AT CHURCH, IT IS THE sexton who tolls the bell each Sunday calling forth inhabitants to join in worship and prayer. On a railway station however, it is the Station Master who is assigned this task. You won’t, of course, find him doing the job himself for that will require him to leave his seat ignoring the all important line clear instruments that are set out on his table before him. This is a job that is performed by a pointsman or chuprassi appointed to look after sundry jobs.
The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Rules states that “... for passenger trains the Station Master will give permission to the Guard to start the train either personally or by having the station bell rung according to the prescribed code or giving a green hand signal to the Guard... ”
What precisely is the code for ringing a station bell ?
Here again is an excerpt from the GIP Railway Rules:
“... When a train carrying passengers is due to leave and all work in connection with it is finished, the Station Master shall authorize the station bell to be rung except between the hours of 22 and 6 as follows:
One beat for starting a down train, two beats for an up train, and four beats for a branch line train.
At all stations, except on the Bombay Suburban section, sharp continuous beats shall be given on the station bell to announce the approach of a stopping train... ”
Station Bell Codes vary from railway to railway. The Bombay, Baroda & Central India Railway observed the following rule:
The following warning and starting bells are sounded at stations for the information of the travelling public when a train carrying passengers is ready to start:
Starting bell for Passenger trains .... Two strokes
At stations where passenger trains stop for more than 5 minutes, in addition to the starting bell, a warning bell is sounded 5 minutes before starting time .... Seven strokes.
Bells are among the prettiest remnants of India’s railway heritage. Their charm no doubt arises from the connection with a church, as well as their association with Christmas. And a good many do survive on railway stations even today.
I have long been on the lookout for a railway bell that is as good as new, one that gleams in the light. And I finally found one at the railway museum here in Nagpur. This is a recent arrival, and may be seen hanging close to the Museum Manager’s office. This one is really bright and polished; it gleams in the light !