Do you love trains? Then a visit to the Regional Railway Museum, Chennai, is a must.

Did you know that the concept of a coach was drawn from a horse carriage? And did you know that the steam engine was used by a farmer to help him plough the fields?

If you wish to find out, you must head to the Regional Railway Museum.

The 10-km-long New Avadi Road houses one of the five regional museums in the country. Inaugurated in 2002 by the Railway Minister, Nitish Kumar, the Regional Railway Museum. It's a place to learn about trains and their history.

At the museum

The Museum offers a lot on History, development, past and present.

You will have to enter a traincoach that serves as the ticket counter to buy your entry ticket and once you get off on the other side a road takes you to the first room.

Different scale models of coaches, bogies, tracks, types of trains and write ups loaded with the rich historical data will welcome you. The earliest railway Coach was a rectangular wooden open box affixed to wheels with benches (rough wooden boards without backs) laid out horizontally for seating passengers.

The passengers sat exposed to the sun, the wintry breeze, rain and storm. The coaches were connected by a primitive system of loose couplers, which gave the passengers many jolts whenever the brakes were applied or the train accelerated.

On passing the older models you will notice the gradual development of the coaches.

Don't miss the train on which Gandhiji travelled, one can see all the different types of classes. The First class not only looked luxurious it also offered a range of services. The second and the third classes, however, managed to accommodate the lesser mortals who could not afford the luxury.

After the passing the “Cheap Trains Act” of 1844 in Britain which provided penny-a-mile fare, the railway coaches built had to necessarily allow free admission of light and air, protection against wind, rain and cold.

Provision of lamps for night journeys and seats with backs, windows for looking-out and doors in sufficient numbers were to be included.

But later this was amended as coaches were to have roofs and doors. This gave way to the modern coaches which included individual berths.

Visually

An audio video on the Neal's ball token system will demonstrate how the signalling system operated before the automated version came into being. At a time when trains ran on one single track A steel ball was used to connect the stations and send messages of entry or exit. On entering a station the guard would throw a ball with a particular number which the engine driver will pick up using a huge net. The numbered ball will then be thrown out at the next station. Once the station master got the ball he would have to push it in machine to lock it signalling a no entry point for any train.

This concept is still prevalent in the Ooty Mettupalayam single line entry section.

Live exhibits

You will get to see the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, GM salon, MG EMU, Hospital van, a hand operated crane, an over head equipment car, Meter gauge EMU, different types engine (Steam, Diesel and Flower stream plough engine), The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Narrow gauge coaches and the gauge coaches. You can get in and see the entire coach.

Not to miss

1) The three tier running model: exclusivly in Chennai:

2) Live models: Different trains including signals, track crossings, and automatic signals

3) The toy train: For Rs. 15 a joy ride and you even get to pass through a tunnel.

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Archana SubramanianJune 28, 2012