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Rolling ahead with the times

By Shivendra Kumar
and R. Sriraman

Inside the Deccan Odyssey train

The Integral Coach Factory (ICF), celebrating its golden jubilee year, is a premier coach-building unit of the Indian Railways. It was set up in 1955 with Swiss collaboration to build integral passenger coaches of all welded steel design.

The original collaboration was only for third class general coaches with speeds up to 100 kilometres per hour (kmph). Starting small by producing 175 shells of a single design, the ICF has now developed capacity and capability to manufacture over 1,000 coaches a year. The business now covers design, development, manufacture, testing and supply of various types of coaches to cater to national and international needs.

The ICF has so far manufactured and supplied around 35,000 coaches. It now manufactures coaches of 250 different designs for three different gauges, and with increased speed potential.

A full-fledged design and development centre, equipped with the latest workstations for computer-aided design and drafting, has been provided for designing coaches to suit customer requirements in areas such as technical features, internal layouts and auxiliary equipment. New designs are generally evolved by finite element analysis using IDEA software and are checked with exhaustive 3-D modelling.

The product range includes air-conditioned first class cabin cars, two-tier and three-tier sleeper cars, executive and economy chair cars, luxury tourist trains such as the Palace-on-Wheels and the Deccan Odyssey and pantry/dining cars. The non-air-conditioned coaches include first class cabin cars, three-tier sleeper cars, general second-class coaches, day coaches, luggage and brake vans and power cars.

Quality assurance

The ICF's quality control/inspection department is well equipped and supported by laboratories containing the most modern machines and equipment. The wing ensures product quality with checks at all stages of manufacture, right from the raw material inputs.

Through research and development efforts, a number of new designs have been developed in the recent past. The diesel-electric multiple unit (DEMU) consists of one driving power car, one trailer car and one driving trailer car. It has a carrying capacity of over 750 passengers and is powered by a 700 horsepower (HP) engine. A more powerful version, having a formation of one power car and three trailer cars and designed for higher acceleration, has a carrying capacity of over 1,150 passengers and is powered by a 1,400 HP engine.

The diesel-electric tower cars are meant for inspection and maintenance of overhead traction equipment. Each car has an electronic load control module for optimum operational efficiency and a compact workshop with all facilities to attend to onsite maintenance and breakdown.

There are accident relief medical vans and tool vans, which are self-propelled coach sets consisting of one power car-cum-tool van and one air-conditioned medical van. The power car supplies the required power for traction and other electrical appliances, while the medical van houses a fully equipped operation theatre with surgical and life-sustaining equipment and a ward with 12 beds. These vans make it possible to provide on-rail medical relief at remote places and at accident sites.

The specially-designed coaches for multi-model transport system incorporate several new features such as a single big windscreen made of shatter-proof, scratch-resistant polycarbonate sheet, an economically-designed drivers' cab with pre-fabricated fibre-reinforced plastic desk for the driver, sidewall panels and a ceiling of stainless steel, moulded polyurethane foam cushioned seats and light-weight FRP (fibreglass reinforced plastic) partitions at doorways.

Luxury coaches

Coaches for the Jan Shatabdi Express trains are the latest in the line of specially-built coaches. These trains have a speed potential of 120 kmph and provide luxury and comfort similar to the Shatabdi Express trains. In the air-conditioned coaches, the chairs are upholstered with fire-retardant fabric and the backrests have gas-operated reclining mechanism for better control on the seating position and aesthetically looking FRP modular toilets.

Luxury coaches were specially designed and custom-built for the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, which had decided to run a luxury train on a tourist circuit to cater to both domestic and foreign tourists. The formation contains a fully air-conditioned cabin car, a conference car, a restaurant car, a suite car, a bar car and a gym/yoga/health car.

The manufacture of stainless steel coaches has also been taken up to tide over the corrosion problem associated with mild steel-bodied coaches. Two prototype air-conditioned coaches, completely made of steel, have already been turned out and three more are under production for the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation.

Due to a planned change over from DC traction to AC traction in the Mumbai region, EMUs capable of running under both AC and DC are now being manufactured.

Latest designs

The diesel multiple units with aerodynamic front end, a prototype power car with aerodynamic profiling for conserving energy by reducing wind resistance, has been developed for the first time in India. Here, the driving end of the power car has been modified to provide aerodynamically streamlined profile; the entire front end along with the drivers' cab and desk has been made of FRP and of modular design; and the front end is also designed to be crashworthy to absorb impact energy in the event of an accident.

The self-propelled accident relief van consists of an AC medical van, a supervisory van and a tool van. It is capable of running at 140 kmph to reach the accident spot quickly for providing medical relief and rescue.

The self-propelled ultrasonic rail-testing car is another latest design. It has a self-propelled car for ultrasonic testing with special features and facilities for detecting cracks in rails using equipment to be supplied by M/s Scanmasters of Israel.

Recently, designs for prototype standard gauge bogies for Sky Buses of the Konkan Railway Corporation Limited have been developed.

Export potential

The ICF has made a mark in the export arena against stiff international competition from more advanced countries and has exported 359 bogies and 425 coaches to Thailand, Myanmar, Taiwan, Zambia, Philippines, Uganda, Nigeria, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Tanzania. A contract for supply of 11 metre gauge AC chair cars for the Malaysian Railways was recently secured and supplied.

(Shivendra Kumar is the General Manager, ICF, and R. Sriraman is CDE, Mech, ICF.)

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