Saturday 13 April 2013

When a Maharaja operated a railway

The Wodeyars put Mysore Kingdom on the map of  industrialisation and modernization and the British and the rest of the world considered Mysore to be among the most progressive princely states of India.
The Dewans of Mysore joined hands with the Wodeyars in putting Mysore on the path of progress. Several industries took birth and one of the most important undertaking which today is almost forgotten is Mysore’s own Railway.
Decades before Railways became a part of the Government, the princely state of Mysore had its own railway which was called Mysore State Railway (MSR).
The MSR was thus established when almost the entire network in India was owned by private entrepreneurs. The Maharajah of Mysore invested in the railway business by building lines for the Southern Mahratta company. When this company was amalgamated with the Madras Railway, the Maharaja decided to work the majority of his own lines himself. Thus began the story of Mysore State Railway.
Initially, the MSR consisted of the narrow gauge Kolar district railway and, on metre gauge, a main line from Bangalore to Mysore, two other lines out of Mysore and a few lines on the Bangalore-Poona main line. The longer of these two lines, the Birur-Talguppa, ran a hundred miles north west from its junction with the Madras and Southern Mahratta to its terminus at the Western Ghats.
The name, Mysore State Railway (MSR), originally referred to the metre gauge line which connected Mysore to Bangalore. Later the name of MSR was extended to the entire network owned and operated by the State.
Two years after Chamaraja Wadiyar took over as Maharaja, MSR took up work on a rail line between Mysore and Bangalore in 1870. However, the project failed to materialise.
By 1881, the king, MSR had opened 58 miles of rail lines for traffic. During his 13-year rule, Chamaraja Wodeyar added 315 miles investing Rs 164 lakh.
Then came the famine which ravaged Mysore state. Chamaraja Wodeyar availed a loan of  Rs 20 lakh to build the railway network.
Subsequently, all the lines laid and operated by MSR were handed over to Southern Mahratta Railway Company as maintaining the lines became a burden.
When Maharani Vani Vilas became the Regent Queen of Mysore, she continued to invest in developing railway infrastructure. The Birur-Shimoga line was constructed during her tenure of seven years by spending Rs 23 lakh. The line was opened for traffic on December 1, 1899.
When Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar took over as Maharaja, he set up a railway construction department. The Mysore state then signed a new contract with the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Company (SMR) for the operation of the lines constructed by the MSR in 1908.
In 1907, the SMR became Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway and the lease was extended. By then, the Railway Department of  Mysore had almost become defunct.
In 1911, the state set up a Railway construction department headed by E A S Bale. From 1912, Mysore again decided to actively promote railways and it began construction of railway lines within its boundaries. Between 1916 and 1918, Mysore opened 232 miles of railway to traffic. In 1919, the State successfully sought the reversion of the Mysore to Bangalore section and two branch lines, the Birur and the Mysore-Nanjangud railways.  The state also added 105 more miles of rail lines between 1921 and 1934.
From 1 January 1938, the lines leased to MSMR reverted back to the control of the State of Mysore, creating a homogenous division of 740 miles of railway lines. In 1950, MSR was nationalised and in 1951 it became part of Southern Railway, one of the then newly formed zones of Indian Railways.
Touching on railway in Bangalore, the garden City’s first steam engine operated between Cantonment railway station and Jolarpettai. This was way back in 1864.  
The first train to chug in and out of Bangalore was called Bangalore mail and it was operated by Madras Railway.
This was a meter gauge line to Jolarpettai and it was 149 kms long.
It was only 18 years later that the line was extended to Bangalore City railway station.   


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