Heritage tour of CST station
Last monsoon, I was looking for inspiration and reading ‘The artist’s way’ for just that. One of the many things the book suggests is taking self on a weekly artist date and on one rainy artist date I took myself on the heritage tour of CST station. Now, I have used the station to go to college and back and on less busy days wondered what it must feel like to work in the building. As a younger person, I have even asked a journalist friend who had a keen interest in railways to get me special permission to walk in the building. It is only recently that I found out the heritage building is accessible to public and has a museum. And I had to go. First for the basics, this a historic railway station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was designed by Frederick William Stevens and was built in 1887 in the Bori Bunder area of Mumbai to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. And now for the heritage tour basics, the heritage section of the building serves as the Central Railway head quarters and was opened to public in December 2012 and is open from 3-5 pm on weekdays (not open on weekends or public holidays). It costs Rs 200 and Rs 100 for students . To reach the point where the tour starts, get out of CST station and walk towards Fort, walk past the main entrance (central dome area) where you will see folks taking selfies. Once you go past the selfie takers, you will see another entrance with a miss-able board that announces the guided tour, walk in. The first section houses the museum where the energetic and cheerful tour guides (also railways employees) will take you through the history of Indian railways and about the construction of the building. You can also turn a key in an old clock (non functional) while they explain the mechanism of how CST’s clock works.Personally, the highlight for me is walking around in the corridors of the station, looking at the various animals and birds carved on the various levels of the station. I have done the tour six times since I first went in last July and I am still overwhelmed by how animatedly the birds and animals have been carved out. I can spend hours admiring the conversation between the jackal and the mongoose, the mum bird feeding the baby bird a worm, the carvings are full of life. It is a complete world for me, something that excites me anew every time I am there. That aside, on the first floor, you also get closer access to the star painted ceiling, right above the ticketing window. You can also walk into the balcony for a spectacular view of the city and watch the city go by. On the second floor, you can get a stellar view of the central dome with its stunning stained glass windows. The first few times I did the tour, they’d serve chai and biscuits in the lounge area on the second level, now they don’t. So I take snacks every time I plan a visit to share with the very cheerful railways staff. Every time I have made this trip I have come back inspired. Each time. Every time.