Everyday Heroes: The Engineers that keep Indian Railways running

Meet Suman Char, Kishan Pradhan, Yuvraj Pradhan

By Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

YuvRaj PradhanDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Yuvraj Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Yuvraj Pradhan

Yuvraj Pradhan, 50, is a Senior Section Engineer at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways's Tindharia Workshop. Many members of the DHR family, some in service and some retired, call him the 'master of maintenance'. 

Yuvraj Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The role of Yuvraj Pradhan as a senior section engineer in the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's Tindharia workshop is critical to the functioning of the railway's steam locomotives.

Yuvraj Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Pradhan says he fell in love with the engines when he would bring food for his father, a carpenter with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, to the Tindharia workshop. His dream of working with Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was realised in 1989 when he joined the Darjeeling railway after a three-year stint as an apprentice in the North East Frontier Railway in Assam.

Yuvraj Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

"The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's locomotives are of a standard size, which makes them very unique," Pradhan says. "After the British introduced these trains in Darjeeling, they have become a part of our culture and tradition." It is not surprising that some of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's best technicians come from families that have worked on the steam locomotive for generations. Pradhan's is a classic example.

YuvRaj PradhanDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Yuvraj Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Valve setting, a task delicate and difficult in equal measure, is Pradhan's forte. He recounts reviving a dead engine, No 791, by realigning its dimensions--a high point in Pradhan's career. Similar tasks were performed on Engine 786, whose frame and boiler were replaced under Pradhan's watchful eyes. Both engines are running even today, he says.

YuvRaj PradhanDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Kishan Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Kishan Pradhan

Kishan Pradhan is a mistri in-charge (supervisor) at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's Kurseong locomotive shed. He joined the railway in 1979 as a khalasi (pilot's assistant). But his interest in the workings of the steam locomotive helped him gain promotions over the years and he was appointed as a supervisor in 2004.

Kishan PradhanDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Kishan Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Pradhan's love for steam engines dates back to the days when his father used to work in the Tindharia workshop. "After I got married, courtesy of my wife's cooperation--she would bring me food to the station and support me in many other ways--I have been able to work with dedication for 38 years now," he says.

Kishan Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Pradhan oversees daily maintenance at the Kurseong shed. "We oversee Schedule I, Schedule II and Schedule III repair work," he says. An engine needs a Schedule I overhaul every 10 days, Schedule II after operating for a month and Schedule III every six months. "If there is some major work outside of this, we either send the locomotive or the faulty components to the workshop in Tindharia," Pradhan says.

Kishan Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

A steam engine, when people observe it carefully, evokes wonder in their minds. "A steam engine does not have a battery or a generator. You just have to steam the engine, which takes about five to six hours, and automatically everything begins to function. The light turns on, the dynamo begins to run, the whistle blows...all of these things happen from steam." Pradhan says.

Kishan Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

By looking closely, one can see the piston ring, Pradhan says. "The piston rings have to be of a standard size," he adds. "Because some engines don't have that, they are defective. Some of these engines have been running since 1889. If we maintain them well, these engines will run even longer. They are, after all, the jewel in Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's crown."

Kishan Pradhan (2018-03-22)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

"Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is what makes Darjeeling so special. Nearby hill towns of Kalimpong and Mirik don't have the same charm as Darjeeling and Kurseong do because they don't have the train," says Pradhan. He is worked on the engines for so long that he can now identify each one by listening to the sound of their whistle.

Kishan PradhanDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Suman Char (2018-03-23)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Suman Char

Suman Char joined the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 2007 after cracking the Railway Recruitment Board exam and interview. He worked in the Indian state of Assam for two years before joining the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway's Kurseong office in 2009. He works as a Senior Section Engineer (Works In-Charge) and oversees all construction-related work and repairs between Sukna station and Darjeeling.

Suman CharDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Suman Char (2018-03-23)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Repairs of staff quarters, pipelines and resolving complaints of quarter occupants are some of Char's duties.

Suman CharDarjeeling Himalayan Railway

Suman Char (2018-03-23)Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Char's family has been associated with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for four generations. His father is a retired loco pilot, his elder sister also works with the North East Frontier Railway in Assam. His grandfather was a clerk in a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway office in Tindharia and his great-grandfather was a foreman.

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