Celebrating 150 years

Print edition : August 27, 2004

The heritage train that set off the 150th year celebrations, on August 16, 2003. -

ON August 16, 2003, Eastern Railway started a year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary. The event began with the launch of a heritage train hauled by a steam locomotive, from Howrah to Bandel, a few kilometres from the Hoogly station, the original destination of the first train journey in eastern India on August 15, 1854.

The uniforms for the staff on the train were specially designed like those worn in the early days of the railways in India. The anniversary special had many VIP passengers, including West Bengal Governor Viren J. Shah, the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar and eminent personalities from the fields of literature, sports and arts. The menu for the onboard lunch had dishes that were popular among the British in pre-Independence India.

Thousands of people had turned up at the Howrah station to witness the occasion and throughout the journey, people lined up on either side of the track to hail the train. Schoolchildren presented cultural programmes at all the stations between Howrah and Bandel. "The popularity of this train among the local people prompted us to regularly run it every Sunday for the next three months," Shyam Kumar, General Manager, Eastern Railway, told Frontline.

A heritage gallery, the first of its kind in Indian Railways was also set up at the Eastern Railway headquarters at Fairlie Place in Kolkata, showcasing important moments in its history, and rare documents, manuscripts, medallions and photographs. An official heritage book, titled Symphony of Progress - The Saga of Eastern Railway was released on this occasion.

As a part of Eastern Railways' continuous efforts to upgrade the extent and quality of its interface with rail users, a modern single window Passenger and Freight Marketing Centre has been set up in its headquarters. A foreign tourist bureau has also been established in the same complex to enable foreigners to procure railway tickets without much problem.

As part of the closing phase of the celebrations, a two-week philatelic exhibition is planned at Howrah and Sealdah stations, which will display stamps on railways from all over the world. The stamps are part of an exclusive collection of Md. Mujibullah, an Eastern Railway employee, who is also an internationally acclaimed philatelist. "We feel this exhibition will generate a lot of interest about the railways among the people, especially children," Soumitro Majumdar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Eastern Railway told Frontline. Finally, there will be a `torch run' by sportspersons of Eastern Railway who have represented the country in international events.

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