Snap of the memories.
‘There were fewer things more slow in the world than the Marwar trains’. (An old proverb )
Walter Home was appointed as Manager of Jodhpur Railway, he succeeded Joscelyne on April 20, 1882. The construction of Marwar Junction-Pall branch line was completed in Joscelyne’s time, it was awaiting inspection by Government of India’s consulting engineer for Railways. Once that was over, the first section was opened for traffic on June 24, 1882, in the presence of Col. Steel, Secretary to A.G.G. in Public Works Department. Perhaps the opening of JR. was done without any fanfare. A silver hammer with ivory handle and a silver spike was made ready for this occasion, but never. used!
The first section Marwar-Pali was very economically constructed. No telegraph lines were provided and the trains were worked on the Train Staff and Ticket System, something analogous to one engine system. In the absence of telegraph lines, the consulting engineer imposed a speed restriction of 12 miles an hour over the entire section. On July 9, 1882, an agreement was signed with R.M.R. for exchange of traffic, material and wagons. in order to popularise the new railway at this time, orders were issued that intending passengers could be picked up at any point between stations, fares being charged as from the last station passed. Thus the revenue increased and the Railway made a net profit even in the first complete year of operation i.e. 1883-84.
After the inauguration of Marwar-Pali section, Maharaja Pratap Singh asked Home to bring the rail line to Jodhpur and start surveying upto Luni. The survey work commenced on August 8, 1882, however this time, before any construction activity started, Home asked for its approval from the Government of india. Approval was granted in May, 1883 and the work progressed rapidly. On June 17, 1884, twenty five mile long Pali-Luni section was opened for traffic. Work now progressed at full notch for its approach to the capital city of Jodhpur. Provision was however made for an easy future connection to Pachpadra, though it meant a detour and slightly longer alignment. On March 9, 1885, the first train entered the city of Jodhpur. Telegraph lines were also laid by this time, a change was therefore made to telegraphic Line Clear System and the 12 mph. speed restriction was removed.
The point of junction with Rajputana Malwa Railway (R.M.R.) was fixed at Kharchi a place about 2 miles tom the Bitoora Station and 13 miles South of Sojat Road Station. Sojat Road was an engine changing /crew changing station on R.M.R. System. Now Kharchi appeared a more convenient point because of numerous sweet water wells available there. A junction point was thus established at Kharchi and Bitoora station was closed. This resulted in an interesting story for the various names, the iunction station bore in the next four years.
Originally opened as ‘Bitoora’ taking its name from a village in the proximity of the station, the location was resited when a connection was made with the Jodhpur line. The station name was changed to Kharchi after the, name of a village in closer proximity. This name being frequently confused with Karachi, the name was changed to ‘Jaswantganj ‘ after Maharaja Jaswant Singhji, the founder of the line. But this also led to confusion with Jaswantnagar and other stations, the next name allotted was ‘Jodhpur Junction’. This worked well until the line was constructed to Jodhpur itself, after which it was an obvious misnomer and was changed to ‘Bitoora Junction’, returning to an elaborate form of its original name. Confusion again arose, this time with Bitoor, a station on the Indian Midland Railway, and another change was made in 1885 to ‘Marwar Junction’, the name which it still bears.
In 1885, there was a complete failure of the salt supply from Sambhar, resulting in larger demands from Pachpadra. The construction of 60 mile Luni-Pachpadra section was commenced at once. However. owing to the delay in the delivery of rails, this section could be opened only on March 22, 1887. ‘
In 1886, Railway Workshops and Stores were built in Jodhpur and in the same year, it started catering for all sorts of engineering work. The administrative report of the Jodhpur State for the year 1886-87 mentioned –
‘The workshops are built at a cost of Rs. 4774/-. A quantity of work has been done in these workshops including the repairs of rolling stock on the railway, construction of roofs for Balotra passenger and goods stations, making up of signals for the new line, conservancy carts for the Municipality, repairs to the Maharaja’s carriages, construction of a number of doors, windows and various petty repairs and jobs for the Durbar and persons connected with the State’.
In 1886, Home shifted his office and residence from Marwar junction to Jodhpur. In the same year, a carriage shed was built at Jodhpur station to accomodate Maharaja’s private railway carriages. The Post Office at the Jodhpur Railway Station was also built in 1886, for the Government Postal Department, who agreed to pay 7 1/2% interest on the capital cost of the building. In the same year, the Viceroy visited Jodhpur and witnessed the working of Railway System under the control of a native ruler.
‘The Marwar Gazette’ of 1884 reported ‘The work of Jodhpur Railway started with a good omen and till now no casuality or damage to property have occured’.
And now the financial side of the story. Even in the first year of its operation. in 1883, Jodhpur Railway made a net return of 4.6% on the capital outlay of Rs. 4,99,866. By the end of 1889, the gross earnings was over 3.5 lakhs and the net return on capital was 8.5%.
in 1887, the public of Sind started an agitation for joining up Hyderabad with Pachpadra, thereby making a through rail connection with Bombay, about the same time, a proposal was put forward for linking up Jodhpur with other important towns of the State like Nagaur and Makrana and with a possible rail link to Bikaner. Both these were given due consideration in forming the expansion proposals of Jodhpur Railway. The outcome was an agreement dated July 13, 1889, between the British Government, Maharaja of Jodhpur and Maharaja of Bikaner for the construction of Railway from Jodhpur to Bikaner. Extracts from this agreement-
1. His Highness the Maharaja of Jodhpur agrees to construct in conjunction with His Highness the Maharaja of Bikaner, a line of railway to connect Jodhpur with Bikaner. The Railway will be called Jodhpur-Bikaner Railway. It will be the exclusive property of the two Native States, each of which will receive all the profits derived from the working of the portion of the line running through its territory.
2. The Bikaner Durbar will provide all the capital required for the construction, maintenance and working of the Bikaner Section, the Jodhpur Durbar providing the same for its portion. The line will be on the metre gauge and will be constructed in accordance with the standard dimensions prescribed by the Government of India.
3. The Bikaner Durbar agrees to advance to the Jodhpur Durbar, on behalf of the project, twenty lakhs of rupees at 4% interest. This sum will be repaid by the Jodhpur Durbar by annual instalments of three lakhs, to be disbursed from the Salt treaty payment received by the Jodhpur Durbar.
4. The construction and management of the proposed line shall be entrusted to the Manager. for the time being of the Jodhpur Railway, who shall also be the Manager of the Jodhpur-Bikaner Railway. The work shall commence from the Jodhpur side.
5. The line shall be worked in accordance with the general rules and regulations in force on indian State Railways.
This agreement of 1889 was unique, in that, it was first of its kind in which two native rulers decided to cooperate and invest in an enterprise for the benefit of both and public at large. The title of Jodhpur Railway was changed to Jodhpur Bikaner Railway. For speedier construction of the line towards Bikaner, the services of Gabbett were secured by the Durbars. Walter Home, Now the manager of J.B.R. was promoted and placed in the list of Superintending Engineer.
The Manager of J.R./J.B.R. was also supervising the Public Works Department of Jodhpur State, this practice remained in force upto 1904.
From the book “JODHPUR RAILWAY” by R.R.BHANDARI