Great Trunk Railway from Calcutta
Great Trunk Railway from Calcutta, 1845-46
The following is a transcription from ‘Report of the Railway Commission’ prepared in 1845-46 concerning the proposals to develop the railways from Calcutta to the rest of India. These developments became stalled and became one step in the saga .
There had been an earlier proposal for railways from the ‘East India Company - Railway Proposals 1845’ - see separate page
The next consideration was the ‘Calcutta to Delhi Railway Proposal 1852-53’ - see separate page
It was finally in 1854 that the first section opened of what became the ’East Indian Railway Howrah-Delhi Mainline’ - see separate page
Transcription by FIBIS from:-
Google Books ’The Calcutta Review', no XIV, Volume 7’ Jan-June 1847. "OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS” Article II, pages 321 to 371 by the Editors of the ‘Calcutta Review’, Calcutta 1847
- Italics have been added by FIBIS to statements, references and notes to provide clarification.
- § has been added to the Documents used as references in the Article.
- Links have been inserted links to other FIBIS pages where they exist.
- Page numbers are given as used with the Article, some page breaks have been shifted to aid clarity
- We have adopted the title of this page ‘Great Trunk Railway’ as it appears in several places both in the ‘Commissioners Report’ and the ‘Article’
- 1 Documents given as references in the ‘Calcutta Review’ Article
- 2 Article from the Editors of the ‘Calcutta Review’, 1846
- 2.1 Commissioners Report – Overview
- 2.2 Climatic and Geographic Problems
- 2.3 Staff Training and Recritment Problems
- 2.4 Experimental Line Proposal
- 2.5 Proposed Routes - Calcutta-Mirzapore-Delhi Considerations
- 2.6 Damuda Detour Considerations
- 2.7 Proposed Routes - River Crossing Considerations
- 2.8 Proposed Routes - Coal Considerations
- 2.9 Proposed Routes - River Soane Considerations
- 2.10 Consideration of Gradients and Levels
- 2.11 Proposed Branch Lines from Calcutta-Mirzapore Line
- 2.12 Proposed Branch Lines from Mirzapore-Delhi Line
- 2.13 Proposed Branch Lines - Upper Provinces
- 2.14 Railway Construction Proposal and Mileages
- 2.15 Costs and estimates for Construction
- 2.16 Government in India and Parliament Position
- 2.17 Questions considered by Government and Responses
- 2.18 Governor-General's Position
- 2.19 Diamond Harbour Dock and Wet Dock Proposals, 1846
- 2.20 Closing Remarks
Documents given as references in the ‘Calcutta Review’ Article
Page 321 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS Documents
- §1. Copy of Railway Reports from India. Presented to Parliament by H. M.'s command. This being the ‘Report of the Railway Commission’ .
- §1.1. Letter from the Government of India in the Legislative Department, dated 9th May 1846.
- §1.2. Report by Mr. Simms (Frederick Walter Simms) , and Capts. Boileau and Western, dated I2th March, 1846.
- §1.3, 1.4, 1.5. Minutes by the Honourables Sir T. H. Maddock, F. Millett and C.H. Cameron.
- §1.6. Minute by the Governor-General of India - Lord Hardinge
- §2. Report of R. Macdonald Stephenson, Esq., Ma naging Director, to the Chairman, etc. of the East Indian Railway Company.
- §3. Report upon the Project upon the Dock and Diamond Harbour Railway Company, by F. W. Simms, Esq., Consulting Engineer to the Government of India, etc.
- §4. Indian Railways. By an Old Indian Postmaster (Known to be Mr W P Andrew, who became Chairman of the Scinde Railway Company)
- §5. Letter to the Shareholders of the East Indian Railway and Great Western Bengal Railway. By one of themselves.
- §6. Report on the application of Railway communication in India, by Capt. Western, B. E.from Friend of India, March 23tf, 1843.
- §7. Railways in England and France, by David Salomons, Esq., pp. 77, London 1847.
- §8. Papers Illustrative of the Prospects of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company. Bombay, September,1846.
- §9. Two Letters on the advantages of Railway Communication in Western India, addressed to Lord Warncliffe, by T. Thos. Williamson, Esq., C. S., pp. 119.
Article from the Editors of the ‘Calcutta Review’, 1846
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In our recent article on the subject of Indian Railways, we mentioned our wish to have postponed its consideration, until the publication of the ‘Report of the Railway Commission’ [§1) appointed by Government ; but we otherwise determined, in consequence of the number of projected Railways before the public, on which it appeared expedient that we should offer an opinion ; and we believe we exercised a wise and popular discretion, and may now be excused remarking that generally our views corresponded with those which afterwards appeared in the ‘Report of the Railway Commission’ [§1) We impugned the schemes which have been treated by the Commission as either not within their province or as unworthy of consideration. We anticipated the condemnation of the Northern and Eastern.
The Great Western (Great Western Bengal Railway Company) we regarded favourably, precisely in the limited point of view in which it is sanctioned by the Commission, that is, as a branch line; and we supported the paramount claims of the proposed grand trunk line, on account of its political importance, as Lord Hardinge has subsequently done. Thus, corroborated in our past views, we proceed to our present task with increased confidence. At the time we are writing there is, we fear, little probability of any of the Indian lines being immediately undertaken. We regret to consider them as put in abeyance, by the embarrassments and solicitudes arising from the extraordinary claims made on capital to provide food and work for the Irish people: yet indulging the hope of better times at no distant period, the subject appears to us of instant and undiminished importance, and we return to it confident that it will still attract a considerable share of attention on the part of the public, and that a general view of what has been written and done since our former article, will be acceptable.
To begin with the ‘Report of the Railway Commission’ [§1). Its importance would induce as to give it in extenso, as it decides, we apprehend, conclusively several important questions; but the nature of our publication will permit our giving only copious extracts and an abridgement. But first, a few words as to the circumstances which led to the appointment of the Commission. The Court of Directors (of the ‘East India Company’), called upon to sanction the establishment of Railways in India, found doubts raised on many grounds, chiefly, we believe, among that very status quo class, the circle of " old Indians," whether, in India, the introduction of a system of railways was practicable. At the same time various lines were competing for precedence, and neither the Court at home, nor the Government here, had the requisite information to decide between them. These circumstances, added to the habit of caution and a constitutional jealousy of innovations, some may say improvements, induced the Court to determine on appointing a Commission, with a Civil Engineer at its head, to investigate and report its opinion on these questions ; and it was so fortunate as to engage the service of Mr. F. W. Simms (Frederick Walter Simms), a gentleman whose eminent qualifications are too well known to need our eulogy, and who, with the distinction of having earned by a life devoted to practical science the confidence of the most eminent members of his own profession in England, enjoys also the respect here of that branch of the public service which would have regarded as anomalous the appointment of a less eminent person.
On Mr. Simms's arrival in India two Officers of the Bengal Engineers were associated with him; and under instructions of a general kind from the Court of Directors, together with other instructions from the local Government, they proceeded on a tour from Calcutta to the Upper Provinces, making such detours as they deemed proper, for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of the country, and on their return in March 1846, they made the Report, which we shall now proceed to analyse, and offer some remarks upon.
Commissioners Report – Overview
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The Report [§1) begins as follows:-
“ 1. We have the honour to submit our report upon the practicability of introducing a system of railways into India, and of their application to the peculiarities and circumstances of the country and climate: to answer the questions relative thereto, as proposed in the minutes of the Honourable the Court of Directors, of the 7th May, 1845, and likewise to make our report from a personal examination of the country, upon the direction of a line to be recommended for a railroad from Calcutta to Mirzapore(Mirzapur) and the North West Provinces."
Paragraph 2 expresses the opinion of the Commissioners as to the practicability of establishing Railways in India:-
“2. We would commence by stating our opinion that railroads are not inapplicable to the peculiarities and circumstances of India, but on the contrary, are not only a great desideratum, but with proper attention can be constructed and maintained as perfectly as in any part of Europe. The great extent of its vast plains, which may in some directions be traversed for hundreds of miles without encountering any serious undulations, the small outlay required for Parliamentary or legislative purposes, the low value of land, cheapness of labour, and the general facilities for procuring building materials, may all be quoted as reasons why the introduction of a system of railroads is applicable to India."
The Report next adverts to the difficulties suggested by the Court as peculiar to the climate and seasons of India. They are:- • 1. Periodical rains and inundations: • 2. The continued action of violent winds and the influence of a vertical (tropical?) sun: • 3. The ravages of insects and vermin upon timber and earthwork: • 4. The destructive effects of the spontaneous vegetation of underwood upon earth and brickwork: • 5. The unenclosed and unprotected tracts of country through which railroads would pass: • 6. The difficulty and expense of securing the services of competent and trustworthy engineers.
Climatic and Geographic Problems
Page 324-25 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
These difficulties well and fairly put, are disposed of by the Commissioners in a concise, business-like, and, as appears to us, in a satisfactory manner :-
- 1. As to the periodical rains and inundations they say :-
"We do not expect that, with a judiciously selected and well-constructed line, any serious mischief to the works may be anticipated from this cause, nothing but what a moderate annual outlay will set to rights. The practicability of keeping a railway in order is shewn by the existence of bunds and roads, both metalled and unmetalled, in various parts of the country, which are kept in order at a trifling outlay, It must, however, be borne in mind, that, although this opinion is based upon what we have ourselves witnessed as the effect of a season when the floods were unusually high, both in Bengal and the Upper Provinces, yet, in after years, unprecedented inundations may occur, causing serious damage to works which shall have been constructed with a view to resisting only the highest floods hitherto known."
That is, as we understand, a railway in the Lower provinces, where alone this class of dangers exists may be securely constructed upon raised bunds or embankments, and these may be kept up at a moderate annual outlay. But the selection of the line is very important, and of course a line could not be considered as judiciously selected, if from the nature of the country along any part of it, it could not be protected or constructed beyond the reach of danger. This is a circumstance which should make the public very cautious of railway projects in the Lower provinces.
- 2. As to the continued action of violent winds and a vertical sun, the Report says :-
“ Suitable arrangements in the construction of the works will overcome any difficulty arising from these causes as to the line itself. These effects will be more felt in working the trains, especially the wind, at high velocities, but no fears need be entertained upon this subject as to the ultimate result, though, during the prevalence of the hot winds, more than usual attention will be requisite in watching and guarding against the effects of friction of such parts of the engines that may be exposed to the most intense heat."
These difficulties though not felt in Europe, are the common lot of tropical climates : and therefore were they greater than they are, and were they less satisfactorily met by the Report, it appears to us that considered as preliminary objections, they would be sufficiently answered by the fact that in Cuba, the Southern parts of the United States, Jamaica and some other tropical countries, railroads are already constructed or being so.
- 3. As to the ravages of insects and vermin on timber and earthwork, the Report says :-
“ If the information we have received be correct, that the destructive action of insects upon the teak and iron wood of Arracan amounts to nothing, or next to nothing, that question is at once disposed of; but should further investigation show that such is not the fact, recourse must be bad either to the use of stone, or to the employment of one or more of the various preparations for timber now in use in England, which it is probable may also be found desirable on the score of economy to render the timber more durable. This, however, at present is by no means certain. Captain Western, who has been in Arracan, states, that he would not guarantee teak as resisting damp and insects, but iron wood he knows from practical experience to resist both, and has seen a post taken up, after having been in the ground 15 years, as sound as the day it was put in. To the earthwork no serious mischief is to be apprehended from this cause, if the overseers and labourers on the line discharge their duties in a proper manner. It is true that earthworks in the Upper Provinces, constructed in a loose soil, have occasionally been damaged by the undermining of rats, crabs, otters, or other burrowing animals, but it appears that constant vigilance would provide an effectual remedy for this, as well as for the next following difficulty."
The Commissioners have merely alluded to the method of preserving woods by steeping them in liquids. On this subject we can state, that several trials of prepared woods have been made in Calcutta, some on behalf of the East Indian Railway Company; others of the local Government; and without distinguishing between the comparative merits of the different preparations, we may state generally that there is reason to believe ants will not touch them. Besides, as the ants attack only things in a state of perfect rest, not improbably the Rail way sleepers, at least, will be rendered impregnable by the motion of the trains over them: this we know to be also the opinion of a high authority in Railway matters.
- 4. As to the destructive effects of spontaneous vegetation of underwood upon earth and brickwork, the Report is equally satisfactory :-
“The destructive effects of the spontaneous vegetation of underwood upon earth and brickwork: — To obviate these evils nothing more is required than a faithful discharge of the duties of the overseers and labourers in rooting up every germ of such vegetation as soon as it appears. Captain Boileau suggests that the attention of the persons in charge of those portions of the line, passing through young saul forests, must be particularly directed to this point, as trees of this kind, after having been cut down to clear ways for trigonometrical operations, have been known to spring up again to an altitude of about 15 feet in two years : and in various parts of the country, the rapid growth of Palma Christi (the castor oil plant), the gigantic reed called Surkunda and Nurrul, and many other such wild productions, may give considerable trouble, though the strong roots of the latter are admirably adapted for giving stability to an earthen bank. The roots of the Peepul tree are particularly injurious to brickwork but are tolerably easy of extraction.”
- 5. As to the unenclosed and unprotected tracts of country through which railroads would pass, the Report is equally satisfactory :-
“A fence similar to our quick fences in England will answer through the open and cultivated parts of the country, which may or may not be employed through the districts covered with jungle, as circumstances may require. Such fence may be formed of the plant called the Berandu or the Mysore thorn, or the prickly pear, all of which, and perhaps many others, if kept well-trimmed, would make a suitable fence. In several localities where stone is obtainable in abundance this material might, and, in certain cases, where the soil is too barren for the growth of hedges, must be used for boundary walls, and, in the vicinity of saul forests the exceeding straightness of this wood renders it particularly valuable for construction of posts and railing.
Staff Training and Recritment Problems
Page 326-27 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
- 6. The difficulty and expense of securing the services of competent and trustworthy engineers.
“The difficulty and expense of securing competent and trustworthy engineers :-This difficulty, we make no doubt, will be overcome by a suitable arrangement by the railway companies at an early period. Such, ire should think, would be the sending a few native, or East Indian young men to England to be trained, until some engines are ready to be sent to India; upon their return in charge of such engines, and under the superintendence of one or two English engineers, there would be laid the foundation for the training of as many native engine drivers as might be required. Such native youths, while in England, should not only be instructed to drive an engine, but to repair them when out of order."
Upon the subject of the last paragraph we have a few remarks to offer. Doubtless, the first supply of skilled labour required for working railways in India, as also in the other British possessions abroad, must be brought from England. But it appears to us equally certain, that there is in India a very considerable number of persons,- Native, East Indian, and European, - ready to be taught, and who would become candidates for instruction, if it was provided for them; and the number probably much exceeds the number that could be employed for some time to come. As a ground for entertaining this opinion, we may refer to a class for teaching Architectural and Mechanical Drawing and the principles of Surveying and Mensuration, which was established in this city fifteen months ago by Mr. Stephenson; the instruction is gratuitous ; young men on applying for employment are received on condition of being regular in their attendance; and upon an understanding that they will be considered as having a claim for employment according to the degree in which they have qualified themselves ; the class has always been full; and many of the students have made great exertions to support them-selves, and have remained beyond the time when it was anticipated there would be employment for them.
At the same time that schools for instruction in the mechanical arts and sciences are established, it appears to us, that Government should weed out of its system every sort of discouragement to the enterprise of private individuals, and to the voluntary immigration of fresh un-sunned labourers of all ages. We would suggest that it ought to withdraw from everything like competition with them; and confine itself and its officers to their proper functions. This observation admits of a variety of illustrations. We recently were shewn by an English mechanic, to whom it was in fact a sentence of immediate banishment from India, an official copy of an order from the Court of Directors to the local Government, limiting Government employment (we are sorry we cannot quote the very words) so as to utterly exclude all recent and free emigrants, no matter how skilful as workmen. Again, we are constantly hearing of Government officers undertaking the execution of works of a public nature for private individuals or bodies of individuals. “
The time is come, when works of this kind can be executed without them. Indeed, we have heard of some which have been given to Government officers merely in consequence of their estimates being lower than those of the tradesmen. The effect of this undoubtedly is to diminish or prevent an increase in the number of tradesmen, and to check the immigration of fresh skill and talent. It may be said, that the public is free to employ the tradesman, that there is no compulsion, and the Government officer is preferred because his prices are more favourable. Not always so; he is sure to be preferred, if his estimates are only equal, but whether the work be usually completed within the estimated cost is another matter. If the tradesman's terms are higher than is just, the correction should be left to time and competition which are sure to correct this evil: the intrusion of the Government officer only increases the evil by preventing or postponing regular and permanent competition. Nor should Government be satisfied merely to put an end to this class of discouragements. The distribution of business in the Department of Public Works should be governed by a principle the very opposite to that which prevails at present: we mean by the principle of giving the greatest amount of encouragement consistently with the public interest, to the growth and increase of private skill, enterprise and capital.
One way certainly would be to do nothing at its own work-shops and by its executive officers which it can get done by contractors or at a private establishment; and to transfer as much common work as possible from gentlemen with epaulettes wholly to the class who are exclusively mechanical. This we are satisfied would be much cheaper to Government. Private establishments would then multiply ; there would be mechanics to do small jobs as well as large ones, which now there are not ; there would be more skill, more capital ; more public works, more improvements, and of a better kind both in design and execution : we should not hear then so often of bridges and churches, and the like, falling down while in the course of construction : the Supreme Court would soon teach the architect and tradesman that it would be ruin to themselves to be the designer or constructor of ruins, and consequently they would not under-take that for which they were unequal, and we should soon have a higher order of architects, mechanics and tradesmen ; and what is more immediately to our present purpose, there would be a public stock of engineering and mechanical talent, on which the railroads might draw when their own immediate resources became deficient. We commend these objects and principles to consideration, not of departments, because in them we should place little hope, governed as they are by habit and tenacious of old and existing arrangements; we com mend them to the consideration of the Government.
Experimental Line Proposal
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Paragraph 5 from the Commissioners Report refers to the subject of the probable returns of merchandise and passengers; but state that they are unable to give any opinion, from an entire want of statistical information. In the course of this article we shall endeavour to supply some.
Having disposed of the objections arising from the climate and seasons, the Commissioners conclude this part of the subject with the following declaration: —
"With the above view of the case we should not deem it inexpedient or unwise to attempt the introduction of railways into India to any extent that private enterprise might be found willing to embark capital upon; subject, however, to whatever equitable conditions and regulations the Government might think proper to require for the promotion of their own, and the general interests of the country at large, at the same time having due regard to that of the parties engaged in the enterprise."
Paragraph 7 of the Commissioners Report responds to their instructions to suggest some feasible line of moderate length as an experiment for railroad communication in India. Accordingly, the Report suggests a line from Allahabad to Cawnpore, or if this be thought too extensive, from Calcutta to Barrackpore: the former would be about one hundred and twenty-six miles long, the latter fifteen miles. We regret that the suggestion is unaccompanied by any remark on the absurdity, as it appears to us, of making an experiment at great expense - to prove what? Nothing but what is already known. A person who builds a house or makes a railroad should first count the cost, and if he finds his capital insufficient for a large one, must be content with a small one: but then the small one is not an experiment.
There is ample capital for a grand trunk railroad, if Government will give the necessary encouragement; and we cannot help wishing that the Commissioners had reported in answer to the requirement alluded to, in some such terms as the following: —
"We now come to that part of the minute of the Hon'ble Court, in which we are requested to suggest some feasible line of moderate length as an experiment for railroad communication in India. Before we do so, we beg to offer an explanation: the desire on the part of the Court to have an experimental line first, appears to us to have arisen out of the doubts apparently entertained in many quarters of the practicability of establishing railways at all in India: and while this remained in doubt it was natural that the Honourable Court should wish only to make an experiment. But being fully satisfied, as we have reported, that railways in India are practicable, it appears to us that experimental lines, as such, are now out of the question; we may however mention the following as preferable, if it is determined to make an experimental line."
Giving the Commissioners full credit for having made the suggestion merely in obedience to instructions; the idea still requires discussion, and the more so, because we collect from the most recent advices, that it is likely to influence in an undue degree the first operations. We are not aware of any line in England which in any just sense could be said to be experimental. The first important English line was from Manchester to Liverpool; but it was an entire line, and undertaken and executed with perfect confidence of success, and not at all as an experiment. The proper width of gauges, the forms of machinery, the greater or less power required in the various gradients; these are questions in which science is aided by experiments; but the practicability of a railway in a country where the height of every hill, the velocity and depth and direction of every river, the geological features were known, was not an experimental question as regarded the engineering apart from the commercial considerations. Whether the traffic between Liverpool and Manchester would pay the proprietors of the railroad was conjectural; but so, it is, in the case of every new canal, new bridge, new road, in which the projectors invest their capital: all commerce in this sense is conjectural, speculative, experimental. But suppose this first line had been experimental: the experiment could have proved nothing beyond itself; if it had failed it would have proved little or nothing against a railroad from Liver pool to London: and though it succeeded, it neither proved that all other railroads nor that any other would be commercially successful. What then we ask is to be proved by our experimental railroads? Plant the railroad where the country is exposed to inundations! If it is washed away will it prove that railroads will fail in parts not subject to inundations? Or, again if it is washed away, notwithstanding the Commissioners state that adequate protection may be given, will the experiment prove more than when a chain bridge falls and buries hundreds of people, or than when a church sinks in the course of construction, or than when a common road like the course on which we drive every evening becomes foundrous within a few months after very extensive and expensive reparation? We are not therefore induced to give up the repair of bad roads, nor the hope of having good ones, nor to condemn chain bridges as unfit for India, or churches as antichristian, though their foundations are rotten. And so as to railroads: the Commissioners have reported railroads as practicable, and answered the objections arising from the climate and seasons: they have inculcated caution in the selection of the lines, and therefore the simple question remains, which is the most useful - the most desirable line. Doubtless the Government may say 'we are not bound by the Report' - true, because the commissioners are not infallible: but capitalists will form their own opinion, and capital which may be ready for a useful, feasible line, may not be forthcoming for an experiment, nor for any railroad at all if Government discredits them as experimental. What we ask is to be proved by the experiment? What is the object of the experiment? We are utterly at a loss for a rational answer to this question, and we have no hesitation in characterising the idea as unscientific, pusillanimous, and, in effect, hostile to railroads.
Proposed Routes - Calcutta-Mirzapore-Delhi Considerations
Page 330 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
The Report next describes the route which the Commissioners recommend from personal examination of the country for a line of railway connecting Calcutta with to Mirzapore(Mirzapur), and from thence to Delhi and the North West Frontier. First impressions, they state, would lead to the supposition that the proper course would be to cross the river Hugly(Hoogly) at Calcutta and proceed from its right bank in the direction of Bancurah ; but this line of country is subject to periodical inundations; and in the event of the embankments of the Damuda breaking, to powerful torrents which might act very injuriously to a railway. The Commissioners therefore have suggested that the railway should proceed up the left bank of the Hugly, and cross the river a little below Chandernagore (about 18 miles from Calcutta) ; or proceed still higher up the left bank to Nuddea, and cross the Hugly just below the junction of the Bhagirutti with the Jellinghi. These several lines come nearly to the same point at about ninety miles from Calcutta. The first is the most direct, and shortest by upwards of 30 miles; but its cost of construction mile for mile would probably be the heaviest of the three in consequence of the quantity of viaduct and masonry which would be necessary. And both the first and second are open to the same objection, of an unknown amount of danger from torrents and inundation, if the bunds of the rivers in Bengal are abandoned. The Commissioners at the time when they made their report appear to have regarded this last objection which we the Editors have italicized, as fatal.
Damuda Detour Considerations
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Subsequently, however, new light has been thrown on this subject. In August 1846, a Commission was appointed to proceed up the Damuda and examine the effect of the bunds (embankments) and report on the system of bunding; and from its report we collect that the danger in the lower parts of Bengal from the overflow of the rivers, would, in the opinion of that Commission, be lessened, by the waters being allowed to run freely.
The Damuda Commissioners, therefore, have proposed to substitute a system of drainage in lieu of the existing system of embankments : to cut through the natural bank of the river instead of raising an artificial one : and instead of confining the waters to their principal bed, the level of which yearly becomes higher, to relieve that bed by openings and channels ; and they anticipate that from this plan inundations of the land will be less frequent than at present with the embankments, less violent and consequently less destructive,—in which case it would follow, that a railroad could be more surely protected against them. These anticipations were not before the railway Commissioners when they made their Report. Mr. Simms was on the embankment Commission. We cannot undertake to say whether he entertains the same view as before, of the expediency of making the line up the left bank to Nuddea; but, if the views of the embankment Commission be confirmed, the premises on which that recommendation proceeded are shaken, and we may expect to find the most direct and shortest line will now be regarded as the preferable one.
We extract the following paragraphs in which the Commissioners express their motives for proposing a detour instead of the most direct line:-—
“10. The object in making this apparent detour is, that by flanking the Damuda, we should, in part, escape the water that flows towards the sea in the direction of that large river, but not be wholly free from its effects ; and whenever an occurrence should hereafter take place, similar to what took place during the late inundation (viz., the breaching of the bunds of the river), a considerable amount of damage would arise to the works of the railway.”
“11. So long as the water is confined within the river bank, no material injury would arise to the works of the railways simply from the submersion of the country during the rains, but upon the accident before named, the body and rush of water were so great as entirely to undermine and destroy a bridge near Dulla Bazaar, and to threaten destruction to the bridge over the Banka Nullah at Burdwan, by which Nullah, the surplus waters in a great degree found their vent towards the river Hugly.”
“12. In addition to the foregoing considerations, it is possible that here after it may be considered advisable to abandon the preservation of the river bunds, and to allow the waters during the rainy season to overflow the surrounding country, in the expectation that the sedimentary matter that is now raising the bed of the river may overspread the country and tend to raise the general level. (This has been hinted to us as a suggestion that has been made, but upon which we must be understood to give no opinion.) Such a procedure would have an effect upon the railway works that is difficult to foresee or provide for, except, in all probability, by the construction of a larger quantity of viaduct for the free passage of the waters than would otherwise he necessary, and thus increase the cost and maintenance of the works.”
“13. The above considerations and information obtained from Lieutenant Colonel Forbes, Captain Anderson, etc, led to an examination of the country still further to the northward, from which it appears that a very advantageous line of country for a railway exists on the left bank of the Hugly, and crosses that river at a short distance below where it is first formed (or takes that name) by the junction of the Bhagirutti and Jellinghi at Nuddea, from which, crossing, it would proceed due west, and pass about ten miles to the north of Burdwan, near to a place called Balkeshun."
Proposed Routes - River Crossing Considerations
Page 332-33 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
From the foregoing remarks it appears that the selection of the lower part of the line, remains to be made, we will therefore here offer a few remarks on the comparative merits apart from engineering considerations of these three lines or part lines. It is a fact to which we would particularly wish to draw attention, that each line involves the necessity of a bridge across the Hugly ; although the line commencing at Howrah, but not the other lines, would be continuous, and therefore in that respect complete without one : and this circumstance, considering the portion of the capital which a bridge across the Hugly would absorb, probably upwards of a million, and the time its erection would take, probably three or four years, appears to us to be a strong recommendation of the Howrah line; a bridge could be dispensed with at first and for a long time with the Howrah line ; on the other hand, a bridge would be essential from the first to the other lines, and this, it appears to us, in a great degree counterbalances the objections arising from the difficulties in the lower part of the Howrah line; and then as to the comparative utility of a bridge in other respects‡‡. At Nuddea and Chandernagore, we apprehend, it would be of little use except in connection with the railroad ; but at such a city as Calcutta its importance may be estimated by comparison and experience at a great many other places : a bridge across the Hugly here would, as we apprehend, be what cheap steam passage across the Mersey at Liverpool is to Cheshire ; what the Thames tunnel is becoming to Rotherhithe ; what Southwark, Waterloo and Vauxhall bridges have been to (say) twenty-four or thirty square miles of land on the south side of the river Thames : practically it would double the river frontage ; be a vent for parts of this city which are choked with an excessive and mercantile population ; open at a convenient distance another district to the increase which would assuredly result from the establishment of railway communication; vastly increase the value of property and facilitate various projected improvements of the old town, —which appear all but impracticable without some such attraction to draw off from it a part of the population. These reasons, concurring with those founded on the diminished danger from inundations, which all competent judges unite in pronouncing capable of being realized, induce us to hope that the bridge and terminus of the railway will be at Howrah. There are other minor considerations leading us to the same conclusion ; it is a circumstance which may be mentioned that a terminus at Howrah with a bridge across to Calcutta will be nearer the shipping, nearer the counting houses and ware-houses of the merchants, nearer, in short, to the centre and seat of the mercantile business of Calcutta than is the terminus of any railway in England with which we are acquainted, and over the bridge the railway may be extended into the very heart of the town, at the smallest inconvenience to existing rights of property.
‡‡ It is intended that all the bridges shall have a common road as well as a rail road over then.
Proposed Routes - Coal Considerations
Page 333-34 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
It would be uninstructive to repeat in detail the line which the Commissioners propose from the point just noticed on to Mirzapore(Mirzapur) and thence to Delhi: but there are some circumstances mentioned in the report which appear to us worthy of being noticed. The Report (Paragraph. 26) describes this part of the line as passing through the [[Raniganj|Ranigunge(Raniganj) collieries; consequently, it will cross the great coal field of Burdwan and (probably) Pachete, which we regard as a fact of very great importance. The greater part of the native coal consumed in Bengal is brought from this district : the coal field consists of some hundreds of square miles, and contains coal of various qualities : but the trade is nearly a monopoly : and the supply of coal, consequently, most unsatisfactory; the price high, probably 30 per cent, higher than it ought to be ; and the quality generally inferior, so much so, that English coal is imported in large quantities. The public are obliged to take what they can get, as the attempts hitherto made have failed to break down the monopoly. The existing state of the coal trade (we call it a monopoly) may safely be pronounced a grievous burden on many branches of the internal commerce of this part of India.
We are disposed to press this as an argument in favour of the grand trunk railway and of the immediate establishment of a railroad to the coal field of the Damuda. It will immediately occasion a diminution of price in one of the first necessaries. Coal is largely consumed in various manufactories. It will for the convenience of customers, as well of small as of large, — a matter of real importance, as all know who have had dealings with monopolists. It will make us independent of foreign (English) supply: and if undoubtedly this would be a benefit in time of peace, how much greater would it be in time of war? And how could Steam Navigation in the Indian seas be carried on in the event of a war, if the coal used in it, had, as at present, chiefly to be brought from Europe?
The argument thus briefly put cannot, we believe, be gain said. Did any of our readers desire that we should fortify our premises, viz. that the coal trade is a monopoly—we could easily do so and shew how it has become so; the disclosure would throw some curious light on the commercial, social and political condition of this part of India. Let a mere sketch suffice; it is all that we have room for. All the coal from the Burdwan coal field is brought down by the river Damuda. The river is open only two or three months in the year, and consequently to be in time for it, the collier must deposit his coal beforehand on the banks of the river. The navigation is carried on only by the common river craft, the supply of which is inadequate to the demands of the coal trade. Now bearing these three facts in mind, observe how congenial they are to the corruption of the trade, to its conversion into a monopoly. Now let us put an hypothesis. Supposing it free at this moment, we will suggest an easy and natural process by which it might become a mono poly. Make the navigation difficult for small traders ; by extraordinary exertions, by hook or by crook, secure all the boats any one year ; or make it exceedingly difficult for others to get any: hire or pretend to have hired the whole river frontage, within a moderate distance from your own and your neighbours collieries and maintain the possession and right till a Mofussil Court has decided it against you : we say, do all this, against which there is no law, or get it believed that you will do it, and the coal trade in the eyes of a prudent person, appears a lottery; capitalists consequently avoid it. In the particular instance of this trade, it was recently proved in a Court of justice that the river was infested by lattials who were employed and paid by nobody; from the mere love of wickedness they attacked the coal fleets, but luckily the only sufferers or complainants were the smaller colliers. Doubtless they were employed and paid by nobody to do this, and such conduct we must believe would be reprobated before the public by none more than those who have suffered least or not at all by it; still that such things are done is certain; and that they may be done by native servants of respectable people, we can believe, because quite certain it is that natives do not view matters of this kind as their enlightened masters do; and being done, the coal trade is regarded as one of the most hazardous, and capitalists feel an aversion to it. A railroad to the collieries will immediately cure all the moral, political, commercial evils alluded to. Respecting the influence which it will have on prices, we shall make a few remarks presently.
Proposed Routes - River Soane Considerations
Page 335-36 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
In the early discussions respecting the grand trunk line, the river Soane, which intersects the trunk road a few marches below Benares, was particularly dwelt upon as an insurmountable and fatal difficulty. The Commissioners only regard it as "an obstacle to the cheap construction of a railway:" " a viaduct across it," say they, " is a matter of expense only," but cheap and dear are relative terms, and Indian railways would probably be among the very cheapest, if it were not for these great rivers. Considered, however, as barriers to intercourse, not to be overcome by common ways, they demonstrate the importance, and enhance the value of railroads. As shown from the following paragraphs from the Report:-
" 29. The river Soane is a formidable obstacle to the cheap construction of a railway, being two miles and three furlongs in breadth, and the foundation or natural substratum below (at present) an unknown depth of sand. The erection of a viaduct across this great river is, however, a matter of expense only, there appearing no difficulty in the case that perseverance and ingenuity will not overcome. The most suitable point for crossing the river seems to be about three miles higher up than where the trunk road now crosses it, at the foot of the range of sand-stone hills, from which much valuable material for the structure might be obtained, and for this purpose also, granite of excellent quality may be quarried about two miles south west of Nowrungabad, and about twelve miles south-east from the proposed site of the bridge. Lime also is obtainable at or near the spot."
This passage is followed by a suggestion of considerable importance, and which appears to us new. The Commissioners recommend that all bridges of great magnitude erected by Government should be made sufficiently wide and strong to admit a railroad, and railroad bridges in like manner to admit a common highway. Let us ask, docs not the same reason apply to viaducts; and if thus railway bridges and railway viaducts are constructed so as to keep open at all seasons the general intercourse of the country, assuredly railroads will be entitled to be classed among the greatest blessings yet conferred by British sway on the general population of the Lower Provinces. The following is the passage containing the last mentioned suggestion of the Commissioners: —
" 30. In the construction of this bridge, and of all others of great magnitude, as the crossing of the Hugly and the Jumna, hereafter to be referred to, we would recommend that they be made of ample width, not only for the railway, but also for a common highway, which may be separated from the railway by a screen of masonry. The additional cost of such extra width, at the time of construction, will be but little in comparison with the cost of a separate structure for the public highway, and compensation might be given to the railway company for the extra outlay, either by Government supplying an equivalent portion of the cost, or granting them the right of levying a toll for a given number of years.
" 31. On the other hand, we would advise that all bridges of great magnitude, erected by Government, for the purpose of any public highway in any part of India, should he constructed of ample width to accommodate a railway also, if there should appear any moderate probability that such a work would become desirable for, or likely to be executed in that direction within any reasonable period of time."
Consideration of Gradients and Levels
Page 336-7 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
We will here notice the statements both from the Commissioners Report [§1) and of Mr. Stephenson [§2) respecting the levels, because they may interest some of our readers. Up to or near the Dunwa pass, about 250 miles from Calcutta, the Commissioners state:-
"the gradients of the line will be very easy, and although steeper gradients will have to be here introduced to overcome the natural barriers, we do not expect from the levels taken they need be greater than can be worked by assistant power, when the trains are heavy, and it is the only place upon the whole line where favourable gradients cannot be obtained at a small cost, as regards the earthworks."
Mr. Stephenson:- " the line which has been surveyed after leaving the valley of the Barrackur ascends the hilly range at an inclination in no case exceeding the limits of locomotive power."
By a statement before us it appears that from Calcutta to Burdwan the steepest ascent is 1 in 336 for a distance of about two furlongs with a descent at the rate of 1 in 379 for about the same distance. From thence ascending towards the Barrackur, a distance of about fifteen miles, the ascents are still very easy, the steepest being I in 366 and 1 in 377, for a distance of less than half a mile only: then descending the valley of the river Barrackur at the rate of 1 in 220 for little more than a quarter of a mile. The greatest rise now commences towards the hilly range; but it in no case exceeds 1 in 100, and that incline is a plane of less than a third of a mile: one descending plane is about the same incline and of the same length, 1 in 155 and 1 in 186 are the only other ascents under 1 in 255, till the highest ground is gained. We have reason to believe that better gradients will be found than those described at the Dunwa pass: where however Mr. Stephenson represents the descent as more abrupt, but still admitting of such gradients " as will render the use of fixed engines unnecessary." There the descent is commenced by three inclines, two of 1 in 61 and one of 1 in 62; in length together under a mile and a half, and having horizontal levels between them of about a furlong each in length. One other short plane of 1 in 138 and the fall becomes very easy to Chunar. From thence to Mirzapore(Mirzapur) the gradients are easy: the descent of 1 in 306 being the steepest. From Mirzapore(Mirzapur) to Allahabad one half the distance is a horizontal level and enters Allahabad by a short ascent of 1 in 377. From Allahabad to Cawnpore is a general and very light rise, the greatest ascent being 1 in 2064 and the steepest descent 1 in 1508; and from Cawnpore to Agra and Delhi the rise is also general and very slight.
Mr. Stephenson says:- "from Allahabad to Agra and Delhi, the country presents probably fewer engineering difficulties than are found in almost any other district of equal extent. The inclination of the country rises gradually from Allahabad, varying from twelve to thirty-six inches in the mile, with scarcely any perceptible variation."
Proposed Branch Lines from Calcutta-Mirzapore Line
Page 337-8 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
Following the order of the Report we will next notice the branches proposed by the Commissioners: —
"35. Having now explained our view as to a suitable line for a railway between Calcutta and Mirzapore(Mirzapur) , we will before proceeding further describe the branches we should propose to diverge therefrom to give the most extensive accommodation to the country at large, and to relieve the traffic of the Ganges proceeding to Calcutta from its great drawback during at least eight months of the year—namely, the circuitous route by the Sunderbunds, when the waters of the Bhagirutti are too low to admit of the more direct route from the Ganges to the capital of India.
"36. The first branch should be from a point near Burdwan to Rajmahal, along the district of country selected many years ago by Lieutenant Colonel Forbes for the Rajmahal canal; such a railway will, in future, supersede the necessity for the canal, which, however, would have conferred great benefit on the trade of the country if carried into execution when he first proposed it ; the fact that such a canal has been for many years a desideratum, proves the same thing in favour of the more modern mode of intercommunication.
"37. Besides the accommodation of the trade of the Ganges, it will give accommodation to Purnea|Purneah (Purnea) ]], Malda, Dinagepore, Rungpore(rangur) ,, and the country in that direction through which it may possibly hereafter be found desirable to extend this refined mode of transit.
" 38. After all that has been stated from time to time in favour of Lieutenant Colonel Forbes' important work, nothing more need be added in favour of a branch railway in that direction. This branch would be about 120 miles in length."
The above branch is a modification of the line proposed by the Great Western Railway:-
" 39. The second branch we would propose would leave the main line about five miles eastward of Shuhurghotti, and pass northwards through Gaya to Patna and Dinapore, thus accommodating a very important district of country, as well- as the military and civil stations above-named; and on the opposite side of the Ganges, the valuable district of Tirhut, Sarun, &c. this branch will be about eighty miles in length."
This we believe to be an original proposal of the Commissioners; but it coincides with the original design of the East Indian Railway Company to construct as many branches from the grand trunk line as shall appear desirable to complete the system of railway communication in the Lower Provinces:-
" 40. Another branch might probably be advantageously made from the main line up the valley of the Soane to the coal-fields westward of Rotasgurh; but we do not lay much stress upon its immediate formation as a branch, until it be ascertained whether or not the main line from Bombay will take that course, as it appeared some time ago probable that such, might be the case. Such a branch may be found desirable, if not indispensable to the interests of the railway company, as they might thereby obtain coal for their own purposes, as well as to supply the public in that and the still higher parts of India."
The reader will observe the importance of obtaining fresh supplies of coal for the public is distinctly recognized in this extract.
"41. The last branch we propose for immediate construction on this portion of the great trunk line from Calcutta to the North West Provinces should be, as stated in paragraph 32, from about nine miles before reaching Chunar to Raj Ghat, opposite Benares, a distance of about seventeen miles."
Such are the branch lines in the Lower Provinces suggested by the Commissioners: they do not include the line commonly known here as the Bhagwangolah line, which was proposed by the Northern and Eastern Railway Company. The Commissioners appear to have rejected this project, for much the same reason as we alleged against it, namely, the unsettled state of the Ganges and shifting character of the bed of this river at the proposed upper terminus of this railway. Their statement is as follows: —
"19. In furtherance of this object" (i. e. the choice of a line for a branch from the Ganges) " we extended our examination, in November last, to the country north of Kishnagur, through Berhampore and Murshedabad to Bhagwangola, with a view to a branch railway from Kishnagur to those places ; and although the country is highly favourable for such a project, yet the great mart at Bhagwangola is of so unfixed a character from the extensive and continued changing of the bed of the Ganges, that, unless its continuation northward and eastward be considered desirable, it would appear that a branch to Bhagwangola simply to accommodate the trade that now passes along the Ganges to Calcutta by the Sunderbunds route, will not be found to answer as a commercial speculation : a permanent point, however, on the banks of the Ganges exists at or near Rajmahal, which might be suitable to receive the great traffic of the river, and be connected with the trunk line, a little northward of Burdwan, and found advantageous to the general trade of the country, in like manner as the proposed canal of Lieut. Colonel Forbes would certainly have done if that important work had been carried into execution. Such a branch railway would in no point be removed very far to the westward of the projected line of the canal in question."
Proposed Branch Lines from Mirzapore-Delhi Line
"44. On the extension of the line from Mirzapore(Mirzapur) to Delhi, but little need be said respecting this portion of the proposed works. In length it will be about the same as that of the line we have already described, Mirzapore(Mirzapur) being about midway between Calcutta and Delhi. The direction of the line will be neatly as follows: —between Mirzapore(Mirzapur) and Allahabad it will trend a little to the south of a direct line, to secure better ground for a foundation to the works. Upon this portion of the line the railway will cross the river Tounse, and in order to extend it into the Doab, the river Jumna must also be crossed at or near to Allahabad ; a suitable spot for crossing exists near the present bridge of boats. Thus, the military magazine at Allahabad would be connected by railway with Calcutta, and, by the extension to Agra and Delhi, with the magazines at those places respectively.
"45. Leaving Allahabad, the railway would keep on the south west side of the trunk-road to Futtehpore and Cawnpore, thence it might take a direct line to Mynpooree, which would be its proper course if continued direct to Delhi ; but if it be finally resolved that the line should pass through Agra, and thence to Delhi, along the right bank of the river Jumna, it would be more desirable that the railway should proceed from Cawnpore by Shekrabad to Agra, as that line would not only be shorter, but would avoid the crossing of one or more nullahs than it would have to do if taken by Mynpooree.
"46. Supposing that its route would be through Agra, it would again cross the river Jumna at the latter city, a suitable site for which purpose would be a little northward of the present bridge of boats and passing the civil lines to the north of the Government offices and Ackbar's tomb at Secundra, take a tolerably direct course through Muthra to Delhi.
"47. A suitable place for a station at Agra exists where the rails, continued from the bridge, would become level with the present surface of the ground, about midway between the river and the civil lines, and, if necessary, such station could be connected with the hank of the river at a much lower level than the railway, by a branch descending to the water's edge.
"48. Before, however, determining that the main line should pass through Agra to Delhi, it is a subject for consideration, whether or not it would be more desirable to take the line direct through Allyghur, and cross the river Jumna at Delhi ; for this purpose a suitable place for crossing the river is immediately to the northward of the palace, whence it could be continued along the bank of the river to a station on the vacant ground at the back of the magazine, and, if necessary, can at any time be prolonged northward, past cantonments, towards Kurnaul.
"49. The advantage of the direct line to Delhi over that by Agra would be, —1st, the shortening of the distance between Calcutta and the frontier; 2nd, passing through, probably, a richer agricultural district than would be done on the route between Delhi and Agra; and 3rd, in case of invasion from the westward, a possible, although not probable, occurrence, the railway would be protected by the river Jumna. On the other hand, the city of Agra, at present the capital of the North West Provinces, with its magazine, would be less directly connected with the frontier and the magazine at Delhi, if situated at the extremity of a branch, then if placed upon the main line. The country also to the west of the river Jumna, although perhaps not so productive to the agriculturist as that in the Doab yet is admitted possessing a very considerable trade.
"50. As respects the two routes, in an engineering point of view, there appears to be no great difference, for although on the direct line there would be the additional cost of crossing the river Hindon (no trifling matter, certainly, unless as suggested by his Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Upper Provinces, the crossing be effected below the junction of the Hindon with the Jumna, if the Jumna itself be as manageable there as at Agra or Delhi) the route, by way of Agra, would be about 20 miles longer, and consequently, from that cause, increase the cost of construction to probably within a trifle of that of the direct route.
"51. If Agra be accommodated with a branch line only, and that branch be terminated on the opposite side of the river to the city, it would be highly inconvenient and undesirable ; but if a bridge is to be constructed at Agra, at all events, to carry the railway into the city, which it should by all means do, then the consideration would be greatly in favour of taking the main line by the Agra route, for the more perfect accommodation of that great capital of Upper India.
"52. Whichever of the two directions for the main line between Cawnpore and Delhi be finally fixed upon by Government as most desirable, the line can, at any future time, be extended to Kurnaul and to the frontier, where a terminus might be established on the highest navigable part of the Sutlej, and thus connect the great rivers, the Indus and Ganges."
Proposed Branch Lines - Upper Provinces
Page 340-41 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
Next, the Report suggests several branches in the Upper Provinces: viz. one to Furrukabad(Farrukhabad) , one to Allyghur, one to Meerut, and a fourth to Simla and Mussoorie, upon the extension of the main line to Kurnaul, or rather, looking at the map, we should say, a fifth branch from Meerut to [[Mussoorie]). Our readers in the Upper Provinces will take an interest in the paragraphs recommending these branches:-
"53. The branches to be recommended for construction on this upper portion of the main line from Calcutta to the North-West would be one to Furrukabad(Farrukhabad) , a second to Allyghur, a third to Meerut, and, upon the future extension of the line to Kurnaul, a branch could be advantageously constructed thence north-eastward towards the hills on which the sanitary stations of Simla and Mussoorie are situated, or wherever else it may be found desirable.
"54. The first branch, or that to Furrukabad(Farrukhabad) , would leave the main line about 60 miles north eastward of Cawnpore; and proceed direct, the length being about 45 miles from the line, through Shekrabad to Agra, and 32 miles if taken from the direct line toDelhi through Mynpooree.
"55. The second branch, or that to Allyghur, would lead direct from Agra, and would be about 48 miles long. But if the direct line to Delhi be adopted, this branch would not be required, as the line itself would pass through Allyghur.
"56. The third branch would be from Delhi to [[Meerut]), and 36 miles long, and which, if the main line takes the right bank of the river, we propose should terminate opposite to the city of Delhi, as it appears to us the traffic would not be sufficient to warrant the expense of constructing a costly bridge over the river Jumna for the purpose.
"57. The fourth branch, namely from Kurnaul towards the hills requires no further remark at the present time than we have already bestowed upon it.
"58. If, however, it should ultimately be resolved that the direct line to Delhi through Allyghur be adopted, the branch to Agra would leave such main line near to Secundra, a distance of about 40 miles."
Railway Construction Proposal and Mileages
Page 340-41 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
To enable contracting parties to open the whole line at the earliest period with the least possible outlay, the Commissioners suggest laying down in the first instance a single line of rail way, with all necessary passing places, and accordingly preparing the permanent way for a single line, but at the same time requiring the earthworks and masonry to be constructed for the reception of a double line. And in conclusion the Commissioners recommend what we contended for, that the whole distance from Calcutta to Delhi should be viewed as one line and be worked and conducted by one company. The one company alone willing to undertake the whole, is the East Indian Railway Company; and from the recent amalgamation of the Great Western with this Company, it appears to us not improbable that the entire system of railway communication for the Bengal and Agra Presidencies will be the work of one consolidated company. The following appear to be the amount of railway communication recommended by the Commissioners: the distances are stated approximately:-
|Grand Trunk Line||Miles.............|
|From Calcutta to Delhi ................................................................||900|
|Extension of same to Kurnaul ......................................................||60|
|From near Burdwan to Rajmahal .................................................||120|
|Shirgotty to Patna and Dinapore ..............................................||80|
|Chunar to Rajghat, opposite Benares..........................................||17|
|66 miles N. W. of Cawnpore to Furrukabad..................................||45 see note ‡|
|From Agra to Allyghur .................................................................||48 see note ‡‡|
|Delhi to Meerut ............................................................................||36|
|Meerut by Hardwar and the Deyra to Mussoorie ..........................||118|
|Delhi, Kurnaul and Umballa on towards the frontier to Simla....||120|
Note: ‡ or if from Delhi....32 miles. ‡‡ or no branch, if the line goes direct to Delhi
Costs and estimates for Construction
Page 342-47 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
The Report is wholly silent on the subject of the cost of constructing these Railways: but Mr. Simms, it appears, had stated it, in a letter to Government, at £15,000 per mile for the grand trunk line, as an approximate estimate. In the Diamond Harbour Report, however, which is dated several months later, Mr. Simms has given much and valuable supplementary matter on this subject and on the cost of Railways in several countries. In an appendix to the Report are no fewer than seven Tables, too long to extract, but of which we will endeavour to make a Summary.
The next 3 pages give a lengthy rebuttal to the comparisons given by Mr Simms, this is not transcribed but can be seen in the Article on page 343-46. .
One or two relevant extracts are given here :-
Mr. Simms deals with this estimate as if it were founded on a supposed analogy between India and the United States, as regards the construction of railways ; and in this point of view, his observations are convincing and satisfactory, and we will quote them presently; they prove the writer alluded to, to be in error: but we must remark that the said “reputed competent authority” is a Bengal Engineer Officer, and we understand his estimate as being made upon data derived chiefly from the assumed cost of the new Benares road, and the price of labour and materials in this country. We therefore beg to say that no one department of Government nor all the departments of Government, nor Government itself, nor the Court of Directors know what the grand trunk road, in its present half -finished state, with half its bridges not begun and some already fallen to ruins, has cost, nor what it will cost, nor hardly its present state, and that this said road is about the most fallacious criterion which could possibly be referred to, in estimating for railways.
To take so much trouble to refute so absurd an estimate we should have pronounced supercrogatary, but both the “Old Indian Post Master ” (§4 see footnote), as Mr. Simms probably was aware, and the author of the “Letter to the Shareholders” (§5 see footnote)dwell on the estimate alluded to, - the latter literally adopting it, the former quoting it as good as far it goes, but adding £2,100 per mile for items assumed not to be included in it; and concluding thus:- “total £6,500: allowing an ample margin for contingencies say per mile £8,000.” It is pleasant to compare these different authorities with one another. While the Bengal Military Engineer officer says £4,400 per mile, the “Old Post Master “swears by him, yet swells the sum first to £6,500 and then to £8,000, having only two pages before made in a note the following statement:- “The line from Calcutta to Mirzapore, if executed in the manner proposed by the Railway Commissioners, may be estimated at £20,000 per mile; from Allahabad to Delhi £8,000; Calcutta to the Sutledge, it would be an average from £12,000 to £15,000.... Oh, it depends on the manner in which the works are executed?”" We reply, that is no solution of the difficulty: besides the Bengal Engineer Officer makes no distinction of this sort but makes his estimate for works to be executed in the most substantial manner, and Mr. Simms recommends the most substantial construction for India.
§4 is the author under the alias the “Old Indian Postmaster” is known to be Mr W P Andrew, who became Chairman of the Scinde Railway Company
§5 is the author of the “Letter to the Shareholders of the East Indian Railway and Great Western Bengal Railway”
Government in India and Parliament Position
Page 347 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
Before we enter upon the questions of traffic and returns and some other general subjects we will proceed to notice the papers laid before Parliament with the Report, containing the views of the Governor-General and the Government of India : and we may observe, for the information of some of our readers, that these are wholly distinct, as the Governor-General when absent from Council has separate functions, and the Council, on the other hand, has full legislative competence without him. The letter from Government is entitled as issuing from the Legislative Department, but our readers should be informed that this is a mere nominal distinction and not one of persons; for, the three gentlemen signing the same are the Government of India in all its Departments, and one of the three has the entire Government of Bengal on his Atlantean shoulders, without a council. To this paucity, or numerical poverty, we referred in our former article, as one reason against the construction and management of railways in India being undertaken by Government. Parliament in the Charter Act wisely gave India a number of councillors called a Law commission, but, judging from the result, it would seem to have been the policy of the Court of Directors first to paralyze and then gradually to remove this arm : and now,- if charity can pardon the use of a somewhat strong but not inappropriate metaphor,- these its brains being knocked out, Government here has virtually become a mere affair of executive departments with a nominally local head, the real head being the Court of Directors in England which interferes about the smallest details. We must also premise that repeated reference is made in these papers to letters from Mr. Simms to the Government; and considering the weight which belongs to this gentleman's opinions, these letters, it appears to us, ought to have been given to Parliament. The letter from Government to the Court of Directors also informs us, that an analysis of the questions connected with the introduction of railways was prepared by the under Secretary of Government, with a view of facilitating the consideration of those questions. Albeit, though we have not these documents, we will make the most of what we have, and endeavour to supply the place of what we have not, by inference.
Questions considered by Government and Responses
Page 348-51 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
Our object in this portion of our article will be, to shew what questions have been considered by Government, and its decision or opinion upon those questions. The questions stated in the letter to have come under the consideration of Government, are the following:-
Q1 “By what provision shall Railway Companies obtain the use of the land required for Railways?”
Q2 “In what manner shall the Government of India secure itself the option of becoming hereafter the proprietor of Rail ways which may now be constructed by private enterprise?”
Q3 “What shall be the consequences to a Railway Company of a failure on their part to complete the construction of a Railway once commenced, or to maintain it when completed?”
Q4 “Whether any amount of dividend shall be guaranteed by Government, as payable either after the opening of the Rail way upon the whole capital expended, or while the work is in progress upon the sums laid out from time to time in its construction? # “
Q5 “The expediency of a perfect control being exercised by Government over the management of them when opened for public use."
Q1 Upon the first question Mr. Simms, in a letter to Government, appears to have recommended that the Government should deliver the land free of cost to the Railway Companies. About the acquisition of the land Mr. Stephenson also had corresponded with Government. His proposal was to pay for the land, but for Government to take it. On the proposal of Mr. Simms the letter of Government says,
" It is entirely approved of by us, because we are of opinion that the purchase of land required for railways is a transaction capable of being effected much more easily by the Government than by a Railway Company; and because we consider that if substantial assistance of any kind is to be given by the Government to Railway Companies, Mr. Simms's proposal suggests the least objectionable mode of affording assistance."
It may therefore be considered as settled that Government will take the land required by the Railway Companies ; but it appears to us that a modified power to take land should also be conferred on the Railway Company ; not in our view for the purpose of limiting the exercise of the power by Government, but of supplying its place, if and when for special reasons it becomes inexpedient that Government should exercise it. If such a case never arises, the power will simply be a dead letter; but it may be wanted and is better given at first than when about to be exercised.
Q2 As to the second question :- “The manner in which the Government of India shall secure to itself the option of becoming here after the proprietor of railways which may now be constructed by private enterprise”:- Mr. Simms, it appears, adopting a principle of the most recent railway legislation in England, had recommended, that after a certain number of years the railway should be delivered over to the Government in a good and substantial state of repair without payment, except for locomotive engines, carriages, trucks and the various tools and materials. The Managing Director of the East Indian Railway Company, in like manner, adopting the same principle, had proposed that the Government after twenty years, should be at liberty to purchase under conditions to be agreed upon. Both propositions assume the expediency of vesting the property in Indian Railways in the Indian Government; and the conclusion to which the Government has come in answer to the question is the one the least open to objection.
“We think,” says the letter of Government, “that in the provision that may be made for securing to the Government the possession of the railways hereafter, it will be sufficient to reserve to the Government the power of becoming the proprietor of the railways on settled terms at the expiration of a certain period, and it appears to us that this may conveniently be done by adopting the principle of the provisions of 7 and 8 Vict. c. 85.”
With respect to the “terms” to be settled, we are aware they will be settled between the Railway Companies and the authorities in England; but we have turned to the minutes to see what are the ideas entertained here by the most influential parties respecting them. The President of the Council suggests, that, at the end of 25 years, the railways should revert to Government, as a farm reverts to the landlord at the end of a lease, which is very different from an “option,” and that in default of Government agreeing to grant a new lease, the Government should be at liberty to take the railway property moveable and immoveable, at the then marketable value to be ascertained by a valuation; or assuming the capital of the company to be the value of the property of the Company, to pay the shareholders three per cent per annum, on that capital: in the former case, that is, of taking over the property at a valuation, that the Government should issue promissory notes for the amount bearing the lowest rate of interest at which the Government is then borrowing or can borrow money. No Railway Company we apprehend would regard these terms as admissible.
Q3 The next question stated is :- "What shall be the consequences to a Railway Company of a failure on their part to complete the construction of a line once commenced or to maintain it when completed?" :- Mr. Simms had suggested that the Company should be required to pay into the Treasury one-tenth of its proposed capital. In a public point of view this appears to us unobjectionable; it at once tests the ability of the Company; throws the project into the hands of those alone who can carry it out, persons of real capital, and being thus the best security against failure it practically supersedes the above question. A similar condition is, or was, imposed by the standing orders of both houses of Parliament. Mr. Millett (one of the Members of Government) expresses a strong dissent from this proposal saying “It is very objectionable and unnecessary as a measure of precaution."
A most complex and confusing argument is put forward here which we have not transcribed but can be seen in the Article on page 350 - there is no clear conclusion.
Q4 On the next question, viz :- “Whether any amount of dividend should be guaranteed by Government,” etc. We are of opinion that it is not expedient that Government should guarantee any amount of dividend either while the railway is being constructed or after its completion. The concession of the land to Railway Companies free of cost, is, we think, the most appropriate and the only kind of assistance which the Government should lend to these companies.
But what, if, without a guarantee no company can be found to construct a railroad? This question appears not to have been considered, nor even the idea to have occurred to the members of Government. It is but fair, however, to observe, that in April 1846, the circumstances which have made it necessary for Government to guarantee some dividend in order to induce capitalists to embark on these undertakings, were but imperfectly known or developed.
Q5 Concerning :- “The expediency of a perfect control being exercised by Government over the plan and construction of railway? and over the management of them when open for public use.”.
The answer of Government affirms that such control is expedient. We should be disposed to demur when we run over the list of departments and functionaries attached to Government; but in the appointment of Mr. Simms we hope we have an assurance, that the powers of control, as it respects “plan and construction and management” will be given only to the most competent persons; as Government has begun, we may hope it will go on; its civil engineering appointments we may from this instance believe are to be open to competition ; for railway works we may hope England is to be its school, and by a wise policy we doubt not it will be found that this noble school for public works will send to these "climes of the sun" some of the brightest names in practical science.
Page 351-53 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS '''''
We now turn to the Minute of the Governor-General (§1.6.), and are much mistaken if his Lordship has written any State Paper in India on which he can reflect with more satisfaction, or which will more worthily illustrate his sagacity, penetration, foresight and practical wisdom as a statesman. We will give the substance of it with a brief and rapid comment.
It begins with the usual exordium, expressing a general concurrence in the view taken by the President of Council, and as regards the tine, sanctions the grand trunk line; which line chiefly, if not exclusively, appears to have attracted his Lordship's attention. To its peculiar and superior advantages, in a military, political and commercial point of view, the encouragement which he would counsel the Court to give to railroads, has exclusive reference; indeed, we are not aware that any other line offers comparable political and military advantages (if any such advantages at all) to Government. As to the land the Governor General is of the same opinion as the Council, viz. that
"it should be procured by the sole agency of Government."
But as to the encouragement which Government should give, the Governor General is much more liberal than the Council:-
"I am of opinion that the assistance to be given ought not to be limited merely to the land:- and for these reasons, 1st, that the value of the land, (estimated by his Lordship at £200 a mile) "is not commensurate with the advantages which the State would derive from rapid and daily communication from Calcutta to Delhi ; and 2ndly, that English capitalists, in the absence of information as to the probable expense of construction and working, will not enter into the speculation without more substantial encouragement from the Government."
The event has proved the correctness of Lord Hardinge's judgment, and the point of view in which his Lordship has considered the subject is that which eventually must be taken by the authorities in England. His Lordship next refers to the considerations which give the grand trunk line a claim to the assistance of Government: these considerations are (as already noticed) the political and military importance of the grand trunk line, as well as its utility to commerce in general. As to the amount of assistance to be given:-
" The calculation of the contribution to be given, would be based on the political, military and commercial advantages which would be derived from the completion and full operation of such a line:"
At the same time, as these advantages include many not susceptible of arithmetical calculation, and really are of paramount importance, we believe the conclusion to which his Lordship would lead the Court is, that whatever encouragement or assistance may be necessary ought to be given : and believing this to be his Lordship's opinion, by no forced construction, we may pass over his several details, which we regard as mere examples, by no means meant, as exhibiting the entire components of the sum total of pecuniary benefit the grand trunk line will bring to the government ; on the contrary, his Lordship mentions £50,000 as saved by army reduction, only because that is a noble item, and well knowing that if his Lordship had employed his official influence also to make out the littles, they would have proved the proverb, of " many littles making a muckle," and in the result he would have shown that compared with the palpable saving a railway will occasion, the most liberal idea hitherto entertained of encouragement is really a trifle. In one respect, however, his Lordship betrays a mistaken impression; he appears to think no aid from Government will be needed until the line is completed; something to that effect, according to our recollection, was said by Mr. Stephenson; but circumstances have changed, and as aid is needed at the commencement we think it clear, from the whole tenor of the Minute, that Lord Hardinge would decide in favour of its being immediately given. We must not omit to observe, that the Governor-General has in no degree sanctioned the maxim that the chief objects of railroads are political. The time is to come when "the sword shall be beaten into the ploughshare," and then what becomes of such a maxim and its consequence? Why should their chief objects be political in India any more than in England?
Lord Hardinge's Minute also abstains from asserting that railroads ought to belong to government; it rather implies the opposite principle; for it distinctly states that,
"if it could be assumed that the whole cost of the speculation, as is usually the case in England, would repay the adventurers by the traffic in passengers, it would be more prudent to leave the whole affair in the hands of the Company; the State here, as in England, deriving its advantage without interfering with the profits of the Company."
The Indian Government is no better or not so favourably circumstanced for any kind of interference with railroads as the English Government. As a government it can only command for railroads, the skill which it can rear at Addiscombe; and while it would be under very great disadvantage, compared with a commercial Company, in the open market of skill and talent, it may obtain by stipulation and contracts under legislative sanction all the benefits it can require as a Government. Let us however be candid and admit that a new element is introduced into the question, if Railroad Companies require the assistance of Government. If a proprietary interest is forced upon the Government, it may plausibly claim a proprietary influence; though it would be wiser, as we think, to take engagements for repayment of its advances, at the earliest possible day; to regard itself as a mortgagee out of possession rather than a part owner, joint tenant or tenant in possession. We can scarcely doubt that when Lord Hardinge, with the Minutes of Council before him, penned the passage we have quoted, he was impressed with this opinion ; and the difference in this respect between his Lordship and the opinions of Council is just the usual difference between English and Indian politicians and statesmen, in their ideas of the competence, function and province of Government, and the scope and efficiency of the enterprise of individuals. In taking a general view of the papers just noticed, we must say, that, in none of them, except that of the Governor General, do we find any indication of an adequate and statesman like appreciation of the varied importance of railroads ; or any disposition to make a sacrifice for the establishment of them : and the perusal somehow tends to generate the impression that the writers think it is not particularly desirable to encourage them ; that India may still do without as it has hitherto done without them. They take, as we apprehend, a disparaging view of these great instruments of commerce and social intercourse: they regard them mainly as "instruments of Government" - a fallacy, we apprehend, which has caused the neglect of the roads hitherto, and is pregnant with conclusions as to railroads, which if carried out, will establish a defective and erroneous system.
The Article continues in this manner for many more pages all putting pressure on the Goverment to take action to encourage private participation.
The pages that follow are along the same lines and are not transcribed but can be be seen in the Article on pages 354-62.
Diamond Harbour Dock and Wet Dock Proposals, 1846
Pages 362-66 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
These are examined in detail in the Commissioners Report and in the Article
We have put this transcription on a separate page Diamond Harbour Dock and Wet Dock Proposals, 1846
Pages 366-71 OUR INDIAN RAILWAYS
These pages are not transcribed but can be seen in the Article pages 366-71