National Rail Museum in New Delhi

by Mr. Varun Arora

An article is included to HeritageForAll Global Collaborations Program.

An article is a project report that was submitted, in partial fulfillment of the requirement of the degree of M.A. (Fine) Museology, by Mr. Varun Arora ( and reviewed by Dr. Sunjay Jain.

Department of Museology, the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (December 2017).



National Rail Museum in New Delhi is the first national transportation museum. It was founded in 1977 by the minister of railway H.E. Mr. Shri Kamlapati Tripathi. It has a unique collection especially the Queen Fairy and John Morris fire engine. Also, it contains of more than 160-years-old railway engines such as steam engines, diesel engines, electric engines, and so on. It has many royal saloons of Indian Maharajas from all over the state like the train salon of the Maharaja of Baroda, the Gaikwad’s saloon, the Maharaja of Mysore saloon, etc.

Besides, museum is very popular with children. It hosts the majority of educational activities such as painting, drawing, making models of railway competition, etc. They have also done many exhibitions, e.g. India International Trade Fair (IITF) and Indian Railway Equipment Exhibition (IREE) to name a few. The conservation of these engines is done by Indian railway zones, to which the engine belongs. Apart from this, the museum also has an auditorium to show the Indian railways-based films.

Aims and objectives

  1. To highlight the importance of railways in India;
  2. To understand the history and the development of the National Rail Museum;
  3. To understand what type of collection the museum has;
  4. To study the museological documentation procedure;
  5. To know how the museum conserves the engines;
  6. To study the various museological educational activities;
  7. To know what exhibitions have been conducted.

Importance of Railways in India:

Since its beginning, the railways have been played a significant role as a mode of transportation in India. In fact, India has the second largest railway network in the world which transport about 80 million people from one place to another in the county every year. Many cities have their own railway network in India such as Mumbai has the local trains where approximately seven million people travel through daily. Delhi and Kolkata have the Metro network for people to transport. In future, India is also planning to launch bullet trains for fast travelling.

Besides, there are also the special luxury trains in India like Maharaja Express which travels through the Northern and Western destinations of India, and also, the Palace on Wheels for the elite class who would like to get an experience and enjoy a royal treatment of travelling through trains in India. Overall, it was started in 1853 when the first train ran between Thane to Bombay station of Victoria Terminus.

There are some railways that its stations are in relation to UNESCO world heritage sites in India such as Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj station and Nilgir Mountain. India has been gone on to have the second largest network of railway in terms of length and the population that travel through it every year. To highlight the history of railway, the Indian railways have been regionally founded in different cities places in the country such as Ghum Museum (West Bengal), Howrah Railway Museum (Kolkata), the Joshi Miniature Railway Museum (Pune), the Railway Heritage Museum (Mumbai). In contrast, the most popular and important railway museum is the National Rail Museum in New Delhi where displays the national railway heritage.

The Chattarapati Shivaji Maharaj railway station in Mumbai- UNESCO WHS

History of the Museum

The idea, of founding a railway or transport museum, was returned back to 1962 adopting the advice of Mr. Michael Graham Satow, a rail enthusiast. Then, the Indian president V. V. Giri laid founding a rail transport museum. The museum showcases the transportation history of railways, roadways, airways and waterways in India but, it’s current building in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi is only about the railway history of the country and its name was altered from Rail Transport museum to National Rail Museum in 1977. Then, the museum becomes the most popular museums in India, with the rarest of the collection of railway engines in India such as Patiala State Mono Rail Exhibit or Queen Fairy Engine the world’s oldest working railway engine. Apart from that, the museum’s educational activities have played a vital role in popularizing the museum among its visitors.

The opening Ceremony of the Museum in 1977 by the Indian president V. V. Giri

The Collections of the Museum

The museum has a large collection of railway artefacts and equipment’s which are about 163 years old. It has railway engines in steam, diesel and electric. It also has the royal saloons of various Maharajas of India like the Maharaja of Baroda, Maharaja of Mysore the Prince of Wales of Bombay, etc. There is the joy train and the railway model exhibit of a running train that to be one of very popular visitor attraction in the museum. The other star collections include the Patiala State Mono Rail Exhibit, the Queen Fairy Exhibit, John Morris fire engine etc. The museum has six galleries both indoor and outdoor to display its objects.

The Indian Miniature Model Exhibit

Documentation Procedures

In terms of documentation, the labelling of the artefacts includes the name of the engine, the duration of when the engine was in use in India, the state where it was operated, and a map also shows a route where it travelled in the country.


Conservation has always been a very important function and aspect of any museum worldwide. National Rail Museum in New Delhi is no exception to it. Whenever something gets broken or damaged, it is sent to be repaired by the railway zone of the country to which the engine belongs e.g. Northern Zone, southern Zone, Eastern Zone, western Zone or Central Zone. They also do a capacity building programs for railway department employees of the country delivering the up-to-date aspects of how to take care of railway engines whenever they are damaged.


The National Rail Museum conducts annually a lot of exhibition, for instance, the India International Trade Fair Exhibition in 2016 and International Railway Equipment Exhibition at Pragati Maidan in Delhi in 2015. Moreover, the John Morris fire engine which has been participating annually in vintage cars rally along the last 3 years.

International Railway Equipment Exhibition

Educational Activities

The museum conducts annually a lot of educational activities that it is very popular with children. Educators arrange painting and drawing competitions, fun learning programs, railway model making competition, etc. Also, They have a summer camp (April – June) for children. A lot of schools visit the museum every week getting 3D virtual tour of the museum. In which, the museum uses digital technology clarifying the history and functioning of Indian railways. One can also take a ride of the toy or joy train in the museum. In addition, there are much activities that to be conducted for adults and elderly persons in the museum.

Summer camp at National Rail Museum

Reference (

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