Nagpur - Mumbai - Nagpur: Observations
by Alok Patel
One of the most visible activity on the entire NGP-CSTM stretch was rail replacement on a war footing. 10% of the entire 830 km long route must have been under rail replacement at the moment I was travelling. Huge lengths of CWR was laid either alongside tracks or being laid onto tracks with the old rails lying alongside. This included the suburban section of Mumbai both CR and WR. I also spotted a train with flat wagons adapted to handle LWR rails. These had rails spanning three wagons. Prakash Tendulkar has some pics of wagons resembling the ones I saw.
Some sections also had long stretches of track undergoing sleeper replacement. Speed Restriction of 30 kph was being followed here. Inspite of all this, track quality is still pathetic on this stretch. Something that is particularly noticeable when you ride the section in a loco with a no frills suspension unlike in the coaches. The black soil was to blame according to one driver, the track sinks in after every rainy season requiring another major round of maintenance every winter he said.
Some OHE work was also on with two or three OHE cars on the line at different places. Also, the compound OHE composed of three wires that was under discussion on IRFCA, begins right from Kalyan and ends at Igatpuri. I suppose this is due to the section being a steadily rising ghat section all along needing more power.
Finally, plenty of point replacement work also going on. Brand new points being installed on the mainlines including one near Badnera and at various places enroute. A heck of a lot of maintenance folks working all along the way.
Mumbai AC DC EMUs
Travelled by the AC DC EMUs on some of my many trips to Andheri, Virar and Borivali. The newer EMUs with Air Suspension offer better ride quality it seems. The coaches do not sway as much as the DC ones. Noticed that they start off without much of a jerk unlike the DC ones which throw you back when starting off when going into motion. Acceleration is much smoother than a DC EMU as well. They are less noisier except for the constant whoosh whoosh emitted by the Air Suspension adjusting itself while encountering uneven tracks.
AC Conversion in Mumbai
Lots of catenary masts and gantries have been replaced by the AC type on both WR and CR. The new 5th line on WR has AC OHE equipment in most places. The line does seem to be operational but not used to full capacity yet.
I think that the plan may be to convert the section from Virar to Vasai Rd to AC traction soon. That way, the Diva Vasai line which is now AC in parts, too can be part of the main AC corridor. Only AC DC EMUs will be able to do the Vasai Rd Virar run which would be good enough for the time being. If this does happen, expect WAGs and WAMs and even WAPs right into the heart of DC Mumbai soon!. Imagine a WAP5 with the TVC Rajdhani standing at Diva :-) or a WAG7 hauling a container rake standing there.
Also, the fifth line might be made to go AC before the rest of the section does. I do not know if there are technical problems that might hinder that happenning such as catenary connected to the same substation and interlinked at some places. This is just conjecture. I wonder if someone has an idea of what will happen. Would be interesting to know.
Kalyan has undergone another remodelling it seems, and the process is still underway. Platform 1 of the station has graduated from being a terminating EMU platform to a full fledged Mail Express platform! I was actually shocked on seeing the train switching tracks to a side I've never seen a long distance train go in all my lifetime. I was wondering if they have made a mistake and put the train on the wrong track until I saw that the end of the track we were on, had been connected to another loop line towards Pune/Igatpuri in Kalyan Yard.
Many platforms in Mumbai now have the ramps removed from their ends. I guess this is to discourage people from getting off the platforms and onto the tracks. It has somewhat succeeded in some places, not so well in others. The devious minds always find a solution. In this case, that is simple, simply put a large flat stone slab beside the platform wall to act as a stepping stone. Simple and effective.
Also, some iron dividers have been put into place between tracks on WR to prevent people from crossing tracks, now these are being used by people to get off the tall EMUs from the wrong side! Talk about making the best out of circumstances! Ofcourse, there are also the usual nutcases riding on top of the EMUs dangerously close to the 1500 volt traction wires. Scary. These folks ought to apply for stuntmen's jobs or failing that, get admitted into mental hospitals.
Spotted the usual bunch of Locos with the usual bunch of trains. The only highlights were a KJM WDM3A hauling a small freight near Chalisgaon and another from what must have been Itarsi.
Also spotted a cool MUed Jumbo and WDM2 set on the Karnataka Express at Bhusawal. The short hood of the Jumbo was leading and was very good looking as the train trundled into Bhusawal from Itarsi side at around 1.30 pm.
Spotted a dead WAG9 coupled dead between an Itarsi WAM4 and the Agra Itarsi Nagpur passenger on the morning I was due to board the Gitanjali for Mumbai. This was my first ever live spotting of the WAG9. My guess is that the loco had problems and was going to Ghaziabad for repairs. It had the familiar Ajni marking on the side in Hindi. Number 31029
Spotted a pair of live WAG9s blasting past me at Sewagram towards Badnera as my train was headed towards Nagpur. No idea what they were upto.
More coming up on the WAG9s soon.