October 9, 2017
As the restoration of Mumbai CST goes ahead and old flooring and tiles are being removed, railway engineers have unearthed two rooms full of undisturbed original patterned tile flooring under the traditional cement ones that had been laid over them. The iconic building is known to have a mix of Minton tiles and blue basalt patterns floorings which were a matter pride in the nineteeth century.
“The UNESCO-listed world heritage site building of Mumbai CST is being restored completely and as a part of the process, the old offices and artificial alterations done to the building structure are being removed and dismantled. When we removed the layer of cement tile floorings, we have uncovered the original tile work that is intact and we now plan to restore it. We will get conservation architects to work on it. While the corridors have similar Minton tiles, the inside rooms also have similar patterns which are in the process of being cleaned up now. One can see a mix of blue and red tiles and few others are white,” a railway engineer working on the project said.
“The corridors and rooms are being restored one by one and are being stripped of all the artificial touches and we are making the building as it was in its original form. Once restored, we could walk through the corridors and breeze will flow as it used to earlier without any hurdles,” he added.
Designed by Fredrick William Stevens, the heritage building for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (now Central Railway) head office was constructed meticulously for a period of ten years between 1878 and 1888 with Indian contractors, workers and students from the JJ School of Art.
“While the floor on one room has black and white square and the other is reddish-yellow and blue Minton pattern tiling, now covered under dust and rubble, was once the key feature of this building. The two rooms of about 1,000 sq feet each were the cash office of Central railway with a maze of tables and chairs, cabins and false ceilings,” an official said.
Minton encaustic and basalt patterns were an important feature of all iconic public buildings not only in England but across the world, including in the United States Capitol.
Asked about the plans to restore them, railway officials working on it said that the floor and tiles will now be washed so that the entire tiling pattern can then be visible properly. Once this is done, we shall call conservation experts from the field so that they can examined, identified them and give their opinion. But in all cases, we intend to restore them in their original form.
“The first attempt should be clean them and restore them to original glory. If it is not possible to restore them, an attempt should be made to get the closest replica,,” conservation architect Vikas Dilawari said.
Central Railway chief public relations officer Sunil Udasi confirmed that the railways intended to restore all types of original tile patterns that were found at the railway cash offices and the corridors will be free of all clutter.