Karnataka

Unsung heroes who guard treacherous rail routes

On the job: Night watchmen can be spotted during daytime too on the Sakleshpur–Subrahmanya Road Ghat stretch of Hassan–Mangaluru railway line.

On the job: Night watchmen can be spotted during daytime too on the Sakleshpur–Subrahmanya Road Ghat stretch of Hassan–Mangaluru railway line.   | Photo Credit: Anil Kumar Sastry

Watchmen, track-maintainers keep vigil round the clock as the region is susceptible to landslips

A traveller on an overnight train through the thick forests in mountain regions is often startled by long whistles at regular intervals as the train traverses the winding tracks.

Those blowing the whistle are the unsung heroes of the Indian Railways — night watchmen, who are stationed at vulnerable locations, besides track-men. Their role has become particularly crucial with the mountainous stretches witnessing landslips this monsoon.

Night watchmen can be spotted during daytime too on the Sakleshpur–Subrahmanya Road Ghat stretch of Hassan–Mangaluru railway line under Mysuru Division of South Western Railway (SWR). This stretch has become prone to multiple landslips since August last year following very heavy rain in the region, which calls for round-the-clock monitoring.

At least 200 men work at any given time on this 55-km ghat section to ensure passenger safety. The section has 57 tunnels — the longest being tunnel no. 11 (600 m) — and 280 bridges — minor as well as major — and had witnessed over 60 landslips last year and this year as well.

Mysuru Division has identified about 45 vulnerable locations on the stretch (that keep changing) and two watchmen each have been posted round the clock, said a senior engineer.

They are provided temporary sheds and travel either by motor trolley or trams. Four track maintainers each patrol a 5-km stretch of the track regularly. Besides, a gang of 12 workers is stationed for every 5 km to attend to landslips, and five enroute stations too have men under a supervisor cadre official.

In addition, passenger trains are provided an escort where a senior official would be doing foot-plating [travelling in the locomotive] to ensure absolute safety, the engineer explained. With walkie-talkie and mobile phones provided to these personnel, any obstruction is communicated to higher officials within 10 minutes.

Mysuru Divisional Manager Aparna Garg told The Hindu that additional watchmen were being posted since last year and were provided special huts. They are paid a little more than the minimum wages and are provided basic things such as torch, raincoat, and ration.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:11:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/unsung-heroes-who-guard-treacherous-rail-routes/article29316976.ece

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