Train stuck? Just shove it

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Patna
  • Published 16.05.07
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Patna, May 16: Lalu Prasad isn’t the only Bihari capable of heaving an immobile railway service back to life.

When the 565 Up DMU train from Patna stopped in its tracks yesterday and refused to budge, the canny crowd of passengers knew exactly how to deal with it.

After all, a recalcitrant train engine can’t be any too different from an obstinate ox or an old Ambassador.

So, they got down and pushed it along the tracks.

Technically, of course, a train engine cannot be “push-started”. What the peppy hundreds did was push the several-tonnes-heavy locomotive to a point 60 metres ahead where it touched live overhead wires and could be restarted.

It was the same local savvy that had, in the first place, halted the train.

“Between the Banahi and Raghunathpur stations on the way to Buxar (about 80 km from Patna), some passengers had pulled the emergency chain around 11 am. It’s regular practice in these parts to stop a train at a preferred spot near one’s home,” said Rajiv Kumar, a passenger.

To the driver’s dismay, the engine was stranded in a “neutral zone”, a short length of track where there is no power in the overhead wires. A train’s momentum usually carries it through neutral zones.

The driver told the passengers he was ready to disconnect the engine if they were willing to push. Once it was started, it could be brought back and reconnected.

“Immediately, over 100 passengers got down and began shoving. But the engine wouldn’t move, so more joined in,” said Kumar, a resident of Dumraon near Buxar.

It took an hour but the job was done. The engine’s weight couldn’t be known, but an Indian electric loco usually weighs between 70 and 125 tonnes, which is the weight of 60 to 110 Ambassadors.

Railway officials were today left shaking their heads in amazement.

“Several passengers reported the incident,” said Dumraon stationmaster K.K. Sinha. He added that when there’s a problem restarting an engine, another solo engine is sent from a nearby station.

“We haven’t received the full details. Passengers pushing a train engine sounds so weird,” Danapur division spokesperson R.K. Singh said.

Lalu Prasad couldn’t be contacted to find out if he was overjoyed or embarrassed.