A train of memories

Restoration

A train of memories

“Let me proudly proclaim, ‘I am the Mysore Maharani’s Saloon!’ During the year 1899, the honour of making my under-frame was bagged by Hurst & Nelson, England, and my beautiful body was elegantly carved by Central workshops, Mysore South, at a cost of Rs 29,508, quite a big sum for that period.

Fitted with an ornate balcony and a lavishly furnished bedroom with delicately gilded ceilings replete with chandeliers and fans and provided with comforts like an attached bath room and an exclusive kitchen-cum-dining unit, I rolled along narrow gauge and meter gauge tracks with equal ease and poise-the cynosure of all eyes. I am now a grand old lady ageing gracefully. Of course, I do miss my partner, ‘The Maharajas’s saloon’,  housed in the distant National Rail Museum, Delhi, and I fondly recall the good old times-Those were the days!”

This is a framed board hung in front of ‘Mysore Maharani’s saloon’, the old favourite of Wodeyars-the rulers of the erstwhile Princely State of Mysore. Once upon a time, this was the prized possession of the Wodeyars.

This wooden coach was meant exclusively for the Maharanis of Mysore. In those days, the Maharanis used this to travel long distance. This coach, once the property of the royal family, is now a priceless possession of the Indian Railways.

The coach has been designed in such a way that it could run on both meter gauge and narrow gauge with minor adjustments. After Independence, the royal family presented this coach to the Indian Railways and it has been put on display at the Railway Museum on Yadavagiri Road in Mysore.

After gauge conversion all over the country, this royal saloon has found its permanent place within the four walls of the museum. Tourists are allowed to see and enjoy this royal splendour from outside.

Enter the ‘Mysore Maharani’s saloon’, and you will be astonished to see the way in which the coach has been furnished, that too 110 years ago. The entire coach is made out of teak wood and other expensive wood  available in plenty during those times. Its roof has intricate designs in silver colour and its flooring is made of beautifully carved stones. 

Now the flooring has been covered with a thick plastic sheet in order to protect the original grandeur. This holds a mirror to the marvellous ideas of railway engineers of that period. The design is on par with the modern Golden Chariot train.

The coach has electrical wiring and a small but beautiful chandelier. It has fans, cards table, calling bells, a moveable cot, a dressing table, a writing table and artistic lamps. It also has a well-equipped attached bath room.

All of them are in good condition thanks to excellent maintenance by the authorities of the Mysore Division of South Western Railways. The ‘Maharani’s saloon’ is attached to the ‘G’ type dining saloon built by Burn and Colt, Howrah in 1914 at a cost of Rs 49,194. 

It has a separate toilet for servants, a spacious dining hall, shower room, bath room, prayer hall, perfume dispenser and a state-of-the-art kitchen with three stoves to be used with charcoal, exhaust fans to ensure there’s no smoke inside the dining saloon.

The coach also has a store room, luggage room, water pumping system, provision for round-the-clock hot water apart from a resting room for cooks. There is a stone grinder inside the kitchen locked to the door. The vessels used during those days are also preserved in this saloon.

Restoration

The Maharani’s saloon is more than 100 years old and is badly in need of restoration. The beautiful silver coloured roofing material is peeling off at many places. The floor tiles are also becoming loose. The wooden pieces attached to the roof are coming apart. The saloon is showing signs of ageing. The railway authorities are now planning the restoration of the coach at the earliest.  

MoU with Regional Conservation Lab

Anup Dayanand Sadhu, senior divisional commercial manager, Mysore Division of South Western Railway told Spectrum  that the Railways has earmarked Rs six lakh for restoration of both ‘Mysore Maharani’s Saloon’ and ‘Dining Saloon’. It plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Regional Conservation Laboratory, Mysore, which belongs to the Union Ministry of Culture, New Delhi, for the restoration work.

“Both these coaches are not only master pieces but the pride of Indian Railways in general and Mysore Division in particular. “We deemed it a pleasure to restore them as early as possible and give them a new lease of life so that they attract many more generations to come.”

Sadhu said the Railways is not averse to taking the help of any individual or organisation to ensure these coaches are saved.  “We welcome anybody who’s willing to join hands with the Railways in this endeavour,”  he noted.

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