The mention of the old railway station (Ernakulam Railway Goods station) brings some vivid memories to 84-year-old Ravi Achan, former Ranji player and member of the royal family of erstwhile Kochi kingdom.
As the train schedules were not well defined in those days, the royals of Kochi would go to the building and wait for the trains, recalled Mr. Achan. There were two spacious halls with large chairs, tables, deewans, and other facilities. A helper named Sreedharan Nair would also be around to attend to the royal travellers. According to Mr. Achan, Mr. Nair, who used to wear a white uniform with brass buttons, was employed by the Railways. No food was served there, as far as Mr. Achan could recall.
Along with his father, he used to take the train from the old railway station to the palace at Chowara, known as the summer palace of the Kochi kings.
Different areas of Ernakulam were not referred to as being in the south or north of the town, he said. It was the two railway stations, constructed later on, that brought about the north-south nomenclature, he said.
P. Rajagopalachari, the Diwan of Kochi, was asked by the then King Rama Varma (better known as ‘the king who abdicated') to execute the construction of the railway station, said Mr. Achan. “I remember a chapter that we studied in our primary (class) on the railway's association with the Diwan of Kochi,” he said.
It is said that the king sourced the funds for constructing the old railway station building by selling 14 out of the 15 gold caparisons that used to adorn the elephants during the festival of Sree Poornathrayeesa temple.
Raman Namboodiri, who retired as archaeologist from the State Department of Archaeology, said he had heard about chandeliers that added beauty to the hall. “I had once mentioned to the director (archaeology) about this railway station, but it was never taken up as a project,” said Mr. Namboodiri, who is married to a member of the royal family. Elamana Hari, who was the tahsildar of the area from 1971 to 77, said that though he had visited the building during his college days, it had fallen into disuse by then and was hardly used.
The then Diwan oversaw the construction of the railway station.