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How railway driver blows whistle

Many of you traveling by a train must have heard the whistle of engine. The driver of locomotive blows various types of horn. Sometimes a long horn, sometimes short, and sound can be of different types depending upon which type of locomotive is running the train. The whistle of steam engine is beautiful to hear (many people use it as ringtone of their mobile phone) , while that of electric and diesel engine is bit loud and does't sound good.

Whatever be the whistle type, we don't think there is anything special behind it. We think it's up to driver to blow the horn whenever he wishes to do so. Mostly we think that horn is blown by the driver to shoo away some animals on the track or to ask for a green signal. But you will be surprised to hear that the horns blown by the railway engine driver is governed by strict rules. Every whistle blown has a meaning and purpose.

Have you seen the following symbol through the window of train.

W/L railway

These symbols or board on the side of railway tracks with W/L written on them are known as whistle indicators. On a square yellow board, W/L is painted in black which stands for "Whistle for Level Crossing." These boards are mostly seen about 250 m away from level crossings which are unmanned or those crossing where the view is unclear or restricted. In Hindi it is written as "See-Pha (सी / फा )" which means "seeti bajao - phatak. (सीटी बजाओ - फाटक )" Similarly near a bridge you will see a square yellow board with "W/B" written on it. Here 'B' stands for bridge.

Before reading further, you need to get familiar with certain notations shown below:

  • '0' : denotes short whistle.
  • '--' : denotes comparatively long whistle.
  • '-----' : it denotes an even longer whistle.
  • '----------' : denotes very lengthy whistle.
Short whistle [code '0'] is blown when the train us about to start. It indicates any shunting engine or assisting engine at the rear of the train that the leading engine is ready to start. The loco pilot assisting engine acknowledges it with the same whistle. These whistles are also used by railway engine drivers when they are about to take train into loco yard or leave from loco yard.

Comparatively long whistle [code '--'] is blown on receipt of green signal after which train can depart from station. It is followed by another 20 sec long whistle upon clearance from train guard. During shunting operations too this type of whistle is used when passengers are present in train to alert them that shunting is about to begin.

Couple of short whistles [code '00'] is blown by driver when he doesn't receive signal from station staff. It is basically a call to guard of the train to provide signal.

Comparatively long whistle followed by short whistle [code '-- 0'] is blown by driver to ask guard to release brakes. It also tells guard that the main line is clear and train can move froward from mid section or station where it is standing currently.

Three short whistles [code '000'] is used is emergency by driver to tell guard to immediately apply brakes as train is out of control.

Two short whistles followed by comparatively long whistle [code '00 --'] is used when driver realizes that there is sudden loss of pressure or vacuum as a result of chain pulling. Upon hearing the guard then release vacuum brakes of coach in which chain was pulled.

Four quick short whistles [code '0 0 0 0'] indicates that train cannot proceed normally due to accident or engine failure. Also guard is told to do whatever he can to protect the train at rear end.

Two comparatively long whistles followed by two quick short whistles [code '-- -- 0 0']  is a call to guard to come to engine. Driver needs some assistance.

Longish whistle [code '-----']  denotes that vacuum is created at the ghat section, and thus guard should remove sprags. It also tells that train is Passing automatic 'stop' signal at 'On'. On the run driver uses it to acknowledge the guard signal.

Very Long whistle [code '----------'] indicates that train is either approaching tunnel area or running through a station or it is Crossing stop signal at 'on' after waiting the stipulated time. When a material train is ready to leave or detained at stop signal or is approaching a stop signal at 'On' or when it is required to recall staff protecting train.

Couple of alternate long and short whistles [ code '-- o -- o' ] shows that either alarm chain is pulled or there is insufficient vacuum in engine. Hearing it guard applies vacuum brakes of the train.

Two long whistles in a sequence [code '-- --'] is used in electric locos only and it means driver wants his assistant to raise pantograph. A pantograph is a jointed framework conveying a current to a train, tram, or other electric vehicle from overhead wires.

A short whistle between two long whistles [code '-- 0 --'] driver wants assistant to lower pantograph.

Frequent burst of short quick whistles [code '000000000'] indicates apprehension of danger by driver. It signals driver of approaching train that his path is obstructed. Also when a train is moving in wrong direction on double line or when a EMU motormen sees crowded platform, the driver uses this whistle to tell people on platform that a fast train is approaching (which will not halt at this station), so they should stand away from track.

We hope that you like this very interesting information. If you like it blow one whistle and share it with your friends.

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