On November 18, around 7.40 am, as the Vaigai Express with over 1000 passengers was nearing Ambatturai near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, an accident was waiting to happen. At a curved section of the track between Kodaikkanal Road and Ambatturai, several rocks had fallen on the track. As the Vaigai Express started navigating the curved section on that misty morning, 49-year-old J Suresh, the loco pilot, spotted the rocks from a distance of around 500 metres. He immediately applied the emergency brake and halted the train with around 100 metres to spare, thus averting a huge mishap and saving the lives of over 1000 passengers who had trusted to travel with the Indian Railways. J Suresh collected the Anna Gallantry award from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday.
Speaking to TNM on the phone enroute Tirupati after collecting the award, J Suresh expressed his happiness at the recognition. Hailing from Thirumangalam near Madurai, Suresh joined the Indian Railways as an assistant loco pilot way back in 1994. He has been working in the Madurai Division since 2005 and has been operating mail-grade trains. The route between Madurai and Chennai is one of the busiest in the division and the section between Kodaikkanal Road and Dindigul is known for frequent obstruction due to rocks that fall onto the tracks from the sides.
â€śThe visibility was tricky, but I was thankfully able to spot the boulders and stop the train, which was running at 50 kilometres per hour, immediately. We then got the boulders out of the track and I resumed the duty,â€ť he told TNM. Suresh was appreciated by his senior officials at the Southern Railways, and was awarded a cash prize of Rs 3,000 and an appreciation certificate for his presence of mind. Thirumangalam MLA RB Udhayakumar, who is also a state minister, recommended his name for the Anna Gallantry award, which he received on Tuesday from the Chief Minister himself.
â€śIt is an extremely happy moment for me. I dedicate this recognition to all the loco pilots and assistant loco pilots working in the Indian Railways,â€ť he told TNM.