action’[10].
Note – this line finally opened in 1880 - see below
  • 1877: Bhavnagar-Gondal Railway Survey Final 1879-80 route shown in BLUE on map.
‘It was not until June 1877 that steps were taken to begin the Bhavnagar-Gondal line, a distance of 201 miles using funds supplied by Bhvnagar and Gondal States under British Management. The joint Administrators of Bhavnagar State for the line in their Territory and Gondal employed Mr Forde, C. E., to survey an extension to Dhoraji. The Government of Bombay commissioned Mr Hargrave C.E. of Baroda Railway, to survey from Bhavnagar to Wadhwan. Labouring under restrictions as to the route the proposals were broadly followed, except the Gondal section which was modified’[10].
‘First sod turned on the 20th March 1879 by the Bhavnagar State engineer and two miles of embankments built. Mainline to Wadhwan opened for traffic on December 16th 1880 by the Governor of Bombay. In the 106 miles between Bhavnagar and Wadhwan had 16 stations they were Bhavnagar Wharf, Bhavnagar city, Gadichi, Vartej, Sihor, Songad, Sanosra, Dhola Junction, Ujalvav, Nigala, Botard, Ranpur, Chuda, Limbdi, Kharva, Wadhwan City and the Junction with the BB&CIR Railway[10].
‘.. and a month later the branch from Dhola Junction to Dhoraji. At a cost of Rs8,600,000. Apportioned 2/3 Bhavnagar and 1/3 Gondal. The Branch line has 12 stations from Dhola Junction, Mandava, Dhasa, Lathi, Adtala, Chital, Mayapadar, Kunkavav, Khadkhad or (Sultanpur Road), Vavdi, Jetpur, Jetalsar and Dhoraji. At mile 122 from the port the total is 201.6 Miles. Much damage was done to the embankments from too small provision for water ways and several stations and buildings fell before they were used. By the first half of 1882 the Profits were about Rs300,000 (£30,000) [10].
In 1884 the Morvi Durbar started construction of its 2ft 6in/762mm narrow gauge(NG) tramway from Wadhwan to Rajkot via Muli, Dolia and Vankaner. The line was 76 miles passing through various small states [14]. The Wadhwan Durbar was concerned about this and refused it entry into Wadhwan without an acceptance that they owned the rights of passage over the Bhogava River and paying such duties as required. It was also not supposed to link with the BB&CIR Railway. [15]. In 1887 the 2ft 6in/762mm NG line from Vankaner to Morvi , opened; 15.7 Miles(25km) of 2’6” gauge tramway [16].
The 16 mile(26km) MG line from Jetpur via Jetalsarto Junagad opened Sept 1888, operated by Bhavnagar State Railway built by Junagadh State [17]. Gondal gave permission for the Jetpur section to be built subject to that if the Jetalsar Gondal Rajkot line was built it would be handed to Gondal at cost [18]. The 15 mile(24km) extension from Junagad to Veraval Docks opened in Feb 1889 [17].
The Government of India “persuaded” Gondal to assist with the building of a line to Porbandar which opened 1889 and extended to reach on to the harbour of Porbandar in 1890 [19]. Gondal really wanted to spend the money on the Jetalsar-Rajkot Railway [20].
The ‘Vankaner to Malia Section’ of the Morvi Railway opened in 1890 and was laid as a 2ft 6in/762mm narrow gauge(NG) road-side tramway by the Morvi Durbar for the convenience of the people and for transportation of Salt and cloth. and the port of Navlakhi [21]. This appears in some records as the ‘Wankaner-Maliya Miyana Section’ [22] and is reported to have been converted to MG in 1924 – see below
In 1891 the Morvi Railway was extended to interchange with the BB&CIR MG line at Whadwan; this was against all agreements. This led to notices being given to the Managers of the BB&CIR and the Morvi Railway. Terms were finally agreed in 1897. Wadhwan became a partner paying Rs2 lacs for the upgrade of the line between Wadhwan and Dolia [23].
The 46 mile(74km) MG line from Jetalsar Junction to Rajkot was built by a consortium comprising:- Gondal 6/16; Junagadh 6/16; Jetalsar 2/16; and Rajkot 2/16 [24]. The line was opened Apr 1896 [25] by Lord Harris Governor of Bombay. It was built by a consortium (in proportions):- Gondal 6/16, Junagadh 6/16, Jetalsar 2/16, and Rajkot 2/16 [26]; this agreement had been signed on the 14th November 1891 [27].
1893, Construction of the Rajkot to Nawanagar line commenced[26]. In April 1897 the MG line from Rajkot to Navanagar and the port at Bedi Bandar opened, 54 miles(87km). The railway was worked by the BGJPR coalition and until 1911 when disolved, then independently and later as as the Jamnagar and Dwarka Railway(J&DR)[28].
1897 Dec 1, Lord Sandhurst cuts the first sod in the construction of the Wadhwan to Dhrangadra railway [29] . 1898, the MG line from Wadhwan and Dhrangadhra opened, operated initially by Bhavngar Railwa and in 1900 Famine earth works from Halvad to Malia were in progress on the Dhrangada State Railway [30].

Timeline 1900-1947

  • 1900: There was an ‘Area wide Famine’ [31]
  • 1900: Wadhwan-Sayla-Dolia Railway Proposal shown in PINK on map.
Colonel Hunter’s ‘Famine Relief Scheme’. Wadhwan via Sayla to Dolia, paid for by Wadhwan and Sayla Durbars, not completed due to objections by Morvi Darbar. Earthworks built before Morvi Darbar objected and the scheme abandoned [32].
This 39 mile(63km) branch line from Virangam to Wadhwan was converted to metre gauge(MG) ; it was previously broad gauge (BG) and had opened in 1872 [5][33].
The NG tramway from Wadhwan to Rajkot that had been constructed from 1884 (see above) was converted to metre gauge(MG) and linked to theBB&CIR MG at Wadwhan. The new line was diverted some 4 miles to the north closing the stations at Sayla and Dolia. The railway was now north of the Bhogavo River and travelled through 8 miles of Sayla territory [34] and mainly followed the line of the tramway from Than via Vankaner to Rajkot [16].


  1. 1.0 1.1 “Imperial Gazette of India” Vol.15. p.164; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  2. “Imperial Gazette of India” Vol.11. p.362-364; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  3. Wikipedia “Kathiawar”; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  4. Wikipedia “Kathiawar Agency”; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 “Administration Report on Railways 1918” page 22 (pdf30); Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  6. “British Library” IOR R/2/746/306 ‘Document 3 Paragraph 3’ and IOR/1/14784 (1)
  7. Wikimedia “Kathiawar Map, 1878”; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  8. “Kathiawar Economics” by A. B. Trivedi M.A, B.Com., Kalsa College Bombay19, 1943 Pages 237-264; Retrieved 23 Sept 2017
  9. “Bhavnagar, a little Port City of Gujarat – History” Section 4, Para 3; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 “Gazetteer – Bombay Presidency” Vol.8; page 247-248 of 756; Retrieved 1 Oct 2017
  11. Dracups in India: The 3rd and 4th generations Dracup Genealogy
  12. British Library ‘India Office Records’ V/10/1384 “Indian States Administration Reports. Kathiawar” 1865-75, No 134 of 1869
  13. “Administration Report on Railways 1918” page 196 (pdf201); Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  14. “British Library” IOR L/PS/13/1694 No 33 File 30 (part 1) ‘The Appeal Memorial Sayla Durbar’
  15. “British Library” IOR R/2/735/217 No R/C/217 ‘Morvi Railway Conversion’, Page 5
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; page 194; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; page 193; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  18. “British Library” tba.......
  19. "Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; page 181; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  20. “British Library” IOR/1/14784 Proposed take over of the management of the Jetalsar—Rajkot Railway by the Junagarh State Railway from Gondal. Page 10 of Gondal’s reply
  21. Wikipedia ‘Morbi Railway Station’ ; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  22. Videoscene “Wisps of Indian Steam” Station’ ; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  23. “British Library “ IOR/ R/2/746/306 Extension of the Dhangadhra / Morvi Railway to Malia part 1
  24. “British Library” IOR/1/14784 (1) Proposed takeover of the management of the Jetalsar-Rajkot Railway by the Junagadh State Railway from Gondal Railway
  25. "Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; page 181; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  26. 26.0 26.1 “The History of Kathiwad” by Capt H Wilberforce-Bell; published by William Heinmann, London, 1916; page 252 ; Retrieved 31 Jul 2017
  27. ”British Library” IOR/L/PS/126; P3748. Public Works Department Notes Paragraph 217
  28. "Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; page 184; Retrieved 31 Jul 2017
  29. to be confirmed
  30. ”British Library” IOR L/PS/13/1694 No 33 File 30 (part 1) p2
  31. ”The History of Kathiwad” pages 252-254; Retrieved 10 Jun 2017
  32. “British Library” IOR/R/2/735/217 No R/C/217 Morvi Railway Conversion, Letter 6
  33. “British Library” IOR L/PS/13/1694 No 33 File 30 (part 1) p2
  34. “British Library” IOR L/PS/13/1694 No 33 File 30 (part 1) p3