India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, an Empire that needed a rail network to facilitate its exploitation and reflect its ambition.
But, by building India's railways, Britain radically changed the nation and unwittingly planted the seed of independence.
As Indians were made to travel in poor conditions and were barred from the better paid railway jobs a stirring of resentment and nationalist sentiment grew. The Indian Railways network remains one of the largest in the world, serving over 25 million passengers each day.
In this expertly told history, Christian Wolmar reveals the full story, from the railway's beginnings to the present day, and examines the chequered role this institution has played in Indian history and the creation of today's modern state.