125 years of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

A strong reminder of the colonial roots and strength of Indian Railways, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly Victoria Terminus, completes 125 years this month.
A rare combo of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and Mughal beauty, the world heritage building came up in 1888. The busiest railway station in the country is a terminus for long-distance as well as Mumbai suburban trains.

It is the only operational world heritage station building.

It is the place where the first page of Indian Railways history was written 160 years ago on April 16, 1853, when the first train was started between Bori Bunder and Tannah (CSTM and Thane) in Mumbai. The initial four services a day ferried about 1,000 passengers.

Today, 1,618 services from the station cater to about 65 lakh commuters every day.

When the British introduced the service for personal convenience they would not have imagined it would one day spread to such proportions covering the length and breadth of the country, 65,000 km in all, and bring about a geographical and socio-economic sea change.

Of the 65,000 km rail network, 54,600 km is broad gauge.

Central Railway then general manager and at present member engineering, railway board, Delhi, Subodh Jain, who has completed 37 years in service, narrates the story of Indian Railways which graduated from narrow/metre gauge (serving “narrow-minded people”) to broad gauge (serving the “broad-minded”).

He explains Cotton Green (a station for suburban trains in Mumbai), dak bungalows and mails.

Before railways, all vehicles were animal-driven. Once James Watt harnessed the power of steam, horse power was replaced.

Subsequently, George Stephenson invented the first steam engine locomotive in 1816 — Rocket.

The first passenger train ran in India on April 13, 1853, and the next day a Parsi booked all its seats for a “joyride”.

Prior to this, trains would bring cotton to Bombay Port to be shipped to Manchester, England.

This is how Cotton Green came into being. It was an exchange where cotton would be brought from different parts of the country for trade.

To start with, horse riders, called dakiye (postmen), would bring mail for viceroys in Peshawar, Delhi, Kanpur and other places.

The places where dakiyes and tired horses would rest and mail change hands came to be known as dak bungalows.

Trains followed the same system and came to be known as mails and loco sheds replaced dak bungalows.

At loco sheds, steam engines low on fuel would be detached and fresh ones loaded with coal would be attached. This was also the time train drivers would go to running rooms for rest.

Initially, all trains carried the suffix mail as their objective was to carry mail, not passengers. So it was Punjab Mail, Frontier Mail.

When the talk of carrying passengers began, Lord Dalhousie suggested Hindustan should have broad gauge, not metre or narrow gauge.

After Dalhousie returned to Britain, Indian kings sought narrow or metre gauge.

In 1873, permission was granted to maharajas and Indian rail companies to lay metre gauge lines for passenger transport and a network of chhoti lines was established.

In 1892, it was realised metre gauge caused loss, the service was poor and speed less. This prompted a uni-gauge — one gauge all over India — policy.

Soon, conversion of metre gauge to broad gauge began. Areas that already had broad gauge lines saw rapid industrial development with an influx of labour. Labourers migrating from metre gauge areas — Kutch in Gujarat, north Bihar — to broad gauge areas initially faced ridicule. Dekho, ye chhoti line ka admi hai!

Thus, populations were gauged — residents of developed areas (broad gauge), those of backward areas (metre gauge) and of no-development areas (no rail network).

Bombay Baroda Central Indian Railway was initially Central Indian Railways. But when the British sought to lay a rail line in Baroda, the king of Baroda told them the company name should also include the state name.

This is why Dadar is both BB (Bombay Baroda) and TT (Tram Terminus). The trams would run between Regal Cinema and Dadar.


Indian Railways: Ten facts you would want to know

The Indian Railways (IR) carries over 25 million passengers daily which is perhaps more than the entire population of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania put together.

The Indian Railways (IR) carries over 25 million passengers daily which is perhaps more than the entire population of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania put together.

Introduced in 1853, the first passengers train in India chugged from Victoria Terminus (now CST) to Thane on a 53-km route, 25 years before China laid its rail network.

The IR is also the largest employer in the country and the eighth-largest, globally. With an employee-strength of over 1.4 million, it is larger than number of people employed at the top three industrial groups-Tata, Reliance and Birla.

The CST caters to 33 million passengers annually and is the only terminus in the world to be listed as a monument of global heritage by UNESCO.

Mumbai’s local trains are amongst the world’s few to have 15 coaches. Shanghai’s local trains come close with 12 coaches.

The Himsagar Express that covers a distance of 3,573 kms from across the entire country, from Kanyakumari in the south to Jammu-Tavi in the north can be compared to the tenth longest network in the world extending from Emeryville to Chicago covering 3924 kms in the US.

Even after recent hike, fares on long distance journeys on the IR can be considered cheapest in the world. For instance, 1,500 kms journey on Delhi-Kolkata route by Kalka Mail costs around Rs 250. A similar journey would cost ten times more on any budget train in Europe which boasts of strong rail transport.

There is no railways station in the entire Asian sub-continent which has a longer name than Venkatanarasimharajuvariipeta station in Tamil Nadu.

Ever since its origin in 1853, the rail service in India never turned back making it one of the oldest track in the world.


Tour CST’s heritage portals from Dec 28

Heritage enthusiasts will be able to take a close look at the architectural design of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus) from December 28 when Central Railway (CR) will provide access to the Cshaped main building.

Visitors will also be treated to a collection of rare artifacts and photographs during their trip to the Unesco world heritage site.
CR general manager Subodh Jain told TOI, “Students will be charged Rs 100 and other visitors Rs 200. The access to the heritage building will be allowed between 3pm and 5pm on weekdays.”

Jain further said that the CR plans to appoint guides to explain the finer points of the building’s architecture and the historic significance of the artifacts to the visitors.

Visitors will be allowed to take pictures inside the building for no additional charge.


French firm to redesign Mumbai CST railway station

New Delhi (PTI): Indian Railways has chosen a French firm to redesign the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the targets of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes, as a world class station.

AREP, a subsidiary of the French Railway (SNCF), will conduct the architectural and feasibility study for redesign and redevelopment of the terminus as a world class station on Public-Private-Partnership mode, a senior Railway Ministry official said.

The French engineering and architectural agency will be paid about Rs 10 crore by the Railways for carrying out the study and to suggest a new design for the station, which is a World Heritage Site, by the end of 2009.

According to the proposed redevelopment plan, the station, popularly known as Victoria Terminus, will undergo a massive transformation with facilities like underground parking, better passenger amenities, food plazas and separate terminal for arrival and departure among others.

The Railways has identified 26 stations across the country, which will developed as per international standard.

Besides the Mumbai CST station, New Delhi, Howrah, Agra, Chennai Central, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mathura, Patna, Secunderabad and Thiruvananthapuram railway stations will also be developed as world class stations.

Railway stations are on the threshold of undergoing a massive transformation with world class facilities and passenger amenities.

“With most stations built decades ago and the number of passengers increasing rapidly it is important that these stations are upgraded,” said the official.

While the Hongkong-based Terry Farrel has submitted a design for the New Delhi station, railways is considering to seek Chinese help for the redevelopment of Bhubaneswar and Bangalore stations.

The Railways is conducting a traffic study of the area to finalise the redevelopment plan of the New Delhi station.