Sunday, August 14, 2011

Train Timing Inc

Well, there's something new about trains that I learned last week.

Was traveling in West Bengal / Jharkhand last week (yes, of all places!), and was on road, when a railway crossing closed right in front of us. Since it was countryside, we decided to roam around for a few minutes and stretch our legs, till the train crosses over.

I wandered around to the signal station on railway crossing, and invariably started chatting up with the guy who manages the barricade.

As a child, I used to think that there are automatic electric means and modes that connect all such railways crossings, so that the operator gets to know when a train is nearby and the barricades have to be closed. However, there was one fundamental flaw in this theory - that electricity is available everywhere. In reality, there are countless crossings in India that would be devoid of any electric supply.

I had further thought that in absence of electric supply, there would be some sort of morse code devices that would be used by these railway crossing operators to communicate with the central room, to know when to operate the barricades. I was always fascinated by how sophisticated the systems would be, that enable these operators across the country to know minutes before any train reaches their junction.

While I was chatting with the operator, these long lost thoughts came running back to me, and I ended up asking him how they were so skilled.

The answer was surprising, and as simple as it could have been - it is a normal 'telephone' that they use. Each crossing calls up the next one when the train crosses theirs, to give a heads up.

How simple is that!

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

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