Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus i.e. CST (a.ka. Victoria Terminus i.e. VT) railway station makes it to a list of the spectacular railway stations in the world. It was also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
A popular landmark in the commercial capital of India, CST marks an entry point for many Indians who come to the city of dreams to pursue their dreams or even just to visit the Mayanagari.
The station serves as a hub for the long distance trains and the suburban trains on the Central and Harbour lines. We used to arrive at the CST while travelling on the trains from the nearby Pune. As the train entered on a slow pace from Marine Lines, one would get a lovely view of Mumbai’s ‘Central Business District’ and the station’s regal outlook was a fitting tribute to its importance.
It also serves as a transit point for travelling to Churchgate that serves as an alternate hub for suburban trains on the Western line. The brief stretch that one needs to walk to make the connection is interesting as well – one comes across many old buildings that have been there since the days of the Raj. Earlier one would be able to spot ‘second-hand’ book sellers near the Flora Fountain. It was a happy hunting ground for a book-lover looking for bargains and finding rare books that were not in print currently. The vendors had a good working knowledge of authors and could make interesting suggestions for you to explore.
Early in my career I worked for a while in the CBD as we would call it – every Friday evening I would leave the office a bit early to board the Deccan Queen that left CST precisely at 5 10 PM. A quick trip of just over 3 hours will take me across the western ghats and travel about 200 KMs to reach my hometown. The weekend would be real fun and I would then repeat the return journey on Sunday evenings.
The British Council Library too was functional in those days of the yore and inevitably we would get to visit the NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts). The Crawford Market is just next door and a popular shopping jaunt.CST represents the manic hub of the city on the move – the rush hours see a huge swarm of commuters using the suburban trains popularly known as the ‘locals’. The noon hour sees an increased activity of the famous Mumbai Dabbawalas – who ferry hot and fresh meals from the homes to the offices in the CBD area.
Monsoons add more fun to the travel – most people just hop off to reach the Marine Drive and see the waves crash against the promenade. In the night the view of the lit outline is famously known as the ‘Queen’s necklace’.
Interesting projects involving the CST are in the offing – there is a plan to do theme based lighting of the heritage structure to enhance its look and appeal in the night. And possibly an underground tunnel will be made to connect the CST and Churchgate stations, enabling a smooth and rapid transit of traffic. Built in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, this iconic landmark continues to find a way to remain in the public eye.