Heritage Transport Museum, Gurgaon, India

Heritage Transport Museum is an endevour to showcase and interpret the multiple narratives of transport movement in India. The museum is a progressive outcome of the passion for transport-collection of one man – Tarun Thakral. The vision behind the museum is to share its rich and diverse collection with large number of people and give them a fun filled learning experience. The museum was conceptualised quite literary to transport people to a bygone era.

Curiosity, the passion to collect homogenous objects, the search for the rare, unique and often elusive is what impassions all collectors. This is where it all started for the Heritage Transportation Trust. Registered under the Indian Trust Act (1882) as a non-profit organisation it was conceived to document, exhibit, educate and disseminate information about transportation. In collaboration with five other trustees, we have brought together a passion for collecting all forms of objects related to transportation in India. After over two decades of research about the evolution of the modes of transportation that formed the plinth of the collection in possession of the Trust, the Heritage Transport Museum was initiated as India’s first comprehensive transport museum.

Opened to public on 7 December 2013 as the India’s first comprehensive transport museum, the museum brings alive the history and evolution of transport heritage in India through a rich and diverse collection of vehicles and associated memorabilia. The collection is representative of not just the objects directly related to transport but also of the socio-cultural life and art associated with it. The museum is home to more than 2,500 curated objects on display that weave a tale of India’s colourful transportation history. The large and varied collection of this museum has been categorized into various sections: pre-mechanized & heavy mechanized transportation, railways, aviation, maritime, collectible Indian toys on transport, rural & indigenous transportation, two wheelers and popular & tribal art section. The museum is also rich in contemporary art collection displayed at various sections throughout the museum.

Built on a 3 acre complex, Heritage Transport Museum is spread over four air conditioned floors that offer over 100,000 square feet of exhibition space, a library and reference center, a mini auditorium, a museum souvenir shop, seminar rooms and a refreshment area. Heritage Transport Museum has been built and being run by Heritage Transportation Trust is a registered non-profit Trust, founded on 18th July, 2006 and registered under the Indian Trust Act, 1882. As the first private museum of its scale in India, it is conceived as a space that not only provides a glimpse into the history of travel in India, but also engages with visitors through its carefully designed information ecosystem. The museum sets a benchmark in interpretation, exhibition and in communication. The museum has been designed to be accessible to all and it pledges to treat all its visitors as special. Heritage Transport Museum is dedicated to provide visitors an enjoyable and engaging museum experience.

To evolve a multi-experiential facility that explores the history of transportation, with an emphasis on the Indian context, and to become a resource centre for transport development.

Establish a state of the art interpretive and experimental museum that will be rigorously promoted within the heritage and tourism sector. Evolve curriculum based partnerships with schools and other resource centres in order to provide research and documentation programmes. Change the museum exhibits yearly, adhering to the original thematic, in an effort to create an evolving space.

The Heritage Transport Museum is situated on a three acre plot, off National Highway 8 at Tauru-Gurgaon. A built up area of over 90,000 square feet of air conditioned space spread over four floors houses the exhibition galleries, library and reference centre, conference rooms, mini auditorium, the museum shop, and a restaurant facility.

Automobile Gallery
This gallery showcases the evolution of the Indian car industry, as well as cars that have been used in India since the advent of motoring. On display are over 75 vintage and classic cars – parked alongside a recreated Indian street scene from yesteryears, sporting vintage Ephemera. A vintage petrol pump with spare parts memorabilia has also been recreated, while a special section showcases the role of cars in Bollywood. Films on transportation are screened in a mini auditorium on this floor.

Pre-mechanised Transportation
A timeline of transportation in India, beginning with the story of the wheel, on display are palanquins, howdahs, bullock carts, horse carriages, and camel carts. Alongside these are displayed decorative objects, such as carriage lamps, carbide lamps, and palanquin finials.

Heavy Mechanised Transportation
Designed like a bus depot, this section showcases the romance of bus journeys with a display of restored buses. Also on display are vans, and information about tramways. The gallery shutters boast the creative expression of the working class in the form of Truck Art, in bright floral patterns, using a range of decorative media.

The museum explores the grandeur of travel by rail through a historically inspired railway platform and a 1930s restored railway saloon from BBCI Railway. Also on display are models of popular locomotives and memorabilia including original posters, train tickets, lamps and railway maps.

This section details the history and evolution of Indian aviation industry, including early trials and experiments and the history and growth of Air India. Also on display are early models of aircrafts used in India, supported by original posters, timetables, tickets and advertisements. Suspended in mid-air in the gallery is a restored 1940s Piper J3C Cub aircraft, in its signature chrome yellow.

This gallery showcases the evolution of early two wheelers in India including bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, and mopeds. Indigenous systems of transport such as phat-phat, chakhda, jugaad, and ganesha are also on display.

Collectible India Toys on Transport
This section includes an inventory of fun, collectible, nostalgic, original toys made in wood, tin and die-cast toys, all made by Indian manufacturers. Allowing one to cherish rich memories of their childhood, this section also displays a collection of vintage pedal cars and pedi-cycles all as lavishly detailed as their real counterparts.

Transportation in India-a historical collection
The core of the historical collection comprises material collected over the last two decades. There are over 10000 objects and the breadth of the collection has relevance well beyond transport history. The objects are an important intellectual resource for the study of the social and economic history of India. They include:
Old lithographs/engravings
Original photographs including rare albumen prints
Old post cards on modes of transportation in India
Philatelic collection of stamps/first day covers issued in various countries
Rare books on India’s transport history Vintage enamel signs
Vintage road/touring maps of India
Vintage vehicle advertisements from old Indian dailies and magazines
Old bills, receipts, license copies, share certificates, etc.
Old automobile spare parts in original boxes
Old automobile memorabilia including carriage lamps, decanters, ashtrays, mementoes, etc.
Lobby cards

Maritime Gallery
This gallery depicts the history of India’s inland waterways, their evolution and decline, and the story of the Ganges alongside models of boats, navigational maps, etchings, and aquatints.

Contemporary Art Gallery
In keeping with its intention to engender a dialogue between the traditional and the contemporary in an environment that is responsive to issues related to transportation, the museum seeks to have a significant representation of works by contemporary artists inspired by modes of transportation.

The museum encourages contemporary artists to propose works which allow a diverse audience to engage with the artistic representations so as to understand the continued significance of transportation in our everyday lives in an imaginative and experiential manner.

Contemporary artworks, by renowned artists, such as Baptist Coelho, G.R., Iranna, Pooja Iranna, Ranbir Kaleka, Hanif Kureshi, T.V. Santhosh, Gigi Scaria, and Nataraj Sharma amongst others, are interspersed amongst historical objects in various galleries around the museum. Each work is contextualised vis-a-vis the historical, scientific, cultural, or social context of transportation systems in contemporary society. The eminent artist, Atul Bhalla, has created a site-specific work especially for the museum inspired by transportation traditionally used on inland waterways.

While contemporary art works are included in various galleries across the museum, there is also a designated gallery space for contemporary art, which will host thematic exhibitions throughout the year.

Tribal Art
When the train comes through a remote village in rural and tribal India, it not only changes the physical landscape but also the way these communities interact with the outside world. The advent of modern transportation brought changes to rural and tribal lifestyles. Transport provided an introduction to the city; trains seeped sinuously in their imagination, whereas planes were the mighty ‘birds’ from their individual and collection myths. The museum exhibits commissioned work and private collections by Warli (Vijay, Kishore and Praveen Mahshe) and Gond (Bhuri Bai) artists. This section will subsequently be enhanced with pieces specifically made for the museum by tribal and folk artists working in residency programmes organised by the Heritage Transport Trust.

Heritage Transport Museum is a space for fun and learning, experiential and yet experimental in India. The museum showcases the evolution of transportation in India and sets a benchmark in interpretation, exhibition and in communication. As the first private museum of its scale in India, it is conceived as a didactive space that engages visitor participation in learning while remaining a family experience.