Over 100 Rare Documents of erstwhile Great Indian Peninsula Railway to be digitised

Special scanners would be used so that they would not need to come in contact with paper when the books are digitised.

Dinning hall in Central Railway, Mumbai prior to the Digitisation of old books
The Dinning Hall in Central Railway, Mumbai prior to the Digitisation of old books

Mumbai: More than 100 historical documents of Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR), the predecessor of Central Railway, are set to be digitised and preserved for posterity.

The digitised documents will be uploaded on the Central Railway’s website to provide a look into the functioning of the country’s oldest railway service.

GIPR was incorporated on August 1, 1849, by an Act of the British Parliament. It was planned to connect erstwhile Bombay with the interior of the Indian peninsula for increasing the export of cotton, silk, opium, sugar and spices.

India’s first passenger train was run by GIPR on April 16, 1853, from Boree Bunder station in Mumbai to Thane. The GIPR was, subsequently, incorporated into Central Railway in 1951.

Last Monday, Central Railway as part of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) Heritage Week handed over 100 documents of GIPR to Maharashtra State Archives for preservation.

The documents include information on the operations and the important decisions taken by GIPR in the past.

“The documents signify what role railways played in determining the economy or the society of the country at that time. The old magazines are representative of people’s dependence on the railway’s publishing journals for advertising, real estate or even discussions about their social lives,” said A K Srivastava, Additional General Manager, Central Railway.

“Many of the ancient documents are more than 80-90 years old and have worn out. There are letters written by the GIPR officials to the head office in London and vice-versa, concerning administration of railways. It is a must that we preserve these documents for future use,” Srivastava added.

The documents will be preserved through scanning, digitising and conversion of texts to English.

“Some of the very old documents will be laminated. It will be done through a special technique which involves use of gloves after sprinkling some powder on the pages. Bare hands should not come in contact with these documents as they are extremely old,” said Srivastava.

He added that special scanners would be put in place for digitising the books, which would not touch the paper or come in contact with the spine of the book. Srivastava said, “The calligraphy and words date back to the pre-Independence era. We will be hiring a team trained in Archaic English words who can dedicate their time to converting them to spoken English.This will help the readers attain a better understanding of the documents.”

An official from the Maharashtra State Archives said details of the process would be finalised after a meeting with CR officials. “We will be assisting CR in the process of digitisation and preservation of documents. We will help them with expert teams and advise them on availing Central Government schemes for digitisation. A detailed meeting will be held with CR officials in the coming days,” said Dilip Balsekar, a State Archives official.


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