Nitish (left) and Indrajit stand with the red cloth that was used to stop the train near Madarihat station on Friday morning. Telegraph picture
Alipurduar, Oct. 19: Passengers of the New Jalpaiguri-bound Intercity Express had a close shave this morning after two men crossing the railway lines spotted a crack on the tracks near Madarihat station and stopped the train by planting a red cloth near the tracks.
Around 6.30am, friends Nitish Das and Indrajit Biswas, both residents of Meghnad Saha Colony in Madarihat, saw a crack on the tracks.
They both knew that the Intercity Express, which plies between Alipurduar Junction and New Jalpaiguri, passes the area around 7am and started thinking of ways to stop the train.
“We both stay near the railway tracks at Meghnad Saha Colony. This morning, we were crossing the tracks when we saw the crack. The first thought we had was that within half-an-hour, the Intercity Express would pass the area. As we were thinking of ways to stop the train, we heard the train’s whistle from Hasimara station,” said Indrajit Biswas, who sells vegetables in the area.
Hasimara station is 8km from Madarihat.
“Nitish rushed to his hut and brought a big red cloth and we both started running along the tracks in the direction of Hasimara. We started from the place where the crack was and ran for at least 200m. We saw the train approaching Madarihat and we quickly stuck the red cloth with two sticks and planted them between the railway tracks,” he added.
The villagers generally use the red cloth to warn trains against crossing elephant herds.
The driver of the train spotted the red cloth and slowed down. “The train slowed down and the engine stopped just at the spot where the crack was, a kilometre from Madarihat,” Indrajit said.
He added that the train remained at the spot for almost an hour and only after temporary repairs were carried out, it was allowed to move.
The duo said the red cloth was used by the villagers to stop speeding trains from hitting elephants that often stray out of the nearby Jaldapara forest and walk up to the railway tracks. “Last night also we were busy steering away elephants from the train lines,” Indrajit 44, said.
Alokananda Sarkar, the senior divisional commercial manager, Alipurduar, said: “There was a crack on the tracks and there was a chance of a mishap. Luckily, the crack was spotted on time. Train service in the Alipurduar-Siliguri section is normal now. We will recommend the names of both the persons to the higher authorities for recognition.”
He added that the “train’s course” could have changed because of the crack.
Engineers of the railways said the crack in the rail would have led to a derailment.
Railway sources said around 1,000 passengers were on the train.
Ashish Sen, a passenger who was on the New Jalpaiguri-bound train, said: “When we came to know about the incident, we thanked both the men because anything could have happened. We saw the crack in the railway line. This incident proves that the railway staff do not check the tracks thoroughly. We were very lucky today.”
Officials said train services were disrupted for more than an hour because of the snag.