A Look Into The Oldest Railway Stations Of India

Experience the engineering and architectural marvels along the trail of India's ten oldest railway stations
An Indian train running through the green forest over a bridge in Konkan route
An Indian train running through the green forest over a bridge in Konkan routeShutterstock

The genesis of Indian railways dates back to the era of British colonial governance, commencing notably with the inauguration of the inaugural railway track linking Bombay to Thane in 1853. This pivotal milestone set in motion a grand architectural narrative across the subcontinent, as railway stations and administrative edifices began to dot the Indian landscape. Inspired by a unique fusion of Indo-Saracenic, Victorian, and Mughal design influences, these structures emerged as captivating embodiments of cultural amalgamation, showcasing ornate arches, minarets, and domes alongside classical Western motifs. Thus, the evolution of Indian railway architecture mirrored the era's technological advancement and symbolised a tangible convergence of diverse aesthetic traditions under the overarching banner of British imperial enterprise. Here is a list of ten oldest railway stations across the face of modern India.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

A front view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai
A front view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, MumbaiShutterstock

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, is considered the first railway station in India. It was constructed in 1878 by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. The station's architecture is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When it was originally built, the station was named Victoria Terminus in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. However, in 1996, it was renamed after Shivaji, the 17th-century warrior king and the first Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire. The station is a remarkable example of the Indo-Saracenic genre of architecture and was designed by F.W. Stevens. It boasts a splendid stone dome, graceful turrets, striking pointed arches, and an innovative ground layout. The combination of Eastern and Western design elements is a testament to an era where cultural diversity seamlessly intertwined with burgeoning railway technology, leaving an indelible mark on India's architectural legacy.

Howrah Railway Station

A look at the Howrah Railway Station
A look at the Howrah Railway StationShutterstock

The Howrah Railway Station, built in 1852, is one of India's oldest and busiest transportation hubs. The East Indian Railway initiated its construction in 1851, and within three years, the first commercial train ran from Howrah to Hooghly, covering a distance of 24 miles. Regular morning and evening services were launched with stops at Bally, Serampore, and Chandannagore. The Howrah Division, the oldest division of the Eastern Railway, comprises the Sealdah, Asansol, and Malda divisions. The station's notable red facade features a captivating blend of Romanesque architectural elements designed by British architect Halsey Ralph Richard. With 23 platforms, this station serves nearly one million passengers daily and facilitates the operation of around 600 trains. The Howrah Railway Station is not only a testament to enduring engineering prowess but also an essential nexus of connectivity and mobility in India's transport infrastructure.

Royapuram Railway Station

An old photograph of the Royapuram Railway Station
An old photograph of the Royapuram Railway StationWikimedia Commons

The Royapuram Railway Station in Chennai is India's third oldest railway station. It was designed by William Adelpi Tracey and is known for its impressive Corinthian columns. The station was inaugurated on July 1, 1856, in a grand ceremony led by Lord Harris, the Governor of the Madras Presidency. The first passenger journey was attended by Lord Harris and a distinguished assembly of 300 European delegates, marking a significant milestone in the history of Indian railways. Today, the Royapuram Railway Station is an important relic of Victorian-era architecture and a testament to the early development of railways in the region.

Old Delhi Railway Station

The premises of the Old Delhi Railway Station
The premises of the Old Delhi Railway StationShutterstock

The Old Delhi Railway Station experienced a significant transformation under the East Indian Railway in 1864, evolving into a crucial transportation hub from its humble beginnings. It underwent a pivotal renovation in 1903, adding two platforms and expanding the station's capacity. The station's architectural style is a blend of Greco-Roman and Indo-Islamic influences inspired by the iconic Red Fort. With 16 platforms, the station now serves as a busy transportation hub that facilitates the daily movement of hundreds of trains and passengers. The Old Delhi Railway Station stands as a testament to India's rich cultural heritage and modern transit infrastructure, making it one of the busiest stations in the capital.

Jaipur Railway Station

A view of the Jaipur Railway Station
A view of the Jaipur Railway StationShutterstock

Jaipur Junction is a busy railway station built in 1875 that embodies the essence of the renowned Pink City in its architectural design. Located at an elevation of 428 metres, this station is one of the busiest railway hubs in Rajasthan, serving over 40,000 passengers daily. The station's unique pink architecture reflects the character of Jaipur and plays a vital role in the region's transportation network, providing seamless connectivity for travellers and commuters.

Puducherry Railway Station

A newly painted Puducherry Railway Station
A newly painted Puducherry Railway StationShutterstock

The Puducherry Railway Station was established in 1879 during the colonial era, and it features a unique architectural style, with Greco-Roman columns adorning its facade. This design evokes a sense of nostalgia, taking us back to the days of British rule. The station serves as a crucial transport hub, connecting major cities such as Chennai, Villupuram, Tirupathi, Mangaluru, Kanyakumari, Bengaluru, Kolkata, New Delhi, Bhubaneswar, and Mumbai. Apart from its historical charm, the Puducherry Railway Station plays a significant role in facilitating regional connectivity, linking diverse urban centres across southern and eastern India.

Ghum Railway Station

Ghum Railway Station on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Ghum Railway Station on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Shutterstock

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, famously known as the "Toy Train," meanders through picturesque tea gardens on its journey from NJP to Darjeeling. This delightful three-hour trip includes stops at charming stations such as Sukna, Kurseong, Sonada, and Ghum, home to India's highest railway station. Established in 1881, Ghum station not only offers breathtaking mountain views but also hosts a captivating museum showcasing the evolution of steam engines and a fascinating collection of vintage tickets. It provides a delightful blend of history and scenic adventure along this iconic railway route.

Virangana Lakshmibai Station

A front of the Virangana Lakshmibai Station
A front of the Virangana Lakshmibai StationWikimedia Commons

The Virangana Lakshmibai Station, formerly known as Jhansi railway station, is an essential link connecting India's northern and southern regions. Built by the British in the 1880s, this station has a unique fort-like structure decorated with maroon and off-white colours that takes inspiration from the iconic Jhansi Fort and Rani Mahal. Besides serving its functional role in facilitating interregional travel, the station also pays tribute to the historical legacy of Jhansi and its legendary queen, Rani Lakshmibai. Its architectural design encapsulates the rich heritage of the region, making it a symbolic homage to the area's cultural and historical significance.

Barog Railway Station

The quaint, old Barog railway station on the Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge railway line in Himachal Pradesh
The quaint, old Barog railway station on the Kalka-Shimla narrow gauge railway line in Himachal PradeshShutterstock

The Barog Railway Station is located on the Kalka-Shimla Railway line, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This station was built between 1898 and 1903 by the British and is not only used for transportation but also houses administrative offices and a passenger rest house. What makes this station famous is its close proximity to 'Tunnel Number 33,' an engineering marvel that spans 1143 metres in length. The station and its surroundings showcase the brilliance and legacy of British-era railway construction in the beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh. Its unique blend of historical significance and natural beauty attracts many visitors.

Charbagh Railway Station

A view of the Charbagh Railway Station
A view of the Charbagh Railway StationShutterstock

The Charbagh railway station in Lucknow is a remarkable piece of architecture that was designed by the English architect H. Horniman in 1914 and completed in 1926. The station's impressive appearance is characterised by its domes, minarets, arches, and verandas, which give it a palatial and striking look. The view of the station from above resembles a chessboard, with its turrets and domes looking like chess pieces. The station's design is a beautiful blend of Mughal, Rajput, and Awadhi architectural styles, reflecting Lucknow's cultural richness and historical heritage. The station is a testament to the era of British colonial influence on Indian architecture, embodying a unique fusion of Eastern and Western design principles in a regal and picturesque setting.

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