Rail engines brightly painted in hues of blue and yellow with ritzy aerodynamic designs and fitted with air-conditioners, hot plates, and refrigerators — with a separate toilet for the drivers.
Working towards actualising these ideas are engineers and technicians at the Varanasi-based Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) — Asia’s biggest diesel engine factory which is currently undergoing a phase of modernisation and capacity expansion. For the present fiscal, Rs 150 crore has been pumped in for the purpose.
“These engines might not be as handsome as the electric trains of the European countries, but we surely are moving on to the next gen engines,” DLW general manager S.M. Bhardwaj said. If plans go right, India might even be in a position to export diesel trains to expanding markets in Australia, Africa and countries in the Gulf region.
Aiming to expand upon the export market, the organisation is also looking at collaborating with the US-based Electro Motive Diesels (EMD).
DLW-powered engines are already chugging along routes in about a dozen countries including Tanzania, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mayalsia, Sudan, Myanmar, Senegal and Mali.
Optimism of EMD officials does have reasons: Since 1961 — when the organization was set up — engines manufactured have graduated from the 2600 Horse Power (HP) to 4000 HP engines and no less than 5346 locomotives have been manufactured and delivered so far.
Technological upgrade plans at DLW have kept pace with the best available international standards — with the Insulated Gate Bi-Polar Transistor (IGBT) technology having been introduced for the AC-AC traction. This technology provides for built-in power supply, enhanced reliability and reduced losses.
For all the current focus on electrification, Railway bosses continue to favor the “mixed model” for a balance between the electric and diesel locos. Operating costs are more or less the same, but diesel has the additional advantage of powering double-decker trains. Besides, prohibitive costs are involved in setting up the electrification infrastructure.
The pro-diesel argument has another basis: At the rate of 2MW electricity produced by each diesel engine, put together the trains are generating as much as 10,000 MW electricity annually. “Thanks to the diesel technology, much of electricity is being saved by the Indian Railways”, said a DLW official.
Diesel engines continue to remain the mainstay for the Indian Railways — running along 72 per cent of the country’s 1,09,996 long rail network.