A Disaster Recovery Operation - A Photo-Essay

by S Srinivas, 2002

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a photo-essay consisting of twenty-four thousand words plus a few hundred more for the captions of the photographs.

A few days ago, a freight train was intentionally de-railed at Chikkabanavar station near Bangalore. This freight train, headed by twin WDG-2 from Gooty shed, had left Yeshwanthpur. After picking up speed, the driver realised that he had lost brake power. What caused the loss of brake power is a matter being examined in a departmental enquiry by Southern Railway.

The track from Yeshwanthpur to Chikkabanavar is on a downward gradient of 1:100 and there was no way that the driver could stop the train with only the loco brakes working. The load consisted of more than fifty wagons filled with urea and the momentum was great. We actually had a 'runaway' but with two drivers on board the lead loco who were helpless.

The driver immediately alerted both Yeshwanthpur and Chikkabanavar Station Masters on UHF Radio. It was immediately decided to lead this freight train into the loop line at Chikkabanavar station and then on to the catch siding with de-railment sandpit. Apparently, the train thundered in at a speed of 70km/h, switched over to the loop line with ease and went into the de-railment sand pit at the same speed.

The twin WDG-2 locos plowed through the sand and the earth beyond the sandpit for almost 120m. This distance would have been much more if it were not for a big tree, which blocked the way of this uncontrollable train. The lead loco hit this tree bang on and the whole freight train came to a halt. The tree was uprooted. More than fifteen wagons had got de-railed apart from the first five wagons which had also plowed through the trench dug up by the twin WDG-2 locos. After the rattling thunder of the accident, an eerie silence followed.

This accident, which resulted in some very heavy damage to the two locos and many wagons, was not a tragic one because no life was lost. The two drivers had apparently anticipated such an ending and they clung to the fixtures in the loco. They were rescued with minor bruises. Both of them are on a mat before the enquiry committee. The main line working between Yeshwanthpur and Tumkur was also not affected except for some blocking of the track during the recovery effort.

The recovery itself was an exemplary job carried out by the railway men. They worked like a closely-knit team and were able to clear the tracks and retrieved the two locos within just two days. I met the senior officers of Bangalore Division, who were supervising the recovery operations, at the accident site. All of them worked in the sun from morning 8am to about 9pm. They were so engrossed in the work that they forgot about lunch. In fact, when I reached the accident site at about 3pm on the second day, the first of the two locos was being recovered. It was only after the retrieval of the first loco at 4pm that the railway men had some kind of working lunch. They had all worked on some tea and biscuits and on the abundant enthusiasm, which brings out the best in them while working under most trying conditions. This was a different kind of rail-fanning for me.

The rest of the story is given as captions to the twenty-four photographs of this incident.