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Stop the train, it's home

Bangalore, Rasheed Kappan, Sept 12, 2013, DHNS: 0:30 IST
Late arrivals for the Bangalore City - Marikuppam Passenger is never a concern for seasoned travellers on this railway line. For, they know they can always pull that alarm chain, dangling invitingly in every cabin, halt the train barely a few yards from their house and walk straight home!

Far from fiction, this blatant misuse of the train’s “Inter Chain Communication (ICC) cord” — a device reserved only for emergencies — is virtually the norm. It is a trend so widely used by passengers in a hurry that the locopilots have taken it in their stride.

The locopilots know they can do nothing to prevent these “organised criminals.” The railwaymen’s only solace: Having turned professional, the chain-pullers would jump out, pull the string to reset the chain and let the train carry on.

The locopilot finds this one act of kindness immensely helpful. As one pilot explained in all earnestness to Deccan Herald, “When someone pulls the chain and releases the pressure in the brake system, the train halts. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for us to walk up to that coach and reset the system. Now we know the passengers have learnt that reset trick. So we just wait for the reset and the train to start.”

Steering the older stock train with 21 coaches or more, the locopilot knows he would have no control once the alarm chain is pulled. Tugged down with force, the chain releases air from a pipe that runs throughout the train.

The air from reservoir cylinders then gets into the brake cylinders and remains there until a system reset. Since the chain system is interconnected to all coaches, pulling it in one coach jams the entire system.

Four to five unscheduled, alarm-chain triggered halts are definite if the Marikuppam Passenger is delayed beyond its 10.30 pm arrival time. “That is a certainty. And all locopilots on that line know that. But in 90 per cent of the cases, the chain-puller is never caught,” revealed a railway official. Incidentally, the train has only eight scheduled halts in its 86-km journey.

The ICC halts are executed with precision just when the train approaches a station, or if the distance from the scheduled halt is about a kilometre. The night train allows quick escape in the cover of darkness.

Yet, this ICC misuse by frequent passengers would pale in comparison with what criminals do elsewhere. Snatching gold chains and wallets from unsuspecting travellers, they would simply tug at the chain and disappear through the door.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) jawans would want to stop that. But when a Rs 1,000 penalty fails to deter even the regular passengers from having a go at the ICC, they know their choices are limited.

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