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Always the second station
The handsome Egmore Railway Station built at a cost of Rs.17 lakh and inaugurated in 1908, has weathered the years well. Obviously, the contractor, T. Samynada Pillai, built it to last. But despite being tended well in recent years, the station could do with considerable improvement and that is what has just begun. But while improving facilities and modernising the station, it is to be hoped that Samynada Pillai's work will be left untouched down to ensuring that the SIR emblazoned on the bas relief crest remains, even if the `I' has been painted out in recent years.
That crest is the true reminder of Egmore Railway Station's history. It may have been built as the second most important station of the railway company it belonged to and it may still remain Madras' second station, but it is nevertheless one of the city's major landmarks and a handsomer building than the two it was meant to play second fiddle to, the `Trichinopoly' Railway Station and Madras' Central. All of them today belong to the Southern Railway, the first nationalised unit of the Indian Railways which was created on April 1,1951, with the merger of the Madras & South Mahratta Railway, the South Indian Railway and the Mysore Railway.
The South Indian Railway's headquarters was `Trichinopoly' and Egmore was its Madras terminus. The origins of the SIR were in the Great Southern India Railway Co. founded in Britain in 1853 and registered in 1859. Construction of track in the southern reaches of the Presidency began in 1859 with work on an 80-mile link from Trichinopoly to the port of `Negapatam'. The track was opened to traffic in 1861. The Great Southern India Railway Company was subsequently merged with the Carnatic Railway Company and the SIR was formed in 1874. The Carnatic Railway, founded in 1864, opened a Madras-Arkonam-`Conjeevaram' line in 1865. The SIR pushed its first tracks south of Trichy in 1876, but it was registered as a company in London only in 1890.
The building of the SIR's headquarters and main railway station in Trichinopoly were entrusted to Samynada Pillai, a leading Bangalore building contractor from 1879. He next built the Madurai station for SIR and followed it with Egmore. With this record, it was almost inevitable that he would be asked to build the M&SM's headquarters building to be sited next to Central Station. That work was completed in 1922 at a cost Rs.20 lakh. Egmore Railway Station, built on the site of the Egmore Redoubt (Fort) which the SIR had acquired in 1900, was expanded in the 1930s, and then again in the 1980s, with sympathetic construction. Now, further expansion has started, I am glad to say harmoniously.
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