Monday, 5 January 2015



Indian Railways, which had a modest beginning in 1853, has since then been an integral part of the nation. British government gave sufficient attention in developing rail and road transport system. Railway is important for economic, political and military front.  The new railway lines tied different parts of  India together. It makes people and palaces more closer than ever before.
There was two light railway network started in old Shahabad district of  Bihar in 20th century. One is Arrah –Sasaram light railway and another is Dehri-Rohtas light railway. Arrah-Sasaram light railway (ASLR)  was a popular narrow gauge rail network for commuters of south Bihar. Started in 1914 which connects two line of  East Indian Railway. ASLR completed its last journey on Rails in 1978.  The ASLR given 64 year continuous service to people of south Bihar. Once upon a time this rail network was part of  Bhojpuri lifestyle. The many villages were also created the songs on this rail.  It was privately owned rail network. Operated by  Martin  and  Burn , ASLR served six decades to people. 1950 to 1970 was glorious time for this rail network.


Every long journey starts from short steps. Narrow gauge in the Indian context means any gauge narrower than 1meter. The two such gauges that survive now are the 2' (610mm) and 2'6" (762mm) gauges.  The first 2 ft 6 inch (762 mm) railway in India was constructed in 1863, the Gaekwad's Baroda State Railway. In 1897 the Barsi Light Railway was opened.
Shahabad district of  Bihar, headquartered at Arrah was a bhojpuri speaking districts in western Bihar, India making western border of  Bihar with Uttar Pradesh. The district is now bifurcated into four districts including Bhojpur,  Rohtas,  Kaimur and Buxar. Shahabad district was paddy growing pocket of Bihar, so it had economic importance in state. Shahabad was bulk exporter of rice to other parts of state.
Though different modes of transport play an important role in trade railways are leading carrier of goods because their capacity of  bulk transport. In Bhojpur district trade centers like Arrah, Bihia, Buxar and Dumraon are on rail network. In Rohtas district  markets like Mohania, Kudra, Sasaram and Dehri are on rail network. So British government felt to connect market places like Garh Noka, Bikramganj, Hasan Bazar, Piro on rail network. 
Distance between Ara and sasaram is 100 kilometers. Ara is on Mugalsarai-Patna borad gauge line and Sasaram is a railway station on grand chord ( Mughal sarai Howrah ) line. There was need to connect Ara and Sasaram for transport of goods like rice and commuters also. Markets like Garh Noka, Bikramganj, Hasan Bazar, and Piro are important for rice trading. So in starting of 20th century need of railway line between Ara and Sasaram was observed by government authorities.
Martin's Light Railways was a private company operating railways in India. The company was already operating narrow gauge rail networks in united province and  Bengal. So he got a opportunity to build and operate rail network between Arrah and Sasaram. 


Land were acquired by the Government for the purpose of the rail network as early as in 1901. By an agreement dated 15th of October, 1909, between the then District Board of Shahabad  and  Martin and Company Ltd., for and on behalf of Arrah Sasaram Light Railway Company Ltd., the latter company was to be formed for the construction and erection of tramways or light railways between Arrah and Sasaram.
On the 19th of October, 1909, Arrah Sasaram Light Railway Company Ltd. was incorporated as a public limited company under the Companies Act, 1866 having its registered office at No. 12, Mission Road, Kolkata.
The value of company ( ASLR Ltd. a subsidiary of  Martin and co.)  was 22,00,000 in 2010.  The company (ASLR ltd.)  issued shares of  rupees 100 each. It is divided in 22,000 shares of rupees 100 each. The company also sold  some of its shares to general public.
On the 17th of July, 1910, an agreement was entered into between the then District Board of  Shahabad and Martain and Company Ltd., Kolkata, being the promoters of the Ara-Sasaram Light Railway Company Ltd. for the construction of tramways or light railways to be worked by steam power from Arrah to Sasaram.
But the road between Arrah and Sasaram under the jurisdiction of the  district board.  On the terms and conditions of the agreement dated the 15th of October, 1909 the company, Arrah Sasaram Light Railway Company Ltd. was opened in terms for land acquisition of  construction of rail network.
For purpose of rail route several lands were acquired including the lands of Villages -Salempur, Kuraich, Sharifabad, Rasulpur and Mahadiganj near Sasaram. Whereafter scheme of acquisition of land was published in the Gazette dated 28.9.1910
On the 19th of August, 1936, a supplementary agreement was entered into between the district Board of Shahabad and the Arrah Sasaram Light Railway Company Ltd., whereby the parties agreed to amend a clause in the principal agreement regarding the method of computation of profit or loss.
Arrah-Sasaram light railway ( Bihar)  and Baraset-Basirhat light railway of  Bengal  ( both of  Martin & Co.)  started  in the year 1914.


Rajendra  Nath  Mookerjee was the man behind Martin.  He was remembered for the laying down and operations of  Martin's Light Railways in India. Among his achievements were the construction of  Palta water works and the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.  Along with Sir Acquin Martin, he founded Martin & Co. and contributed to the success of  Bengal Iron at Kulti. Later he joined G.H.Fairhurst in founding the iron works of  The Indian Iron and Steel Company at Burnpur.
He first went to England in 1901 and later several times in connection with his business. In 1908, Mookerjee was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE).  In 1911, he became sheriff of Kolkata. Also in 1911, he was knighted with the KCIE.  In 1922, Mookerjee was further honoured with the dignity of a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO). In 1931, the University of  Calcutta honoured him with an honorary D.Sc. (Engineering). He also presided over the 8th session of  Indian Science Congress held at Kolkata in 1921.  Martin and co is also involved in electricity distribution in cities like Agra, Bareilly and Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh. Martin and co was pioneer in running light railway network in India. Martin had its office in Patna for looking after services of  Bihar.

Other Light rail networks of Martin and Burn
Futwah-Islampur Light Railway  (Bihar)
Howrah Maidan-Amta and Shiakhala light railway ( west Bengal)
Bukhtiarpur Bihar Light Railway ( Bihar)
Barasat-Basirhat Railway ( West Bengal)
Delhi Shahdra to Saharanpur  Light Railway ( Delhi and UP)

STATIONS  OF ASLR – ( Total 15 stations)
Arrah ( Now Ara, first railway station)  Udwant nagar, Kasap, Garahni, Semraon,  Charpokhri, Piro, Nonar, Hasan bazaar,  Ghusia kalan, Bikramganj, Sanjhauli, Garh Nokha, Khairadih, Sasaram
Bikramganj was big station of ASLR network and it has a railway godown also. Newman Indian Bradshaw ( A Guide for Railway Travellers in India) use to publish time table of ASLR. We can see rout of this network on page no 93 of th book . ( Ed 1971)  


It was a narrow gauge single track network. The width between track was 762 mm ( 30 inch) Narrow gauge was a popular technology in 19th century as it is cheaper regarding running cost so it was adopted for ASLR. Rail track of ASLR runs along with road between Arrah and Sasaram. There was rail bridge on Kaw river at Bikramganj and some bridges  made on Sone canal. Only unreserved passenger trains was running on this route. Goods trains was also running on ASLR route. Some of its big stations also had stock yards. One industrialist filed a case against station master of Bikramganj railway station in 1951 when his bale of cotton looted from railway station  godown. It was matter of  loss of the insured goods. 

ASLR was powered by locomotives made by Hunslet. Founded in 1864, Hunslet Engine Company is renowned throughout the world as a designer and producer of the highest quality shunting, industrial, tunnelling and specialised locomotives. Today, the company provides a bespoke design and manufacturing service for the UK and export markets. ASLR had five locomotive made by Hunslet.
Writer Lawrence G Marshall  visited ASLR network in 1970. He visited Arrah railway station on one sunny morning. He writes about loco used in ASLR network. He pictured F class 2-4-2 ( HE 1038-1910)  tank ready for its run towards Sasaram. The loco was made by Hunslet. It was previously running on another network of  Martin and co. but now shifted to ASLR. Marshall writes about chimney of the said loco made on some religious or political faith.  It was modified version of  loco 0-4-2. ASLR has total seven locos made by Hunslet engine co, Leeds (UK). 

The other loco running on ASLR was 0-6-2 type, this was also built by Hunslet between 1947 to 1955.  
Marshall writes about  another loco built by Avonside in 1928. The Avonside Locomotive Works was a locomotive manufacturer of  England. It was situated at Filwood Road, Fishponds, Bristol, England. The company has expertise in small locos and exporting their locomotives all over the world. Its 0-4-0 model was popular.  Loco 15I running on ASLR was previously running on Bakhtiyarpur Bihar light railway network of Martin. This route was converted  to broad gauge in 1962 and loco was shifted to ASLR.


The passenger train runs on this track at maximum speed of 30 kilometers per hour. If a train is leaving station you can run fast and catch the train. One passenger train departs at 10.50 morning from Arrah junction was very popular between commuters.  The train was very popular among residents of Bhojpur district  between 1950 to 1970. Some of villagers of Bhojpur made a Bhojpuri song on this tiny train. A London based economist Jagnnath Giri  wrote in his biography about train ride of ASLR. He remembers that he use to go his village by this train in their holydays. (An Autobiography of Lessons Learned  - By Jagannath Giri ) ASLR was a cheaper means of communication so commuters enjoy its ride.  Low-income passengers used to travel by this ligt railway. Years between 1950 to 1970 was glorious time for this rail network. Old people of Rohtas district Round the year train runs with rushed coaches.


After freedom of India in 1947 some of privately owned rail networks had been taken over by Indian railways. On 4th April, 1951, the chairman of the district Board of Shahabad by a letter to the company and others exercised the option to purchase the light railways with all the plants, buildings, stores, rolling stock, etc. But this was not finalized.
But after 20 years all of narrow gauge lines become loss making business as buses on roads was running fast from trains. Commuters has faster choice now from these trains. 1970 Martin decided to wound up its services voluntarily, as running trains  was loss making now.
Shahdara-Saharanpur line of  Martin's Light Railways closed in 1970. Howrah-Amta, Howrah-Sheokhala sections of Martin's Light Railway closed on Jan 1, 1971.  In 1970 it appears that the company fell into financial difficulties and received financial assistance from the district board of  Bhojpur. Ultimately, on the 18th of December, 1974, the company issued a notice of closure of ASLR network with effect from 15th of  february, 1976.
On the 8th of September, 1975, there was an agreement between the Central Govt. and the company that the company would withdraw the notice and in consideration there of the Central Govt., in addition to the principal agreement dated the 15th of October, 1909, entered into a separate agreement for a period of three years with effect from 1st of April, 1975, whereby the Central Govt. would advance a sum of INR 2,50,000 repayable with interest at the rate of 4% per annum before 31st of March, 1976.
0n the 29th of November, 1977, the Central Govt. directed the company to close its operations prior to the expiry of the agreement dated the 8th of September, 1975. On the 6th of December, 1977, there was a letter from the company to the Railway Board that the company agreed to close down the operations.  Being 15th of February, 1978, the company closed ASLR operations.
On 26 july 1978, the assets, viz., railway track, slippers, rolling stock and plant and machinery, lying in its premises between Arrah and Sasaram, were sold for a total consideration of Rs. 95 lakhs. The assessee opted to adopt the fair market value of these assets as on 1st jan 1964 as the cost of acquisition for the purpose of computation of capital gains. Such market value was determined at Rs. 39,46,000 as per certificate of valuation given by Talbot & Co.


After closer of Arrah Sasaram Light Railway in 1978 dispute of property had been started between Martin and district board of Rohtas and Bhojpur.  Some of private parties were also involved in property dispute with Martin and Company Ltd. Martin and Company Ltd.versus district Board was not resolved since long time. People of  Rohtas and Bhojpur district demanding a new broad gauge railway line between Arrah and Sasaram. Member of parliament raised this issue in parliament I would like to make an earnest request to convert the Aarrah-Sasaram narrow gauge line into a broad-gauge one so that the people of that area could be benefited. ( MP Chedi Paswan in Loksabha, 1991-92) But their demand fulfilled after a long gap of thirty years. Arrah ( now Ara) -Sasaram new BG line project is 98 kilometers long and started in 2008.


Start  year  -         1914
15 Oct 2009 - Arrah Sasaram Light Railway Company Ltd. Formed
Closing year  -      1978 ( Last journey on 15 Feb 1978)
Total Loco  – 07  ( 5 by Hunslet 2 by Avonside)
Total distance 100 kilometer ( 65miles)
Guage – 762 mm ( 30 inch) Narrow ; Line - Single
Glorious   period  of  route  – 1950 to 1970

-         REFRENCES
-          1 Book - Bihar And Orissa Gazetteers Shahabad, By L.S.S. O`malley page 102
-          2 An Autobiography of Lessons Learned  By Jagannath Giri
-          3 MARTIN BURNS LIMITED – comp. annual report 1965
-          4 Book – Indian narrow gauge steam remembered -  by  Lawrence G Marshall  ISBN 978-1-871980-48-6
-          5 Book - Systems of Rural Settlements in Developing Countries By R. B. Mandal,  page 497)
-          6 BOOK- P. J. Bawcutt collection (courtesy Continental Railway Circle, UK)
-          Newman's Indian Bradshaw 1971( page – 93)
-           Hindustan times, Patna, 9 FEB 2007
-          8
-          9
-          11.
-          12
-          13 ( Demand by Ram Prasad Singh, Formar  MP, Bikramganj)
-         ( photo cor. 1 . ( no. 5 2-4-2) R A Y M O N D  J.   M A R S H   R A I L W A Y   &   T R A M W A Y   P H O T O G R A P H Y - RMARS
-          Indian narrow gauge steam remembered and Martin and Burn reports)

-         About writer
-         Vidyut Prakash Maurya ( AM 18959A)
-         M.A. (History) BHU – 1995 , Master in Mass Communication  ( GJU)
-         Contact – 

( This paper presendted in 75th Indian History Congress, held at JNU, New Delhi 28-29-30 Dec 2014, Mod India sr no 144 )