East Indian Railway

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East Indian Railway
Howrah Station view 16.jpg
Howrah Station, Calcutta
Line of route
Howrah (Calcutta) to Delhi

Allahabad to Jubbulpore

Gauge / mileage
Broad gauge 1962 miles (1905)
2775 miles (1918
4217 miles (1937)
1849 Guarantee agreed with East India Company
1851 Construction begun
First train between Howrah and Hooghly
First through train to Delhi
First through train to Bombay via Jubbalpore
1880 Line acquired by State
Key locations
Presidency Bengal
Stations Agra, Benares, Cawnpore, Delhi, Howrah, Hooghly, Mirzapur, Patna

See also heading Stations for major stations marked bold

System agency
1880 worked by East Indian Railway Company
How to interpret this infobox
East Indian Railway
East Indian Railway logo.jpg
East Indian Railway device
System timeline
1880 EIR re-formed to work line now owned by State
1925 Management of system taken over by State
Constituent companies / lines
1880 East Indian Railway
1889 Delhi-Umballa-Kalka Railway
South Behar Railway
1885 Tarkessur Railway
Jind-Panipat Railway
1925 Oudh and Rohilkhand merged into EIR
Key locations
Headquarters Calcutta
Workshops Jamalpur, Liluah
Major Stations Agra, Benares, Howrah, Patna
Successor system / organisation
1947 Eastern Division, Indian Railways
1952 split between Eastern & Northern Railways (IR zones)
System mileage
Broad gauge 2225 miles (1905)
4011 miles (1943)
Associated auxiliary force
East Indian Railway Regiment
How to interpret this infobox
East Indian Railway Map 1909, east section - Howrah (Calcutta) to Gaya
East Indian Railway Map 1909, mid section__ - Gaya to Cawnpore
East Indian Railway Map 1909, west section - Cawnpore to Delhi

Built on the same terms and conditions as the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the East Indian Railway (EIR) was a British company, registered in London, privately owned and financed, operating under license and guarantee from the (British) Board of Control in India and the East India Company (EIC).

By 1859, the arrangements were "the construction and working of lines from Calcutta to Delhi, and from Allahabad to Juppulpore - total, about 1,400 miles. Capital - 12,731,000l. This amount has been sanctioned for the works specified, but it is probable that a larger sum will be required. Rate of Interest Guaranteed - 5 per cent. on 11,553,000l. capital; 4½ per cent. on 1,178,000l. debentures, convertible into shares." [1]


In January 1844 Rowland Macdonald Stephenson published an article in the leading daily paper, 'The Englishman', with his proposals, illustrated by a large map of India, showing the whole system of lines which he held to be most suitable for the country. This gained Government support and he returned to London after reinforcing his position with the merchants of Bengal. Back in England, Stephenson proposed formation of a company with the title “'East Indian Railway Company” [2]

The East Indian Railway Company (EIR) was formed in May 1845 with a power to raise a capital of 4 million pound sterling and Stephenson was the first Agent and Chief Engineer.

The early development of the EIR was based on the significant discussions, reports and papers were being prepared and circulated as proposed in the minutes of the Honourable the Court of Directors of the East India Company(EIC), of the 7th May, 1845. In the event the EIR were given consent construct a railway from Calcutta to Mirzapore(Mirzapur) and the North West Provinces. This comprehensive Report with other papers, letters and observations has been transcribed in full by Fibis as it contains significant details and analysis and is described as the ’ Great Trunk Railway from Calcutta’ - see separate page for details.

After four years of protracted negotiation and strenuous efforts, including a direct appeal to the British Prime Minister, a contact was signed in August 1849 between the EIR and the EIC and became one of the three original guaranteed companies sanctioned to construct experimental lines.

An 1852 dispatch concerning an “Experimental Line of Railway in Bengal” shows that the section had been approved “commencing at or near Calcutta to form part of a trunk line to connect to Delhi” and that “we have lately sanctioned a second section which will extend this line to Rajmahal”. Also that it is desirable immediately to commence similar work in the Upper Provinces...” The dispatch shows a change of heart, the draft shows, “commencing with such places as Allahabad and Cawnpore” which the EIC were going to build funded by a Government loan but before the dispatch was sent other information arrived and the draft dispatch was altered passing the decision back to Government [3]. Clearly the outcome of this was that the EIR were authorised to construct these extensions to the railway.

It was not until August 1854 that the EIR opened its first section from Howrah to Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles (38km. On 3rd February, 1855, the first portion of the line, 121 miles(194km) from Howrah) to Burdwan ( towards Delhi), was opened by Lord Dalhousie [4].

In the spring of 1857 the Indian Mutiny broke out and as a consequence a large portion of the work of construction was delayed[5]. Eight members of EIR staff lost there lives and remembered on the Memorial at Cawnpore Church[6]

The line was extended to Rajmahal in October 1859 and opened by the first British Viceroy, Lord Canning on 15 October 1860. From Rajmahal EIR's lines proceeded westwards along the Ganges rapidly reaching Bhagalpur in 1861, Monghyr in February 1852 and Mughal Sarai (across the River Ganges from Benares) in December 1862. This last section included the EIR's first tunnel, the Jamalpur Tunnel; and the first major bridge on the route, the Soane Bridge near Arrah [4].By 1864, the EIR had arrived in Delhi although it was not until 1871 that the Bombay-Calcutta route was completed when the GIPR reached Juppulpore.

By 1865, with the opening of the Naini Bridge (over the Jamuna River at Naini, near Allahabad), there was a through line from Howrah (on the right bank of the Hoogly River facing Calcutta) to Agra (on the left bank of the Jamuna River facing Agra, a line length of 1017 miles(1630km) [4]

In 1866 the Yamuna Railway Bridge (Delhi) was constructed in 1866 by the East India Railway (EIR) and connected the two principal cities of North India Calcutta and Delhi; this being the last link of the trunk line on this route. [7]

The “1870-71 Annual Report for Indian Railways“ for the EIR gives Broad Gauge (BG) ‘Main Line’ 1278 miles(2057km) open and ‘Jubbulpore Line’ 224 miles(360km) open. The Report also gives the 'progress and commercial' summery for the railway - see separate pages for details.

The Government of India (GoI) acquired the assets of the EIR on 31 December 1879 while leaving the management to the private company.

In 1887 the Jubilee Bridge was completed, crossing the Hooghly River between Naihati and Hooghly. The bridge was constructed by the EIR and connected to the East Bengal Railway(EBR) enabling freight traffic from upper India to run to the Port of Calcutta [8].

Progressive development of the EIR network continued such that by 1918 there was over 2400 miles (3840km) of broad gauge(BG) track.[9]

The Government of India (GoI) took over the direct running of the EIR on 1 January 1925. Six divisions of the EIR were created:- Howhah, Asanol & Dinapore known as the lower divisions; Moradabad, Lucknow & Allahabad, the upper divisions.

In 1952 the EIR was split to form two Zones of Indian Railways:-
Northern Railway’comprised the EIR Moradabad, Lucknow & Allahabad Divisions, which were added to other railways to form the ‘Northern Railway Zone’ - see separate page
Eastern Railway’ ’comprised the EIR Howhah, Asanol and Dinapore Divisions, which were added to to other railways to form the ‘Eastern Railway Zone’ - see separate page


‘Howrah Railway Station’ was the terminus of the ‘East Indian Railway’ (EIR) from the time of the inaugural train on 15 Aug 1854. Howrah was connected to Calcutta crossing the Hooghly River first by boat then, from the early 1870’s by the ‘Howrah Floating Bridge’ and finally in 1943 by the ‘Howrah Bridge’ - see separate page

Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon Workshops

EIR Collieries and Coal Supplies

See separate pages


By 1914, EIR was organised into the following departments, each with its own workshops with the main ones shown.

  1. Agency
  2. Audit & Accounts
  3. Carriage & Wagon - Lilloah; Allahabad
  4. Colliery - Giridih District
  5. Electrical
  6. Engineering
  7. Locomotive - Allahabad; Asansol; Dhanbaid; Dinapore; Jamalpur; Tundla
  8. Medical
  9. Printing
  10. Provident Institution
  11. Stores
  12. Traffic - Calcutta (Head Office); Allahabad; Asansol; Cawnpore; Howrah; Howrah Goods; Delhi; Dhanbaid; Dinapore; Gaya; Sahebgunge; Tundla


The EIR operated many schools, of which probably the best known was Oak Grove School at Mussoorie. Oak Grove School is still associated with Indian Railways and Northern Railway.

EIR Railway Lines

The EIR owned and worked on behalf of other parties an extensive network of broad gauge(BG) lines.

See East Indian Railway - Lines owned and worked for details and information:-

  • BG Lines - owned and worked by EIR
  • BG Lines absorbed into EIR
  • BG Lines worked by EIR at some time
  • BG Lines - EIR network expansion lines

EIR Bridges and Tunnels

See East Indian Railway - Bridges and Tunnels


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 [10] gives many references. The most important being:-

  • L/AG/46/11 “Records of the East Indian Railway Company; 1844-1953”
  • L/AG/46/31 “Records of the India Office relating to the East Indian Railway Company; 1879-1952”


East Indian Railway Personnel gives details of notable EIR staff from many different sources.

  • These have been listed by EIR Department and in Chronological order.
  • The entries link to the Notable Railway People pages.

The following employment records held at the IOR are relevant :-

  • L/AG/46/11/133-137 "Contracts of appointment, c1858-1925" (possibly not all included)

The above is indexed in

The following is not included in the index Z/L/AG/46.

  • L/AG/46/11/138-141 : "Half-yearly staff lists, 1861-1890 & 1911-1922" (giving ages from 1886).

Thacker's Directories The following for East Indian Railways Personnel have been indexed in Grace's Guide -

East Indian Railway Company Records The following have been indexed in Grace's Guide

FIBIS resources

William Walsh was working for the East Indian Railway as a Railway Inspector at the time of the massacre, having joined c 1856-57 after retiring as a pensioned Sergeant, Bengal Artillery.
For access, see FIBIS Journals

Recommended reading

  • "The Carriage and Wagon Workshops of the East Indian Railway", The Indian Railway Gazette, 1st February 1908, page 33-35.
  • "Development of the East Indian Railway", Railway Age Gazette, 1st August 1913, Vol.55, No 5, page 191-195.
  • "East Indian Railway", The Railway Gazette, 1st November 1929, page 21-32 & 113-114.

Associated Auxiliary Force

External links

Historical books online

  • George Huddleston, History of the East Indian Railway (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co, 1906). Archive.org. [A second part, published in 1939, took the history to 1924.]
  • "The East Indian Railway", page 358 from Bengal and Assam, Behar and Orissa: their history, people, commerce and industrial resources by Somerset Playne and J W Bond 1917 Archive.org


  1. "Money Market and City Intelligence", The Times, Wednesday, 15 June 1859, #23333, 7a]; Retrieved 17 Dec 2015
  2. Grace's Guide "Rowland Macdonald Stephenson" Retrieved on 4 Jun 2016
  3. British Library IOR/E/4/818 ‘Construction of Experimental Line of Railway in Bengal’, Page 505-6, 511. Dispatch No 67, 21 December 1852
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Symphony of Progress: The Saga of Eastern Railway 1854-2003" published by the Eastern Railway, Kolkata 2003, page 7, 10, 14
  5. Archive.org "History of the East Indian Railway ..." by George Huddlestone Appendix B, page 19, pdf page 40; Retrieved 11 Jun 2016
  6. Archive.org "History of the East Indian Railway ..." by George Huddlestone Appendix B, pages 280, pdf page 335; Retrieved 11 Jun 2016
  7. Wikipapia "Yamuna Railway Bridge (Delhi)"; Retrieved on 4 Jun 2016
  8. “Symphony of Progress - The Saga of the Eastern Railway 1854-2003”; published by Eastern Railway, kolkata 2003; page 30
  9. " Administration Report on the Railways in India – corrected up to 31st March 1918"; Superintendent of Government Printing, Calcutta; pages 53-61; Retrieved 17 Dec 2015
  10. British Library “British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue” - Search; Retrieved 22 Jan 2016