Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), elevated to the status of a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004, is set to be converted into a museum cum railway station, one of the first in India, to portray the more than 130-year-old history of one of the busiest stations in the world. At least 13 companies have submitted expressions of interests (EoI) to design the first and ground floors of CST. The bids, invited by Railway’s subsidiary RITES, got responses from top architectural conservation and building restoration companies including Abha Narain Lambah Associates and Dronah group. “This is a Rs 250 million project for converting the building into a museum. Though the railways run around 34 museums, heritage parks and heritage galleries, this will be the first time that a station building will be converted into a museum,” said an official close to the development.
As part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the government had initiated a project to make 100 places of heritage, spirituality and culture “Swachh tourist destinations”, in the category of which CST fell. A conservation agency called the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is working on the restoration of the building. The station, built in 1887, was known as Victoria Terminus. The Railways drew up the roadmap for the museum after the SBI Foundation committed Rs 100 million for the conservation and restoration of CST over three to five years. This is a part of SBI’s corporate social responsibility. “We are involved in designing the new master plan for National Rail Museum. As far as CST is concerned, it has a good footfall and revenue generation and it will be a great move to convert part of the building into a museum,” said Shikha Jain, director of Dronah, one of the bidders for designing the museum. The iconic building was lit with at least 16 million colourful lights as part of a master plan by Pune-based architect Kiran Kalamdani, who was appointed by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
“The museum plan may need clearances from MTDC and the local administration. Including the museum, CST has conservation jobs of Rs 750 million,” said an official. Global giant Google, through the Google Cultural Institute (GCI), is set to provide for free a virtual tour of the National Rail Museum and form a digital repository of its heritage assets for online access. The institute was launched in 2011 to digitally preserve cultural documents. Other historic venues where one can get a 360-degree view are the Taj Mahal and Kolkata’s Indian Museum. The Indian Railways has preserved approximately 230 steam locomotives, 110 vintage coaches and wagons at prominent places including museums and heritage parks. It has a repository of built heritage such as 25 bridges and 70 buildings designated “heritage assets”.