Kolkata, July 1 (PTI) Couples willing to tie the knot can now embark on their marital journey with 150-year-old steam locomotives standing as symbolic witness, as the Eastern Railway has decided to rent out the premises of its museum in Howrah for social ceremonies.
With the museum lying shut for months due to COVID- related restrictions, the railways, as part of its measures to generate revenue, has decided to open its gates for people who wish to celebrate their special occasions in an intimate setting, interspersed by glorious artefacts, an official said.
One can savour a slice of history as they walk past immaculately preserved old locomotives, starting from carriages to early diesel and electric engines, the senior Eastern Railway (ER) official said.
Among other things on display are narrow-gauge, metre-gauge, and broad-gauge steam locomotives, including those which were in service in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, old wooden coaches, inspection saloon and a Pakistani steam locomotive captured during the 1971 war.
'The decision to allow private functions at the rail museum was taken to supplement income. All social gatherings will have to be conducted in strict adherence to the COVID-19 norms laid down by the government,' Eastern Railway spokesperson Ekalavya Chakraborti told PTI here.
Inaugurated in 2006, the sprawling museum also accommodates century-old drawings, a fascinating collection of philately, time-keeping machines and photographs depicting historically significant events about the evolving railway system in the eastern region.
Of late, very few patrons have been visiting the railway heritage, which is otherwise a very popular destination, especially among children, as it offers them a joy ride, another ER official said.
'The operational maintenance of the rail museum at Howrah has been outsourced to a private party, which, after seeking permission, is renting out the auditorium and open spaces for family functions and social gatherings,' he added.
The move to outsource the museum's operational maintenance and rent out its complex for private functions, however, has met with stiff opposition from the ruling TMC.
Questioning the ER decision, state cooperatives minister Arup Roy said, 'Can it be true that the railways had to rent out its museum, which houses rare items linked to the country's heritage, for private functions due to financial difficulty?' State BJP president and Lok Sabha MP Dilip Ghosh, on his part, defended the decision of the railways, and said it should be appreciated for planning alternate ways of income.
'It is a subsidised service that the passengers avail.
Opposition parties will create a ruckus if the BJP-led Centre increases the fares. So how will the railways survive? 'It is good that the Eastern Railway is generating income via alternate ways. There are other instances, too, where people have hired ceremonial halls for private programmes,' Ghosh said. PTI AMR PNT RMS RMS