Chennai Express: Rail coach then, restaurant now

Chennai: If you step into the food court of the Chennai Rail Museum, don’t to be surprised to see a vibrantly painted rail coach.

It is ‘Chennai Express’ – an air conditioned restaurant – which was recently inaugurated by the ICF administration. It was officially opened by corporal chef of GRT Group of Hotels & Resorts Sitaram Prasad with managing director of Eden Group of Hotels M B Venkatesh along with the presence of officers and staffs of ICF.

The Linke Hoffman Busch air-conditioned rail coach shell was provided by ICF, which was later remade into a restaurant. The interiors were furnished by the IRCTC, while the platform in front resembles that of a railway station.

Acclaimed artiste Asma Menon painted the exterior of the rail restaurant.
Speaking to News Today about the experience, Asma says, “I had already done a few projects for the ICF. While doing one such project I saw this coach. The officials told me that it was going to be made into a restaurant. I asked them if I could paint it. I was delighted when they agreed and told me to go ahead.”

She added that she has done several paintings on smaller murals but this was her first time on a long canvas. “It was an opportunity I certainly did not want to miss because where else can one get such a challenge and a canvas that was so long,” she says.

Where did she get ideas while painting the coach?  

“It was already in a spot surrounded by lots of greenery and the place was turning into a garden,” says Asma. So she decided to embrace nature and food as the coach’s theme. “I painted fruits, vegetables, butterflies,” she says.
She painted it entirely by free hands as there was no time to create stencils for she had only three days to paint the coach. “It was directly painted by hand. I used cans of spray,” she added.

Asma also had a team of girl students from a college based in the city to assist her. “It was nice to have such young girls. They asked me a lot of questions. We exchanged many ideas,’ says Asma. ‘It felt like a workshop and a project. They asked questions beyond just painting the coach and that in itself became an education for them.”

The 64 seater coach restaurant was built within three months and is said to serve Chinese, Continental, North Indian and South Indian cuisines. This unique ‘meals on wheels’ hub will become an added attraction to the city’s railway museum.

NT Bureau