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#16 M. Visvesvaraya & Railway Development: A Visionary Leader’s Contribution (Indian Railways Series)


Photo: Wikipedia 

An Engineer Who Laid the Tracks for Rail Progress

Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was one of India’s most renowned engineers and statesmen. As chief engineer of the princely state of Mysore, he pioneered many railway projects that transformed Karnataka. Visvesvaraya’s vision and skills helped develop railway infrastructure that accelerated growth in the region.

Engineering Expertise

After studying civil engineering in England, Visvesvaraya joined the Indian Public Works Department in 1883. He gained expertise in irrigation, sanitation, and infrastructure design.

It’s so inspiring to know that Visvesvaraya patented and installed an automated floodgate system at the Khadakvasla Reservoir near Pune in 1903. This secured the dam from floods for over a century.

Appointed Diwan of Mysore in 1912, Visvesvaraya dedicated himself to advancing the state. His engineering knowledge drove progress in many fields.

Railway Expansion

One of Visvesvaraya’s main aims was to expand the rail network in Mysore State. He believed railway connectivity was key to spurring commerce and industry.

Shockingly, Mysore had only 128 km of rail lines by 1901, just 2% of British India’s railway tracks! Visvesvaraya envisioned correcting this.

Over the next decade, numerous new rail routes were added under his leadership. Mysore station became a key junction connecting Bangalore, Mysuru, and the western coast. 

Not only that, Visvesvaraya commissioned the large Krishnarajapuram locomotive workshop in Mysore in 1923 to service locomotives. This further boosted rail infrastructure.

Visionary Projects

Some of Visvesvaraya’s most impactful rail projects set new benchmarks in engineering. 

The 1928 Sir M. Visvesvaraya Iron Bridge over the Vedavati River was considered an architectural marvel. Its record 77-meter span made it India’s largest bowstring arch girder bridge at the time.

He also conceived the scenic Mysore Hill Railway in 1908, an engineering feat involving steep gradients, curves, and viaducts. Opened in 1908, it connected Mysore city to the hill station of Chamundi Hills


Thanks largely to Visvesvaraya’s efforts, Mysore’s rail network expanded from 128 km to over 500 km by 1941. Rail mileage per 100 sq km increased from 0.64 to 1.81, surpassing the national average.

Beyond quantifiable progress, Visvesvaraya’s rail projects displayed his vision and innovation. He ensured high technical standards that became a model for the Indian Railways. 

Truly, Visvesvaraya was an engineer and statesman who drove railway development in South India. His contributions laid the foundations for the efficient rail infrastructure and connectivity Karnataka enjoys today. He remains one of the most respected builders of modern India.


  • Radhakrishnan, S. (2018). Sir M. Visvesvaraya. New Delhi: Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.
  • Visvesvaraya, M. (1934). Memoirs of My Working Life. Bangalore: Government Press.
  • Iyer, S. K. (2005). Bharat Ratna Sir M. Visvesvaraya: A many splendoured genius. Udhagamandalam: Nilgiri Press.
  • Sudhakar, B. V. (2009). Sir M.V.: Eminent Indian Civil & Hydraulic Engineer and Statesman. Bangalore: Sudhakar Publications.
  • Rao, C. R. (1951). Sir M. V. – The Grand Old Man of India. Bangalore: Government Press.
  • Sitaramam, V. (1980). Ahead of His Times – M. Visvesvaraya. University of Mysore Press.
  • Venkatarami, M. N. (1975). A historical sketch of the railways in the Princely Mysore State. Indian Railways Institute of Civil Engineering, Pune.

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