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Iconic Chennai building housing Southern Railway GM’s office completes 100 years

The iconic building which houses Southern Railway headquarters in Chennai has completed 100 years (Pics. Courtesy Twitter/@GMSRailway)

Standing tall and majestic on Chennai’s EVR Periyar Salai which is located next to the Central Station is a three-storey heritage structure which has completed 100 golden years and is headquarters of Southern Railway. This building houses the office of General Manager and several other departments of the SR, with 1,500 people working there.

The building was inaugurated on November 11, 1922 by Lady Willingdon, the wife of then Governor of Madras, Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon.

It was on February 8, 1915 that the structure’s foundation stone was laid by Lord Pentland, who was then the Governor of Madras and it was to be the headquarters of Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Company.

Interestingly, the architect of the building was N. Grayson who was an employee of the MSMRC who designed it based on the Dravidian style of classical architecture. The structure which is Indo-Saracenic has a foundation which has a reinforced concrete raft from 5 to 8 feet below the ground level set on pure sand and is 20 feet deep, as per the Southern Railway Press note.

A Bengulauru-based contractor, T. Samynada Pillai built it in seven years, at a cost of Rs.30.76 lakhs.

Southern Railway Headquarters
The construction of the building was completed in seven years

The foundation structure itself took seven-and-a-half months using 500 tonnes of steel bars embedded on 10,000 tonnes of granite concrete. The headquarters was built of stock brick with Porbandar stones which were supplied by H.H. Wadia & Bros, pioneers of quarrying these stones from Gujarat. For eight years these stones were transported by sea to Kerala and from there to Madras by rail.

H.H. Wadia & Sons camped in Madras from 1913 to 1922 along with their team of skilled masons from Porbandar, who were headed by master mason Pitambar Hira.

In 1951 the building became the headquarters of Southern Railway when it was formed by merging Madras & Southern Mahratta Railway, Mysore State Railway and South Indian Railway systems.

Southern Railway Headquarters
The exquisite interiors of the building