The rail station at Egmore is an Indo-Saracenic architectural masterpiece. It's huge, glorious and a throwback to another era.
Some of the detail is simply stunning. Take a look above the portico - there's an ornate elephant, the symbol of the South Indian Railway Company (now Southern Railways which explains why the 'I' has been painted out).
The station was inaugurated on 11 June 1908, almost forty years before India gained independence. In a city which has some spectacular buildings, this station is certainly among Chennai's highlights.
My visit this morning was prompted by a newspaper article extolling the majesty of Egmore station - and disclosing that it's about to undergo a three-year redevelopment programme. While this will respect the original structure and design, the rail station will, once spruced up, 'wear the look of an airport', according to Southern Railways.
This doesn't strike me as hugely reassuring. I hope INTACH and other organisations which have a marevllous record in safeguarding's Chennai's architectural heritage can ensure that the spirit, elegance and charm of the original building is maintained.
The detail in and around the entrance hall is entrancing - you don't get any of this at Euston or Waterloo, more's the pity.
The station's upkeep isn'tperfect - but it is a much used, and loved, terminus. And generally, it's not in too bad a state.
Egmore has some of those institutions which are such a hallmark of an Indian railway station, though they do sometime alarm foreign visitors ...
And from the walkways you can catch a glimpse of an even more elegant and historic Egmore building, St Andrew's Scots Kirk (the rear entry to the station is just alongside the Kirk)
While at the station, I saw a sign pointing up a sturdy wooden staircase to the retiring rooms, so that's where I went ...
These rooms which passengers can hire for a few hours or overnight open onto a light, spacious outdoor corridor - which has the feel of one of the oldest and least changed corners of this magnificent structure
And a terrace on top of the portico offers a marvellous vantage point on the station's sumptuous frontage
Let's hope that the splendour of Egmore station is enhanced rather than diluted as the redevelopment work gets underway.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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