After years of being ignored and neglected, the national rail museum is set to undergo a change, including restoration of its 150-year-old rail heritage, which is almost in a shambles.
The museum boasts of rare rail heritage that includes engines, saloons and coaches used by the British and Indian royalty.
According to a report prepared by the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO), 25 especially-designed sheds will come up at the open museum to preserve the exhibits, mostly wooden saloons and coaches, from the weather.
"The shed won't be closed from all sides as the museum was conceptualised as an open museum, one of its kind in the world. The exhibits which have been parked in the open so far will be restored," said Atul Singh, director, National rail museum. He said the restoration will begin in a couple of months in a phased manner.
The rail museum, located in Chanakyapuri over 11 acres, was inaugurated in 1977. It gets an annual footfall of more than 3 lakh. It is in desperate need of an overhauling and was losing its exhibits due to lack of preservation and restoration.
The wooden roofs of the uber luxurious rail cars and saloons used by the Nizams of Hyderabad and Gaekwads of Baroda, Maharaja of Patiala and Prince of Wales have been leaking for years and the lavish furniture and antiques, which were custom made according to the taste of Indian and British royalty, have decayed beyond repair.
The condition of the old coaches of palace on wheels, the luxury train which is famous around the world for its royal looks, are as such that they can only be dumped now.
The museum will also become more interactive and interesting with digital screens and kiosks.
For the restoration and preservation of museum exhibits, the authorities are mulling options of involving college students. "London national museum works on the model of public participation where specialists from the general public are involved in the restoration work. We are planning to replicate something like this here as getting conservationists to restore 130-year-old machines is difficult. We want designing and engineering students to help us with that," Singh said.
Gems at the museum:
Fairy Queen (1855)
Patiala State Monorail Trainways (1907)
Morris Fire Engine (1914)
Saloon of Prince of Wales (1920)
Kalka Shimla Rail Bus
Matheran Rail Car No 8899
Fireless Steam Locomotive