First time in July 1942, as an experimental measure, a Service Commission with a Chairman and two members was established for recruitment of Subordinate Staff on the then North West Railway. The position was reviewed in 1945 and Services Commissions at Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Lucknow were set up under Railway Board. These Commissions were introduced with two fold functions of recruiting class III staff and also tender advice to General Managers for dealing with appeals from subordinate staff on disciplinary matters.
In 1948, the Indian Railway Enquiry Committee reviewed working of commissions. While recommending their permanency, suggested that the work related to appeals should be withdrawn so that commission can give undivided attention to recruitments. Chairman Bombay/Service Commission was given the supervisory role to Supervise Commissions at Calcutta, Lucknow and Madras.
In 1949, due to financial constraints a ban was imposed on recruitments on Indian Railways thus numbers of commissions was reduced to one centrally located at Bombay.
In 1953-54 when Economic conditions of Indian Railway improved, four Service Commission were again set up at Bombay, Madras, Allahabad and Calcutta. In 1956, the Estimates committee generally approved the method of recruitment by the constitution of the Railway Service Commissions.
In 1973 to cater the needs of the Northern Eastern Railway and to facilitate recruitment from the under developed areas of that region an additional commission was set up at Muzaffarpur. In the same year a branch office of Calcutta Service Commission was opened at Ranchi. In 1978 one more additional Service Commission was set up at Secunderabad to cater for the needs of newly formed South Central Railway. Recruitment of staff for the needs of NF Railway was still being done through recruitment committee control by NF Railway. Thus, in 1978 this job was entrusted to a full-fledge Service Commission with Head Quarters at Guwahati. Yet another Service Commission was opened in 1980 at Bangalore to cater for the needs of candidates from remote backward areas of Karnataka. In 1981 full-fledge Service Commission was opened at Danapur.
Seven more Service Commissions were set up in 1983 at Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Jammu and Srinagar (with sitting at Leh now at Jammu) and Thiruvananthapuram. In 1984 two more Service Commission were set up at Malda and Gorakhpur and a full-fledged commission at Ranchi was set up to cater for exclusive needs of Scheduled tribes of the area.
In January 1985 Railway Service Commissions have been renamed as Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs).
Setting up of Railway Recruitment of Control Board (RRCB)
In the year 1998, all RRBs came under the control of the Railway Recruitment Control Board (RRCB), which was set up in the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) to coordinate and streamline the working of RRBs.
Two more Railway Recruitment Boards viz. at Bilaspur and at Siliguri were set up in September 2008 and October 2009. Thus, at present 21 Railway Recruitment Boards are functioning.