6 Indian Railway Stations With Stories to Tell

Haunted junctions, colonial landmarks and stunning pieces of art.  
CST Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai. Photo: Predrag Vuckovic/E+/Getty Images

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Maharashtra

Without a doubt CST is Mumbai city’s busiest railway station. But the metropolitan city’s transport hub is also a UNESCO World Heritage structure and one of the best examples of Gothic Revival architecture in India. Gargoyles jut out of the high walls of this 19th-century masterpiece; they often spout water from their mouths during the monsoon. A high-arched ceiling painted with golden stars covers the ticket counter, while statues and carvings of peacocks, tigers, and other wildlife cover walls and crevices. An octagonal ribbed dome atop the structure is its crowning glory. Known as Victoria Terminus until 1996, CST is an arterial city station, one which took almost a decade to build.

Charbagh Railway Station, Uttar Pradesh

The city of nawabs welcomes passengers in style at the splendid red-and-white Charbagh Railway Station. Built in 1914, the sprawling structure blends Mughal and Rajasthani architecture, and overlooks a huge garden located outside its front entrance. It was here, under the station’s cupola-studded structure, that Jawaharlal Nehru is said to have first met Mahatma Gandhi in 1916. In aerial views, the structure with its small and large domes resembles a chessboard laid out with pieces.

Sawai Madhopur Junction, Rajasthan

Sawai Madhopur Rajasthan

Sawai Madhopur Junction, Sawai Modhopur. Photo: Hira Punjabi/Alamy/Indiapicture

When passengers alight at Sawai Madhopur station, gateway to Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park, they’re struck by the bright murals that adorn its walls. There is a giant painting of a banyan tree that covers the entire ceiling of a central hall. It is modelled after a real tree inside the national park, one of the largest in India. A number of forest dwellers inhabit its branches. Paintings of tigers, flocks of birds, and sloth bears cover platform walls and pillars of the small station, offering a colourful peek into life in the jungle. Painted by the artists from the Ranthambore School of Art, the spectacular murals capture the hearts of all who visit this National Tourism Award-winning station.

Barog Railway Station, Himachal Pradesh

Barog

Photo: Richard Sowerby/Alamy/Indiapicture

This little railway station on the Kalka Shimla Railway, part of a UNESCO World Heritage list, has a colourful history. Built in 1903 by a Colonel Barog, it has Scottish-style gabled roofs and is surrounded by stunning mountain views. The station lies at the mouth of a tunnel which the army man had also commissioned. He went about it in an unusual way, starting excavations at both ends with the intention of meeting in the middle. A miscalculation prevented that from happening, and the disappointed colonel shot himself inside the incomplete tunnel and was buried near it. Not surprisingly, tales of ghosts have haunted the station ever since. A new tunnel was later completed with the help of a local holy man called Baba Bhalku. Today, the station and the tunnel are popular stops on this heritage route.

Royapuram, Tamil Nadu

The very first train to run in South India rolled out of Chennai’s Royapuram station in the monsoon of 1856 and travelled to the town of Arcot in Vellore district. Royapuram was southern India’s first station, in what was then known as the Madras Presidency. The original structure still stands today, making it the oldest functional railway station in the country. The simple red-and white colonial building with grand Corinthian pillars is a heritage structure. The station underwent extensive restoration in 2005.

Howrah Junction, West Bengal

Howrah West Bengal

Howrah Junction, Howrah. Photo: Indiapictires/Contributor/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

With a mindboggling 23 platforms, this is one of the busiest stations in India. A melee of bookshops, tea stalls, and fastfood stands provide succour to passengers. This is one of the oldest stations in India, and the first train from Howrah ran on 15 August 1854, to Hooghly. It was the proverbial feather in the cap for British engineers, representing a new era in the colonial dream of expansion. Located on the banks of the Hooghly River, with the Howrah bridge leading up to its cherry-red facade, the station has starred in many a poster shot promoting the state. Its architecture is a mix of Romanesque and traditional Bengali
styles, very much in sync with its surroundings.

Appeared in the October 2016 issue as “Whistle Stop”.

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    Diya Kohli is Senior Associate Editor at National Geograpic Traveller India. She loves the many stories of big old cities. For her, the best kind of travel experience involves long rambling walks through labyrinthine lanes with plenty of food stops along the way.

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    Kareena Gianani is Associate Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves stumbling upon hole-in-the-wall bookshops, old towns and collecting owl souvenirs in all shapes and sizes.

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    Rumela Basu is Features Writer at National Geographic Traveller India and has an MA in International Journalism from Cardiff University. She likes poetry, food, and books. One day she'd love to have a large library and enough time to travel and drink lots of tea.

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