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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Office of 'Assistant Station Master'

The gentleman who sits here is actually what may be called, for the sake of convenience, the 'Indoor ASM', for the nature of his work requires him to remain at his desk all day long. The Indoor ASM, whose office is next to that of the Station Master has under his charge all the paperwork connected with the running of trains. He takes down messages from the Control Office, books Guards for passenger trains (at crew changing stations), issues caution orders and letters of authority (such as authorities to pass a defective signal at danger), attends to complaints lodged by passengers, and makes entries in the Station Diary. At a railway junction the task of keeping a continuous record of what is happening is the forte of the ASM. The Station Diary where each particular is entered is an authoritative record of all that is happening at the station -- it can even act as evidence in a court of law should the need arise.

What kind of particulars does an ASM have to record in the Station Diary? Everything in fact, such as train numbers and their arrival and departure times (both advertised and actual), detentions to trains and their reasons, names of staff joining duty, and unusual occurrences. As his shift of duty draws to a close, an Indoor ASM has to record in the diary what is known as the 'yard position'. In this context it must be remembered that the Station Master of a large station has under his jurisdiction only the portion of the yard consisting of the running lines in the passenger yard area. Other areas such as the carriage stabling lines and the goods yard are no concern of his. The 'yard position' thus specifies which of the running lines are occupied with coaches, empty rakes, etc., and which ones are vacant. This information is recorded three times a day (midnight, 8am and 4pm) in the Station Diary, the object being to acquaint the incoming ASM with what is lying where, and what needs to be done with it. More importantly, it ensures that the person taking over charge doesn't on account of ignorance authorize the admission of a train onto a track that is already occupied.

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