Lahore Railway Station
When most young boys were thinking about sports-cars and fighter jets, I dreamt of riding black horses and traveling in trains with a book in my lap. But when I visited the Lahore Railway Station recently, through the unglamorous state of rail transport in Pakistan, the childhood train fantasy of mine was given a harsh reality check.
A childhood dream dies a quick, painless death in the dilapidated husk of what was once the grand ol’ Lahore Railway Station.
I went alone and stood on the causeway outside. Despite the uproar on the adjacent road, the Mughal architectural style of the station looked inviting. Outside the station stood a train engine built in Germany in 1832. It deserves to be kissed superstitiously, at least from a distance, as it has witnessed people come and go across two centuries. Whether this old engine remembers it all is another matter, but it sure as hell retains the sense of belonging to another era.
Inside the station is a whitewashed hall with a roof that stands far above the marble floor. Some people passed me by with sacks and bags on their back, while others reclined on the wooden benches with glum faces, probably anticipating the long journey ahead.
I bought myself a ticket to visit the platform. There, I observed the old, tin roof. It was high enough to allow pigeons, mynahs, and crows to fly and sing their shrill songs underneath it. The railway lines were strewn with shopping bags and food wrappers and, at times, covered with greasy, black puddles of murky water.
Slightly downcast by this sad state of affairs, I climbed the stairs on the right side of the platform. I began thinking about the boredom and nausea passengers feel towards the end of their journeys. I watched a train leave the station, shaking its structure in the process. Porters in green and yellow uniforms huddled together on the ground and benches waiting for incoming trains that seemed to have forgotten their way. The mismanaged railway schedule and lack of locomotives may be to blame for these delays.
It is believed that the luster of the past and their simplicity make historical places worth exploring. Unfortunately, I felt that the Railway Station’s dilapidation and disrepair obscured all these things. After walking around for a long time, trying to find hidden gems that could redeem this place, I eventually gave up. Although the place does not have much appeal left in its surface beauty, one cannot reject the historical significance of this place. Mian Mohammad Sultan Chughtai constructed it between 1859-1860. The style of this station resembles a medieval castle, with its turrets and heavy, red-bricked walls. The place deserves a visit for the sake of its historical character if nothing else.