Trainspotting for beginners

  • By Hindu
  • | Wednesday | 13th September, 2017

But once you enter the gates of the ICF Rail Museum, you are transported to a different world altogether. And it is also where a toy train chugs past, giving one a grand tour of the premises, and takes you through a tunnel to give you a feel of what it’s like to undertake a train journey. The idea is to give the Rail Museum a more universal appeal,” he says. While work is still on in some areas of the museum to revamp its features, the Rail Museum seems like an interesting venue for your next outing. The team at the Rail Museum is particularly proud of is a host of new features, that include public conveniences and revamped galleries.

It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon and traffic on New Avadi Road is busy as usual.

A series of garages that line the road produce a steady clang of metal and gushing of hose pipes; a bus trundling past blares its horn as if to add to the rhythm. But once you enter the gates of the ICF Rail Museum, you are transported to a different world altogether. It’s an oasis of calm, taking visitors back in time with it’s eclectic collection of railway coaches of all shapes and sizes, and even a steam engine.

Welcome, to a world of trains. This museum celebrates this mode of transport as well as its contribution to India’s past. This is where excited children rush in and out of coaches and have a go at changing track signals. It is where families walk through the galleries, marvelling at the ocean of information detailing ICF’s role in the working of the Railways. And it is also where a toy train chugs past, giving one a grand tour of the premises, and takes you through a tunnel to give you a feel of what it’s like to undertake a train journey.

The team at the Rail Museum is particularly proud of is a host of new features, that include public conveniences and revamped galleries. Says Arun Devaraj, curator of the ICF Rail Museum, and the man who’s spearheaded these changes, “We get enquiries from a lot of schools, looking to bring their students to the museum. And one of their top concerns is whether we have lawns to seat them and clean restrooms. As we know, most public spaces in the country have very poorly maintained or no restrooms. As a result, most people prefer heading to the malls in their free time. Which is why we decided to provide people better facilities right here.”

The result: A new washroom block with clean restrooms for men and women, a lactation room for nursing mothers and an inclusive washroom for persons with disabilities.

But that’s not all. Devaraj is also overseeing the creation of new lawns, where people can relax between checking out the coaches and tracks. To add to the charm, there’s a gazebo near one of the play areas that is routinely let out to people to host parties.

When we saunter in, there are bright green balloons still strung across the gazebo from the birthday party held over the weekend. “We first began letting out the space for birthdays and parties last October. Since then, we’ve hosted several, the largest being for 90 people. This is our way of opening up the space for more people,” says Devaraj.

To rent the space, people need to inform the museum authorities in advance and buy tickets for their guests. “They can bring their own food. We didn’t want to restrict them to the refreshments available at the canteen here. They can also do their own decorations. The ticket includes the toy train ride and access to the children’s play areas, apart from the museum. And if the space is booked for a party, we can cordon it off to the general public,” he says.

While the museum itself is open till 6 pm on weekdays, for parties, Devaraj says they can extend the time limit up to 8.30 pm, with advance notice.

For those who’d like to browse through the history of the Indian Railways there are five galleries to walk through. Lined with photographs detailing the Railways’ glorious past and landmark moments, it is a treasure trove of information.

“These photographs have been sourced from our archives and some by Ian Manning. The pictures have been digitally restored by Poochi Venkat. In fact, when we were looking for information to put up in the galleries, we ourselves stumbled across trivia that we’d been unaware of. It was an interesting journey for us as well,” says Devaraj. The galleries also have scale models of coaches dating back to the 18th Century, as well as seats from first-class coaches of that era.

The Bogie park itself has actual coaches from a time gone by, and unlike the National Rail Museum in Delhi, here visitors are allowed to enter them and get a feel of how it was to travel in them.

The museum also has a working point in crossing, to demonstrate to visitors how tracks are changed for the trains. In one corner stands a coach that has been painted by reputed artists. “This one we’re looking to turn into a restaurant. Vendors can set up a kitchen and tables in there for an interestingly themed eatery, and we are open to private parties renting the space. The idea is to give the Rail Museum a more universal appeal,” he says.

While work is still on in some areas of the museum to revamp its features, the Rail Museum seems like an interesting venue for your next outing. Stay updated with all the Chennai Latest News headlines here. For more exclusive & live news updates from all around India, stay connected with NYOOOZ.

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