KOZHIKODE: On March 12, 1862, the first train ran between Tirur and Chaliyam, kickstarting the first rail traffic in British Malabar.
Later, after a gap of 26 years, Kozhikode was linked to Madras - the then Presidency capital - by rail on January 2, 1888. Kozhikode’s railway chronicle goes on. And, if things pan out as per plan, you will soon have an opportunity to walk through this railway heritage.
The Calicut Heritage Forum (CHF), a collective of history enthusiasts, is preparing a detailed plan to set up a
rail heritage museum at the Kozhikode railway station, which once served as the western terminus of Madras Railway.
A K Kasturba, associate professor with NIT, Kozhikode, and Shinoy Jesinth, faculty of the History Department, Government Brennan College, Thalassery, have been entrusted with the work under the supervision of historian M G S Narayanan, also the president of CHF, and former northern regional director of the Archaeological Survey of India, K K Mohammed.
The team has found that the 100-year-old building adjacent to the present railway quarters that was used as the ‘Running Bungalow’ of the Railways is an ideal location to host the museum. It has been built in a colonial architectural style and the space around it is being utilised for exhibiting train compartments, locomotives and huge cranes.
Currently, a portion of the nearly-dilapidated building is being used as the office of the senior section engineer (carriage and wagon).
The railway institute, which was set up in 1888 itself as a recreation centre will also be conserved.
Says C K Ramachandran, convenor of CHF, “Despite possessing such a rich rail history, Kozhikode lacks a centre to admire and preserve the remnants of the glorious past of rail traffic. Various technological devices and gadgets used by the Railways during the colonial period, models of locomotives and bogies, old buildings once used as offices, quarters and recreation centres resembling the colonial structure are still in Kozhikode, demanding conservation and preservation. What the CHF has undertaken is a mission to preserve this cultural heritage and to transfer it to the coming generations.”
Many such old equipment are lying scattered between Kuttippuram and Kasargod railway stations. “We have to conduct a field-level study to identify and collect materials of historical importance. Those who are proud of our rail heritage can also join the exercise,” says Shinoy Jesinth.
Once drafted, the report will be submitted to Kozhikode MP M K Raghavan, the Southern Railway authorities and V Venu, who is the director-general of the National Museum and joint secretary with the Cultural Affairs Ministry.
Though informal discussions were held with senior railway officials, a formal talk will be held after preparing the detailed proposal.
The idea to set up a rail heritage museum at the Kozhikode railway station originated during the 125th anniversary celebrations held in January, 2013.
The CHF had also organised a history exhibition on the station premises as part of the celebrations.