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A forgotten icon of Kochi

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SYMBOL OF the past: The 107-year-old Ernakulam Terminus railway station that is now in ruins.
SYMBOL OF the past: The 107-year-old Ernakulam Terminus railway station that is now in ruins.

Staff Report

KOCHI: An eerie quiet prevailed at the historic Ernakulam terminus railway station (which later came to be called the Ernakulam Railway goods station), even as it entered its 107th anniversary on Thursday.

The cobwebs across the dilapidated building seemed to symbolise the festoons that should have adorned its walls on the special day.

But then, most Kochiites have forgotten the station that once played host to Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Sastry, Lord Irwin and a host of other personalities. It remains mostly unknown to the public, possibly because it is hidden from public view, though located in the heart of the city behind the High Court. A wall separates it from Mangalavanam, home to hundreds of migratory birds.

It was on July 16, 1902, that the first passenger train chugged its way into the station. Apart from members of the Kochi royal family, there were hundreds of onlookers to welcome the locomotive. The steam engine with six bogies arrived from Shoranur, through a metre-gauge track. The 62-mile track was converted into broad gauge in 1935. Rama Varma, the then Maharaja of Kochi (1895-1914), took the initiative in establishing the rail line from Shoranur. Faced with financial constraints, he sold elephant accoutrements and some valuables, mainly caparisons which belonged to the Poornathrayeesa Temple, to fund the project.

The area near the Rammohan Palace (the old High Court building) was chosen because of its proximity to the Ernakulam market. People could also easily travel to West Kochi and Vypeen from the nearby boat jetty. Since there was no electricity then, the platform was lit using ‘petromax’ lamps. The Ernakulam South station was built in 1929 and the Harbour Terminus in 1943. Thus, the Ernakulam Terminus station began to lose its prominence. It catered to passenger traffic till the early sixties, when it became the Ernakulam Railway goods station.

The Ernakulam District Residents’ Associations Apex Council and the All Kerala Railway Users’ Association have demanded that the station be converted into a hub for suburban trains.

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