Railways and roadways are the two means of transport over the land. Roads can be built in the hilly areas also whereas railway lines cannot be laid easily. The railways have advantage over the roadways that they can carry a large number of passengers and large and heavy loads to long distances. Also journey by train is more comfortable than by bus.
India has a large network of railways throughout the country. We have trains from one corner of India to the other corner. Total length of the railway tracks in India is about 63000 kilometers. About 7800 trains carry about eleven million passengers to their destinations every day. Our railway network is the largest in Asia and the second largest in the world. Our goods trains transport about 6 lac tonnes of goods from one place to another daily.
The first railway in India ran in 1853 from Bombay to Thane a distance of 34 km. In less than 150 years we have the largest network of railways in Asia. Indian railways employ about 17 lac people. For administrative convenience Indian railways have been divided into the following nine zones:
The Northern Railways
The Eastern Railways
The Western Railways
The Central Railways
The Southern Railways
The South-Eastern Railways
The North-Eastern Railways
The North-East Frontier Railways
The South-Central Railways
The Indian Railways have three types of railway tracks:
Most of the railway tracks are broad gauge. Broad gauge tracks are 1.69 metre wide. The trains running in the plains use broad gauge tracks. In desert areas and other difficult areas where broad gauge tracks are difficult to be laid, metre gauge tracks are laid. These tracks are one metre wide that is why these tracks are known as metre gauge.
The third type is the narrow gauge. This track is 77 cm. wide. Narrow gauge tracks are laid in the hilly and mountainous areas. Kalka to Shimla, Darjeeling to Siliguri and Mettupalayam to Ooty are narrow gauge tracks. These different kinds of tracks are of great inconvenience. The railways have to make three types of railway engines and railway coaches to run on these rails. The passengers also face inconvenience when they have to shift from broad gauge to another gauge. The railways are trying to convert all metre gauge tracks into broad gauge tracks and some of the tracks have been converted into broad gauge.
The passenger trains are of four types depending upon the speed of the trains:
1. Super fast trains
2. Mail trains
3. Express trains
4. Ordinary passenger trains
The people like to travel fast. Therefore some fast moving trains have been introduced. These trains are called superfast trains. These trains run at a speed of 100 km. to 150 km. per hour. Shatobdi
Express, Rajdhani Express are some of the superfast trains. The other fast running trains are the Taj Express, The Pink City Express, Tamil Nadu Express, Himgiri Express, Karnataka Express and Shan-e-Punjab.
Express trains are also fast moving trains. They stop at most of the important stations for the convenience of the passengers. The mail trains are fast running trains. These trains do not stop at smaller stations but stop at all the important stations to collect and deliver mail bags. Passenger trains stop at all the stations. These trains move at a slow speed. Big cities like Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai have local trains. In Calcutta local trains are underground railways known as Metro Railways.
At present the Indian Railways have three types of engines — Steam engines, Diesel engines and the Electric engines. Steam engines are the oldest type of locomotives. These are run by steam and coal. They give out a lot of smoke. These engines are now out-dated. They are being replaced by diesel engines. Diesel engines run on diesel. These engines are more powerful and run faster. They emit lesser smoke. These engines are preferred to the steam engines. Electric engines are still more powerful. They emit no smoke and cause no pollution. These engines run more fast. Most of the superfast trains have electric engines and more tracks are being electrified. All types of railway engines are now manufactured in India at Chittranjan and Varanasi. All types of railway coaches are manufactured at rail coach factories at Perambur and Kapurthala.
Railways have two classes of coaches — First Class and Second Class. First class rail fare is quite high. Second class rail fare is less.
Most of the people travel by second class. Second class coaches are over-crowded. To avoid over-crowding some people get their seats reserved in advance. The reserved class coaches are not over-crowded. For the comfort of the passengers - fans, lights and toilets have been provided in all types of coaches. Some trains have air conditioned coaches attached to them. These coaches keep us warm in winter and cool in summer. There are also two tier and three tier sleeper coaches in the trains. All these facilities have been provided by the railways for the convenience and comfort of the passengers. Some trains have pantry cars.
At the railway stations facilities like waiting halls, waiting rooms, toilet and drinking water are available. Tea, snacks, food, newspapers and magazines are also available at the stalls at the stations.
Following are the main routes connecting the four major cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta in the four directions of the country :
Delhi to Mumbai :
There are two routes connecting Delhi and Mumbai. One route is via Agra, Jhansi, Bhopal, Itarsi and Bhusaval. The other route is via Bharatpur, Ratlam, Kota, Vadodara and Surat.
Delhi to Kolkata :
There are two routes between Delhi and Calcutta. One route is via Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Patna and Asansol. The other.route is via Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi.
Delhi to Chennai :
Delhi and Chennai are connected via Agra, Jhansi, Bhopal, Itarsi, Nagpur, Kazipet and Vijayawada.
Calcutta to Chennai :
This route lies along the Eastern Coast via Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Vishakhapatnam and Vijayawada.
Indian railways are the most important means of transport in our country. It is also the most comfortable and the cheapest means. They also transport large and heavy materials like cement, coal, iron-ore, petroleum, food grains, jute and cotton. Raw materials are carried to the factories and the finished goods are transported to the markets by railways.
Railways are also important for the defense of the country. In case of emergency the railways transport arms, ammunition and men from one part of the country to the other part. In case of famine, floods, epidemics and other disasters, the railways carry food and medicines quickly to the part of the country, where they are needed.
Railways are doing very useful service to the nation. They are our national property. We should protect our national property in every way. We should not harm this property and should help to keep the trains and the railway stations clean.