Victoria Terminus Railway Station
Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) was the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway and now of the Central Railway. Architect Frederick William Stevens designed the station and received Rs 16.14 lakhs for his work, a staggering amount for those days. Stevens earned the commission to construct the station after a masterpiece watercolour sketch by draughtsman Axel Haig. Though rumours suggest that the design was originally designated for Flinders Street Station, there is no evidence in its favour. However, the final design is similar to the St Pancras railway station in London.
The station was named ‘Victoria Terminus’ in honour of the Oueen and Empress Victoria, and was opened on the date of her Golden Jubilee: June 20, 1887. Built in the Gothic architectural style, with Wilsom Bell Mice as the chief engineer, the structure took 10 years to be completed.
Internally, the wood carving, tiles, ornamental iron and brass railings, grills for the ticket offices, the balustrades for the grand staircases and other ornaments were the work of students at the Bombay School of Art, Only the statues denoting ‘Progress’, ‘Engineering & Science’, ‘Shipping & Commerce’ and ‘Agriculture’ were sculpted in England out of Indian Porbunder sandstone.
The crowning glory is the central dome carrying at its apex, a colossal 5 metre (16.6 feet) high figure of a lady holding a flaming torch in her right hand and a wheel in her left hand that symbolises ‘progress’. This dome is reportedly the first octagonal ribbed masonry dome that was adapted to an Italian Gothic style building. The interior of the dome is exposed to view from the ground floor, and the dome-well that carries the main staircase e has been artistically decorated.
On the façade are also large bass-relief sculptures of 10 directors of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company, including Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy and Sir Jagannath Shankar Seth.
The entrance gates to Victoria Terminus carry two main gate columns, which are crowned, one with a Lion (representing the United Kingdom) and the other with a Tiger (representing India), both sculptured in Porbunder sandstone. In 1969, the statue of Progress was damaged due to lightning, but the Central Railway authorities with the help of Professor VV Manjrekar of the JJ School of Arts successfully restored it.
ln 2004. the station was nominated as a World Heritage Site by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO