A Footplate to Remember!!!

15th July, 2014, 10.15am.

I meet one of my rail fan friend and an active member of IRFCA at Surat Railway Station, Mr. Khalid Kagzi.

I was on my way to Vadodara Junction for a month internship at Bombardier Transportation Ltd at Baroda.
The train was Howrah Ahmedabad SF (Superfast) Express.
During a short chat session at Surat station, with Mr. Khalid Kagzi, someone greets Mr. Khalid, saying “Hi, Khalid ji how are you?”
A short glance at the person and I realize that he is a Loco Pilot, by looking at his uniform. Mr. Khalid introduces me to him.
I came to know that the train he was supposed to take from Surat has been cancelled and so he is returning home, the train in which I was going to Vadodara.
I say goodbye to Khalid ji, and board my train. Well, just to the next berth where I was sitting, I saw the LP sitting.
I went towards him and I sat opposite to him. I was interested in knowing the experiences he has as a LP.
Well, our topic started with bullet trains, and then I told him where I was going and how long will be my stay at Vadodara.
He introduced himself as Mr. Sharma, a Loco Pilot here (Western Railway) serving Indian Railways for the last 25 years.

He asks me how long I have this interest in railways and the conversation carries on…
After a while, I come to know from him that in December he will be visiting Asansol for some training on 3 phase Loco’s and along with that he will be visiting CLW too.
He tells me that he is interested in our 3 phase loco’s P5 and G9 and wants to see how it is made.
So I ask him to go through my blog sundarmukherjee.blogspot.in and of course IRFCA. While going through my blog in the train, he asks me whom to meet at CLW, who can explain him in details.
He also tells me that he has heard that our P5 locos were brought from Switzerland.
“Yes, you are right sir...”... I tell him.
The name of the project was GP 140. He asks me that do I know the engineers who all came here and who designed our 3 phase Loco’s.
I tell him that there is still few GP 140 engineers at CLW who was there in Switzerland during the transfer of technology phase.
I ask him whether he will be able to take me on a footplating ride either to Surat or Ahmedabad from Vadodara.
He says yes, and asks me which loco do I prefer?
Since I have done a lot of footplating sessions in Eastern Railway, the only loco that I didn’t get a ride was a WAP 5.
So, he asks me the dates I would be available are. I tell him that after joining Bombardier as an intern, only then I would be able to tell him.
We exchange our phone numbers and I quickly add him in whatsapp. We reach Vadodara and I say him a goodbye.
During my days in Bombardier, he would often ask me whether I am free, but unfortunately I couldn’t go on a weekday.
And finally I tell him that Sunday, I would be able to manage.
So 29th June was the day.
He guaranteed me that the train that he would take me for a footplating ride, the link would be a P5.
I was happy to know that.
Finally I meet him at Vadodara railway station at 10.30am.

29 June: 10:00am
He takes me to the LP/ALP room in the station and gives me a place to sit and I am greeted by a few LP and ALP’s and also the person in charge who allocates them.
The person in charge and Mr. Sharma tells me that they have made arrangements for my return.
The train in which I go, will reach Surat at 1.20pm and I would be the returning by another train which departs Surat at 1.35pm in a Locomotive.
I see the entire procedure how Mr. Sharma, takes charge.
They have to undergo an alcohol test. A machine does the job and then he signs off.

I buy a water bottle for my onward journey...
He introduces me to his ALP, and we wait for the train to arrive.
A great sight indeed. WAP 5 road number 30009.

 It was the ABB one. It reminded me of GP 140. Mr. Sharma tells that I am lucky enough to get a footplating ride in one of the ABB loco’s.

A little dirty though, didn't matter me at all. I get up. A senior section civil engineer was also there who would be accompanying me for the entire Up/Down journey. He was there to check the track work currently going on in that stretch.

I was given the ALP’s seat but I chose to stand and enjoy the scenery of Gujarat.
Mr. Sharma pushes the throttle and the train moves.

Well it took more than two minutes to reach 110km/hr (the MPS restricted for ICF Coaches). Me being a fan of P7, I was enjoying the ride in the P5 Loco.
Well, he tells me the places as we proceeded towards Surat. All I can say is, hats off to our Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, who has done so much of development in Gujarat in the industrialization sector.

ABB, SIEMENS, ALSTOM, BOMBARDIER was the first four factories that I came across while I was in the Loco.  Maybe the only state in India, where you get to see the best and top European companies. Even the SSE and ALP was saying that the development in Gujarat is just like wonders.
Mr. Sharma asks me whether I have any idea, what latest developments are going on in our 3 phase Loco’s. 
I tell him that the software is getting upgraded from MICAS to MITRAC in the present IGBT loco’s and where individual motor can be controlled in case of a Loco failure, one of the added advantages of IGBT over GTO  Thyristor. I got to know this in my previous visit to CLW from Mr. Suresh Kumar, Dy CEE, D&D, CLW.
Some changes have been there for which training is required as far as I knew.
Then we came across a new factory recently made by the Chinese, TBEA, who would manufacture transformers and switch gears.
The P5 took a little time to accelerate but once it reached 110km/hr, the BPCS button was activated for constant speed control.  The LP says that driving these 3 phase was simply great but the only disadvantage is, it becomes too hot (temperature in cab above 39 degree Celsius) although the new ones from CLW are being retrofitted with an AC. The old ones cannot be retrofitted with an Air Conditioner because of the design given by ABB. CLW and RDSO has modified it by shifting the Flasher Lamp from its previous position and thereby providing an additional space for the Air Conditioner to be installed as said by Mr. Sinha (Senior DEE, HWH Loco Shed).
The train stops. One of the added advantages in this P5 is the regenerative braking system. By applying 100% BE, the motor acts as a generator and slows down a loco. The A9 (Direct/Pneumatic/Disc) brakes are not required always thereby causing less wheel wear and tear.

I spotted a narrow gauge train and its power a ZDM, which would become extinct within few years because of the “project unigauge”, which would convert all narrow and meter gauge lines to broad gauge.

I was lucky enough to spot one such train. Also I saw the same gauge, when I was entering Nagpur just before Diamond Crossing on my onward journey to Vadodara but couldn’t spot any train.
The train embarks with my ABB Loco. I could hardly remember the railway station name where I spotted the narrow gauge; it was Ankleswar Junction (not sure).

Next Mr. Sharma teaches me on the safety rules followed by IR. He says “right proceed”, “left proceed” along with some numbers (mentioned on poles).

 I get to learn from him that he and his co Pilot says that just to ensure both are awake along with that Vigilance pedal which he has to keep on pressing every minute.
We enter Baruch. I quickly get down and take some snaps of the Loco and just the previous stop we witnessed some Duronto overtaking us while we were on a stroll.

I get to know from him that it is Ahmedabad - Delhi Duronto Express. It was also hauled by a P5.
We cross Narmada River. The PSR (Permanent Speed Restriction) for the bridge was 130km/hr although we were moving at 110km/hr.

Some speed restrictions were also there on that day to be followed by Loco staff’s.

The SSE who was also with me shows the track work which was currently going on in that route and tells me that if I am free any day, I can give him a call and he would make arrangements for me to show the entire process how new tracks are getting laid and what does those track machines do. I thank him for the opportunity but I couldn’t go because of my tight schedule at Bombardier Transport.

We enter Surat at 1.20pm.

Mr Sharma tells me that my loco for my backward journey maybe a P5 if I am lucky enough or else the link is mostly a WAG 5. 
I also made up mind that if it is a WAG 5, I would return in a coach.
But cloud nine; it was a WAP 5, 30046

He shows me the Loco standing at platform 5, and I along with the SSE get down and again we board the Loco.
The LP says “Welcome Sundar” and the Assistantt Loco Pilot gives me his seat. I tell them that I prefer to stand and enjoy the ride.

We disembark at 1.35pm.
I found some difference in the Loco. With TE 100% it took more than 3 minutes to accelerate and reach 110km/hr whereas the ABB ones took less time, both the rake composition although being the same(22 Coaches). I thought maybe due to track alignment or inclination, it took time to accelerate, but I was proved wrong every time. The P5 Loco’s production had come to a standstill years ago at CLW because of the  problems it had with its hurth coupling but it was solved soon. The CLW made Loco’s are not as robust as the ABB imported ones. Even the LP says that.
We come to a halt.

The SSE takes me to the platform and shows me the track machine on which he is in charge. The control panel is mostly like a diesel Alco locomotive and the manufacturer is Plasser India. A brief introduction is given to me on the track machine and how it works. I had to leave as our train departed.
The Lp in this loco says that he prefers a P7 more than a P5. I greet him with a smile and tell him even my favorite is WAP 7.
On my way, I saw RDSO Oscillation car attached with WDG 4 Dual Cab Loco. RDSO is testing the new loco as said by the LP. The train stops at a signal. I quickly get down and see the RDSO Car. The first coach where I saw that both AAR type and Screw type couplers are installed together as it is installed in a Locomotive.

We move on.
I enter Vadodara at 4.00pm.

A very tiring day for me.
Thanks to Mr. Sharma and the people in charge of that day’s Loco allotment. Rail fanning for that day comes to an end.


Who Am I?

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A Rail Enthusiast. Born and brought up in Calcutta. Have interests in rolling stock and Locomotives and their control techniques.
Also love to collect information and trivia on our Indian Railway network...
Have worked with ABB, Siemens, Bombardier Transportation and Larsen & Toubro as an intern. 
I majored in Electronics and Communications Engineering as my undergraduate degree on 2nd August 2016.