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Electrical Engineering and Railways

By on October 31, 2014

Electrical Engineering is the field of the study of generation, transmission, distribution and use of electrical energy. Electrical Engineering in Railways made its beginning with the responsibility of illumination and ventilation at Railway stations, offices and residential complex and water supply. Thereafter, illumination of passenger carriages with a self generating mechanism added to the responsibility. First appearance and progressive electrification of Rail network further added to the responsibilities manifold, therefore making the Electrical Department a full-fledged major department in Indian Railways. And now, today, there is no chapter of Electrical Engineering in any textbook, the application of which does not find usage in Indian Railways. Thus, it is a must for every practicing Railway Engineer and student of Electrical Engineering to know the fundamentals, scope and application of electrical engineering in Railways.

As stated, Electrical Engineering is a field of study of electric power generation, transmission, distribution and utilization with best engineering practices and energy efficiency.

Electric Power Generation

There are basically renewable and non-renewable sources of power generation and both sources  find application in Railways. The technology is no different as compared to what is available for overall application.

Non-renewable Sources

Coal: Indian Railways had thermal power generating stations attached to different workshop at Kharagpur, Mugalsarai, Thakurli, etc long back when utility power supply was very much limited. Thakurli Coal fed power house was made in the year 1925 to meet specific demands of the introduction of electric traction in the Mumbai Suburban network. This was shut down in 1988 due to aging and unfortunate accident. Thither is a program to construct gas fed power house at this location, simply due to the rising cost of gasoline, it could not get off till date.

Now, observing that owning a captive power generation for Railway Traction provides financial advantage, Railways have decided to take advantage of Indian Electricity Act 2003 and signed a joint venture agreement with National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. (NTPC) to set up a 1000 MW power plant by forming a company called Bhartiya Rail Bijlee Company Limited at Nabinagar in Bihar.

Railways have also been given deemed license status to transmit power for its own consumption that will benefit to procure power from surplus power generating state and its own generation at Nabinagar at an economical rate.

Diesel: Indian Railways have provided DG sets to meet its emergency power supply requirement of capacity ranging from 25 kW to 1 MW capacity. IR also operates trains with End-on-generation  (EOG) in which power generating cars are provided at both ends of the train equipped with 2x500kW DG set in each car to meet the lighting and air-conditioning load of the train. All Rajdhani and Shatabadi class of train runs with this principle of power supply system.

Using renewable energy sources

Solar: Indian Railways introduced solar panel to illuminate the level crossing gates which have no other nearby power supply source. Indian Railways have very big roof top area opening up a potential source for taping solar power generation to match its internal demand. With solar power generating cost almost matching that of utility rate, it has opened a big opportunity for Railways to tap this potential for in-house daytime demand without requiring battery storage. Indian Railways is also planning for solar panel installation on the roof of the coach, and if this is made successful, it will be a great beginning for powering railway  coaches.

Roof solar panel  coach Solar Panel at level crossing gate

Wind Power

Indian Railways made its start in this field by installing 10.5 MW wind power generating station in Tamil Naidu for the exclusive requirement of ICF. Another project in Rajasthan in PPP model has been sanctioned and progressing.

Electric Power Transmission and Distribution

Indian Railways own transmission network for transmitting power at 220/132 KV for its traction power requirement. This network is not very large. But most significant is the large network of traction distribution network for transferring power from stationary frame to mobile locomotive through pantograph.  Indian Railways are also having a very large network of 33kV/11kV network for power supply requirement of residential colonies, offices, Railway yards, hospital and most importantly reliable power supply for its about 7000 Railway stations. Power transmission and distribution at commercial voltages is available off the shelf, but Power distribution for the traction network at 25kV is the specialist subject exclusively involving design, installation, maintenance and operation.

Railway Traction Installation Traction Installation


Electric Power Utilization is the most important issue for any Electrical Engineer. Electric power is either directly utilized with simple applications such as illumination, fans, air conditioning, heating, electric pump, machines in a workshop, air compressor, etc. or latest technologies involving its conversion into a variable voltage/variable frequency for the locomotive.  Here also, appliances at commercial frequency and voltage are available off the shelf, but the challenge is lying in design, manufacturing, commissioning, operation and maintenance of locomotive/electrical multiple units/Metro Trains involving power collection, voltage transformation, conversion to DC or VVVF control, traction motor and many other associated technologies. Air Conditioning is dealt by Electrical Department and challenging aspect of the technology is for air conditioning of passenger carrying coaches.WAP7 locomotive Raised Pantograph

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  1. Ved parkash says:

    Your experience 7years electrical age 27 years 12 pass location dilhe,punjab