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Rail museum looks to make inroads into tourism

Zubeda Hamid
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blast from the past:A steam-operated ploughing engine, madein 1895, is on display at the Regional Rail Museum—Photo: K. Pichumani
blast from the past:A steam-operated ploughing engine, madein 1895, is on display at the Regional Rail Museum—Photo: K. Pichumani

It is celebrating its 12{+t}{+h}anniversary this month, but to date, not many people in Chennai, or those visiting from other parts of the country, know about the Regional Rail Museum.

With two galleries, a host of outdoor heritage exhibits dating from the 1800s, a toy train that takes visitors around the premises, and a playground, the museum has something on offer for everybody — from rail enthusiasts and students to casual tourists.

To increase the number of visitors from the current average of 5,500 per month — comprising mostly students and locals — museum officials are tying up with the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC).

“We are in talks with TTDC officials to include the museum in its Chennai itinerary and in package tour offers. That way, people from outside Chennai will get to know about the museum,” says curator D. Neelakandan. With summer vacations just around the corner, this is the best time to attract tourists to its 6.5-acre premises, situated near ICF bus terminus, he says. Walk into the galleries and you can step into a coach from the Mumbai suburban train network. Or look at old railways map of India, watch the ticking of a century-old clock and study the engine block of a diesel locomotive.

The exhibits are interspersed with posters of high-speed trains from across the world, the history of the Indian Railways and models of coaches made for other countries — Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia.

Step outside, and you can board a coach from the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, or climb into a steam locomotive that was built in 1909 and ran for over 80 years.

To make it more tourist-friendly, the museum has several plans lined up — opening a restaurant in an airconditioned coach, making the exhibits more interactive and creating a park, among others, says S. Srinivas, chief design engineer of the Integral Coach Factory that maintains the museum.

For C. Sridharan, who visited the museum with his family on Wednesday, it was an interesting experience. “But if there had been someone to take us around and explain the significance of each exhibit, it would have enhanced our experience,” says the Ayanavaram resident.

Various measures proposed to attract city residents and tourists to the 12-year-old facility

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