Railways – Special Class Railway Apprentices

Special Class Railway Apprentices’(SCRA) refers to a handful of candidates that are selected by theUnion Public Service Commission India, after a rigorous selection process, to the undergraduate program in Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical EngineeringJamalpur. This programme was started in 1927 and is one of the oldest in India.

Under Graduate Course

The SCRA scheme was started in 1927 by the British, to select a handful of the most intelligent Indians to assist them in their Railway Operations, after training at their Railway’s largest workshop, i.e. Jamalpur Workshop, and for one year in United Kingdom. The selected candidates were required to appear in the Mechanical Engineering Degree Examination held by Engineering Council (London).

Since then, the few admission seats for one of the country’s first engineering college have always been hotly contested, with as many as 2.5 lakh candidates taking the entrance examination, now conducted by UPSC, for about 42 seats.

The scheme has continued to draw the country’s best talent after independence and has provided Indian Railways with its top-ranking officers in all walks. Many of the Institute’s alumni have won international accolade for having achieved excellence in their chosen careers, which include inventors, academicians, entrepreneurs, and high-ranking officers in other nations.

The examination comprises written test in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English Language, General Knowledge, and Psychological Test (Mental Ability). The selected candidates are called for an interview, which is followed by a medical examination. The standard of syllabus is that of Class XII (CBSE equivalent).

The notice for the SCRA entrance examination, along with form and syllabus, is brought out by the UPSC around the months of June–July. According to the new rules issued by theMinistry of Railways, the exam is now conducted once in a year.

The selected candidates undergo a four-year rigorous training programme in Mechanical Engineering, for which the Institute has a Memorandum of Understanding with BIT, Mesra, Ranchi. The semester system of BIT, Mesra is followed, with workshop training sessions during the holidays at BIT, Mesra.

The apprentices get a stipend of Rs. 9100[1] and Dearness Allowance, apart from other benefits such as medical care, privilege passes, PTOs, etc.In short they are adopted by the Indian Railways with all high class facilities at Gymkhana Jamalpur, their stipend also increases year by year. Moreover they have a guaranteed top notch Group A service which they get after successful completion of four years of training, the candidates join as Indian Railway Services of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME) Officers in Indian Railways to face a challenging and satisfying career.

Source : Indian Railways Divisional Portal CMS Team Last Reviewed on: 15-10-2010[2]


After the completion of their training, they are absorbed into the highest level leadership program in the Railway organization (also called Group A Officers). This cadre of officers are attached to the IRSME.

On completion of the probation in SCRA, one is posted as an officer in the junior scale. Promotion to the senior scale takes place after about two years of service in working post. After six to seven years of service, the officer is promoted to the Junior Administrative Grade, which has two levels. One can be serving in various assignments at the Junior Administrative Grade for 8–10 years. This is followed by the Selection Grade.

The next in seniority is the Senior Administrative Grade, equivalent to the Joint Secretary, Government of India which is obtained after 16–18 years of service. Officers of this grade may be posted as heads of various workshops in the field, as heads of a department functioning at the Headquarters office, as Addition Divisional Railway Manager or as the Executive Director in the Railway Board. After six to eight years, while remaining in the same pay scale officers are selected to be appointed as Divisional Railway Managers (DRM).

The Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) heads the organization at the division level. There are currently 67 divisions on the system nationwide. The divisions are primarily involved with train running but uu have loco sheds (repair shops for locomotives), coaching depots (repair home bases for passenger trains) and wagon depots (repair and maintenance points for freight stock). Each division has all the functional (both line and staff) organizations. The heads of these functional groups report to the DRM for administrative purposes but rely on guidance from the railway board and the zonal headquarters for policy guidelines.Union Public Service Commissionissued a notification for the Special Class Railway Apprentice SCRA Examination 2014 to recruit a large number of candidates, and will hold the SCRA exam on 18 January 2015 at various centres across India.


Since 1927

The Special Class Railway Apprentices’ (SCRA) scheme was started in 1927 to meet the demand for engineers on the EIR (East Indian Railway) and on the GIP (Great Indian Peninsular) Railway. The SCRAs are selected by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on the basis of an all- India competitive examination, which is held every year. They are imparted training in the fields of mechanical and electrical engineering at the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical & Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE) set up at Jamalpur, and, on completion of their training, serve the Railways in various capacities.


The SCRAs have distinguished themselves in academics, with 39 trainees obtaining honorable mentions from the A.M.I.Mech. E(London) from 1933–39 and from 1954–66, with records for the intervening period of World War-II not being available. The BE(Mech.) degree is now provided in collaboration with Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra. 56 SCRAs have also won Gold Medals in the examinations conducted by the Institution of Engineers (India) and 3 have been awarded University Gold Medals at Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra.

All round

During their stay at Jamalpur, the apprentices are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular activities like sports, music, debating and performing arts, which not only help in personal enrichment but also stand in good stead later in life. They manage their hostel entirely on their own and organize big shows like the annual re-union of the Old Boys’. This, along with the fact that they interact, from very close quarters, with a myriad of people belonging to the Railways, gives them the confidence and the ability to manage the organization in their later years.

The alumni of the Institute at Jamalpur have been an integral part of the Railways’ evolution from the steam era to the age of high speed locomotives for a major part of this century by providing high quality techno-managerial inputs. Five SCRAs have risen to the ranks of Chairman, Railway Board while 16 have been Members of the Railway Board. Also, a large number of SCRAs have been General Managers and Principal Heads of Departments all over the Indian Railways and also in its sister organisations like RITES, COFMOW, CRIS etc.

Outside the Railways as well, the SCRAs have been highly successful:- serving in organizations such as the World Bank, being a part of the teaching faculty at universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA, working as top executives in world class private concerns; both in India and abroad, being board members of Pakistan Railways and lots more. Over 60 alumni have been Principal heads or chief executives or CMDs of renowned organizations in India.

Types of Indian Railway services

Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME)
Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)

This branch of the Indian Railways looks after transportation and commercial matters pertaining to transportation. The branch is further divided into two divisions:

  • The commercial division: This division deals with all commercial responsibilities like ticket checking, catering, administration and management of stations, reservation, platform announcements etc.
  • The operations division: This division deals with controlling movement of the trains, keeping a check on incoming and outgoing trains.

A career with the IRTS begins with 3 years of probationary training. The training is carried out for 2 years at Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration in Mussourie, zonal training centres and incorporates on the job training.

Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)

This branch of the Railways deals with the accounting and finance operations of the Indian Railway. Appointed officers of the IRAS begin their careers with two years of probationary service.

Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)

This division handles all matters relating to recruitment, promotions, training and even staff welfare, staff welfare activities, transfers, disciplinary actions and so on. The officers of the personnel department also undergo a 3-year probation period.

Railway Protection Service/ Railway Protection Force

This branch of the Indian Railway Services operates as other para-military forces. They are responsible for the maintenance of law and order on trains and on premises owned and used by the Indian Railways. On recruitment a RPF officer undergoes training for 3 years at Baroda, Lucknow and Police training establishments.

Indian Railway Engineering Service

It is the technical side of the Indian Railways and is engaged in activities like installation, maintenance, construction and planning of railway tracks, bridges and buildings.

Indian Railway Stores Service

An engineering service which assists other departments in their material procurementents,their storage, and scrap disposal.


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