Central Railway to unearth literary treasure from its troves

The oldest railway line in India plans to unveil a rare collection of books, which speak of a time gone by

There is treasure hidden inside the 125-year-old Central Railway building, and we are not talking about the Gothic architecture of the heritage monument. Central Railways will soon unveil its collection of books, with texts from 1890 to 1920, which tell the story of Indian Railways.

A spread inside the Indian State Railway magazine
A spread inside the Indian State Railway magazine

Coincidentally, CR is India's first railway line. It started chugging in 1853, which was erstwhile called the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (GIPR). The CR authority, which is headquartered inside the UNESCO World Heritage building of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), has decided to collate books dating back to the British era.

"I have asked various departments to find old books with historical value. We will create a library and also digitise them," said AK Srivastava, Additional General Manager, Central Railway. For starters, CR is looking to retrieve 40-odd books.

"We want these books to be part of the heritage week which falls in July," said another CR official. The railways is planning a 'heritage calendar' for the year, starting July 4, the day UNESCO conferred the World Heritage tag on CST. Heritage walks, exhibitions, conferences and other events will be organised as part of the week.

Anupam Sah, Head of Conservation, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, said, "The Railways deciding to preserve these books is a positive start. Preservation is a three-pronged process, consisting of preventive conservation, remedial conservation and digitisation." Rajendra Aklekar, author of a book on the heritage of Indian Railways, said this was a much-required step. "If not a physical archieve, the Railways should at least create an online museum. The first railway line of India deserves better."

Vintage gold

One of the magazines, volume XII of G.I.P Railway magazine, was published in Bombay on January 1, 1925, and was priced at 4 annas.

It displays a full-page black and white photograph of men dressed in suits and turbans and women in long skirts and a feathered overcoats.

The article talks of the then-Viceroy's visit to the Ajanta Ellora caves.

There is also an advertisement on real estate wherein a plot of land is quoted at a mere 'R3 to R6-8 per square yard'. This plot was available at Khar.

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