Railways & the Raj

Written by Christian Wolmar
Review by Edward James

‘Love India and you have to love its railways’, writes Christian Wolmar. If you love either railways or India, and especially if you love both, this is the book for you.

Wolmar is our foremost railway historian, but his are not just technical books for railway buffs. He gives us the politics, the economics and the sociology of railways. In Railways & the Raj he tells us what it was like to be a railwayman and a passenger on India’s railways, past and present, and their impact on Indian society, sometimes literally; about 75 people a day are killed on the tracks in India.

The railway age in India began shortly before the Indian Mutiny, which Wolmar diplomatically calls the Great Rebellion. This shaped the development of the network, with internal and external security a major consideration. It became the pride of the Raj and for many a hated symbol of imperial rule. Before Partition there were over 40,000 miles of track, and today it carries over 25 million passengers a day in India alone (excluding Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Despite the title Wolmar carries the story up to the present, at least for India, and concludes with his own train ride from Bombay to the South. A beautiful book, beautifully presented.