Chugging curiously, along a palatial dining table in Gwalior’s Jai Mahal palace, is a unique silver toy train. Commissioned by Maharaja Sir Madho Rao Scindia of Gwalior, grandfather of Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, this curious artefact is about 120 years old.
The Maharaja’s ‘dead’ railway engine had its own mausoleum
Madho Rao Scindia was the 5th Maharaja of Gwalior and ruled from 1886 to 1926. He was a great gadget enthusiast and one of the first Maharajas to own a car. He was fascinated by machines and technology. He started the Gwalior Light railway, which connected 28 stations in the Gwalior state. In fact, he even knew how to run an engine and, prompted by his love and knowledge of machines, became an engine driver just for the fun of it. So fond was he of the locomotives, that when his favorite locomotive engine ‘died,’ he had a mausoleum built for it in the palace garden.
Cigars, port and liqueurs were ‘cargo’ on the train
But the train, for which Gwalior and the Scindias are most famous, is the toy silver train he ordered in 1906 from Bassett Lowke, a famous British toy rail company that makes toy train models to this day. This model train was installed in the Banqueting Hall of the Jai Vilas Palace. Special mini tracks were laid on the banqueting table, where the train would chug along carrying cigars, port and liqueurs to the guests of the Maharaja. The toy train comprised of a silver engine and seven carriages made of silver and crystal decanters.
The train was operated from a panel and the train would stop as soon as a decanter was lifted. The silver train can still be seen at Jai Vilas Palace in Gwalior.