In the Kothrud area of Pune, India, is located a small factory: Soudamini Instruments, where a special hall 26′ x 26′ has been built to house the Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railways.
Mr. B. S. Joshi, known to all as Bhau Joshi, was the originator and founder of the Museum. Collecting train models was his hobby, or rather his obsession, from childhood. In India during the festival of Diwali, it is a popular pastime among children to build “Killas” or small layouts depicting the fortress strongholds of Shivaji, the King of the Marathas.
Mostly these are extremely crude attempts with no knowledge or attempt at proportion.Even during his childhood, Bhau used to build “Killas” with a lot of movements, like a fire engine which used to actually put out a fire, moving cars on roads etc. These were controlled by strings.The houses etc. were made of cardboard.
There used to be long queues to see these Killas, which were famous in his neighbourhood. In the 1980’s he started work on a layout which, he visualised, could be taken from town to town like a circus or fair. This layout, which was the result of a 40 year obsession, was first displayed in Pune at the “Gokhale Hall” in 1982 and was a huge success.
In 1984 the layout was displayed in Bombay and in 1986, in Pune at ” Dastur High School “. From these three experiences it was found that to make it a mobile layout, required too much manpower and expenditure, to the detriment of regular activity at Soudamini Instruments. The permissions etc. required at each location were very frustrating. Thus he took the decision of creating a permanent Museum of Miniature Railways . Once this decision was taken the entire concept of the layout changed. Since it was no longer necessary to dismantle the layout, much more detailed work could be done. The hall was constructed in 1991 and the present layout was created, which was opened to the public on 1st April 1998 . The work and dedication behind this layout can be appreciated by fellow rail modellers.
There are nearly 1000 wires coming out of the control panel, adding to a length of 5 km. There are 65 signals, fences, lampposts, flyovers etc. which have been manufactured by hand, using chemical etching techniques. The control panel has been designed so that the entire layout can be operated manually or can be computer controlled. All this has been achieved due to the single minded devotion and hard work of one man, Bhau Joshi.
What is the purpose of exhibiting this layout?
Even though the factory, Soudamini Instruments, has been in existence for more than 30 years, while the museum has just been completed, the fact is that the concept of the factory has arisen from the dream of the museum. Before Soudamini was started Bhau Joshi was considering the manufacture of model trains, but he realised that the market was non existent. So he started Soudamini. It was his interest in model trains.