Railway turntables, a rare 19th century technology to move trains, are back. The Mumbai Metro Railway is procuring turntables for trains to change tracks and one of them is already in place at Versova carshed. Sources in Metro One said the old and trusted nineteenth century railway technology has been modernised for the city’s new metro rail lines for use once the trains start running regularly.
A senior Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) said that the Mumbai Metro trains are highly advanced and are bi-directional, but the turn tables will be of help to change the face and direction of coaches once in a while and not regularly. “They will be used during maintenance and other such times only, but it’s always good to have them as an additional measure,’’ he said.
“Given the limited space constraints, the turntables will be used by the railway to change the direction of the bogies. They have been embedded in concrete and easier to operate digitally than the older ones,’’ he added.
The Indian railway lines in Mumbai too had turntables for turning the face of engine as they change direction, but they were systematically phased out since the 1970s after steam engines were no longer in use. When steam locomotives were still in wide use, many railroads needed a way to turn the locomotives around for return trips as their controls were often not configured for running in reverse. Most turntables consist of a circular pit in which the bridge rotates.
As most diesel and electric locomotives in use today have bi-directional operations, that means that they can be run in either directions, the old turn-tables technology became slowly redundant and hence phased out. Today, one such old relic, a hand-operated hydraulic turn-table, is saved at the Bandra Marshalling Yard of the Western Railway and used to change the direction of shunting engines in the yard.