September 16, 2008

Railway Jargon - 1

Its about time that something related to the railways pops up at this blog. So here's a small list of technical terms used by the Indian Railways and what they mean to the common man. And the woman.

Slack / Buffer Time: To increase the punctuality of long distance trains (on paper), some extra slack or buffer time is built into the train's schedule towards the end of its journey and at zonal changeover points. So, if you are travelling to Mumbai and wondering if Kalyan, which is very much a part of the city- is actually a 2 hour ride from VT, then breathe easy. It is only an hours run plus another hour of slack time. If you have taken the Konark Express from Mumbai to Secunderabad and are wondering why the train has reached half an hour early at Wadi, then it is because there is an hour's slack time between Gulbarga and Wadi. The same train on paper takes 50minutes to cover a 4km distance between Begumpet and Secunderabad !

Technical Halt: You thought that the Sampark Kranti express had very limited halts. But it keeps halting every couple of hundred kilometres or so. At some or the other station. Well, these are probably technical halts which are not reflected in the passenger time tables. These halts are meant for operational reasons like crew change, loco change, watering, catering arrangements, etc. So, even though the Sampoorna Kranti Express between Delhi and Patna is time-tabled as a non-stop train, it does have technical halts at Kanpur and Mughalsarai.

Speed Restrictions: Many a times when the train runs slow, we start grumbling and blaming the driver (loco pilot) calling him an oldie or whatever for driving extremely slowly. Be rest assured that it is not his fault. Every driver taking charge of a train gets a sheet of paper in his hands with details of restrictions in speed. Technically called as Caution Order, this sheet has instructions to the driver to drive at a particular speed in a section. There might be permanent speed restrictions due to level crossings, stations, large curvatures, etc or there might be temporary ones due to track repair work or trackside renewal works or even a river flowing dangerously under a bridge. Speeds get slower once the train enters the city limits of any small or big town due to people crossing tracks haphazardly. So next time if the train is running slowly, its not really ideal to blame the driver.

Alarm Chain Pulling: All coaches of trains have chains which when pulled release the pressure in the air brake pipes which make the train stop. This is common for a lot of day time trains with many general/unreserved coaches. Mostly this happens as soon as the train starts and picking up speed and late comers having the chain pulled to stop the train. One way you can identify if the train has stopped due to an ACP is the subsequent sounding of a special horn tone. It goes Toot - Toot- Toooooooot, Toot - Toot - Toooooooot !!

Chargeable Distance: Most fares on the railway network are calculated based on the distance travelled on the tracks. However, on certain sections, the Railways charge more than they should for the stipulated distance. Since the fare structure is uniform for a distance, Railways have factored in an inflation in the distance between two places to the tune of around 40%. So basically, for a 100km section, they charge fare equivalent to that of 140kms. Even the time tables show the distance as 140 and not the actual one. This is done to offset the cost of construction of lines in sections that have difficult terrains like ghat sections. The entire Konkan Railway network kilometreage is inflated by 40%. Even sections like the Bangalore- Dharmavaram section is inflated. Railways have the permission to inflate the distance for 15 years from the date of commisioning of the route. This is only on a few selected routes.

Slip Coach: These are coaches attached/ detached at an intermediate station to be hauled to a destination other than the main trains'. For example, the 7603 Kacheguda-Yeswantpur Express has 4 slip coaches which get cut off at Guntakal and are attached to the Howrah-Vasco Amaravati express and head towards Goa. This helps in giving connectivity to Goa from Kacheguda(in Hyderabad) as there is no other dedicated train between the two places. Similarly the 1405 Manmad-Kakinada Shirdi express has 5 slip coaches which are attached/ detached at Vijayawada and head to Visakhapatnam hauled by the Tirupati-Puri/Bilaspur expresses.

I guess that should be enough for the post, so that any symptoms of indigestion are avoided ;) More for a latter post..


  1. Yup... I grumbllle a lot for slow moving train :))

    and chain pulling sound...yups heard many a times ...

    and that halt... I thot each time that its due to some mischiveous people pulling chian :PP

  2. This is something for everyone :)

    Although people gruble a lot when the trains move slowly, I sometimes like letting a loco coast at idle.. if I were an LP. You can hang out the cab door and watch the surroundings move slowly past, and people look up at the beast.. of course if it's an ALCo its a bonus as the idle tone adds to the punch! But maybe it's just me, though :D

  3. slip coach was something new to me..
    a train aficianado, i love travelling by trains..!!especially those long journey ones..!!


  4. bery bery informative...thankyou bery much :D

  5. wah wah!!!! cool info dude!!!!

    is der any trivia tht i can hav on the southern railways next time???

  6. @ Chaks

    Now u dont grumble.. ok!

  7. @ Sriram

    Of course an Alco feels wonderful.. I'm still a fan of the Wireless technology!

  8. @ Vinz

    Great to see that the post was of use to you. Have fun!

  9. @ Pras

    Thanx.. this info holds good for all regions.. but will have something on SR next time around.

  10. Hey that was nice

    How about explaining all the terms mentioned here-

    to the "dumb" non-railfans? ;-)

    PS: Oh btw visiting your blog for the first time, this is a railfan from Mumbai whom you have met at CNB 2008.

  11. hmm... nice info! will have to include in 'trains at a glance'.. :)

  12. Cool stuff.. have heard these terms often and over time managed to learn about em...

    the one thing that fascinates me these days is when i travel by Cauvery express/Blore Express/Madras Express.. returning from blore to Chennai, the train pulls into Blore station, engines seperates, attaches 5coaches, comes back to the train, attaches to the main and we leave...awesome stuff!!!

  13. bhai.. thanks a lot, and please start a new blog for the Railways... laloo too will feel oblized with ur gyan on the subject!! :D :D


  14. Yeyy! i was waiting for such a post to come. :)

  15. Does Lalloo mama pay you?

    Sach batao ;)

  16. Hi Vrij,

    Reaaly interesting facts that you have put..but seriously going by the popular notion how much are you paid to write abt railways!... lol :P

  17. @ Karan

    Thats a cool list u have put there.. may the sequel to this post should use that!

  18. @ Aaarti

    As far as I know, only the Cauvery express which comes from Mysore gets additional coaches, plus a Diesel > electric loco change. I dont think any coaches are added to other expresses.

  19. @ Ankur

    No need of a separate blog.. there is a full website dedicated to a whole lot more info than this..

  20. @ Ria

    Thanx.. hope u liked it :)

  21. @ Preeti

    Nahin yaar.. not a single naya paisa :(

  22. @ Nidhi

    Thanx.. but as I said.. no monetary gain at all!

  23. Hey Vrij!!

    Ohh, okay...cos the times i've travelled on it, they've added 5coaches in Blore station.. A2, B2, S12,13 n 14...maybe they are the additional coaches u've mentioned!!

    All well at ur end? not to be seen around in couple of days....

  24. hey.. I added a little question to my last post.. after u commented