July 27, 2013

160 years of Indian Railways

I went to a photo exhibition marking 160 glorious years of Indian Railways, and was overwhelmed by what I saw there. I realised that the railways are such an intrinsic part of the history of India.  There were beautiful black and white photos of the milestones in the life of Indian Railways. What an achievement it was, creating this amazing network of trains! How much work had gone into building this incredible institution that is one of the largest employers in the world!

I did not take my camera, but felt compelled to take pictures with my Blackberry to show Vijay, who is a big time train-lover. Here are a few images. Even now, each time I look at them, inside me, kuch kuch hota hai.

A steam engine bearing the national emblem, underlining the importance of the national transporter.
An 1860 photo showing a bullock-drawn train
Elephants being used to push wagons
A photo of a fireman inside a steam engine brought back memories of the smells, sounds and taste (yes!) of a train journey, and the soot in one's eyes and hands at the end of it. Also on display were old train guides and time tables from the 1940s, costing 2 annas and 4 annas!

 A 1947 railway time table 

One photo showed the construction of a bridge on a hilly terrain. There was a huge net below the construction area, which showed the immense dangers involved in the task. Another showed separate tea stalls for Hindus and Muslims. A note said there were also separate water points -- 'Hindu pani' and 'Muslim pani', although, apparently there were rumours that the same person served the same water to both, only changing his robe to suit the religion he was serving!

Mohamedan tea stall
Hindu tea stall
Ads of Murphy radio on the majestic edifice of the Madras railway station, and that of Capstan cigarettes on Churchgate station, the lack of crowds outside the railway stations, with rickshaws waiting for passengers brought back memories of a time long gone by.  

Rickshaws waiting for passengers at Patna railway station
Godrej ads on trains
I need to make a special mention of a sepia print of a train carrying refugees from Pakistan after the partition. There were people spilling out of the train, and a whole lot sitting on top of the train.
A monumental event in the history of India. Refugee special train from Ambala, 
overflowing with people who risked their lives, sitting on top of the train
This train brought construction material right to the site of construction of the Parliament House! One of the steam engines is the Fairy Queen, the oldest running engine.
Construction of the Parliament
I have to post this one...rain or shine, they'll take you, if not to your destination, somewhere!
No adversity has ever stopped the Indian Railways from being an all-weather transport system. 
There were precious photos of Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore, and other important people's train journeys

During one of his journeys across India
There was a series on railway stations from all over India, the ornate and classy ones for the important places, and the simpler ones in other places, but most of them reflecting the architecture of the place. Here is a view of the Srinagar railway station.
Srinagar railway station
These are just a dozen among the many gems that we saw at the exhibition, held in Salar Jung museum. It was thanks to a good friend that I went to see this well-curated show. I am so glad I did.

The thought I came away with was that if after every train journey, if we invariably came away with interesting memories, how many memorable moments must there have been in 160 years of Indian Railways!

My sincere thanks to the Railways for putting this incredible show together. Now, why don't they make a commemorative volume to mark the 160?

Please also see Deccan Chronicle's selection of photos here: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130705/news-current-affairs/gallery/indian-railways-160-years-non-stop

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great story and great pictures!India has the greatest net work of trains.Incredible.I wish I had seen the exibition.I have always loved our trains.Even now,when a train is passing by,I follow it from the engine to the last compartment.Jaya

Kamakshi Balasubramanian said...

great pics to tell the story of our railways. i hope they do a postal services exhibition as well.

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Thanks, Mummy. I hope you (and Vijay) get to see the exhibition. And yes, we should go on a train journey some time...

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Thank you, Kamakshi. Yes, the history of postal services is also fascinating.

M V J Simon said...

Wonderful narration and great pictures! Kudos!

M V J Simon said...

Good narration and great pictures. Well done! Enjoyed reading !

Sadhana Ramchander said...

Thank you, Simon.