Lessons taught in school came to mind when class 5 student R Selvam on Sunday noticed a fracture on the main railway track between Padalam and Karunkuzhali stations near Madurantakam in Kancheepuram district.
The boy immediately informed villagers in Araipakkam and railway officials were alerted. The villagers also erected a wooden pole with a red cloth near the spot and the driver of a passenger train saw it and stopped the train in time.
Soon, railway gangmen reached the spot and the fractured portion was welded into place with a piece of iron. Train services resumed around 7.45am.
Personnel of the Government Railway Police and the Railway Protection Force were also alerted. Some railway officials later said the fracture was not too big but could have widened under sustained pressure and led to an accident. According to the police, around 6am, Selvam was going along the rail line to the farm where his father K Rajendran worked when he saw the fracture. He stood for a minute until a train passed and rushed back to the village to inform elders. “We took his words seriously and rushed to the spot,” Araipakkam panchayat president P Anandi later told The Times Of India.
Anandi and a group of villagers erected a wooden pole with a bright red cloth at one end a kilometre before the fractured portion. A few villagers went to the Karunkuzhali railway station, the nearest from the village, and the Madurantakam police station to inform personnel there about the incident. “This is the first time such an incident has happened in our village. We are delighted that the boy alerted us in time,” said G Karupan, a villager.
By the time the police were informed, the Tambaram-Villupuram passenger train had left Madurantakam at 6.30am and was headed towards Karunkuzhali station.
However, the driver saw the red cloth on the wooden pole in the middle of the track and stopped the train way ahead of the spot. The alert by the villagers was crucial because many trains, including the Rameswaram Express, Anathapuri Express and a special between Madurai and Chennai, were following the Tambaram-Villupuram passenger train. All of them were stopped at Melmaruvathur, a few kilometres from the incident, and resumed only after the repairs were effected and officials gave the green signal.
On December 27, 2010, a fracture was noticed on the main line between Pallavaram and Tirusulam stations on the Chennai Beach-Tambaram suburban section. The problem took place on the “B” track on which trains towards Egmore and Chennai Beach would travel.