Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General > Headquarters of South Eastern Railway (SER), Garden Reach, formerly Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR)

Headquarters of South Eastern Railway (SER), Garden Reach, formerly Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR)

South Eastern Railway (SER) Headquarters, Garden Reach

formerly Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR)

The opening of the Mumbai-Thane line in 1853 marked the beginning of railways in India. The Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) was formed in 1887 for the purpose of upgrading the Nagpur Chhattisgarh Line and then extending it via Bilaspur to Asansol, in order to develop a shorter Howrah-Mumbai route than the one via Allahabad.

Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) Office, Headquarters of the South Eastern Railway (SER), Garden Reach

Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) Office, Headquarters of the South Eastern Railway (SER), Garden Reach

The BNR main line from Nagpur to Asansol was opened for goods traffic on 1 February 1891. It was only after Kharagpur was linked from the west and the south that it was connected to Howrah in 1900.

Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) Logo and South Eastern Railway (SER) Logo

Bengal Nagpur Railway (BNR) Logo and South Eastern Railway (SER) Logo

The management of the BNR was taken over by the Government of India in 1944. In 1952 BNR merged with East Indian Railway Company to form Eastern Railway. In 1955, South Eastern Railway (SER) was carved out of Eastern Railway. It comprised lines mostly operated by BNR earlier.

Ornate interiors and exteriors of the BNR Office, South Eastern Railway (SER) Headquarters, Garden Reach

Ornate interiors and exteriors of the BNR Office, South Eastern Railway (SER) Headquarters, Garden Reach

Today the headquarters of SER, still refereed to as BNR, is located at the southern end of Kolkata in Garden Reach. It is housed in a massive red building built in Indo – Sarasenic style. It was constructed in 1907 at a cost of rupees seven lakh

Vintage steam locomotive of BNR

Vintage steam locomotive of BNR

The massive building is complete with domes, turrets and portico. Ornate exteriors with a brick red facade gives it an elegant look.

Just on the left of the entrance is a vintage railway steam engine. The narrow guage steam locomotive dates back to 1930 and provided 46 years of service in the Raipur – Dhamtari section of BNR.
Apart from the headquarter building the building the complex houses several other building housing, staff quarters, other offices, sports facilities and beautiful landscaped gardens.

Behind the main building and next to the sports complex is a small brass plaque almost at ground level. The plaque contains two logos, one on the top left is of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and one on the top right is of BNR.

Plaque of Barrage Balloons

Plaque of Barrage Balloons

The plaque is of the 978 Balloon Squadron RAF. The barrage balloons, which operated for the first time in India protected the Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial and several other landmarks of the city from the Japanese bombing during World War II

Next to the plaque is the grounds of BNR Sports Club (it is still called BNR). BNR is a regular name in Kolkata sporting circle.

BNR has teams for football, cricket, hockey and several other sports. It has produced several Olympians including three time Olympic gold medalist Leslie Claudius

Beautifully laid out SER (BNR) Cpmplex

Beautifully laid out SER (BNR) Cpmplex

The beautifully laid out compound has its share of history and a restored ball signal is one of the artifacts displayed in the SER (BNR) compound. The ball signal consisted of a ball which moves in up and down position. A raised position of the ball stands for stop, while a down position is for go.

Ball Signal, BNR Complex

Ball Signal, BNR Complex

The signal was once used to dispatch trains to a pontoon jetty from 1880s to 1950s. The ball signal was restored in 2005, and probably is the only standing ball signal in the country.

The star attraction of the SER (BNR) complex is the Bungalow of the General Manger. Constructed in 1846 it predates the head quarter building by half a century.

The milk white building is inspired by the Temple of Winds of Athens. The latter was also the inspiration behind Metcalfe Hall on Strand Road.

The house served as a residence of the disposed Nawab of Lucknow, Wajid Ali Shaw after his release from Fort William in 1858.

He stayed in this building for several months and during those days it was  known as the Parikahana (house of fairies) and it was where the nawab was entertained by musicians, poets and dancers.

Today known as the BNR House, the building comes in with a beautiful lawn and great views of the Hooghly River, sadly the building and its compound is out of reach for visitors. However a river cruise along the river provides a great view of the historic building. (Also see: Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) Heritage Cruise)

BNR House, erstwhile residence of Wajid Ali Shah

BNR House, erstwhile residence of Wajid Ali Shah

The entire complex has its share of history and the house of the famous orientalist William Jones (1746 – 94) is located inside the SER (BNR) complex. The house is located just in front of the SER Officers’ Club

William Jones house and plaque, BNR Complex (click to enlarge)

William Jones house and plaque, BNR Complex (click to enlarge)

A plaque in front of the house narrates the history , along with a small write up on Jones. The plaque also mentions that Jones lived in the house till his death on 27 April 1794 and was buried in the South Park Street Cemetery

View of Hooghly River and Second Hooghly Bridge from BNR Complex, Garden Reach

View of Hooghly River and Second Hooghly Bridge from BNR Complex, Garden Reach

The complex houses several temples along the river bank, some of these temples do have a long history but the present structures are all new. This area provides a great view of the Hooghly River along with views of the Second Hooghly Bridge. The Botanical Garden and the building of the Shivpur Bengal Engineering College are also visible.

Note: Some of the inputs and photos are from the Metiabruz Walk, which I co-hosted for the ITC Sonar Hotel

  1. September 9, 2020 at 12:33 AM

    Another wonderfully interesting post! Thank you for sharing!

  2. September 10, 2020 at 1:49 AM

    Wonderful write-up. Only one thing, please correct the year of death of William Jones from 1974 to 1794 – perhaps a typographical error.

  3. saurabh578
    September 19, 2020 at 11:09 PM

    Great article all information you shared it’s very nice thanks keep it up

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: