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Historic Old Delhi station to get a modern makeover with sleeping pods & more

Historic Old Delhi station to get a modern makeover with sleeping pods & more
New Delhi, Delhi Junction or the historic Old Delhi railway station will emerge as a modern facility in the coming days which will have various new age amenities such as luxury sleeping pods for passengers.

In 1854, Ronald MacDonald Stephens, the father of the East Indian Railway Company, envisioned a railway station in Delhi, and in 1864, the Old Delhi Railway Station opened from a small building. However, it was opened to the general public only after about a decade.

Initially, on January 1, 1867, after the construction of the iron bridge over the Yamuna, the first train arrived at Old Delhi station. Delhi's historic iron bridge is a reminder of the era when steam engines used to run trains.

Although the steam engine trains were discontinued in 1994, the old Delhi station became grander with time.

The railway operation works were performed from a small building for 40 years. Gradually, when the need for its expansion was felt, in 1893, the work of building a new station building started, which took about ten years to complete.

Only after this, the old Delhi station, rich in unprecedented history, was opened for common passengers in the year 1903 with just two platforms. This building, a unique example of Greco-Roman and Indian-Islamic architecture, was built on the basis of the ancient architecture of the Mughal period. Due to this, some glimpse of a mosque and a fort is also felt in its texture.

Initially red and now for a few years it has been changed to ocher color, the glimpse of Scottish elements in this building also enhances its beauty.

Today, this railway station is counted among the ten major stations of the country.

When the station was renovated in the year 2016, the grandeur remained the same, only there was a change in the colour of the building.

Architect Ashish Ganju says that the design of the station is soothing to the eyes, with Scottish elements in its design. For example, the kind of terraces and minarets that are found in Scottish buildings are also present in Old Delhi Railway Station. Another specialty of this construction is that there is no plaster over the bricks. This practice is prevalent in Europe.

Behind the construction of such a grand building, there are many interesting and conflicting stories related to that time.

In the year 1854, Ronald MacDonald Stephens, envisaged laying a rail line from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Allahabad (now Prayagraj) and Delhi to Lahore. Later, while making changes in this, instead of Delhi, there was a proposal to lay a railway line through Meerut, which was strongly opposed by businessmen and other citizens of Delhi.

In this connection, in a committee constituted in 1863. Narayan Das Nagarwala and other members appealed to the British Empire not to deprive Delhi of the railway line. They argued that the business of Delhi would be affected by the government's decision. It will also be unfair to the businessmen of Delhi who have invested money in the railway company. After the displeasure of the people of Delhi, finally Charles Wood, the Board President of the East India Company, decided to run the train via Delhi. Along with this, the existence of Old Delhi Railway Station also came to the fore. At present, where the Old Delhi railway station is located, there used to be a large population at that time - which was shifted to Paharganj, Sadar Bazar, Karol Bagh before the construction of the station.

According to historian Sohail Hashmi, the railway line passed through the old city uniting the two parts. On the north side of which were the houses and churches of the British residents and on the south side was the residence of the local Delhiites.

Interesting stories are embedded in the veins of this station; another story is that why the old Delhi railway station was built in Shahjahanabad near the Red Fort.

The last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar (1837-1857) was deeply troubled by the prospect of introducing the railway in Delhi. He feared that the new invention of transport would disturb the peace of the city. This was the reason why Zafar requested to move the rail line to the north of the city.

It is worth mentioning that only after Delhi was completely captured in 1803, the East India Company started expanding the rail network in India in terms of earning profits and expanding their presence. The plan to bring Delhi on the rail map was the result of this.

The British Empire worked in a much planned manner to choose the place where the railway station should be built.

After the failure of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the British Empire had chosen this place as a strategy for the railway station in Delhi. Revolutionary sentiments were strong in Shahjahanabad. Anyway, it was the insistence of the British that the railway line would pass through the Red Fort and for this even a corner of the Red Fort was defaced at that time.

The British army was shifted to Shahjahanabad, keeping in mind that it would be easy to control the situation if there is a violent movement in the future.

Prior to the establishment of the new imperial capital New Delhi after 1911, the Old Delhi Railway Station was the only point of transportation for the entire city and the Agra-Delhi railway line, now called Lutyens' Delhi, and the site for the hexagonal All India War Memorial (now India Gate) and Kingsway (now Kartavyapath).

East Indian Railway Company shifted the line along the Yamuna river and opened the new track in 1924. Minto (now Shivaji) and Hardinge (now Tilak) rail bridges were built for this reorganised line.

It established a new railway station in this area between Ajmeri Gate and Paharganj, which is now called New Delhi Railway Station. That is, after the year 1926, the burden of Old Delhi station was shared with New Delhi.

The railway station building, built by the British contractor Benjamin Fletcher, increased in importance after Delhi became the capital in the year 1931, so the railway station complex was further expanded in the year 1934-35.

The number of platforms was increased and electric signals were installed. A significant portion of the northern wall of Shahjahanabad was demolished to facilitate the laying of the railway track and the construction of the station building.

After independence, along with the progress of industrial and economy, importance was also given to passenger facilities. Similarly, after the formation of Northern Railway in 1952, Delhi Junction became its part. The yard of this station was renovated in the year 1959, which increased the capacity of the yard manifold. Expansion of washing line, platform shed, parcel shed was done during the year 1985-88.

The 114-year-old iconic colonial-era building is all set to get a facelift.

The General Manager of Northern Railway said that they have spent about Rs 20 crore on the redevelopment of the station in the last few years. Arrangements were made such as renovated ticket counters, a temporary roof with LED lights in the main hall, and battery-operated golf carts that can be hired to travel between platforms.

According to the Indian Railways, under the Amrit Bharat Station scheme, efforts will be made to improve amenities at Old Delhi station. The main focus will be on improving station accessibility, providing free Wi-Fi, and improving amenities such as waiting rooms, toilets, better information system for passengers, executive lounge, removal of unwanted structures near the station, widening of roads to provide pedestrian walkways and well planned parking area.

Along with this, multi-level parking, state-of-the-art food court, gaming zone for children, air-conditioned waiting hall and escalators, CCTV cameras will be installed at the station.

As per the recent information provided by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the Delhi Junction will soon get a luxury sleeping pod facility. The sleeping pods will also have drinking water, a charging socket for mobile phones and electronic devices, a locker room, internet and a deluxe bathroom.

In the coming days, New Delhi and Old Delhi railway stations will be connected to each other internally by a single route. After this, passengers will be able to reach from one station to another in 15 minutes.




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