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Jamalpur Railway Tunnel : A Heritage

Jamalpur Railway Tunnel : A Heritage

On coming 10th February 2022, the railway tunnel located at Jamalpur will complete 160 years of its existence and glorious service to Indian Railway. After its operationalization on 10th February 1862, it has provided uninterrupted and efficient service to the Nation. In fact, it is the mute witness to the development of railway network / system in Indian sub-continent spanning more than two centuries. On completion of its construction, it was an engineering marvel and the first of its kind. It was a major landmark in development of the first rail connectivity between Calcutta (Kolkata / Howrah) and Delhi – two prominent seats of political power of that time.

# As per records and inscriptions, the salient features and chronology of major events during its construction are as mentioned below:

· During the British period, the East Indian Railway (EIR) Company was formed on 01 June 1845 for development of railway network in eastern part of India.

· Survey for finalization of alignment and construction of a railway line between Calcutta (Kolkata / Howrah) and Delhi via Sahibganj – Bhagalpur- Jamalpur – Kiul – Allahabad (Prayagraj) completed in 1846.

· On 15th August 1854, the first train in the eastern section was operated between Calcutta and Hoogly (for 39 Km stretch).

· Construction of tunnel across rocky Kharagpur Hill commenced in March 1856. However, the work completed in 1861.Construction work came to halt for sometimes during 1857 revolt known as the 1st War of Independence.

· The length of tunnel is 900 feet. ’Slate’ type soft rock was encountered at both ends for about 600 feet in length altogether whereas central 300 feet length was ‘quartz’ type rock hard enough to drill through with traditional equipment and technology. But skill and hard labour of railway engineers and workers resulted in completion of tunnel work within scheduled time.

· Both ends of the tunnel have been provided with brick lining to stabilize ‘slate’ type soft rock formation and to make it safe and durable. Central ‘quartz’ rock portion has been left raw cut without any lining. The workmanship of brick lining is of such a high quality that it is intact even today and not a single piece of brick has come out. The decorative moulding made on facade at both ends has successfully survived the weathering effect.

· Mr. E. B. Harris was the Resident Engineer of this project.

· The shape of tunnel is horse-shoe type having width at bottom 7.0 m and height 6.44 m.

· By the time, Bhagalpur was already connected with Calcutta by rail network on 1st November 1861.

· The rail connectivity between Calcutta and Delhi got so much importance that Lord Canning, the Viceroy & Governor – General of India (1856 to 1861) paid a visit to Jamalpur and this tunnel site on 24th November 1861.

· A major railway workshop for maintenance and overhauling of steam locomotive engines was coming up at foothill of Jamalpur. The workshop was inaugurated on 8th February 1862. It was the largest railway workshop which employed more than 20,000 workers at that time.

· Finally, the golden moment came on 10th February 1862 when this magnificent tunnel was made operational. By completion of this tunnel, the long cherished dream of rail connectivity between Calcutta and Jamalpur (Munger) realized. The rail section known as ‘Sahibganj Loop’ in railway department, between ‘Khana Junction’ and ‘Kiul Junction’ via Bhagalpur – Jamalpur completed, which paved the way for extension of rail network to Delhi.

· Further the construction of railway track progressed rapidly towards Allahabad (Prayagraj) and subsequently Calcutta - Delhi rail route became operational in 1866.

· The tunnel is located between Jamalpur Junction and Ratanpur railway stations falling under jurisdiction of Malda Division of Eastern Railway Zone.

· The Howrah- Sahibganj – Bhagalpur – Jamalpur - Kiul- Allahabad - Delhi is the first railway route of India traversing distance of about 1620 Km and continuously serving since 1866.

· The Jamalpur Railway Tunnel is the 1st railway tunnel constructed in Indian sub-continent which is still serving efficiently. It is the testimony of extraordinary skill and relentless hard labour of railway engineers and workers.

· Kudos to them for meticulous planning, successful execution and efficient operation of such a tunnel across hard rock within a short span of time.

# Considering the above facts, Indian Railway may recognize ‘Jamalpur Railway Tunnel’ as ‘the 1st rail tunnel on its network’ and include it in the Indian Railway Heritage List as an engineering marvel.

# Further it may be pursued to get it included in Guinness World Records as ‘the longest serving railway tunnel’ as it completes 160 years of service. Moreover, endeavour may be made for inclusion of this tunnel into UNESCO World Heritage Site under ‘mixed category’.


# A new era began when construction for 2nd railway tunnel started in year 2019. The new tunnel is located in the vicinity of the 1st tunnel and ready for operationalization.

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