City students' model could have averted Matsyagandha tragedy?

HYDERABAD, JUNE 17. The news about the Matsyagandha Express derailment left the two school students P. Upender and P. Uday Sagar, deeply distressed.

For the two 10th standard students of Mahbub College High School, had developed a prize winning science model to prevent rail disasters. Their exhibit -- Innovative Devices to Prevent Rail Disasters -- won the first prize at the district, State and the Southern India Science Fair-2004. And they believe that had the Railway authorities developed their model and installed it along the rail tracks, the accident could have been averted.

It was the train disaster in the Konkan railway region last year that prompted the youngsters to select the theme for the district-level science fair. Their exhibit won the first prize there and went on to bag the first prize at the State and Southern India Science Fair. They are now all set to exhibit their model at the National Level Science Fair at Delhi in September.

Sons of carpenters and living in Addagutta slum, the school lads developed and worked on their model with guidance from their science teacher, T. Charles Studd. "If only the railway authorities had put our model on trial, perhaps so many lives would not have been lost," they lament.

The exhibit developed by them has three devices -- rail sabotage detector, landslide indicator and mechanised salvage operation unit.

They explain that the rail sabotage detector has an alarm unit placed at two railway stations and is connected to optic fibre tubes which run along two tracks. The tubes in turn are connected to pressurised balloons in the alarm unit. When a track is cut or blown off, the communication between two stations stops and the air inside the tubes escapes and the balloon deflates, triggering the alarm and alerting the authorities to stop the train, they explain.

The landslide indicator consists of hard glass tube railing put near the track at a height of 3 ft. They in turn are connected to the alarm unit at the station. When a landslide occurs in the mountain sections, the rocks and boulders would first fall on the glass tube breaking it and thus triggering the alarm. The mechanised salvage operation unit, a self-propelled one working with pneumatic pressure has units to punch, cut and clear any obstruction from the track and cut open the bogies to rescue passengers in no time.

As the Matsyagandha Express derailment was because the train ran into the boulders that fell on the track, "Our device would have given an alarm, the train would have been stopped, averting a major mishap," they rue.

A local railway equipment-manufacturing unit evinced interest in their device, they reveal. But what they fervently hope is the railway officials would try out their model and further develop it to prevent such train disasters in future.

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