Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Loquacious Locomotives

These metallic juggernauts are often referred to as ladies because they usually arrive with a lot of noise and also leave equally noisy. Also, since these rugged looking chain of bogeys have a lot to say and they do speak a lot edging on being quite often loquacious just like our beloved ladies who do not seem to know when to apply the brakes to their ever wagging tongues. No offense to either the ladies or the locomotives since we keep both of them very close to our hearts. 

The trains  are a world within themselves. There are so many people travelling on any given  train to constitute the populace of a small English county or to fill a medium sized football stadium. There are new born infants to ripe old granddads and grandmums in this chugging and belching village / county on wheels. 

Ever since James Watt invented the humble steam engine, the locomotives have changed our perception of mass transit systems. Her rumble and ramblings made way through titanic boulders resting on majestic mountain ranges, through cities and villages, deserts and even permafrost. She assisted their masters conquer territories and make colonies out of them and add subjects to their empire. 

She, has a lot to tell us all. She has stood along more than a century of human history and circled the earth more than once. If we imagine her as a fuel guzzling and smoke belching beast of labor with an intelligence of a horse or an ox, then we can very well imagine and grow ears to the numerous stories she has to tell us. 

The Trans Alpine
She knows no fatigue as she chugs through the scorching sun of the desert, the strong winds of the river side and the shivering cold of the snow clad mountains while the hundreds of men, women and children rest in her serpentine belly unmindful of all this. 

A royal saloon car
The locomotives were the symbol of great pride for royalties of yore when the king's, queen's & the prince / princess's saloons rolled on steel rails through the villages and towns of their kingdom greeted by cheering subjects. She eavesdropped on violet tinted conversations, surreptitious schemes discussed by generals & ministers with their kings and passing of royal sweet nothings in the mobile harem. 

The parallel & seamless bars of solid forged steel that run across miles and yet never  meet each other carry the heavy burden of a small world rushing past towards its destination. The toughened wheels of the locomotive eating away steel itself during one of its many superb runs. 

A Japanese Maglev train
The Caucasian (indicating Europe) railways have always been a notch superior when compared with its rustic earthen relatives such as the Asian and African (of course both of British origin) and very unarguably still is. The western world had the fastest sprinters who ran the longest distances. The far east and the mystic orient have now caught up with great style and panache and have runners that do not even touch the rails below (Maglev). 

Kaiser Willhelm II's troops with artillery on a light
locomotive enroute to the western front
Not always these gentle giants have been enjoying the good side of humanity. They have been witness to the mind chilling experiments of zealots and tyrants who exploited this icon of progress to mobilize thousands of their gun totting minions to scourge the countryside of its earthen charm. Its endurance translated its widened employment in affairs of the violent types such as wars. The locomotives were widely used in the two great wars by pioneers of this earth shattering technology. 

She was a mute and helpless accomplice in the Third Reich's satanic plans of a Jew free world when scores of innocents were moved in cattle containers to notorious concentration camps such Auchwitz. 

She became an unwilling partner when our great nation was split in two due to the different  names of our Gods. With great effort it carried millions across borders. 

Coal Wagon
Just like us flesh and blood humans, the locomotive is also classified based on her caste and creed. There are the commercial locomotives which enjoy the luxury of plush upholstery sewn into its oak wood pews and chairs, the noisy rickety trams that slowly push past the traffic infested roads of metropolises, the athletic super fast trains that compete with the Wright brothers' invention kissing the skies, the modern day metros that travel in the clouds and circle the city-scape again and again and the locomotive's poor cousin the freight carriers which are the lowest ranked carrying dusty coal to fire breathing boilers in industries, cattle and other beasts that drop dung by the minute, even chunks of mother earth herself embedded with precious metals & minerals. 

In India, the British introduced the railways and expanded its network with much enthusiasm. Call it British impudence, they spread its reach to many places in India that were previously unheard of as the white man was so cocky sure about his everlasting rule over this temperate paradise. This was one of the good things that the Brits did for us Indians and we have gained a lot from these common man's wheels. While she had remained silent when the nation stepped back into the dark ages slaughtering their brothers and sisters on the basis of their names, she sang and danced when she was the chosen ambassador of peace and chugged across the frontier holding out the proverbial olive branch. For the unfamiliar this is the reference to India's peace initiative 'Samjhauta Express'. 

She has been widely ignored and undernourished in this fast growing nation and has often bore the brunt due to the ineptitude of men in charge of her. Chinks in her security armor have often resulted in grave injuries to her body and soul. 

Despite these obvious shortcomings, there is a certain enchantment about her which is why she has been successful in attracting people in droves to be part of her circuitous journey through the vast expanse of the country. She is a messiah for the country's millions of poor and gives them a fighting chance to survive and even surpass the seemingly insurmountable situations in life. 

The humble locomotive has been a force to reckon with in India's growth saga and she is destined for an even great future in this robustly growing economy of ours. There has been great impetus lately on the safe operation of this engineering wonders and also to provide a more luxurious travel experience for the country's fast increasing middle class. 

These are excerpts from some of the episode's in a locomotive's lifetime. She does have a lot more to say as there are always new and exciting twists in the tale. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for more!

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