Drunken 47-year-old walks away with motorman’s bag from Tambaram station

The government railway police (GRP) have launched a massive search for a bunch of keys used to operate suburban electric trains as well as a box of detonators that went missing after a 45-year-old man walked away with a suitcase belonging to a motorman, in the early hours on Monday.

The detonators are used to warn trains to stop in the event of an accident, and cannot be used for anything else, officials said.

On Sunday, S.K. Eswaramurthy (47) a senior motorman at the Tambaram station, finished his shift and left for home, leaving his suitcase behind at the station master’s room on platform No. 1 at 9.30 p.m.

 The suitcase contained his personal kit, including the keys, detonators and various documents. He returned to work on Monday at 8.30 a.m. to find his suitcase missing. He alerted his colleagues as well as the station guards and lodged a complaint with the GRP, Tambaram.

Since he did not have his personal kit, he was unable to work. However, train services were not affected.

When the police went through surveillance footage from the CCTV cameras at the station, they saw a man enter the station master’s room and walk away with a suitcase on his shoulders at 1.50 a.m. on Monday.

The police put out an alert and officials at all stations between Tambaram and Tirunelveli were asked to be on the lookout.  

Meanwhile, GRP personnel at Dindigul station heard about a stranger who had locked himself inside the toilet in the unreserved compartment on board Vaigai Express. The police managed to bring the man out and detained him. He was later identified as S. Ramesh (47) of Kadaperi, Tambaram. However, Ramesh did not have the suitcase with him. He was brought to Tambaram on Tuesday morning.

At Tambaram, police questioned Ramesh and learnt that he had been drunk when he stole the suitcase. He had opened it and transferred some of the contents — documents, a torch and a mobile phone — into a plastic bag, and dumped the suitcase. While the contents of the plastic bag were recovered, the keys, detonators and a fuse were missing.

Officials said there were 10 detonators, packed in a box. The fuse is a flare or fog signal that can burn for a few minutes even during the rains.

The documents included Eswaramurthy’s competency certificate, guide books and operation instructions, all of which were intact.

 According to GRP personnel, after Ramesh stole the suitcase, he took a bus to Chengalpattu from where he boarded the Vaigai Express a little after 2 p.m. on Monday.

Railway officials said the station master’s room was kept open around-the-clock as all the motormen and guards left their suitcases there after work, and picked them up the next morning. Lockers were available, but they were not enough.

An official said that finding the keys was essential, as in April 2009, a man who had access to multiple train keys started an electric train which collided with a goods train at Vyasarpadi Jiva railway station, resulting in the death of four people and injuring more than a dozen others.

Southern Railway needed to arrange for secure lockers for all railway employees immediately to prevent such incidents, he added.

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