Planning a trip with friends and family has a unique feeling, especially when travelling through the railways. All of us have had those experiences in trains that will remain fragrant in our minds.
Whether it be the thrill of making purchases off local vendors in the train or the games we’ve played during the journey, it all seems unforgettable. Ever wondered what it is like for the drivers of these trains that help us not just make journeys but some very cherished memories?
The role of a railway driver is equivalent to the role of a pilot in an airline. However, there is a difference. These heroes are literally responsible for taking us to different places. On an average, a normal train carries about 500+ passengers, plus various goods as cargo at a time. The responsibility of commuting over 500 people rests on the able shoulder of Train Driver or Loco Pilot who do a an unfailing duty and connect people with places on a daily basis.
How to become a Loco Pilot?
In order to be a Train Driver or Loco Pilot, one must pass certain eligibility criterion, apart from the academic qualification that is required. When a train covers distances between two points there are two drivers on the locomotive who drive it to the destination.
As the Indian Railway is the world’s largest network under a single management, it consists of more than 100,000 train drivers/assistant drivers/guards, which forms the basic functioning team, responsible for Train Operations.
Even though several staff members are employed for the safe transportation of passenger and goods, the engine driver plays the crucial role by executing the most important task. If the engine driver fails to execute his task, the efforts of all other staff members go in vain.
Engine drivers are responsible for halting the train at different stations and reducing the train’s speed in the case of route diversion, following other trains or avoiding early arrival at the station. They are also responsible for controlling the acceleration and braking systems of the train.
Eligibility criteria to become a Loco Pilot
High school: Have to pass from any board
Admission through entrance test
Candidates who have completed their tenth standard (high school) can write the exam conducted for recruiting candidates for the railway engine driver’s post. The age limit specified for such candidates is between eighteen years and thirty years.
Candidates who are applying for the railway engine driver exam should also complete ITI course in any specified trade.
The Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) conducts various exams for recruiting eligible candidates to the different vacancies available in the railway sector. Candidates who want to become a railway engine driver should qualify the concerned exam conducted by the RRB.
Once the training is completed the person is appointed as an Assistant Loco Pilot (Goods). They work on freight trains for as long as 10–12 years. During this tenure, they are supposed to work with experienced Loco Pilots (Train Drivers) and perform only assisting work during the run of a locomotive i.e. a train.
An Assistant Loco Pilot thus learns the tactics and do’s and don’ts required for train operation. Thereafter they are promoted as ‘Loco Pilot Shunter’, after proper courses and practical training, wherein they are supposed to drive locomotives in sheds/yards at not more than 15 km/h speeds.
After experiencing for not less than two years, they are promoted as ‘Loco Pilot (Goods)’, who are always monitored by their respective ‘Loco Inspectors’.
From being a Loco Pilot of Goods trains, they are then promoted to passenger trains. There is also a hierarchy there as in:
- Loco Pilot – Passenger trains (I mean those trains which run between small distances, stopping at every small station)
- Loco Pilot – Express trains
- Loco Pilot – Super fast trains and other High Speed trains like Duronto.
Railway engine driver should possess a good presence of mind to handle various difficult situations. They can complete their task only through patience and discipline. They must also be adaptable to different time schedules, which may vary from all-nighters to early mornings.
Additionally, train drivers should possess good interpersonal skills to interact with their co-workers. Lastly, they should have the immense stamina to drive the train as it requires a lot of hard-work.
A day in the life of a Train Driver
Hello! I’m an loco-pilot and I’m posted in the northern division of the Indian railway Services. The AILRS (All India Loco Running Staff) runs 365 days and 24 x 7. No Diwalis, no Eid, no Christmas, no weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are just normal days for us.
My job keeps me up late at night and wakes me up at odd morning hours; puts me through long hours of straining journeys covering hundreds of kilometers. Every two days, we have to work night shifts.
It can also be very traumatic because railway tracks are the first place people think of going to commit suicide. Sometimes innocent animals also bear the brunt. In India, especially, people treat the tracks very casually.
Children will often play cricket on the tracks, or try to perform stunts. There is often encroachment, slums, and jhuggis near the tracks. It sickens me to think what would happen if the train gets derailed.
But at the end of it, it is about the responsibility of safely transporting hundreds of passengers and goods for the Indian government. Here’s how a day in my life goes by:
6:00 AM: We are starting out modestly late today. I reach the train and start performing basic checks like:
- Reading safety circulars, safety bulletin, technical circulars, driver instruction, caution order, and divisional circulars.
- Reading the caution order carefully in which sectional track work progress with temporary speed restriction is mention.
- Checking the repair book of loco about any remark for any locomotive trouble.
- Checking the oil level (diesel, lube oil, compressor oil in case of a diesel locomotive and transformer oil, GR oil, compressor oil, exhaust-er oil in case of an electric locomotive). This is rechecked from time to time during the run (once about 100 kilometers tentatively).
The train is scheduled for departure at 7:30 am. This journey is beginning from New Delhi to Lucknow and I’ll be helping my senior engine driver through the journey. Loco pilots start from freight trains, and are moved to passenger and express trains after a few years of experience.
9:30 AM: Still here. The fog has us all jammed up. For some passengers, it is really disheartening and even irritating but it is for their own safety that we are not leaving the station.
11:00 AM: Now we are finally on the move. We have had a confirmation from the weather department about the conditions of the day and we’re good to go. Slow and steady wins the race. We receive the signal, and keep a lookout for the next one. Typically, there’s one signal every 1.5 – 2 km.
2:00 PM: We’ve sped up quite a bit and are already a hundred kilometers closer to Lucknow. My senior will now take his lunch break, after which I will.
As the train moves on, I spot a signal covered with clothes hung out to dry. A little ahead, children are busy stealing coal from a stationary freight train. Just a normal part of being a loco-pilot in India.
However, things are still smooth today. A lot of times, the train breaks down, or the signal is defective, we operate the train in consultation with the guard.
4:00 PM: I’ve halted the train for our first big break. 15 minutes and then we shall resume. During the entire journey, we have to constantly maintain an awareness of track conditions and weather conditions.
4:30 PM: This is a big station and we’re still here as there’s a lot of incoming and outgoing traffic. In the winters it is especially as a problem, but we are bound by our principle of safety first.
7:00 PM: We’re through with about 80% of the journey. This has been a run of about 400 kilometers and another hundred remains. The rail-line after this is a pretty clear and so we’re speeding up a little. It’s been a long ride for both our passengers and us.
9:20 PM: We’re making our way into Charbagh, Lucknow junction now. It’s been a tiring journey, especially after that foggy delay. My senior and I are going to rest at the service rest quarters.
Tomorrow I will leave for New Delhi again while my senior leaves for Mathura. Mathura is a great place but as an apprentice, I’m not given a lot many routes to assist on. But someday I shall be Chief Engine driver and go places like my senior currently does. All in the right time.
So this how a typical day in the life of a Train Driver looks like. Do you want to become like me? We hope this article have added something valuable to your research about this profession. Have your say in the comment box below. Enjoy Reading.