Maharaja Railways of India (GLR), emerged in the 19th century, as a remarkable initiative /enterprise in India; to establish railways without the involvement of the British rulers in India. The Gwalior Light Railway (GLR) is being proposed for inclusion in the tentative list for inscription as a World Heritage Site; as such an example of outstanding universal value. Indian Maharajas began thinking of constructing railways in the 19th century itself but the British Government in India did not permit their construction. Nevertheless, the Maharaja of Jodhpur became the first to go ahead boldly in the construction of a railway in his kingdom in 1881 and this was later accepted by the British. Many Maharaja Railways then came into existence. A few of them are still surviving in part; such as the GLR (portion surviving from Gwalior to Sheopur Kalan). This is being proposed here for inclusion in the tentative list for inscription as a World Heritage Site. GLR as a linear property 199.80 Kms long and 0.610 mtrs wide, which runs from Gwalior to Sheopur Kalan in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. Its gauge of 0.610 mtrs is the narrowest gauges ever used for development of railways in the world and it is still surviving for the welfare of the people in its locality. GLR has already completed 100 years and the complete portion to Sheopur Kalan being proposed here will complete 100 years in 2009.
Maharaja Madhav Rao II Scindia (1886-1925) was the founder of GLR and from Gwalior; the narrow gauge railway had branches to Bhind, Shivpuri, Morar, Kampu Koti as well as Sheopur Kalan. The construction of the GLR narrow gauge network was started in 1895 and the section for Bhind and Shivpuri was opened in 1899. The construction of the Gwalior-Sheopur Kalan section (being proposed for inclusion in the tentative list for listing as World Heritage) was opened in 1904. The line was extended to Birpur in 1908 and completed upto Sheopur Kalan in 1909. It remained under the ownership of the Maharaja and had its offices in Gwalior in a building constructed with great architectural style in Indian tradition. It is presently managed by the Central Railway (one of the zones of the Indian Railways). It's old headquarter office is now used as the office of the Area Manager. All the sections of the GLR have either been converted to broad gauge or closed except the section to Sheopur Kalan, that is proposed here. This is surviving and extensively being used by the local population.
The GLR has 27 stations in a single line system of working in its length of 199.8 Kms between Gwalior and Sheopur Kalan. Atleast three pairs of passenger trains run daily and these are being extensively used by the local people. The trains run efficiently offering an enchanting ride with a toy train experience in the countryside of Central India; for the benefit of the tourists as well as the local communities. A trip on the GLR is a thrilling experience and one of the best ways to experience the rich cultural heritage of its area. Broad gauge trains are connected at Gwalior. The GLR was opened with steam traction and is now being run with diesel locomotives based at Gwalior. One of these locomotives has been made to look like a steam locomotive in the interest of heritage and tourism. Also steam locomotives of the same gauge and period are also available on Mountain Railways of India (already inscribed as world heritage) and these can be used here once this is also recognized as world heritage. Trains run at a maximum speed of 35 kmph.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The GLR is an early (19th century) and still an outstanding example of a 0.61 mtr. gauge (narrowest of gauges used by railways world wide) that was brought into existence by bold initiatives of use of the railway technology brought in by the British in India for effective application in the Indian context by Indian rulers. It is still fully operational as a living example of the engineering enterprise of the 19th century and retains its original features.
As an example of interchange of human values, the GLR is part of that stage of globalization which was characterized by colonial rule. The British in India had then decreed that railways can be constructed and used by Indian rulers for restricted private purposes as toys, for amusement and subordinated to the British. However, notwithstanding this; Maharaja Railways of India emerged as an outstanding example of the amalgamation of cultures and human values coupled with bold initiatives / enterprise by Indian rulers to construct railway lines for the benefit of their kingdoms. The GLR is a spectacular example of this from the 19th century and one of the very few surviving examples. The coming of GLR resulted in development of transport in the area which otherwise was on foot or with animal transport. The technological and social interchange is also evident to the application of railway technology brought in by the British. It is the longest narrow gauge railway in India and perhaps in the whole world (199.80 Kms long).
As an outstanding example of a technological ensemble, illustrating a significant stage in human history; the GLR is a unique example of the initiative / enterprise shown by Indian rulers with their own resources to construct railways in the 19th century with the technology of foreign lands. Today the GLR stands out as a heritage symbol of the region. As an ensemble with its impeccably maintained track, its elegant original railway stations and its old railway stock; it is genuinely outstanding and a unique type of a 19th century development, i.e. preserved over time. Thus, it is clearly and spectacularly illustrative of a significant stage in human history that's of pioneering rail construction and its extension for socio-economic development in a very backward area.
Also, the GLR has been constructed with great technical skill and led to the social, cultural and economic development of the region that it serves. It is a well preserved railway and remains much as it was at the time of its completion in stations, signals and rural environment. Such railways are rare and it deserves conservation and recognition of its values.
Satements of authenticity and/or integrity
The GLR is a surviving example of the engineering enterprise of the 19th century and retains its original features of 1909 when the line was completed. It is also noteworthy that this line is now a tourist attraction while it continues to serve as an important mode of transport for its neighbouring communities. Maintenance standards on the GLR are good, as the railway is used fairly intensively. The stations are being well maintained as in the original construction and are still in use. The locomotives and rolling stock are old and of heritage value. The signaling system is original of 1909. Though its original steam locomotives are not surviving, steam locomotives of its era and older are available in the Mountain Railways of India (already inscribed as World Heritage) for use on the GLR. There is a lot of old equipment on the GLR and it has much the same ambience as it did at the time of its opening.
The Ministry of Railways, Government of India and the North Central Railway administration places great emphasis on the preservation of this railway system including the line, rolling stock and associated buildings in their original shape. The natives look upon the railway as a welcome harbinger of development. Overall the GLR is authentic and well preserved. It has always been a working railway and as always, it plays an important economic and social role serving the people of the area through which it runs, it also has the necessary legal / management protection.
Comparison with other similar properties
Mountain Railways in India began with the DHR001 in 1881, NMR002 in 1899, KSR003 in 1903, MLR004 in 1907 and KVR005 in 1926. These railways are all living examples of the engineering enterprise of the 19th century. At the same time; Maharaja Railways of India came into existence with the Jodhpur Railways in 1881 followed by many Maharaja Railways such as the Gaekwad Baroda State Railway, the Nizam's Guaranteed State Railways, the Mysore Railway and the Gwalior Light Railway (GLR). These railways were constructed with significant engineering at a very early stage of railway development and came into existence with great initiatives in engineering / enterprise; to provide access and socio-economic development in their regions. These are all outstanding examples of the earliest narrow gauge passenger railways that are fully operational with most of their original features intact; as tourist attractions as well as a regular mode of transport for the local population.
Internationally, narrow gauge railways came into existence for transport of goods / passengers through state and only by nations of the western world; in their own country or in their colonies. Railways were inconceivable in the 19th century to get developed by the natives in a colonized country through their own resources / enterprise; except in India where the Maharaja Railways came into existence as a bold initiative. In this manner; the Maharaja Railways of India represented by the GLR is an example of outstanding universal significance.
GLR is unique and an immensely long heritage railway (199.80 Kms). It is perhaps the longest 2' (0.610 m) gauge railway in the world. The Narrow Gauge Heritage Railways of the world date back to 1850. These are of short lengths (average length is less than 10 kilometres as compared to about 200 kilometres in GLR). Most of the narrow gauge railways, were earlier used to transport freight and passengers but were later abandoned and restarted as heritage railways that have become tourist attractions. However, the GLR was built for the welfare of its people and has been in continuous service as such from its inception, now for over 100 years. Also, the closure and subsequent re-emergence of the old railways in Europe as heritage / tourist railways has resulted in loss of authenticity (railways have been converted to modern railways) whereas the GLR has remained almost original while continuing to remain in service with minimal change. Added to this, the GLR is not only a major tourist attraction, but is also one of the main means of public transportation.