April 12, 2010

Mani's heritage corner (Part I)

We have a guest entry today from ABHIMANYU SHAUNIK, (Mani for short), who is going to take us on a tour of the National Rail Museum in New Delhi.



Abhimanyu Shaunik lives in New Delhi and has been on the Executive Committee of the Indian Steam Railway Society ever since its formation nearly a decade ago. When I spoke to him last year complaining that the Society journal was a bit late in coming, Mani explained the reason to me and then went on to say something that has proved to be a real inspiration for me. "You have to be on your own," said Mani. Just seven plain words, but they pack with them all the fire, steam and enthusiasm a rail heritage enthusiast will ever need. Go out and explore things on your own, there are vast areas yet to be explored...

If his hobby is to be satisfying, a rail heritage enthusiast needs to be something of a Christopher Columbus at heart. In his keynote address at the Fourth Annual Steam Heritage Conference, eminent travel writer Bill Aitken has hinted at something akin to this when he said: “I would recommend members (of the ISRS) board one Sunday the Agra Passenger from Delhi on a reccee of wayside stations. Each member should make notes on specific objects along the way such as station frontage architecture, waiting room furniture with company logo, weighing machine date and manufacturer, platform bell, station master’s clock and Edmundson platform ticket stock . . . With the unexpected memorabilia that old stations often throw up, this work edited for publishing would be of invaluable interest to future students of railway travel.”

Sound, wholesome advice, and one that every rail enthusiast would do well to heed seriously. “You have to be on your own,” Mani’s words still ring in my ears. I decided to take his advice seriously and the result is this web-blog on railway life in British India, bringing to the reader precious nuggets of information not to be found easily elsewhere. It is all so amazing. While contributions for this blog sent in by readers across the globe will always be gratefully remembered, the inspiration and driving force behind this idea I unquestionably owe to Abhimanyu.

The good news is that Mani has finally come forward with a contribution of his own, a set of breathtaking pictures with vibrant colour and pin-sharp definition, featuring the locomotives and other artifacts on display at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. For the armchair rail enthusiast, this is the ultimate post. Thanks a lot Mani, we owe you a debt of gratitude for making the NRM come alive for us in the comfort of the study, and we hope that some day you will tell us about your very impressive model railway layout too!!

Pictures Courtesy of Abhimanyu Shaunik