It was on February 3, 1925, that the first electric locomotive with a 1,500 volt capacity lugged coaches from Victoria Terminus to Kurla on the Harbour line! But many people only remember coal-fired and then diesel-guzzling engines when thinking of the Indian Railways.

From a humble beginning on April 16, 1853, when a steam engine and coaches were operated between VT and Thane, the role of engineers and other technical personnel in the electrical department of the Indian Railways was minimal.
But 1925 changed all that and since then there was no looking back, said South Central Railway’s Chief Electrical Engineer J.S.P. Singh, at a seminar held recently to mark the Railway Electrical Engineers Day here.
“Sans doubt, electric traction is the most cost-effective and if this is not reason enough for the entire Indian Railways network to go electric, what else is?,” wondered SCR’s General Manager P.K. Srivastava, addressing the gathering.
‘Pankha Bathhi-wale’
Himself an electrical engineer, he had the audience in splits when he recalled that even in 1977, how electrical engineers and other personnel in the department were referred to as ‘Pankha Bathhi-wale’ (meaning those who take care of the fans and lighting on board) and how departmental proposals took a long time to be cleared by Divisional Railway Managers and General Managers too. “Now the same people come to heads of departments in the electrical wing of several zones asking for proposals to upgrade, leveraging electrical power. We have indeed come a long way since the first electric train in 1925, but I can assure you that we as electrical engineers have miles to go, driving the entire Indian Railways network silently on the path to total electrification and save costs,” Mr. Srivastava said, reminding the gathering of the American poet Robert Frost.