As you trudge back home after alighting from the last Virar train of the day, the train too chugs towards the 'yard line' for an overhaul.
After completing the day's run, the local is greased, oiled, tested and groomed to face the next day's grind. The local trains have a maintenance schedule.
Besides the daily touch-up, Western Railway trains have to visit the Mumbai Central car shed for major maintenance work every 21 days. According to the schedule, the entire train is dismantled, repaired and assembled again every one to two years.
For this grueling task, an army of 1,400 men and 150 engineers work day in and day out to keep the Western Railway trains on tracks.
"Technically, local trains are called Electric Multiple Units (EMUs). There are seven to eight departments involved in the maintenance of one train, what we call a rake," says KS Kapur, senior divisional electrical engineer (rolling stock), the main person directly responsible for the maintenance work.
He cites reasons for the up-to-date maintenance of the local trains.
"First, the train has to be safe for passengers. Second, the train has to be technically fit to run among other trains and third, we have to pay attention to the upkeep of passenger amenities in the train," explains Kapur.
Saying that the Western Railway — one of Mumbai's lifeline — shoulders a huge responsibility, he adds: "Geographically, Churchgate to Virar is a 60-kms straight stretch and trains ply within a gap of a minute to three-four minutes. Even if one train develops a snag, it could create bunching of other trains, leading to a haywire timetable and unnecessary delays." "So, it is important that the trains in service are technically fit, safe and reliable," adds Kapur.
Everyday, the staff checks passenger amenities in train such as maintaining seats, fans and lights, oiling window and door shutters and tightening fittings.
"It's a comprehensive check that every train has to pass through. But thankfully, Mumbai commuters treat their locals well and there's hardly any damage," Kapur adds.
The brake blocks are the main components that have to be replaced regularly as they directly come in contact with wheels and result in regular wear and tear.
"There are 13 lines in the yard. There are pits under the train and the tracks are called pit lines. Our mechanics can stand in these pits and examine the train's underframe and wheels," Kapur explains.
The pits, lengthened to accommodate 12-car trains, are equipped with adequate lightning too. Trains can enter the car shed from both sides — Mumbai Central and Mahalaxmi.
The Western Railway has 66 trains, of which, 35 are 12-car ones and 31 are nine-car ones. Most of them are maintained at Mumbai Central's mother shed or the secondary shed at Kandivli.
"During regular maintenance, we have also been trying to innovate passenger facilities such as the Millennium Local Train, speakers inside trains and more comfortable travel. The Millennium Train was a big hit among commuters and it has a strict maintenance schedule," says Kapur.
Western Railway locals have got the first automated speakers in trains. The speakers work on the basis of Global Positioning System (GPS) with an antenna and inform passengers of the next expected station in three languages. Seventeen trains are equipped with the device.
Another addition in the Millennium train is the blowers and ventilation shafts to improve air quality in the train. The new train has micro-processor based controls with a computer in the air-conditioned driving cab where one can feed in the train number and get it synchronized with the timetable.
"We are also working on converting more trains on the lines of Millennium train model and also planning to introduce additional facilities like emergency staircase on local trains for commuters to alight if a train is stranded in the middle of nowhere," Kapur said.
Explaining the maintenance regime, he says: "Major maintenance work is done when in a periodic overhaul (POH) and annual overhaul (AOH). This is the time we take apart all components of the train's underframe and wheels, work on them, rectify defects and then put them back together. This is a train's major overhaul and is done according to set schedules of each rake."
Usually, a train can run for 30 years.
Starting next March, more 12-car advanced EMU trains will be inducted into service under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project.
Kapur sounds excited as he says this. "But we will need to upgrade our staff and facilities accordingly."
All the new trains will run on AC-DC technology. The Western Railway is building another car shed at Virar too as there are plans to extend train services up to Dahanu.
"That would be an additional responsibility, but we are confident of the challenge," says Kapur.
Email Rajendra Aklekar: rajendra .firstname.lastname@example.org