Delhi’s oldest railway station to get a fresh look soon

Updated on Jan 09, 2018 12:08 PM IST
Delhi Junction is popularly known as Old Delhi Railway Station.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
Delhi Junction is popularly known as Old Delhi Railway Station.(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times | ByA Mariyam Alavi, New Delhi

When the British took control of Delhi following the revolt of 1857, it was suggested that instead of Delhi, the proposed railway line connecting Howrah and then Punjab should pass through Meerut.

Aggrieved by the decision, Delhi’s traders, bankers, and aristocrats huddled together to put pressure on the administration not to divert the original alignment. They reasoned that if Delhi was deprived of the facility, it will affect the city’s traders and be unjust to those who invested in the British Indian Railway Companies.

After a lot of persuasion, Charles Wood, the president of the board of control of the English East India Company, reserved the decision and almost 15 years after it was first conceived, the first train chugged into Delhi from Howrah at midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1867.

Newly installed railings to manage queues (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
Newly installed railings to manage queues (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The train line was first established to connect the then capital, Calcutta, to its summer capital, Shimla.

It started with just two small platforms and the present building was opened only in 1903. To facilitate the laying of railway tracks and construction of the station building, a significant portion of the northern wall of Shahjahanabad was demolished.

Delhi almost did not make it to the route, author and film maker Sohail Hashmi tells Hindustan Times, as the British wanted to punish the city for the revolt of 1857.

“Delhi was added, after great reluctance, when traders and merchants submitted petitions that Delhi was a major commercial hub... The station is built like a fortress, with around six towers which could hold canons. It was a warning of sorts against any more attempts of a mutiny,” he explained.

The station, colloquially known as Old Delhi Station, now has around 253 trains operating out of it and an average footfall of 2.5-3 lakh people every day.

Shashanka Nanda, a train enthusiast, said that though “it cannot be compared” to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai, it was still an example of “the most elaborate architecture” in North India, with its high ceilings, and its distinctive red and cream coloured facade.

Battery operated golf carts (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
Battery operated golf carts (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

The Old Delhi Junction, the 114-year-old iconic colonial-era building, which had started crumbling in recent times, is now all set to get a facelift.

With false ceilings and LED lights, large display screens, battery operated golf carts, and a garden in front of the main gates, the station is already sporting a new look.

Officials of Northern Railways said there was more changes planned for the station, including a possible colour change of the building to saffron.

“The main problem was that it (the station) looked dirty because of how long it has been in use. There were cigarette butts strewn across the floor and paan stains on the walls. People tend to litter more in dirty places, because they think the place is already dirty. Now with the renovation work going on, a lot of this has been cleaned. People also think twice before littering,” said a railway official.

The general manager of Northern Railways, Vishwesh Chaube, said that they will spend around Rs 6 crore by March, 2018, on the redevelopment of the station, and by December 2018 they would spend an additional R 15 crore.

The once highly congested entrance to the station facing Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Marg , now has a garden and demarked lanes, which has curbed unauthorised parking and controlled traffic flow in the area. Chaube also said that they would soon engage around 10-15 contractual traffic marshals, to man the gates, and regulate traffic.

People using a new railway app installed for addressing queries (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)
People using a new railway app installed for addressing queries (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Two large screens, that display arrival and departure details, also flank the main entrance, and three others are there in and around the station. Once you enter the station, renovated ticket counters, a false ceiling with LED lights in the main hall, a large screen for the interactive route and guidance system, which gives you information about your train, public utilities in the station, and nearby tourist destinations, and battery operated golf carts, which can be hired to commute between platforms, gives the station a new feel.

However, not everybody would be impressed with the proposed “clinical” look of the station.

To Hashmi, the station was an “instrument of domination” that the British used. iIt was a part of history that needs to be preserved. “They gave a facelift to Connaught place. Now, they will do it to the station too. They glitzy-steely look will take away from the character of the place,” he said.

This is only the beginning, with Chaube saying that the “facia of the station” is just one of the areas they will focus on. Railway officials said that the station will receive a fresh coat of paint, which may also see the station slight change in the iconic red colour.

“It will be more colourful and will be a mix of the traditional red and some heritage colour like saffron,” explained an official.

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