When Mohammed Yasin, a shepherd, came to Maidan Garhi for the first time, he was in for a surprise. Not more than 10 kilometers away from the bustling Chhatarpur Metro station, in the heart of Maidan Garhi forest, lay abandoned two railway coaches. The coaches exuded a sense of timelessness, as Yasin stared, transfixed. Residents of nearby villages don’t have a clue how these coaches came to be there, but all of them agreed it was a surreal sight for them.
“I was dumbfounded at the sight of these out-of-place train coaches. At first I thought I was too tired and was imagining them. Maybe years ago, there were railway tracks here which are now buried under the ground or these coaches were derailed and brought here for repair work. These should be put in a museum,” Yasin said.
Villagers often turn to the huge forest ground for picnics, morning exercises and driving practices. With their roofs covered in bat excrement and fungi, windows missing grills or panes, weeds outgrown to the exteriors and the iron base obscured into the ground, these coaches bear little resemblance to regular train coaches.
While some villagers believe these coaches were dropped from the sky by some divine power years ago, others believe someone procured the coaches to sell them as scrap. They claim similar coaches can also be found int the forest area of Said-ul-Ajaib area of Mehrauli.
“These coaches were here even before we were born and the truth about them is still a mystery. My parents used to tell me that these coaches were brought here for the shooting of a film and never returned. This is the most logical explanation I have heard so far. Villagers who were born here are also known to pray to these coaches,” said Billu Rathi, an 80-year-old Chattarpur Enclave resident.
With the area councillor, MLA and land-owning agency, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), not having a clue about the whereabouts of these abandoned coaches, visitors take the villagers at their word.
Lalit Tanwar, famously known as Bhagat ji, is one of the patriarchs of Maidan Garhi. A group of men enjoying their daily dose of hookah in an ancient temple premises has a bunch of tales to share.
“These coaches must be more than 150 years old. I have heard in my grandfather’s stories that villagers from Pahaladpur carried these coaches on their shoulders as there were no cranes at that time. There are so many fables around these coaches, we don’t know what is true and what is not. Tigers from the forest come here at night. Nilgais, cheetahs and rabbits roam around these coaches after dark,” claims Tanwar.
Sand, wind and heat have not been kind to these coaches, the paint has worn out and so have the interiors. This place is now reduced to a tourist spot or a place where fitness enthusiasts converge for morning walks and youngsters come for a drink. With the word ‘Brahmin’ scribbled in big, bold letters on one of the coaches, the coaches remain one of the many strange and unexplained landmarks across the country.
“I think these were a part of a goods train as there are no seats. Maybe there was big robbery or smuggling involved and the coaches were hidden in the forest. It seems like a story out of a Bollywood movie but who knows what might have actually happened. God didn’t drop these things here. Why will he do that? Many people in the city still don’t know about the coaches but for us, it is a sight etched in our memories since childhood,” said Rajesh Kumar, a farmer.