WAG9 31075 stalls
by Alok Patel
WAG9 31075 stalls with loaded rake at Nagpur - Rajdhani gets delayed by an hour - Report.
Sunday, 16th October 2005.
Either the good folks at Nagpur always know of my impending station visit and prepare a nice how for me or this is a fairly regular occurrence here ;-).
Anyway, Sunday afternoon was dull and cloudy but with the silver lining that I had to visit the station. The occasion was seeing a friend off on the Bilaspur Nizamuddin Rajdhani to Delhi. Thankfully, the rain had let up and I only had to contend with a light, chilly drizzle on the way.
I called up a driver friend and found he too was bringing a train into Nagpur in half an hour. My friend had not arrived yet and I had around 30-40 minutes worth of exploration time at the station. There was the regular complement of two Bhusawal WAM4s, a Vijayawada WAG5 and an Itarsi WAM4 resting on the stabling line. The newly extended and renumbered 8473/74 Jaipur Puri Express was waiting at Platform No.4 with a WAM4 from Vijaywada of all places. The train was packed which meant the extension was beneficial.
At the Mumbai end, the Vidarbha Express had WAP4 22628 in charge. It was turned off since departure time was more than 3 hours away. The Mumbai side FOB has been (finally) undergoing expansion work with the obligatory mess all over the platforms. That and the usual PA system/ vendor cacaphony made for usual picture of a busy time at the station.
I decided to go over the FOB for a better view only to see a WAG9 approaching in the distance. Pleased to have spotted the WAG9 of the day, I positioned myself above the mainline track between PF 1 and 2. Snapping off two pics with my cellphone as the WAG9 passed underneath, I saw that it was one of the latest additions to Ajni's holding - 31075. Unfortunately, I missed photographing the roof of the WAG9 - Haven't seen a photo of WAG9/WAP5/WAP7 rooftop equipment on the server yet.
As the rake rumbled through the station to stop at the Delhi end, I also made my way down the FOB towards the loco. The wagons were full to the brim with coal and most had heaps of coal reaching a foot above the rim. I was already wondering about how much the water must have added to the overall weight of the wagons.
By the time I reached the WAG9, a fresh crew had already taken over and the starter was double yellow. So the train was to continue on the mainline towards Delhi. Trains towards Howrah get a single yellow because they will be crossing several loops. This particular WAG9 has the regular grilled cow catcher instead of the 3 phase loco standard solid metal type - a trend that seems set to continue. The grilled guard gives the loco a messy appearance. I'd love to see all the WAPs and WAGs get the solid type. It looks so much tougher.
Anyway, back to business. The WAG9 chief was ready to go. A quick call to the guard on the radio and they got the all clear. The driver gave a blast of the very loud horn and the assistant suddenly realised he needed to refill his water bottle ;-). He jumped off and ran to the nearest tap taking less than a minute to get back. Another couple of blasts of the horn and I was considering a visit to an ENT specialist to check for permanent ear damage!
The driver pushed the TE lever up and it took a few seconds before 31075 made the smallest of movements. The inherent slack between the couplers makes it easier for the loco to gain a little bit of momentum with the first few wagons. This momentum then helps the wagons behind get moving and so on. The loco began to inch forward and decelerated in jerks as the slack along the rake got taken up. The WAG9 came to a standstill as it fought to regain momentum. More TE and I heard a slight shudder underneath the loco. Must be wheels slip. However, that got arrested quickly enough and the WAG9 inched forward after a few more seconds. Thus began its agonisingly slow crawl out of the station. Time was around 15:00.
The mainline out of Nagpur station towards Delhi is a 1km long upgradient on an S curve. After that is a slight dip and then begins another upgradient. I knew it would be a struggle for the WAG9 especially with the rain. Snapping off some more pics as the loco went by, I saw the TN Express from Delhi negotiating the curve and approaching the station. As the caboose of the goods passed with a somewhat anxious looking guard, I headed off towards the other platform to see the Rajdhani arriving on Platform No.3. I gave my friend a call to show up quick. The 11 coach Bilaspur Rajdhani turned out to have Ghaziabad WAP4 22619 in charge. I've seen the train get a GZB WAP4 earlier so it may have become a permanent link. Delhi folks please clarify. Time: 15:15.
Occupied with the Rajdhani and my friend, I hadn't noticed that the WAG9 hauled goods train hadn't gotten past the curve out of Nagpur (vsible from the station) yet.
It would be another 15 minutes - the TN had left, the Rajdhani loco had been reversed and attached to the Delhi end but looked like it was waiting unneccesarily. It was now that I spotted the stuck rake. Sensing something interesting, I started walking the 300 odd metres towards the stuck hauled rake. I could only see the rear portion of the rake on the curve since the loco was on the other end of the 'S' curve. At around 15:30, I heard a shunter coming down on the same Delhi bound mainline from behind.
I couldn't help but grin on realising this yet another stalling incident ;-).
Well before I had made my way to the spot, the 'CCC' (Coal Cleanup Crew) from the adjacent slums had swung into action with military-like efficiency. Teams of daring youth had scaled wagons faster than you could say monkey. Remember, the OHE is only a few feet away. One false move and they would become part of the coal they were trying to 'cleanup'. Anyway, Team CCC would then throw lumps of coal off the wagon where waiting cohorts would immediately collect the coal and throw it further away. Hmmm, I thought, IR crews could learn something from this unsupervised teamwork.
The entire operation was complete in a few minutes. However, while trying to get down, one of the daredevils inadvertently stepped on an air pipe joint between wagons and the pipes parted. The air pressure plummetted, wagon brakes went into emergency mode and so did the CCC. The crew disappeared faster than Mr India. If the poor driver had been in despair trying to get his rake moving, watching the pipe pressure disappear in the cab might have made him hysterical. The poor man must have begun wondering if the OHE itself would trip to make matters even more interesting. The assistant went off to get the pipe fixed.
In the meantime, the Rajdhani is waiting for the stalled goods to clear the section. Also stranded is the traffic at the first level crossing out of Nagpur. The WAG9 had crossed the gate signal and so the interlocked gate couldn't be opened to let traffic through leading to catcalls and some very angry motorists ;-). The unfortunate gateman would at that moment have gladly traded places with the WAG9 driver.
The shunter was travelling on occupied track and so the interlocked mainline starter wouldn't go off. The shunt signal wasn't working and so the shunter driver obtained a private number from the controller and crossed the starter at ON. A worried Deputy SS seemed relieved when the shunter driver reassured him of that.
Although it took half an hour for the shunter to show up from the other end of the station, things began to move quickly from here. Coupling the shunter to the caboose is quick and easy thanks to CBC. A talk with the WAG9 driver at the head of the rake and work began to start the rake up. Since the WDS6 alone couldn't have started the rake, the WAG9 also had to apply TE. The WDS6 driver started pumping out whatever power the 1400 HP loco could manage. The result was gorgeous thick black smoke belching from the exhaust. The rake began to inch forward and there was virtually no wheelslip from the shunter!
But it wasn't enough. It required another gargantuan effort from both locos and the rake finally began moving at a steady pace. The combo then pushed the rake over the second upgradient and till Godhni where the shunter was detached and hot footed it back to Nagpur. With the section confirmed clear, the Rajdhani was given the starter as soon as the shunter cleared the yard. Time - 15:55.
This incident should teach the section controller how interesting it is when the Rajdhani gets stranded simply because he had the gall to send a weakling loco with a heavy rake ahead of the Rajdhani. I can only hope they allowed the Rajdhani to overtake the coal rake at Godhni!
On the trek back to the station, I met an acquaintance working on IR for 20+ years. He regaled me with stories of how turnouts were being replaced ever since derailments occurred in quick succession - soon after a new official too charge - and how he was praying that the blessed railway minister would get thumped in Bihar elections for not giving a good bonus this year ;-).
I hope you guys haven't dozed off. The Bihar bit was nice.