Thursday, February 8, 2007


One of the events of my life where I felt quite successful was when I was able to construct a foil meet or point with the help of match sticks. A foil meet is a mechanical system where a railway train changes its tracks. It was during those school days when I seriously started thinking of taking up mechanical engineering as a career and dream was to become a mechanical engineer in the Indian railways. I always got fascinated by railways and the way whole system of railways worked.

During my summer vacations, I used to visit my maternal village called Barundai. It had a small station. Every evening, I would go and sit on the small platform, over a cement bench, which was under a huge banyan tree. Change of the signal and the station master standing in front of his office, holding the usual dirty, green flag would pass on the information to me that a train is about to pass by. Probably, a summer special to Howrah. I always knew that before the train would pass, the point’s man over in the signal cabin would change the levers to change the track through which the train would be passing. I can spend my whole life seeing the iron rails hit each other. The whole mechanism of the transformation of the movement from the points man lever to the switching system at the foil meet of the tracks was something that would create a wave of excitement in any of the Indian railways fan.

After watching it happen day by day, I got the idea in my mind that “is it possible to create such system using matchsticks, gum, thread and cardboard?”. There my mind, the mind that was constantly getting tilted towards mechanical engineering track, finally got the nod as if the points man in the signal cabin had just changed the lever of white matter in my brain.

I drew the sketch of the whole system on a white sheet. The point where the tracks met, amount of bent necessary in the mating tracks, the point where the switch box is to be placed, where the support rail should be there, every thing. Believe me drawing this diagram was the most difficult part for a class nine student’s brain. The diagram of the system which helps in moving these huge iron horses from one track to another was little bit complex. After that the task became quite simple. Using razors, I made sharp edges to the tracks that were supposed to mate. Using gum, matchsticks were glued to the cardboard. So, gum was my welding material. Proper bending of matchsticks was done by hand. The switch box was made using a simple pulley made out of cardboard and thread. Lever was made out of matchstick. The whole system took final shape in a matter of hours. The hours that I didn’t spend sleeping and thinking about passing trains at high speeds. I created a small railway wagon using cardboards and also wheels were carved out of cardboard. Small match sticks became the axles.

Finally my small wagon ran over the track using hand push. When I changed the lever, the loop track got aligned with the main line. My small wagon moved to the loop track smoothly but not with high speed. But poor chap, how it could have when the wheels are made of cardboard instead of steel.

In memory of the first train that passed through my village station, my wagon was painted red over which was written – BNR (Bengal Nagpur Railway, the company that was owner of railways of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under the British rule. I said to myself “yes, you have become one of Indian Railway’s Mechanical engineers, with dirty clothes and hammer in hand.

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