This is Chennai Central station - one of India's biggest, with seventeen long distance and five suburban platforms. Tens of thousands - by some accounts hundreds of thousands - of travellers pass through here every day.
And it's almost unique among rail stations in being the subject of a well regarded poem, 'Madras Central' (the city changed it name in 1996) by the late Vijay Nambisan. Take a listen:
CLICK TO LISTEN TO A READING OF 'MADRAS CENTRAL'
The station is a prominent landmark - though I'd say its design is distinctive rather than impressive. It was built in 1873 and touched up a bit in 1900. The architect, George Harding, was influenced by both Gothic Revival and Romanesque styles. And the building is notable for its stand-out maroon colour and even more stand-out clock tower.
For such a huge station, it's fairly well ordered. A little chaotic, yes, but much less frenetic than say Howrah in Calcutta or Delhi's main stations.
Some of the journeys are truly heroic. I was at Chennai Central when the Thiruvananthapuram to Silchar express was on the platform ...
That's a journey of almost 4,000 kilometres with 55 stops and scheduled to take 75 hours - yes, three days and then some!
By the time this train reaches Chennai Central, it has already travelled almost a thousand kilometres. No wonder the passengers seem a little listless.
The express starts from the state capital of Kerala at 16:55 of Day 1 ... reaches Chennai at 09:30 on day 2 ... pulls in to Howrah in Calcutta at 13:55 on Day 3 ... arrives at Guwahati, the state capital of Assam, at 08:10 on Day 4 ... and ends up in Silchar, if it's on time (ha, ha), at 19:00 on day 4.
One of the stranger rituals was the rubbish clearing - with an assortment of objects thrown out of the train windows direct on to the tracks, where a battalion of uniformed women sweepers tidy the debris away.
And the sweepers were still at work, still on the tracks, as the train trundled out of Chennai Central on its long haul north, just half-an-hour late.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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