The Great Indian Railways
January 21, 2008 7:37 AM   Subscribe

The new NDLS looks pretty sweet.

Also, how to see even more photographs! A never-ending stream of constant, unrelated visual goodness!
posted by lou at 8:46 AM on January 21, 2008

I love train stations, especially old ones—thanks for the post! (That Cuttack one is astonishing.)
posted by languagehat at 9:21 AM on January 21, 2008

Wow. I'm trying to somehow merge those artists' conceptions of NDLS with my mental map of Paharganj (admittedly a seven-year-old mental map now). In particular, there was the Paharganj entrance to the current station with its perpetually busted escalator. On the rare occasions it was working, you could invariably see someone ride an escalator for the first time in their life if you spent more than five minutes there.

The two images, in any case, don't reconcile.
posted by gompa at 10:58 AM on January 21, 2008

Thanks, hadjiboy - I love glimpses into different lands I only wish I can visit one day.

My son's comment: "Just the thought of your poop going one-hundred-thirty-five miles-per-hour scares me. Icky Icky Icky!" He also wondered at the footpads, not understanding that a lot of the world squats to take a dump. (I'll have to show him the Asian Squat FPP.)
posted by not_on_display at 11:16 AM on January 21, 2008

My abiding memory of Delhi train station is this. After much procrastination, nature was calling loud enough for me to make a "full" visit to the none too fresh squat toilets. Anyhow it was a delicate balancing act, but I made it in and out with no trouserly dignity intact and was coolly congratulating myself on my can can do.

Then the man in the cubicle next to me came out with a half smoked cigarette in his mouth and the newspaper he'd been reading tucked under his arm. At that moment I knew I was in the presence of greatness.
posted by rhymer at 11:49 AM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

This is a conceptual plan developed by M/S Terry Farrell & Partners for NDLS

I wonder if Terry Farrell or any of his partners have ever been to India? That shiny white roof will be covered in dust & grime before even a week is out, and nobody is going to be up there cleaning it. The white pylons are pure paan-magnets, and what's with the fancy modern TGV-style trains? I just can't see Indian Railways replacing their entire fleet of rattlers with those things anytime in the near future, let alone putting down the kinds of tracks & other infrastructure to that would justify those kinds of superfast trains.

Aside from that, their visualisation is also missing: red-clad porters, large families sitting about in circles on the floor, eating lunch from their tiffin containers, and around five dozen chaiwallahs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:39 PM on January 21, 2008

Hadjiboy, your day and night pics for Chennai are for two different stations, Chennai Central and Egmore (Egmore has domes, Chennai Central has church-like rectangular roofs). A different station on a different route.

Which, naturally, would bring us to a fairly interesting point: suburban rail networks are often a good measure growing urban sprawl. Bombay's suburban network, for instance, is a 16-legged tarantula stretched across the Konkan Coast; Churchgate to Karjat is a shocking 137 kilometres. Delhi's metro in 2010 will engulf five contemporary towns (New and Old Delhi, Gurgaon, NOIDA and Faridabad) and combine three historical towns together (Indraprastha, Tuglaqabad, Shahjahanabad). Chennai's network, above, also combines many many towns that have been historically seperate; Chengalpattu and Kanchipuram have been different towns for as far as I can remember. Heck, Suluripeta, in one of the line's terminuses, is in a different province ('state').

Not entirely surprising, of course; IR is, after all, (what is often called in uncomfortable Ind-glish as) the world's largest mover of people. Parts of Bombay's surburban rail network transport 900 million passengers a year, a world record, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Best seen in this Salgado classic.

And yet, in a different part of the country, there is pathos: stations prosper and wither away even in ever-stoic Indian Railways; they expand, they ebb, they move with the times, they go places.

And they serve as memories of a bygone era. As stations go, I have a particular preference for Kacheguda station, not just coz I grew up in its shadows, but also because it is one of the few stations in the country that isn't either British-colonial, or post-Independence-box-like in inspiration. It is, consequently, demonstrably more loveable in style than others; warm, syrupy Irani chai over staid, propah Darjeeling Earl Grey, if you will.

Lucknow's Charbagh station also has some amount of Persian influence, although the British-colonial flavour eventually wins over. Also, it isn't as imposing as Kacheguda is; you dont have kids growing up trying to do draw its domes every single evening at summer-time, and yet, failing miserably each time they try. (Still failing miserably, even with Photoshop).

A quick glance through a Flickr set, however, disavows us from our childhood crushes, and lays it out India's hard reality: given the nation's breadth, perhaps Kacheguda was unremarkable after all. We've had forts, Franco-Roman villas, temples, tharavads (system, architecture) and cinema theaters for stations, what's so big about a single khana in a now seemingly decaying part of the town?

Like any other bad Bollywood movie though, IR's story will always be free of goondas and full of sachcharine-sweet hope; these are the wheels that are churning one of the greatest migrations in human history. Sometime late last year, IR had already changed us from a pastoral to an urban species.
posted by the cydonian at 2:11 AM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

now seemingly decaying part of town?

Kacheguda not safe for women

Staff Reporter

# Fraught with anti-social elements
# Kacheguda railway station a haven for miscreants
# Major part of waiting place under siege by lunatics
# Bus pass section surrounded by filth

oh, dear god, i miss indian newspapers!

and how i would love to see this lunatic siege! i wonder what they use as ammo in their trebuchets? being lunatics, i could only guess that they use themselves...
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:43 AM on January 22, 2008

Ubu: They probably went nuts with their trebuchets. :-D

Although, to be fair, I'd say "seige" and "lunatics" is actually an improvement (or not, depending on how you look at it); different age and time, the article would have said "gherao" (as in, "One is gheraoed by beggars at the waiting place")

The locality is a dump though. Was once a busy throughfare, a very thriving commercial district, everyone used to enter the city through that station; now it's definitely gone to the dumps. Crime and drugs is just a reflection of larger inner-city ghettoization in that area; commerce is moving over wherever the IT companies have set up shop.
posted by the cydonian at 7:43 AM on January 22, 2008

This thread is useless without pictures of the Darjeeling Toy Train.

Or the Ooty Toy Train.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:56 PM on January 22, 2008

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