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Indian Railway Engineering
|by Sudeepa Nair|
On 16th April 1853 the first train between Boribunder (present day CST) and Tanna (present day Thane) chugged along the sole railway line and thus began India’s long and enduring tryst with the railways. Great Peninsular Railways had managed to tug at the heartstrings of the simple Indians with their steam locomotive and the carriages following it. A century and half after the historical journey we still find ourselves in awe of this transportation system, although the initial feeling of apprehension followed by euphoria has now been replaced by cynicism and frustration. The fact is that Indian Railways, in spite of its various shortcomings, have stood the test of time.
Let us embark on a journey through the annals of Railway Engineering via our very own, Indian Railways …….
Today railway stations are being given the shape of large complexes and besides having the usual amenities like retiring rooms, restaurants, they now include large office areas. Over bridges are now being replaced by underground passages providing more space above, on the platforms.
Earliest railway coach was a rectangular wooden open box affixed to wheels with benches (rough wooden boards without backs) for seating passengers, exposing the passengers to the elements of nature. The coaches were connected by a primitive system of loose couplers, which jolted the passengers whenever the brakes were applied or the train accelerated. The design was colorful and looked like a stagecoach or horse carriage. In 1885, an all-steel under frame as developed in Europe was introduced in India. New Coaches developed at Chennai in 1940’s were world class with all steel, fully welded lightweight integral construction. These coaches were also anti-telescopic which meant high safety to the passengers in the event of train accidents. The present day coaches continue to be built in the same vein. Air-conditioned coaches were introduced in India in 1936.
Today IR proposes to have in-train internet and telephony, so that the commuters need not waste their valuable time staring at co–commuters or ruing over the couple of hours lost traveling to and fro in trains. Commuters will then be able to check their emails, check out what’s going on in the world around or even carry out their daily transactions within the train. So much for commuter satisfaction!
Rail Locomotives – Tugging Along!
In the mid 19th century mechanical interlocking was used. The purpose was to prevent the route for a train from being set up and its protecting signal cleared if there was already another conflicting route setup. The most modern development in signal interlocking is SSI- a means of controlling the safety requirements at junctions using electronic circuits which replaced the relay systems supplied up to that time. In Indian Railways, first trial installation of SSI was provided at Srirangam station in 1987. Nowadays Track Circuits are used wherein the current flow in the track circuit will be interrupted by the presence of wheels and a “stop” signal will be shown. A “proceed” signal will be displayed if the current flows.
Today the Mumbai Suburban Section is provide with Auxiliary Warning System. It continuously monitors the speed and whenever a motorman passes a signal at “red”, applies emergency brakes to bring the train to a halt.
Today, the system is far more efficient and unbelievably commuter-friendly. The Train Management System project under execution on the Mumbai Suburban Section shall provide state-of-the-art hardware and software for managing the suburban train operations on one of the world’s busiest corridors. This project entails automated centralized operation of all train indicators, new video display units at station entrances and passenger announcement systems, all happening in real time, events occurring automatically, as trains come and go by.
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