Tucked away amidst a million national consulates and embassies in the verdant Chanakyapuri neighborhood of New Delhi, India is the National Rail Museum. For an entry fee of Rs. 20-50 (depending on your nationality) it is the tourist attraction with the highest return on investment. If you’re into trains and the history and engineering behind them, this place is an one-stop orgasm! Here below with pics is a summary of my fun-filled half day at the National Rail Museum, New Delhi.
The museum is a tribute to the over 150 year old rich history of trains in India. The bulk of the museum is the open tract of land that houses and exhibits engines, coaches and cabins from trains thru the years. It is colorful, easy-to-navigate and understand as each exhibit has a board with relevant history right next to it. The Rail museum is known to quite a few locals but is not quite as popular yet among tourists. This makes it a more peaceful, personal and fulfilling experience unlike most others in the city which involve intense crowds. Also, there’s literally no restriction on touching, climbing into and running around in the trains if you so desire. There is an adjoining building with miniature exhibits and pictures that prevents photography but everything outside of that is fair game to fully experience and enjoy.
I had a lot of fun at the museum and felt even more intrigued about trains than before. Trains are amazing creations of human ingenuity and labor and are primary instruments of connecting India and Indians. To see their history and to learn about the evolution of engines and the organizations that manage these trains was a stimulating and fulfilling experience. I will try to convey how good the experience was by using some pictures I shot and some words that came to mind during my walk thru the museum. I hope they pique your interest enough to make you visit the museum the next time you are in New Delhi.
This below is the bland walkway that you enter the museum on. It is devoid of color or even basic signage:). Just like some of Indian Railways’ trains today.
The museum starts off with some cool steam locomotives on display. The museum does a good job of convincing you that steam locomotives were to humanity once what the internet is to humanity now. There is also a fun primer on metre gauge, narrow gauge and broad gauge and the challenges associated with each. A lot of these were built-in the 19’th century by Indians in India. Their customers were usually people of royalty from various provinces of the time. The engineering behind these locomotives is easy to see and the engines have incredibly been preserved as-were.
This meter gauge locomotive above is the first one built in India and was built in Ajmer in 1895. Is is named the ‘F-734’ for reasons unknown to me.
This picture above is of the Prince of Wales saloon. The steam locomotive gives a good feel for engineering in 1876 while the saloon provides a great perspective on what opulence to a prince meant in that time frame. SPOILER ALERT: There were no outlets for laptops for the prince!
The train pasted above here is the Maharaja of Mysore’s saloon. It is the first train built to run on both meter gauge and broad gauge tracks. The engineering behind swapping out the wheels is interesting to think about. Especially because they did this stuff in 1899.
This engine above is the World’s oldest steam locomotive. It is a beautiful blue and is called ‘RAMGOTTY’. It is the highlight of the visit in how well it has been preserved.
Towards the end of the exhibits is this fun demo of how the engines get turned around once they reach their destination. A portion of the track swivels around and this is demonstrated very clearly at the museum. I have tried to capture this in the above two pictures.
Lastly there’s a very Indian souvenir shop where you can purchase cool models of trains and engines. There is also the section I mentioned earlier that has a detailed and beautiful breakdown of the evoluton of the various zonal railways that make up what the Indian Railways is, today. They didn’t allow cameras in there and the exhibits are a fun reminder of the history behind every thing from the various zones to the toilets on trains.
New Delhi is a fun, engaging and big city with a million things to do. It is very well connected by the metro and honest auto rickshaws. It’s easy to get lost in the routine of Mughal monuments. The Rail museum is a wonderful, inexpensive distraction. Check it out!