A train that ferried commoners for 57 years returns to its original owner,the royal family of Vadodara
When the late Maharaja Ranjitsinh Gaekwad of the royal family of Vadodara turned four in 1931,his father Pratapsinh Gaekwad,who was the then ruler of the Baroda state,presented him with a unique gift: a scale model of the legendary Flying Scotsman of England which he had bought at a fair in that country.
The train would carry royal children to the school,passing through the lush palace garden and a tunnel along the way. In 1956,the royal family decided to gift the train to the residents of Baroda,and since then,the civic body has used it to ferry children in the city zoo. Now,the journey of the train is set to come full circle. The civic body has decided to return it to the royal family,after the wife of late Maharaja Ranjitsinh Gaekwad,Rajmata Shubhangini Raje requested it to be returned,so that the train could be restored and displayed at a museum run by a trust owned by the Gaekwad family.
Late Maharajasaheb was fascinated by toy trains. He would collect scale models of trains in the smallest possible size which are very expensive because they are down to the minimum scale and are produced by big locomotive companies. He would talk to dealers of such models on his visits abroad. He has left behind a large collection of such scale models, Rajmata Shubhangini Raje said.
It was her late husbands enduring fascination for trains that prompted her to claim the compartments of the toy train back so that they could be displayed at the Maharaja Fatehsingh Museum,which was the royal school before being converted into a museum in 1961.
The engine of the toy train was reclaimed by the royal family in 1996 when the civic body decided to replace it with a diesel engine. The royal family has now asked for its four compartments so that they can be joined with the engine on display at the museum.
Shubhangini Raje said that Ranjitsinh Gaekwad reclaimed the engine because it could have otherwise gone to the scrap. The civic body stopped using the engine because it was in a bad shape and its boiler was out of order. Late Ranjitsinhji,therefore,asked that it be returned to him. It was around then that a locomotive expert was visiting India to restore the toy train in Darjeeling. We learnt of his visit from a common friend and invited him to have a look at the engine. He said it was an important piece of heritage and advised us to restore it.
Now,the compartments will have to be restored before they join the engine for display,she said. It will take time and we will have to plan it properly. We will try to get expert help. Three generations of people have travelled in the train. It has its own charm,and people should be able to appreciate its wonders, she said.