Indian Railways (IR), with more than 160 years of rich history; presents a wide spectrum of both tangible and intangible heritage. IR occupies a special place within the national heritage spectrum of India. Over the years, IR has been endeavoring sustained and focused approach for safeguarding its industrial as well as living heritage and to transmit it intact to future generations.Â
Indian Railways is the proud owner of four UNESCO accorded World Heritage Sites namely Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1999), Nilgiri Mountain Railway (2005), Kalka Shimla Railway (2008) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai (2004). There are two more in waiting or in the tentative list namely Matheran Light Railway and Kangra Valley Railway.
Today, Indian Railways maintain 34 Museums, Heritage Parks and Heritage galleries, spread all over India, for creating unique and rich experience to visitors about Railway heritage in India. The National Rail Museum in New Delhi and Regional Rail Museums at Chennai, Mysore, Howrah and Nagpur, are iconic tourist destinations in their region.
Indian Railways have also preserved about 230 Steam Locomotives, 110 vintage coaches and wagons at prominent places including museums, heritage park etc., for public display. Many of these rolling stocks are more than 100 years old and they bring back memories of old glory to the mind of the visitors.
Indian Railways are also preserving about 16 Steam locomotives as working heritage. Although, not in regular service, these preserved steam locomotives are still capable of hauling tourist trains and ceremonial running. The Rewari Steam Shed has been rechristened as Rewari Heritage Steam Centre in 2002 for recreating the memories of working Steam Shed, a feat un-parallel in the World. Rewari Steam Centre now maintains six Broad Gauge and four Meter Gauge working steam locomotives, that include the iconic “Fairy Queen” (1855), placed in the Guinness Book of Record as being the oldest working locomotive in the World and “Akbar”, that featured in many Bollywood movies like Sultan, Gadar etc. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) and Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) also operate regular steam services thus attracting steam lovers from India and abroad.
Indian Railways have a large repository of built heritage like buildings, bridges, via ducts etc. As of now, about 25 bridges and 70 buildings are designated as Heritage Assets by Indian Railways. Notable among them are Jubilee Bridge near Kolkata, Yamuna bridge near Naini, Sonenagar Bridge, Pamban via duct, Bandra suburban station, Pratap Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Glenogle Bunglow, Mumbai, SER (erstwhile BNR) Headquarter, Kolkata etc.Â Indian Railways have been making special efforts to conserve these built heritages
A slew of measures have been initiated recently to institutionalize rail heritage preservation. These include strengthening rail museums, promoting rail heritage tourism, more steam trains, compilation of heritage inventory and publishing it on the website, collaboration with M/s Google for digitizing and providing online access to rail heritage inventory & visual tour of museums, MOU with INTACH and Ahmedabad University for capacity building of railway officers and introducing modules for training courses etc.
Following are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Indian Railways
A. Mountain Railways of India:
(i) Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) - inscribed by UNESCO in 1999 :
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway consists of 88.48 kilometres of 2 feet (0.610 metre) gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through Ghoom at an altitude of 2,258 metres. The innovative design includes six zigzag reverses and three loops with a ruling gradient of 1:31.
(ii) Nilgiri Mountain Railways (NMR) â€“ inscribed in 2005:
This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 metre to 2,203 metre, represented the latest technology of the time and uses unique rack and pinion traction arrangement to negotiate steep gradient.
(iii) Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR) â€“ inscribed in 2008:
The world’s highest multi-arch gallery bridge and the world’s longest tunnel (at the time of construction) of KSR were the testimony of the brilliance engineering skills applied to make a dream a reality.
B. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai (CSMT) â€“ inscribed in 2004:
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai is commonly known as Bombay V.T or Victoria Terminus. The building is outstanding example of late 19th century railway architecture in the British commonwealth characterized by Victoria Gothic Revival and traditional Indian features as well as its advanced structural and technical features.