Railway's pride, passengers' envy

Storming male bastion

Since the flagging off of the first ‘ladies special’ earlier this year on suburban routes, daily rail commuters in this metro are enthralled by another first.

Southern Railway (SR)’s pride this time comes from a bold and enterprising woman employee, C V Thilakavathy, who was recently elevated as its first ‘loco-pilot’, steering its ‘Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU)’ trains on its suburban routes, all alone without anyone else’s assistance.

Hailing from Salem in Tamil Nadu, 38-year-old Thilakavathy, a diploma holder in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, first joined Central Railway in Bhopal in 1995, before coming to Chennai.

Thilakavathy first worked as an assistant loco-pilot and was then elevated as a loco-pilot in 2003, driving electric engines of long-distance trains, says Chandrasekhar, senior loco inspector, SR. Loco-pilots of main-line goods and passenger trains are aided by assistants.

Recently, Thilakavathy was promoted as ‘loco-pilot’ of suburban EMUs’, storming yet another male bastion, says Chandrasekhar. Technically, the post is called ‘Motor Man’, indicating its historically male-oriented function. ‘Motor Man’ drives the suburban EMUs trains all by himself without any assistant, which can be very demanding.  Though a superior post, the job carries a ‘male connotation’ but Thilakavathy has broken new grounds. “She is a fantastic and wonderful driver,” and had training for three months at Avadi near here before being elevated as SR’s “first Woman Motor Man”, as he ironically put it.

Nearly a decade back, “We understand the Western Railway in Mumbai had a woman loco-pilot, but for Southern Railway, Thilakavathy is the first,” emphasised Praveen Goyal, senior divisional electrical engineer (operations), SR, Chennai.

Thilakavathy now drives EMU trains in three suburban sections – Madras Moore Market Complex to Arakkonam and Sulurpetta respectively, besides from Chennai Beach to Velachery section, popularly called the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) which is part-elevated and part-surface.  “I am very happy,” Thilakavathy told Deccan Herald. “It (the job) is a strain, but if one is interested in something that is more important,” she smilingly mused.

How is her family taking it? “They (family) are in fact keener and my father in particular is very much interested that I come up,” she replied. And would she like to drive faster trains like the ‘Shatabdi’? “Of course, I would like to when my next turn for promotion comes,” she said.

More importantly, Thilakavathy does not face any problems from her male colleagues. “They have been very encouraging, giving me new ideas to perform better,” she said. And as for the daily commuters on these suburban trains, it is a praise-shower all the way, as they shake hands with her every time “they run into me,” added Thilakavathy.

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