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Chugging through history

In country that boasts of one of the world’s densest rail networks, Joshi Museum pays a tribute to the railways with a mini collection of trains from the past, present and future.


The model of a miniature train at the museum

The museum is the brainchild of BS Joshi, who started collecting train models as a hobby. In the 1980s he started working on a layout, which he thought could be taken from town to town like a circus or a fair. This layout, which was the result of a 40-year obsession, was first displayed in Pune at the Gokhale Hall in 1982 and gradually metamorphosed into the museum of miniature railways.

The models you see here, are all German. The houses displayed have been built with kits from German companies such as Vollmer, Faller and Preiser.


People looking at the miniature models

“I had travelled to Germany to attend an exhibition on toys and railway modelling. I was amazed to see the extent to which they have developed this hobby and the gravity with which it is practised. While there, I decided that railway modelling must become an option for Indian children and adults alike. There are about 400 companies manufacturing only toy trains and accessories in Germany alone,” informs Dr Ravi Joshi, the curator and son of late BS Joshi.

Ask him about the relevance of this interest in today’s time, he answers, “This is the only hobby which involves motley of areas in science — from architecture, civil engineering, electrical engineering to computer engineering; and from physics, chemistry to mathematics, and statistics. Even accounting and photography find some say in this hobby. It brings about an understanding of all these subjects, creating a versatile personality. It is an intellectual hobby,” Joshi adds.

The experience at the museum hall is one to cherish. Every inch of the space is splendid and all the bric-a-brac strewn all over draws curiosity. It’s a city created with the highest levels of imagination. The entire imaginary city is controlled from a panel with a network of over 1000 wires (a length of 5 km). There are 65 signals, 26 points, fences, lampposts, flyovers, etc., which have been hand-crafted by using chemical etching techniques. The entire layout has been designed to be operated manually or can be computer-controlled.

You are bound to love the fully functional station yard with six platforms, announcement systems, three main lines, goods’ loading facilities, hump shunting, a turntable, crane, etc. On display are steam trains, diesel engines, high speed inter city express, underground trains, trolley bus, rope railways, funicular railway and Wuppertal hanging railway ghat sections with reversing station for steam trains. Not only this, there is a two-lane highway with moving cars, fairground with a circus which has changing shows, a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, roller coaster and a lot of similar attractions, all with sound and light effects.

To give a city-like appeal to the exhibition, there is a swimming pool, a restaurant, which goes up and down a tower, and a fire engine, which actually puts out a fire. The most interesting part is the night sky with stars as was seen on April 16, 1853 (the day when the first train started operating in India).

With a mention in Limca Book of Records 2004 and on the Pune Darshan Tour Guide, this spot deserves a visit for sure.

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