Royal rail connections

Last Updated 15 September 2014, 16:33 IST

The emperors of Mysore had always advocated modern progress in the state. While some laid their focus on art and architecture, some were patrons of science and technology. On the same lines, Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar X had a penchant towards railway development.

James Davidson Gordon was appointed Commissioner of Mysore and Coorg in 1878. Construction of railways in Mysore began during the last years of Commissioner’s rule, the same time during which a famine was prevalent. Much progress was made in a short period. By the end of October 1878, a sum of seven lakh had been spent on the project, the total cost of which stood at about Rs 60 lakh. The Government of India deferred the repayment of the loan from Mysore state, as the latter was already grappling with the effects of the famine.

However, around November in 1879, construction of the Bangalore-Mysore railway line was making little progress. It was then that Colonel A LeMessurier was appointed consulting engineer for railway-related work. During his stay in the state, he trained young native engineers, in survey and construction, which were found to be effective in the long run.

The Colonel and his services were widely appreciated before his departure in the session of the Dasara Representative Assembly.

Despite these shortcomings, the Bangalore-Mysore line was open for traffic in February 1882. During the time of Dasara in the same year, it became more popular and was considered a great boon to the country.

Timber, imported from Rangoon (in Myanmar), was used to construct this line. Similarly, pine sleepers which were brought from Europe to Madras, were also used.

The successors
The next line which attracted the attention of the government was Bangalore-Tiptur. The distance to be covered was 85 miles, at a cost of Rs 34 lakh. Statistics pertaining to the existing Bangalore-Mysore line and the proposed Bangalore-Tiptur line for the year 1882-83 are available. For the proposed new line, the state had raised a loan of Rs 20 lakh after getting it sanctioned from the Government of India. Popularity of the functioning line prompted the government to invest on the proposed line. In fact, it was a compensation of both the loan as well as the current revenue.
The proposed new line was divided into two sections, namely, Bangalore-Tumkur and Tumkur-Tiptur. The first section (43 miles in length) made brisk progress. Way materials which were essential for this stage were imported from England. Plan and estimates were also made for the second section (43 miles). The government also commenced survey work between Tiptur and Harihar, the northern end of the state.
On August 11,1884, the Bangalore-Tumkur line was opened for passenger traffic. Till October 1884, this line yielded profits over Rs 1,000 a week. Hence, plans of extending the line to Gubbi were made. A sum of Rs 36,000 was earmarked for every mile. By the end of 1884, the state expected to raise its profit rate on the whole of its railway capital from 2.33 to over 3 percent.

During 1885-86, the Tumkur-Gubbi section incurred an expenditure of Rs 4 lakh. Despite shortage of capital, the state government was determined to go ahead with all the existing projects. However, some relief came upon the state when the Government of India instructed the Maharaja to transfer the management of the railway in the state to the Southern Maratha Company. This came into effect on July 1, 1886.

A new turn
The Company that took control was wealthy and powerful. It was considered that work would be expedited under its supervision. The government of the Maharaja was forced to sign the agreement, according to which, Mysore state would have a hold on 75 percent of the net earnings, while the rest would go to the Company. This contract was signed by the Secretary of India on behalf of the Maharaja. It was to remain in force for 46 years from June 30,1886.

A majority of the staff was also transferred to the Company. In June 1889, the work between Gubbi and Harihar was completed and the line opened for traffic. The progress which the railway was achieving motivated the government of the Maharaja (the Durbar) to conduct new survey work.

After one particular survey, a project to link Madras Railway from Bowringpet with Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) was taken up. A similar one was taken up between Birur and Shimoga. Subsequently, the railway network was extended up to Nanjangud. In 1888, the cost of extension of the railway line from Bangalore to Hindupur (51.5 miles) was estimated at Rs 29 lakh.

It is interesting to note that this line was floated as “famine protection” strategy. A sum of Rs 12,000 was allocated for the Nanjangud-Gudalur survey and Rs 8,190 for Birur-Shimoga, while the KGF branch survey was allocated Rs 4,494. On December 15, 1892, the Yeshwanthpur Junction-Doddaballapur line was opened for traffic. The Doddaballapur-Guntkal line was opened on September 17, 1893.

This new and direct line was presumed to advance commercial prosperity of Mysore by connecting it with Bellary, Secunderabad and north-east India, by bringing coal from Singareni for railway utilisation and transporting cotton and grains. The Durbar took also initiative to conduct survey on Arsikere via Hassan to Mangalore, with a short detour near Gurupura Harbour.

In 1893, under the leadership of Groves, the Railway Superintending Engineer of Mysore, attempts were made to study and ascertain the feasibility of extension of railways.

It was discovered that, of several available alternative routes, it would be best  to follow the Manjrabad Ghat route to Mangalore on the west coast and the Gezzalahati Ghat route to Erode on the South Indian Railway. At the time of Rendition of 1881, the state had 58 miles of railway line. It stood at 315 miles during 1895. This seems to be a clear indicator of the interest the Mysore Durbar evinced towards railway infrastructure.

The Excise department also saw a marginal increase in revenue during this period. The Bangalore-Hindupur line stood first in generating revenue, followed by Bangalore-Mysore line.

It can be safely said that, by the end of the 19th Century, the railways had occupied an important place in the transportation map of Princely State of Mysore.

(Published 15 September 2014, 16:33 IST)

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