Royapuram raiway station, Chennai , one of the oldest in india

Royapuram railway station, Chennai  en.
Royapuram railway station at Royapuram, on the Chennai Beach–Arakkonam section of the Chennai Suburban Railway network in Chennai,  is one of the oldest railway stations in India. The note worthy feature is, unlike  the original structures of the two older stations like Bombay and Thane that are not operational now, Royapuram station  is currently operational. It has the credit of being the first and oldest railway station still operational  not only in  South India, but also in the entire subcontinent. The very first train became operational in June 1856. Till 1922, the station also had remained as the headquarters of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway and later the Head Office was moved over to Egmore.

As time goes by,  Royapuram railway station building is in a dilapidated condition over the decades due to poor maintenance and neglect. Pathetically, one end of the station has become a play ground and the other end is  is being used for the transport of goods trains and the platform adjacent the main building is used for passenger trains. A sum of rupees  3.5 million was spent to carry out major repair works and was re-opened to the public on 2 October 2005 by the then union railway ministry. The station is classified as one among 800 heritage structures.

It was here at Royapuram railway station, the laying down of the second railway line of the South Asia began in 1853. The idea of a railway in South India was mooted as far back as  in 1832. Though the Madras Railway Company was formed on 8 July1845 in London to form railway lines in the Madras Presidency, four years later, it was the Great India Peninsula Company in 1849,  built a 21-mile-long route from Bori Bunder (later the Victoria Terminus) in Bombay to Thane. It was India's first railway line opened for traffic on 16 April 1853.  As for the south, the EIC did not show any interest initially and subsequently a new company with the same name was formed in July 1952  and with permission from the English company - EIC  it began the work on the southern line in 1853 and a railway track  was extended from Royapuram (Madras) to Arcot town ( a distance of 101.74 km), then titular capital of the Nawab of the Carnatic (the present day Walajapet, near Ranipet in Tamil Nadu). It took 3 years to complete the work.

As Royapuram was close to the edge of a settlement of British traders and natives near Fort St. George and, in consideration of its vantage point, it was decided to have a railway station with a main terminus built here. The main terminus at the Royapuram station, was declared open on 28 June 1856 by the then Governor Lord Harris. The railway line was opened for traffic on 1 July 1856 with the introduction of two services on the inaugural day - Royapuram to Ambur and Royapuram to Tiruvallur.  The first train produced  by  Simpson and Company,  made its  maiden journey with the Governor and 300 Europeans  from Royapuram to Walajapet and after the journey, a stately dinner was arranged in Ambur. The second train included Indian invitees to a shorter distance till "Triveloor" (the present day Thiruvallur). 
Royapuram station, 1856. Sketch by
Capt Barnett, Madras
Gov. of Madras Harris 1854-1859. Painting by Sir Francis
On 6 September 1856, the The Illustrated London News dated 6 September 1856 published the news of  the regal inauguration of the palatial railway station in Madras and described the second railway line in India.  The journal mentioned that the elegant  Royapuram station was furnished with rooms having  handsome punkahs. Trains  towards the southern regions of the state were operated from Royapuram station when Central Station became functional in 1873, operating  trains towards the north. Prior to that Royapuram was the only railway station in the city for about 17 years till Madras Central Station became functional.
Opening of  2nd rail track,
The development of the Chennai Port was a boon and  the cargoes from the port were sent via Royapuram station. Consequently the  Egmore Railway Station  became major the terminus for southbound trains in 1907. A building adjacent to the Royapuram station that once served as the HO  of the Madras Railway Company was pulled down long ago.

A fascinating fact about the Royapuram railway station is it  ranks second next to Howrah, Calcutta in India in terms of space availability with 246,000 sq m. The station covers a huge plot of 72 acres of prime land and has
about 28 tracks. Located  about 2 km from Chennai Central station, part of the station  serves the suburban traffic in the station. The historic station has  arches, ionic pillars and high-rise ceilings with a separate goods shed. No doubt it is an interesting  heritage building that needs to be preserved for the posterity.