State Railways

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State Railways were state-owned but privately worked railways which dominated the period 1880-1925. The individual railways are detailed under State Railway Listings


The most significant personnel engaged on individual State Railways are listed under the "Personnel" heading on each individual railway page. This listing is not complete and ongoing.

Civil Lists are also a good source of information on personnel employed on a State Railway, or where the individual railway is not known.

The Civil List of the Government of India and of the provincial governments were issued at varying intervals, but the predominant pattern is a system of quarterly issues.

The Civil List is indexed and both the 'State Railways' and 'Railway Branch - Public Works Department' should be consulted as it appears personnel sometimes moved between the two.

Each entry gives 'Name', 'Rank and Grade' and 'Remarks' - which in most cases is where the individual was posted at tthe date of the list; or 'On furlough' (leave).

  • The page Indian Civil Service is a starting point and provides sources of information
  • FIBIS Fact File No 7 "Some major sources for Ancestors in the Indian Public Services" by Lawrie Butler with a contribution by Tim Thomas, published 2012, 48 pages. It comprises a list of Abbreviations; Introduction to the L/F/10 Series at the British Library; Case study of research using the L/F/10s; an Index of the L/F/10 series; Availability of Microfilms at both the British Library and the LDS; an article about the Indian Civil Service Records held at the British Library by Tim Thomas :Available to buy online from the "FIBIS Shop"


The continued slow pace and high cost of railway construction during the 1860s convinced the then Viceroy, Sir John Lawrence, that metre gauge offered significant advantages over broad gauge, such that the speed of laying track could be increased while driving down its cost. Also, that the only way to resolve the lack of risk capital was by direct Government involvement. Thus emerged the concept of the State Railway in the early 1870s - planned, built and run by the Government of India (GOI).

Annual figures for track mileage constuction began to increase but further famines during the late 1870s (which struck at the GOI's ability to raise taxes) and the cost of the Second Afghan War again highlighted the need for further change. Once more, the British Government in Westminster sought to attract private capital, and, if that failed, to provide direct assistance. At the same time, and in an effort to reduce the load on the Imperial budget, the GOI began to encourage the various independent Princely States to come forward with their own railway schemes.

In one sense, all the railways in British India could be said to be 'assisted'. From the first experimental lines, the GOI provided all the land needed for the trackbed once a projected line had been surveyed and agreed to. In return for this concession, the GOI had insisted on a contractual clause allowing the GOI to assume ownership after 25 years. The East Indian Railway's agreement was due for renewal in 1874 but extended for five years. When it fell due again in 1879, the GOI exercised its option to acquire the line but chose not to pass the operation of the line to the Railway Branch. Instead it caused the EIR to be re-formed as a management company and promptly contracted the new company to operate the EIR. Thus was born the state-owned but privately worked railway which dominated the period 1880-1925.