Solving the water crisis of Degana

by Rajeev Shrivastava

Degana (DNA) is a junction station in Jodhpur division of N. Railway from where a MG track takes off towards Ratangarh. This MG network was connected with the remaining MG network in JU division at that time, through Marwar (MJ) and Palanpur-Bhildi on the (then) W. Railway's AII-Ahmedabad MG line. This story is of the time when the GC work on AII-Ahmedabad section was in progress and the section was going to be blocked, effectively disconnecting the MG tracks at Degana from those at Bhildi end.

Jodhpur division has a peculiar problem of saline ground water. Before the Indira Gandhi Canal was commissioned, the water supply of JU city was such that sweet water used to be supplied 3 times a week only for few hours. We used to get slightly saline water in the remaining week, which was hard in nature and not very tasteful. (Although I drank it initially for a month or so, before I could find out the tap hidden under the sink, which gave sweet water on nominated days!).

Railways had its own bore well at Degana but the water was highly saline. Sweet water was being brought from a station called Khatu (30 km away in the MG network), by BTWs (MG water tank wagons). For this purpose, a tube-well in Khatu civil area supplied water to overhead tanks at Khatu station and overhead water filling hydrants were used to fill in the three BTWs which were brought empty, from Degana, in the evening by a mixed train. These BTWs were filled and were taken to Degana by the same mixed train, in the morning. These BTWs were decanted in an underground water tank at Degana and pumped into a separate overhead tank, to be supplied for 30 minutes each morning.

These BTWs were very old and the under-frame had deteriorated to such an extent that the DME informed me about their imminent condemnation the next time these were sent for POH. We were scared of the POH program as previously also, 2 BTWs were sent for POH to BKN and had been condemned there. After quite some time, oil tank wagons had been given in replacement, which could be cleaned with great difficulty before these could be used for water. MG stock was scarce as it was and we knew that we would get into serious problems if these BTWs were to be condemned. The DME was sympathetic but did not want to take any risk as the train in which these were attached, was a passenger carrying mixed train.

The MG connection towards Bhildi, in Gujarat, was also in my jurisdiction and occasionally, I could see stainless steel milk tankers (VVNs) at Bhildi. These were double bodied tanks and would have suited our purpose for water transport. The only hassle was that these were built under Own-Your Wagon scheme and were operating in a closed circuit. Taking approval from W. Rly was taking a lot of time and in the meanwhile, the date for closure of the MG stretch from Palampur to AII was nearing. We got desperate as it would have meant that we would not be able to take these VVNs even if permission arrived after the GC block was taken.

SrDOM was included in the plot and we decided to get few VVNs attached in a juggler which came to JU from Bhildi, without informing the neighboring division of W. Rly. This was possible as communication in that part was very poor and the TI of the W. Rly section used to operate quite freely, taking independent decisions. 5 days before the GC block, we took 3 VVNs, routed these through Bhildi-Samdari-Luni-MJ, up into the MG network of BKN division and brought these to DNA. The Section Engineer (works) was ready with a lot of maroon paint (VVNs were shining stainless steel) and painted these VVNs over, with the same wagon number as that of the existing BTWs, complete with the 'Back to IOW/DNA' stencil! After 6 months, we got a query from the W. Rly regarding these VVNs but we informed them, tongue in cheek, that no such wagons are on our network! The BTWs were sent to BKN and were condemned. These VVNs are still bringing in sweet water to Degana.