ICF(Integral Coach Factory): A 'Made In Switzerland' Factory


I am currently doing an internship at ABB Bangalore since 20-07-2015.

24-09-2015: 6:00AM

Early morning, I board 12608 Lalbagh Express from Bangalore City (SBC) Railway Station.
The train departs at 6.30AM sharp. The Locomotive for today’s link is WAP 4, road number 22843, Royapuram Shed.
It takes me 6 Hours to reach Chennai Central Railway station. The train arrives at Chennai at 1:00PM being half an hour late due to some problems at Arakonnam Junction.

I am at Chennai once again after 9 years. I take an auto rickshaw and check in to the nearby hotel where I had stayed the last time in 2006.

25-09-2015: 8:00AM

I take an OLA cab and reach Perambur bus stop at 8:30AM. Perambur is situated 8kms from Chennai.
I am greeted by one of the engineers working at ICF for more than 25 years. The officers and engineers at Howrah Loco Shed (where I have been a regular for the last 9 years) have already informed the authorities at ICF that I will be visiting the factory for a day and accordingly a special gate pass is issued to me.

I meet the person who issues the gate pass, one of the senior RPF officer’s. He tells me to show my college identity card and he hands me the gate pass. 

Furnishing Shop:

I enter the factory.  Since the engineers, supervisors and officers were busy, the person in charge told me to see the entire factory on my own.
It is a very big factory but compared to CLW, it is much smaller.
Since I didn’t have any idea from where to start looking for my range of interests in the factory, I give a call to my dad’s friend who is a senior engineer working in the Design and Development team at ICF for more than 35 years.

He asks me to stand near the newly LHB workshop and he sends a person who will help me assist in touring the entire factory.

I meet Mr Dibakar, who has joined ICF just a year back as a Junior Engineer. He is a Mechanical Engineer.

We start from the newly constructed workshop meant only for LHB Coach Production.
Key points of the workshop:
1.    Capacity to manufacture 300 coaches per year.
2.    Bogie frame manufactured from scratch.
3.    Dampers, Roof and Side walls are all made in the workshop itself.

All the machines that are meant for bogie and coach shell are bought from Germany and Austria.

We go to the next workshop where the accessories of the coaches like Battery Box, Motors, Generator Cars, Control Panel are installed. Basically there are three workshops one after the other.

I spot ordinary LHB Sleeper coaches, ICF Coaches, DEMU’s and EMU’s for Mumbai (Western Railway).

The EMU for Western Railways are based on Bombardier’s technology from Switzerland. ICF is producing the chassis whereas Bombardier is installing the entire electrical components.

Production of Siemens EMU for MRVC (Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation) has stopped long back.

We see the shells of DEMU getting assembled. These are all based on LHB technology and have a speed capacity of 160km/hr.

The motors are provided by BHEL and Crompton Greaves (CGL).

We then move outside the assembly shop. I easily spot the High Speed Air Conditioned EMU being assembled for Mumbai. Based on LHB Technology, this is the first EMU, Indian Railways is manufacturing at Integral Coach Factory. Bogies are based on old ICF bogie technology.

It will be a 12 or 15 coach EMU rake to be commissioned soon.

(The first air-conditioned electric multiple-unit built for Mumbai suburban services by the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai was delivered to Central Railway’s Kurla depot on April 5.
Following inspections, the 12-car 25 kV 50 Hz EMU is to be tested on the Thane – Panvel route by ICF, Central Railway and Research Design & Standards Organisation.  
EMUs for Mumbai suburban services are wider than other Indian Railways coaches, at 3 660 mm. The interior has 3+3 seating, with no first class and a total capacity of 1 028 seated and 4 936 standing passengers.
There are gangways between the six coaches in each half of the train. The EMU is designed for a maximum speed of 110 km/h, and has electrical and control equipment supplied by Strukton Rolling Stock and Bharat Heavy Electricals.)

Then, I move to the shop which is entirely meant for the production of cushions, sleepers and material that are provided in the coaches.

Hundreds of workers are making cushions, sleepers and all other accessories meant for the coaches. Everything is done in-house. No outsourcing has been done till date.

As we proceed towards the paint shop and the testing shop, I spot the 15 coach Bombardier rake ready to be commissioned for MRVC. 

I move to the testing shop where several coaches and EMU’s are getting wired up for electrical check-up’s and test runs.

I spot the Paint shop. I enter. An automatic machine paints the entire coach and the coach is then automatically hauled out of the shop. 

After that I enter the DEMU. Based on LHB technology and ICF bogies, it is getting ready in the testing shop to be commissioned.

I spot a Diesel Loco doing shunting duties to move the coaches from one workshop to the other.

I meet one of the engineers who helped me get the requisite permissions from the necessary authorities. He asks me whether I have finished touring the entire Furnishing workshop. I tell him yes and he asks me to visit the second factory, which is situated 2 kms away from the Furnishing workshop.

Mr Dibakar assists me.
We go to the D&D building and I pillion ride on his bike. It takes a few minutes to reach the shell shop.


Shell Division:

The shell division is the longest division in ICF. The workshop is 2 kms in length. The workshop is situated from Villivakkam Railway station to Perambur Railway station

First we go to the spring shop where springs for bogies are made from scratch and ICF is supplying these spring coils for Indian Railways all over India.

Currently L&T Construction has been awarded the manufacture of coils. ICF gives a warranty of three years for the coils.

We start from where the iron sheets are made. SAIL (Steel Authority of India) provides the steel required for coaches and also the steel and iron required for making bogies.

The steel sheets are 3.5mm in width according to RDSO specifications.

After they are fabricated into proper shape it is joined with the roof of the coaches which is being made in the next workshop.
The machines that are used to construct the side walls and roofs are more than 50 years old. ICF is slowly replacing these machines.

These were installed when ICF first started manufacturing coaches.

We then proceed to the bogie shop. Hundreds of ICF bogies are lying there and a few are being assembled. Beside the bogie shop is the shells shop where only Shells for ICF coaches and DEMU’s and EMU’s are being made. LHB production is not done here. The production of the bogies of the LHB coaches is also not done here. They are done in the Furnishing shop.

We visit the wheel shop. The axles are made here and are joined with the wheels manufactured at Rail Wheel Factory Yelankha.

Finally, the tour at ICF comes to an end at 2.30PM.

As we move out from the workshop, I spot the cabs of DEMU’s and EMU’s made by some other companies lying there.
We move out and reach the D&D office.

Mr Dibakar introduces me to my Dad’s friend. I had never seen him before.
He is one of the senior engineers working in the Design Team for the production of Kolkata AC Metro that is likely to start production from next year.
My Dad and he were brought up at Chittaranjan where my grandfather and his father were working with CLW for more than a period of 35 years.
He shares with me stories of steam locomotives and diesel locomotives that were made in Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in the sixties.

He then takes me to a fantastic restaurant at Chennai and we have Lunch.

We come back to the D&D office and he introduces me to one of the design engineers who is working on the bogie for the Kolkata AC Metro. He asks me to sit beside him. He is working with the Indian Railways since 1986.
Presently the fleet of AC Kolkata Metro has problems with the bogie design, so the railway board has asked ICF to come up with something innovative and modify the existing fleet.

He shows me the design which he is making for the Kolkata AC metro on AutoCAD and once it’s completed and approved, ICF will start production presumably by March 2016. 

We discuss about the transition from Schaku coupler to "Scharfenberg". He tells me that the Railway Board and ICF had already discussed this, but due to high costs the plan was not implemented.

He asks me to get in touch with few of the retired officers (CME and CEE) who had worked in ICF and had done some innovations on the bogies and the coaches. He gives me their names.

At 4:30PM, my visit come to an end. They ask me to come next year to see the Kolkata AC Metro. I tell them that if I am at Madras next year, I will surely visit the factory.
My Dad’s friend calls an OLA cab and I leave ICF at 5:00pm after having a cup of tea with few of the engineers and supervisors at the ICF canteen at the D&D building.

I bid goodbye to all of them.

26-10-2015: 7:00AM

I take 22625 Chennai Bangalore Double Decker Express and I reach Bangalore at 1:00PM.

Some ICF Facts:
1. Project ICF started in 1950 in Switzerland with 15 engineers from India to be trained.
2. The factory which has manufactured 50,000 coaches of 500 varieties over six decades.
3. Walter Braem, first chief technical manager of Integral Coach Factory, did the mission for (Waggonfabrik Schlieren) M/s Car and Elevator Manufacturing Corporation Ltd., Schlieren-Zurich (Switzerland).
4. The Agreement of 1949 between the GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF INDIA (the Government) of the one part and the SCHWEIZERISCHE WAGONS-UNDAUFZUEE-FABRIK A.G. SCHLIEREN-ZURICH (called ‘Wagi’) regarding Technical Aid for the Establishment of Workshop for the manufacture of all metal light-weight Coaching stock in India was signed on 28th May, 1949.
5. On June 1, 1951, Integral Coach Factory was officially born. Its first Headquarters was located in the Railway Retiring Rooms at Madras Egmore Station.
6. I.C.F. derived its name from the design of the carriage which incorporates an all-welded under frame integrated with the body, thus forming a sort of hollow tube with closed ends. In this configuration, the working forces sustained by the coach are more or less equally distributed over the entire body of the carriage.
7.  The chief features of an ICF coach, which set it miles apart from its earlier counterparts, with wooden bodies and later steel enclosure, are comfort and safety of passengers, smooth running, light weight but extra strong and, above all, its anti-telescopic construction.

Some old snaps of ICF Perambur:
Source: Ministry of Railways Website (Links given below)

2. ICF History
3. Visit of Lukas Baumann - The grandson of the architect of ICF Perambur

I will end this article with the following quote said by “Paul Theroux”, The Imperial Way, 1983.

India is a vast and complex place.

The phones seldom work, the mail is unreliable, and the electricity is liable to sudden stoppages.

There are numerous natural disasters and there are 800 million people. It is almost inconceivable that the country is still viable.

Towards the end of my Indian journey I decided that India runs primarily because of the railway.
It is impossible to imagine India without the railway, or to think what could possibly replace it.


UPDATES AS ON 01-04-2018

LHB Air-conditioned Coaches with continuous Window by ICF (Integral Coach Factory, a production unit under Ministry of Railways)
The LHB Coaches made by ICF at present have been provided with split windows of size 1100 mm (L) x 680 mm (H). As part of its plans to innovate coach designs, now, ICF has turned out one LACCN (LHB 3 Tier AC) Coach with continuous windows, by providing additional glasses on vertical pillars. This will provide the Air-conditioned coach an aesthetically pleasing and very good appearance from outside. It has been planned to provide such continuous windows in all AC coaches in a phased manner. The cost increase by provision of this continuous window is less than 1% of the total cost of the 3rd AC LHB Coach, that is approximately about Rs.2 crores per coach.

Some raw pics of Indian Railway's ambitious Train-18. Manufactured at ICF Chennai, India's first train-set is capable of travelling at speeds of 160 kmph. The hi-end train is expected to replace India's fastest Shatabdi Express on the Delhi-Bhopal route from Jan 2019.

Pic Courtesy: Ministry of Railways


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.