105-yr-old rail ticket press stops printing

Over a century-old railway ticket printing factory (press) in the City has been finally shut down, thanks to authorities concerned who eventually bowed to the diktat of the Railway Board.

The press had heritage value for having been in existence from the period of the erstwhile Wadiyars (1908 — going by the year engraved on the machine along with the name of its manufacturer Waterlow and Sons, London). Its future was in haze, ever since the Board passed an order for closure in 2008.

Sources told that production at the press was suspended on March 1. A total of five machines that had been installed in phases ever since its inception on the ground floor of the office of the Divisional Railway Manager 105 years ago were dismantled and shifted to the store room on the premises of the divisional railway workshop, South Western Railway (SWR) at Ashokapuram.

When the proposal was mooted by the Board, a review committee constituted to look into the same had seconded the Board’s recommendations. However, the then Lok Sabha member from Mysore C H Vijayashankar and his Chamarajanagar counterpart Shivanna wrote to the Board, asking it to revoke the decision.

The press, which was the only such facility in existence in SWR limits among 11 across the nation, was printing Edmondson tickets (brown coloured card tickets) issued for halt stations (short distance travelling) in Mysore, Bangalore, Palghat and Madras divisions, totalling up to 300. For the first three cities mentioned, the tickets were printed in Kannada and for Madras, it was in Telugu.

The machines had the capacity to print 4,000 tickets per hour. On an average eight lakh tickets were printed every month. Now, the printing press at Trichy, which has been printing tickets in Tamil and Malayalam, has been entrusted with the additional task of catering to the load of the Mysore press.

Following the advent of computerised tickets, the Board had decided to get rid of the existing system by closing six presses in two stages. In the first stage (by March 2010), it had been decided to close the units at Jodhpur, coming under North Western Railway-NWR, and Mysore and the workload to be shifted to a similar facility at Ajmer (NWR) and Trichy (Southern Railway-SR), respectively.

In the second stage (by March 2013), the presses at Garden Reach, Kolkata, South Eastern Railway, Gorakhpur, North Eastern Railway, Kurseong, North Frontier Railway and Ajmer were to be closed.

In the Mysore press, there were nine employees: a supervisor and eight skilled workers. Taking cognisance of the grim future of the workers, the Nairuthya Railway Mazdoor Sangha had taken up the issue with the Board and had succeeded in getting alternative arrangements made (even though the press was still functioning), by procuring a digital copier machine worth Rs 10 lakh.

It was intended to print in-house books and forms, thus ensuring work for the employees. The SWR authorities had told the Board that they would rehabilitate the press workers by continuing to print books and forms after suspending printing of tickets.

Now, the authorities at SWR have allegedly reneged on the promise by keeping the digital facility too defunct. As a result, the workers are waiting for alternative jobs according to their cadre at the office of the deputy materials manager at the workshop.

When Mysore, Bangalore and Trichy were a part of SR, there were two ticket printing presses (Mysore and Trichy). A general printing press was also located in Trichy. After bifurcation, Mysore and Bangalore came under SWR and Trichy remained with SR.