Saturday, March 29, 2008
The romance of railways
I find this public domain picture of manpowered railway inspection trolley from Wikimedia Commons fascinating. It was taken in the North West Frontier Province circa 1903. Even today, a century later, you can see the same scene except for the Western clothes, all over India. What intrigued me was why this simple vehicle has not been mechanized even in the 21st century.
Last night at a dinner party I met an old friend who retired as General Manager of Southern Railway. He gave me the answer. They do have motorized inspection trolleys. But those are classified as ‘trains’. To use them on the tracks other scheduled trains have to be stopped and that is a complicated business. Push trolleys do not have this problem. They are light and can be taken off the tracks to allow trains to pass.
The former GM did not say this, but I think that another reason could be to retain the labor strength. The worker’s unions are not likely to agree to any manpower reduction. Lalu’s management miracle is filling the railway coffers so why cut corners?
There is a romance about trains, like ships, which is something that the airplanes lack, for whatever reason. This is particularly so in the case of the Indian Railways. So much has been written about this massive organization, its historic trains and the committed people who man them.
Given below are two links related to the subject. You are likely to find the articles interesting.
Also see: Travel: A round trip by train