When a train stalled recently in the middle of a busy street in India, the passengers didn’t abandon it. Instead, they got down and rallied together to push-start the locomotive.
It is a pretty common spectacle to see people pushing their stalled cars and motorbikes on the streets of India. However, it’s not every day we see people pushing a train to coax it to start chugging again. People travelling on a narrow gauge train in northern India considered it life-as-usual when they were faced with a train whose engine had stalled.
Passengers traveling on the Kailaras-Sabalgadh narrow gauge train in the northern semi-urban region of India groaned when their narrow gauge train crawl to a halt in the busy streets of Gwalior late last week. Apparently, the aging engine had developed a snag and gave up trying, which resulted in a train that refused to budge, causing serpentine traffic jams. Attempts to contact railway authorities proved futile and the passengers, who had been patiently sitting in the train for it to start, started getting restless since help wasn’t forthcoming from the railway department.
[The video is in Hindi]
When an hour passed with no activity from the railway’s break-down down, the passengers took it upon themselves to do something about the stalled train. While people in other countries have tilted trains to rescue a passenger trapped underneath, in India, the people got off to push-start it as if it was a jalopy. It certainly was a fascinating sight, seeing both young and old struggling besides coaches, trying to get the train to budge. Eventually, their efforts paid off. and the train was moved to a less crowded area of the road.
Once there, the train engine whirred to life. Preliminary investigations indicated the British-era engine must have stalled after getting overheated in the sweltering Indian summer. A respite of an hour cooled the internals, and the engine started working again. The traffic jam subsided and so did the angst as people started boarding the very train they had helped push in unison.
The Indian government is discussing the viability of bullet trains that would significantly cut down the time to travel between its far-flung cities, but as evident from the incident, the reality on the ground is very different. The engines on most lines are antiquated; the equipment is failing from the rigors of increased usage, and the maintenance staff is nowhere to be found. The narrow gauges are the remnants of a bygone era, but surprisingly they are still relied upon to ferry passengers in under-developed regions.
[Image Credit | Dainik Bhaskar]