Considering the number of posts related to the railways on my blog, you might think I'm a railways stooge. Though not a stooge (most of my posts have been negative); yes, I'm fascinated by railways. The reason why railways fascinate me (the Indian Railways, that is) is that it is perhaps the biggest classrooms in public interactions. No other institution has so many people 'touch points'.
No other institution moves as many people 24/7. Of all the infrastructure categories, the railway has a very important role to play. Thousands of people queue and jostle, look at or search at kiosks, ferry their luggage, congregate with their families, buy snacks and tea, make plans for their future, think about their next day at work or sulk over a bad event, smartly dressed businessmen, excited children, coolies, vendors, people in ragged clothes, old people, crying infants, touring foreigners.
(Image courtesy: http://www.romanvirdi.com/delhi)
The railway stations especially, present an unimaginable variety of people and situations. I guess it must be every marketeers and ethnographers favorite playground. I'm sure someone could start a profitable research and observation deck on major railway stations in the country - dedicated research points where all kinds of surveys and observations get done and perhaps even the participants could be rewarded with say a 'sachet' product sample.
On a more personal level, apart from having been a frequent rail traveler, its the Railroad Tycoon game that taught me its importance (compared to today's games, this must be vintage stuff ;) ). I had the opportunity of developing a mobile game named Truck Tycoon on similar lines. It was wonderful to see small towns developing into trade hubs, residential centers and industrial locations once they were connected by the rail/road! It makes all the difference.
Also, sitting in the train or at the station gives you time to contemplate on the simpler things in life and ample time to type in a blog post or two ;)