The two-storey building of the Central Railway School (CRS) and Junior College on a busy lane on the Murbad Road in Kalyan West may not be an instant head-turner. Occupying almost three acres of space, the school remains a popular landmark. On April 26, the CRS is set to turn 100 since it was started by a British officer Mrs Wright, remembered only by her surname, to enroll children of the then railway officers. Indian railways at present runs at least 100 railway schools started by the British.
Started in 1918, CRS remained a montessori till the first batch of students studying in standard X passed out in 1974. The school at present takes classes till standard XII offering science and commerce streams. “Very little is known about the history of this school. Mrs. Wright, who was the wife of a railway officer, is known to be the first principal of the school. The school tried to locate the name sign (made of rose wood ) that contained information about the former school staff but to no avail,” Jacob Thomas, principal, CRS said.
“We had filed a Right to Information query to avail more information about the school’s history but we did not get much on it. We plan to connect to our sources in the United States and England to see if they know of anything,” said Thomas, who has been the principal for four years. With 1,700 students, the school accommodates two sections in each class till standard XI. In 2003, the school included Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum, that limited the intake of students to 40 per class. “While 60 per cent of the students studying in the school are children of railway employees, the school remains popular among children in the adjoining central suburban area beyond Kalyan and west,” Thomas added.
Senior railway officers in Mumbai division, including the Divisional Railway Manager of Mumbai division in the Central Railway, who is the patron and Senior Divisional Personnel Officer, Mumbai division, forms the controlling officer for the school. It is funded by the railways. “The British left us with the building, it is the management that has tried to maintain the assets. From winning accolades for preserving greenery in the area to working towards digitizing school children’s data, we have come a long way. Boasting of multiple green spaces, we plan to apply to the Indian Green Building Council to receive the ‘green building’ tag.”
At an earmarked fund of Rs 3 crore from the railways every year, improving infrastructure and restoring certain artefacts of the school remain the aim. “We have tried to repair the old stairs, polished old cupboards made of Burma teak in restoring heritage. Alumni, including citizens staying in the United States and England, visit us sometimes and recall their school days,” Thomas added. Increasing the student intake of classes and applying for world heritage status are on the school’s ‘to do’ list.
Manasa Rupa (14), a student of Class IX, who has painted the school walls, said, “My father is a railway employee and connecting with other students whose parents work in the same field is a routine. When we pass out of this school, we would always cherish our contribution to this heritage institution.”