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Memories6

Some Memories..
Prakash Tendulkar

 

Here is the eye-witness report of accident at Vasai between 17 Dn and EMU.

Total six signals make a route between Naigaon and Vasai. They are:
Naigaon Starter
Naigaon Advanced Starter
A signal after Umela Village
Vasai Outer signal
Vasai Home signal
Vasai starter

All signals except Vasai outer, home and starter are auto signals.

On that fateful Saturday, the signal after Umela village had a "blown" red aspect. Except for a brief period when train is occupying the track, this auto signal that would normally be green or yellow depending upon the track occupancy or aspect of Vasai outer signal. It was hard to detect or notice the blown red aspect of this signal.

M/man Kulkarni (later CLI at MCT) noticed this blown red aspect in the morning when he was following Saurashtra Express that had stopped at Vasai outer .

Kulkarni made an oral report to Vasai SM and later filed written report upon reaching CCG. Somehow, this report fail through cracks and no timely action was taken to rectify the defect.

Little did Kulkarni know that his written report would become a legal document. For him, at that moment, it was a mere formality.

Almost all mail/express/freight drivers on WR are accustomed to outer/home/starter/advanced starter set up because all their territory except some 30 miles between Mumbai Central and Virar have more signals than this set up.

To test this theory, WR authorities actually blew up this signal of all three aspects one day. They found that all but one train hauled by loco did not stop at this signal or noticed the blown aspect. On the other hand, every EMU stopped at this signal that day.

The same day, in late evening, Driver Martin, working his 17 down, passed green Naigaon home which is semi-auto. The track after old Vasai north bridge finishes left hand curve at this point. The sun was low on the horizon, the west being on his left where signals are located at this stretch. He raised the window shutter to reduce sun's glare into his eyes. His assistant left for the rear cab.

Moments later, he passed double yellow starter signal at Naigaon. He moved the master controller to zero, expecting to coast for a while or may be some light application of brakes.

After passing the single yellow advanced starter, he tapped his horn to signal his buddy Sudhakar R who lived at Umela village indicating "Howdy". Sudhakar was not at home, but his wife noticed the familiar notes.

Martin did not notice the blown signal. All he saw was red signal, Vasai outer.

The guard of EMU, Mr.Karva, saw an express train. He had his friend, an unauthorized person, in his cab. His train was waiting for Vasai outer to change red aspect into favorable aspect.

For the reasons unknown, he decided to alert incoming express train and make his presence known. He knew that his red tail end lamp is sometimes hard to see when sun is setting on the west. So he decided to use headlight.

The problem was, headlight and taillight were controlled by the same switch; it meant either headlight or taillight but not the both. The guard turned the headlight on and off several times.

Those days, there was not much of the development on east side of tracks. Except few railway quarters, a traction substation and substation of Vasai Electric Supply Company, it was a salty marshland. There was a gravel road that went to Umela Magnesia, a salt mining company.

Driver Sudhakar, myself and few friends had gathered at out favorite spot on this road, south of Vasai outer signal as usual. Sudhakar knew Martin was working this rake and it was confirmed by Martin's tapping of horn at Umela. There was a 30 feet wide salt water ditch that separated us from tracks.

When we saw the flashing headlight, we thought it was an on coming EMU towards CCG, possibly driven by a M/man who came from locos, trying the wave Martin. No, it cannot be, unless it is on the wrong tracks.

Martin saw the flashing headlight and thought the same as we did. M/men Ghanshani, Ashok Jadhav, Balwant Singh, Sampooran Singh and many others came from loco crew and traditionally waved their old buddies by flashing headlights. It was life as usual.

Martin failed to notice that this on-coming train was on the same track that he was driving on.

As he was applying brakes lightly, the Vasai outer changed its' aspect and became yellow.

The motorman of the EMU started his rake as Martin was narrowing the gap between him and EMU.

The guard of EMU noticed the same and was very much concerned about his own safety. That was a human reaction. Guard is supposed to protect his rake but there is no one to protect him from such accidents.

He applied emergency brakes and when rake stopped, he and his friend jumped from the cab.

Martin realized his mistake when he was running at approximately 40 km/h and just couple of hundred feet from EMU.

He applied emergency brakes, too. The rake was vacuum braked so response was far slower.

He banged the EMU by approximately 20 km/h.

Had the EMU not been braked, it would have been something like a heavy jolt. Had it been moving at say 10 15 km/h. it would have been a mild jolt.

However, because all the wheels had brakes applied to them, three fourth of the last coach telescoped into the motor coach ahead. The RPC (Resistance Power Control) of this motor coach was on CCG side. All the female passengers trapped here were electrocuted.

Sudhakar and I jumped on my Lambretta and raced towards the disaster site. The first thing we did was to take driver Martin to Station Master's home. It was a split second decision to save him from angry mob at Vasai.

Martin was suspended. The enquiry dragged on and he died within a year.

The verdict came out after his death, "Martin is guilty". The poor soul may have shifted in his grave.

IMHO, Signal department (25% blame), guard (30% blame) and Martin (45% blame) shared the responsibility of this tragedy.

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