CHUG­GING AHEAD

Car en­thu­si­ast San­jay Ghosh's in­cred­i­bly de­tailed minia­ture rail­way sys­tem is one of his most trea­sured pos­ses­sions.

India Today - - FEATURE - _ By Priyadarshini Chat­ter­jee

San­jay Ghosh might be best known for his stel­lar col­lec­tion of vin­tage and clas­sic cars that has won him as many as 250 tro­phies on the rally cir­cuit, but the cham­pion au­to­mo­bile en­thu­si­ast has yet an­other hobby not many know of. On Sun­day af­ter­noons, Ghosh is most likely to be found locked up in a 250 square foot room in the gar­den of his Bal­ly­gunge ad­dress, pol­ish­ing his prized Ger­man-man­u­fac­tured vin­tage model lo­co­mo­tives, re-in­stalling a loose wiring, or scrub­bing minia­ture rail­way tracks with petrol. He was in­tro­duced to rail trans­port mod­el­ling by his father at the age of eight,

who gifted him a 1959 Marklin HO Gauge Model Rail­way Sys­tem.

THE IN­CEP­TION

“The set my father brought for me com­prised a few tracks, one en­gine and three coaches, but it trig­gered a keen in­ter­est in me and I started pur­su­ing rail­way mod­el­ling se­ri­ously,” rem­i­nisces Ghosh. He would go scroung­ing for ac­ces­sories for his model—old auc­tion houses, for­eign vis­i­tors and the In­dian Hobby Cen­tre be­ing his chief sources—to in­no­vate and ex­pand his col­lec­tion, which now cov­ers 200 square feet of space.

FACE LIFT

How­ever, in 1988, the lack of space forced Ghosh to dis­man­tle the old model. It re­mained locked in stor­age for 20 years, un­til Ghosh de­cided to re­store it in 2008. “Ev­ery com­po­nent had be­come de­funct,” says Ghosh. It took him a year and a half and long hours of back-break­ing work to re­store the com­po­nents. Con­tacts in Ger­many helped him pro­cure the nec­es­sary parts. An­other two years were spent in cre­at­ing the new lay out. “I worked metic­u­lously for three hours ev­ery day to build this,” says Ghosh.

THE HIGH­LIGHT

The tracks run through imag­i­nary town­ships com­plete with minia­ture houses (most of them hand­crafted), streets, a gas sta­tion, lamp posts, traf­fic sig­nals and cars, through tun­nels and across a bridge, de­signed along the lines of the Bally Bridge by Ghosh. Tiny hu­man fig­ures, in­clud­ing an ice cream ven­dor and a mon­key trainer crowd the plat­form, com­plete with a wait­ing room and benches. A steam en­gine chugs along the tracks, quite by sur­prise soft curls of white steam rises out of its tiny chim­ney. Ghosh points out ex­cit­edly at the boom bar­rier at a level cross­ing that slowly de­scends as the en­gine passes through.

AN EYE FOR DE­TAIL

Rail yards, a turn-ta­ble for chang­ing di­rec­tions of steam lo­co­mo­tives, a goods yard fit­ted with a crane with a built-in mag­net that lifts and de­posits iron scrap into a truck po­si­tioned strate­gi­cally, and an elab­o­rate sig­nal­ing sys­tem are among the other fea­tures of the model that has over one thou­sand elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions. It runs on a 220 volt trans­former with a strip down to 30 volts. “I have enough ac­ces­sories to build a model over dou­ble the size, but space is a prob­lem,” says Ghosh.

Once in two weeks on a Sun­day, Ghosh cleans the en­tire model, one piece at a time. “It takes me more than half a day, but I en­joy it ev­ery time,” he says. In his fam­ily, it is Ghosh’s grand­daugh­ter who seems to have in­her­ited her grand­fa­ther’s pas­sion. “She is six years old and she op­er­ates the com­plex sys­tem with ease. But it’s not a sim­ple task,” he says with pride, while turn­ing the lights off on his prized pos­ses­sion.

THE TRACKS RUN THROUGH IMAG­I­NARY TOWN­SHIPS COM­PLETE WITH MINIA­TURE HOUSES, STREETS, A GAS STA­TION, LAMP POSTS, TRAF­FIC SIG­NALS, AND ACROSS A BRIDGE

Pho­to­graph by SU­BIR HAL­DAR

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