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How Rail Track Was Cut Baffles Investigators

Is it possible to saw through a section of track and dislodge nearly 150 pandrol clips in just over half hour, questions a Telegraph report from Kolkata.  Or was the sabotage intended to derail the
PTI May 29, 2010 13:19 IST
PTI
Is it possible to saw through a section of track and dislodge nearly 150 pandrol clips in just over half hour, questions a Telegraph report from Kolkata.  

Or was the sabotage intended to derail the pilot train or a goods train, perhaps, and not a passenger train at all? These are some of the questions doing the rounds after the Jnaneswari Express disaster.

First, the possibility of carrying out the entire task, given the time constraint. The Howrah-Hatia Express passed the stretch at 12.37 am, barely  38 minutes before Jnaneswari Express derailed at 1.15 am. While an army of men could have dislodged the pandrol clips on the two tracks, railway engineers say it is quite impossible to cut through the rail made of special alloy in that time.

“A rail-line cutting saw, mechanically operated, takes 30-40 minutes to cut through a rail. Manually, a hacksaw blade would take at least an hour during the day and much more in the dark,” a metallurgist said, ruling out the possibility of carrying out the operation within the brief interval.

However, CID officers claimed it could be done by pouring acid on the section a few days in advance to corrode the metal and then using an acetylene torch to cut through the weakened rail.  

There is another possibility. The operation by the saboteurs could have been done in tranches. They could have operated at intervals between the trains. Ranchi Hatia passed the spot 38 minutes before Jnaneswari arrived. Prior to that, Porbandar Express had passed the spot around 12.21am, giving saboteurs an addition 15-16 minutes. The Azad Hind Express passed the spot around 12.03pm, which would have given the men another 15-16 minutes.  

But then, were passenger trains targeted at all or did the saboteurs miscalculate?  

Both Porbandar and Jnaneswari express are not daily trains. Jnaneswari passes the spot on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  

It was also the last passenger train of the night. Thereafter, freight trains are scheduled.

The process in which the rail line was cut has baffled investigators. At both ends, the rail had been sawed diagonally and not vertically. “It takes more time to cut diagonally because you have to cut more of the rail than you would if you cut it straight,” one of them said, adding that the error could perhaps have been due to the fact that they were operating at night.  

Also, three-fourth of the cut at either end of the severed section was smooth; the rest was jagged. “The smooth section was sawed and the rest broke off under the weight of the train,” an engineer told The Telegraph, Kolkata.