Many are being deprived of knowledge about South Asian railway history due to the museum’s extended closure
Once an attraction for visitors, the Bangladesh Railway Museum in Pahartali, Chattogram city has stayed closed for the last four years.
School and college students often visited the country's sole railway museum located on 12-acres of land atop a hillock just opposite the Bangladesh Railway Carriage and Wagon Workshop.
Many people – especially the younger generation – are being deprived of knowledge about South Asian railway history due to the two-storey museum's extended closure.
The museum was established to introduce the railway's heritage, its old machinery and history to a new generation, said sources in the Chattogram railway.
Many rare objects from the railway, some of them dating back to the British era – including photos, old monograms, signal lights, fans, horns, flags, telephones, chairs, tables, and rail lines used in different times – are stored in the museum.
Aminul Islam, who was visiting the area along with his family, said, "We often come here as we like the vicinity of the museum. Every time I find the museum's main building is locked. If this were open, we could learn many things about the railway."
He stated that the museum should be re-opened immediately.
The 4,200-square-foot, wooden, two-storey building was once used as a railway bungalow, but it opened as a museum on November 5, 2003.
The railway authorities began renovating the museum in 2016, and it has been closed ever since.
A caretaker of the museum, on condition of anonymity, said the valuable relics housed inside the museum are deteriorating because of the attraction's extended closure.
He said if the museum remains closed like this, many of the valuable artefacts will be destroyed; with this, history will one day be erased.
People often come to visit the museum but find it locked and want to know why this is the case, said the caretaker.
However, the caretaker does not have an answer for the curious visitors' queries.
The number of people visiting the area has decreased over the years as a result of the museum's closure. Taking advantage of that, the area around the museum has become a safe haven for criminals involved in muggings, drug use and other anti-social activities.
Asked why the railway authorities are not taking action against the anti-social activities, he said, "What can we do if the higher authorities do not take action?"
During a recent visit to the area, it was found that school and college students were loitering, in groups, in the vacant area in front of the museum.
At one stage, two groups began to fight and some local youths joined in; the situation rapidly devolved.
A resident of the area, preferring to remain anonymous, added that unpleasant incidents occur in the museum area on a regular basis.
If a visitor is found alone, local muggers snatch their mobile phones and other valuable belongings.
However, Divisional Railway Manager Borhan Uddin said he was unaware that the museum has been closed for the last four years.
When this correspondent asked him why the museum is closed, he replied that it is still open.
Meanwhile, Nasir Uddin Ahmed, general manager of the Bangladesh Railway's Eastern Zone, said the country's sole railway museum is closed due to a lack of manpower.
He, however, said they plan to re-open the museum once they have hired sufficient manpower.