The first railway on Indian sub-continent ran over a stretch of 21 miles from Bombay to Thane. The idea of a railway to connect Bombay with Thane, Kalyan and with the Thal and Bhore Ghats inclines first occurred to Mr. George Clark, the Chief Engineer of the Bombay Government, during a visit to Bhandup in 1843.
The formal inauguration ceremony was performed on 16th April 1853, when 14 railway carriages carrying about 400 guests left Bori Bunder at 3.30 pm "amidst the loud applause of a vast multitude and to the salute of 21 guns." The first passenger train steamed out of Howrah station destined for Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles, on 15th August, 1854. Thus the first section of the East Indian Railway was opened to public traffic, inaugurating the beginning of railway transport on the Eastern side of the subcontinent.
In south the first line was opened on Ist July, 1856 by the Madras Railway Company. It ran between Vyasarpadi Jeeva Nilayam (Veyasarpandy) and Walajah Road (Arcot), a distance of 63 miles. In the North a length of 119 miles of line was laid from Allahabad to Kanpur on 3rd March 1859. The first section from Hathras Road to Mathura Cantonment was opened to traffic on 19th October, 1875.
Safety of 13 million passengers that Indian Railways serve every day is of paramount importance to the system. Over the years, apart from the regular safety norms followed, the network has taken a number of steps through innovative use of technology and stepped up training to its manpower to enhance safety standards. Constitution of Rs.17,000 crore non-lapsable Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) to replace the arrears of aging assets of Railways over the next six years has been a historical move in this direction.
A number of distressed bridges, old tracks, signalling system and other safety enhancement devices will be replaced during this period. As far as budget allocation for safety is concerned, Rs.1,400 crore was allocated in the revised estimate for the year 2001-02 and Rs.2,210 crore for the year 2002-2003.
Indian Railways achieved a number of recognitions and awards in sports, tourism sector and for excellence in operational matters. In the Common Wealth Games in Manchester, the Indian teams record performance has been mainly due to Railway team’s excellence in sports. Except one member the entire women’s Hockey team which bagged the gold medal belonged to Railways. Mohd Ali Qamar of Indian Railways has bagged gold medal for boxing and other participants from Railways helped India win medals in many a team events. A number of sportspersons from Railways were conferred with the coveted Arjuna Awards and other major sports awards.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railways attained the World Heritage Status from UNESCO.