Saturday, 20 July 2013

Cochin Harbour Terminus

The Line Stops Here: Cochin Harbour Terminus
A chilling silence welcomes you as one negotiates through a deserted parking lot. Stepping in to an old structure such as the Cochin Harbour Terminus conjures up visions of a bygone era when the world had a greater sense of gratitude for time and place. The only sound one gets to hear most often in this building are the echoes of one's footsteps. Memories of another day, when this structure once represented the lifeline and spirit of Cochin flood one's mind. True, structurally the Cochin Harbour Terminus is not an architectural wonder but one cannot help notice the sense of loss, remorse and guilt that engulfs someone each time one passes by this dilapidated building, which today is just a shadow of its former glory.
The facade and entrance of Cochin Harbour Terminus 

The exact date about the inception of the station is not known due to non-availability of records. However, memories estimate it to be around 1940s when the Cochin Harbour Terminus was a station under the Olavakode (present day Palakkad division) of the erstwhile Southern India Railways (present day Southern Railways). Yet in more ways than one, the terminus narrates the tale of a time when railway stations were perceived as ideal spots to begin and come home to, after long journeys, travels, jaunts and expeditions.

Since inception, this railway station flourished rapidly thus becoming the nucleus of Cochin despite being on a man-made Wellington Island, a few kilometres away from the main city of Ernakulam. Its strategic location of being placed next to a harbour and the erstwhile Cochin airport (present day Indian Airforce base) made it a strong revenue-pulling base with tea, coffee, coir, cotton and other export consignments to be despatched to distant locations came by in wagons attached to trains that terminated at the station. 

In its days, Cochin had a unique distinction of being the only place in India that had a harbour, railway station and an airport within walking distance located in a one kilometre radius. The popularity of this station was so high that a separate coal berth had to be built next to the wharf to cater to the constant demand of the terminus for fuel. This coal berth has now been divided though the line is still used to carry diesel oil for ships. The booming of ships, the puffing of steam engines and the drone of the flights blended perfectly to make Wellington Island a nerve centre in the truest sense with pulsating activity. The presence of the harbour, the airport, the naval base enhanced its status.


The present condition of Cochin Harbour Terminus
Though neat and well-swept, the station today wears a deserted look with lack of commuters and a British clock that no longer displaying the time. The railway lines, trip sheds and coach repair sheds have fallen prey to overgrown weeds due to want of traffic. Local residents and commuters voice a collective fear that the station is consumed with poisonous snakes, scorpions lurk in the bushes. Despite this, in more ways than one, the old world charm of Cochin Harbour Terminus remains an integral part of Wellington Island as it continues to paint a picture of a not-so-distant past. 



The world has seen many strange and unexpected happenings in the past in the name of economic growth. However, the four letter word "hope" is around which the world lives and hope lies eternal in the human heart. Here is hoping that the original glory of the Cochin Harbour Terminus is restored and we may see a resurgence of passenger traffic with a train chugging out of the station and see a rise in container traffic. Till then, one can only imagine the sight of having a train, flight and ship running together at the same time. 
Honey, I blew up the tracks!


The last train that made it to the station in 2004


Abandoned signalling systems at the Cochin Harbour Terminus 




2 comments:

Shamini said...

you have etched it wonderfully.loved it.

PN said...

The expression from your heart is breathtaking. Yes, let's HOPE for its resurgence.