Thursday, 29 March 2012

"Bus" Ek Pal

The BEST Transport Museum is one of the lesser known museums that are located within the immediate suburbs of Mumbai. The transport museum is situated in Anik Depot in Mumbai and is a treasure trove of information which documents the rich heritage and the strong cultural legacy of an organization that anchors the road transport scene in Mumbai.

The BEST Museum was founded by the late. P.D. Paranjape, a BEST officer and a collector of coins. The museum was initially set up in 1984 at Kurla Depot which was later shifted to Anik Depot. Unlike many other popular museums, the museum has suffered from lack of representation and been located between dusty wooden doors. The museum has a huge exhibit of the BEST mascot which represents the spirit of red buses which dot the streets of Mumbai. The museum also houses scaled representations of various bus depots situated across the city. 

The museum preserves rare memorabilia which document the growth of the Bombay Tramway Company in 1873 to the Bombay Electrical Supply and Transport Limited in 1947 to the Brihanmumbai Electrical Supply and Transport Undertaking post 1995. The museum has colourful tidbits about the growth of BEST as an organization. The museum has kept various photographs, replicas and engines from all designs that the undertaking has experimented with over the years. This includes open-air vacation buses, trailer buses with overhead wires, vestibule buses and of course, the beloved red double decker buses.

The BEST museum has a dedicated section entirely for tickets. This section holds tickets of the erstwhile trams operated by the BEST and some of them with their routes on the map of Mumbai. Some tickets also mention the destinations and the corresponding fares. The tickets section also houses a heavy ticket issuing machine imported from London which was used by the BEST conductors till 1947. The machine has a handle and two dials in which one dial is used to mark the destination and the other dial denoting whether the ticket was meant for a child, a luggage item or an adult. On rotating the handle, a ticket was issued. On the rear of the machine, a record of the number of tickets issued and the total money collected was maintained. However, the machines were discontinued as few conductors misused the dials. Prior to the arrival of electronic tickets, which resemble ATM slips, there is also an interesting mention of an incident of when the printing press of Times of India was roped in to print BEST bus tickets for the brief period between 1947 and 1957. In April 1957, the BEST had installed a new printer at Mumbai Central which printed tickets till the electronic tickets over.

In addition to replicas of buses and trams, many appliances which were in use at that time such as radiograms, kerosene lamps, wood-panelled fans and premier model telephones are preserved. There are also several displays depicting the artistic talents of the BEST employees over the years, one of them being a full-sized map of Mumbai, which has every route covered by the BEST marked on it. The latest additions to the museum are the blue-and-red bus poles which were the ubiquitous symbols of bus stops before being replaced with new swank bus stops. The old bus stops had just a pole with the number and stop. They originated from an era when trams plied through crowded areas where there was no need for a full-fledged bus stop. These poles are somewhat similar to the design of bus stop poles in London. The bus stop poles have been kept on display along with the antique Victorian-era furniture that were used in the BEST offices earlier. It has sign boards reading "Bombay Municipality". The antique pieces on display are an old chassis of buses, ticket vending machines and street light poles and signals. Also, on display are old tram seats and model replicas of a variety of fleet of buses that have been owned and operated by the company.

So, the next time you wonder how to spend an afternoon in Mumbai and cannot think of interesting ways, head straight to the BEST Transport Museum in Anik Depot and learn the glorious heritage of an organization which documents the growth of the city and that which withstands the changes that have taken place over the years as we evolved from Bombay to Mumbai.The museum remains open to public from Wednesday to Sunday from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm.

3 comments:

rama said...

That was good akshay. I didnt even know that there existed a BEST museum. You have done a good job.
Rama

Swarnali said...

That was a bus load of information Akshay!! Great job. You should totally start a section in ur blog called "Mumbai/Bombay Diaries" :D

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