Chennai: Railway station masters and engineers here encountered a strange ‘snag’ that delayed pointing (changing trains from one track to another) and subsequent train movement on Beach-Tambaram route since January.
The signals cables were in tact and electronic indicators at stations were absolutely fine, but trains could not be moved from one track to another on loop line at their behest. A similar ‘snag’ was reported at Tambaram, Tambaram Sanatorium, Pallavaram, St. Thomas Mount stations and Ponneri on different dates from early January to late February.
In all these stations, the clueless engineers initially checked cables and realised only after signal technicians’ intervention that the point motors were missing. What bemused them was that the metal boxes remained locked, but the motors were missing.
Finally, it dawned on them that they were stolen, forcing senior divisional railway safety commissioner S.R. Gandhi and the rest of the RPF team to pitch in. A 100-member RPF squad, comprising four inspectors, was formed and even night patrol was sent aboard EMUs on the Beach-Tambaram, Beach-Velachery, MMC-Gummidipoondi and MMC-Arakkonam routes.
Finally, head constable Mohan and constable Gunasekaran cracked the case late Monday when they noticed Shanmugam of Pattabiram moving suspiciously on the tracks near Tambaram with a tool bag.
During interrogation, Shanmugam admitted to stealing seven point motors for copper coil since he could not support his family with the centering job he did. The modus operandi of the son of a deceased railway signal technician was quite simple. “He will tamper the pin at the rear of the box, cut the wires, remove the motor and close the box, leaving no visible trace of theft,” explained Mr Gandhi.
He had sold the stolen motors to his scrap dealer-friend Sakthivel in Puzhal. Shanmugam has been remanded. The retrieved motors are worth Rs 55,000.