Tipu’s Armoury shifting goes smooth on Mysore Division

SRIRANGAPATTANAM: The project to move famous Tipu Sultan’s armoury – a historical structure of extreme archaeological importance, has crossed a critical phase. The armoury is being moved 100 metres to make way for a railway track. The spectacular engineering effort is the first such in India.

The armoury, at his capital of Srirangapatna near Mysuru, weighs about 1,000 tonnes, and was raised a foot on Day 1.

The actual shifting begins on March 3, with the laying of rails and rollers. The work is likely to go on till March 8 or 9. As many as 70 workers, including six from the US, are working at the site.

The shifting of the 228-year-old armoury is vital for the Railways to complete the doubling of the Bengaluru-Mysuru line. Only 1.5 km of the track is pending. The work is being done by PSL Engineering of the Fedders Llyod group.

It is a joint venture with the US-based Wolfe House Movers. Terming the opening day as successful, Mukat Behari Sharma, director, Lloyd group, and armoury project director, said, “We began the work on January 6… The lifting has been smooth.”

The armoury is 12 metres wide and 10 metres high. Tipu Sultan stored his arms and ammunition there when he was fighting the British.

The Archeological Survey of India has approved the relocation. The temple town of Srirangapatna has eight such armouries. The estimated cost of the relocation is Rs 13.68 crore.

Tougher than a stone structure

Jamin Buckingham, project manager, said he had never seen such a strong monument in his career. It is tougher than a stone structure, he said. Pratap Simha, Mysuru MP, who visited the site, said work on the railway track would be taken up soon after the armoury was moved.The track is expected to be ready by April-end, Simha said.

The hard work before the toil

One look at the mammoth Tipu armoury in Srirangapatna, and American Jamin Puckingham knew this would be nothing like the hundreds of buildings he had helped shift back home. This was the oldest he and his team had ever attempted to move.

On Thursday, his Wolfe House Movers team did manage to lift the 1,050-tonne structure by a full two feet. But Puckingham knew he had absolutely no margin of error. The task could not be accomplished without weeks of intense planning and preparation.

Long neglected, the 18th century heritage structure was stuck deep in dirt and that was a big challenge. “The armoury has thick walls. Although made of brick and mortar, the structure’s integrity is surprisingly very well considering its age,” Puckingham told.

His team, comprising Peter Hansen, Philip Hansen and Jeffrey Brovont had spent months evaluating the building, its internal and external dynamics and working out the engineering of the eventual operation. But even before that, Puckingham had to coordinate with the Railways, the Archaeological Department and strike a joint venture agreement with PSL Engineering.

The JV was critical to fabricate the huge beams that had to go underneath the structure. “PSL also had to remove the soil. They made all the beams in India. We only brought the jacks, the jacking machine and rollers (about 64 in 25-tonne and 50-tonne configurations) from the US.”

Paper work, the hard part

Moving back and forth to get all the paper work in order, Puckingham is now convinced that “shifting is the easy part. The paper work was the hard part.” For the record, he had to shuttle between India and the US four times in the last four years.

The first major task of lifting the structure has gone just according to the team’s plan. The next stage would be to insert the rail beams underneath and place the rollers over them. The entire structure on the rollers would then be pushed through hydraulic push ramps.

Puckingham is sure the process would be smooth. “We are using state-of-the-art equipment. Regardless of the building’s weight, the structure would be hydraulically propelled uniformly. The movement will be smooth and steady without jarring,” he explained.

The shifting is planned along two paths perpendicular to each other. The first stage will have the armoury move 350 ft in a straight line. The roller wheels will then be reset to take the perpendicular shift. The structure will then be moved 100 ft to the right to reach its new location.

Scheduled for March 8, the process is expected to take five days. “That works to about six metres in one hour,” said Puckingham. He was experienced enough to make that estimation with confidence. After all, he had started moving buildings when he was barely 13!

Behind-the-scenes of transporting historic Tipu Sultan armoury in Srirangapatna

The man who suggested moving the 250-year-old Tipu Sultan’s armoury in Srirangapatna says it was all “just discussions” for over seven years. The armoury was in the way of doubling the Bengaluru-Mysuru railway track, in 2007.

When the proposal of transporting the heritage structure was first presented, in 2009, no Indian independent firm or contractors came forward, says G Aswatha Narayana, consulting engineer and advisor for the project.

“Not only because they thought it would be controversial because the monument is revered by locals, but also because they thought it would be impossible,” he says. The Rs.13.5 crore project has been taken up by an American firm called Wolfe Private Limited in a joint venture with an Indian company PSL. It had taken six years to find contractors willing to undertake the project.

The armoury is 20-km from Mysuru, towards Bengaluru, and comes two stops before Srirangapatna Railway Station. The armoury will be moved about 100 metres from the current location.

“If the double track is constructed, it will be fantastic,” says A S Kodandapani, an urban planner. The wider track is said to bring down travel time between the two cities by half an hour. “Heavy population of the city will be controlled to some certain extent as migration will be minimised,” says Kodandapani.

The railway track is 1.5 km short of the total 136 km long track. The existing railway line is 15 metres from the armoury.

“Two of the engineers from the company have arrived and have started the preliminary work. Another engineer will come next week and the monument is much likely to be moved on February 15,” says S K Jain, chief administrative officer of western railways. (constructions).

Aswatha Narayana had first suggested dismantling the armoury and constructing the exact replica, 150 metres away from the place. “That was the easiest thing to do but the locals did not consent to it,” he says. “The locals said that dismantling the armoury is as good as chopping off their heads.”

Dismantling or moving of ancient monument is also a punishable offence under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act in 2010 and The Ancient Monuments Preservation Act 1904. Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act in 2010 defines an ancient monument as being 100 years or older.

His second option was vertically dissecting the 50×80 sqft armoury into four parts, making each about a 300-tonne and then moving it, to place each section on top of a new foundation. This idea was rejected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Aswatha then came across the idea of uprooting it as it is and then placing it over a new foundation.