Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Heat no bar:Loco pilots on the master controller in the East Coast Express.– Photos: G. Ramakrishna

Temperatures inside the cabin remind one of a blast furnace; loco pilots and their assistants get 8 hours of rest after a run of up to six and a half hours

The ambient temperature outside must have hovered between 41 to 44 degrees Celsius, but according to Railway authorities, the temperature on the rails would surely be anywhere between 55 to 65 degrees Celsius.

The temperature in the cabin of the locomotive, which was hauling coaches of the East Coast Express, was around 43 or 44 degrees Celsius, making people think they were in an oven. And when Suman, a helpful assistant loco pilot (ALP), switched on the fan, it turned into a blast furnace. That was the scene on board recently when this reporter and photographer clambered onboard the train to experience first-hand the conditions in which Loco Pilots worked.

Loco pilot D.G. Fernandes welcomed the guests into the cramped cabin and asked Mr. Suman to vacate his seat for the journey between Secunderabad and Kazipet. Even around 10.30 a.m., the heat was scorching. Once the electric locomotive was on the run, with the three phase motors doing their job in the undercarriage, what was exhilarating was the pace of acceleration and deceleration, considering that the engine had a whopping 6,000 horsepower capacity.

Going by the caution orders that every loco pilot gets, it was amazing to note that if the train could do a speed of 15 kilometres per hour just out of the Hussainsagar junction, it was expected to touch a speed of 75 kmph between Hussainsagar and Secunderabad. It even accelerated up to 90 kmph between Lallaguda and Moula Ali.

If the temperatures inside the cabin reminded one of an oven, it seared every time they opened the door of the cabin leading to the space that housed the engines. On the 130-km run between Secunderabad and Kazipet, the locomotive smoothly went up to 110 kmph between Ghatkesar and Bibinagar and slipped to as much as 15 kmph – all in a span of about 800 to 900 metres, giving an idea of the amazing power of the engines.

The three months of the summer is nothing short of hell for the loco pilots and their assistants, and they make sure that they carry enough bottles of water to keep themselves constantly hydrated. The worst part is that there is no toilet on board the locomotive, and when it becomes inevitable, the pilot or his assistant run across to the coach behind and use the toilet, or when they stop at a station.

According to the mandate, the pilot and his assistant get about eight hours of rest after a run that spans between five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours on a mail or passenger train, or upto a maximum of 10 hours if it is a goods train, before they come back to their headquarters – in this case, Secunderabad.

The LPs and ALPs make sure they carry enough bottles of water to stay hydrated


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