Indian railway network is the fourth largest in the world after U.S.A, the China and Russia.
Railways are ideal for carrying goods and people over long distances.
It employs the largest number of persons among the Central Government departments.
The first train steamed off in the country in 1853 from Mumbai to Thane, covering a distance of 34 km.
During these years, Indian railways have grown into a vast network.
The new railway lines have been added only marginally.
However, there has been considerable increase in running track.
In 1950-51 it was about 59,000 km.
By 2003-04 it rose to nearly 84,000 km.
It means considerable portions; particularly the busy ones have been converted from single to double and in some cases even triple tracks.
This has enabled railways to run more trains, both goods and passengers.
The railways have undertaken to convert metre gauge railway tracks into broad-gauge (1.68 metres) enhancing the capacity of railways to carry more goods and more passengers with an increased speed.
Earlier there were passenger and express or mail trains, the only two categories.
Now there are super-fast Expresses, Rajdhani Expresses, and Shatabdi (the fastest) Expresses running between busy terminals.
Now metro rail is a new concept which provides faster transport facility in metro cities.
Delhi is the first ones, where its running successfully.
The Role of Railways–
 Coal is the most dominating commodity transported by the railways. Railways promoted industrial growth of the coal starved areas.
 Railways help to increase industrial production by carrying raw materials to industrial centres.
 Railways also help in distribution of semi-finished and finished products like pig-iron and steel which in turn promote secondary industries.
(4) Railways also help in promoting exports of commodities like iron-ore, cement and food grains to earn foreign exchange.
 Railways carry mineral oil, an industrial input, from port cities and refineries to the interior parts of the country.