A letter from a legendary railwayman

My association with Shri K R Vaidyanathan dates back to 1973 when I first came across his article, reproduced on this site, titled “The Chuk Chuk Men”. Beginning his career in 1947 as a Signaller, Vaidyanathan went on to join the Railway Training School in Bina as Instructor, and later rose to become a Senior Commercial Officer of the Indian Railway Traffic Service.

Last year I casually wrote to Mr. Vaidyanathan telling him about my adventures in railway stations and yards, and asked him if he would explain to me the working of a passenger train yard in earlier times. My questions were specific – I wanted to know the precise procedures involved in dealing with a train once it has arrived on the platform at the destination. Vaidyanathan’s reply did come, but proved to be a bit disappointing – he didn’t provide a clear cut picture of how it is all done. Here is the transcript of his reply:

April 6, 2009

Dear Shri Bhalerao,

Your letter was a pleasant surprise coming as it did after a long interval.

In a recent Bhavan’s Journal issue I came across a rare piece of news with a nice illustration. I take this opportunity to enclose that cutting which may amuse you and educate you on railway matters.

As regards your query regarding parking of spare coaches in a yard, on-duty ASM, or AYM (Asst. Yard Master who are employed in big yards like VT) decide, depending on the capacity of the yard, i.e., number of sidings which are occupied/vacant, etc. There is no set rule – it all depends on the exigencies which are always there in railway operation.

About your second query, it is imperative that any train which arrives on a busy platform, the rake should be removed as soon as the passengers are detrained and parcels/luggage are unloaded. Then only the line becomes available for another train to be received there. This means perfect coordination between ASM/Shunting Master and other yard staff on one hand, and concerned cabin staff who actually set the points for the track and gives signals for the movement of the rake. Over a period these operations become routine for station staff, but in railway operation there are always exigencies which the on-the-spot staff resolve.

I hope this is of help.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely,

K. R. Vaidyanathan