The EMD dilemma post Hampi Express fiasco

Posted on May 22, 2012


A few days back I was at Tiruchi Junction to send off a friend to Madras. We were waiting on platform three. I kept hearing a whirring noise – loud and powerful – like a tiger on prowl. I knew where the noise was coming from. There was only one place where it could from in the country – a WDP-4B locomotive, the same which rammed into the stationary goods train at Penukonda hauling the Bangalore-bound Hubli Hampi Express.

Before the millennium dawned, the Indian Railways imported freight and passenger locomotives, GT46 PAC and GT 46 MAC models rechristened as WDG-4 and WDP-4, from the stables of General Motors.

These EMD (electro-motive diesels) horses, in various ways, solved many problems which included the need for multiple locomotives and bankers in ghat sections and double-locos for 24-coach express trains.

With a 4000 horse-powered engine they were, undoubtedly, a big leap when put in the same vein as their native cousins. Up to then the WDM-3D, topped the engine-power list with 3300 HP. The WDP-4B introduced around a year back is an upgraded version of its predecessor with a 4500 HP engine among other technical changes.

To the point

The Hampi Express, hauled by WDP-4B 40036 (Hubli shed), was reportedly said to have collided with goods train due to signalling error and mistake of the loco pilot.

The view, or almost, of what a loco pilot can see from a WDP-4B. On a close the front hood is visible. – MVL Manikantan

Previous concerns have risen, even through an internal report, that these locomotives when hauled on long hood front (which means the pilot’s cab is not at the leading end) give vision-related problems.

Two years ago CNN-IBN brought out a story highlighting these shortcomings, but the Indian Railways have washed-off this concern saying that the loco-design is suitable for Indian tracks.

The pentagonal-front does give such problems, this on a first account experience and inputs received from loco pilots. (See pics)

From the other end of the locomotive. MVL Manikantan
Both the photos were taken at Thanjavur Junction. The loco hauled the Coimbatore Jan Shatabdi till Tiruchi.


When a train is hauled with the pilot’s cab leading (short hood front) there are absolutely no issues with wide-windshields giving clear vision. But the pilot is at inconvenience when the loco is positioned otherwise. This problem does not occur with other diesel locomotives which do not have protruding long hoods. A solution in hand could be having turntables at important junctions, stations and sheds to turn the EMD engine sides which would erase the extra concern of pilots and of course almost-nullify chances of a mishap like today’s.

Given that these locos ply on majorly on non-electrified, single line sections it would come as a big relief.

My first journey on a WDP-4 hauled train was in 2002 – the Madras bound Hyderabad Express. Other journeys include that on Vaigai, Pandian (DP-4 and 4B), Nellai, Coimbatore Jan Shatabdi (DP-4B). Their blaring horns are poetic melodies, a shame they have to come under this hullabaloo.

Irrespective of the probe outcome, this design will act as a prick on a bed of roses. Thankfully, the yet-to-be-released WDG-5 does not have pentagonal hoods.

Posted in: Indian Railways