New Chennai Central Railway Station, Old Photo 1874
Old 1874 photo of the newly built Chennai Central Railway Station. Earlier more commonly called “Madras Central Railway Station.” The unusual sight is that even the clocks on this just completed building were yet to be installed. See the photo it shows the empty clock tower of this Chennai Railway Station building. This was because the four clocks had not yet arrived from England.
After the opening in 1830 of the world’s first major railways in England, a few business people suggested creating a network in India. There were a couple of initiatives that claimed to be the first railway lines in India. But they were more at par with wagons hauled by animals. That existed in the UK to transport minerals from mines than full fledged railways.
In 1836, work started on a short line near Madras (now Chennai) at Chintadripet. To transport granite to Red Hills 20 km away. Although drawn mostly by animals hauling the wagons. There were one or more very crude rotary steam locomotives, apparently utilized for a while but details remain sketchy. The promoter, Captain Arthur Cotton, sought permission to carry passengers. Although he was refused permission by the Madras authorities.
However, there is a report on one experimental journey, in August 1838. Twenty eight passengers in four carriages were hauled by one of these crude locomotives. Thus, if true, this would precede by fifteen years the opening of the Bombay-Thana first train run.
George Hardinge, a British architect designed the station building. Which was of the Gothic and Romanesque style architecture. Yet another architect Robert Chisholm designed the famous clock tower of the building. Chisholm was the pioneer of Indo-Saracenic style architecture. The Chennai Central station initially started with 4 platforms. Primarily to decongest the Royapuram station’s traffic at that time. Click on the photo for better view.
Did you know- the station includes the five caps on the roof that were inspired by the Travancore (Kerala) style caps.