ISLAMABAD: The renovated halls of the Pakistan Railways’ Heritage Museum in Golra is ready to open its doors to the public shuttling them to a time when Maharajas gifted train carriages to their daughters on their weddings and viceroys discussed pressing matters with the elite as they travelled in plush saloons to the frontiers.
The museum is scheduled to be reopened at the Golra railway station near Sector E-11 on Wednesday. Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique will be inaugurating the museum.
The renovation initiative was undertaken on the directions of the Minister for Railway. He has further expressed an interest in launching other railway museums in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad under the Railway Heritage Directorate.
The Golra station has a rich history. It was established in 1882 during British rule and then upgraded as a junction in 1912. It formed the logistics artery of British India, especially during the Afghan military campaigns at the turn of the 20th century. It has since become an imperative trade route which extends into Afghanistan.
In the bounds of Golra Railway Station, the museum was established in 2003 with the aim of preserving and maintaining more than 150 years of rail heritage in this region and displayed it in a presentable manner for the visitors.
The museum consists of two main galleries.
The first gallery displays the objects from 1881 of North Western Railways’ to the current generation.
The gallery gives the visitor an insight into the whole operating system of railways and provides them with a view of signals, meters, mode of communication, emergency equipment, archival photographs, coaches with steam engines, models and other items which are now and then part and parcel under the current railway system.
In the second gallery, there is a display of Victorian furniture used in waiting halls with classic crockery, a piano and long-arm rest chairs, self-style mirrors and other fixture and fittings, as well as old-fashioned ceiling fans commonly used at that time. Along with these items steam and diesel locomotives, historical coaches in narrow and broad gauge are on display in the museum.
Vintage Saloons are also part of this museum. One such saloon was part of the fleet which served the last viceroy of India, Lord Mount Batten. The walls and fixtures have seen history in making as it shuttled the most prominent people of South Asia during the Partition in 1947.
The saloon car also had the honour of taking Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah from Karachi to Lahore. The beautiful teak interior and leather upholstery speak of the past glamour of the railways.
Another interesting display is a royal saloon given by Maharaja of Indian State of Jodhpur as a bridal gift to his daughter. It was made in Ajmer Sharif Carriage Workshop in 1888.
Also sitting on tracks in its final resting place is a German postal coach made in 1914, is on display which is landmarked source of distribution of postal service in the past.
Apart from the museum, this railway station is currently serving its function as a source for transportation.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2018.