ONE of the busiest stations on Central Railway, the Byculla station, is actually more than 125 years old. Suddenly in the news over reports that it could see a remodelling in the coming years to accommodate more railway lines, the station, which opens onto the busy JJ Road area, has tremendous significance in history. According to records, construction of the station started in 1887 and was completed in 1891.
When the first railway line became operational in India, with a train leaving Bombay’s Victoria Terminus at Bori Bunder on April 16, 1853 at 15.30 hrs for Thana (today’s Thane), one of its halts was at the very area where the Byculla station would eventually be built. Railway historian Rajendra B Aklekar says, “Byculla has an important place in the history of Indian railways and was one of the stations along India’s first railway route. It was the place from where trials of the first passenger steam locomotive were held before trains began to run in 1853, between Byculla and Parel.”
In the British era, prior to the 1880s, it was Byculla that had more prominence on a daily basis than the Bori Bunder station owing to its proximity to the horse stables. “Byculla is also the place where the Bombay Governor’s wife Lady Falkland took her first ride on the train in 1853,” Aklekar adds. The original Byculla station structure was not located exactly where it is today — it was a bit further south, opposite Mankeshwar Temple. But the wide porches, poles and arches of the present-day station are dipped in heritage — one ticket window bears the logo of the old railway service before it was renamed.
The station itself is a listed heritage structure according to BMC records. Its arched decorative roof is somewhat hidden behind the chaos immediately outside both exits, and the general grubbiness dims the more aesthetic aspects of the structure. According to records, the station’s design had to be revised by the railway’s senior officials in London, to shave off some costs. By the time the building was finally constructed, the Victoria Terminus building was simultaneously being completed. The contractor for both structures was the same Parsi firm, Berjoorjee Rustomjee Mistri and Co.