Qudsia Begum started negotiating a railway through Bhopal and provided funds from her personal account as distinct from state funds for the construction of part of the railway. Sikandar Begum took the idea forward, and conceived the building of a railway line that linked Bhopal to with the national grid. Sikandar and Qudsia recognized the importance of a railway connection and spent private sums of money to help build the railway. This was a far-sighted move, strongly supported by the Resident, Sir Henry Daly that brought prosperity and importance to Bhopal as a railway junction that was virtually a cross-road between north and south, east and west. Sikander’s dream of opening a railway line in Bhopal was realized several years after her death and even Qudsia, the lean old dowager died two years before the first locomotive steamed into Bhopal on 18th November 1882, during the reign of Shahjehan.
The railway gave a special importance to Bhopal as an economic cross-road for India. The town was expanded and the railway station itself became a hub of activity with its engineers, maintenance crew, and station masters and lines men, many of them Indian Christians, forming a colony of expatriates and adding color and variety to Bhopal’s ethnic and cultural kaleidoscope. Successive Nawabs of Bhopal enjoyed the privileges of the railways. At the time of independence of India and subsequent merger of Bhopal states with India, Hamiduallah Khan was provided with an additional compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs per annum from Indian government for the railways. Today, though Bhopal has got another railways station by the name of Habibganj (check here) catering to the requirements of new Bhopal, Bhopal Station remains an important milestone of India.
(Photograph: Waiting for the first train - Bhopal railway station 18th November 1882)