Indian Railways is one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world, covering a route length of over 62,000 km and transporting about millions of passengers and freight daily. The railways meandering through the tunnels, the deserts, and mountain ranges traverse through the length and breadth of the country, unfolding the landscapes and history of each state.
The history of Indian Railways dates back to the British rule. The British authority needed a fast and reliable mode of transport for troop movement in this huge country and then they inaugurated the first train in the sub continent on 16th April, 1853. This was the first passenger train that ran over as stretch of 21 miles from Bori Bunder to Thane. This pioneer train steamed off at 3:30 pm with a loud applause and to the salute of 21 guns. The train consisted of 14 carriages carrying about 400 passengers reached the destination at about 4:45 pm. Even before this train was inaugurated, a steam locomotive called Thompson was already running between Roorkee and Solani since 1851.
This train was exclusively used for construction work. Another locomotive called Falkland and Vulcan were alsoUsed by contractors since 1852. On 15th August 1854, another passenger train started between Howrah and Hooghly covering a distance of 24 miles. Thereafter on October 19th, 1875 a train started between Hathras Road and Mathura Cantonment. Even South India was taken into the purview of the railways after the train that started between Vysarapady and Wallajah Road on 1st July, 1856. Since then the country made impressive growth in the rail networks and with the passage of time became the largest railway network in the world, operating about 14,444 trains across twenty six states and three union territories.
Today the Indian rail system uses three different gauges depending on the rail traffic and area of the tracks. The first one is the Broad Gauge that is used in areas with high traffic and in areas with less traffic meter gauge is used. Mountain ranges like Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Darjeeling Himalayan Railway resort to narrow gauge. This rail system is further divided into sixteen zones. The zones are as follows:
North East Frontier
South East Central
There are various special trains to cover the rail network of India. The most popular trains are Palace on Wheels, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Samjhauta Express, Lifeline Express and many others. Railways also have some holiday specials exclusively running during summer holidays and other long Indian holidays.
Indian Railways have also made a way through Internet. Various websites provide a plethora of information on Indian Rails, their fares, rules, history, online booking and much more. The most popular and applauded websites are:
www.indianrail.gov.in : gives detail about the Indian Railway System along with the rail fares, schedules and other information about Indian Railways.
www.irctc.co.in: is a government site for online reservation.
www.irctc.com : is a site for online reservation and also provides loads of information about Indian Railways.
www.konkanrailways.com : provides detailed information about the Indian Coastal network.
www.indianrailways.gov.in : provides plethora of information along with the history and policies of Indian Railway System.
www.irfca.org/faq/ : is a vast resource of information related to Indian Railways.
www.trainweb.org/indiarail/ : links to everything about Indian Railways.
http://www.trainenquiry.com/ : is a site established by Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) that provides travel information, online timetable, reservation and running status of the train.