Monuments of Modern India: When European and Indian influences merged at railway stations

Railway architecture of the early 20th century.

The Erstwhile BB&CI (now Western Railway) Head Office BuildingHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

The contribution of the Indian Railways in the rich architectural heritage of the country has been significant.

The different styles of these railway buildings can be divided into four major time periods and categories. Read more about the other styles of Indian Railway architecture here :

Monuments of Modern India: The first half century of railways architecture

The charm of mountain railways and their picture-perfect buildings

Monuments of Modern India: Railways architecture in the early 20th Century

the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the predominant
architectural style in the design of public buildings was the Indo-Saracenic.  This genre incorporated features of Islamic
and indigenous styles with Gothic Revival and other schools. This fusion
provided British architects tremendous latitude to experiment, of which they
took full advantage.

Lucknow's Charbagh StationHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

The main characteristic of Indo-Saracenic design were bulbous onion shaped domes, overhanging eaves, pointed and cusped arches, domed kiosks, many miniature domes, minarets and ‘harem’ windows with fine filigree work. The Lucknow Charbagh Station (opened 1926) with its several large and small domes, chhatris, large central hall with stately staircases and well designed passenger amenities, is a notable example of this style of architecture.

Morvi Station is a magnificent building bin the Indo-Saracenic architectural art formHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Other Princely States also developed charming small station buildings in the Indo-Saracenic design. This includes Morvi station, in Gujarat, where the ruler had exceptionally fine taste for architecture.

A view of the Bengal Nagpur Railway (now South Eastern Railway) Head OfficeHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Two major Head Office complexes were also built in Indo-Saracenic designs. The first was the headquarters of the erstwhile Bengal Nagpur Railway (now South Eastern Railway) in Calcutta, built in 1906-07.

The building has interesting features with the central and corner domes topped by lanterns, conspicuous oriel windows with elaborate window mouldings and a Portico and entrance with interesting features.

The second was the Headquarters of the erstwhile Madras & Southern Mahratta Railway at Madras built between 1915 and 1922.

Pratap Vilas PalaceHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Shortly after Independence, the Railways acquired two exceptional buildings, both of which belonged formerly to the Gaekwars of Baroda (now Vadodara).

One of these buildings was the Prince’s Palace or Pratap Vilas Palace at Baroda, which became the Railway Staff College (now renamed National Academy of Indian Railways).

Built in 1914, The Palace design stylistically belongs to the Renaissance style of architecture but also fits well in the Indo-Saracenic category.

The dome, columns, pediments standout and the beautiful paintings of domestic and wild animals in the nursery are appropriate for a young child. The central copper dome and surrounding cupola add grandeur to this small Palace.

Bombay, Victoria Terminus Station - G.I.P.R (late 1860s) by Samuel BourneLos Angeles County Museum of Art

But perhaps the best known example of Indo-Saracenic architecture is, in fact, the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, in Mumbai. Built a few years before the other stations of this category, CST merges two completely different styles of classical Indian and Victorian Gothic Architecture, giving rise to a completely new Indo-Goth style.

The inclusion of domes on top of the buildings had never been done before in a Gothic building; the open verandahs and the sculptural ornamentation on the structure were all influences of the local design sensibility.

The Erstwhile BB&CI (now Western Railway) Head Office BuildingHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

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