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The Times of India, August 15, 1995

Off the Rails: To The Editor of The Times of India

Sir,- Your report, "Rlys. to observe Nana's anniversary" (July 31), states that in 1843 " Jagannath Nana Shankar Shett formed a company for the construction of railways in India. The Central Railway authorities say this was the forerunner of the Great Indian Peninsular (GIP) railways of which he was the first director. Nana was one of the illustrious guests seated with the governor of Bombay on the first train flagged off on April 16, 1853".

Historical records, however, differ from these statements. Lord Falkland, Governor of the Bombay Presidency, actually shunned the inauguration of the GIP Railway by departing "for the hills a matter of hours before the ceremony". Although the Railway's inauguration took place on April 16, 1853, the first ever railway run in Asia occurred on November 18, 1852, when the GIP's directors and their guests travelled up to Tannah (Thane) by train in 45 minutes ("Indian Railways One Hundred Years", Ministry of Railways, New Delhi, 1953).

Mr. G. T. Clark, an engineer, had come here from England in 1843 to study the possibility of a railway from Bombay into the hinterland. His scheme (not company) was named "The Bombay Great Eastern Railway". The proposal was studied by a committee appointed by the Bombay government, and the report dated November 9, 1844 appeared in the Bombay Gazette of January 18, 1845. Prominent citizens of Bombay, including Jagannath Shankershett and Cursetjee Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, who had been debating since 1840 on the introduction of railways into India, took up that report during their meeting held at the Town Hall on April 19, 1845, when they approved the scheme and also formed the Indian Railway Association.

In the same year, the first step towards organising the Great Indian Peninsular (later Peninsula) Railway Company was taken in London by one Mr. John Chapman, by forming the the GIP's provisional committee in London. An identical body was established in Bombay with 20 members which included " Juggonathjee Sunkersette and Cursetjee Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy". Eventually the latter two members became the only Indian directors of the GIP Railway Company's Bombay Board of ten. Incidentally the GIP Railway Company was incorporated on August 1, 1849, by an act passed in the British Parliament.

G. D. Patwardhan, Bombay.