Thursday 5 April 2012

Trains and More...

the locomotive parked at San Locomotive 
Travel by train is magic for me. I have experienced everything from unreserved ladies compartment to two tier A/C to first class. Regardless of the class of travel, I find myself transported to another world zipping by small towns, street vendors and bear witness to lives of strangers. A mother combing her daughter’s hair sitting on the door step, children playing in the pond while washing buffaloes, farmers tilling the field or chilling under the tree, various modes of transportation stopped at the railway crossing as we speed by – I can spend hours looking at these fast moving scenes and make up stories. My relationship with trains has always been in the journey and in the physical compartment. 

A few weeks ago, right here in Whitefield, Bangalore, I had an opportunity to witness the science behind the locomotive that actually pulls the train. Across the road from Taj Vivanta and ITPL, where thousands of people go to work in the tech sector, there is a large sign that says San Locomotives with a live locomotive parked by the gate. I learnt of a different kind of technology brewing behind those gates. Most of the railway business is in transporting goods. Many large power plants, stone quarries etc have miles of train tracks inside the premises to move the goods back and forth. The Indian railways do not want to get into the business of moving goods for the company. The goods train drops off the large supplies at the gate of the company and leaves it to the company to handle the movement within their premises. And that’s where San locomotives comes into play. They make the locomotives that pull the goods. And there is plenty of technology in the way the locomotives are made.  For example, the housing (metal covering) that houses the engines used to take a person working for 8-10 shifts to make one housing. Today, they have machines that make it in two hours.  Another invention at San is the two engine locomotive. There are many instances, where the train could go empty to the quarry and come back filled with coal, or it could take equipment to power plant and come back empty. In such cases, the locomotive could operate on one engine when it is goes empty and turn on both the engines when it needs to pull more weight. The invention that got me most excited was what I call “ambulance on track”. Many times, accidents occur in very remote places and it might not be possible for vehicles to get there for rescue. They have created a compartment fitted with all first aid kits including an operating theatre with engine built in the underside of the compartment so that it can go easily to the accident site on the train tracks and help people. Just imagine having these available as mobile clinics to go to remote villages and towns to treat people on an on-going basis. We have train tracks going through areas where there are no roads and products like this could be of great help. 
The barracks from second world war in the premise 

Jackfruit trees
It was so refreshing to step away from the traditional definition of technology of gadgets and gizmos and go to a new world of technology. And yet, a bit of greenery and history prevails. On the premises, the barracks from second world war where prisoners of war were kept are still in tact. The premises is full of large trees – some bearing humongous jack fruit while the others spreading their shade.

Thanks to my friends Anna and Milind, who own the place (or “guardians” of the place as they say), it was not just a tech tour but one filled with personal heritage and stories. A whiff of history, a dose of technology, the magic of trains and the warm hospitality of Anna and Milind maketh a great morning feast :)

Anna and Milind 

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