Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, the founder of the Jorasanko branch of the Tagore family, was a man of vision with innovative ideas, who made the first generation of the Bengali entrepreneurs and socio-political activists.
Dwarkanath made his early fortune from his lucrative service under the British East India Company as a Serestadar and later served for twelve years as a Diwan. Apart from his service, he joined credit market as a moneylender to salt manufacturers and others. In addition to money lending, he also had laid out capital in export trade with a famous farm, Mackintosh & Company and had shares in Union Bank, established in 1829.He played a leading role in setting up a string of commercial ventures in partnership with the British traders, which included banking, insurance and shipping companies. Finally, he resigned from his service in June 1834 to launch into his spectacular career as a full-time entrepreneur.
Dwarkanath owned quite a number of collieries in Raniganj and Rajmahal area. With the vision to transport coal from his Raniganj colliery to Calcutta safely and swiftly, he formed the Great Western Bengal Railway Company in January 1843 and appointed Carr, Tagore and Company its agent. However, by that time, McDonald Stephenson, a British railway engineer had already floated shares of the East India Railway Company, incorporated in England. Dwarkanath visited England in March 1845 to negotiate the matter with the high officials of the company, but he faced bitter and fierce opposition from the Chairman and the Managing Director of East Indian Railway Company, who were dead against permitting a company, managed by the natives, to construct such an important railway line. Despite his best efforts to have a deal with them, Dwarkanath failed to succeed in his mission.
Dwarkanath died on the evening of 1 August 1846 at the St. George's Hotel in London during a tremendous thunderstorm and his brainchild the Great Western Bengal Railway Company merged with the East Indian Railway Company in January 1847 to form the East Indian Railway or EIR. Dwarkanth's dream of connecting Raniganj to Howrah by rail came true after 10 years of his death, when the first steam engine of the East Indian Railway Company moved into Raniganj in 1855.
Initially, the East Indian Railway started to function from a building situated at 29 Theatre Road and in 1879 it shifted to its present location at Fairlie Place in the Dalhousie area. It is interesting to note, Fairlie Place was named after a merchant called William Fairlie of Fairlie, Gilmone & Co and the main job of William Fairlie was to supply and feed the elephants and the camels of the British army during the time of Lord Wellesley. The building was remodeled and extended, after being taken over by the East Indian Railway in 1879.
The site, now occupied by the building was originally a part of the Old Fort William, which was destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daula.in 1756. A plate on the boundary wall announces it, as a dumb witness of the past. There is also a partially buried cannon in the Strand Road corner of Fairlie Place on the footpath, which is unfortunately hidden among the numerous makeshift food stalls.