Safety is the paramount factor for Southern Railway. There are various categories of employees belonging to various functional departments who contribute wholly to the safe running of trains. It is the dedication and commitment of these employees that keeps the wheel of the trains moving on the right track.
One such category of employees is “Pointsman” belonging to the Traffic branch of the Indian Railways. Recruited directly through RRB-NTPC (Non Technical Popular Category) examinations, Pointsmen are posted in all the Railway stations, except Halt Stations, of the Indian Railway network and work under the lawful orders of a Station Master on duty. Women are also recruited under the category and work as ‘Pointswomen’. Pointsmen and Points Women play a crucial role in safe running of trains and contribute to overall efficiency of operations.
Pointsman in a station, clad in neat and clean Grey uniform, performs a variety of functions in his/her duty hours. The word Pointsman majorly indicates one of the important duties assigned to him. ‘Point’ in Railway parlance refers to the arrangements provided in the track to divert a train from one line to another and they help in guiding trains to the assigned platforms at stations and guide trains out of platform to assigned lines for further journey towards its route. The primary role of a pointsman is to ensure proper cleaning of such points in the station yard with the help of lubricants for its smooth operations. Every point in a station is cleaned and lubricated once in three days on rotational basis and this entails walking out to far ends of the station yard irrespective of the weather condition. Pointsman face bizarre situations such as rats being stuck and playful children keeping stone in points. They need to ensure that they are removed and no trains are detained on such accounts.
Operating Points in Non-interlocked yard
Wherever there are points which are non-interlocked, i.e., where points are not controlled by Station Master and where points have to be physically set, the role of pointsman is even more significant. Generally the coaching yards will have non-interlocked points and non-signalled shunting is carried out. Pointsman plays a major role in shunting of trains/coaches in such yards by proper hand-signalling and ensuring proper setting of points and locking them with cotter and pin. Failure to set the correct point and improper setting and locking could be a threat to safety. Hence the pointsman carries out his duties with a high degree of vigilance. It is the cautious and focused working of the team of pointsmen and Shunting master in a coaching yard ensures timely placement of train rakes at the originating station and contributes immensely to punctual running of trains.
Watch like a Hawk & Exchange ‘All right’ Signals with Passing trains
When a train passes through a station, the Station master and pointsman keenly watch for any abnormalities in the running of the train. The station Master remains on one side of the train and the pointsman moves to other side so that both can watch over either side of the train that is passing through the station. The pointsman without blinking his eyes keenly observes the passing of the train with green flag on left hand and red flag on right hand, being the dominant hand.
As the train passes, an alert Pointsman vigilantly observes and registers abnormalities like hot axle (fire/smoke/abnormal sound), whether the wheels are rotating properly, couplings are intact, hanging parts or open doors, if any, etc. The Pointsman also ensures that the Loco Pilot and Guard are alert, if anyone travels over rooftop or clings to footboard precariously. On noticing any abnormality in running and where the train needs to be stopped immediately the pointsman raises the red flag. Where no such abnormalities are noticed the pointsman remains in his position and exchanges signals called ‘All right’ signals with the crew of the passing train.
· Whenever a train/formation is to be stabled in the station for more than an hour, the train/formation is secured as per the instruction of Station Master. Train/formation is secured by pointsman by placing wedges and securing the formation using chain and lock. This ensures that the train does not roll back into the running line and so as to avoid any collision of trains.
· A caution order issued by the Station Master is considered very important as it entails clear-cut instructions to be adhered to by the Loco Pilot and Guard in train operations (eg. Speed restrictions). Hence, a Pointsman ensures that it is delivered to Loco Pilot and Guard without fail on time.
· During the failure of points and signals, Pointsman plays an important role such as delivering the necessary written notices issued by the Station Master to the loco pilot of the train and pilot the train duly ensuring correct setting of points and that there are no other abnormalities.
Hence, a Pointsman remains focused, agile and alert throughout his duty hours. They acquire the requisite technical skills through proper on-the-job training. Many Pointsmen have nurtured their skills and become Shunting masters, Guards and Station Masters through departmental selections. Indian Railways takes pride in Pointsmen for their commendable dedication to duty in making the wheels of the Nation move relentlessly.
(* Note: A series on “Know your Railway” is an initiative by PR department of Southern Railway to bring out various facts about Railway operations, its man power and its infrastructure and amenities in Railway stations, etc for the awareness of general public)
A day in the life of a Pointsman in Southern Railway