Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai

An expedition to explore this amazing train station

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) was built in 1887 to commemorate the Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (it was originally named Victoria Terminus in her honour). Designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens, the building blends elements of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival and classic Indian architecture. In 2004, UNESCO named the terminus a World Heritage Site. Today, over 3 million people a day embark at CSMT to travel to points throughout India. In this Expedition, we’ll examine the building’s key architectural elements.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus took over 10 years to build. With a cost of over 250,000 pounds sterling, it was the city’s most expensive building when it was erected. The sandstone and limestone building is C-shaped—two wings extend out from a central domed structure. This form is borrowed from Indian palace architecture, while the towers and spires recall European castles and cathedrals.

Several stone domes—an architectural element featured in Indian palaces—rise above the roofline. The largest and highest dome is centrally located above the middle section of the building, just above the clock.

The castle-like towers at each corner of the building are common Victorian Italianate Gothic architectural features. The finials on top of each tower and smaller surrounding spires are also typical elements of this style.

Note the pointed arches above the windows and doorways throughout the exterior. The pointed arch is an architectural element regularly used in both Gothic and traditional Indian palace architecture.

Ten carved stone medallions are featured on the front wall. The bas-relief sculptures depict men either associated with establishing India’s first railway system or with designing and building the terminus itself.

Frederick William Stevens worked closely with Indian craftsmen to assure that the building’s classic Indian features— including the many jharokhas or overhanging enclosed balconies—were constructed authentically. The station is awash with coloured light at night, adding a visual element not seen during daylight hours. The lighting highlights statues perched on top of the central dome. These statues represent the British Empire’s main ideals: Agriculture, Shipping and Commerce, and Engineering and Science.

Entitled Progress, the station’s tallest statue stands on top of the central dome. Carved from marble by Thomas Earp, it depicts a woman holding a torch symbolizing knowledge and a spoke wheel representing forward progress and transport.

Statues of a lion and tiger flank the entrance gate. The lion symbolizes Britain, while the tiger represents India, further emphasizing a merging of the two cultures during the mid- to late-19th century.

At night, the entire structure is illuminated with the three colours India’s national flag. Saffron yellow symbolizes strength and courage, white symbolizes truth and peace, India green represents growth and fertility.

This building is home to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Mumbai’s governing body. Like the train station, it was designed by Frederick William Stevens, and it shares many of the station’s elements.

Inside the terminus, the blending of Victorian Italianate Gothic and traditional Indian palace architecture continues. The floors and walls are covered with Indian stone and Italian marble. Intricately carved stone accents reflecting Indian motifs can be seen in trim work and around the edge of the central dome. The main booking office, known as the Star Chamber, is located on the ground floor in the north wing. The concourse, where passengers board their trains, is vast and open.

The interior’s ribbed vaulted ceiling features pointed Gothic arches and is supported by columns of Italian marble. The dark wood of the ceiling’s ribs next to the star-covered white panels creates a striking visual that emphasizes the height of the room.

Columns of polished red and grey Italian marble support the arches of the vaulted ceiling. Each column features a base and capital of intricately carved Indian stone.

Note the intricately carved column capitals throughout the interior. The designs feature flowers, plants, and animals, such as the bird nestled into the lower corner of this capital.

Stained glass windows featuring colourful Indian motifs are used throughout the building. These windows add beauty to the space while illuminating the interior with diffused sunlight.

When the CSMT was first built, this staircase led to the railway chairman’s offices on the second floor. Even though this area was not intended as a public space, it has the same level of decoration as the public parts of the station. The black and white photographs that line the staircase show important moments in India’s railway history.

Intricately carved stone details, such as these concentric pointed arches, are seen throughout the terminal’s interior. Concentric arches are a common feature found in many Gothic structures.

Delicately carved stone lattices, elements seen in traditional Indian palace architecture, fill the space in these windows typically occupied by glass. Note the pointed arches and small Italian marble columns, which are two style elements used consistently throughout the interior.

The stair railing extends in one fluid line from the bottom of the stairway to the top. The railing features a wood handrail and metal grate with a repeating floral design—another style element common in traditional Indian palace architecture.

Pointed arches of all sizes are found above doors and windows throughout the interior. This glassless window, which incorporates 3 pointed arches, allows light from the larger interior room to illuminate the stairway.

The Star Gallery opened on the ground floor of the station in 2010. Here objects, photographs, documents, and texts relate the history of the development of India’s railway system. Items on display in the gallery include a 3D model of the terminus, train bells, an antique grandfather clock, and model trains.

Line relays are electric devices that detect when a railway is empty and when a train is traveling on a line. The line relay sends a signal to devices along the track, alerting people when a train is approaching.

Historic photographs and documents detailing the history of India’s railway and the development of Mumbai are on display throughout the gallery.

A large image of British architect Frederick William Stevens hangs on the wall. Several replicas of Stevens’ sketches of the building’s design are also on display.

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