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Blog Entry# 1924465  
Posted: Jul 10 2016 (08:42)

2 Responses
Last Response: Jul 10 2016 (10:42)
Rail News
Commentary/Human Interest
Jul 10 2016 (08:39)   CST’s hidden heritage

rdb*^   131777 news posts
Entry# 1924465   News Entry# 273305         Tags   Past Edits
The iconic railway station building had its first Heritage Week — a peek into its history and the trappings, fittings and architecture that make it special, and timeless
Twelve years after the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus became the first railway station in India to be acknowledged as a World Heritage Site, the Central Railway marked the occasion with a CST Heritage Week that concluded on Friday. According to the Central Railway, interest in CST doubled during the Heritage Week, and the railway now wants to make it an annual affair.
“There is so much
in the archives. There is a plan to promote and generate interest in this building and open it up for researchers and enthusiasts,” says chief spokesperson Narendra Patil.
Buoyed by the response, A.K. Srivastava, additional general manager with Central Railway, adds they are thinking of forming a Friends of Mumbai CST Society and holding an annual F.W. Stevens Lecture. “We also plan to get a few books done to reveal the history and heritage of this building, the railway and its social involvement,” Mr. Srivastava adds.
Vinoo Mathur, a former secretary of the Railway Board who had represented India at the 2004 UNESCO Heritage Meet in China where CST was nominated as a World Heritage Site, remembers how tough it was to get international recognition for the iconic building.
“It is not easy to get the World Heritage Site tag for any monument. There is hectic lobbying at the national and the international level, stiff competition and pressure. It was the detailed documentation and dossier prepared on the station building that helped us win the nomination,” he recalls.
The detailed dossier that Mr. Mathur refers to was painstakingly put together by Tasneem Mehta from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and conservation architect Vikas Dilwari. Ms. Mehta says, “Time as short and there wasnt enough data available. We caught hold of an old railway employee who guided us to the drawings of the building by its architect, F.W. Stevens. They helped us a lot and we just about managed to get it ready in time.”
Mumbaikars like us see only a railway terminus when we glance at the building as we rush to catch a train, but there is much more here than immediately meets the eye. Here are a few interesting details I stumbled upon while researching my book, Halt Station India.
Public Gallows
The archives say Mumbai CST’s location was originally called Phansi Talao, a grim place with a tank where criminals were hanged. Nineteenth century writer Govind Narayan Madgaokar has documented Phansi Talao vividly.
“The site where criminals were given punishment was chosen because it was just outside the Bazar Gate where there are always people moving around. It had been a practice since ancient times that criminals should be condemned in public so that the punishment created terror and deterred others from committing such an act.
“As per the decided punishment, the criminal was showered with cow dung or egg shells. While some were put in a cage and paraded, others were tied to a pole and flogged. Sometimes criminals were half-shaven, smeared with vermillion, garlanded with onion and paraded on donkeys with children following them with loud music. Near the pond was the spot where murderers were hanged and next to it was a wooden contraption that threw out cow dung on criminals. Beside it lay a cage which moved in a circular motion till the criminal inside it fell unconscious.”
Records state it was during the construction of the Victoria Terminus station building in May 1876 that the Public Works Department forwarded a letter from the consulting engineer for railways, requesting sanction for removal of the material for filling Phansi Talao. The last remains of that Portuguese-era public gallows were soon replaced with this magnificent terminus.
Her Majesty the Queen’s Fire Fighters
Relics of fire fighting equipment in the name of Her Majesty, the Queen of England can still be found in various parts of the building. The corridors on the ground, first and second floors are fitted with antique red fire buckets and equipment provided by Merryweather and Sons. The firm, which commenced business in 1692, came with the reputation of being fire engineers to the Queen. “12 small fire pumps have been installed on the roof of the building,” notes the Railway Agent’s half-yearly report ending December 1888. In fact, the first motorised fire engine in London was a Merryweather appliance, delivered to the Finchley Fire Brigade in 1904.
Cash tunnel basement
The station headquarters has a secret tunnel basement treasury room, heavily protected by armed guards literally staying at its entrance. It was once used to store treasury chests and important documents of the railways. To enter, one has to pass through a small tunnel underground comprising 23 spiral stone steps to reach a set of heavy iron doors that can only be accessed by a set of male-and-female keys on a copper ring.
The keyhole on these doors is designed in such a way that it cannot be easily located. The strong room has a small pulley-driven lift that carries the treasury boxes to the basement. The lift, powered by electricity since 1967, too needs a set of keys for operation. The heavily guarded basement is surprisingly well-ventilated naturally with four iron windows at the top (at foot level on the ground floor).
The original Boree Bunder station
The entire site was once “a place for landing of country boats”, a far cry from the clamour, clutter and seething masses that is CST today. In fact, the 19-acre site of the first station at Boree Bunder (bunder is a jetty) was a peaceful place with harbour frontage and was in use for the landing of “duty-free” goods.
Probably named for Bor trees, the original station had small multiple wooden structures and was located a little north of the present terminus building. These were situated diagonally to the south of the latter-day Carnac Bridge, just before the Electric Locomotive Shed. On the day of the first run, the first train, a 14-coach affair with three engines, probably extended all the way till Carnac Road (there was no bridge then). Later, Byculla station was much preferred by the elite to Boree Bunder.
Steven’s kitchen garden
A striking 19th century feature that is now been revived slowly by Central Railway is Stevens’ kitchen garden. The original plans of the ground floor building include a small kitchen in the garden behind the main building. Today, the garden has been replaced with a host of small offices but the kitchen building, with the original chimney structure, still functions as a railway staff canteen. The railway has now taken up the garden’s restoration as per Stevens’ original layout!
Geometrical staircase
The building has rare circular wooden staircases in four of its corners that are now being restored by Central Railway. “These are rare. Mumbai has a lot of iron spiral staircases. These ones, if you see, are not spiral but have a well-like feature and are geometrical with a rectangular centre,” explains conservation architect Rahul Chemburkar.
Victorian cupboards and furniture
The Mumbai CST building has a host of Victorian teakwood cupboards and furniture designed by Frederick William Stevens during construction between 1887 and 1888. The furniture includes not just cupboards but wooden letter boxes meant for various officers, chairs, tables and cabinets.
The largest is a 12-foot cabinet on the building’s second floor that stores engineering drawings. A Central Railway official says the cabinet is special as it was built into the wall and has slots to store rolls of engineering drawings, usually very large sheets. Another eight-foot-high cupboard on the second floor with intricate floral carvings and high framed glass doors is used to store books on the building’s architecture and its construction. The official assures that it is opened and cleaned occasionally.
The graceful letter box with eight shelves on the ground floor is still in use even after a century, and has been polished and groomed up to give it the original look. “Some carpenters and workmen have been with us for a very long time and they know best about upkeep,” a CR official said.
The writer is author of Halt Station India, a book on the story of Mumbai railway, and a freelance journalist

Jul 10 2016 (08:42)
rdb*^   31726 blog posts   385123 correct pred (81% accurate)
Re# 1924465-1            Tags   Past Edits

Jul 10 2016 (10:42)
™Smart City Bhagalpur ®~   1221 blog posts   21 correct pred (78% accurate)
Re# 1924465-2            Tags   Past Edits
Great article
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