A motorman’s day begins before the sun rises, as early as 3.30 am, or late in the evening with him signing off at 2 am. These hours, say motormen, don’t give them enough time with their families and are making their stress levels rise.
Besil Rath was one such motorman. He retired recently after 32 years in service. Rath, who refused to be photographed, said: “The residential quarters of a motorman is usually not far from work; that’s the only benefit.”
In case a motorman has to reach Churchgate or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus by 9 am, he has to wake up early enough to have breakfast with his family and reach the station 20 minutes before he is assigned a train. If he has an early morning or late evening shift, the railways provide a restroom at stations from where services begin. “We hardly get to sleep for five hours,” Rath said.
Once the motorman reaches the station, he leaves his bag in a cabin and rushes to the train cab. There, he checks whether the unit is in good condition, if the brakes are working and the controls and switches.
A motorman gets to rest 25 to 45 minutes after each trip. During this time, he must have his meal, report on signal failures and track problems, as well as reasons for delays.
Once the motorman completes his duty, he checks the next day’s timetable and heads home. “By the time we reach home, we are mentally drained. We only think of resting as the next day we might have a different reporting time,” Rath said.