Red-letter day for Southern Railway

Special Correspondent

For Egmore station, it’s a track record of 100 years

CHENNAI: June 11, 2008 is a red-letter day for the Southern Railway when the Egmore station building completes its centenary.

It was this day 100 years ago (1908) that the South Indian Railway (SIR) Company, which was then operating train services to the south, dedicated the building to the citizens of Madras, now known as Chennai.

Burgeoning traffic

Justifying the construction of a new building for Egmore, the SIR, in its report, said: “For some time it had been felt that the traffic to be handled in ‘Madras’ had outgrown the accommodation provided for it at the Egmore station and that something better was required. The old-fashioned, cramped station had done duty for many years as terminus for the South Indian Railway. Hence the move to construct a new station building for Madras.”

At the inauguration of the new building, the SIR claimed that it had given “Madras” a building to be proud of, “whose covered platform area is greater than that of Charing Cross Station in London.”

The building was constructed on a 2.5-acre land. For this, 1.8 acres was acquired from Dr. Paul Andy, who initially refused to sell his property. In his letter to the “Collector of Madras,” he said he had purchased and developed the property with great difficulty. But after much persuasion, he sold the land to the SIR. Dr. Andy claimed Rs. 1 lakh as compensation but there was no record to show the exact amount paid to him.

After acquiring the land, the SIR invited Hendry Irwine, CIE, (chief engineer) and E.C. Bird, company architect, to design a building suitable to the needs of traffic and worthy of the city.

After many alterations in their plan, the construction work began in September 1905 and was completed in 1908. The building, which was constructed by contractor Samynada Pillai of Bangalore, was thrown open on June 11 to public use.

There was also a demand that the station be named after Clive, which was, however, strongly opposed by the public as they wanted to name it Egmore. When the station was opened there was no electricity connection and a generator was used.

MG terminal

From then on, there was no stopping it. It became a major metre gauge terminal after the formation of the Southern Railway in 1951 and served as the gateway to the south. Passengers from the south had to necessarily alight here to go to Chennai Central for boarding north, west and east-bound trains. Now services are available from here not only to the south but also to the north (Hyderabad) and east (Howrah). Soon the Chennai-Dadar Express (west) will originate from Egmore.

A new suburban station building was opened in November 2004 when the Tambaram-Beach broad gauge section became fully operational.

Second entrance

With increasing passenger traffic, authorities felt that the entrance on the Gandhi-Irwin Road was insufficient and so a second entrance from the Poonamalle High Road side was opened in June 2006.

Now the station handles about 25 main line trains and 118 suburban trains, and about one lakh people daily. Its average daily earning is Rs. 17.06 lakh, according to a Southern Railway release.