Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which was elevated in 2004 to the status of a Unesco World Heritage Site, is set to be converted into one of the first museum-cum-railway stations in India portraying the 130-year-old history of one of the busiest stations of the world.
At least 13 companies have already submitted their expressions of interest (EoI) to design the first and ground floors of the CST station into a museum complex. The bids invited by Railway's subsidiary RITES got a response from top architectural conservation and building restoration companies, including Abha Narain Lambah Associates and Dronah group.
“This is a Rs 250-million project for the conversion of the existing building into a museum. Though Railways runs around 34 museums across the country, this will be for the first time that a station building is being converted into a museum,” said an official close to the development.
As part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the government had initiated a project to make 100 iconic heritage, spiritual and cultural places in the country to promote “swach tourist destinations”, of which the CST station was a part. As part of this, an agency called Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was already working on the restoration of the building. The station, built in 1887, was formerly known as Victoria Terminus.
Interestingly, the museum roadmap by Railways after the SBI Foundation committed Rs 100 million for the conservation and restoration of CST over a period of three to five years, as part of the corporate social responsibility of the State Bank of India. “We are already involved in designing the new master plan for National Rail Museum. As far as CST is concerned, it already has a good footfall with great revenue generation and it will be a great move to convert part of the building into a museum,” said Shikha Jain, Director of Dronah, one of the bidders for designing the museum.
Recently, the iconic building was also lit up with at least 16 million colourful lights to attract tourists, as part of a master plan to attract more tourists by Pune-based architect Kiran Kalamdani who was appointed by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). “The museum plan may need clearances from MTDC and the local administration and Railways is in the process of doing it,” said an official.
Interestingly, global giant Google through the Google Cultural Institute (GCI) is set to provide a virtual tour of the national rail museum and form a digital repository of its heritage assets for online access, free of cost. The institute was launched in 2011 to digitally preserve cultural documents. Other historic venues where one can get a 360-degree view are the Taj Mahal and Kolkata’s Indian Museum.
Indian Railway maintains 34 Museums, Heritage Parks and Heritage galleries, spread all over India, for creating a unique and rich experience to visitors about Railway heritage in India. Indian Railways have also preserved 230 Steam Locomotives, 110 vintage coaches and wagons at prominent places including museums and heritage parks. It also has a large repository of built heritage like 25 bridges and 70 buildings designated as heritage assets.