Sealdah-New Jalpaiguri trip report
by Anirban Mukherji
Apart from the Darjeeling trip report , here's a smaller but eventful , trip report on the SDAH-NJP journey & back this summer.
SDAH - NJP by 3141 Teesta Torsa exp [2003-05-13]
Sorry old vacuum rake ( rust colored ) arrives just 10 mins prior to scheduled dep at SDAH. Our AC2T coach is a much reworked stuff. Multilayered paint has thickened the bulge around the window panes. The AC staff says ER does not prioritise SDAH section for new coaches which are always taken away by the HWH section.
Power is WDM2 - Burdwan ( sorry number not noted ). We take off at 13.50 hrs, 10 mins behind schedule. 3141 takes the Naihati - Bandel - Katwa - MLDT route. Eagerly awaiting to photograph the Bandel bridge across Hooghly, we discover that this bridge is damaged. The crack on the first pier is visible, our train ofcourse runs on caution order. The rail condition is pitiable to say the least in the Bandel - MLDT section, bogie sway and roll is well felt even with MPS less than 80 kph.
For the foodies, Ambika Kalna station offers excellent "besan shev" sold in the coach by a glib talking local with pony tailed hair, His stuff sold out in minutes, we too munched on the stuff; surprisingly next morning the leftovers tasted bitter, so do finish what you buy immediately. Trains run under caution order on the Farakka barrage, hence one gets a good view ( better in the day ) of the magnificent Ganga waters gushing through the sluice gates. Here the road & rail bridge run alongside; noticed many cars & buses on the bridge overtaking our train.
Arrived NJP 1 hour behind schedule at 5 a.m. to find daylight at the PF, startling for guys from western India who are used to darkness at this hour. BTW, this train like many others on this route, is held up at many stations for unscheduled goods loading in the luggage van, adding to the delays; its clear that passenger priorities take the back seat.
NJP - SDAH by 5658 Kanchenjunga [2003-05-21]
Arrived NJP on 20th night, amidst fears of the bandh called by all Trade unions. The worse came true next morning, our rickshaw was stopped and the tyres deflated by lumpens on the way to NJP stn. All this at 6 a.m. Thanks to the kindly rickshaw driver, we carried our baggage to the stn, only to find indefinite schedules for all trains passing through West Bengal. Thus begun a long wait for our journey to start. First came the TVC- New Bongai exp and occupied PF1.
Then the Delhi bound Assam - Avadh came on PF3. Walked upto the engine of Assam-Avadh # 14116 WDM3A - Gonda shed ( original builders plate mentioned WDM2C ).
While drooling over the lovely orange-cream livery, chatted up with the driver who was to take charge from NJP. News came on his walkie-talkie that a goods up ahead had been held up by the striking janata, could see the tail end of the goods in the distant horizon.
Soon the rly authorities gave up ; the loco was shut down ( incidentally rlys are on a fuel saving spree and nowadays diesels with more than 4 hr halts are shut down ).
WDM3s use 25 lit of diesel during starting ( any corrections ??) The crew spent another 4 hrs on the PF (max detention period ) before signing off to the running room.
Meanwhile our Kanchenjunga arrived on PF4 with a blue liveried air-braked rake behind a 1991 built MLDT shed WDM2A ( unimpressive rust livery ) Later I was to learn from the crew that MLDT locos have questionable maintenance and frequent breakdowns are the norm.
This loco was promptly shut down ( loco shutdowns performed by local staff & not drivers ) Legally a dead loco on platform is under control of the stn master & RPF staff.
During my banter with the crew, I also learnt that NJP - MLDT section has 100 kph (mps ) due to sinking soil, the soil being rich in mica which does not allow compaction.
Rambled around NJP stn, saw 2 dead locos, 16175-WDM2 - Andal in beautiful blue & white livery & 18772 R - WDM2A - Burdwan at the siding. NJP has a major marshalling yard with many WDGs & a couple of WDS6s dotting the place. NJP also till recently, boasted of having BG,MG & NG tracks all at the same stn.
Now the MG is gone, just like Miraj Jn which lost MG recently. Nice showers cooled the place and we lunched on IR standard egg meal served from the Kanchan pantry.
BTW, the battery power in the coaches ran the fans from 9 a.m. till 4.15 p.m non-stop when we finally left NJP.
From NJP, onwards our chief did a spirited run till Malda, using up MPS almost although. Later complimented him at Malda stn ( 9 p.m ) to be told that he needed to catch a nap before taking the Darjeeling Mail at pre-dawn back to NJP.
Highlight on the way was our track running parallel to the MG line from Alubari Rd to Makuria ( stn after Barsoi Jn ) till the MG track branched off to Katihar. Just after we left Barsoi, a passenger on the MG track raced ahead of us, a little later it was funny to observe our big boy effortlessly overtaking the MG passenger, with the guard of the MG train actually showing us the green lamp ( rather unusual for unconnected sectors , is it the norm ? ).
Surprisingly we got a Burdwan WDM2 at MLDT which with its out of place single tone electric horn , brought us to SDAH at 7 next morning, after an impatient halt at the SDAH outer for 30 mins ; late by over 10 hrs but safe .