Railway Board Building, Shimla, HP - fire - retardant heritage structure

Railway Board Building, Shimla, HP. shimlaonline.in

Shimla, India, location map. traveldealsfinder.com 

bldg. Shimla, HP, road-side view. victorianweb.org

There are many  heritage and colonial structures, and a few old church buildings in Shimla, the capital of Himachal state of  India. As mentioned in my earlier posts, the reason is the hill station is known for its pleasant climate.  So, it was the summer capital of the British government (since 1864) during  the East India company rule and later under the Raj. In the summer season, the entire  bureaucratic machinery would move up hill temporarily  and then after the summer season they would get back to the official capital.  British imperialists  at Shimla chalked out various bureaucratic  decisions to get the administration going,  during this short period, though their activities were limited  to their capital either at Calcutta or later at Delhi. To cater to their administrative needs, etc many buildings came up with fine European architecture to provide space for the officials. 

The 95.68 km (59.45 mi) narrow gauge line opened for traffic on 9 November 1903  was dedicated by Viceroy Lord Curzon who loved this town  and the surrounding places.  This line was  quite beneficial to the community living on the hill because the train moved the passengers as well as goods from the plains to the hills. After the introduction of the railways, the growth of Shimla town was fast. 
Low angle view of the Railway Board Building, Shimla, HP India123rf.com/photo

Originally built  to house offices of  the Public Works Department of the Government of India, this building housed the PWD's Secretary and Accountant-General. In the later years, the Railway Board was the main occupant in 1923. Since then, it has been known as Railway Board Building.  The structure was further strengthened on the steep hillside with three basements. This among the many impressive  numerous European-style buildings, the Victorian-style  Railway Board Building with imposing front  stands apart because it was built with better technology as the structure contains  technologically-advanced cast-iron and steel. This type of design was unusual. The upper floors in the building are connected through a beautiful and decorated  iron stairs,. This  four-story structure  has two separate entrances - one  from the road side (quite visible) and the other on the slope  side that has  3  basements (visible on the hill side).  

Many buildings in Shimla and the near-by places were mostly made of wood because of easy availability of lumber and cold climatic condition. Normally, wooden structures are preferred in  cold and chilly places. The crux of the problem is they were not fire proof and in case of fire mishaps, such structures could be easily damaged in a jiff. The distinctive architectural aspect of the Railway  Board building is, it was built to be fire-resistant. This is confirmed by the 2001 (Feb. 10)  fire accident on the top floor, its sturdy internal features were found to be  unaffected. It is yet another proof that Iron-framed structures were  fire proof and much cheaper than wooden structures. Ellerslie, yet another structure in Shimla uses similar technique. The building now houses various government offices, including  the Central Govt., such as Passport Office.  

The building that is close to The Mall, camp up  in 1896 to 1897. Prior to  that, there were two residences on this land which were known as the Low Ville and Herbert House. The  Richardson and Cruddas of Bombay was the contractor who had built this building and the cost of construction was    Rs.4,08,476/-, a huge sum in those days. The English engineer associated with this structure was one  W. MacDonald who was an expert in iron-framed buildings not prone to fire mishaps.