These rail enthusiasts’ hobby benefits regular travellers. The member of the IRFCA has pioneered several initiatives for change in the Mumbai locals
Mumbai: Like many other Mumbaikars, you might spot them waiting on platforms for a local train. One fact distinguishes them from others — they do not board the trains, but stay on the platform observing the trains and the crowds.
There may have been complaints that the yellow and maroon local trains are never punctual, but the last direct current (DC) local rake rolled into Kurla station very much on schedule — at 11.30 pm on Saturday.
Hundreds were on their toes peering over each other to catch a glimpse of the train making its last journey to the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on harbour line. The first DC local rake first plied on the same line 91 years ago on February 3, 1925. The nine-coach train ran on 1,500 volts at 80 kmph then.
On Saturday, the last rake was all decked up, decorated with lights and flowers to mark the end of the DC local trains era in the country.
The tickets for the last ride were priced as high as Rs 10,000, with the funds collected set to be given to the drought-hit regions of Maharashtra. But, a source from the JJ School of Architecture who was overlooking the sale of the tickets said not a single ticket was sold.
The Central Railway had organised an elaborate cultural event that saw dance performances by various groups, dhols and bands playing across stations and a flash mob at CST. CR General Manager Sunil Kumar Sood was present at the event. There was an atmosphere of celebration and nostalgia with passengers and ticket collectors cherishing their last ride on this much-loved local train.
Cultural Secretary, Central Railway, Sulekha Doshi said, “This is a historical event for India. DC local trains will stop plying now and we had to make this last ride special for all passengers. The cultural team put in a lot of efforts for the same.”
A lot of people were emotionally attached to this rake. For many, the DC local was their first encounter with trains.
Also present on the occasion was the Mumbai chapter of The Indian Railways Fan Club Association (IRFCA), a group of rail enthusiasts that has more than 5,000 members.
The differentiating factor in the DC local train was highlighted by 35-year-old Nikhil Karunakaran, a part of IRFCA. He said, “I noticed DC local trains for the first time when I was a child and was intrigued by the way they functioned. Since then, I have been travelling by these trains and have a passion for them. The one thing that I will miss the most about this local train is the jerky ride that it assured, unlike the new and smooth running AC rakes, which added to its appeal for me.”
Connected by mobile application WhatsApp, these enthusiasts share information about the Mumbai local trains and visit different stations to explore them.
“Trains are my passion. I like observing and noticing things about the stations and different trains that ply on them. I feel happy that the Central Railway gave us the opportunity to decorate this historic DC local rake since this was the first kind of train that I saw and fell in love with in my childhood,” said Vijay Aravamudhan, another IRFCA member.
Anupam Dongre has been driving DC local rakes for 14 years and was the motorman of this historic train ride. He appeared emotional at the end of the ride. “I feel very fortunate for being a part of this historic moment. I always did my work honestly and the passengers of this train were extremely nice and supportive. This rake did not give me any problem and it has been a great journey till now. I feel sad knowing that I won’t get to see or drive this local train ever again. However, change is inevitable,” he said.
The last ride was followed by live conversion of the line to Alternating Current (AC). The new train started running on Sunday morning.
Speaking about the transition from DC to AC, Narendra Patil, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of Central Railway, said, “The new AC local rake is efficient and fast. It has a voltage of 25,000 and consists of 12 coaches, thus increasing the passenger carrying capacity by 33 per cent. The new rake will also reduce the technical issues that came with the DC local rake as well as the failure rate of the rakes. It will make travelling a lot faster since the AC local rake has a speed of 100 kmph. The number of substations will go down from 15 to 2, which translates into saving of immense amount of energy and space.”
Meet the Mumbai Chapter of the Indian Railways Fan Club (IRFCA), an association of rail enthusiasts connected by an electronic discussion forum. IRFCA was started in 1989 in the US as a mailing list of nine members and has grown over the years with over 8,000 members worldwide now. It describes itself as a hobby group that dwells on all aspects of the Indian Railways.
Vijay Aravamudhan, 32, is a resident of Dombivli and works as an internal auditor at Axis Bank. The member of the IRFCA has pioneered several initiatives for change in the Mumbai locals. “The Mumbai Chapter consists of around 150 members of the total active membership of more than 5000 people of the IRFCA. We are the people who have grown up with the Mumbai locals and feel attached to it. We meet often to discuss various aspects of locals and go on ‘railfanning’ trips to further our knowledge about the same,” he said.
His passion for Mumbai locals got him and two other rail enthusiasts together to work on making a database of all local trains in the city since 2011. They sit for hours on the station observing the trains and noting down numbers of the trains, their types and even numbers of the coaches. The database is so exhaustive, and accurate that even the railway authorities seek their help in difficulties.
Vijay was also involved in convincing the head of the engineering department of the railways to change the colour of the locals of the Central Railway from dull red to the new color scheme of cream and navy blue. Although it required months of follow up, he said commuters preferred bright and fresh colors and were very happy with the changes. “We take photos of any problems with the locals such as lights, fans, ventilation issues, and send these pictures to the carshed heads along with the coach numbers. Then the railway authorities work on flaws we point out. We do this to make the exhausting travel of thousands of commuters a little more pleasant,” he said.