First time in India -Electrification of Railways
In 1904, the idea to electrify the railway network was proposed by W.H White, chief engineer of the then Bombay Presidency government. He proposed the electrification of the two Bombay-based companies, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway and the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (now known as CR and WR respectively).
Both the companies were in favour of the proposal. However, it took another year to obtain necessary permissions from the British government and to upgrade the railway infrastructure in Bombay city. The government of India appointed Mr Merz as a consultant to give an opinion on the electrification of railways. But Mr Merz resigned before making any concrete suggestions, except the replacement of the first Vasai bridge on the BB&CI by a stronger one.
Moreover, as the project was in the process of being executed, the First World War broke out and put the brakes on the project. The First World War placed heavy strain on the railway infrastructure in India. Railway production in the country was diverted to meet the needs of British forces outside India. By the end of the war, Indian Railways were in a state of dilapidation and disrepair.
By 1920, Mr Merz formed a consultancy firm of his own with a partner, Mr Maclellan. The government retained his firm for the railway electrification project. Plans were drawn up for rolling stock and electric infrastructure for Bombay-Poona/Igatpuri/Vasai and Madras Tambaram routes.
The secretary of state of India sanctioned these schemes in October 1920. All the inputs for the electrification, except power supply, were imported from various companies in England.
And similar to the running of the first ever railway train from Bombay to Thane on April 16, 1853, the first-ever electric train in India also ran from Bombay. The debut journey, however, was a shorter one. The first electric train ran between Bombay (Victoria Terminus) and Kurla, a distance of 16 km, on February 3, 1925 along the city’s harbour route.
The section was electrified on a 1,500 volts DC. The opening ceremony was performed by Sir Leslie Wilson, the governor of Bombay, at Victoria Terminus station in presence of a very large and distinguished gathering.
India’s first electric locos (two of them), however, had already made their appearance on the Indian soil much earlier. They were delivered to the Mysore Gold Fields by Bagnalls (Stafford) with overhead electrical equipment by Siemens as early as 1910.
Various sections on the railway network were progressively electrified and commissioned between 1925 to 1930.
In 1956, the government decided to adopt 25kV AC single-phase traction as a standard for the Indian Railways to meet the challenge of the growing traffic. An organisation called the Main Line Electrification Project, which later became the Railway Electrification Project and still later the Central Organisation for Railway Electrification, was established. The first 25kV AC traction section in India is Burdwan-Mughalsarai via the Grand Chord.