Beechwale station bole ruk ruk ruk,
Jaye yahan se , jaye Wahan se,
Dhadak Bhadak, Lohe ki sadak”
Remember this classic song on train sung by veteran actor Ashok Kumar in a Hindi film called ‘Aashirwad’?
Trains have always fascinated me from childhood. I remember them as far as in 1957 when I used to watch the trains called ‘railgadi’ from the windows of my house. The trains were driven by coal engines. ‘Janata express’ and ‘Grant trunk express’ were the trains connecting the then Madras (Chennai) with Delhi. Later on first superfast train was introduced called “Deluxe express”. It was cream in color and we used to watch its speed with amazement.
People with their baggage just used to walk in the train but used to get berth as well as seat without any hassles of prior reservation. Those days people used to carry number of luggage consisting of heavy trunks made of zinc sheet, a ‘Holdal’ for keeping rugs, bed sheets, pillow etc all rolled in to one, big size Tiffin carriers for food & snacks and water in brass vessel (called ‘Kuje Chombu’ in Tamil) as well as in insulated water jug (normally carried by army jawans) and earthen pot called ‘Surahi’ covered with jute mat from outside to keep the inside temperature cool. . All stations had ‘Coolie’ to carry this luggage for a sum. Now, with the ‘travel light’ concept, the breed of ‘coolie’ is slowly vanishing
Water used to be supplied at the station in earthen pots carried on a wooden hand cart and through water taps for which passengers had to run as soon as train stops at a station. The pushy and mighty type of people used to fill all their utensils with water leaving the meeker one to try their luck at the next station. Few trains had the facility of attached ‘Dinning Car’ (A full fledged restaurant on wheel) wherein people used to hop in /hop out for lunch/dinner at each station. Other trains used to stop at a junction during lunch/dinner time for all the passengers to embark, take their meals in restaurant meant for this purpose and the train used to wait till everybody finishes!
During night times, the train guard used carry a lantern in hand with green and red filters over the glass through which he used to signal the driver of the engine to stop or proceed by shaking the lantern left and right. During night times, smaller stations would be lit with kerosene lamp posts and a railway employee would be announcing the name of the station loudly for the traveler’s information.
Being driven by coal engines, those sitting near the windows had to bear the onslaught of coal dust and pieces coming out from the engine furnace at regular intervals. Watching the train taking a round turn at ‘ghat’ sections and inside a tunnel used to be exhilarating experience despite coal dust pricking the eyes. Sometimes there used to be water showers coming from the window on to your face indicating that some body is washing his or her hand after finishing sumptuous food from the next window or compartment!
While sitting near the window, have you ever tried to sing a song along with the sound emanating from the running train? It will appear as if the sound of rails matches with your song- ‘Dhadak bhadak…Lohe ki sadak’! Try it in your next train journey. Slowly with the advent of technology, these coal engines were replaced by diesel or electric engines making them a part of history and museum. Now we are in jet age, bullet trains, metro and mono rails. Railways in our country have come a long way in providing cleaner, comfortable and faster train journey and instant ticketing/ reservation through click of a mouse!. Internationally, China is developing a non stop super train wherein a passenger can get in or get out of the moving train!