CRB Inaugurates a photo Exhibition to Commemorate 160 Years of Indian Railways

Chairman, Railway Board Shri Vinay Mittal inaugurated a photo exhibition at Twin Art Gallery, Indira Gandhi Kala Kender, Janpath, New Delhi, which was organised by the Ministry of Railways to commemorate the 160 years of Indian Railways. The exhibition remains open for public from 10.30 a.m to 7.00 p.m. daily (Monday closed) from 24th May to 22nd June 2013 and entry is from Gate No. 1, Janpath. Entry for this exhibition is free. The exhibition “160 years of Indian Railways” is a showcase of selected photographs from the archives of Indian Railways.

IR has entered the 160 year of its existence. History is witness to the fact that IR formed the nation that is India today and it cannot be separated from its social fabric. IR has grown has not only bequeathed the country with its vast architectural heritage in the form of station buildings and other structures but is also the pivot of the nation’s economy today. It is inconceivable to imagine an India without its railways. The railways in their own powerful way have paved the way for the growth of the nation and thus are a lasting symbol of India’s unity.

While the railways is marching steadily towards the future, it is imperative to remember the very foundations on which it was built; it is time to reclaim the past which may be getting lost in the annals of time. Moreover, it has always been the objective of Indian Railways to preserve the past as its rich history is undeniably one of the most compelling tales in the story of India. This photo exhibition culls out the interesting moments of the life of this organization concentrating primarily on the first 100 years of it existence which was a period of great turbulence for the Railways as well as the world. It seeks to bring the railways back into the forefront of public consciousness. It takes the narrative of the railways back in time from its current point, revisit memories in sepia and black and white tones to understand the transitional, exciting tumultuous phases that this organization has gone through. The railways in India, as elsewhere in the world, revolutionized traditional concepts of space and time and led to new geographies being formed.

The photo exhibition does not trace the history of Indian railways sequentially from 1853 to the present. It is a thematic portrayal of the many facets of this organization. Through many rare photographs sourced from railway archives, Press information Bureau, railway museums, the importance of the railways in the lives of the people, its role as an integrating force, as a catalyst of history and as a mute spectator to the unfolding historical events have been showcased.

The photographs, encompassing all the fundamental aspects of the railways are evocative of an era long gone but which has shaped the present. The ‘Personalities ‘section is of special interest as it reveals the views of some eminent leaders on the Railways. Similarly, the sections on ‘Station Architecture’ are of immense interest as they more than anything else speak of the time in history of their construction. Their interiors are reflections of the society, the social stratification, while their exteriors present a larger picture of the developmental stage of the town and city. A section has been dedicated to the workmen, who are solely responsible for the running of the railways. The photographs reflect the hard labour which is put in to transport millions of people across thousands of kilometers marking practices most of which are still fundamental to railway working today.

Rare pictures of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inside a rail engine or the first President Rajendra Prasad walking outside a station in south India provide a glimpse into the 160 years of Indian Railways.

Unlocking a treasure trove of archives, the Railways has brought on display over 200 rare black and white and sepia-toned images in an exquisite collection titled ‘160 Years of Indian Railways: An exhibition of selected photographs from the Indian Railways’ that opened up for view recently at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.

“Railways have been so intrinsic to people’s lives in India. And, through this exhibition we wanted to bring its inception and history closer to people’s mind which may be getting lost in the annals of time,” says Director, Information and Publicity, Indian Railways, Seema Sharma.

However, in a departure from a regular commemorative tribute, the exhibition is curated “thematically rather than sequentially” and celebrates the history and heritage, architectural and otherwise, while evoking a liberal feel of nostalgia.

So, pictures of a late 19th century image of Gothic Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) in then Bombay, one of Frontier Mail with its front decked up with British flags, royal guests being received at a makeshift station built in Delhi during the 1911 Durbar, as well as a rare old photo of Ranchi, Bilaspur and Colaba stations built in Victorian style, among others, are on view.

Photographs of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and a young Rajiv Gandhi have been captured together at a platform, neon signs of ubiquitous ‘Murphy Radio’ company over Patna Junction and the then Madras Central station buildings and the elegant Egmore station waiting rooms are rare views.

One photograph captures a narrow gauge train (Dabhoi to Miyagam) of 1863 which has bullocks pulling it instead of an engine.

The collection is divided into several themes like — ‘Station Architecture’, ‘Locomotives and Trains’, ‘Personalities’, ‘Carriages and Wagons’, ‘Men at Work’ among others.

“The ‘Station Architecture’ has a special segment as many stations today look completely different compared to what their look was back in those years. The Ranchi station has changed a lot and the two pictures displayed here show the rare heritage look of the building in the colonial days,” says Seema.

“But, I believe the part that lends more interest to the exhibition is the ‘Men at Work’ section whereby one actually sees the ‘hands and feet’ of the Indian Railway, the gangmen, the foreman, the light man who used to climb up a stair to light up the lamp in those days, etc are great pictures of human dignity and pride in one’s profession,” she says.