Preserving Indian Railways’ Heritage
Indian Railways with more than 160 years of rich history; presents a wide spectrum of both tangible and intangible heritage. The repository of railway heritage is not limited to its world heritage inscriptions, but much beyond. Like any other industry, Railway technology evolves at a fast pace. For example, Steam Locomotives, Meter Gauge rolling stocks, Wooden body coaches are no longer in operation now. With their phasing out, lots of maintenance practices have also been gradually forgotten. At times, it becomes really impossible to locate an artesian who can do valve setting of a steam locomotive or a carpenter who can precisely fix the door of wooden body saloon. Beside rolling stocks, even some equipment like block instruments, their tokens, token pickup devices, quadrant signalling devices, stationary vacuum exhausters, which were very common three decades ago, are now completely phased out.
Intangible heritage is also about skills and techniques and the popular memory transmitted from generation to generation, providing people with a sense of identity. This is why the Indian Railways, in addition to being a special industrial relic, occupy a special place within the national heritage of India. The remains of rolling mill, cupola, brake block foundry, forging anvils of any old Railway Workshop are not only historical evidences or industrial relics but sense of belonging to the workshop.
The locomotives, coaches, wagons, equipment, artefacts etc. when appropriately preserved and open for public display create memories of the past in the heart of the future generation and thus help maintaining a continuity of human experience. It will be our prime duty to safeguard this living heritage and to transmit it intact to future generations. Usually, the displays are limited to collections in Museums and Galleries or in form of outdoor exhibits near prominent places like Stations, Administrative Offices etc. While, such modes of public display shall continue, with advent of technology and public access may not be limited to physical presence.
Following are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Indian Railways
A. Mountain Railways of India:
(i) Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) - inscribed by UNESCO in 1999 :
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway consists of 88.48 kilometres of 2 feet (0.610 metre) gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through Ghoom at an altitude of 2,258 metres. The innovative design includes six zigzag reverses and three loops with a ruling gradient of 1:31.
(ii) Nilgiri Mountain Railways (NMR) – inscribed in 2005:
This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 metre to 2,203 metre, represented the latest technology of the time and uses unique rack and pinion traction arrangement to negotiate steep gradient.
(iii) Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR) – inscribed in 2008:
The world’s highest multi-arc gallery bridge and the world’s longest tunnel (at the time of construction) of KSR were the testimony of the brilliance engineering skills applied to make a dream a reality.
B. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai (CSTM) – inscribed in 2004:
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai is commonly known as Bombay V.T or Victoria Terminus. The building is outstanding example of late 19th century railway architecture in the British commonwealth characterized by Victoria Gothic Revival and traditional Indian features as well as its advanced structural and technical features.