In the humdrum of a daily routine, few may have had time to appreciate the heritage status of the 166-year-old Byculla railway station, a pre-Independence relic. The station, which predates even the iconic Victoria Terminus or the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) built in 1888, is one of the oldest in the country and is all set to wear a new look soon.
The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) gave its nod to the restoration proposal of the station in March. This project will include restoration of its front façade, the ticketing window, paint from the stone facade, along with damaged doors and windows and missing details in the architectural elements. Even the haphazard wiring will get an upgrade. “The project is being carried out in collaboration with BJP leader Shaina NC’s NGO. The restoration will begin soon as it has received the approval of the Heritage Committee and the efforts will be made to restore its original glory,” said Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer, Central Railway.
Also on board is conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, known for her work on the Royal Opera House, Asiatic Society Library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, to name a few.
“The Byculla station is one of the oldest stations in the country. It is unfortunate that it is used a lot, and being a heritage structure, it is not treated as one. The Byculla station doesn’t seem to attract a lot of attention as compared to other stations. It has neo-Gothic architecture, evident from the doors and windows. The construction material used is industrial material used in the 19th century, and which is rarely found in any structure today. What makes the station an important heritage site is the fact that it was built in solid structure in 1857, precedes the Victoria Terminus (CSMT) that was built in 1888,” Lambah said.
She added, “The main aim of the project will be to restore the historic beauty of the structure. We hope to complete the restoration as soon as possible, so that Mumbaikars can appreciate this edifice.” Byculla is a grade II heritage structure, the construction of which was undertaken by Parsi firm Berjoorjee Rustomjee Mistri and Co. The station was inaugurated in 1853 and built into the stone structure in 1857 and rebuilt again in the present form in 1891, making it a pre-Independence relic, Lambah said.
“My NGO took up the project because commuters are the most affected by the poor condition of the station. My mother who grew up in Byculla would tell us how beautiful it was, this was one of the many reasons I took up this task,” Shaina said.
The restoration will cost Rs 3.5 crore and will take a year to be completed. The intricate ticket window with the monogram of the Great Indian Peninsular Railways (GIPR) is one of the examples of its architectural significance, Lambah added.