December 22nd is a landmark date. The first train in India, made its maiden journey, to solve the irrigation woes of farmers—allegedly.
This potentially disrupts the earlier claim that the first train ran in 1853, between Mumbai and Thane. The 1853 train journey was a commercial one, making it the first commercial train journey.
An old book, ‘Report on Ganga Canal’ published in 1860, authored by PT Cautley, says the first train was bought from Britain in 1851 and began its maiden journey in the same year. The book itself dealt with a plan to construct a canal on the Ganga.
The vast amount of clay which was needed for the said construction, was available in Piran Kaliyar area, 10 km away from Roorkee. Necessity gave way to innovation, as the engineers required to transport clay.
This fact was chanced upon by Yogendra Singh, a librarian in IIT Roorkee, who was perusing its rich collection of books. He then conveyed this information to Prof. Prem Vrat, the former Director of the institute.
The book, published in London in 1860, mentions that the train’s engine was brought from England in 1851 and named after the executive engineer, Thompson, credited with the plan to run a train on that route.
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The train had two bogies, with a capacity to carry 180-200 tonnes of material. The train used to cover a distance of 2.5 miles in 38 minutes between Roorkee and Piran Kaliyar with a speed of four miles an hour. It operated for nine months till the engine caught fire in 1852. Thankfully, construction of the canal construction had been completed by that time.