THE GREAT INDIAN RAILWAY ROMANCE.Vol 2, No. 29, Monday, 17 July, 2017.(Rajendra B. Aklekar )


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From India’s Sun Train, to Dwarf Double-Deck Containers on freight lines

The big railway news that dominated the media this week was the launch of a solar-powered train, a new integrated mobile application called Rail Saarthi for railway services and a double stack dwarf container and other freight policies.

The first 1600 HP Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train has Solar Powered Coaches with a unique facility of Battery Bank. The entire electrical need of the coaches for Lighting, Fans and Information Display System will be met from the Solar Energy produced from the solar panels fitted in the roofs of coaches. While this train has been manufactured by the Coach Factory of Indian Railways namely Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, its Solar panels and Solar systems have been developed and fitted by Indian Railways Organisation of Alternative Fuel (IROAF) Delhi. This first rake has been commissioned and based at Shakurbasti DEMU shed in Delhi of Northern Railway. Twenty-four more coaches will be fitted with this system within the next 6 months. The first rake will be put in the commercial service over the suburban railway system of Delhi division of Northern Railway.

Normally, DEMU trains provide power for its passenger comfort systems – lights and fans – from a diesel driven generator fitted on its Driving Power Car (DPC). IROAF has developed this system with a smart MPPT inverter which optimises power generation on a moving train to cater to full load even during the night. The unique feature of Battery Bank through storage battery ensures sufficient electricity when the sunlight is not available. The system helps in reducing Diesel consumption of the DPC and hence reduces carbon signature of these commuter trains by reducing CO2 generation by 9 Tonnes per coach per year.

A solar power DEMU train with six trailer coaches will save about 21,000 Litres of Diesel and thereby bring cost saving of Rs.12 Lac every year. Savings for a 10 coach rake with 8 trailer coaches will increase proportionately. These benefits will continue for entire 25 years life time of the rake. This will help in making DEMU commuter services better, more economical and environment friendly.

Solar hotel load (Lighting and Fan) system fitted on each coach is of 4.5 KWp capacity consisting of 16 Solar Panels of 300Wp each. This is adequate to power the fans and lights of the coach. The system is capable of developing up to 20 kWh per day (average) throughout the year. Surplus power generated during peak hours is stored in a 120 AH battery system. The system uses a data acquisition system and interfaces with existing hotel load power system of DEMU train. It will help in generating useful data for research for adapting the system for future rollout on all trains of IR. The system costs about Rs. 9 lakhs per coach at prototype stage.

Indian Railways is committed for environment conservation & use of cleaner fuels. Indian Railways is trying to increase use of non-conventional sources of energy. More solar powered trains may be inducted in future.” Indian Railways has already made a target of 1000 MW Solar Plants in next five-years. Indian Railways is also taking several others environment friendly measures like Tea Plantation, Bio-toilet, Water-Recycling, Waste Disposal, using Bio-fuel CNG and LNG, Wind Energy etc.

Double Stack Dwarf Container (DSDC) trains:  The introduction of this new delivery model and expansion of freight basket to achieve competitive edge over road traffic has quite a few interesting features. These trains can run on electrified routes without any height issues. Double Stack Dwarf Containers are designed with 6 feet 4 inches height to run under wire on electrified routes. DSDC shall, therefore, run on routes where only single stack of ISO container could run. Huge potential for DSDC as it can be run under wire all over the Indian Railways. A trial run of double stack dwarf container was launched in the presence of Hon’ble MR and was conducted successfully on 2nd March 2017 on Jamnagar-Ludhiana route. A DSDC can carry 50 tonnes as against 26.50 tonnes in a single stack conventional container; i.e. an increase of 89%. At normal haulage rate, DSDC can generate more than 50% revenue as against single stack conventional container.

In addition to this, the freight basket for container traffic was expanded and around 45 commodities have been de-notified from the notified list and included in FAK rates, which are 30% lower than the notified tariff rates. The commodities which have been de-notified and are likely to be attracted to container traffic include: Bricks and Stones, Sanitary Wares, Stone Pillars, Polished Granite slabs,  White Cement, Asbestos, Cement Blocks, Cement Plasters, Fly Ash, Chemical Manures, Clay and Sand, Flours and Pulses, Iron and Steel, Cable Wires, Fish Plates, Ingots, Pipes All Types, Wheels, Iron & Steel Pipe Cuttings, All types of metal and steels scrap, Salt, Soap, Sugar and many more.      In addition, over 50 other commodities are being added to railways freight basket.

Currently, there are multiple mobile applications by Indian Railways to cater various passenger requirements including onboard cleaning. Most of the apps cater to one service only. To use different services, users need to search and download each application separately. In order to provide better customer experience, there is a need for an integrated application which will give a single window interface for these services.

Rail Saarthi: Presently, Indian Railways has different digital solutions for ticketing, grievance redressal and other issues. The idea was to integrate all the facilities into two mobile apps; one dealing with all ticketing issues and the other for receipt and redressal of complaints and suggestions related to all our services.”

The project had been sanctioned and included in the Pink Book for the year 2016-17 as item No. 199 of Northern Railway at a total cost of Rs 7 crore.

The following eight independent Mobile Applications (Apps) available on Google Play Store will become available in the new Integrated Mobile App ‘RAIL SAARTHI’- INDIAN RAILWAYS OFFICIAL APP (Centre for Railway Information Systems).

Senior journalist and railway buff Mark Tully critically ill

DEHRADUN: Author and senior journalist Mark Tully, who was taken ill a day earlier, was referred to a private hospital in Delhi on Saturday. The former BBC India bureau chief was in Haridwar on an assignment when he started bleeding from the rectal area and was taken to Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences (HIMS) in Jolly Grant, nearly 25 km from Dehradun. Tully was later referred to Max Hospital in New Delhi’s Saket area as his condition is critical. Complete details here:







Rajendra B Aklekar & Mark Tully



The ‘Mail Engine’
This 1950-built locomotive built by Vulcan Foundry is of the ‘HPS’ class. Now numbered No.24467, it was initially numbered 7776/9. It was first worked on the East Indian Railway, later on Southern Railway and retired on the Northern Railway. Weighing 75 tons it has a 4-6-0-wheel arrangement. The HPS was a standard ‘Mail Engine’ till the bullet-nosed WP Class ones were introduced, notes IRFCA.


From Famine Railway to Pakistan Railway

Old railway readings always throw up interesting stuff in a different perspective. During the 1874 famine in the north Indian district of Darbhunga, the government had to spend a significant amount of money on relief. A temporary line called the Durbhanga Famine Railway was built from Barhghat to Darbhunga at a cost of Rs 200,000 pounds sterling. Building this railway was a challenge and a young 20-year-old British engineer George Humfress was one of the key engineers on this.

Humfress energetically pushed forward the line as a measure of relief against the Behar famine of 1874 and received special commendation for his share in this work.

Born on the 4th May 1854, Humfress received his professional training at the Thomason Engineering College, Roorkee, and was in due course appointed to the Public Works Department of India. In October 1873, he had been posted to the railway branch of the service in the Punjab, where he was employed for a short time on the Alexandra Bridge, under Mr. H. Johnson.

After the completion of the Durbhanga Famine Railway, he served on the Tirhoot and Patna-Gya State Railways, under Mr. (now Sir) F. L. O’Callaghan, until obliged to take leave on medical certificate in 1884, the Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History adds.

Returning to India in 1885, he joined the staff of the North-Western Railway, and held executive charge of 350 miles of open line, including the Lansdowne Bridge at Sukkur, until 1892, when he became personal assistant to Mr. G. H. List, the Chief Engineer.

In 1893, he was transferred to the frontier section of the North- Western system (now Pakistan Railway), subsequently acting as Engineer-in-chief of the division. In the discharge of his arduous and exacting duties, Mr. Humfress was exposed in all weathers to the trying climate of Baluchistan and on one occasion, whilst on inspection duty, he met with a severe accident, from the after effects of which, despite the beneficial effect of a voyage to England in 1896, he never completely recovered.

He continued to serve on the North-Western system, rising to the rank of Superintending Engineer first class, and Deputy Chief Engineer of the southern section, until his last illness, which ended in his death on the 28th December 1904. Mr. Humfress was an energetic and capable officer, and his devotion to duty earned for him on several occasions the thanks of the Government of India, states the Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History.


Steam rides on Indian Railways!
Fresh dates to be announced soon. The Steam Express has a 60-seater air-conditioned chair car specially designed with a large glass window from where you can have a frontal view of the Locomotive. As an added attraction, the coach has a beautiful lounge in the front, which provides a scenic view of the countryside. A visit to the Heritage Steam Shed at Rewari is the added attraction, which will add to the personal touch. The 60 select guests will certainly go back with fond memories of a once-in-a lifetime experience. Go ahead and book your journey back into time. Details and booking here:

Journalist. Author of two books on trains and railways in India. Biographer: India’s Railway Man– Dr E Sreedharan  and Halt Station India, best-selling book on the romance and history of India’s first rail line, short-listed as Best Non-Fiction at Bangalore Literary Fest 2015, now into its fourth imprint. Get copies here:

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