This baroque, cathedral-like building ranks as one of Mumbai’s most marvelous Raj-era monuments. With operations starting in the year 1887 when India’s very first steam engine left the station, it has since then seen the beginning and end of many travels on the railway with over thousand trains carrying approximately 2.5 million commuters each day.
A magnificent building, completed in 1888, the Victoria Terminus was named after the then Queen Empress on Jubilee Day, 1887. Construction started in 1878 based on a design by F. W. Stevens, and took 10 years to complete. The railway station was opened to the public on New Year’s Day, 1882. It is now the starting point of the Central Railways.
The Terminal’s design is modeled after the St. Pancras Station located in London. Built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, based on Italian Gothic models, the complicated ground plan of the building is counter pointed by stunning filigrees, carvings and arches.
Besides being a landmark in India’s history and transport development, the Victoria Terminus is also an architectural wonder with its vaulted roofs, majestic arches, gothic spires, flying buttresses, gables topped by various neo-classical structures, interesting stone carvings and exquisite friezes.
Architecture enthusiasts find themselves staring up at the massive, ribbed Central Dome topped by the torch bearing sculpture known as “Progress.” These are all fitted together with beautiful stained glass windows featuring highly colorful images of trains and interesting floral patterns.
Some of the beautiful carvings and structures though are mounted at a rather awkward height and may only be seen when riding on top of a double-decker bus. Citizens and tourists may get a better view of the details when the Central Railways Office start giving guided tours of the structure.
The Terminus’ environment itself can be a good place to do some people watching. From beautiful, sari-clad ladies to the half-naked fakirs (holy men) seen frequently around Mumbai, the Victoria Terminus sees all kinds of people of different castes either going on their journey or plying the terminal with their wares.
A vast network of dabbah-wallahs transfer some 10,000 cooked lunches, prepared by housewives and kept warm in identical metal tiffin containers, from the suburbs to a central sorting house before redistribution to office workers.
The Victoria Terminus was renamed Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus after the Maratha warrior on March 4, 1996. Electric trains have also since replaced the old steam engines. In September 1999 pedestrian access to the suburban railway terminus was moved underground.
This building has long been on the urban heritage list and a protected monument. It was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 2, 2004. It is the first functional administrative building to be put on this list.