Metro Museum, New Delhi: On 24 November a record 950,000 people boarded the Delhi Metro—that’s 55,882 people for each of the 17 hours that the Metro operates. The number itself is not hard to explain—regular commuters would swear 10 times that number throng the stations during peak hours. What is a constant source of intrigue, though, is how Delhi’s Metro remains, after six years and an average of 800,000 passengers a day, a stunning example of efficiency, reliability and clockwork precision. The Metro Museum, housed in the Patel Chowk station on the Yellow Line (which runs from Delhi University to Central Secretariat) offers one possible answer: sheer attention to detail.
The museum is brimming with pride at what it wants to tell you and, for regular commuters of the Metro at least, provides satisfactory answers to details noticed on the everyday commute.
Some of the displays chart the history of the Metro in interesting ways. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
How does the ticketing system work so seamlessly? A fibre-optic-connected network of servers updated constantly across stations.
How are line faults seemingly fixed overnight? Simple—a pilot train inspects the line a few hours before daily operations start.
There are even answers to questions you’re not sure you asked, such as what material is used for employee uniforms designed by the National Institute of Fashion Technology. The answer, should you want to know, is 65% polyester and 35% viscose.
Another section of the museum highlights the technical challenges the Metro had to overcome, including a detailed piece on the construction of the Chawri Bazaar station which, at 25m, is the deepest station on the network and was an engineering nightmare. Of particular interest is the bridge from Pragati Maidan to Indraprastha, which was constructed without delaying a single train passing under it. That particular stretch passes over five railway lines, with 200 trains crossing daily. This technique is now being employed to ensure uninterrupted traffic under the the Airport Express Line across Dhaula Kuan.
Part of the museum’s wonder is just how much the Delhi Metro has to tell you about itself. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
There are scale models of the Metro train, and some of the stations, as well a touch-screen kiosk set to blood-curdling volume that plays a short movie on the history of the Metro. Other highlights include a display of the different soil types encountered while rooting around Delhi’s subterranean landscape, a chart listing all the accidents averted due to quick reactions and an early warning system—the stretch from Rajiv Chowk to Janakpuri seems be responsible for 80% of these alerts—and an elaborate explanation of why the Metro uses broad gauge tracks over standard gauge.
The exhibits are laid out just past the ticket gates at Patel Chowk, and it takes a little more than 20 minutes to look around at everything. There’s even a souvenir shop, which sells Metro-themed merchandise, the official coffee-table book, A Journey to Remember, and commemorative ticket coupons.
The museum, though, will seem almost bizarre to non-Metro users. Its excited descriptions of seemingly mundane details may be lost on non-commuters. But as a peek into what makes the Delhi Metro tick, and an affirmation of the effort and planning that makes it possible, it preaches wonderfully to the converted, and is a little pilgrimage that commuters will happily take.
The Delhi Metro Museum is open 10am-4pm on all days, except Mondays. Visitors will need a journey token or smart card to enter.