Integrated Transport System Proposal 1836

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Integrated Transport System Proposal 1836

In 1836 Captain Arthur Thomas Cotton of the Madras Engineers was asked to make a report on the communication within the Presidency of Madras, with a connection to Bombay [1]. His major proposal was the investment in a horse drawn rail borne goods delivery system. This was not only to allow the export of goods and the quick delivery of imports to the Presidency but also a means of quickly getting the necessary supplies of staples to those in areas that were suffering drought and famine thereby saving lives and livestock.

The total proposed line being 1,550 miles and the cost for the best quality railway would be 9,300,000 lacs or Rs 9,300,000,0000.

Due to the nature of the coastal regions the proposal incorporated the canal system to connect the major railheads at Madras and Porto Novo as well as local roads so that a through traffic could be maintained. The Cochrane Canal construction had commenced in 1806 and was completed through to Porto Novo in 1837 (the canal was renamed the Buckingham canal in 1878) [2].

The Report went as far as suggesting similar studies being undertaken in the other Presidencies of Bombay and Calcutta to provide a network of 5000 miles(8000km) linking the three capitals [3].

Note: Place names are as stated in the “Imperial Gazetteer of India 1908”

Name varients are given in italics

The Report also put forward a method of extending the line from Poona to cross the Western Ghats to enable connection to Bombay using a series of inclined planes to gain the necessary altitude [4].

In the final analysis none of these proposals were constructed as an integrated system. The railway proposals, many years later, became part of the rail network.

Two railway lines were proposed with two branch lines, all based on horse drawn propulsion.

Integrated Transport Proposal 1836 Line 1+3a

Line 1. Madras to Poona Railway Proposal 1836. This line would travel from Madras by the general commercial town of Walajapet(Wallajahnagore on the left bank of the Palar River, facing Arcot), then via Vellore to Bangalore, a distance of 268 miles (431km); then on to Bellary another 188 miles(302km) ; and onward to Poona(Pune) adding 464 miles(746km). Giving a total route of 862 Miles. Passing close to the towns of Caukiloor, Chutteldroog, Dawar, and Bancapoor. There was a potential of carrying more than 133,000 tons of goods that were being carried by road cart at that time. There would be an additional gain in passenger travel as well [1].

The Madras-Bangalore section eventually opened as the Madras Railway broad gauge(BG) 'Madras-Jalapet SW Mainline' via Walaga Road(Arcot)-Katipadi(Vellore) to Jalarpet Junction (1856-60); and then as the 'Bangalore Branch Line'(1864) to Bangalore, a distance of 267.12 miles. This being exactly the same as the 268 miles stated in the 1836 Report.

Bangalore-Bellary was never constructed as a direct rail route, however the road route is 193 miles which approximates to the 188 miles in the Report.

Bellary-Poona was never constructed as a direct rail route, however the road route is 402 miles.

The Report gives a total of 862 miles from Madras to Poona, which approximates to the estimated 839 miles (268+188+402) given above.

It appears that the final connection from Poona to Bombay was not under consideration in this Report, the Western Ghats were a major obstacle giving access to the west coast.

The Bombay-Poona railway section, a distance of 119 miles was constructed by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway from 1853 and reached Poona in 1863, this involved the crossing of the Western Ghats and the Bhore Ghat Railway Construction.

Integrated Transport Proposal 1836 Line 2+3b

Line 2. Porto Novo- Pollighautcherry Railway Proposal 1836. The route of this line was from Porto Novo on the east coast, through the grain district of Tanjore, Trichinopoly, and then Coimbatore, the great district for cotton, saltpetre and rice goods and passing near the great town of Seringapatam to Pollighautcherry ( renamed Palghat). A distance of 310 miles(499km), then on to the west coast by water to either Bombay or Cochin. This route would have reduced costs as 130 miles could be built on the embankments of the Cauvery and Coloroon Rivers. [1].

Porto Novo was eventually connected by the South Indian Railway(SIR) network to Tanjore by 1879, then via Trichinopoly to Erode, total 195 miles. At Erode there was a connection to the Madras Railway (which later was transferred to SIR) to Palghat via Podanar Junction , total 93 miles.

The Report gives a total of 310 miles from Porto Novo to Pollighautcherry (Palghat), which approximates to the estimated 288 miles (195+93) given above.

Line 3. Branch Lines Railway Proposal 1836. The Report proposed two branch lines with a total distance of 380 miles(499km). The routes of these lines being:-

  • Line 3a. Bangalore-Salem

This route branched from the Line 1 proposal at Bangalore to Salem.

Bangalore was eventually connected by railway to Salem by 1864. Madras Railway(MR) Bangalore line, south-east to Jalarpet Junction, 85 miles, then south-west to Salem, 75 miles This giving a line length of 160 miles.

  • Line 3b. Trichinolopy-Tinnevelly

The line branched from the Line 2 proposal at Trichinopoly to Tinnevelly.

Trichinopoly was finally connected to Tinnevelly in 1876 with the South Indian Railway(SIR) line network via Madura and Maniyachi Junction, a distance of 193 miles

The Report gives a total of 380 miles for these two branch lines which approximates to the 353 miles (160+193) given above.

Further Information

See Early Railway Experiments and Proposals for more information and background.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 British Library “IOR/F/4/1867/79385 Report to the General of Civil Estimates 1836” pp 55-75
  2. Wikipedia “Buckingham Canal”; Retrieved 25 Nov 2016
  3. British Library “IOR/F/4/1867/79385 Report to the General of Civil Estimates 1836” p.130
  4. British Library “IOR/F/4/1867/79385 Report to the General of Civil Estimates 1836” pp.67-68