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THE HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF COLONIAL CALCUTTA – Headquarter of Eastern Railway

Headquarter of Eastern Railway - Kolkata

Prince Dwarkanath Tagore was a corporate minded entrepreneur. He had a vision with innovative ideas. He was a rich businessman in the 40s of the 19th. Century, owned diversified business, along with quite a number of collieries in Raniganj and Rajmahal area. With the aim of transporting coal from his Raniganj colliery, he formed a company called “Great Western Bengal Railway Company”, in January 1843. In the mean time Mr. McDonald Stephenson had already floated shares of the East India Railway Company, incorporated in England. To negotiate the matter with the East India Company, Dwarkanath visited England in 1845. But the Company was not agreeable to permit a company under “native management” to construct such an important railway line. Disheartened Dwarkanath came back to India and died on 1st August 1845. After his death, his brain child, the Great Western Bengal Railway Company and the East Indian Railway Company merged into one. In January 1847, the new amalgamated Company was named East Indian Railway or E.I.R. Dwarkanth’s dream of connecting Raniganj and Howrah by rail came true in 1855, ten years after his death. In May, 1855, the East Indian Railway Co, was founded, with R. McDonald Stephenson as the managing director, who was in fact, the founder of the East Indian railway.

Headquarter of Eastern Railway at 29 Theatre Road - prior to 1879
Headquarter of Eastern Railway at 29 Theatre Road – prior to 1879

Initially the East Indian Railway started functioning from a building situated at 29 Theatre Road. Later the office shifted to its present location at Fairlie Place in 1879. The road got its name from a merchant called William Fairlie of the firm Fairlie, Gilmone & Co. The main job of William Fairlie was to supply and feed the elephants and the camels of the British army during the time of Lord Wellesley. Originally, the building was not so big. It was remodeled after being taken over by the East Indian Railway in 1879.

Headquarter of Eastern Railway at Fairlie Place - 1913
Headquarter of Eastern Railway at Fairlie Place – 1913

History says, before the construction of the building, it was a part of the North West Bastion of Old Fort William, which was destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daula. A plate on the boundary wall announces the story still today. As a dumb witness of the past, there is also a partially buried cannon in the Strand Road corner of Fairlie Place on the footpath, which is unfortunately hidden among the numerous makeshift food stalls.

Headquarter of Eastern Railway at Fairlie Place present day
Headquarter of Eastern Railway at Fairlie Place present day (Picture Courtesy : Dipankar Chatterjee)
Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee

Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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