14 June 2017

Lost Railway Twins? One in Scotland, another in India

Rajendra B. Aklekar

The story of the abandoned rail ballast stone crusher (W.H Baxter- 1878) found near railway tracks at Lonavala by Jayant Ramdasi has taken a curious turn.

The top one is in Scotland, the one below in India
A very similar stone crusher with similar markings and etchings has now been found at Isle of Skye, Scotland in a similar state. Here I put up a collage of both of them. Two brothers- one in Maharashtra, India, another at Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The stone crusher near Lonavala was probably used by the engineers along the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, India’s first railway company, to break stones for maintaining rail tracks and other construction-related activities in the tough mountainous terrain between Mumbai and Pune. 

While Ramdasi spotted it near railway tracks in Lonavala in Maharashtra and put up on the social media, scientist, engineer from Scotland Lindsay Wilson reacted saying "there's one near where we live on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and put up a pic. Isn't it interesting?

However, it is not clear how old the machine could be as records suggest that the orders with WH Baxter and Company were placed till as late as 1955, by which time the original Great Indian Peninsula Company had been renamed as Central Railway.

In fact, it was in 1878 that the WH Baxter Company was established and the date on the plaque could be an indicator that as well. But whatever is the case, it is a fact that the W.H Baxter stone breakers were known to be revolutionary, having crushed tons of stones per hour at a comparatively lesser power requirement.
The stone breaker models
A news report in a construction journal of 1880, The Building News, stated that that the latest version of the stone breaker that year was a much better performer than the earlier one, though it did not demonstrate well. 

It is recorded that the new one experimented and could break as much as six tonnes of stones per hour and that two machines of this company could be used at the same amount of power required for one of any other sort.

It was in 1878 that engineer William Henry Baxter of Albion Street, Leeds established the company W. H. Baxter and Co. to manufacture various construction-related equipment.
The 1880 news report

The Grace’s Guide states that it was an exhibitor at the 1881 Royal Agricultural Show at Derby and was incorporated as a limited company in 1898 and had received a large order for stone-breaking machines for India.

Whatever may be the case, the antique stone beaker, now with its twin in England, deserves to be salvaged from Lonavala, Maharashtra, and preserved locally or shifted to the National Railway Museum in New Delhi, as an extraordinary piece of 20th century engineering marvel.

22 April 2017

FW Stevens' great grand daughter in Mumbai

Rajendra B. Aklekar

Absolute honour to co-host Diana Robertson and her husband Kevin, the fourth generation descendants of the nineteenth century iconic architect FW Stevens, along with Anita Rane-kothare, head of department of Ancient Indian Culture, St Xavier's College, in Mumbai. It was Kothare who got in touch with her and connected her with the city. It was Diana's very first visit to Mumbai and she was very sentimental to see that Stevens is so much respected and remembered in Mumbai even today. (Read her visit details HERE)

Frederick William Stevens (FW Stevens)
The event was jointly conducted with the co-operation of Central Railway chief PRO Narendra Patil and his team. Also thanks to Pheroza Godrej, Bharat Gothoskar of Khaki Tours.

It was a privilege to receive a memento at the hands of Pheroza Godrej at the event.

For the uninitiated FW Stevens or Frederick William Stevens is the architect of Victoria Terminus- today Mumbai CST, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, the Mumbai Municipal Head Office, the Western Railway Churchgate Head Office (formerly Bombay Baroda and Central India Office), the Sailors Home, what is today the Maharashtra Police Headquarters and many more in Mumbai.

Stevens received various honours. He was made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire "for services rendered in connection with public buildings in Bombay," and gained medals for his designs in exhibitions held in Bombay in 1872 and 1879, as well as becoming a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Receiving FW Stevens' descendant Diana Robertson and
Kevin at the Taj, alongwith Anita Rane-Kothare
He was only 52 when he died of malaria at his home in the Malabar Hills in 1900, and was buried in Sewri Christian Cemetery, where his grave carries the inscription, "In loving memory of Frederick William Stevens, born May 11th 1847, died March 3rd 1900." Diana also broke down at the cemetary during the visit on April 20, 2017. A few photographs.

Diana at the Sewri Christian Cemetery, Mumbai
The old burial details and purchase records
at the  Sewri Christian Cemetery, Mumbai
FW Stevens grave at Sewri Christian Cemetery, Mumbai
The old records at  Sewri Christian Cemetery, Mumbai
Moment of Pride: In front of the building with the creator's descendants

In front of Mumbai CST, formerly Victoria Terminus

In front of Mumbai CST, formerly Victoria Terminus
On the second floor, below the dome of the iconic
Mumbai CST, formerly Victoria Terminus building

Privileged to receive a memento at the hands of Pheroza Godrej 

05 January 2017

Century-old signal cabin along India's first railway line pulled down

A 100-year-old signal cabin lost its life to make way for the landing of a new pedestrian bridge at Kurla suburban railway station. This had been a part of India's first railway company, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company.

1st Day tickets of Ram Mandir railway station in Mumbai

First day tickets issued from Mumbai's newest suburban railway station Ram Mandir collected by friend Jigar Desai. The station on Western Railway Mumbai division was formally opened on December 22, 2016.