A Sketch of
with Reference to
Thacker, Spink, & Co.
EASTERN BENGAL AND ITS RAILWAYS,
EASTERN BENGAL, as the adjective denominates, is the east part of that large and important province of Hindoostan, called Bengal. It extends from the slopes of the Himalaya mountains below Darjeeling in the North, to the head of the Bay of Bengal, in the South, or roughly is enclosed within the 22nd and 27th parallels of North latitude.
The Eastern Boundary, commencing at Chittagong, becomes interlaced with the hills which limit the empire of Burmah, and stretches out through the extensive valleys of Upper and Lower Assam, as far as the gorge in the Himalaya mountains, through which the great river Burhampooter descends from Thibet.
The Western limit is alongside the rivers Hooghly and Bhagiruttee, and passes through Calcutta, Moorshedabad, Dinagpore to Darjeeling.
Its length from North to South is about 350 miles; its breadth 300 miles. The total area of this country is about 100,000 square miles.
Comparing the extent of country with the British Isles, which contain 120,000 square miles, it will be seen that Eastern Bengal is a country of no mean extent.
The population, estimated at fifteen millions, may be looked upon as a simple rural population, covering the cultivated area of the country very evenly, and but moderately condensed in towns, save in the metropolis of the Bengal Presidency. Per square mile, it is perhaps the most densely rurally populated country of equal extent on the face of the globe.
“Eastern Bengal” is certainly a most fertile and prolific tract of land, and is suited to the most economical modes of cultivation. Watered by the two great rivers, Burhampooter and Ganges, and supplied with innumerable tributary rivers traversing the country like net work, there is an abundant source at all points for irrigation, and a most extensive system of water carriage at all seasons of the year for the usual country boats.
The products of the country are not surpassed either in quantity or quality by any District under the Tropics, and their importance is known by the large revenue returns.
The dwellings of the rural population consist chiefly of bamboo and mud huts, covered with a thick thatch of leaves or rice straw, and are usually to be found deeply ensconsed in the jungle,and ordinarily not visible to travellers. This privacy is looked upon as of great importance, as it often shields a family from obnoxious intrusion. The Bengalees are an effeminate and indolent people; they are ingenious and handy workers, and though slow in movement, they are nevertheless apt at learning. Their moral habits are however degraded. Cunning, deceit, and sensuality, are amongst their characteristics, and, as a natural consequence, where immorality predominates, courage is at a low ebb. Yet it is impossible to imagine the whole mass of human beings to be utterly void of some particle of that honesty of purpose, that conscientiousness of thought and feeling which constitutes the attributes of a highly moral and intellectual people. Education and example, combined with great firmness, may in generations to come, yet work out that much to be hoped for consummation, a civilized and Christian community ; for amongst the cultivated intellects there is certainly a remarkable shrewdness and quickness of thought, which proves that the essence of intelligence and goodness is not altogether defunct, but lies only dormant.
To facilitate description, “Eastern Bengal” may be arranged into three great territorial tracts.
First Tract.— The District lying to the south and west of the Ganges, including the District to the east of Calcutta and the great Soonderbunds circuit.
The Soonderbunds stretch across the head of the Bay of Bengal, a distance of 260 miles, and present, at the Sandheads, a low swampy country and a dense forest for 50 miles inland. Beyond this, cultivation first makes its appearance. There are nine principal streams and several tidal estuaries to the sea front. The portion of the country which has been cleared, is cultivated chiefly with rice and is densely populated, but in the forests and on the extensive swamps there are few inhabitants on account of the numbers of wild beasts and venomous reptiles, and of the malaria which at the end of the rainy season is of a deadly nature. The Soonderbunds is a tract of much interest and offers many subjects for contemplation.
The water channels afford an excellent, though circuitous, line for the navigation of country boats, which ascend and descend from the open and more cultivated parts of Eastern Bengal; but they are full of dangers for the navigation of steamers or other large craft. The country is mostly covered with crops of rice and oil seeds, and open pasture studded with beautiful groves of trees, shelter and nourish the cattle belonging to the many villages that stud this interesting locality.
Second Tract.— The Districts lying between the Ganges and the Burhampooter, extending Northwards to the foot of the Himalayas. The character of the country is similar to the cleared portion adjoining the Soonderbunds ; it is however a slightly higher tract of country, and is more suited for the growth of fibrous plants, for which the neighbourhood of Rungpore is greatly celebrated. The population inhabiting this tract of territory is scarcely less dense than in the first tract, whilst the general appearance of the country, always flat, is much the same as in the other parts of “Eastern Bengal.”
Third Tract.—The Districts lying East of the Burhampooter, including Dacca and Sylhet. This tract presents greater resources than either the first or second tract. The greater portion of its surface is occupied by the rich plains of Mymensing and Sylhet through which the river Soornia meanders. The old channel of the Burhampooter, now nearly dry, together with other old beds of alluvion, wind along by Dacca from the Eastward.
These Districts afford a variety of production; cotton, sugar-cane, rice and other grains, together with potatoes, plantains and oranges. These latter are supplied to Calcutta in greater quantities than from any other quarter. The Eastern hills offer a great variety of agricultural produce and mineral wealth. In the high lands are obtained lime and coals, besides valuable timber, and the District produces tea of the best quality. In the pastures and jungles are Elephants and Buffaloes, valuable to India as beasts of burden, and to commerce, the latter are also valuable for their hides. This territorial tract is therefore one of vast importance to the general resources of India. Excluding for the moment, any description of the great valley of Assam, the occupied portion of the three tracts of territory described, contain together about 35,000 square miles, and it has been estimated that no less than 425 human beings are located on every square mile, making up nearly fifteen millions of inhabitants for working the internal resources of the country.
Viewing the three great tracts together, they certainly offer the finest field in India for the investment of capital and skilful enterprise.
On the north and east limits of “Eastern Bengal” are two “Hill stations,” Cherrapoonge and Darjeeling. Each of these stations is a Sanatarium useful in alleviating the direful effects of the fierce and trying climate of Bengal. To all invalids, and especially to European constitutions, these stations are most valuable, and although at present hard of access, they will be deemed adjacent to the metropolis within a very few years.
In contemplating the picture of the country that has been described, it is painful to reflect how backward in civilisation is this important province of our Indian possessions. Although in its present undeveloped state it produces a greater proportion of revenue than any other tract of country in India of equal extent, it may be said to be enveloped in the accumulated darkness of past ages. There are no roads of importance, no appliances of modern civilisation, and the transit of produce is performed by the most primitive expedients. Through its length and breadth it is limited to a tedious water communication in boats of unsafe and cumbersome construction.
The staple of trade consists in the export of the raw produce of the country, and the manufactures of Indigo and Silk.
The imports are comparatively trifling, when such a vast population is taken into account, and the consumption that should exist, requires yet much judicious management to be fully developed.
It has been previously observed that the population of “Eastern Bengal” was not condensed or centered in large towns, with one great exception, the Metropolis, nor is there any reason why it should be. The elements of commercial trade are solely agricultural, and differ therefore materially from trade in England.
The produce of the country is collected in certain Bazars for further distribution, and the towns of Dacca, Rungpore, Mymensing, together with the marts of Serajgunge, Jessore, Naraingunge, Sylhet, Assam, &c., become the chief resorts or collectorates of the resources of the country; but they are simply warehouses for an exchange with Calcutta, and are not centres of Industry such as we possess at Manchester, Leeds, and innumerable other towns in England. Some few wealthy European and native traders however have established houses of their own, and transmit their own produce direct to Calcutta.
The working people are ill directed by the zemindars or native landlords and the few Indigo Planters that are studded over the Mofussil. The Native Mahajuns or Merchants, together with the smaller traders and boatmen, have all endeavoured more or less to oppress or cheat them.
Reverting now to the great valley of Assam, which lies to the extreme east of Bengal, extending a length of four hundred miles, with a breadth varying from forty to seventy miles, area about 22,000 square miles, and through which the Burhampooter River traverses, it may not be out of place to point out, that Mr. Barry, of Serajgunge, has fully described (Memorandum on the Province of Assam, published by C. B. Lewis, Baptist Vision Press, Calcutta, 1858.) the great value of this district as an outlet for merchandise and speculation owing to its great resources. Coal, lime, and iron have been discovered in several places, also gold and precious stones, and several amber and salt mines. Timber is found in the forests that line the Burhampooter. There are several extensive tracts of tea and other cultivated land, though the country is generally swampy. The people however are idle, and being abstenious are without any sufficient incentive to labor, the consequence is, there are immense tracts of excellent land lying waste, that might be most profitably cultivated. Wild Elephants, Tigers, Leopards, Bears, Buffaloes, Hogs, and game of all sorts abound, and the greater part of the country is in a truly primeval state.
It has been already mentioned that “Eastern Bengal” possesses, in her many rivers, a complete system of water carriage. These rivers are at present the only channels of communication that serve for the transport of merchandise; they are very circuitous and dangerous, and the tediousness of a journey up and down can alone be fully understood by those who have had the happiness to endure it. Roads there are none, save near Calcutta and around some of the Civil Stations. There are a few miles of half-made roads, formed in a desultory unsystematic way, connected with the Indigo Factories, but no road that can be depended upon for a journey of twenty miles without interruption. Wheeled carriages, other than Bullock Hackries, are therefore not to be met with at any distance from Calcutta, save at the Civil Stations, and the consequent loss of time in the transit of goods and in travelling generally, brings with it an attendant loss of money. Roads therefore are wanted; good and substantial roads are called for, and for the complete development of the country, railroads, as well as the common roads, are also needed. A well defined system of roads is the key to the prosperity of the country.
It has been estimated that about one half of the produce traffic, between the interior of this side of India and Calcutta, is obtained from within the districts of“ Eastern Bengal,” and that the largest portion of it is for British or foreign consumption. The present Eastern Bengal Railway was projected in 1856, and the computations concerning the amount of tonnage it was likely would be carried, were based on the returns of the Eastern Canals, from whence it was fully demonstrated that upwards of one million of tons weight of produce were transmitted annually to the port of Calcutta from the districts of “Eastern
Bengal,” and that at least forty thousand tons of imports were distributed over the same territory as a return cargo. From a further calculation it was presumed that the Railway would obtain the transmission of 419,560 tons per annum. The promoters of the Railway speculated on taking £379,210 per annum as gross receipts, from goods and passengers, when the line was completed to Dacca and Narriangunge, which would produce a dividend of 8 per cent upon a capital of £3,000,000 the estimated cost, including the rolling stock, management, &c.
It may be observed that in so complex a river system as the Gangetic Delta, it was a question of no small importance to decide carefully in the first instance, the route of the main trunk line, so as to admit of the extension lines being connected advantageously hereafter. By a reference to the map inserted at page 22, it will be seen how judiciously the main line has been laid out for the aggregation of the traffic that will be brought down the various streams that traverse the country.
How essential is such a system of Railway as is here sketched out for the full development of the resources of the country: and the Government it is presumed will bear this always in mind when deciding on the concessions hereafter to be made from time to time to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company, otherwise the resources of the various districts of the country cannot be thoroughly opened out. How strongly this is really felt by the authorities, may be understood by a short account of the steps they have already taken, and the progress that has been made with the Eastern Bengal Railway undertaking.
So far back as the year 1853, it was clearly perceived that the traffic of “ Eastern Bengal” required that a Railway should be carried into that quarter. The question was brought under the consideration of the Government, before even the experimental line of the East Indian Railway Company to Raneegunge was tried, and Major Greathead, then a very young officer in the Bengal Engineers, was instructed to examine and report on the line of common road between Calcutta and Dacca via Jessore. To his report we owe the first outline of a plan for a line of Railway from Calcutta eastwards; for not only did he distinctly point out that the formation of a railway could be had at a trifling more cost than the ordinary road he was sent to report on, but he also broadly discussed the question of the amount of traffic that might be expected. This at once placed within the reach of an enterprising merchant of Calcutta, Mr. W. F. Fergusson, an amount of information which enabled him to organize a set of promoters in England ; soon after which, the present company for carrying out the undertaking was formed.
In the early part of 1856, a favorable opportunity occurred for putting forth a prospectus of the railway, and testivg its merits upon the London money market, the avidity with which the shares were taken up was perfectly astonishing.
The capital for the first section of the line was put down at one Million Sterling, but applications were actually made amounting to upwards of 15 Million Pounds Sterling, and the requisite deposit of 2 shillings per share was collected for preliminary expences. This glut of applicants was weeded by the Directors, and the share list purged and reduced to the amount of capital required, and the deposit money remaining was returned to the applicants. In this process a singularly good, and solvent list of shareholders was obtained. The Company thus got the capital subscribed conditionally on a guarantee being given of a fixed interest of 5 per cent. being paid to the subscribers by the Government of India or the Court of Directors.
The East India Court of Directors looked on cautiously at the project, and would give no guarantee before the route of the line was definitively settled, or favourable opinion expressed by the local Government of India. At this stage, it was thought expedient to send out an Engineer to Bengal to make surveys, and such preliminary investigations as would eventually be required ; and during the latter end of 1856 and the early part of 1857, the country was explored and surveyed by Mr. Purdon, an Engineer, who was despatched from England for this special service. The plans and estimates, together with the reports of that gentleman, were duly submitted to the Government through Colonel Baker, and were fully discussed by the present Governor General in Council. The main trunk line from Calcutta to Dacca being considered, the best that could be devised, was determined upon, and a recommendation was sent home to Government, and the East India Board to concede it to the present Company with a guarantee of 5 per cent. on the Capital required for its construction.
It was in June 1857 that the favorable opinion of the Government of India reached England, and with this despatch also came the lamentable intelligence of the mutiny of the Native Bengal Army; yet such was the reliance placed on the British strength in India, that within one month after the opinion of the Government of India was received, the concession of the line was given, and the guarantee of 5. per cent. granted on the capital conditionally subscribed. An Act of Parliament was next obtained within three months following, fully incorporating the Company
The writer of this article well remembers the impression the Mutiny in India made on Parliament, and how manfully the old Court of Directors permitted the Bill for the construction of the Eastern Bengal Railway to be proceeded with in Parliament, at a time when the very existence of the East India Company was in jeopardy; and how Members and Noble Lords smiled as the Bill proceeded, wondering at the revived energy of the Court of Directors during their throes of declension. The Act received the Royal assent in August 1857, when the direful news from India was at its culminating point. The promoters soon discovered that the public confidence of Indian Securities in England was shaken, and they refrained from making a call on the Shareholders for funds to enable the undertaking to proceed. The Court of Directors participated in this very reasonable and just apprehension, and it was mutually agreed to let the subject rest until better times.
The baneful effects of the Mutiny on the public generally, extended itself to the promoters of the undertaking, and neither the Railway Board or the Court of Directors had sufficient confidence to avail themselves of the opportunity of a year’s leisure, to make use of the plans and particulars for the works, and the loss of this time was attended with serious delay to the Company. In the month of May 1858, when the cheering news from India of the rapid suppression of the Insurrection began to brighten their prospects, the Board found the old East India Court of Directors swept away, and a new order of things established at the India House. The confidence of the Shareholders then revived somewhat, although a Committee of the House of Commons was receiving the most conflicting and extraordinary evidence, that ever was taken, upon the causes of delay in the execution of the Railways of India. The Board now requested their Consulting Engineer, the late Mr. Brunel, to take steps for letting the construction of their works, and they again engaged the services of Mr. Purdon, and appointed him Chief Engineer of the line in India.
In the mean time the evidence taken before the Parliamentary Commitee on the causes of delay to Indian Railways had created a strong feeling in England, that it was most advisable to get some of the great English contractors to execute the works, and bring their experienced and trained hands and familiar appliances, to bear on the prosecution of the Indian lines.
Mr. Purdon was accordingly instructed, under Mr. Brunel’s direction, to get out designs and prepare a comprehensive contract for letting the whole of the works of the Eastern Bengal Railway between Calcutta and Kooshtee, and the Board at once advertised the letting of the work by Public Tender, with a view of commencing active operations during the ensuing cold season in Bengal.
This it appears was a very difficult task to do in four months. It was nevertheless successfully accomplished, and Mr. Purdon, with a staff of Engineers, started for India in September 1858, immediately after the Board had accepted the Tender of Messrs. Brassey, Paxton, and Wythes. They arrived in Calcutta on the 1st November 1858, and lost no time in communicating with the Government.
The executive staff now experienced some of those difficulties in their surveys, which might be expected they would at starting a new work in a foreign country, where their transactions were not facilitated by official routine.
The Engineers of the local Government were furnished by the Home Authorities with the details of the contract that had been made with Messrs. Brassey, Paxton, and Wythes. The conditions of the contract and the comprehensive specification puzzled them at first, because they knew that no working surveys of the line had as yet been made, though a preliminary survey had been obtained by Mr. Purdon, and that the Government had not even sanctioned the precise route of the line. The time allowed for the execution of the works also appeared to them marvellously short.
The Engineers of Government in India were not familiar with such contracts, though of every day occurrence in England. But the difficulties which occurred, and the doubts which were entertained, were solely of their own creation. The contract was said by them to be a very bad arrangement, and it was observed how much better it would have been if, instead of wasting a whole year in England contriving such a contract, the Company’s Engineer had returned at the close of 1857 and made the proper working plans of the line, from data that could be at once understood by the local Government. How little it was remembered that all this was impossible, for India was in a blaze !
The chief items of expence of any Railway in Lower Bengal, such as the Permanent way, the Ballast, the Earthwork, the principal Bridges, Stations, and fencing, can be calculated with sufficient accuracy from a general survey of the line, and it make slittle difference (there are of course exceptional cases) whether the line be carried a few chains to one side or the other of the assumed line of route, whilst the amount of all the items can be so nearly determined by an experienced Engineer, that an approximate set of quantities may be got out to form the basis of a perfectly sound contract, which shall provide for adjusting the gross sum according to the ultimate ascertained quantities of the work when executed.
In all sound contracts, provision is made to adjust the original estimate with the actual outlay, and this adjustment is made by a comparative view of the quantities which formed the basis of the original estimate, with those actually found to have been executed at the completion of the works. The excess or deficiency of works of any kind being added to or deducted from the original estimate.
Obtaining possession of the land for the formation of the Railway was a tedious operation, and although the contractors were to have commenced work so early as December 1858, they were unable to do so before the month of October following, as the land could not be made over except at a few disconnected places until that period.
Next came the Contractors’ difficulties attending a fair adjustment of wages for the coolies, who withheld their services for a time, with a view of forcing the Contractors to pay exorbitant rates, believing them to be bound under any circumstances to a fixed period for completing the works.
Time however smoothed in a measure these difficulties, and the Contractors’ staff being shortly afterwards organized and distributed over the line, they commenced work in earnest. Shipments from England arrived, and the materials were transported speedily, and fortunately without loss, on to the various divisions or districts, as they are called, of the line. A severe scrutiny on the part of Government was experienced, on account of the doubts entertained of the soundness of the conditions and stipulations of the contract, and the fact must not be concealed that the Government officers distrusted the Company’s arrangements in every regulation that was issued for working out the contract, that did not coincide with the Standing Orders, as laid down for the East Indian Railway under entirely different circumstances.
Having sketched a part of the history of the proceedings of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company up to the time of the arrival of the Engineering staff, and the first labours of the Contractor and his staff in India for the prosecution of the works, it is but due to the merits of those employed to mention publicly the present state of the works.
It appears from a statement which has been obtained from the Chief Engineer, that up to the present time 66 per cent. of the Earthwork for the whole 110 miles is done, and 21 per cent. of the brickwork; 16 per cent. of the ballast is burned and about 40 per cent. is ready for firing, and the materials for laying the greater portion of the permanent way are upon the ground. In addition to the above works the iron, bridges are in a very forward state. It may therefore be confidently anticipated if all still continues to go smoothly, that the 110 miles of line will be finished and ready for traffic before the rains of next year or in May 1862.
Fifty-six millions of pounds sterling represent about the anticipated cost of Railway works in India already conceded to the fostering care of Joint Stock Companies ; this amount is to be invested with the Government of India at a guaranteed rate of interest of five per cent. per annum, with a prospect of course of an additional rate of interest from a dividend. This is indeed a grand step in advance for India, and should Indian Railways become as remunerative as they are popular, it may be confidently predicted that as much as one hundred millions of pounds sterling can be easily raised in England, and be beneficially laid out on Indian Railways.
The Eastern Bengal Railway Company has a concession to construct a Railway from Calcutta to the River Ganges at Kooshtee, and ultimately to Dacca, together with a branch to Jessore, the Company have taken power under an Act of incorporation to increase their Capital to £6,000,000, and to make arrangements for the construction of at least 600 miles of Railway. Sufficient capital to construct the first section of 110 miles from Calcutta to Kooshtee has at present only been raised.
A small map here introduced will shew the line conceded to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company; the black line being the parent stem of the system of communication which it is thought likely will be required. The dotted lines and the annexed table will shew the lines that evidently appear necessary to develope, if not to complete, the Railway system in “Eastern Bengal.” These lines may be constructed under the powers already conceded to the Railway Company by their present Act of Parliament, subject to the capital being guaranteed by the Indian Government.
Miles. O Main trunk line between Calcutta and Kooshtee,.. 110 1 Extension of the Main line from Kooshtee to Naraingunge via Dacca,
106 2 From Shazadpore to Rungpore, …
116 3 From Rungpore to near Darjeeling along the course of the Teesta river, .
100 4 From Rungpore to opposite Rajmahal via Dinagepore
and Malda to connect the North West with Eastern
Bengal system of lines,
110 5 From Rungpore to the foot of the Assam Valley, 50 6 From off the Dacca extension line at Dhumroy to Sylhet, 120
This amount of Railway mileage appears to be as requisite to accommodate “Eastern Bengal” as the 1,414 miles of Railway is for the North Western part of the country, already conceded to the East Indian Railway Company, since its population, produce, and natural resources are no less in proportion.
How these extension lines (all of them abutting on the main line or trunk), already conceded to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company, are to be carried out, is a problem which our rulers will have to solve, if the resources of this, side of India are to be developed.
It appears certain that no better course can be adopted for carrying out the extension Railways, than that of accepting the medium of the Companies already incorporated; because, as was most truly observed by the Governor General of India at the recent opening of the Railway to Rajmahal:-“ Though the Government were most anxious to give encouragement to the investment of English Capital in India, and however sincere their desire, that encouragement would fail unless they could prove by the establishment that there is scope for remunerative employment of such Capital in India, particularly in Bengal. Without such assurance, capitalists will not be induced to aid in such enterprises, however useful in their ultimate results.”
Now, if we are to look forward to the construction of 712 miles of Railway in Eastern Bengal, and in like proportion through other important provinces and districts of India, it is difficult to conceive by what other means the money can be raised; for although the Government might possibly raise a loan of a few millions for the purpose of making a limited number of miles of Railway, it is quite improbable they could raise money enough, in addition to the heavy loans required for the other purposes of the State, to construct the many miles that are required.
The House of Commons would scarcely sanction such a proceeding, if indeed it were feasible, as the English Market would thereby be deluged with Indian State securities to the depreciation of all English stock. It would however be quite otherwise if the Joint Stock Company principle of raising capital were judiciously made use of; because, where private enterprise can have scope, the direct action of Government is seldom or ever desirable. But putting aside any question of whether it is abstractedly better to borrow in the form of a direct loan to Government, or indirectly by encouraging the investment of Joint Stock Capital; the former course can really only be practicable to a very limited extent, neither is the latter system capable of any great extension, unless it can be shewn to afford remunerative employment for the capital invested; but if it be carried out by degrees, so as not to overwhelm the resources that can be spared in England, at any one time for such purposes, every mile of Railway here mentioned may be constructed in comparatively few years, provided the different sections of the lines be taken up in succession, and laid before the English public in a skilful and judicious manner, and under a Government guarantee.
The raising of money for Indian Railways, through the medium of Joint Stock Companies, was not adopted in the first instance, chiefly because it enabled the capital to be more conveniently raised. There was another very important reason for it, namely, the deficiency of the requisite executive machinery at the disposal of the Government, for the construction of the lines, which otherwise would have to be entrusted to the officers in the service of the State, who would have to be self trained to their duties; whilst Joint Stock Companies on the other hand bring together experienced men from England and other countries. It may be argued that the Government also could engage the same experienced Staff of Engineers and other Officers, but this does not appear so certain. The State could not so easily get them together as Joint Stock Companies, because Civil Engineers in general, have a dislike to military control“ per se,” as it does not permit them to exercise that freedom of thought in the preparation of their designs, or the supervision of their works, to which they have been accustomed. It is no small privilege to India to possess, as she does at the present time, that diversity of Engineering thought and talent in the prosecution of her Railway works which belongs to the Establishment of Joint Stock Companies, and it would be unwise if India were not to avail herself of that skill and experience, which the satisfactory construction and completion of English and European Railways, places at her disposal. It might also be made advantageous to the Indian Government, as a school to train the officers and servants who are in her pay, as the process of making an experienced Railway Engineer is not so easy as it is at times imagined, and it is always an expensive and tedious operation. There are many clever and talented Engineers to be found in the service of the Indian Government, but it must be admitted that their want of experience in those numerous details of Railway practice, which go to form the Railway Civil Engineer, is of itself sufficient to prevent the Government from entrusting the construction of Railways alone to their hands.
It has been previously mentioned that the present concession to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company extends beyond the Ganges to the Burhampooter and to Dacca, but that the capital actually subscribed is only for a section of Railway between Calcutta and Kooshtee on the Ganges, a distance of about 110 miles.
There is no guarantee as yet given for the extension capital, and no subscription contract is as yet entered into for raising the money.
Now at first sight it might appear that nothing is easier than for the Government of India to guarantee 5 per cent. upon the extension capital, issue the stock, and raise the money forthwith. But a little reflection will shew that there is considerable difficulty in the way, the shares being already at 10 per cent. discount. (The cause of this depression is believed to be owing to the Board never having been at the trouble to establish the merits of the undertaking.) In the face of that fact, no extension capital can be expected to be subscribed for at the present time, unless the shares can be obtained at a still greater discount, or unless a higher and more tempting rate of interest be guaranteed.
Such a state of things practically precludes the possibility of raising Joint Stock Capital for further extensions, until the project is shewn likely to be more remunerative than the 5 per cent. guaranteed, and also perhaps until a period of more intense desire for investment in Indian Securities is manifested by the London Market than at present exists.
In order then to float any extension shares, it is evident that the portions of Railway previously constructed must be made in the first instance remunerative; the management of the Companies affairs must in like manner be maintained in good repute; then Capitalists will in all probability be found to take up the stock from time to time when judiciously offered in the market. What at present is most necessary for the Railway Boards is, to collect into a well considered compendium or pamphlet all such reports and statistics, estimates and prospects of traffic of the various lines, to be circulated amongst the proprietors and the public under the sanction of Government, to enable people to judge of the merit of the various projects. The publication of these in one volume for all the Indian lines would give a great zest for those investments, and be likely to produce a large accession of capital for these undertakings at the earliest period that it is possible to obtain it.
When the parent stem is extended to Dacca, the line to Rungpore may be put forward, and if guaranteed will be taken up with as much avidity as the original share capital of the Company, if but good faith and steadiness of purpose in keeping up the reputation of the Company, be maintained.
It may be observed that in dealing with so difficult a subject as the raising of Railway Capital, many collateral points will naturally arise, which require to be specially met; for instance, an unusually sterile tract of country over which little or no traffic can be obtained; or an expensive bridge over a great river such as the Ganges at Kooshtee; or some sudden depression in the money market ; or the reputation of the Company itself suffering froin assumed, or positive bad management. All or any of these causes might disturb the proceedings of the Company to such an extent, that they would have great difficulty in raising capital. To meet such circumstances it might be permitted to the Company to borrow on debentures, a sum equal to one-third the Capital subscribed, so as to counteract and tide over some of these temporary difficulties, and it might also be desirable for the Government themselves to assist and relieve the Company from some of the very heavy works, and perhaps to undertake directly the construction of the line across any commercially unproductive tract of country, so that every link should be made complete by leasing the Government works to the Company.
The Government might be enabled in more prosperous times to borrow for such purposes on the securities of the Revenues of India, in addition to guaranteeing the share Capital of the Company; but whether the cases of encouragement and positive assistance on the part of Government take place or not, it is essential that the fullest control of the expenditure and management of the Company’s undertaking should be vested in the Government.
This leads to the discussion of another very important question already dealt with partially, viz. the relation between the Government and the Company and the powers of each.
Considering the varied character of Joint Stock Companies in general the utmost influence and care of the Home Authorities should be exercised in obtaining a good Directory in the first instance, and afterwards maintaining it. The approval of the Indian Secretary, of State of each Director should be made a sine qua non by Act of Parliament.
The Home Government should have power to dismiss any Director, although the Shareholders should still retain the prerogative of electing their own Directors. It is evident the Government have a large stake in the undertaking, since they not only give the land, but also the guarantee of 5 per cent. and it is certain that inefficient Directors do much mischief, and often seriously impede the progress of the undertaking, which must not be looked upon as being alone a private speculation, but also a grand national work.
It is doubtless a delicate and difficult problem to determine where the interests of the Shareholders are in opposition to the representatives of the State; but it appears self evident that none but well known men should be adınitted to sit at the Board of Direction, – men who being respectable in social standing and commercial position would draw around them respect, and bring with them a connection that would facilitate the raising of capital; men who, possessed of good sense, would never attempt to frustrate the national object and jeopardise the general prosperity of the undertaking as a whole; men who would carry with them the confidence of the body of Shareholders, and who possess sufficient strength of mind to enable them to combat successfully with the elements of disturbance, suspicions, and improper interference and cornbinations, made against the Board of Directors and governing authorities whenever they occurred.
It must not be supposed that such Boards of Direction cannot be procured. Gentlemen of the stamp required may be found ready, to go into respectable Directions of great Companies, such as the Indian Railways are likely to become, and it would be as much an honor to sit at one of the Boards as it is to be a Director of the Bank of England, or as it was a Director of the late East India Company.
Having secured the best possible Board of Directors, next comes the degree in which the Government should exercise its control. There is but the faintest possible analogy between the constitution of an Indian Rail. way Company and the position of the ordinary Railway Companies in England. The one goes on without any supervision on the part of the State beyond the Acts of Parliament for the guidance of the Railway Company. The other requires the constant and vigilant supervision of the Local Government and its Officials, to prevent abuses to the landholders and community at large, that might otherwise lead to disastrous consequences to the Empire.
Unlike Companies for English Railways, the Government reserve to themselves at starting the right of selecting the route of the line, and as they give the land and requisite guarantee, they are obviously entitled to the most complete supervision of the expenditure of the Company.
There are many essential reasons why it would be well for Railway Boards to admit the necessity of the Government control over their undertaking in India, but chiefly because there are no independent tribunals in India. The Supreme Courts of India are unable to enforce the performance of an agreement between an English Company and the Imperial State. No Railway executive in India therefore, should be entrusted with the difficult problems that arise from time to time, unless placed under the direct sanction of some local authority, possessing stability of character and a certain amount of freedom of action. To refer every question home for deliberation would cause much difficulty and many inconvenient explanations; it would excite irrelevant correspondence, and would seldom present a true description of the case when it reached England. It is therefore almost impossible for a Railway Company, of itself, to organise an agency of sufficient power or authority, for the construction or the working of a Railway in India.
Considering then the intimate relations that should exist between the Railway executive in India and the local Government, it is a most important desideratum to determine the most effective system of conducting the Company’s affairs. It may be assumed with sufficient accuracy for argument, that capitalists will invest no money in Indian Railways without a guarantee from the Indian State, and if this is so, the legislature says, so long as we guarantee you your property, we will take to ourselves the right of controlling your discipline. It is clear then that the Companies cannot “ab initio” regulate their own operations independently of Government, neither can the executive Officers in India be wholly trusted with unlimited powers, which are interwoven with the civil discipline of Government.
The capital being raised under a guarantee, and secured under a regular agreement between the Government and the Railway Company, it is made a proviso that the Company are to be allowed the full advantage of any increase of profit that is fairly due to the successful development of the traffic, after the Government have been repaid their guarantee. This source of increased dividend is contingent on the success of the line, which again is of course due to the project being well considered, and the management being judiciously maintained. In granting this benefit to Joint Stock enterprises, the interest of the State is best secured, and it is manifestly also to the interest of Government to assist the undertaking cheerily on its course of prosperity. Lord Canning enunciated this dogma at Rajmahal, when he referred to the encouragement that Government were desirous of giving to Joint Stock Railway Companies.
Such being the basis upon which Indian Railways, as at present constituted indisputably rest, it is really not a matter of much difficulty to determine a way of managing effectually the Government control, so as to give satisfaction both to the Railway Companies and to Government.
It is by no means necessary or proper for the Government to have an absolute control over the Rail. ways, as if they were entirely its own property; on the contrary, it is much better to be associated with the Railway Boards.
The right of appointment of their Chief Officers and other functionaries rests with the Railway Companies themselves, subject however to the approval of the Home Government, and it has been supposed that the right of dismissal over all the Officers and Servants of the Companies employed in India, should be referred to the local Government who control them; but this is not so, and it would be very injurious to the administration of a company’s affairs if it were; because no really good officials could be found who could come out to India to take service under one set of men, whilst another set of men might summarily dismiss them; neither would any good arise from such a power being given to the local Government, because their appointments being made direct from the Company, the Officers and servants of the Company would very naturally disregard any interference, not contemplated or specified in their agreements, and it would very probably give rise to insubordination and distrust of the Company. It might not be amiss perhaps for the Local Government to have power actually delegated to them in each agreement, to argue the merits of all cases of indiscretion, insubordination, or inefficiency, previous to the decisions of the Home Board, but it should not be permi. tted to them to act merely on their own convictions.
It has been previously observed that there was little difficulty in devising a complete scheme for working out the Railway Company’s contracts in India, after the agreement between the State and the Company has been completed.
In order to discuss this part of the subject on its merits, it is desirable to have a knowledge of the arrangements most commonly adopted.
A general Agent is appointed to India to represent the Board, and he is either accocompanied or preceded by the Engineer in Chief with a staff of Assistant Engineers and Subordinates. These two principal Officers are then placed in communication with the local Government, whose duty it is to sanction previously every thing that has to be done, both in the administrative and executive departments.
It is rightly required that the Agent, representing as he does the Company in India, should be the sole medium of correspondence between the Executive, the Home Board, and local Government. He is to be conversant with all things relating to the affairs of the Company without interfering on points which are left wisely to the discretion and professional ability of the Chief Engineer, who on Engineering matters should be exempted from his control; but it is also not unreasonably desired that a certain check should be kept by the Agent over the Chief Engineer on matters of general outlay, so as to subject him to the control of the Board and the local Government. The latter is represented by an Officer called the “Consulting Engineer” whose duty it is to advise the Government and convey its views and orders to the Company’s executive.
It is presumed that the route of the intended Railway has been generally ascertained before hand, either from exploring surveys made by the Company or by the Engineers of the local Government. It is now too late to talk of a Royal Commission to lay out a general system of Railways for India, since the leading lines of the Country have been long since determined; therefore the routes of all future extension lines may be safely left to be decided by the different Government authorities, no matter from what source they gather their intelligence. The Railway officers alone are responsible for the construction of the line, and so long as they do it in conformity with the views and regulations of Government, as intimated to them through the Government Consulting Engineer, they need not care what route has been determined. The manner in which the route is ultimately determined has varied greatly according to the circumstances of each project, and depends greatly on the views of those officers who may be acting for the Company or Government at the time.
There are two systems at work in the management of Railways in India. Some of the Companies have proceeded with the construction, before taking any comparative views of their means and ends; others have more wisely made comprehensive estimates before hand, and passed carefully in review every thing they would ultimately have to provide. It has sometimes happened that no skilled Contractors could be found with capital sufficient to take the whole works; this obliged the Railway Companies themselves, to construct them with their own Executive Staff; but it has frequently obstructed the works, and is a system which should be avoided as highly objectionable and defective. But it is not always a matter of choice which system is adopted, although there can be little question of the desirability of letting the works to skilful and solvent Contractors whenever practicabie.
The practice pursued under each of the two systems referred to will be dealt with hereafter. In the mean time it may be observed that whichever system be used for constructing the works, the regulations which affect the executive of any Railway Company, and the machinery by which the Government control is to be exercised, demand the primary consideration.
The Government Engineers and the Civil Engineers have not hitherto worked, as they ought to do, harmoniously together, and much evil has resulted in consequence. The cause of this disagreement is not difficult to explain ; but before doing so, it is necessary to point out how badly contrived is the machinery of the Railway Company’s executive, from the fact of a divided authority being insisted on between the Railway Agent and the Chief Engineer of the line.
The arrangement is defective from two causes. First, the Government Engineers encouraged it as a safe guard for themselves, by overlooking the merits of the Company’s Engineers, and it is notorious, that up to a late date the Government corps of Engineers indulged in the very foolish idea, that the whole credit of laying out the line and making the designs for the Railway works of India, as well as the directing of the administrative details, belonged chiefly to theniselves. Their reports and official notes and general conversation have all exhibited this bias, more or less, which is possibly owing to some traditional notion, respecting their claim by right of service, to be the actual Engineers of the Indian Railways; and although such views were practically closed to them by the fact that the construction of the Railways were entrusted to Joint Stock Companies, still the fancy haunted their brains until they believed themselves justified in appropriating the credit that was by right only due to the Railway Company’s Civil Engineers. It is to the latter who make the designs and direct the execution of the works, and who are alone responsible for the soundness of their construction, that the merit should be assigned.
Yet to such a degree was this unfortunate condition of mind carried, that it eclipsed all principle of fair play, and it is patent that the Railway Engineers have not hitherto been received with that confidence to which they are entitled, or been allowed the credit which belonged to them. This led to the Agent of the Railway Company being made a sort of buffer between the Government and the Company’s Engineers, and his intervention was eagerly sought as a matter of policy.
The office of the Agent thus became one of great practical consequence because instead of its being as at first intended, simply a medium of communicating the wishes of the Board and the Chief Engineer, it has almost necessarily become an oppressive tribunal, and when connected with the official requirements of Government, the undue interference was calculated to render the Chief Engineer a mere cypher; so often as he submitted and strenuously supported his own views (which were at times in opposition to those entertained by the Government Officers) at the hazard of losing his appointment and in a measure his professional reputation.
Under such circumstances, is it to be wondered at that there are but few Civil Engineers of any tried worth who are bold enough to venture to India on a Railway, where their zeal and ability are likely to be appropriated by others, and made the instruments of each one’s downfall.
It is not only unfair to deprive a Railway Official of any professional reputation he may have, but it is degrading to the Government who neglects to discountenance such a wretched system of conceit. “I love glory” says Jacques Jasmin, “but the success of another never disturbs my slumbers.” This is the high principle which should be incorporated with Government control.
Reverting to the system of the proper organization of the Company’s Staff, it must always be borne in mind that there are two periods during which the Railway Company must devote their earnest attention. One is the period of the construction of their works the other the subsequent period of working the undertaking. The first is a period of capital expenditure ; the second, a much longer period of Revenue disbursements and returns. The first is essentially an Engineering period ; the second a traffic working period, where the general control of the Agent may be advantageously exercised.
The Agent’s financial knowledge and habits of business may be of great service, not only to himself, but to the Chief Engineer during the construction of the line, more especially as he will afterwards be called upon to work the line in conjunction with the Traffic Manager, Locomotive Superintendent, and Resident Engineer. But during the construction of the Railway works and its capital expenditure, the Chief Engineer “par excellence” must be the principal man consulted and confided in, because on him the whole responsibility rests ; the Directors and every one else look to him ‘for the successful accomplishment of their undertaking and to him only. His judgment is looked on as final, and the Shareholders having entrusted him with their confidence and embarked their capital upon the faith of his estimates and reports, they naturally look to the Chief Engineer as their Chief Officer during the construction of the line. It is well known to Railway Companies, that the most important thing at the outset of their speculations is to determine who shall be the Engineer entrusted with the expenditure of their money, as he must not only be a man who can command confidence, but he must be a skilful man, and one accustomed to design works soundly and economically. His administrative ability in directing the execution is no less necessary than his general prudence and habit of forethought and integrity of character, so as to keep the Company safe on points that none other besides himself could be expected to foresee or be able to guard against.
For this reason he should not be interfered with in professional details and trivial matters that only thwart and cross his purpose, without effecting any real economy. The character of an Engineer has always been held in consideration amongst the highest class of Railway Directors, also amongst Statesmen and capitalists, and there is no sound reason why the Government of India and the direction of the Railway interests should not similarly regard it.
It has been previously explained that no great amount of capital can be obtained for Indian Railways, except through the medium of Joint Stock Companies, and that it required a more skilful system of management than has hitherto been brought to bear on such enterprises; and certain points have been touched upon, which tend to shew that the only way to raise the requisite capital, is to strengthen the existing security of the State guarantee, and supply such management as will carry with it that confidence, which usually attracts capital to such speculations: also, commercially speaking, by a judicious ‘selection of the route and design of the works, and skilful proceeding in the publication of the advantages that may be obtained from each project.
There need be little fear but that all the lines really wanted in India may be made, if their merits are only properly placed before the English public, and a State guarantee of 5 per cent is given to them. The reason why the efforts already made have not been continuously successful, is easily traceable to the fact, that the requisite skill has not characterised the management of this subject, and also that the London money market is not at all times accessible to Railway schemes.
The spirit of “ Capital” is a tender handmaiden, and requires gentle wooing ; she is repelled or attracted by the most delicate influences, and as no“ brusque” or inconsiderate action or remark ever passes unheeded, so likewise no force is of any avail in her subjection. It may from this be assumed that no system will be found to work out successful results, if the men who compose the deliberative body of Directors and Government authorities in London are not cautious in their inovements, and equal to the circumstances they have to control. The basis of the management must be sound at starting, and it may be brought into operation as regards the organization of the London Boards of management in the way already suggested.
The Executive Staff usually employed in England by the Indian Railway Companies, consists of the Secretary and his Clerks, together with a Consulting Engineer, his Assistants and Inspectors, for directing the execution of that portion of the works which must be done in England.
It has been found necessary that such Consulting Engineers as can be safely trusted to advise the Directors and Government authorities at home, should be men of first rate standing in their profession, and who can also obtain the confidence of Parliament and the public; and as such men are necessarily consulted with reference to the appointment of the Chief Engineers of such Companies in India, there is therefore little more to desire, because a man is sure to be selected who will work harmoniously with the Consulting Engineer and the Home Board, and all that is wanted is that the Board should second the views of their professional adviser, and that their Secretary be such a person as will bring all things soundly under the deliberative judgment of the Board. There is not much that is wanting in the constitution of the Home management, with the exception that the Gentlemen usually forming the Boards of Direction are sometimes unfitted for the task, and are often persons of narrow views in commercial affairs and of no great standing. They naturally follow their own conceits and narrow practices, and seldom of themselves command the confidence of capitalists, but, on the contrary, create at times very great distrust of the whole undertaking
The Agent in India who shall act as the Chief Officer or head of the Company, and represent the Board, should be selected for his administrative aptitude. His character should be strictly honorable in order to obtain the cheerful obedience of the Executive Officers, and the respect of the Local Government. His duties should be clearly defined with reference to the head Officers of each department, and, at first starting, there should be no other departments than those of the Chief Engineer and his own.
The Agent should commence with a very small establishment indeed, but sufficient to assist him in conducting the correspondence with the Board and the Government, and between him and the Chief Engineer, a responsible Book-keeper should be attached to the Office of the Agent during the earlier stage of the proceedings, before the line is opened for public traffic, in order to keep a perfect account of the capital expenditure, together with any share or transfer transaction.
The Chief Engineer’s establishment must of course be governed by the extent and magnitude of the proposed operations, and it must be left to himself to select and distribute his District Engineers and their assistants as he thinks best. He should of course be allowed such draftsmen and writing clerks as may be necessary to conduct efficiently the duties of his office.
It has been observed before, that there are two important stages in the progress of a Railway Company. The time of construction and the period of ordinary working. During the first of these, the Agent has but little to do, because the Chief Engineer has alone to work out the design which is governed by the capital expenditure. There can be no greater mistake made in the administration of the constructive department of Indian Railways, than the attempts of Government Engineers and Railway Company’s Agents to organize under a fixed routine the proceedings of the Company’s Executive Engineers; because the circumstances are variable, and promptitude is essential in order to grapple effectually with the difficulties of new works and novel circumstances. Where such vast sums are involved, the progress of the works should not be sacrified or impeded for months or even days to the bugbear of routine. It has not unfrequently happened that a question of some trivial diminution of prices, or a plan of some trifling section has involved the stoppage of important works, solely to pander to the self importance of other parties, who deem it necessary to report voluminously on the subject, before deciding that the work might go on as proposed, and it has been the misfortune of Railway Engineers to submit constantly to such absurdities. The establishments asked for by the Engineers to carry out their duties have often appeared excessive, because those in authority have not sufficiently been able to distinguish between a fixed organization relating to a revenue expenditure, and an organization which is only temporary, and which is a part and parcel of the capital expenditure. Is it not obviously to the advantage of the Company to complete the works as speedily as possible, and so free the capital from its unproductive posture? Is it wise to delay the undertaking for the sake of an additional temporary establishment, which is deemed absolutely necessary by the Chief Engineer?
But so it is, and so for the sake of peace and the preservation of his appointment the Chief Engineer takes what establishment he can get, and goes to work ineffectively according to his own judgment, or it may be that he is bolder and declines the limited establishment and stops progress. Under the pressure of the latter alternative, it is usual for the Local Government to act contrary to the advice of their professional adviser, the Consulting Engineer, and sanction the request of the Chief Engineer without any real knowledge of its propriety, and so in this way, the Government control is rendered oppressive or nugatory
The remedy for all these evils is simple, viz., to recognize the principle that the Chief Engineer of the Railway is responsible, not only for the design and execution of the works, but for putting forward every thing that is necessary to prevent the Government Engineers being driven into the false position in which they have hitherto stood, and until the Railway Engineers are made responsible by the Government authorities at Home and abroad, there can exist no sound principles of management in the proceedings of Companies. The Eastern Bengal Railway is exceptional to most of the other Companies, in so far that the whole project was laid before the Home Government in the utmost possible detail, when the contract for its construction was made, and this has been so useful in bringing every thing necessary to complete the undertaking under Government review and preventing disappointment, that few disputes have arisen between the Company’s Executive and the Government Officers. Although the principle of recognising fully the responsibilities of the office of the Company’s Chief Engineer has never been officially admitted, facts have demonstrated themselves during the progress of the works, which shew that his general actions cannot be subverted. Hence the satisfactory position of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company’s operations. Its construction is a marked success in the face of some episodes between the Board’s Agent and the Chief Engineer, arising from the false notions of the Directors’ duties and those of the Government Engineers; these happily have not done much mischief, in consequence of the soundness of the contract and the Engineering system of management that was adopted, though only casually permitted to take effect. Nevertheless all this points out the strong necessity which exists, of calling upon the Railway Engineer in India to submit his plans and estimates and every thing else necessary for carrying into successful effect the undertaking from beginning to end, and requiring him to get these, or any modification of them, agreed to under sanction of the Government Engineers, previous to starting operations upon some fixed basis, from which the Consulting Engineer to Government cannot easily depart. Differences of opinion should be limited to matters of detail, which do not involve those vast discrepancies of design and outlay that have been at times forced upon the Railway Companies, and for which their own Engineers and Managers have been unjustifiably blamed.
It is not material in point of principle, whether the works be let to great Railway contractors or not.
In many cases, it is impossible they could be so let, from the fact of such men not being always ready to take them at a reasonably fair price, and it would destroy the advantage of having such contractors, if it was necessary to give them a higher price than the same work could be done for by the Company’s own Executive, either through the medium of a series of little contractors, or by day work, or a combination of both, as is usually the case.
Whatever course is pursued, the great requisite that has been urged before in this paper for proceeding successfully, is the judicious selection of the Chief Engineer, who must be trusted with the expenditure of the money. It is by no means necessary that any blind confidence should be put in any such individual; on the contrary, it is proper to watch his proceedings carefully and control his actions when necessary, but he must be recognized as the designer and the constructor of the project, and looked to as the fittest man to determine all Engineering points, and be subject to be called upon at any time, to submit in review, every thing affecting the design and execution as well as the accounts of the expenditure. Unless this is admitted, it is impossible the various questions that arise can be discussed by the Board or the Government in a fair manner; and if the Chief Engineer is not in a position to bring all matters that are necessary under review, it is clear that some body else should do so. But where shall we find the name of any other official that is more competent to grasp the whole question, and assign to each consideration its proper place before the deliberative authority ? Where, but in the department of the Company’s Consulting Engineer. If it be left to chance, or to the officious action of a casual Director, or to an irresponsible Agent, or the Government Engineer, whose duty it is only to control and not to devise, what security is there for the duty being properly performed?
The true way is to call upon the Chief Engineer to put forward the points referred to, and with the advice of the Company’s Consulting Engineer, to assist the Directors and Government Engineers, or other authorities, in deciding the basis upon which the proceedings should rest; and if the works can be let to great general Contractors, the case is afterwards very simple, if the practice adopted on the Eastern Bengal Railway be pursued. But if the works must be carried out by small contracts, and by the Company’s own Executive staff, still there is little danger of the Engineers going wrong, provided the basis of their operations be fully determined beforehand, and be agreed to by the Consulting Engineers of the Government. All that is then necessary is to hold the Chief Engineer to the responsibility that he has agreed to, and to observe that he be freely trusted, because there should be no occasion for distrust, if the estimates, quantities, and other requirements of the work, be but clearly specified.
The mode of dealing with the detailed operations, may be safely left to the Chief Engineer under these circumstances, and there would be no want of confidence in the Government officers, because they would be freed from the perplexity of doubt which the absence of a fixed basis engenders.
Referring next to the periods of construction and traffic working, it has been shewn that during the first period the Chief Engineer and the Company’s Agent, together with the Government Consulting Engineers, are all the heads of departments necessary, and that the Agent’s office is one of very little range or action.
When, however, the time arrives for working the traffic, an entirely different management is necessary. It brings into existence the Traffic Manager and the Locomotive Superintendent, together with the Agent’s active duties, and as the Chief Engineer is removed to other places for the purposes of construction, his place should be taken up by a Resident Engineer of the permanent way and works; but if the Chief Engineer should remain in the service of the Company for extensions or branch lines, he should be still held as the responsible person to consult upon all questions affecting the “way and works,” and the Resident Engineer in charge, should be regarded as his assistant only.
Questions of importance which task to the utmost the administrative powers of a Joint Stock Company, controlled by Government, are of every day occurrence, and it is of the utmost consequence to select as their Agents, men fully competent to handle the difficult and extensive subjects so far from home; and to command the services of the class of men required, good salaries must be given, and as this involves great cost, it follows that small Railway projects cannot bear the requisite expenses of a separate management so well, as when the undertakings are of a sufficient magnitude to support an efficient staff.
It has been remarked by the greatest of all Railway authorities, the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, in reference to the duties of Directors and officers, that “no Railway can be efficiently or well conducted “ without thorough unity amongst the heads of all “the great Departments. Upon the Superintendents “of ways and works of the Locomotive Department, “ of the out door arrangements and of traffic, devolve “the most onerous and responsible duties ; where “they fail to act together, or when any one of them “ceases to enjoy the full confidence of the Board, every ” thing must go wrong. Having selected men of the “best class, confiding in their integrity, and assured ” of their competency, one of the principal duties “ of a railway direction is to support its officers ; any Directorial interference with details must “weaken their efficiency, upon which must mainly depend the ultimate success of the Company they “serve.”
It is manifest from this and what has been previously stated, that the persons who must be looked to for successfully working Railways in India, are the four principal officers, viz. The Agent, or head of the Company ; the Engineer of the way and works ; the Traffic Manager; and the Locomotive Superintendent; and that one of the chief duties of the Directors at home is to support them, and it may be added, that the duty of the Consulting Engineer of the Local Government is to control their proceedings in India.
As the Board in London is too far removed for direct action, it would be well to have a deliberative committee or council of administration in India formed of these four officers, with the Government officer as an ex-officio member, to act as chairman. These should meet as often as necessary to decide upon the various proceedings of the Company. The Agent of the Company should act as Secretary at all such meetings, and their resolutions, as well as the substance of their discussions, should be faithfully reported to the London Board and to the Government. The fact of the Government officer taking the most important part in their deliberations, need in no way disturb their proceedings, which have eventually to be sanctioned by the Local Government under the contract existing between the Company and the Government. There can be no objection to this principle, and it is submitted that the Executive Officers acting as a deliberative body, is like our cabinet at home, which is composed of the members of the executive Government, each responsible in his own department.
The working of such a body should be such as not to relieve any officer from the responsibility that belongs to his department, and voting should only be taken upon those general questions to be submitted to the Home Board before any action be taken. The Government control would always check any strong headed individual who might be disposed to a pertinacious adherence of his own veiws. For instance, if the Locomotive Superintendent or the Engineer applied for approval for the supply of a quantity of stores or machinery, the deliberative body might perhaps disapprove of allowing what was asked for, and it would not do for him to say, if you refuse me what I ask, I will fix you with the consequences. The deliberative body should be freed from such a pressure being put on them by the controlling power of the Government acting quite independent of the deliberative council, although perhaps greatly guided by the discussion that took place, but not by the voting ; and the Government would be supported in such control by the deliberative opinion of the council or body of Railway officers, whilst the deliberative Council would not possess the power of interfering with the individual responsibility of the heads of Departments beyond expressing their own views.
The modern Joint Stock Banks, which of late years have succeeded so well in India, afford a fair specimen of how Railway Companies affairs should be conducted. There is a Manager or chief officer, a Cashier, &c. &c. The duties of each is defined with the utmost care, and the success of all undertakings greatly depends upon the judgment with which duties are defined. The Manager presides at a deliberative Board of the officers, and they discuss and decide general things. Each officer is however responsible for what falls in the way of his own duty, and has to report all particulars the same as if he never joined in deliberation on the subject, and the Manager has to do the same. All the officers are quite independent of each other, and thus the Board at home get the real facts of every material circumstance transmitted regularly from each department in their special reports, also the results of the general deliberation of all the officers, through the general Manager, Secretary or Agent. The Home Board then sends out an Inspector once or twice a year, to look into each department, and report upon the whole state of the Company’s affairs.
Such particular caution is not necessary in the case of Railway management, owing to the Government control being in force, but something like it should be observed. The Agent for all financial and other things in the way of negotiation, together with the other officers before mentioned, might do as the Manager and other bank officers do, and form a very effective Railway Board of management.
The council of administration should be referred to by all the subsidiary officers applying for instructions, including the Storekeeper, the Superintendent of Police, the local Solicitor and the Accountant, together with the tradesmen and all other parties that do not exactly come within the province of a department forming the council. There would naturally grow from this practice sub-divisions for the despatch of the different sections of business, and the members of the council would form into committees associated with individuals for special enquiries, and acts of management or negotiation would be likely to arise, which would ultimately lead to as sound a system of administration as could be wished for or expected.