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Chugging into the past

R.RAJARAM goes on a journey into the past at the Heritage Hall of Tiruchi Railway Division.


DID YOU know that the plan to construct a broad gauge railway line from `Negapatam' (presently Nagapattinam) to `Trichinopoly' (Tiruchi) was conceived as early as 1859 and the project, covering Tiruvarur and Tanjore stations, completed within a couple of years.

Do you know that the railway line from Madras to Tuticorin, covering a distance of 444 miles, was laid way back in 1880 by the erstwhile South Indian Railway Company during the British Raj.


The SIR

A cursory glance at the `precious' old documents duly preserved in the "Heritage Hall" located inside the Tiruchi Divisional Railway Manager office premises unveils all such interesting facts. True to its name, the "Heritage Hall" takes us back to the developments in the railways in general and more so educates us about the South Indian Railway (SIR) Company and it's functioning in the bygone era. It's a journey into the past as one browses the documents, letters and other old records, that are neatly stacked in the hall, some of which also throw light on the achievements of the erstwhile SIR, which had `Trichinopoly' as its headquarters then.

It has taken a lot of efforts for the divisional railway staff here to preserve and protect these "heritage" documents in order to revive the memories of the past and let their own personnel to know about the developments that took place years ago.

Opened in January this year, the "Heritage Hall" is the brainchild of the then Divisional Railway Manager N.S. Kasturirangan who started with the main aim of preserving the rich history and glorious past of the railways. Such kind of a heritage hall exists only in Tiruchi railway division office and not in any other divisions coming under the Southern Railway jurisdiction, says the Public Relations Officer C.K. Sivaraj.

Stacked inside the hall are over 2,000 old files and documents connected with the erstwhile SIR and around 1,000 books. Also finding a place in the hall are some rare printed letters containing communication from the SIR to the Railway Board between 1893 and 1915. The old documents and records duly preserved pertains to a host of things right from purchase of land for laying track, construction of new lines, survey of new lines, electrification, audited accounts.

Besides these, the hall also contains annual reports of SIR from the periods 1926 to 1947, Railway Gazettes (1906-1947), manuscript letters from the Railway Board to the SIR during the periods 1893-1915 and records of SIR's Traffic and Civil Engineering Departments.

Visual treat

Adding more value are some rare photographs displayed inside the hall. The photographs of Pamban bridge,steamer plying between India and Ceylon, the Coleroon bridge and that of Tiruchi and Chennai Egmore station buildings taken years ago are certainly a visual treat. The devices used during the good old days like stamp weight, pen and ink stand also add to the heritage value.

Railway officials say that there are files, which tell about the elaborate arrangements made by the Railway authorities then for the `Mahamaham' festival in 1907. On coming to know about the hall, students from few colleges in the city have made use of the old records for their project work, says an official manning the hall.

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