There are a number of reasons to fall in love with train journeys in India, and few have to do with the destination. For some people, it’s simply the sound—the low humming bass of the train or the melodic voice often interrupting your sleep for ‘chai, lelo, chai’. For others, it is the window-seat view to the greener countryside. You could have a bias for the rhythmic rocking of the train or perhaps, a taste for railway meals: warm tomato soup and slightly stale breadsticks to dip into it. No matter what your origin story, there is an undeniable, tenuous connection between India, its people and the Indian Railways. It is this relationship that Google explores in its online exhibit of the Indian Railways.
Google Arts and Culture, an online repository for the photographs, videos, manuscripts and more for the arts, culture and museums around the world, has recently tied up its tracks with the Indian Railways. This collaboration, the first of its kind, documents the journey of the railways in India. This online exhibition explores the stories that surround trains, its commuters and its long-reaching networks.
With the support of a keen editorial eye, sharp visuals and technology, the platform takes you to the origin of the IR.
There are 360-degree virtual tours that let you view the dome of CMST, the inside of a Calcutta tram and even a close-up view of the royal luxury train, Palace on Wheels.
A section on people tells never-heard-before stories on the everyday heroes of the railways—ticket checkers, the gatekeepers, station masters, engineers and women, of the Indian Railways, who have—in their words—“made a mark in male-dominated roles.”
A personal favourite is one that links nostalgia with the railways best—the impact of the railways on culture. The digital exhibit ‘Trains on Screen’ tells us the story of the iconic song ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ being shot on the Darjeeling Toy Train.
Another article talks about India’s most loved writer from the hills, Ruskin Bond and the use of the railways as a setting in his tales.
It’s difficult to neatly entangle the vast web of trains and stations (7,000+, to be precise) in India, but this online project does a good job of that. Take a look at it here or on the app.