Bhubaneswar: Train 18, billed as India’s fastest train, is no doubt a big achievement for the Indian Railways so far. But, at the same time, the making of the country’s first engine-less train has turned out to be even a bigger achievement for a man from Odisha. He is Debi Prasad Dash, Chief Design Engineer (Electrical) of Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF), the manufacturer of Train 18.
Dash, a 1987-batch officer of the Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), considered an expert on design of of Traction Distribution networks, had led a team comprising of around 27 people, including some finest engineers, designers and supervisors which worked relentlessly for over six months, including Sunday to convert a mere idea into a mega reality.
The Odisha-born engineer has worked on vital aspects of the indigenously-built high-speed train such as “Propulsion system design and system integration”, “Underframe mounting of transformer”, “Traction converter” and “Cable and equipment layout”.
Speaking exclusively to Odisha Sun Times, Dash recalled his experience working day and night with about 300 people, the challenges and how his team overcame them before giving the Indian Railways its answer to many developed nations.
Challenging yet rewarding:
“It was indeed a big challenge to carry out the entire manufacturing process as we haven’t done anything similar before at ICF and neither we had any reference to any works of this scale or magnitude. What we had is just an idea and determination to convert the concept into a reality,” he recalled with a lot of pride.
No Sunday, No Leaves:
The Odia railway engineer starts his work at 7.30-8 am and returns home after 9 pm daily from April to October. He didn’t take any off on Saturday and Sunday neither took leaves during the period anticipating his team might end up losing the motivation and passion to finish the project within the fixed deadline.
The story behind the name:
Revealing how the train set has been named as ‘Train 18’, Das said they had a plan that the train will be ready or completed in 2018 itself as their boss (ICF General Manager Sudhanshu Mani) and Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani were retiring in December, 2018. “Therefore, we thought to complete the train before their retirement as they had immense contribution for the project.”
Besides, the ICF took nearly 18 months (13,000 hours) from concept, design and manufacture to fully operationalise the country’s first locomotive-less train. Generally, for such high-end projects, it takes around three to four years, Das said, adding “All these factors were the thoughts behind naming the train set as Train 18.”
How did the idea of Train 18 come about?
We had presented our idea (manufacturing a high-speed and world class train) from ICF during the Rail Vikas Shivir at Surajkund in Haryana in November, 2016 and it was appreciated by one all then. But, the Government of India approved the project in March, 2017 and the work began in April, Dash recalled.
How is Train 18 different from other trains manufactured at ICF?
There are several features which make the Train 18 very different from other coaches which are currently available in India. First and foremost, it has a much faster acceleration and deceleration rate and it would therefore cut down the travel time substantially. “As a lightweight, high-strength, environment-friendly product, it helps in reducing the overall weight of the train coach by about 50 per cent as compared to any other train coaches,” he said.
What are the special features of Train 18?
The Train 18 has a number of features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully-sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (available only in the executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting, and disabled-friendly toilets.
The Rs 100 crore indigenously-developed high-tech, energy- efficient, self-propelled or engineless train had breached the 180 kmph speed limit during a test run in December last year.
Manufactured at a cost of Rs 100 crore, the 16-coach AC train set will replace India’s fastest Shatabdi Express train.
Dash, a native of Jajpur Town and a son of a school teacher, has completed his schooling from Sukruli High School and graduation from M.P.C College at Baripada in Mayurbhanj. He did B.Tech from National Institute of Technology (NIT) Jamshedpur in 1987.
Besides engineering, Dash is an academician and an inherent environmental lover. He is currently serving as the Chairman of ICF group of school managing committees.
The Odia engineer has also written a book on environment called ‘Greening of a factory’ along with his former colleague S. Mani.
When asked how he would describe the experience of making Train 18 in one word, the Jajpur man called: It was “thrilling.”