It was a narrow escape for a few hundred passengers in Odisha a train without engine travelled at least 12 km near Titlagarh station on Saturday night. The Puri-Ahmedabad 18406 rolled down the track without its engine from Titlagarh to Kesinga.

The incident happened when the engine of the train was being changed at Titlagarh railway station. The engine had been detached for reversal. With the engine still to be attached, 22 bogies started moving on the track that had a slope, apparently due to non-application of the skid brakes.

Eyewitnesses said there was a certain amount of panic among passengers and the railway staff. “Some of the passengers started screaming for help,” said Madhu, a witness to the unusual incident that took place around 10 pm on Saturday. “The passengers were trying to stop the train by pulling the chain but the attempts failed,” he added.

The incident, which happened in front of the railway staff, left them helpless. A 12- member team had to chase and stop the moving train.

Preliminary investigations revealed the staff had forgotten to apply the locking systems of the bogies during the process of changing the engine, and since the track towards Kesinga has a downward slope, the train started rolling down.

The coaches were stopped by the staff by putting stones on the  track and bringing the train to a halt, an East Coast Railway spokesperson said.

Soon after the incident, an engine was sent from Titlagarh to ferry the coaches, the spokesperson added.

Divisional Railway Manager, Sambalpur, has suspended five railway employees and marked an inquiry, asking officials to complete it within three days. All the passengers are safe, DRM  Jayadeep Gupta said.