One of the oldest public sector services which still functions at full capacity is the Indian Railways. It has been around since the mid-1800s and since then has seen relative ups and downs in its lifespan. Despite all the setbacks and obstacles, the railways are one of the most widely used transportation systems in the country. Annually the IR ferries over eight billion passengers and carries nearly a billion tonnes of freight. It also happens to be the eighth largest employer in the world, with nearly a million operative under its command. It also is split into 17 zones for easier command and operation. The vastness of India makes it hard for the IR to run the system efficiently; hence, the zones are of massive help.
Like any big organization, it has many moving parts, figuratively and literally. The employees and the railways’ staff make up the human part of it and the rolling stock makes up the machinery part. The rolling stock is basically all the vehicles that move on a railway track. The said vehicles are:
- Locomotives: In India the majority of the locomotives are electric and diesel, along with a few CNG (compressed natural gas) locomotives. Older steam locos are no longer in use, except for in heritage trains. Locos in India are classified based on their gauge, motive power, the work they are used for and their power or model number. The first number denotes their track gauge, the second letter denotes whether the loco is a diesel or electric, and the third their suitable traffic which is goods, passenger, multi or shunting. The last number denotes the loco’s chronological model number. A new fourth letter was introduced which indicates a diesel loco’s horsepower. Sometimes a fifth letter is added which denotes a technical variant, subtype or subclass. In the newer diesel loco variant, the fifth letter is indicative of an increase in horsepower.
- Goods Wagon: The IR fleet of goods wagon is massive; nearly 280000 wagons are a part of it, which ferries around 1.1 billion tonnes every year. The IR has huge requirements for goods wagons, which is manufactured by both public and private sector, under an administrative control of the Ministry of Railways.
- Passenger Coaches: IR uses two primary types of coach designs. ICF coaches which have been in production since 1955 till 2018 constitute the majority of the current stock. These coaches do not often meet safety standards and are slowly being phased out. Newer LHB coaches that were built from the mid-1990s till today are being introduced gradually. These coaches that are lighter and safer can run at speed of up to 160km/hr. There are plans to introduce a new self-propelling train set designs, to be used in long-distance journeys. On suburban routes, the IR uses EMUs, of which there are over 9000 in existence.
Technological advancement has helped push the locomotives into the future, equipping it with features and tracking systems like Indian railway live status and expected arrival and departure times.