| The Museum on Wheels at New Jalpaiguri. Picture by Avijit Sarkar
Siliguri, Oct.14: It was a trip down memory lane that the railway had lined up for the residents. Unfortunately, it found few takers for the fascinating journey.
A nondescript location at New Jalpaiguri station, lack of publicity and the pujas proved to be the undoing of the Museum on Wheels, a train that chronicled the genesis and growth of Indian Railways.
“The idea behind such a museum was to give the feeling of history unfolding within the matrix of its own ambience,” said a senior railway official who is in charge of the museum.
The purpose of the museum is to present the chequered history of the railway to the common man and make him a part of the culture that fostered it, another official said.
Be it worn-out pictures in black and white of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shashtri with trains in relief or models charting the latest technology, it was all there to see.
There was the forgotten steam engine and relics of toy trains on one hand and charts and models with details of the latest signalling devices and track designs on the other.
“The railway system occupies a special place in the hearts of Indians ever since a proposal for a railway network was mooted by a London-based firm before the East India Company in 1844. The display will give the viewer an idea of all that has transpired within the railways during an era before our own,” an official said, summing up the motto of the venture. “That is why we have the past off-set with carefully-crafted models and detailed charts of the present and the foreseeable future.”
The biggest draw of the museum was the compartment devoted to the “feathers” in the Indian Railways’ cap.
The Metro Railway in Calcutta, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in the hills, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Matheran Hill Railway held pride of place.
“Elements of sophistication and engineering marvel came together to enrich 'treasures' of the indian railways. Recent additions like anti-collision devices and the like have lent much to the railways’ pro-people orientation.
The railways’ “involvement” with the society has been featured through achievements of sportsmen and personalities in myriad other fields.
The railways are an integral part of the “Indian way of life. There was much more that could have been achieved with exhibitions such as these,” an official said. “Perhaps with more careful planning we can paying proper tribute to the “national psyche,” he added.