There could not be more of a difference between the South Eastern Railway (first entry) and the North Eastern Railway (click here to see details of lines). Despite both being essentially plains to hills routes, not greatly distant from each other, the SER is well described as “The Blue Chip Railway”, serving as it does important mining regions and rising industrial cities such as Rourkela and Visakhapatnam, with its main line heading resolutely to the historic central Indian town of Nagpur. The NER, in contrast, is a backwater, serving a relatively undeveloped rural area dotted with minor towns on its way to nowhere in particular. The two zones have different histories too. The South Eastern Railway was a post-independence recreation of the Bengal Nagpur Railway, an stereotypical Indian railway, substantially carried out in broad gauge with a sprinkling of narrow gauge feeders, with the PPP arrangement (state owned, company worked) favoured by the Raj from the 1880s up to the Interwar period. The NER, on the other hand, was not historically a separate entity, being formed of a hotchpotch of government and company owned lines, and remained entirely Metre gauge into the ‘80s.
In the attached list, the NER is sub-divided into the three systems existing before independence – Bengal and North Western Railway, Tirhut Railway and Rohilkund and Kumaon Railway – with the other miscellaneous accretions fitting in as best as possible. The Rohilkund and Kumaon Railway proper was nothing more than a few branches, its main line being the government owned Lucknow and Bareilly Railway, which was merely worked by the R&K. To treat the two separately would make no sense. Since the Tirhut was in a similar relationship vis-à-vis the BNW, the same should apply. However the Tirhut formed a quite distinct set of lines, despite being an integral part of the BNW. The Cawnpore-Barabanki Railway was essentially the common stem of the R&K and BNW networks. This rather divided arrangement is a result of the historical development of the zone – from bridgeheads on the Ganges up to the foothills of the Himalayas.