On Jamalpur – Anglo-Indian Railway Officers

Jamalpur is best known as a very large workshop on the East Indian Railway, employing at one time, over 12,000 persons and over 1000 Anglo-Indians. Jamalpur was overnight from Calcutta and was famous for its Anglo-Indian social life. The Railway Institute was huge – it had its own movie theatre, a six-lane swimming pool, four tennis courts, two billiard rooms and a bowling lawn. Its dances were renowned and railway folk came from all over EIR to attend.

Jamalpur was also the premier training center of the EIR and the Indian Railways. There were basically four ways of joining the Railways. First, there were Trade Apprentices, who, after three years of training in a specific skill – machinist, welder, moulder, fitter, boilermaker and so, on became skilled factory workers.  Second, as an entry level on the running side was a cleaner, who after training, became a fireman and then a Shunter, Passenger train Driver and finally a Mail Driver. Some of this category became Officers – Assistant Mechanical Engineers (AME’s) or even a Divisional Mechanical Engineer (DME). Third were the Apprentice Mechanics. These were High School or Senior Cambridge passed lads, who were selected through a Government services commission. They spent four years in training, both theoretical and practical, at the end of which they became chargemen, then foremen and then general foremen. Towards the end of their careers many became Officers – Assistant Works Managers or even Works Managers. Most Anglo-Indians in Jamalpur joined as Apprentice Mechanics.
There was however, a fourth category of apprentices. These were called Special Class Apprentices an All India Railway Service cadre, recruited by a Public Services Commission. The British established this category of Apprentice in 1927, probably for `brown sabibs’ – young Indian gentleman who were very English in upbringing, language and thinking, usually from well known families. They trained for four years at Jamalpur, completed an Engineering degree from London (yes they were sent to London) and on completion were posted as Assistant Mechanical Engineers or Assistant Works Managers. This was a training position, as in two years, they were promoted to Works Manager or Divisional Mechanical Engineer. These gentlemen retired as Chief Mechanical Engineers or General Managers, the highest position on the Railways.

From over 10,000 applicants, through  a series of competitive examinations, only about ten special class apprentices were selected annually. Once selected the apprentices lived a life of class privilege. A beautiful hostel called Jamalpur Gymkhana housed the apprentices. Each apprentice had an individual room with a bearer  allotted to three rooms. The bearer cleaned the room, made the bed, polished the shoes and served the apprentices at meals. There was an exclusive kitchen where meals were prepared according to the apprentices’ instructions. The hostel had its own swimming pool, three tennis courts, a squash court and even its own playing field. It was laid out it on over two acres of land, and `malis’ (gardeners) kept the lawns immaculately green and the beds full of every type of exotic flowers. There were several entertainment rooms for billiards, table tennis and cards. Each apprentice received a stipend, enough to pay for his meals and club dues; all other expenditures were picked up by the Railways. Talk about royalty!.

In the course of the history of Jamalpur Gymkhana, 43 years  from 1927 through to the year 1969 (my records end there), from over 400 apprentices, there were 15 Anglo-Indian Special Class Apprentices. This is a very significant achievement and one that has somehow not been acknowledged in the pages of Anglo-Indian history.  I would like to publish their names, in the hopes that some of their descendants in the UK or Canada or Australia may recognize them and know what their fathers achieved. Most of them migrated and I knew only two – R.D.Kitson who retired as Chairman Railway Board in the 80’s (the equivalent of the Commanding General of the Indian Army) and Norbert DeSouza who retired as Chief Mechancal Engineer on the Central Railway in the 90’s. Both continue to live in India.  I migrated to the USA in 1976 when I was Joint Director of the Railway Board in Calcutta. Here is the role call of these distinguished gentlemen.

1927 – H.V.M.Stewart, C.J.Butler; 1928 – D.B.King; 1930 -H.O.Toomey, J.O.Burns; 1931- W.C.Britter, E.L.T.Jones; 1932 – J.B.Rosair; 1943 – M.A.Plunkett; 1944 – H.G.T. Woodward; 1945 – E.J.Kingham; 1949 – T.M. Fritchley; 1951 – R.D.Kitson; 1956 – B.R.Williams; 1958 – N.DeSouza




  Lorna James wrote @

Can you tell me anything about George Cattermole who worked at kanchrapara around 1930?

  Seri wrote @


I’m looking for some goan ancestors in Jamalpur. One of them owned a tailor shop. How do I go about finding details?


  Ken Richardson wrote @

My dad, Cyril Richardson, was with EIR for many years. Retired & moved to UK in 1949. I was born in Jamalpur (Bihar) in March 1935; 2 months after the earthquake, which also demolished our home. I now reside in Canada, and would love to hear from ol’ anglos…we were stationed in Lucknow, Patna, Gaya, Calcutta.

  Patrick Lee wrote @

My grandfather, Henry Lee, joined the EIR as an Apprentice from the UK arriving Calcutta 14 Feb 1857. He served in the Traffic and Telegraph Offices moving West as the line was built to Delhi. Retired to Mussoorie and died there Nov 1915 aged 76, Can anyone tell me where in the UK he was born?

  Edwina E DuCasse wrote @

I was born in Jamalpur at the time of the British Raj.
My Father worked for the Railways.And some of my siblings in the near -by Monguar Tobacco factory.
I attended the RC shcool run by American nuns for a short time in my young life.
My father retired and we moved to Calcutta.When I was still fairly young.
I remember my childhood years in Jamalpur,the picnics at the mountains,the movies at the institute,my ayah ,my parents dancing. etc.
I now live in Australia.Anyone who knew me from then can contact me.I still love indian food.

  Val Anderson wrote @

I don’t know if this is the right Henry Lee but in the East India Railway company returns of ‘Europeans and East Indians in company service’ he was first employed on 1st March 1857. In 1871 be was an Inspector (Electric Telegraph dept, Toondla) and in June 1880 was an outdoor Inspector at Dinapore drawing Rs 270 a month. Thacker’s directory for 1895 shows him as an Inspector (Traffic), still with EIRly but at Howrah. As to where in the UK he was born – he was classified by the Company as ‘East-Indian’ rather than ‘European’ so was believed to have been born in India. A possible contender (although a little older than you say) was born 22/4/1834 at Ghazeepore to Henry (HM 3rd) & Mary N/1/38 f.143. He may have come from the UK after going there for education or specialist training.. There were at least four exact contempories with the same name; one at Addiscombe (Officer training) in 1856/7 and three soldiers in the Mutiny medal roll.

  Janis Barker wrote @

I am looking for any information on my grandfather Charles Edward Barker who worked with the GIP in early 1900.

  Rakesh Roshan wrote @

I do proud on myself that I born in munger and studied in K V JAMALPUR.My father too retired from k v jmp and now I am giving lession to the students of THE DOON ACADEMY,SHEIKHPURA

  Denis E. Chesney wrote @

Hi Mr. Seri. There was a Tailor shop run by Mr. Fernandez, affectionately known as ‘Ferdie’ by his clientle. His son Casmir Fernandez took over the shop in 1946 or 1947. He was well known to me. But he closed the shop and moved either to Calcutta or Goa some time after 1950. The shop was situated at Albert Road which is adjacent to the East Colony ( Railway)

  Denis E. Chesney wrote @

There were 2 major exodus of Europeans & Anglo Indians from Jamalpur .The 1st. in 1946 and the 2nd in 1960. Now there are about 3 or 4 Anglo Indian families still living in Jamalpur.

  Denis E. Chesney wrote @

I recently made contact with a few boy hood friends from Jamalpur who are living in the UK. Namely Derrick Alexzander, Christopher Gaynor, Tom & Keith Michael . It was good to know that they all love Jamalpur and visit atleast once in 2 or 3yrs. I am one of the few Anglos still living in Jamalpur since its golden era of ’46.

  Nigel Foote wrote @

Fantastic, well done. All the best, Nigel

  ravi wrote @

hi,i am ravi .my native place is chandanpura (jamalpur) i like iit.

  ravi wrote @

hi i am ravi my native place is chandanpura (jamalpur) i like it.

  mialss wrote @

he was born in the gutter uk

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