|Lahore Railway Station|
Lahore Railway Station was literally the first purpose-built British imperial building, its foundation stone haying been laid by John Lawrence in 1859, and it cost half a million rupees to build.
Lahore Railway Station is representative of typical grand British architecture in the Indo-Pak subcontinent during the British Raj. The railway network established by the British was very extensive and is one of their lasting contributions to the culture and infrastructure of this region. With its great round bastions and tall machicolated towers, Lahore station may look as if it is the product of some short lived collaboration between the Raj and the Disney Corporation, but it was in fact built in deadly earnest. The twin towers look as innocent as Swiss cuckoo clocks, but they were designed to be bomb- proof, while the loop holes across the facade are not the mock arrow slits they appear to be, but placements for Maxim guns, which were drawn down carefully designed lines of fire. Even the cavernous train sheds could, in an emergency, be sealed with huge sliding metal doors, turning the whole complex into a colossal fortified bunker. According to its architect, William Brunton, the whole station had a "defensive character" so that "a small garrison could secure it against enemy attack".
The station was built in the immediate aftermath of
the Indian Mutiny of 1857. So the building was
deliberately designed to function both as a station
and as a fort. At the time one of the major
concerns was the safety of railway employees, and
accordingly, the building was designed to provide
accommodation for "refuge of the Railway staff and
others in any time of danger." Constructed entirely
of brick masonry, its quaint square turrets rise
above the main structure and carry large clocks
which could be visible from great distances, once
again underscoring the importance of time that an
industrialized society such as England was keen to
inculcate in the local public.
Its architect, William Brunton was particularly pleased with the masonry, which he called 'the best in the world' and which he felt confident could survive even full-scale howitzer fire. When Lord John Lawrence broke the earth on the future site of Lahore Railway Station in February 1859, the silver shovel he used bore the Latin motto 'tam bello quam pace'- better peace than war. The motto was appropriate because the railways did play a vital part in creating a peaceful, united India. The irony was that less than a century later, they were also the instrument that made its irreparable division feasible. The biggest migration in human history was only possible because thousands of people could be moved from one end of the country to another by rail.