By Shashank Saurav:
I believe most of you mustn’t have heard about the Integral Coach Factory, unless your general knowledge is sound. For starters it is the largest industry in India and one of the largest independent units in the world. Integral Coach Factory [ICF] manufactures railway coaches of all varieties. It was the first of its kind in India and till today beats its nearest competitors in terms of demand and supply by a heavy margin.
Set up in the year 1951, ICF was inaugurated by Pandit Nehru in 1955, who also had the honors of flagging off the first wagon. It was set up with the help of M/s Swiss Car and Elevator Manufacturing Corporation Ltd., Schlieren-Zurich (Switzerland).It is interesting to note that ICF manufactures around 1500 railway coaches a year when its plant is designed to produce around a 1000 coaches a year. Also the fact that it has taken orders and exported coaches to many other countries (latest being Sri Lanka) is no mean feat. ICF is spread over a huge area in which independent residential areas, hospitals and schools are located thus covering more than 12,000 people that are working in ICF.
ICF is divided into two factories. The first is the shell division in which the outer part of a coach as well as the bogies are manufactured. Bogie refers to the wheels on which the coach stands. The second is the furnishing division in which all the inner accessories are manufactured and placed. This includes air conditioning unit, fans, bulbs, seats, bars and everything else. The whole coach is also painted here.
However this article is not meant to discuss the technical aspects of ICF. I will try and justify that ICF is indeed the crown of the Indian manufacturing industries just as the Palace on Wheels is the crown of the Indian railways. Hence its not ironical that this royal train has been manufactured in ICF. To its credit the factory has also produced Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Calcutta Metro Railways and other important trains like the Lifeline Express and Border Patrol units for defense purposes.
Another notable achievement is that ICF has remained virtually independent so far. It is capable of designing and producing all the equipments and machines required, by itself. The only supply needed is that of raw materials. Rest everything including welding machines, generators, motors etc. are produced here itself. It also has two dedicated laboratories to test the quality of the materials being supplied and used.
Although a prolonged visit to an industry turns out to be a lethargic experience, ICF begs to be different. Watching the colossus shells being lifted from one place to another is a rare sight. Observing hundred different types of machines at work in the same factory is equally fantabulous. Plus if you are pursuing engineering, ICF is like a trove of omniscience. Simply put, there is more than abundant knowledge to gain for students of core engineering disciplines especially Mechanical Engineering.
Other than designing passenger and luxury coaches, ICF also manufactures railway coaches for a variety of purposes. The patrolling unit and lifeline express have already been mentioned.
There are also special coaches designed to withstand shocks and thwart enemy attacks. Then there is the Ultrasonic Testing Vehicle which employs ultrasonic technique to locate the railway tracks which are damaged. There are also Electrical Multiple Units used to transfer coaches. With the manufacture of premier Luxury Coaches designed on the lines of Palace on Wheels, ICF has added a new dimension to itself.
Starting as a small scale manufacturing unit ICF has come a long way indeed. The purpose of the article was to increase awareness about India’s premier railway manufacturing industry. If everyone has heard about steel and aluminum industries, why shouldn’t they hear about the industry which extensively utilizes these. Besides ICF deserves a mention for carrying the burden of millions of people who rely on railways for living or for transportation.