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Saturday, October 1, 2022

first train in South India .. .. Baggage war !!!

Was surprised to read about ‘baggage train’ in reference to a war way back circa 737 !!

There were strange reactions from those who saw it -  the first rail chugged out on April 16, 1853 from Bombay Bori Bunder to Thane.  3 years later in 1856, [July 1, 1856]  the first train of South India ran from Royapuram to Wallajah linking Arcot, the titular capital of Nawab of Carnatic, near Ranipet.  Thus Royapuram is older then Central and Egmore.  History has it that the  Royapuram station, Ionic-pillared and looking for all the world like a Regency Mansion, was declared open by Governor Lord Harris on June 28, 1856. The first train, manufactured by Simpson and Company, started its journey with 300 people from Royapuram to Wallajabad.

In 1855, during the British Raj, several railway companies began laying track and operating in Sindh and Punjab. The country's railway system was originally a patchwork of local rail lines operated by small, private companies, including the Scinde Railway, Punjab Railway, Delhi Railway and Indus Flotilla. In 1870, the four companies combined to form the Scinde, Punjab & Delhi Railway.

The Post Track, a prehistoric causeway in the valley of the River Brue in the Somerset Levels, England, is considered as  one of the oldest known constructed trackways.  Centuries later in 1515, Cardinal Matthäus Lang wrote a description of the Reisszug, a funicular railway at the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Austria. The line originally used wooden rails and a hemp haulage rope and was operated by human or animal power, through a treadwheel.

James Watt, a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer, greatly improved the steam engine of Thomas Newcomen, hitherto used to pump water out of mines. Watt developed a reciprocating engine in 1769, capable of powering a wheel. Although the Watt engine powered cotton mills and a variety of machinery, it was a large stationary engine. As  the construction of boilers improved, Watt investigated the use of high-pressure steam acting directly upon a piston. This raised the possibility of a smaller engine, that might be used to power a vehicle and he patented a design for a steam locomotive in 1784. His employee William Murdoch produced a working model of a self-propelled steam carriage in that year.

Stockton & Darlington Railway, in England, first railway in the world to operate freight and passenger service with steam traction. In 1821 George Stephenson, who had built several steam engines to work in the Killingworth colliery, heard of Edward Pease’s intention of building an 8-mile (12.9-km) line from Stockton on the coast to Darlington to exploit a rich vein of coal. Pease intended to use horse traction. Stephenson told Pease that a steam engine could pull 50 times the load that horses could draw on iron rails. Impressed, Pease agreed to let Stephenson equip his line.

On September 27, 1825, the first engine ran from Darlington to Stockton, preceded by a man on horseback carrying a flag reading Periculumprivatumutilitaspublica (“The private danger is the public good”). When the horseman was out of the way, Stephenson opened the throttle and pulled his train of wagons carrying 450 persons at a speed of 15 miles (24 km) per hour.


On September 27, 1825, Locomotion No. 1 became the world's first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public line, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in North East England.Locomotion No. 1 was built by George Stephenson at his son Robert's company, the Robert Stephenson and Company.George Stephenson drove the first train. The engine was called Active (later renamed Locomotion). It pulled a train with 450 passengers at a speed of 15 miles an hour.

The Battle of the Baggage was fought between the forces of the Umayyad Caliphate and the Turkic Türgesh tribes in September/October 737. The Umayyads under the governor of Khurasan, Asad ibn Abdallah al-Qasri, had invaded the Principality of Khuttal in Transoxiana, and the local ruler called upon the Türgesh for aid. The Umayyad army retreated in haste before the Türgesh arrived, managing to cross the Oxus River just in time, while their rearguard engaged the pursuing Türgesh. The Türgesh crossed immediately after, and attacked the exposed Muslim baggage train, which had been sent ahead, and captured it. The main Umayyad army came to the rescue of the baggage train's escort, which suffered heavy casualties. The failure of the Umayyad campaign meant the complete collapse of the Arab control in the Upper Oxus valley, and opened Khurasan itself to the Türgesh.

In 737, Asad launched a campaign into the Principality of Khuttal, whose rulers had supported the Türgesh and Harith's rebellion. Asad was initially successful, but the Khuttalan regent, Ibn al-Sa'iji, called upon the Türgesh for aid. While the Muslim army was scattered pillaging, the TürgeshkhaganSuluk brought his army, allegedly 50,000 strong, from his capital Tokmok into Khuttal within 17 days.  The crossing of the river was a confused affair, as Asad ordered each of his soldiers to carry across one of the sheep the army had brought with it as provisions. In the end, the sheep had to be abandoned as the pursuing Türgesh attacked the Arab rearguard, composed of the Azdi and Tamimi tribal contingents, on the north bank. As the rear guard was thrown back, Asad's army hurried to cross the river in panic.

The reference to train - baggage train is not exactly a locomotive nor a train but a wagon, rather a group of wagons traveling together. Before the extensive use of military vehicles, baggage trains followed an army with supplies and ammunition.In the American West, settlers traveling across the plains and mountain passes in covered wagons banded together for mutual assistance. Wagon trains followed several trails in the American West, with virtually all originating at Independence, Missouri.

Although "wagon train" suggests a line of wagons, when terrain permitted, wagons would often fan out and travel abreast to minimize the amount of dust blown onto other wagons. Travel by wagon train occurred primarily between the 1840s–1880s, diminishing after completion of the first transcontinental railroad. The advent of gunpowder warfare meant that an army could no longer rely solely on foraging in the surrounding countryside, and required a regular supply of munitions. In the 18th century, organized commissary and quartermaster departments were developed to centralize delivery of supplies. The delivery took the form of "baggage trains", large groups of wagons that travelled at the rear of the main army.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th Sept. 2022 

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