Mr. B. S. Joshi, (Bhau Joshi)

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, is the originator and founder of the Museum. Collecting train models has been his hobby, or rather his obsession, from childhood. In India during the festival of Diwali, it is a popular pass time 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 man power 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. The work and dedication that is behind this layout can be appreciated by fellow rail modellers. There are nearly 1000 wires coming out of the control panel. There are 65 signals, all made by hand. All the fences, lampposts, flyovers etc. 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. The Museum was opened to the public on 1st April 1998. Unfortunately Bhau Joshi passed away on 11th October 1998.

What is the purpose of exhibiting this layout?

Even though the factory, Soudamini Instruments, has been in existence from 1962, 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 in India. So he started Soudamini. It was his interest in model trains that led him to become an expert in all things mechanical, which was the base of the factory.
It is this concept that he wishes to emphasize, through the propagation of railway modelling as a hobby, among the budding engineers and scientists of the new generation. This is the only hobby which spans varied branches of science. Architecture, civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics even accounting and photography find some link with this hobby. Thus cultivating this hobby brings about an understanding of all these subjects, creating a multidisciplinary personality.

This is not a hobby for children, but is in fact an adult hobby.

At the Museum we would like to see children accompanied by adults, rather than children coming alone. It is the new generation of college going adults who should cultivate this hobby, which will be immensely useful to them in real life.

The Future Generations

After the demise of Mr. Bhau Joshi, his son Dr. Ravi Joshi has been running the museum. Dr Ravi has done his Doctorate in Computer Aided Learning from University of Pune, with most of the work being done at the Audio Visual Department of London University. He has carried on his father’s hobby and extended it into a business as was his father’s dream.

Soudamini Instruments now manufactures various Train models, Industrial models and layouts. They supply to Indian Railways and the Indian Hobby market. Models have also been supplied to Swiss Rail and to the Australian hobby market. Recently they have made 2 interactive Traffic model rooms at Madgoan, Goa, and Dharwad, Karnatak, for use in training of Indian Railway operating staff.

One of the biggest achievements has been the construction of a new Museum in the premises of Mapro Food Court at Shendurjane, Wai. This is a more modern version of the Museum at Pune, and has been designed by Dr Ravi Joshi.

Now Dr Ravi’s son Devavrat has also joined Soudamini. He has completed his BE degree, and also undergone a yearlong internship with PIKO GmbH, a German manufacturer of model trains. Soudamini is now the authorised service center for PIKO in India. With this influx of new talent plans are underway to manufacture Indian Railway models for sale in the Indian market. Devavrat is experienced in design, development and manufacture of parts using the latest 3D printing Technology. Future technical collaborations with PIKO are also in the pipeline.

Dr Ravi is proud of the fact that Devavrat has been involved in this hobby from his childhood and this has helped him to achieve milestones in his college life.

Devavrat was part of a team which participated in a Robotic competition in USA when he studying in 7th grade. The model railroading hobby has helped him in all these endeavours, and is now his career choice.

What you will see in the Museum

  • Fully functional station yard with 6 platforms, announcement systems, 3 main lines, plenty of sidings, goods loading facilities, hump shunting, a turntable, crane etc. The  layout  has about 26 points and 65 signals. The entire layout is in HO scale ( 1:87 ) using the Marklin a.c. and digital systems
  • Steam trains, Diesel engines, High Speed Inter City Express, Underground train, Local shuttle train, Trolley bus, Rope Railway, Funicular Railway, Wupertal Hanging Railway
  • Ghat section with reversing station for steam trains
  • Two lane Highway with moving cars
  • Fairground with a circus which has changing shows, a ferris wheel, merry-go-round,  a toy train and a lot of similar attractions, all with special sound effects
  • Swimming pool with people actually swimming in it
  • Restaurant which goes up and down a tower
  • Drive in theatre
  • Fire engine which will actually put out the fire in a burning house
  • Complete business centre in the city with hoardings and flashing signs, Hundreds of buildings all with lights inside. The houses have been built from kits, made by German companies like Vollmer, Faller, Prieser etc. 
  • There are about 2000 human figures in different poses.
  • Night sky with stars and planets as seen on 16th April 1853, with lightning effects and April showers
  • All Actions are with full sound effects