More on Operations: Sahibganj loop

Howrah division serves many industries most of them located on the banks of the River Hooghly. Sidings to serve these industries take off from all stations between Howrah and Bandel and are served by industrial pilots based in Howrah Sorting Yard and Bandel. Efficient working of these pilots was vital to the operating as well as revenue health of the division. As pointed out by DME (Power) Ved Prakash during the Annual Inspection, all shunting trains and industrial pilots in Howrah division were running out of schedule, which meant that incoming wagons were not placed for unloading in time, leaving the remnant in yards. Empty wagons for loading outward goods were not placed in time or in adequate numbers which meant loss of revenue. Moreover, pilots that ran out of schedule got stuck for passage on the suburban sections, leading to waste of fuel and inefficient utilization of locos.

Hari Chatterjee CYM of Howrah Goods, Raychaudhuri Station Master Bandel, Bannerjee Station Master Burdwan and others responded to my call to monitor the right time departure of the pilots. I asked Traffic Inspectors to closely follow the work of the pilots in their sections to ensure full utilization and timely return to base depots. Romen Bhattacharjee TI (Headquarters) and Movement Inspectors, Deepak Ganguly and Rawat did excellent work. Romen Bhattacharjee was outstanding in the complex network of sidings in Rishra, Serampore and Bhadreswar Ghat. Romen was the younger brother of BM Bhattacharjee who was Coal Area Superintendent (CAS), Dhanbad when I was a probationer in Dhanbad in 1958. When he was DCS (Line) Howrah, I reported to him for my first working post in the absence of DCS (Howrah Area) and later worked under him as ACS II. Intelligent, dedicated and trustworthy, Romen became my right-hand man in operations as well on establishment matters.

I got excellent support from my fellow branch officers too. Apart from Ved Prakash DME (Power) and Sibbal DEE (TRD), Masih Uzzaman Sr DME (Carriage & Wagon) and his successor Mrinal Kanti Ghosh became my life-long friends as did SK Sinha DEN and MR Bhaskaran Sr DSTE (Construction). Bhaskaran had worked with me in Dhanbad in 1969-70. He was always aware of the needs of keeping traffic moving while planning layouts and signalling facilities. His knowledge of conditions on the ground was amazing.

Sarfraz Ahmed Sr DCS (HA) IRTS 1962 was a staunch ally. We introduced an innovation in handling parcels which I will refer to later. We put our heads together to increase the level of unloading in the sheds of Howrah Goods, particularly in the Potato and Mango seasons, when rake loads of these consumables were received in quick succession. I would take the forecast of potato specials from Northern Railway by keeping in touch with the divisions en route and plan the strategy for placement and release in advance. To ensure proper coordination between the operating and commercial departments, CYM Howrah Goods was told to pay heed to Ahmed’s orders as seriously as mine. We had the satisfaction of breaking all records for release of inward wagons in Howrah Goods.

Officers of other departments displayed their trust and affection by electing me as Secretary of the Eastern Railway Officers Association. I was an active member of the association and was Joint Secretary in 1970. Despite my heavy workload as Sr DOS, I accepted nomination for Secretary. My opponent in the election was S Rajagopalan Deputy Chief Signal & Telecommunications Engineer (Dy CSTE), a close friend who was from Nagpur like me, and classmate of my brother Jagan Mohan in Government Engineering College Jabalpur. Before the election, an objection was raised against my nomination on the ground that I would not be able to discharge my duties to the Association because of heavy workload in my official capacity. KK Das, Chief Commercial Superintendent {Marketing) rejected the objection because I was willing to take the responsibility.

My relations with operating officers of adjacent divisions of Eastern as well as South Eastern and NF Railways were also very cordial. MK Misra IRTS 1961 and his successor RS Thakur IRTS 1960 were both local guardians for my son Srikant who was a student in IIT Kharagpur. MK Misra and I collaborated in completing a long overdue installation of route relay system in Tikiapara cabin of SE Railway. It was always a pleasure to talk to the ever-cheerful HS Duggal Sr DOS Alipurduar, NF Railway.

Sahibganj loop, extending from Khana to Kiul on Dinapore Division was of vital importance to Howrah Division as evident from the fact that a separate wagon balance was maintained for the Sahibganj loop. Except for a short stretch between Sainthia and Barharwa link cabin - the rest of the section was on single line, with branches to Mandar Hill from Bhagalpur and to Monghyr from Jamalpur. Through traffic, consisting of coal from Asansol division and food grains, loaded on Northern Railway for destinations on NF Railway, was received from Asansol Division at Sainthia and moved to NF Railway via Rampurhat and New Farakka.

The principal traffic originating on Sahibganj loop was construction stone from quarries located from Pakur to Jamalpur. Apart from this there was considerable demand for perishables and Calcutta's hunger for mangoes was insatiable in summer months. Trains were controlled from the main control office at Sahibganj and a subordinate control office at Rampurhat. Overall operations management was under DOS, Sahibganj. This was an old post of AOS Sahibganj existing on EIR from the time when BG wagons were transshipped into MG wagons at Sakrigalighat to be ferried across the Ganges. It was an important post treated as a training ground for freshly recruited TT & CD officers. The transshipment point at Sakrigalighat had been closed after the direct link across the river had been established at Farakka. The post of AOS had been upgraded along with general upgradations on ER,

Kalyan Kumar Chakravarti IRTS 1963, was DOS Sahibganj. He was AOS Andal when I was DOS (T) Asansol under Gujral in 1968. Wagons were stagnating in all the yards and sidings, while loco turn rounds were well above targets. I examined the extant system of running freight trains and decided to change it to reduce turn rounds.

There were three loco sheds in Sahibganj loop, one each at Rampurhat (RPH), Sahibganj (SBG) and Jamalpur (JMP) and an outstation servicing loco shed at Bhagalpur (BGP). Rampurhat received 'loop' wagons in through goods trains from Burdwan and Andal and ran out trains to Sahibganj with stock for stations between SBG and Kiul. SBG ran a daily goods shuttle train to BGP and back as did JMP. Locos and crew took outstation rest at BGP and returned to SBG and JMP, respectively. BGP received terminating wagons for the goods shed and for transshipment to NE Railway and returned empties for use by stone quarries in SBG and JMP along with a few originating loads. The yard balance of BGP was much higher than warranted by the quantum and pattern of traffic for the station because of the system of working. Moreover, while the engine crew and locos of SBG and JMP rested, shunting was taken over by a separate 24-hour BGP goods yard pilot that was under utilised. A coaching yard pilot meant for attaching and detaching sectional coaches from passenger trains was also under utilised.

I advised KK Chakravarty to discontinue the SBG-BGP and JMP-BGP shuttles, replacing them with through trains direct from SBG to JMP and back. The BGP coaching yard pilot was given the task of collecting outward wagons and placing them in right marshalling order of the stations in the section. When the through trains arrived at BGP the train engines would detach wagons destined for BGP and pick up wagons kept ready by the coaching pilot. Since the daily arising of incoming and outgoing wagons at BGP was only 30 to 35, not much work was involved for either train engines or the coaching pilot. When the system stabilized, the goods yard pilot was surrendered. Working of shunting trains and sectional pilots serving quarries in Sahibganj loop was also tightened, in line with action taken on the main line. Yard balances of all the yards in Sahibganj loop reduced dramatically and loco turn rounds improved beyond expectations.

Pakur was the largest stone loading station in Sahibganj loop loading about 200 wagons daily of high-quality stone chips that were in great demand in Calcutta area. There were long sidings serving several privately owned quarries. Quarry owners were organised into the Pakur Owners’ Association to ensure equitable distribution of available empty wagons. Loaded wagons drawn out by quarry pilots were formed into trains by the Pakur yard pilot. Wagons for destinations reached via Burdwan were formed into down country loads and run out to Burdwan. Those meant for the up direction beyond Andal were formed into up country loads and shuttled to RPH, from where they were dispatched to Andal via Santhia.

The motive power for trains meant for Burdwan were diesel locos, either released from incoming loads on Sahibganj loop or received as light engines from NF Railway. In either case, the locomotives could be used only with the prior permission of headquarters. Clearance of Pakur loads got second preference to clearance of traffic to and from NF Railway. Often, we were denied permission to use even locos released in Sahibganj loop. Invariably, these trains would be detained for long periods waiting for power. Empty wagons for loading at Pakur had to be moved from Burdwan, using steam locos. Occasionally, we were permitted to use a diesel loco earmarked to clear a stabled load between Sainthia and Farakka haul the empties, to avoid running it as a light engine. This arrangement made supply of empties for loading stone uncertain.

I examined the extent of light running (without a load attached) of diesel locos on Sahibganj loop and concluded that there was enough leeway to use the diesels for clearing Pakur. But it had to be done without affecting interchange level of traffic to NF Railway on the one hand, and without resulting in wastage of diesel locos. I knew that, given their commitment to use diesels primarily for interchange with NF Railway, no one in headquarters would accept my ideas.

I asked Movement Inspector Deepak Ganguli to chart out a pair of economical paths to run trains between Burdwan and Pakur and, without informing head office, earmarked a diesel loco for these Pakur Cracks. The special feature of this exercise was that the crack trains spanned two control boards, one at Howrah and the other at Rampurhat, calling for close monitoring and coordination, more than was needed for inter-yard shuttles in the electrified section. The cracks settled down in a very short time, making two round trips in less than 20 hours, leaving enough time for maintenance in Burdwan diesel shed to the satisfaction of the DME (Diesel) Burdwan. Pakur yard became fluid and the quarry owners as well as their buyers were happy. In two round trips the diesel locos produced over 800 km per day, boosting the division's diesel utilization to over 600 km per day.

After the Pakur Cracks had run for a week, AK Mitra, Dy COPS (Goods), who was monitoring deployment of diesel locomotives, found the loco earmarked for Pakur Crack waiting in BWN loco shed for its scheduled departure time and ordered the Dy Controller to use the loco at once. When the Dy Controller told me about it I told him to leave the loco alone. Peter Impett, Additional COPS (Goods) raised the matter in the daily goods operating conference and I grabbed the chance to describe the running of Pakur Cracks and the benefits the division was gaining thereby. No further questions were asked, and Pakur Cracks became a permanent feature of the division's operations.

Wagon balance of Sahibganj loop reached an all-time low. Sometime later, General Manager EJ Simoes visited Sahibganj, where I showed him the improvements in operation in that area. Once again, he went into raptures to see the change and generously showered his appreciation in his Inspection Notes.

During one my visits to Fairlie Place I met Gujral, who was then COPS SE Railway, in the room of KC Pandia, then Dy Chief Planning Officer (Dy CPLO). As was his wont, Gujral regaled us with tales of his many achievements on SE Railway, laced with figures which we suspected were doctored to some extent. At one point, he said that diesel utilization on SE Railway had touched 600 km per engine per day and turned to me to ask how much it was on Howrah Division.

“650 km, Sir” I replied truthfully.

Noting his disbelief, I added

“It is all due to the methods I learned from you, Sir”.

It is a conversation I have cherished with great satisfaction.

Another meeting with Gujral was equally rewarding. Chief Operating Superintendents of Eastern and South Eastern Railways scheduled a meeting to review and finalize Marshalling Orders for interchange of traffic between the two railways. Marshalling Orders are important for movement of wagons in piecemeal. They lay down instructions for routing wagons from originating station to destination in the most economical manner. Intermediate yards are provided with facilities to deal with traffic based on Marshalling Orders mutually agreed to between railways. Violation of Marshalling Orders can lead to misrouting of traffic, which in turn gives rise to claims. Workload of marshalling yards receiving misrouted traffic goes up leading to congestion.

Sachdev and Gujral were bitter rivals. Sachdev, who was senior, lived in fear of being superseded by Gujral and went to great lengths to guard his citadel. Sachdev wanted to take no chances at this meeting, lest Gujral inveigles him to commit himself to some unworkable or harmful item in the new marshalling orders. Accordingly, he called a meeting of Sr DOS (T)s to prepare for the inter-railway meeting in his room, where we waited for Gujral. Gujral, on the other hand, was accompanied only by SK Mudigonda, Deputy Chief Operating Superintendent (Goods) SE Railway. When the discussion started, I was able to deal with the points raised by SE Railway single handedly, even when it concerned other divisions. It was practically a dialogue between Gujral and me. It was a proud moment, but at the same time, a humbling experience to find the stalwarts of operations giving me so much importance.


More by :  Ramarao Annavarapu

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Views: 3369      Comments: 1

Comment another excellent description of operations on sahiganj loop and achievements made by ramarao as dos(t) howrah. improvements in loco utilization and less detentions to wagons in yards are impressive. a must read for all probationers of motive power and traffic departments.
congratulations for a job well done then and well recounted now.

12-Apr-2020 07:11 AM

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