20 April 2018

Sir Leslie Wilson arrives at Mumbai CSMT

What a day today! They say life comes a full circle and was a witness to the momentous event today when the Sir Leslie Wilson or EF/1, India’s first electric freight locomotive class that was introduced in 1928 returned home at Mumbai CSMT or formerly Bombay Victoria Terminus station.

I say home because the engine was in active service till 1992 and had spent its lifetime here and after retirement shifted to Kalyan electric loco shed. The engine has now been brought here to be a part of the ‘Heritage Alley’ on World Heritage Day 2018 and will be on permanent display. Sir Leslie Orme Wilson was the Governor of Bombay in 1928 who inaugurated the loco and hence named after him.

It was transported by road, splitting it into three parts that were later assembled here. It features the original livery of India’s first railway company, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, now Central Railway. EF/1 20067 is one of the two remaining of the class, the other one being at National Rail Museum in New Delhi.

18 April 2018

Run-up to World Heritage Day 2018 at Mumbai CSMT

Preparations of #worldheritageday at Mumbai CSMT on @Central_Railway A steam crane, a stone crusher, an antique printing machine and the country's first electric loco. The heritage alley will be open for permanent display from the evening of April 18, 2018.

12 April 2018

Oldest rail platforms at Mumbai CSMT demolished

Rajendra B. Aklekar

It has been an end of an era. One of the oldest existing station platforms in the Mumbai CSMT station, formerly Bombay Victoria Terminus, precincts -all with cobblestone flooring, cast iron pillars, teak wood doors and interiors, belonging to the time of India’s first railway company -- the Great Indian Peninsula Railway—was finally in the process of being brought down for newer railway projects.

Railway authorities promised to shelve whatever they could from this old station and make it a part of the heritage gallery and proposed alley.

Known as Carnac Bunder siding, the station had been virtually untouched by railway authorities for decades but still standing sturdy.

The entire station platform building with a steam crane at one end had been almost stuck in a time warp.

The railways have now repainted and reviving the steam crane to be a part of a heritage museum, but the old station is being lost. Sources said it was all in active use till the 1950s.

If old and new maps of the area are juxtaposed, these sheds are roughly located on the same site where the goods sheds of the old original Bori Bunder station had been built, before the majestic world heritage Mumbai CSMT building came up.

The site of the goods sheds has remained the same though bigger sheds and platforms were built in the 1890s after the construction of the Victoria Terminus. 

The sheds that one finds today too are old and built in stone, high-pitched roof with antique fittings built with construction techniques commonly used during the later part of the 19th century, including teakwood furnishings, large metal straps used to bind the six-framed huge doors, windows and vents, old tracks with cast iron sleepers.

It has two platforms, now completely abandoned.

The one adjoining P.D’Mello Road, platform number one, has several bays at right angles for ferrying cargo by road transport vehicles and the second one facing the west  resembles a godown.

The entire platform is of cobble-stone flooring and once had various scales, sunk in pits, now most of them removed.

A rotten wooden board in one corner of the west-facing platform says Ludhina fast or ordinary service and scale number one, platform number two...the rest details are not legible, a legacy of organized cargo transport by rail.

City historian Deepak Rao lamented the fact that one by one old relics were being lost but appreciated the railways that they had agreed to save a few older relics. “The docks and rail have a glorious transport history in old Bombay.

These were the places which once brought fortune to the city,” he added.

Chief Public Relations Officer Sunil Udasi told Mid-Day the Central Railway team will try and save as many old relics as possible from the old station siding.

30 March 2018

1890 Tower Clock at Lower Parel workshop, Mumbai

Rajendra B. Aklekar

Rare Gem: The Western Railway has a remarkable and elegant fully-functional mechanical clock tower set from 1890s with a bell and fire alarm at its Lower Parel workshop in Mumbai.

The Western Railway has traced the roots of one of its old and functional tower clocks at Lower Parel workshop and found it to be a rare one, possibly the only such large one from 1890s manufactured by England-based Gillett Johnson company. It is functional on its own energy which is bound in brass weights and operated by mechanical pulleys.

Western Railway officials said that the clock has been functional since the day it had been installed and when we found out about its origins, we found it to be a rare piece on Western Railway, Mumbai and such a piece of functional tower clock is nowhere else in Mumbai division. The clock has markings of the old Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway (BB&CI), which is now called Western Railway.

Workshop employees said that such a rare functional clock working on mechanical principles is a novelty for the present generation and we sometimes get school children here to show its functioning.

Officials added that the heritage clock was manufactured in the year 1889 and is located at prominent locations on one of the oldest tower sheds at Lower Parel workshop. It has been made at the manufacturing base at Union Road Croydon, England, which  started making clocks from 1844.

The heritage clock set also has an old tune bell manufactured at the same factory in 1890. The firm had successfully revived an old technique for tuning bells to themselves by shaving the bell interior to bring the bell’s natural harmonic series in tune with itself. The cast number of the bell is 122, weighing 57 kg., having a dia. of 425 mm. and height of 430 mm.

The heritage clock works mechanically using gears. Its metal spring stores energy required for running the clock. The mechanism is compact, robust and simple which requires no maintenance. The spring is wound once a week for providing energy to run the clock.

Below the clock and the bell is a rare fire alarm system, again operated mechanically, which sets alarm in case of a blaze.

This makes it a complete set of functional 19th century equipment with the tower clock, an iron bell and a mechanical fire alarm.

"We have maintained all these heritage assets with utmost care and meticulous maintainence. The clock needs to be given a key once a week and then it runs on its own," Western Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Ravinder Bhakar said, adding keeping such rare artefacts alive is very important and Western Railway always is always ahead in it.

The clock which is one metre in diametre works with mechanism on brass components to avoid corrosion. It has a rope of brass wire with 5kg weight with brass pulley tied with a counter weight of 29kg.

About the bell

This bell is similar in construction to first quarter bell, second quarter bell and Hour bell available in Mechanical Engineering building of Imperial College, Knightsbridge, Middlesex, London. The bell foundry was close in 1957. The foundry in Croydon, England was demolished in 1997. Croydon site notes how from 1844 to 1954, 14,000 tower clocks were made at this foundry.