The ‘Gaekwar’s Baroda State Railway (GBSR)’ was the First Narrow-Gauge Railway Line in India. Owned by the Princely State of Baroda, it was the First Railway built & operated by a Native Prince. The First rail tracks were laid during the Reign of Sir Khanderao Gaekwar, the Maharaja of Baroda, & the 20 mile Railway line from Dabhoi to Miyagam was opened in 1862. Initially oxen(s) were used to haul the Train as rails were not suited for the regular use of a steam Locomotive.
In 1873 the Dabhoi-Miyagam line was re-laid with stronger rails to allow locomotives to be used. Over the years Dabhoi became the focal point of a rail network that extended to Chandod, Jambusar, ChhotaUdepur, Timba etc. Dabhoi was one of the Biggest Narrow Gauge Junctions of the World & had a Huge Narrow Gauge steam Shed. GBSR also built other narrow gauge lines starting from Petlad.
A Second Narrow Gauge division in Navsari was set up by GBSR with two isolated lines, from Kosamba to Umarpada & Billimora to Waghai. These narrow gauge lies were initially operated by BB&CI but from 1921, GBSR took over the Working.
The ‘Bodeli Chhotaudepur Railway’ was the joint property of the Baroda & ChhotaUdepur Durbars. The 36.48 km line cost over a million rupees to build, the expenses being shared in equal proportion by both Durbars. The line was opened to traffic on February 1, 1917 & was initially maintained by the BB&CI until the GBSR took over its operation.
The Town of Dabhoi, located 30km(s) from Capital at Baroda, was one of the most important towns in Baroda prant. Established in 6th Century A.D. & fortified in early 13th Century when it was part of Chalukayan empire, the town of Dabhoi is most famed for the architectural grandeur of its Gates. The most beautiful of these gates is Hira Bhagol (Gate of Diamonds), the eastern gate into the fortified town. Other Gates include Baroda Gate (Vadodari Bhagol) on West, Champaner Gate on North & Nandod Gate on South directions respectively.
Dabhoi under the Gaekwars, was a flourishing trading center known for its weaving, especially of turbans, metal work such as brass & silver anklets & wood carving. Trade was carried out mainly in cotton, grain & mahua seeds which were used locally to extract edible oil. By the 1880’s two-thirds of land revenue from rich agricultural hinterland of Dabhoi was made up by cotton alone.
It was the Maharaja Khanderao Gaekwad’s (1856 – 1870) pioneering effort in taking up the laying of a Narrow Gauge line (2 feet 6 inches), the first effort of its kind made by any Native State, not just in India but in the entire British Dominion, that brought Baroda State & the town of Dabhoi, onto the Railway map of the World.
This initiative marked the beginning of the Narrow Gauge system in India. The proposal initiated in 1860 was originally made to connect Dabhoi with Etola & later on Vadodara City. A survey of the same was also initiated. Ultimately however, it was Dabhoi – Miyagam line, a section of 32.30km(s) that was first constructed.