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