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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Stately Egmore station inspires source:Express News Service CHENNAI: Even as heritage enthusiasts cry foul over the whitewash of history, thanks to the poor maintenance of most of Madras’s heritage structures, it is the simple whitewash of one alphabet that hides the true story behind the majestic Chennai Egmore Station. Peer closer at the crest on the dome above the main entrance, and you will see the letter ‘I’ painted into the background, to read ‘SR’ for Southern Railway. ‘SIR’ the original relief on the crest stood for South Indian Railway, the company that built and operated Egmore Station till Independence. But what stands out with the heritage station is the fact that you can peer into the ‘I’ and activate a link to history without feeling bad for its state. In fact, heritage conservationists are all praise for the Railway’s sensitivity and sensibility in retaining the true character of the station over the decades. “Egmore Station is well maintained. There is always scope for improvement. But Railways has taken care of the building. And that is laudable work,” says S Suresh, state convenor of the Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). The restoration work carried out on the station has been of international standards, he adds. “Much work has been done. Extensions and additions have been made over the years out of necessity. But it is remarkable that these have been harmonised with the station’s original character,” says Suresh. �The response of Southern Railways Divisional Railway Manager S Anantharaman to the praise was modest. “We strive to maintain the integrity of the station’s original design. That is taken care of in our routine check. It is not like we take any special measures to conserve the building,” he says. �Egmore Station, though the most spectacular station of the South Indian Railway Company, was not its headquarters. SIR’s main station was in Thiruchirapalli, and the Egmore Station, that was inaugurated around eight years later, in 1908, was grander. It was due to the excellent result of this endeavour that Samynada Pillai won the contract to build the headquarters of the Madras and Mahratta Railway Company. We know this building today as the headquarters of the Southern Railways.

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