'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Railway Stories

Without knowing the word, I have been a 'trainspotter' for long. I am not officially a member of the online 'Indian Railway Fans Association' but I do read their train travelogs with great interest and gaze at their photos which show momentous events like "Karnataka Express, led by a blue and green WDM-2 from the Krishnarajapuram Loco Shed, turns onto the Chennasandra bye-pass line". And over the years, 'Bhagat Ki Kothi', 'Santragachchhi', 'Ajni', 'Bondamunda' (to the uninitiated, locations of depots of locomotives ('loco sheds')), ... have all become rather familiar names, eventhough they refer to places I have not even remotely approached.

And very recently, I met a gentleman, whom I won't introduce here but will only mention as the source of the following three bits on our railways. I have tried hard to capture at least some of the impact these anecdotes had as he narrated them - with great deliberation and loving care.

1. The Erode-Trichy section of Southern Railway got converted from meter guage to broad guage long back, before independence - and this line was for a long while, the only major line in Tamil Nadu apart from the arterial line from Madras to Bangalore/Kerala, which was in broad guage. And this nearly 150 km line was guage converted in ... a single day, indeed in 3 hours flat. Well, the work took a lot longer but 3 hours was the time-span separating the run of the last meter guage train and the flagging off of the first broad guage train!

And there was nothing magical in what happened. Over a period of time, even as the track was in use, gangs of workmen changed the sleepers under the tracks to the longer broad-guage ones and widened the spread of the stone ballast. Then on the appointed day, a large army of workers just - simultaneouly - shifted one of the rails sideways, widening the gap between them to the broad-guage mark; and that was that!

Now, you may wonder why, nowadays, lines are closed for guage conversion for several years and the work goes on and on .... and on! The reasons are purely non-technical and I won't get into them!

2. The Taj Express was some sight in those days. It had a dedicated, lovingly maintained steam loco - its rear half painted a sparkling blue; you know, the loco had a grand name, 'Vir Bundela'. And it would pull a ten-coach rake over the 200 kilometers from Delhi to Agra in 3 hours flat, with a single watering stop in between. And the driver, an Anglo-Indian named Mr. Bean(?), such an impressive man, standing six feet, three and a half inches, assisted by two equally imposing, hefty firemen, it was some sight, them working in perfect unison...

3. Talk of the word 'thorough' - and there was this young executive, who had newly joined our office. He was told to inspect the functioning of the railway level crossings in remote areas. On day one, he takes a train at midnight, travels on the engine, asks the driver to slow to a crawl a couple of kilometers short of a manned level cross, gets off, allows the train to go ahead and walks to the crossing. He finds the guard there fast asleep. Our man wakes up the guard, shows his card and proceeds to read the riot act to him. The guard begs that he be spared - with promises that he would be vigilant and never doze off again on duty.

Our hero lets the guard go with a verbal warning. He leaves, walks six more kilometers down the track to the next railway station, hops onto another train heading in the reverse direction, gets off well before the same crossing and walks over and pounces on the guard .... who had fallen asleep again, perhaps reasoning that lightning does not strike the same spot twice!


  • At 4:06 AM, Blogger കിനാവള്ളി said…

    Nice account. I share your name and to a certain extent, interests, this bit about the railway, I mean. I also visit IRFCA to update myself on all the WAPs and get a certain thrill on seeing pictures of Kerala Express doing 110 kmph.

  • At 4:02 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks namesake, for visiting.

    as for the narrative(s), the credit goes to the unnamed gentleman who narrated them to me so much gusto.

    and yes, it is thrilling when a WAP-4 or WDM-4 (being middle-aged, I have a soft corner for diesels though) lets it rip at 100 km plus!

  • At 6:02 AM, Blogger kevin hill said…

    im a travel freak too, but i prefer air travel, not train.

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