On 15th August 1854, EIR’s first train ran from Howrah to Hugli, a distance of 24 miles. Regular services were introduced from that day, morning and evening, with stops at Bally, Serampore and Chandernagore.
The first train consisted of three first class and two second class carriages, three trucks for third class passengers, and a brake van for the guard, roughly able to accommodate 300 passengers, comprising all the stock the railway possessed.
J. Hodgson, the Locomotive Superintendent of EIR, got the carriages locally built , with the help of two Calcutta coach building firms- Steward & Co and Seton & Co . The locomotive reached Calcutta via Australia in 1854.
About three thousand applicants vied for tickets on the inaugural train but most of them had to be disappointed.
Howrah station consisted of a temporary tin shed with a small booking office and a single line flanked by narrow platforms.
Reaching the station from Calcutta entailed ferrying across the Hooghly and walking for five minutes on the muddy bank of the river.
The main booking office was at Armenian Ghat on the Eastern bank of the river Hooghly. The fare covered the journey by ferry also to the station.- an integrated transport system at that time !
The fare ranged from Rs.3 by first class to 7 annas by third class.
Initially there was no service on Sundays but this was soon remedied at the suggestion of a correspondent.
During the trial run done on 11 August,1854, the train reached Chinsurah in 91 minutes.
The first commercial advertisement of the first run
Trip to Chinsurah from Bengal Harkara dated 14.8.1854
(CLICK ON THE THUMBNAILS TO ENLARGE PICTURES)
After the journey, a traveller reported that the train attained a maximum speed of 60 mph (?) and that the ride was comfortable.
There were amusing accounts of the effect this fast means of transport had on travellers in its early days.
Some of the passengers doubted that they had really reached their destination.
A European took to flogging his horse ‘in the vain hope of making him go at something like railway speed.’
A pundit travelled to Hooghly but refused to take the return trip because, ‘too much travelling on the car of fire is calculated to shorten life as it annihilates time and curtails the length of every other journey.’