Patna, May 29 (PTI) A rare over a century-old steam road roller built by a British company that was once used by the Patna District Board for constructing roads is languishing in a corner of the district collectorate campus, many of whose historic buildings have been demolished in the last two weeks.

The main building of the district board built in 1938, a Dutch-era record room building barring its small frontage, and a centuries-old historic building near it, have been razed while more structures await dismantling for a redevelopment project which has triggered grief among heritage lovers in India and abroad.

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The road roller, manufactured by John Fowler and Co, Leeds, England, currently lies parked in an open area in front of the Dutch-era district engineer's office building situated on the banks of the Ganga river, its iron wheels semi-buried in ground even as labourers shift old files and stocked material from the iconic building and other structures, also marked for demolition.

However, talks are on between the district board authorities and Patna Museum authorities to shift this vintage beauty, perhaps a rare specimen of steam-powered road roller, to the premises of the historic museum, as there is a risk of the old machine getting damaged or worse buried in debris as demolition activity is being carried out using bulldozers, officials said.

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"We have spoken with a senior official at Patna Museum and informed him about this heritage road roller that we have, though it needs restoration. We have also told them about a very rare, historic printing press machine that we possess, which is housed in the district engineer's office building,” said Kumari Stuti, Chairperson, District Board Patna.

“Unfortunately, this building is also set to be demolished, so we thought at least these rare relics of the past be preserved for the future generations," Stuti said.

A team of two senior officials had recently visited the collectorate campus and inspected the road roller, the vintage printing machine and other items of historic interest, amid mountains of rubble lying in the 12-acre complex.

"We have seen the steam road roller and the old printing machine. The road roller, particularly is very rare, not only for Bihar, but for the whole country. It will make for a great display and people would love it. The printing press machine is also rare and worthy of preservation," said a senior official.

John Fowler and Co was set up in 1850 in England. Many of its old, restored steam road rollers take part in vintage rallies or used for recreational purposes in parks and other places in England.

The road roller along with the old buildings were popularised by the ‘Save Historic Patna Collectorate', a citizen-led initiative that was fighting to save the Collectorate since the demolition was proposed early 2016, through its heritage walks.

After demolition began on May 14, its representatives had again appealed to authorities to rescue these two and other historic artefacts lying on the campus, such as the hanging skylight in a room of the district engineer's office building, a vintage wall clock, safety vault, and louvred doors.

Some other artefacts included a ceramic name plate bearing ‘district engineer's office' on its facade, Bradma typing machines; a rare vintage safety vault built by Chubbs company of the UK, embedded in a wall inside the registry office building, a huge old safety vault embedded in a wall in the old treasury section of the DM office building among others.

An old safety vault of British-era was also embedded deep in the floor in a room of the District Board Patna building, which was the first to face the bulldozers, a day after the Supreme Court on May 13 had rejected a plea filed by INTACH to save the historic buildings in the Patna Collectorate campus, paving the way for demolition.

The printing press was manufactured by Payne & Sons, Otley, Yorkshire, England, a firm established in 19th century.

The company is also known for the pioneering Wharfedale printing machines, which had revolutionised the printing industry, making the printing press in possession of the district board Patna authorities "very rare".

The massive old press machine with "Payne & Sons Otley" embossed on it, currently lies in a dark, unkept room in the building, whereas other small rare machines are also dumped next to it, covered in layers of thick dust and cobwebs all over the walls, signifying several years of disuse and neglect.

"The printing press was in use till 2005. District Board Patna used to print ration cards, Bihar government calendars, government flyers and other material. It is a rare, antique object, and since District Board itself will not have a single building of its own left in the Patna Collectorate campus, so it is better the road roller, press machine can be preserved in a museum,” a senior official of the board said.

District Board Patna was established under the Bengal Local Self-government Act 1885, when Bihar was part of Bengal Presidency. The Board earlier used to carry out construction of roads in areas outside the municipal limits of Patna, and even ran train services, like the BBLR (Bihar Bakhtiarpur Light Railway), all defunct now.

Patna Collectorate began its journey at the current site near Gandhi Maidan, from 1857, the same year the First War of Independence was fought.

Bulldozers on May 17 had razed to the ground almost the entire Dutch-era record room building, erasing an iconic landmark that had stood as a signpost of history for over 300 years.

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