The Railway Men on Netflix: Is the 2023 series based on a true story?

By Louie Fecou
Published: November 20, 2023
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Is The Railway Men based on a true story?
The Railway Men Season 1 | Image via Netflix

The Netflix drama series The Railway Men is a four-episode limited series that tells a story of heroism and struggle among the employees of the Indian railways in 1984. The show focuses on a terrible disaster that occurs, a horrifying and tragic gas leak in Bhopal, and the consequences and fallout after the event. The adaptation of the true story was written by Aavush Gupta and directed by filmmaker Shiv Rawail.

Is The Railway Men on Netflix based on a true story?

Yes, The Railway Men is based on fact. The story is based on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that happened on the 2nd and 3rd of December 1984, considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster.

The trouble began at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant, built in 1969 to manufacture the pesticide Sevin. However, a toxic gas named methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from a storage tank and horrifically made its way out, exposing thousands of residents to the deadly toxic fumes.

The cause of the disaster seemed to be the presence of water in the MIC storage tank. This led to a chemical chain reaction that allowed a large amount of the toxic gas to leak out, and with no real contingency in place for such a massive disaster, the gas spread quickly out to the heavily populated neighborhoods surrounding the plant, causing widespread panic and chaos to the many residents that lived in the area.

What happened after the leak occurred?

The terrible repercussions of the event left thousands dead and those that did not die immediately suffered from the fumes. The long-term effects of the noxious gas meant that many others would suffer health problems, and some would even die in the week that followed. Outrage and legal repercussions ensued, and people affected would demand some form of justice.

The company, US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), eventually settled with the Indian government for four hundred and seventy million dollars. The settlement would not be reached until 1989, and many reports would indicate that the damages paid out were not enough for the nightmarish death toll and the environmental problems that persisted after the event.

The Netflix series shows the heroism of some of the workers who helped to save the lives of people who were involved in the catastrophe.

Who was Warren Anderson?

Warren Anderson

Warren Anderson | Image via GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE

Warren Martin Anderson was the CEO of the Union Carbide Corporation when the Bhopal disaster happened in 1984. The businessman was born in 1921 in New York.

Indian authorities investigating the case would charge Anderon with manslaughter, and after he flew to India, he was placed into custody. Eventually, he was returned to the U.S., but was considered by the Indian police to be a fugitive from justice, after failing to attend court in 1992. The Indian government applied to have him extradited in 2003, but the U.S. refused the request, leading to an arrest warrant being issued for him in 2009.

A spokesperson for the company would state that at the time of the disaster, Union Carbide was not operating the plant, instead deferring the responsibility to Union Carbide India Limited. This would lead to eight former senior representatives of the company being found guilty in 2010, and a statement from the US company stating that everyone involved in the incident had faced charges.

Warren Anderson died at a nursing home on September 29th, 2014, at the age of 92.

Who is in the cast of The Railway Men?

The Railway Men includes a talented ensemble cast that isn’t necessarily comprised of big stars, which in hindsight was a good creative decision. Rather than distracting viewers, the casting choices allow them to focus on the very human stories of heroism at the heart of the limited series.

R Madhavan plays Rati Pandey, the courageous General Manager of the Central Zone of the Indian Railways. The show also features:

  • Kay Kay Menon
  • Philip Rosch
  • Babil Khan
  • Connor Keene
  • Divyendu Sharma.

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