Trainspotting from the steam age to the Metro era

With a collection of coaches, locos and other memorabilia, the Railway Museum in Howrah is a delight for train enthusiasts
A locomotive carrying coal from East Pakistan crossed over to the Indian territory when the war with Pakistan broke out in 1971. The single-coach, green-coloured locomotive, with clear markings in English and Urdu, had been lying in the shed at Bandel in Hooghly district for over three decades, before it was brought to the Railway Museum in Howrah a few years ago. Pradeep Kumar, Chief Signal and Telecommunication Engineer, Eastern Railway, and member of the Railway Board’s Heritage Committee, said the locomotive was the first of its kind at any museum in the country, and that it was a chance sighting by some officials that resulted in the locomotive coming to the Eastern Railway Museum. Right next to it is the coach of the first Metro Railway rake, which marked the beginning of the first metro services in the city in 1984. A narrow gauge steam loco (popularly called a toy train), built by the North British Company Ltd. at Glasgow in the early 20th century, is among the exhibits at the museum spread over four acres.
However, on a Saturday morning, there were not many visitors at the museum, next to the oldest and busiest passenger terminus in the country, the Howrah Station. Representatives of different consulates in the city — Japan, Bangladesh, France and Russia — were the only visitors, who went across dozens of heritage locomotives and the collection of memorabilia, relating to 164-year colonial and post-colonial heritage of the Railways during a ‘Historic Railway Heritage Walk’. “This is just a beginning and we will have many more heritage walks in times to come,” said S. K. Srivastava, Deputy General Manager, Eastern Railway. The museum at the Eastern Railway headquarters at Fairlie Place has documents featuring different names and logos (East Indian Railway in 1854 to Eastern Railways in 1952), documents dating from 1844 relating to R.M. Stephenson, the ER’s first managing director, on the practicability and advantages of introducing railways in the country. Earlier this year, the Eastern Railway assessed all the tangible heritage spread across its jurisdiction. It plans to bring several important documents and machinery to its museum and heritage gallery.
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