Revamped ICF gallery adds shine to Chennai Rail Museum

The revamped ICF gallery at Chennai Rail Museum takes one through the agency’s manufacturing history — from sleeper wagons and Metro coaches to the Vande Bharat Express

The Chennai Rail Museum on New Avadi Road is attracting a steady stream of visitors since reopening late last year, post lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Whilst the toy train experience alone is something worth the ₹50 entry ticket, the museum is home to a treasure trove of information for those prepared to go off the rails to know more about the journey of India’s indigenous train wagon manufacturing history.

However, standing out amid the various exhibits and galleries is the recently revamped ICF gallery (previously the Diamond Jubilee gallery).

The ICF gallery before revamp | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Revamped in late 2019, but closed to the public soon after since a national lockdown was enforced, the ICF gallery takes visitors on a journey — with the help of photographic exhibits and miniature models — from the formative years of Integral Coach Factory to the present day.

The re-designed gallery is the handiwork of Chennai-based interior designer Nalini Radhakrishnan, who has previously worked on revamp projects for the Madras High Court museum and the Government Museum in Egmore.

The miniatures on display at the ICF gallery reflect the agency’s various contributions over the years to Indian Railways — from humble sleeper coaches to the wagons that are now a part of the Vande Bharat Express.

Nalini Radhakrishnan | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With a chestnut colour scheme, rounded pillars and miniature focus lights (replacing the humble ‘Government office tubelight’) for illuminating the exhibits, the ICF gallery stands out.

Nalini, who manages the firm InterScape Interiors and Landscaping, prefers working with wood, as evidenced by the work that has undergone in converting the pillars in the gallery. What were once bland concrete pillars are now dark and glossy. Nalini says she has used actual wood to create a false enclosure around the concrete pillars. “It is the style of pillars you would find in the Madras High Court museum. I took a few Railway officials to show them my work there, and they were impressed by the pillars that they insisted they wanted the same for the ICF gallery as well,” she adds.

Nalini, who also undertakes civil projects through her firm, has a history of taking up Government projects, something she says involves balancing differing opinions in terms of conceptualising and aesthetics.

Toy train at ICF | Photo Credit: Ganesan V

For instance, at the ICF gallery, she says the Railways management wanted to use LCD boxes to display archived images of former Prime Ministers, Railway Ministers and the Queen of England visiting the ICF. “I wanted to use stained glass windows for the exhibits and create an arched entrance into the gallery, but the budget wasn’t there,” she adds.

Nevertheless, scores of families continue to visit the ICF gallery and revel in the history of the Indian Railways. And also, ride that toy train.

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