I was on the way from Bangalore to Thrissur on the 12677 Bangalore – Ernakulam Intercity Express when this incident happened. I like this train and the journey because the train is fast, sticks to the time table, has only 10 stops, the scenery is excellent and tickets are easy to get. So I had gotten on the train from Carmelaram, a small, quaint but beautiful wayside station (whose existence most people are not even aware of) near the railway gate on Sarjapur Road. We made our way downhill past the lush, rolling Tamil Nadu countryside passing Hosur, Dharmapuri, Salem, and Erode. At Perundurai, the train came to a brief halt, then started moving at extremely low speeds as some track work was going on. We soon picked up speed and reached the next scheduled stop at Tiruppur, where the train halts for one minute.
Not on that day. The train did not budge even after 10 minutes, which is not unusual for trains in India, but this was a high-priority Superfast on an electrified double line track, which is also Southern Railway’s busiest and fastest line. A feeling of something being wrong was confirmed when I saw cops and porters and others running towards the front of the train. I followed them, and a mass of people had assembled near the engine of the train, which sat on the tracks, purring electrically like a huge cat. There were several official looking people, policemen and a doctor down on the tracks, in front of the engine, working on something on the engine. I made my way to the front of the crowd and then I saw it. The body of a woman aged around 30, in a pink nightie, was draped across the front bottom part of the loco, cradled by the pilot/fender (the grill like thing at the bottom most part) and the central coupler of the loco. The woman was dead, but her body was intact, save some superficial injuries. The officials were trying to extract her body from the loco and the crowd stood by silently watching. I do not have any official report of how it happened, but it looks like she had tried to cross the tracks in front of the train when it was moving at a very slow speed, (as the body was intact) but could not make it. The train hit her and she must have died from blunt force trauma. The body clung to the engine and the train traveled carrying it another 50 km till Tiruppur, where the train stopped and officials could remove the body. After 30 minutes of delay, the body was removed and the train and we went on our way.
(P.S: If you are wondering what I was doing down on the tracks there after all my preaching, I asked for permission to get down there and asked in advance if any trains would be coming.)
Well, this is just one in the endless number of rail-hit cases occurring in India on a daily basis. Even if the train is moving at 10 kph, you will be killed if it hits you: it is just Physics. Imagine various moving items hitting you at 10 kph.
- A bicycle: Nothing will happen, especially so if the rider and the bike weigh less than you.
- A motorcycle: You might lose balance, but nothing else.
- A car: You will surely fall down and sustain superficial injuries.
- A bus: You will sustain serious injuries.
- A train: You will be killed on the spot.
Why? Newton’s Laws. The more mass a moving body has, the more energy it has and the more Force will be imparted on a crash. And trains have masses of several thousand tonnes. Which means if a train hits you, several million Newtons of Force (N=Kgm/s2) will be imparted on your body, and, well do I need to explain further?
Every day we hear news of various vehicles getting crushed by trains on level crossings and innumerable deaths of people getting run over by trains. No, we cannot wait at closed railway gates. No, we cannot use foot over bridges to cross tracks. No, we will not look if a train is coming before crossing the tracks. Even if it is coming, we have to cross the tracks, we ‘know’ will surely cross before the train comes. Like the lady in Tiruppur, many people think a slow moving train is like a slow moving car. We refuse to acknowledge the sheer, raw free flowing power of the locomotive, mostly out of ignorance and mostly out of ego, “What can be more important than I am? I know how to deal with this. If that loco hits me, the driver will pay.” No, brother, if that loco hits you, you will be dead and that’s it. There will be no better lesson than the famous YouTube video showing a couple narrowly escaping from being vaporized by a Shadabdi flying past at 150kph. Hell, these kinds of idiots should not be allowed to breed!
Also, to demonstrate the power of a locomotive: A diesel flicking aside a school bus as it was a bug or stick, without as so much as a scratch on itself.
Another one: An Amtrack train punching through and pulverizing an 18 wheeler trailer
I have always been in awe of the sheer power locomotives carry, and know it is best not to mess with them. But every day we see the incredible stupidity of people, despite seeing the train coming, scramble to get to the other side of the tracks. Cutting corners will not get us anywhere, really. But I think it is all in “Indian Culture”, cutting corners is the norm what with so many people and so fewer resources. But, it would be good to remember not to mess with things which are infinitesimally powerful than you are. Like railway locomotives. No matter how big you are, how inflated your ego is, how important you are and no matter how fast your 1 Liter car can go, the train always wins. The train might appear slow in the distance, but it will be upon you by the time you blink and send you to kingdom come. So do not mess with them, You cannot outrun them. When you see a train approaching, what does it take to stay put safely for a few minutes, so that you can live maybe years longer? Does those couple of seconds really matter? No. Stay where you are, you will lose nothing, you will live a full happy life! In fact, we should be happy that trains do not get sentient and one day decides to come off the tracks to rule us. Then we will be really screwed.
Bonus: Then we have heroes like this guy here. If nothing else, imagine all the shit on that track! Yuck.