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Keeping the System in Motion

It is said that behind every successful man, there is a woman. Similarly, behind every developing nation which has its vision set on the horizon of achievement, there is a railway system.

The railway system, as it is popularly seen is mostly a criss cross network of railway lines on which thunder the rushing railway trains. What lies beneath this picture perfect is a lot of nut and bolt activity which is not known to passengers.

Here are the production units of Indian Railways, where a varied construction activity, spread out in phases, elaborate and tied to the minutest detail, makes the railway system what it is. Whether it be the manufacture of electric or diesel engines, or whether it be coaches, even wheels and spare parts the emphasis is on quality and constant improvement.

Chittaranjan Locomotive works (CLW): post-independent India had to provide attractive effort to haul its trains. The economy of the nation hinged upon the railway system. One part of the country grew surplus foodgrains, the other regions wanted it. One part of the nation had access to ports from where crude oil came, the refineries were situated far. Who would be the work horse of the nation. CLW provided the answer. The production of steam locomotives began on January 26, 1950. for a long time, the characteristic chuk-chuk of steam engines reverberated through villages and cities. But India was growing at a pace to which steam engine power was not sufficient. Out rolled the diesel engines in 1968. This factory, located at Chittaranjan, West Bengal, has produced 2351 steam locomotives upto 1974, and 842 diesel locomotives upto 1974, and 842 diesel locomotive upto 1994. The production of electric traction in the country placed new demands for electric engines. Chittaranjan commenced production of electric locomotive in 1961. 2354 engines have already been presented into the natio’s service-both passenger and freight locomotive. The latest in the line are WAG7 and WAP5 types.

The WAP4 passenger locomotive which is already running in major services is of 5000 HP and designed to haul 26 coaches at a maximum speed of 140 kmph. The air brake systems are more safety orient and to improve the riding comfort, the suspension is of primary wheel springs with booasters. More importantly, the sub-systems of this locomotive-body shell, bogies, traction motors and control equipment are being produced in-house.

Diesel Locomotive Works:

Varanasi, the font of Hindu spirituality, holds a peculiar charm for a tourist. The sublime spirituality which is underneath each wave of the holy river Ganges, the rituals conducted by the popular ghats, the sincere belief that is a pyre is lit an Manikaran ghat the dead attain heaven, all make a Varanasi a picture of India’s paradoxical holiness. Unknown to many, here exist a temple of modern technology, producing diesel locomotive for Indian Railways. The first engine was launched in 1964 by Lal Bahadur Shastri.

From a 2% share of components then, the locomotive is nearly indigenous. The DLW manufactures about 150 engines per year, i.e. one locomotive every alternate day. To understand a diesel engine is not difficult it is actually a powerful engine driving a generator which produces electricity. The electricity is utilized to drive motors, which in turn run the loco. The train is so moved. The versatility of the diesel engines is unquestioned-for freight movement or for passenger movement, on Broad-gauge or the remaining Metre and Narrow gauge-it is there everywhere to haul your burdens or you in person.

The magnitude of this silent operation can be imagined from the fact that the complete engine, underframe, superstructure, fabricated bogies, and more than 2,000 components are produced under one roof by 7,700 employees. Probably because of quality in production, the Varanasi locomotive are running in countries like Bangaledesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Tanzania and Vietnam. A recent transfer of technology agreement with M/s. General Motors, USA for 4000 HP microprocessor controlled diesel locomotives, makes DKW unique. No wonder the unit has achieved the coveted ISO 9002 certification in February 1997 for the complete range of manufacturing activities.

Integral Coach Factory: The first five year plan had provisions for establishing the Integral Coach Factory, at Perambur, Madras. In 1955, on Gandhi Jayanti, October 2nd, Jawahar Lal Nehru inaugurated the production. The whole concept of coaches on the railway underwent a change with the coming up of this factory. Most of the earlier coaches were imported and were a wood body could collapse like a matchbox. The integrated design meant that the steel frame of the coach would be shock absorbent. Only the end would crumble with an impact absorbing the force and leaving the rest of the coach intact. It ensured safer travel for many passengers. The factory has so far produced more than 29,000 coaches in about 170 designs. The factory has a tremendous capacity of manufacturing 1000 coaches per annum, ranging from air-conditioned, self-propelled, special type and ordinary sleeper coaches.

The air-conditioned coaches require specialized skills and effort. So do the self-propelled coaches for suburban services in metropolitan cities, the diesel multiple units, Metro coaches, and Electrical multiple units. The double decker special coaches with seats in two levels and the tourist palace type coaches for luxury trains, also roll out from this unit. The kitchen or pantry cars, then the Obscillograph cars used in track maintenance are all given shape here. This unit was the first to get ISO 9001 certification for the entire factory upto September 1999. ICF, has been successful in establish an Indian presence in 11 Afro-Asian countries by export of coaches.

Rail Coach Factory: The existing infrastructure was not enough for the growing expectations of public an demands of Indian Railways so another coach manufacturing factory was set up in 1988 at Karpurthala, Punjab. A workforce of 7,000 turns out over 1,000 coaches per annum. The core competence of this unit lies in the manufacture of air-conditioned and non-AC passenger coaches. About 15 types of coaches have been manufactured by RCF so far. Evolving a totally new shell and bogie design was its prime objective. The first ever AC3 tier coach was built here, which has brought a lot of comfort to traveling passengers. The most appreciable fact about RCF is that designing is done in an advanced Computer Aided Design center. With this, the plant acquires the capability to design coaches with retention toilets, automatic sliding doors, disc brakes, and other equipment.

The manufacturing facilities of this ultra-modern plant include sheet Treatment Plant, CNC Shearing Centre, Cut-to-length line, Cold Roll, Forming Machine, CNC Laser Profile Cutting Machine, CNC Underwater PLASMA cutting machine, CNC Press brakes, Synergic Pulse and Programmable Automated Welding, tunnel type painting etc. the latest feather in the cap of this ISO 9001 factory is the IRY/IR20 coach. The coach provides comfortable riding and has been tested upto 180 kmph in an empty condition. Apart from the look, the axle-mounted disc brakes ensure safer travel.

Diesel Component Works: The DCW at Patiala is a unit of the Railways producing spare parts. One spare part alone may not sound as important, but spare parts indeed keep the machine rolling. The plant is based on sophisticated machine tools technology, incorporating CNC, NC & Logic Control Systems.

The Diesel and Electric loco requirements are met here and the products include complete range of components, re-manufacture of Diesel Electric Locomotives, power packs re-building of engine blocks, cylinder linear, re-manufacture of traction motors, traction generators, carbon brushes for traction machines etc. these spare parts produced under ISO 9002 conditions keep the huge railway system running.

Wheel and Axle Plant: Do what you will, nothing can move unless wheels are placed to a frame. So the Wheel & Axle plant, conceived in 1978, was built with World Bank assistance. Smt. Indira Gandhi inaugurated the plant at Yelahanka, Bangalore on September, 15th 1984.

The plant follows a unique process of cast steel wheel manufacture through controlled pressure pouring. A ladle of molten steel placed in a pouring tank is sealed with an air tight cover. A ceramic tube is at the centre. Into this sealed pouring tank air is forced, which pushes the molten steel up through the tube into a graphite mould positioned above the pouring tube. Molten steel fills up the mould and lo, the railway wheel is cast! 2,000 staff work here to produce 4 wheels an 15 axle types. The factory has a capacity to produce 90,000 wheels and 48,000 axles per year. The turnover of this ISO 9002 plant is approximately Rs.2,300 million per annum. It uses advanced software to encompass the complete range of activities. To say that Yelahanka provides the wheels of progress to a determined nation would not be an exaggeration.

The railway factories are indeed silent pillars to an edifice that stands unique in the world today.