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 converted 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.

From the 1867 ‘Thacker's Directory for Bengal and other territories’ under ‘Indian Branch Railway Company’ the following are indexed [9]:-


  • Marquis of Tweedale - Chairman
  • William Dent - Deputy Charman
  • Murray Gladstone
  • C. C. Johnstone Major-Gen – Managing Director
  • J. A. Tobin
  • R. W. Kennard
  • J. A. Turner
  • John Pender
  • Henry Yule, Col.
  • Lestock R. Read

Controller of Accounts Offg.

  • J.Walker

Agent and Engineer-in-Chief, Cawnpore

  • James E Wilson [9]

Further Information

See Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway from 1872