April 22, 2010

My early days in the railways

When the Second World War ended in 1944, there was a huge depletion of resources as the British government virtually used our railway material and men for war purposes. However it was a blessing in disguise and many young people like my own elder brother who had just passed SSC found employment in the war field. He was posted in Iraq. When the war ended he was automatically absorbed in the G.I.P. Railway and began working in Jabalpur Divisional Office. Since his own Officer-in-Command, Major James Macreay, of Scottish descent, was also posted as the Divisional Superintendent at Jabalpur, my brother took the opportunity to call me over from my village in Kerala and join him at Jabalpur. Here I was posted as a temporary clerk because it was expected that I would soon get an opportunity for a permanent post.
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Early in 1947 I was recruited and posted as Telegraph candidate at Bina Railway Training School which was till then a military training center. After six months training in all fields like booking clerk, TC, signaller, station master, etc., I was posted to Bombay VT as a Signaller.
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A Signaller was actually a telegraphist working on Morse instruments, like the operators you saw in post offices. Since he is on the railways, his messages relate only to 'operations' and other railway matters. Inspectors and Controllers on the other hand are selection posts. Only those who can pass tough examinations and have a good record of service can hope to get selected. All railway employees have what is called a Confidential Report written annually by their superiors, and their future is decided by these documents. If the report speaks poorly, then the person concerned is apprised of this and given an opportunity to improve.
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Those days promotions came fast for those who were doing well because of war-time vacancies on one hand, and rapid expansion of the railways on the other. From Signaller to Relieving ASM and then on to permanent ASM -- promotions came rapidly my way. I was thus selected to work as an Instructor at the Bina training school (the school was later shifted to Bhusaval).
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At the Railway Training School in Bina I found a huge library set up by the British and here I would spend long hours when I found time. Normally no one bothered even to look at these books. The school had its own hostels, and a dining hall where sumptuous meals were served besides evening and morning teas. All the subjects like Traffic, Transportation, Permanent Way, Signals, and Loco Shed were taught to respective employees. There were even railway doctors who were in attendance.
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The course I was assigned to teach was, of course, "Operating", for station master/guard category. Here the word operating refers to the procedures relating to giving line-clear to a station, receiving a train on the allotted platform by getting the signals lowered, and so on. The long hours spent in the library had endowed me with proficiency in my subject, so I was also assigned to conduct courses for officers who were directly recruited. The School had a model room where the Instructor would propel a miniature train with his hand while explaining the subject to students. There was also a full-sized 'yard' next to the School. The tracks had turnouts, crossings and signals. Here boys would receive actual practical training -- train examiners, for example, would study in detail the underframe and various other parts on passenger coaches and goods wagons kept in the yard.
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K. R. VAIDYANATHAN
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Pictures courtesy of K. R. Vaidyanathan. Lower picture shows Shri Vaidyanathan inaugurating a wooden advance indicator giving train timings for suburban trains in the Bombay area sometime during 1975. Note the GIPR in decorative letters on the wall bracket at upper centre.
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K. R. Vaidyanathan served as Divisional Operating Superintendent, Divisional Commercial Superintendent, and several other responsible positions on the Central Railway. For a full account of Mr Vaidyanathan's career in the railways, turn to the following page:
http://www.irfca.org/articles/bio-k-r-vaidyanathan.html