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My greatest rail-fanning moments on Indian Railways January 17, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

Many years ago, when I was a budding rail-fan, I was fascinated with being a railway guard on Indian Railways. I was so enamored with how the gentleman in white at the rear of the train would lean out of his cab, sound his shrill whistle in a high pitch and gently wave his green flag to let the train move. And as the train picked up speed, his waving of the flag would feverishly increase in its intensity till the train would disappear from your sight.

Years passed and my interest turned into locomotives and their drivers (called Loco Pilots in Indian Railways parlance). Specifically Assistant Loco Pilots who perform inspection of the loco, check signals, and wave the green flag in sync with the Guard at the rear, as the Loco Pilot sounds the horn and takes the train out of the station.

The entire action of a train starting from a station is one of my biggest rail-fanning moments. For a rail-fan like me, those are moments of great anticipation.

Sometimes there is a crew change. The few minutes when the old set of crew interacts with the fresh crew taking out the train are exciting. If there is a loco change, you can bet that there will be a crowd watching to see the loco getting coupled to the train.

Occasionally, you will see a very faithful loco driver pray at the control stand before taking out his ride. Some Assistant Loco Pilots carry waste paper in their hands as they do their loco check. None of them wear a uniform in the place where I come from.

Almost all of them eagerly await the signal of the guard before they start waving their flags. No Loco Pilot sounds the horn till they get a ‘right’ from the Guard. It doesn’t matter even if the starter (signal) is right (green). The Guard’s gotta say ‘aye’.

Sometimes, the train moves as a family makes a last bid effort to the board the train. If the Assistant Loco Pilot spots that he asks his chief to go a bit easy on the wheel.

And I almost forgot about the locos, depending on the type of loco, be it a Diesel (WDM2, WDM3D) or Electric (WAP4, WAM4, WAP1), they all come with different horns, different looks and different take-off actions, which makes each experience different.

A few weeks ago, I created a set of videos capturing the starting of trains at Ernakulam Junction, a major railway station in Kerala. These 12 videos feature probably everything I shared about my biggest rail-fanning moments. I was plain lucky to have the same vantage point for every video, a great place to watch these amazing locos take off. They may all look the same to many. But a true rail-fan will find each journey a different beginning.

Enjoy your videos!



1. G.S. - May 17, 2009

Exhilarating, your videos and pics, Arun!
Especially the ones where the encounters are at close quarters. e.g. the goods train near manmad where you were next to an old hut before a bridge. These railway engines look deceptively small, but viewing them at close quarters gives a real feel of these metal monsters. Especially when they’re driving past at high speed. Like that pic near Kollam (after the train bearing the guys singing ‘Laila o Laila’). It reminded me of 3 places around Ottappalam (where I hail from) where one gets to afford a close encounter- most thrilling indeed. The first one is at the level crossing at Lekkidi on the banks of the Nila, E of Ottappalam (Google Earth Coordinates 10N45’11.25″, 076E26″12.75″). The track towards Olavakkod banks N, and hides from view. This makes a thrilling vista of an approaching train from the E. Only the sound of the tooting horn and the steadily increasing deep rumble of the tracks, till the train engine appears, quite so suddenly charging towards the observer. I usually stand at the gate, and even there, the train passes maybe a couple of meters away! the din and the noise and the clatter is most enjoyable. Another such ‘thriller’ crossing is at a level crossing NE of Wadakaanchery in the Trichur district (10N39’56.45″, 076E15’22.64″). The 3rd such spot is on the main road between Shoranur and Pattambi where it cuts across the Shoranur-Nilambur line just at Vaadaanaamkurussi railway station. Even over here the gates are posited such that a standing observer can get to feel the approach of a train from close quarters.
Kudos for an excellent presentation- Keep it up! And please do keep writing more and presenting more pics and videos!

2. George Taylor - October 9, 2009

Lovely videos n pics. Am an old railway freak (61 years in Dec !!!!!) Grandad was Chief Loco Inspector – Western Railway, so had the great good fortune to have been able to ride in the huge steam WP & WC locomotives, the former (with the bullet nose) hauling the mail & express trains. Haven’t had the luck to ride a WDM or the WAP.

3. David Reich - December 30, 2009

CB Whittemore pointed me to your vids. I just shared them with my 4-year old grandson Jack, since we are taking an excursion today on the NY commuter railroad I ride to work everyday into NYC — Metro North into Grand Central Terminal. There;’s a model train exhibit that we’re going to see. I’ll let you know if I get some vids of our trains to post on YouTube for you.

Best regards and have a happy New Year — a great 2010 Arun.

David Reich

4. PN Subramanian - July 8, 2010

i am sad, the videos and photos have disappeared. Kindly do something.

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