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Jan 10, 2015

How train changes track in India

Have you ever wondered as to how train changes track while running? The train switching is a fascinating event, and many people enjoy watching part of train moving onto other railway line from the window. But how this happens?

railroad track switches
an example of railroad track switch

To make a train change its track,  a special mechanical arrangement is made. This arrangement is known as a railroad switch and it consist of pair of rails, known as switching rails or points, that are linked to one another. As the name suggests, the  switching rails can direct or guide the train, either on straight path or on the diverging path which is established by a curved rail line.

The railroad switch can only be in one of the two positions at a time. If it is locked the train will change the track. If it is open, it will go straight-through.

Here is animated rail-road switch demonstrating the principle and operation.

rail road switch animation
Animation credit to : Emdx
It is very important that the switch is set up carefully. Most train derailments take place at the point when it goes from one track to another track. A loose set up is a guarantee of making train jump off the track, a disaster. However, railway authorities, not only in India, but around the world has expertise the art of train track changing. Most times the process is so smooth, that one even doesn't notice it. However an experienced traveler can make out with the sound of the train, that indeed the track is changed.

Sometimes tracks are changed at the last moment to change the platform at which the train arrives. Indian railways is overly notorious in this regard. So many times people are caught napping when they would be waiting for train at one station only to here a last time announcement that the train is arriving at the other platform. This is especially problematic if the halt of train is of couple of minutes only, on a specific station.

In India there a re mostly two railway tracks that you'll see running parallel to each other. One is known as the 'up' track, and other is 'down' track. But as soon as any railway station comes, there are plenty of tracks that one can see. This is where the train will starts climbing from one track to another to get to the platform from where it is scheduled to leave.


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