Rail transport was started in the year 1853. First train plied on the 34 kilometer train-line which runs from Mumbai to Thane in 1853. After that rail transport has improved a lot. Towards the end of March 1985, the length of train line was 61850 kilometers.
The railway system of India is the largest in the Asia and fourth in the world next to the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. and the Canada.
Three different gauge systems are found in the railway system of India. These are Meter gauge, Broad gauge and Narrow gauge. The distance of broad gauge between two lines is 1.67mtrs. Distance is 1 meter for meter gauge and distance is 0.72 meter for narrow gauge.
Rail transport of India is managed by Railway Board. Rail Transport of India is divided into 9 regions to facilitate operations.
(1) Northern Railways:
New Delhi is the headquarters of Northern Railways. It covers Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajastan and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
(2) North-Eastern Railways:
Gorakhpur is the headquarters of North- Eastern Railways. It covers Uttar Pradesh and northern part of Bihar.
(3) Eastern Railways:
Kolkata is the headquarters of Eastern Railways. It covers West Bengal, central part of Bihar and eastern part of Bihar.
(4) South-Eastern Railways:
Kolkata is the headquarters of South-Eastern Railways. It covers West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and some parts of Andhra Pradesh.
(5) Southern Railways:
Mandraz is the headquarters of Southern Railways. It covers Tamilnadu, Kerala, south Andhra Pradesh and south Karnataka.
(6) Central Railways:
Mumbai Victoria Terminus (V.T) is the headquarters of Central Railways. It covers central and northern part of Maharashtra, central and northern part of Madhya Pradesh, north Andhra Pradesh and south-west Uttar Pradesh.
(7) Western Railways:
Mumbai Church Gate is the headquarters of Western Railways. It covers east Rajastan, south Haryana, south-west Uttar Pradesh, western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and some parts of Maharashtra.
(8) North-Eastern Frontier Railways:
The headquarters of North-Eastern Frontier Railways is situated in Maligaon of Gauhati. It covers Assam and northern parts of West Bengal.
(9) South Central Railways:
Secunderabad is the headquarters of South Central Railways. It covers south Maharashtra, north Karnataka. Central part and western part of Andhra Pradesh.
The importance of railways is too high in a large country like India. It has been able to establish link among the different regions. It is the main transport system of our country. 75 percentage of traffic and 80 percentages of goods are transported through railway transport system. The railway system is the largest public sector undertaking of India.
Due to the importance of the railways in our country different Five Year Plans of India have given more importance on the development of rail transport in India. Instead of steam engine, now there is more use of diesel and electric engines. Different steps have also been taken to improve the traffic system and transportation of goods by modernizing the rail transport.
A large number of Express Trains are also connecting different cities of our country. Among them Coromandal Express connects between Howrah and Chennai, Gitanjali Express connects between Howrah and Mumbai, Grand Trunk Express connects between New Delhi and Chennai, Neelachal Express connects between New Delhi and Puri and Dhauli Express connects between Howrah and Bhubaneswar.