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Making a train wait

Silhouette illustration of an old steam train at the early morning light crossing a deep ravine.  

We were a family of five living in the small temple town of Tiruvennainallur, connected to the railhead on the Villupuram-Tiruchi chord line. The railhead six km away can be reached by bus. It was the summer vacation of 1950. Father had planned to take us to our grandfather’s village, another temple town 20 km from Vriddhachalam for the holidays.

My grandfather would send a cart to take us from the station to the town. We were all agog with the prospect of a train journey and the fun of seeing the steam loco chugging as it slows down and blows steam. We set off on the bus to catch the train. It was a passenger train at a laughable speed compared with that of the present superfast services. We used to feel that longer the journey the better.

As we were nearing the railhead, we found the train had arrived. We missed some fun seeing it roll down the platform and come to a halt. Had the level crossing been open, we would have been dropped a few yards from the platform. We got down from the bus. Father ran with the trunk, mother followed with two bags, and we children hurried as best as we could. On top of it all, the tickets had to be purchased from the counter manned by the stationmaster himself. He was ready with his green flag and could not see us on the other side of the train. He gave the signal. But he did not get the guard’s green signal response and the train did not move. He must have been worried.

Fortunately for us, the guard in the last compartment with open guardrail had noticed us and in a warm gesture of goodwill on seeing our plight, delayed his signal, giving us time to get into the train. He knew that if we missed this train, we would have to wait for the next day’s train. The stationmaster acknowledged the guard’s action, ran to the counter to issue the tickets and put us on the coach and flagged the train off. As children not caring for the near miss or the hit, we vied with each other for the window seats while our parents heaved a sigh of relief. Our vacation set off with gusto. Looking back, we hope our parents would have thanked the guard and the stationmaster in their own way. Hats off to South Indian Railways as it was known in 1950.

lakshmibashyam@yahoo.com


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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 9:36:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/making-a-train-wait/article34564403.ece

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