Goa trip report

2002-11-01/13

by Apurva Bahadur

Photos from this trip can be viewed here: Goa 2002

For the past four years we (wife Shyama, 7 year old daughter Aditi and I) have been holidaying during Diwali at Goa. Maybe this was a good time to list the reasons why Goa is chosen over other destinations:

  • Lack of long leave from work
  • Lack of monetary resources.
  • Family responsibility, which may need coming back in a hurry to Pune.
  • Our love for water, beaches, scenic beauty.
  • Our love for railways.
  • Our love for food and drink.
  • Numerous railways related photo opportunities.
  • Excellent infrastructure aimed at tourists - very safe and secure.
  • Lovely people who genuinely love having visitors over.
  • Lack of racism - I am out with a (very large) bat to bop the first person who tries racism with me - it just did not happen in Goa - although it might happen right here at Pune…
  • Excellent value for money - there is no other place like it in India.

Normally going to Goa would mean taking the 2780 Goa express from Pune in the evening, going to sleep and waking up in Madgaon. However this time we wanted to add some adventure into this aseptic routine by going to Mumbai and taking the 2051 Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT - Kurla terminus) to Madgaon (MAO) Jan Shatabdi. Getting to LTT at dawn may have been half the adventure.

Our railway trip included:

  • Pune - Kurla by 1326 passenger
  • Kurla - Tilak Nagar by the first CSTM - Panvel EMU (0443 hrs at Kurla).
  • LTT - Madgaon by 2051 Jan Shatabdi.
  • Madgaon - Kulem by 362 VSG - QLM passenger.
  • Kulem - Madgaon by 365 QLM - VSG passenger.
  • Madgaon - Pune by 1098 Ernakulam - Pune Poorna express.

Pune - Kurla by 1326 passenger

Accordingly we were booked to travel Pune - Kurla by 1326 passenger that departs PA at 2250 to arrive CLA at 0353 hrs. We arrived at the Pune Jn on the 3rd Nov night. The vacuum braked 1326 rake was already waiting on the pf 2.

At the head was the WCG 2 # 20216. The 1326 rake has one reserved three-tier sleeper and an old style first class coach. The rest of the rake consists of unreserved coaches and SLRs at the ends. This is a great favourite of railway staff and govt officials who would rather travel slowly and sleep the whole night than start late in the night and arrive very early. We took the 1326 rather than the Mumbai bound mail/express trains as we wanted a train than let us off at Kurla. Mumbai bound Mail/express trains would stop only at Kalyan and then at Thane and not Kurla.

Normally this would not be a problem, but then this is a period when even the EMUs would not be running. There is some risk in taking the mail/expresses as they come from long distances and could be running late at Pune. We do not want to start our holidays with so much tension.

However, the problem with 1326 passenger is that it gets sidelined so that the Mumbai bound expresses can overtake. Still with all the delays we should have had enough time to arrive at LTT for the 0530 departure of the 2051.

We settled into out sleeper berths (low, middle and top in one bay) and waited for the train to start. I was sleeping on the lowest berth so as to wake up the family in time at Kurla.

The 7303 Sahyadri express (also vacuum braked) arrived behind WCG 2 # 20212 on pf 5 while the 6010 Chennai - Mumbai mail arrived on pf 3. We started on the dot and we went to sleep as we had an early start at Kurla. The sleep was rather good as everyone around us was sleeping and the compartment was nicely dark. The sleep gets slightly patchy when the train enters a station and the light from the platform shines on one's eyes. The WCG 2 kept a good pace and went as far as Vadgaon before the 6010 was allowed to overtake. At least two wheels on the 10 Up were with glowing red hot brake shoes.

I was forcing myself to sleep as much as possible for I did not want to miss the fun on the KR the next day. There was one more overtake by some train at Lonavala. The next time I woke up I was at what appeared to be the area between Palasdhari and Karjat. There was yet one more overtake here. I had guessed the location correctly (this was a dark night with little visual clues…) and soon our train crawled into the pf 1 of Karjat. Announcement was being made about the arrival of the 1082 Up Kanyakumari - Mumbai express on the pf 2.

Now I was getting worried - we were running late with every overtake and I was having visions of having to tell Shyama and Aditi that we missed our Jan Shatadbi due to late running of the 1326.

In reality the family would never be accept the late running of the 1326 as a valid reason for missing the onward train - what would be focused in glowing terms would be my own inaptitude in planning a journey. After all I could have planned to arrive at Mumbai the earlier evening and avoided the tension, however that plan would inconvenience people we would stay with and would invariable mean some additional expenditure. My current plan was that of railfan friendly with maximum movements by railways. My current plan also was very cost effective (which meant more money for the Goa goodies later).

Surprisingly, the 1326 was allowed to go ahead of the 82 Up and kept a good clip till Kalyan. We were almost on time at Kalyan and left ahead of 82 Up which crawled in as we were leaving. Kurla was reached almost on time much to my relief.

Kurla station before dawn

LTT is located only one km east of the Kurla station almost opposite to the Tilak Nagar station. Tilak Nagar is located on the Mankhurd/Panvel branch. The committed railfan in me would not want to take a rickshaw so we waited to take the first EMU on that line (0443 hrs).

Kurla was coming to life at time. Many mail/express train towards Mumbai speeded through the station. Plethora of twin headlamps retrofits on the WCAM 3s and the EMUs.

Plasser machines from their nightly maintenance missions began returning to their base at Kurla. A tired WDS 4 shunter with dim headlights moved an OHE wiring rake aimlessly.

The platform began to fill up for the first trains towards CST. A wiry bystander recognized me as a non-Mumbaikar and guided me to the booking office on the east side. I sought two full + one half tickets for the Kurla - Tilak Nagar run. This was the minimum step ticket and I was given three tickets of Rs. 5 each - there is apparently no half ticket at this step. The bystander suggested that we should have tea - which really meant that he wanted to have a cup of tea for his services - no problem here. Pools of humanity and pockets of magic appear in the megapolis.

Kurla at this time have mostly janata from the lower strata of society. My cleanly scrubbed middle class family with holiday luggage did stick out a little amongst the collection of first shift workers, painted ‘working’ women returning from a waning night, a bearded toothless man taking pleasure in kicking a stray dog… particularly distressing for us was an obviously traumatized young girl desperately clutching the sleeves of her companions, so insecure about her existence that she would not even allow one of them to go and get her a cup of tea.

I refuse to get depressed about this - would rather remain a sympathetic voyeur through the grime that is Mumbai.

The station train indicators were waking up - lighting up for the first time as the first of the day's EMUs started rolling in. Just then unexpectedly our own Venky appeared on the pf looking for us - joyous hugs etc. He too had never seen the LTT or the JS express and thought this was good opportunity to meet - the IRFCA never sleeps !

Good amount of loud banter was exchanged about the great IR at the predawn Kurla station much to the amusement of the janata near us. Our EMU was due at 0443 but the platform indicator was lit to show 0448. However the EMU's headlamp appeared from the Chunabhatti end and was at Kurla at exactly 0443. Anyone actually waiting for this train by the platform indicator would have missed it.

The next train is only at 0520 hrs, so is very tight when taking the JS express.

Tilak Nagar and the Lok Manya Tilak Terminus; Impressions of the Jan Shatabdi express

Tilak Nagar appears even before the EMU has finished negotiating the points at the exit of Kurla. The EMU just crawl to the Tilak Nagar having no section in which it can speed up. The LTT can be clearly seen on the left of the tracks looking like a big lit up circus tent - you cannot miss it, unless you are sitting on the right side of the train ! Sources say that Tilak Nagar is not a traditional station - it was built only after the LTT was constructed to allow some sort of railway connection.

A small path leads us from Tilak Nagar into LTT. I have never been to LTT before and it appears to have two island platforms. The large structure is a booking hall while the four plats are located by the side. Very functional and basic. I thought the platform height was rather low for such a major terminus. I was told that the height is to coach floor level only where the EMU's frequent.

As we were walking to towards the station, we could hear the loud and distinct horn of the WDP 4 locomotive being coupled to the end of the JS. The first view of the much-hyped JS rake is the glowing tail lamp and single rear end glass window of the guard lit from inside by fluorescent lamps. The last coach has a small space at one end for the guard - this is similar to the handicapped space in the EMU rakes. The guard gets one door on both sides and no side windows, except the rear facing single window. He seemed to have a toilet block in this tiny space with a frosted window. Must be quite a claustrophobic working area for the JS guard. Later I found that he does not have a toilet block but has a door which leads into the passenger area - he can use the passenger's loo instead.

The Varanasi bound 2165 express stood on the left of the JS. While the 1016 Kushinagar express had arrived on the pf adjacent to the JS rake. We located our coach SC2 where we had three adjacent seats on the right of the coach - the seats in the entire rake were set to face forwards. The coach is brightly lit and well furnished. The floor has a nice light coloured finish. Even the second-class chair car has ducts along the center of the ceiling for the air-conditioner blower. Additionally the regular fans are present above each seat set. The fans at the first glance appear the normal Kailash brand, the logo and the blue anodized label of the snow-capped mountain is similar. However they are of a somewhat inferior Shankar (apologies to an excellent person by the same name) brand - many of these were not working and needed a classic nudge of a comb (the cap of a pen in my case) to start the rotation. This also proves that they are DC fans with a commutator and carbon brushes - these are maintenance intensive and should be replaced by brushless DC fans. The use of these DC fans points to cost cutting measures by the manufacturers of these coaches, ICF Chennai.

The superb seats are actually manufactured in Pune by the Harita - Grammar company - these have excellent lumbar support and a pleasing green - gray Rexene finish. The armrest between the seats can be folded along the backrest - this gives more space if you do not mind rubbing thighs with your neighbour. A drop down table can be unfolded from the seat in front for placing the food - it can also be used to rest your arms as the trains is running and you are not eating at that time - else you can put your head on the table and snooze. Last time we were on the KR, we had the normal 108 chair car of the 103 Mandovi express and it was very uncomfortable. The JS's seats were very nice for such a long journey. Of course the speeds are much higher so the time spent on the seats is lesser. The electrical switches for the lights and fans are of the fancy concealed rocker type normally found in posh houses rather than in railway coaches - a lot of attention has been paid to the details. Public announcement loud speakers set in the aircon duct, which were mercifully not used during this journey.

For reference, I had a set of prints of the relevant timetables. I also carried Rajan Mathew's JS report and his KR landmarks (what to see, on which side, at what km).

Rajan, as you know is the original Konkan railways fiend and has coined slogans like ‘too much of railways in one day’ - for that is exactly what the KR is.

The coach has an excellent blue and white finish - the luster of the paint is something special. The livery is blue on top and bottom with white band in the window area. The bottom blue band has a "Z" pattern made with a thinner white line.

The windows of the coach are on the outside and of the sideways sliding type. This is the worst feature of the coach - the external vision is HORRIBLE - the close spacing of the seats means that there is no guarantee that the seat will face the edge of a window. The opening of the windows in the coach metal is cut with the die of the single square window of the old style AC sleeper - worked twice sideways.

There is a middle area where the two darkened portions of the sliding glass meet - no vision is possible from that area. I wish the IR would stop equating fitting of dark glass with luxury. The grandeur of the KR just flits by while the passengers just cannot see out of the coach. In the normal upward window, even the person sitting in the aisle seat (usually me!) gets some view outside - in case of the JS coach even the middle seat is quite blind to the outside world.

I regret missing many photo opportunities due to the lack of warning about an approaching train as a result of the lack of vision. Of the missed opportunities was the crossing by a passenger train jointly hauled by a WDP 3A and a WDM 2. Also missed was the crossing by the NZM bound Raj with another WDP 3A. I like this exotic meets exotic situations. The tightly packed coach and the narrow aisle meant that even a rapid exit to the door for a pic is not easy.

One end of the coach contains a gally consisting of a water boiler for making tea and a food warmer to keep breakfast and lunch loaded at LTT and Ratnagiri warm. This galley is in place of the toilet block at one end. Hence there are only two toilets for the entire coach only at the non-galley end. There is a large inverter fitted in the bulkhead - inverter for running what ? I am not quite clear about this.

The coach seems to have smaller batteries than normal located under floor for the electrical loads. The fluorescent lamps can work off 110 VDC as do the DC fans - heating loads like the food warmer and the water boiler can run off the batteries without any problem - why is the inverter needed - like I said earlier, I do not know.

A recent article in the IR mag shows the interior of the newer (Kota or Hubli) JS rake's galley (labeled as "rail mart" - this one has a coffee/tea machine and a microwave oven - the Madgaon rake did not have these features. So maybe the inverter is meant to run these standard electrical loads as a design feature.

A rolling shutter by the entry door protects the ‘rail mart´. It is supposed to sell potato chips, bottled water etc on the run. The other rolling shutters protect the boiler/ food warmer when not in use. This coach contains a lot of stainless steel as compared to the regular chair cars. The toilets are also remodeled - they have aircraft style thin doors that fold out of the way when pushed - the first time I tried to push the door open, it rebounded back hitting me on the forehead - nice start for a holiday !

The Indian styled toilet (cannot bear looking at a commode in a coach) is also new style - a button rather than a lever activates the flush. Too bad the force of the spray of water is not directed at the pan - part of the flow squirts on the floor - on the shoes of the flush tester!

Outside the toilet, the washbasin is inset in the corner, aircraft style - it is lower and much smaller than the standard IR item. The tap works when you lift the lever. Nice touch.

One coach in the rake has an aircon - it looks identical to the open chair car. I guess the non aircon chair car is essentially the same shell without the cooling equipment. All coaches have the seating area separated by a spring return end door that is normally found on the AC chair cars. The exits of the coaches can located at the four corners. The exception is the last coach (code WGSRJ) at either end that contains the guard's ‘cell’. In this coach, the first set of door is found immediately after the vestibule, while the second set of doors is found in the middle of the coach. There are two sets of seating areas (the seats of one section are facing the other directions) are separated by the usual end door. I though there was yet another end door that connected the last passenger area with the guard's area, but cannot be sure. The rake carries a policeman in this section for the journey. The WGSRJ coach in not reversible if the coach is to have vestibule connections.

After settling the family in their seats and the luggage in the overhead racks, Venky and I went to check out the power.

The WDP 4 is long but not all that massive that I thought it would be. The loco's profile matched that of the coaches and for a moment I thought that the rake was standing on the pf without a loco - but the loco was very much attached and waiting to move. We had a brief visit to the cab - very nice layout. The WDP 4 # 20004 was attached with the cab end leading. The idling pitch of the prime mover is a strange combination of mewing and ringing sounds.

The driver sits on the left side with a desk type controls in front of him. The assistant has the desk behind him - he has to operate the horn button (square electrical switch, rather than a pneumatic valve) behind him. The crew has powerful, ducted fans that could be set at any angle for ventilation. The windscreen has sun visors that too can be set at any angle. The floor of the cab shook at a higher frequency than the WDM 2 that I am used to due to the higher revving 2 stroke engine.

The throttle with a red knob is a stubby bar set vertically in the desk. The throttle works eight motoring notches and as many dynamic brake notches. The motoring and braking is selected using the same throttle lever - however the lever has to be pushed through a kink in the slot - pulling the lever back increases the motoring notch. For engaging the dynamic brakes, the lever is brought to the zero notch, forced through the sideways kink and pushed in the forward direction. Moving the lever more and more in the forward direction increases the strength of the braking action. There is a backlit window near the base of the throttle that indicates the notch position.

There are levers for the train and loco brakes - the brake system is manufactured by Knorr. The train brake pipe pressure gauge has a LED lamp that remains lit when the brakes are set. The brake pressure is released by twisting the top of the train brake lever and the LED extinguishes.

The driver's stance is apelike with his hand clasping the throttle, while his hand remains upright. Must be quite uncomfortable in the long run. There is a rotary reverser switch and also the two headlamp switches. There was an audio hooter that kept sounding intermittently. Later WDP 4 reports suggest that this was a vigilance control, hence if the controls are not moved for a few minutes, the hooter sounds.

The driver silenced this sound by operating another switch which must be the vigilance acknowledge switch.

Most of the control switches for horns, wipers etc were electrical in nature as compared to the WDM 2 that has valves controls the air supply directly. There is a large loadmeter that has a scale to the right for motoring and left for braking efforts. The loco's engine ramps up and down as per the controlling computer's commands. So although the driver is not operating the throttle, all of a sudden the engine would start running at a higher speed - the driver told me that the computer was controlling this. There is a CRT monitor located at the end wall that displays the engine RPM, road speed, actual HP produced, speed of the two cooling fans etc. in a large font size. There is a flowchart of fault finding info on the wall.

The windscreen was quite dirty with wiper streaks, and this was just the start of the journey. I guess it is difficult to climb and clean the windscreen at Kurla. The windscreens were cleaned much later at Chiplun.

As the time of departure approached, we were shooed off the footplate and I returned to the coach to join family after saying a goodbye to Venky.

The JS journey

The train pulled out at exactly the right time and accelerated quite fast out of the station. Just as suddenly, the train braked and joined the CR mainline at Vidyavihar. Like mentioned before, I was almost had no vision sitting in aisle seat. The train halted for a few minutes at Thane (4 minute before time !) - this is where the bulk of the passenger came in - the train had more than 100 % occupancy !

As we left Thane, the catering staff began serving tea. The catering staff wears a smart yellow T shirt with an apron, when necessary. There is a tie wearing train superintendent who wears a Rajdhani express identification.

Serving tea is not easy as the aisle space is quite limited and there are a large number of passengers to cater to. The empty tea cup is first distributed with a tray that also contains a few biscuits, a tea dip bag, a packet of creamer, sugar pack etc. A half-liter water bottle is also given.

The waiter then fills the teacup with hot water from the boiler - that's all. He frequently runs out of water from his jug so has to return to the boiler for a refill. The tea is actually quite awful - even my street corner chaiwallah make a better cup. The packages of the creamer etc are quite difficult to open, when they do open, the contents spill out, with sticky results. As we drank tea, the train halted for a few seconds at Diva Jn after which it parts the CR mainline for the KR branch. Once the tea is over, the cups are collected.

Dawn broke as we sped through tiny stations before Panvel, I tried to see the vistas outside through the tiny gap in the window.

The coach is surprisingly smooth and silent for the speeds that we were traveling. The coaches have thermal insulation in the roof and side walls, I suppose this also translates into the reduction of sounds.

There was a long halt at Panvel. We were waiting to cross with an incoming passenger train. The breakfast was served as the train restarted. This consisted of two dry bread slices, to hard heart shaped vegetable cutlets, tomato sauce in a sachet, a small piece of Amul ‘lite’ butter (margarine actually) and a cup of tea. The breakfast looks better than it tastes.

I wish the railways would charge more for the JS ticket but serve even the ordinary level of railway food found on trains such as Pragati, Deccan Express, Sinhagad…..

Why do I complain so much about this food ? - Because I have eaten better !

Also because I knew that by the late afternoon I would in the land of three course breakfasts and multi page menus at ridiculous prices (by Pune standards) in food shacks by the beach, so I was thinking ahead.

I had to take a nap by now so as to remain fresh once the train was in the real Konkan territory. After crossing Roha, the speed went up noticeably and we were now cruising at 110 - 115 kmph.

I have used similar words to describe the KR earlier - there are no better words even today. The track appears to be traveling on level ground using very gentle curves while the ground around the track rises and falls. Where the land falls, a bridge is built, where the land rises and blocks the track, a tunnel is dug. The stations and bridges are like each other, as if they are all assembly line jobs. From the train one does not perceive the grand scale of the railway line, one also does not feel that we are crossing the tallest bridge on the entire IR or the longest tunnel.

The 2051/52 is one train on the IR that must come with a health warning - the speedy entry into the tunnels increase the air pressure on one's ears and it can be quite disturbing after some time. People from blocked sinuses and regulars on this train will suffer from health problems sooner or later.

Speaking of regulars, the catering staff and the train superintendent travel from LTT to MAO and back on a daily basis. This crew works for 19 hours a day and get double the pay. They do get the Wednesdays off when the 2051/52 does not run. The railways save quite a packet by avoiding the rest and accommodation facilities for them at MAO and also the complement crew at LTT.

The CR's driving crew from Panvel works the JS from LTT to Ratnagiri. A KR crew from Madgaon work the RN - MAO part of the run. The CR crew return to Mumbai by the next day's JS. The drivers work the fixed link of JS express.

After a refreshing nap, I took position by the door - it is here that you realize the speed of the train and the raw power of the loco - ‘the hand of giant pulling you’ feel than one gets with the WAP 4 etc is all to evident here, only better. This is because the WDP 4's electronically driven wheels do not slip easily, also the prime mover delivers power in the most effective way. The acceleration is slightly slower than an EMU.

The train halted at Chiplun for a very short time during which the windscreen was washed by spraying water from a hose and turning on the wiper.

I walked up from to the lead coach was at the door through the Chiplun - Ratnagiri section. One could hear the loud locomotive and the louder horn, even feel the hot air engine, however there was no fumes whatever. The loco winds up the revs before actually moving, behaving something like a diesel hydraulic. One can see the shimmering heat waves above the loco, but not even one wisp of smoke.

I could not see any of the small colour light signals (located near the ground) that I had seen on the KR trip in 1999 by Mandovi express. These were repeaters of signals located further on. I was prepared with a camera to capture these signals but could not find them.

A bulk of the passengers got off at Ratnagiri and the train was somewhat empty after this.

The Howrah - Mangalore holiday special was overtaken at RN.

The lunch was loaded in the short halt at Ratnagiri. We continued behind a different crew towards Madgaon. The crew was now from the KR who wear smart uniforms in brown or blue with shoulder epaulets indicating their rank.

Although we were booked for a vegetarian meal, we could get the non-veg meal which was egg curry, daal, rice, roti, soan -papadi (messy crumbs !) etc. Again not the best railway meal that I have eaten, but quite adequate in quantity.

We crossed a train with a dead WDM 2 at Kankavali, this was hauled by (surprise !), a blood red WDP 3A - where did this come from ? That train must have been ….Cannot say ! There is no train in the section as per the latest KR tt - I think this must have been a holiday special like MAQ - HWH or similar.

We crossed the WDP 3A powered TVC Rajdhani at Sindhudurg - two pantry cars on this rake.

We crossed the 104 Up Mandovi at Kudal worked by the KJM WDM 3A baldie # 14028 - I have seen this loco at so many places !

The high speed blat is a great treat - there is no moment of boredom. The train was quite empty by now as much of the passengers had only part journeys.

Goa appeared faster than expected, we had a long halt at Thivim which is the designated station meant for north Goa. Most of the train emptied at this station. This station is the one nearest to the north Goa beaches. However the road transport from here to the beaches could be even more than the JS fare from Mumbai !

As we waited at Thivim, the KR's ‘Roll on - Roll off’ rake crossed at full speed. This rake does not run the full KR now. Earlier it worked between Thokur near Mangalore to Kolad near Roha. Now it works between Verna and Kolad only. The rake was half full, which is a sad reality of the KR's freight operations. The thundering Kalyan WDM 2 # 18378 really thrashed the rake, more like a superfast than a freighter. The truck crews are very much on the RORO with their vehicles and there is no passenger coach, which would cater for the "human" needs of the truck drivers.

I was surprised to find that the JS does not stop at Karmali, as this station is the closest to the capital Panaji.

With most of the passengers gone and a late running of about 30 minutes, the JS was hauled at top speed through Verna, Zuari bridge at Courtalim, Majorda, Surawali and finally to the pf 1 of MAO Jn.

The impatient janata wanting to travel back on the JS were instructed not to board the rake till it was cleaned.

2051/52 is cleaned and water tanks refilled on the MAO platform. A sort of pit examination is carried out at pf itself. I saw some staff working on the brake rigging of one bogie of the JS. How would they know of the problem, till they did an under frame examination? Maybe the "rolling in" examination that is zealously done by the KR at either end of the MAO station revealed some anomalies. Not only does the KR does the "rolling in" examination, it also performs a ‘rolling out’ examination of all the rakes leaving MAO.

In Goa

We took a rickshaw to our hotel at Colva. Goa ricks have doors on the passenger sides and often a screen between the driver and the rear. Madgaon - Colva - Benaulim was all familiar land, as we came here for the last three years during Diwali.

Aditi was so tired by the journey that she slept from the early evening till the next morning, even missing dinner altogether.

The next morning started with hiring of a scooter (~Rs. 150 per day) so we were free to roam around. The first stop was the Majorda level crossing which was, to my delight was closed !

Just a few minutes later came the day's 104 Up Mandovi behind KJM WDM 3A # 14083. I noticed that the Verna bound train now usually change to MJO platform road and then proceed at speed through the station and level crossing. Last year, the Verna bound trains used to work through the main line and then cross over to the KR line after the level crossing. Maybe this is a coincidence.

More treats were in store as the gate phone rang once again and the crossing was closed for a huge BOXN (58 wagons + caboose) freighter filled to the brim of coal coming from Consaulim side. This monster was hauled by triple WDG 3As from Gooty. The leading power was a baldie # 14554 while the middle and trailing powers were with regular short hood # 14629 and 14699. We were to see these triple coupled WDG 3As many times in our Goa stay. All the Gooty locos WDM 3As and WDG 3As are equipped with ‘auto emergency brakes´ that allow them to use the Braganza ghat safely. The freighter snaked across the level crossing via the MJO yard and then crossed over to the left hand tracks - then the locos opened up, sending clouds of black smoke. The tracks between Majorda and Surawali have a small sag. It was a great sight to see the freighter rushing down the slope and then crawling up the grade.

I consider myself very lucky as to derive so much pleasure from a simple act such as a passage of a freight train.

Later in the afternoon, the Trivandrum - Nizamuddin Rajdhani curved on an embankment leading to the Sal river bridge amongst the water lily ponds and the floating ducks. The blood red WDP3A from Golden Rock was sounding superb as it led the small rake (all coaches had the red - cream livery while the power cars had the Blue - white Shatabdi livery) towards north KR. The WDP 3A would haul the train all the way to Vadodara !

ALAS, I was driving and was caught without the time to take the camera out of my bag and capture this unbelievable moment. Sadly I lack a professional camera that could capture the entire ambiance of wetlands and the train. However, it is an oath, that you would see pics from this location when I get a better camera, maybe next year. The location for this sighting is at the Madgaon end of the rail under bridge on the Colva road.

The KR and SCR timetable guided our daily schedules. I tried my best to be near the railway line at the correct times. And I got good results too!

A huge thanks must go to my wife Shyama and daughter Aditi who put up with the prolonged bench sittings at stations (or the sittings in a way side restaurant) while I waited on the rails.

In the evening, we visited the Madgaon Jn to see the Karwar bound DEMU. I have designed the engine control panel for this 3 coach 700 HP train, so wanted to show the family my product.

MAO in the evening is the mosquito capital of the world and it was very uncomfortable standing at one place for very long. The 103 Mandovi had arrived on the pf 1, while the DEMU was ready to start on the pf 2. Family was too tired, so I went alone to check out the DEMU. The driver was quite friendly and let me have a look at the engine room. It was nice to know that the control panel was working well. The driver normally work freight trains and passenger trains in the section and used terminology such as M2 for WDM 2 and G2 for WDG 2, which is exactly what our Sujeet from CLW also uses.

The DEMU is such a waste of resources. The rake waits dead through the day at the Verna shed. In the evening it work the single run to Karwar (~ 60 Kms), then waits the entire night at Karwar before returning the MAO in the morning. I doubt if this run is adequate to even charge the engine starting batteries of the DEMU. The drivers get paid the allowance for 160 Kms travel even if they work the MAO- KW section. 160 Kms travel relates to a distance between MAO and Kumta.

We had plans to ride the DEMU till Karwar one evening to return back in the morning. The plans got disrupted when the driver informed me that the nearest hotel in Karwar is over 7 kms from the station. I watched the DEMU depart on the south KR while we returned to Colva.

Next morning was an alarm call start. I went alone to the Sal river bridge to witness the early morning atmosphere. The sun was not up as yet, neither was anyone else. Goa is a laid back place and the early risers such as milkmen and paper delivery boys also start late.

I got to the road under bridge on the Colva road and got onto the tracks. The dense morning air was alive with the distant sounds of the Madgaon railway station as well as the delicate gurgling sounds of the Sal river - the night insects still chirping while the eastern horizon was becoming lighter. I could hear a train depart the MAO yard and work its way to the location. I was praying that the light level be a little more, so I could get a fantastic shot but it was still way too dark and the small flash on my camera would be very feeble for the area being photographed. The train was a triple WDG 3A headed BTPN rake with a BCN ‘support wagons´ at either end. The pics came better than expected - 400 ASA film Zindabad ! Never touch another type again. The 400 ASA has also resulted in clean shots of fast moving trains that would have normally blurred on a slower film.

The next train was the 2780 Goa express that arrived with a single Gooty WDM 3A baldie # 14057.

Later I was to know that the working of the Braganza ghat has changed slightly. Earlier, only locos with ‘Auto Emergency brakes´ would be allowed to use the ghats in both directions. Now things are slightly different, with an aim for better efficiency.

Goa express must have arrived at Londa with a Pune WDM 3A. The rear end of the Goa express is detached from the main rake and mated with a few coaches (the Londa - Hubli slip coaches !) to form the Londa - Hubli express. This train departs towards UBL with the Pune power. The rest of the rake is then coupled to a single AE equipped GY power and depart towards Castle Rock. At CLR, a pair of MUed locos is added ahead of the single power. Then the rake descends the Braganza ghat with the AE brakes activated. At Kulem, the MUed power is removed and the Goa express continues to Vasco behind the single WDM 3A.

In case of other trains like 1097 Pune - Ernakulam express, the Pune loco gets the train till CLR and a ghat qualified GY power pair is added in front of the Pune power. Then the crew takes charge of the leading locos (the leading locos are not MUed to the Pune loco) and then the train is allowed to descend the ghats. The trailing loco is kept idling. The drivers I met had a grouse against checking multiple locos (in all weathers) many times in the run, before taking charge.

During the climb, the standard loco is located in the front while the ghat-qualified bankers push the train, so the safety is not an issue. I observed that the yellow railway track clamp (IR speak = joggle patti) that was observed and photographed during last year's Sal river bridge visit was still on the tracks at the same place !

After some time I moved to the Surawali (Seraulim in the good old days) level crossing and the foot over bridge across the lines. While last year, no path led to either side of the bridge, now there exists some barbed wire along the bridge to encourage people not to cross the lines.

The first northbound train was the very late Netravati express hauled by an Erode WDM 2, normally this should have been a baldie WDM 2C. Next northbound train was the KR 6/8 passenger (another Erode WDM 2) to Sawantwadi and Diva followed by 361 Kulem - Vasco passenger with a Gooty 2C baldie # 14033. Next was the 362 Vasco - Kulem with GY baldie # 14041. This is like a community in a village - you see the same locos daily on different trains. Last in the morning shift was the empty DEMU rake returning from MAO to its shed at Verna for a lazy day long rest.

I was back at Surawali during afternoon with family to see the incoming the JS express. Almost at the correct time, one could hear the loud raucous horn of the WDP 4 # 20000, even before the white face (short hood leading) was visible on the horizon. The fleet footed loco covered the distance in no time and sped through Surawali at around 90 Kmph. Following the JS was the 366 VSG - QLM passenger with GY 2C baldie # 14033 (seen in the morning with the 361 passenger) - this loco did a sky darkening start with palm tree high clouds of exhaust. Then came the 365 QLM - VSG passenger with baldie 14041. This train was carrying an AC sleeper with a ‘SPL 1´ board on the side. I was to learn later that this was a sick coach that was being transported to the VSG C&W for repairs.

While we waited for more trains at Surawali, we had some cold drink bottles from a shop opposite the station. I told the man at the counter that I would pay him when I return. Maybe he underestimated my railfanning stamina or maybe I underestimated the Goanese need for the siesta. So by the time we returned, the shop was closed and we were left with six empty bottles for which we had not paid. We could rouse a lady living at the back of the building and were informed that the shop would open only at 1600 hrs. So we left the empties at the doorstep and left a message with the lady that we would pay the shop keeper the next day. Had this been Pune, the shop owner would have come seeking for his dues, and reprimanded us unkindly for keeping him waiting.

Back I went to the Surawali platform in time to catch the 2779 Goa express enroute to Nizamuddin with Baldie 14042. As the 2779 approached on the down line I could see the WDP 4 # 20000 speeding on the up line with the 2052 JS express to Kurla. There was a tense moment while I was waiting in the space between the lines, the slow 2779 had not crossed fully while the 2052 was approaching rapidly. However there was nothing to worry about, as the Goa express cleared track before the JS arrived at Surawali. A buzz and a flash and the JS express was gone.

Next morning we were back at Surawali !!!! We had to pay the man, remember ? However you all know why we had to return at ‘that´ time…

The shop keeper did not even recognize me as someone who owed him money - I had to remind him and then he fumbled over the calculations - laid back Goa at work.

A triple headed WDG 3 led freighter in the down direction. The loads were BOXN covered with silver tarpaulin sheets. Then came the Nagarcoil - Gandhidham weekly with a long hood leading Guntakal power - strange loco link this. We were waiting for the Trivandrum - Nizauddin Rajdhani that was running late. There was no JS express as this was Wednesday.

There was a huge pit being dug in the middle of the down tracks by a gang of workers and all trains were crawling through the station. I could see a WDM 2 hauled train waiting between Surawali and Majorda - this was a works BFR rake that was distributing track material. The TVC rajdhani came almost 2 hours late behind Red WDP 3A # 15517 from GOC.

I found a bright yellow ‘joggle patti´ at Surawali station clamped to a rail. One could see the mm wide crack along the web of the rail - the clamp served to reinforce the rail. However this was on the section where the JS and other trains run at full permissible speed. During the hot afternoon, two children manned the Surawali station booking office for some time. As it is not much ticket sale takes place, so the laid-back attitude of the land prevails.

The local janata who stays near the Surawali station were intrigued by a patient woman (Shyama) who sat daily on the only bench on the station with an equally patient child (Aditi), while an apparent madman (me !) stood away in the sun waiting.

Shyama explained to these sweet simple folks that I was waiting for the Rajdhani to arrive - that brought on such a strong reaction from them - they tried their level best to explain (sign language included !) that no express train, let alone Rajdhani, stops at their quaint station. Even after offering a detailed explanation of what I was doing, they were not convinced as to why railways should be photographed.

They befriended Shyama and Aditi sufficiently to invite them to their local bullfight just across the railway lines, which was politely declined.

I could convince not even one person in the whole of Goa that the railways is a subject worthy study and that they live amidst grand railway action. Actually the average Goan is not very interested in the outside world - he/she need not be, living in the self-sufficient paradise that they are in. Most of the Goans I talked to did not know where Braganza ghat was, though most of them knew something about the Doodhsagar water falls. Not one person could actually tell me about how to reach the top of the water falls - this was something that had to be found out - read on.

Some of the signs and texts seen in South Goa that made us smile:

  • Tyres volcanized here
  • Palatable restaurant
  • Tease and Blow beauty parlour
  • Wash Basine
  • Pooched eggs
  • Star tailors and coffin makers

We ate well at Goa, Aditi ate her favourite American Chop Suey for lunch as well as dinner - Daily !

I got a kick under the table from somewhat possessive Aditi - ‘Don't look at that baby’ to which Shyama explained, ‘He is actually looking at the baby's mother’.

The next morning was an early start. We rushed to the MAO station to catch the 362 passenger to Kulem. A train rolled into the pf 3 as we entered the station and I thought for a moment that we had missed the 362. However this was the VSG - BZA Amravati express hauled by the Gooty Baldie 3A # 14041. By the Amravati departed, we could buy the tickets and some breakfast from Ben-Joes restaurant on the Pf1.

The 362 arrived hauled by a GY WDG 3A # 14785 - nothing could delight me more !

So we parked ourselves in the first coach while the other passengers were transporting mounds of smelly fish inland. However some sacrifices have to done to be sitting next to the great sounding WDG 3A power.

The train started, a good 20 minutes late due to the Amravati. This was a realization of a dream for me, being hauled in a passenger train with a G3A in charge. The loco sounded its delicious low-pitched horns and took off - faster than any passenger rated loco could - aided by the high adhesion bogies, ample 3100 HP power and the light train rake. The next hour of so was pure ecstasy to be so close to the loco, as we worked our way through the lower slopes of the Braganza ghats to Kulem.

A new three line siding is being constructed to the left of the track (facing Kulem) at Km 62 between Kalem and Kulem. This points to the increased focus on mineral exports from the region. Sanvordem (the new same is Kudchade - station code is still SVM) and Kalem is the main loading points for loading the iron ore nodules that are sent to Chennai harbour for exports.

This may be the only freight loading left for poor Hubli division after the recent regrouping - Satara, Karad, Miraj, Kolhapur is lost to Pune division, Tornagallu, Ranjeetpura, Hospet, Bellary is lost to Guntakal division - however now the Hubli division is the HQ of the SWR, so they are not such losers after all.

After our arrival at Kulem, we decided to talk to the railway officials about getting to the Doodhsagar - the universal consensus was that the DS is reachable only from the railway line. From QLM, the falls are 17 kms distant, the first tunnel on the line is 4 kms and the first station Sonaulim is 7 kms away.

We walked out to the town side exit of QLM to take a bus to Molem, which is on the highway to Belgaum, so maybe we could reach the DS by road. Here too the replies were similar - we were asked to take a Karnataka bound bus to Anmod (20 kms from Molem). From Anmod, one has to take the branch towards Castle Rock and DS is somewhere on this road. This is not a regular road, but one that is frequented by dumpers and trucks only.

This represented too much of a challenge, certainly not the hardships that I would subject Shyama and Aditi to. So the top of the DS will be visited some other day.

In the time we had left to catch the return train from QLM toward MAO, I left my family sitting at QLM station to walk up alone the Braganza ghat for a few kms.

This walk was the best and the most refreshing activity I have done during this trip to Goa. Being alone has its advantages of solitude and being able to be savour all the inputs, although lone walks in unpopulated areas has its own risks.

During my climb and return, I met just one other human being, a gangman on foot patrol - this can get dangerous in case of any mishap. I walked 2 Km+2 Km distance - while QLM is at Km 52, I walked till Km 48.8 - distances from Londa - I have pics of that distance market, to prove that I was really there.

After leaving the QLM yard, I could see in detail the sand drag that would derail any traffic that could roll down the tracks without authorization. The fast and noisy river that flows from the DS falls runs by the side of the tracks at the exit of QLM yard. After this the track takes a slow undulating path, steadily climbing in altitude.

I was trying to get to the sign I had seen on earlier visits ‘Braganza ghat begins’ - take a pic of self with the camera timer and return - however I could not find this sign in the time I had allotted to self for the ‘walk’. I walked in absolute pristine lands - only to be jeered by monkeys who would hide themselves when I tried to face them - only to chatter as soon as I turned. I heard the unusual calls of jungle birds and walked over myriad fast streams spraying water on broad-leaved trees. I saw brightly coloured lizards basking on the culvert walls and I saw many varieties of ferns.

I could hear a train descending many many minutes before I could see it. I could have tried the old (American) Indian trick of placing my ear on the rail - only that the track bed did not look all that inviting.

Eventually the triple WDG 3A hauled BCN rake arrived at this Km 42.8 where I waited. The driver waved a greeting and gestured whether I wanted to get on the train, inviting me for a ride till Kulem - however I waved him off - I wanted to walk back. The freight train was slowing down while I decided to return to QLM to meet the 1230 hrs passenger back to MAO.

The long train eventually stopped at the Kulem distant while I kept walking downhill - even with the brakes fully on, the rake crawled a few mm at a time due to the severe gradient. Eventually the signal was given and the train started - the guard and the janata in the caboose also motioned me to get in - however riding the train was not the intention of the ‘walk’.

I arrived back at QLM eventually, hot but happy. There was just enough time to buy the tickets for MAO and sit in the 365 passenger that was hauled by the Gooty baldie 14032 which was running long hood leading. The baldie had some features that I could not grasp - the wheel tacho-generator seemed produce an abnormally high voltage of 1100 Volts at 30 mA. There was an automatic flasher that would come on when the brake pipe pressure would drop below a limit. And there was something called a ‘curve sensor´ .

In conclusion: The most convenient way to get to the top of the DS is by railway line. There is a train every hour or so, most crews do take passengers - there is just no other way to get there. There is an unconfirmed rumour that says that you have to pay to ride, in any case that amount is nothing much, so do not be deterred. The return trip would also not be much of a problem - all trains, bankers etc have to stop at all the stations in the ghat and would give you a ride to Kulem.

The Doodhsagar station is 7 Kms from Castle Rock, so one could walk from CLR if able. However heaven help you in case the rail traffic gets disrupted while you are at the DDS.

During the return trip to MAO, I also solved the mystery of the lovely halt station ‘Sanjuje de Areyal´ - this is a located in a field of long ‘shool´ grass (plumed reeds found near rivers) and would make a lovely photo location - the station is named after the church of San Juje located nearby. I guess the 365 must have been a fast passenger, as it did not stop at this halt.

The late afternoon was spent riding in the back alleys of Colva-Benaulim with miles of ‘touch me not´ (Mimosa) and ponds with blanket of duckweeds.

Next day we rode to check out the sparkling Velsao beach where I had spotted a pair of light WDG 3As two years back - this is the part of the line between Sankval and Cansaulim that runs along the coast. I wanted to actually walk along the track that skirts the beach.

Earlier we spent some time at the lovely Cansaulim station that just exudes charm and tranquility. The friendly station master called the railway control to check the movement in the next hour or so and informed us of a WDG 3A freighter coming from Majorda side.

Velsao beach is well marked on the path from Colva ‘four roads’ (as the major square outside Colva is referred as) towards Vasco. Once you turn into the Velsao beach, you arrive at the railway line.

The flower-bedecked level crossing that I saw years back is quite bare now, however the same sense of peace prevails.

The beach is some half km away from this point. However we chose to ride the road running parallel to the railway line into the fishing village of Velsao. I would see the railway line in a distance. The aim was to reach the railway line at the ‘bend´. Anyone having traveled between Vasco and Majorda would know which bend I was itching to reach. This is one of the best scenery on the IR - the train rides along the sparkling beach for a very short time. Then the train enters a bend and you lose the sight of the deep blue sea.

At one point, the village ended and so did the road. We continued by foot into a dense coconut grove. I could hear the triple WDG 3As approaching. I ran towards the line, I could see the orange loco - ALAS - I was separated from the railway line by a deep creek. All I could do was watch the locos and their train disappear from view. Crossing this creek became a priority if we were to reach the railway line from Velsao village.

Trying to ask the local janata about how to reach the railway line was futile, as I could asked the question - Why do you want to go there ? After some more explorations, we spotted a small footbridge across the water body. That bridge led to the steep embankment and the railway line at last. I left the family in the coconut grove nearby and climbed the embankment onto the tracks.

I walked for about a km towards Sankaval. This brought me almost at the base of the giant Zuari Agro factory. This smoke belching factory is a shameful blot on the entire Goa - it can be seen for kms and forms an ugly background to an otherwise pristine coastline.

The Zuari agro factory is located at a much higher altitude on a plateau while the railway line runs at the bottom of the hill. The factory has a covered railway siding and a conveyor that allows their produce to be loaded in all weather into a BCN rake. I walked till the gates of the railway facility with the gate where I watched the 366 passenger with baldie 14032 towards Kulem take the curve. I observed a derailing point just outside the BCN facility - I guess the steep gradient necessitates this safety check.

I walked back to the place I had left the family.

Later I photted the 2779 Goa express with baldie 14041 waiting at the Cansaulim home while the 365 passenger from Kulem was being admitted to the platform line.

The next day we visited Vasco for which we rode past the Velsao beach, climbed a ghat and arrived at the top of the plateau that holds the giant Zuari agro factory - it really is a giant facility, the entire area is known as Zuari nagar (or is it Birla nagar ??). For a change from the rest of Goa, this industrial zone looked something like what the rest of the country is - dusty, grimy and hot. The ride to Vasco harbour took us by the side of Dabolim airport - the railway line runs along side the road !

We reached Vasco, took a darshan of the railway station where the 366 passenger to QLM was waiting to depart on pf 2 and the Goa express rake was stabled on pf 3. Checked out the rogues gallery for any familiar faces……

After the station, we went to see the ships in the mineral jetty. Later we climbed the hill to see the view of the entire harbour. As mentioned before, the three railway lines continue beyond Vasco de Gama station and curve into the Mormugoa (More-gaon to the locals) harbour. Of the three lines, one branches into the bulk loading facility. Vasco has extensive oil and gas facilities - tanks, horten spheres, flaring towers, train rake loading stations. I thought the security was rather lax for so much of concentration of hazardous goods - a terrorist with a shoulder-launched weapon could have a field day here.

On the way back from Vasco, we paused opposite the Dabolim airport to phot the 366 passenger as it rode on the tracks by the road side. The passenger was hauled by 3A baldie # 14042.

By the time we arrived at near Majorda our backsides were aching for the Vasco is 19 Kms ride each way. So the family sat on a bench by the side of the road, while I stretched my bones at, where else, the railway line.

First in was the 365 passenger from Kulem which was stopped on the far side non platform line. The 3A baldie 14032 gave a nice smokescreen as it accelerated the rake towards Vasco.

There was a long wait before a train came from the northern direction. I thought this was the NZM bound Goa express, but it was too fast for the 2779 which joins the line at this point and is normally slow through the station.

Surprise - this was the TVC bound Rajdhani running with the Kalyan WDM 2 # 18767 - a Kalyan diesel on the Rajdhani was the most unusual sighting. The train was over 1 hour late, which suggested some sort of loco failure. However the Raj had a perfect red and cream rake (including the power cars) as if to compensate for the freight loco hauling it.

Next was the 2052 JS Express with WDP 4 # 20004 running long hood. As usual one could hear the loud horn of the loco even as it must be near Surawali. The train arrived on the main line and then crossed over to the Majorda platform line. Once the crossed was done, the beast just opened power and powered the train to excess of 60 Kmph even before the platform ended. I could hear the loud horn of the P4 for many minutes, as it must have crossed the Verna yard.

Last train in the session was the very late 2779 Goa express with the 3A baldie # 14041. This train arrived on the middle road and then crossed over to the left most track after MJO. The 2779 was delayed by the Raj as well as by the presence of BCN rake (without loco) that blocked the through line at Cansualim. This must have meant that the 2779 would have waited at Sankaval while the 366 passenger could cross it towards Vasco. The 2779 passengers would have atleast waited with a nice view of the ocean and the beach.

Madgaon - Pune

The next day was our last in Goa - we were to return to Pune the 1098 Ernakulam - Pune Poorna express. Although our train was at 1500 hrs, we arrived well before 1400 so as to see the JS express as well.

The JS was already waiting on the pf 1 as we arrived. Even more interesting was the KR 1 passenger to Mangalore on pf 3. This train was hauled by the Erode WDG 3A # 14669 (in Erode standard red, cream and gray livery).

Trailing behind the 14669's buffers was a red and cream WDP 3A # 15501 - this must have been the missing Rajdhani power from one day before. I guess the dead loco must have been sent nearer to its home at Golden Rock.

Once the KR 1 departed, I went to the Mumbai end of the JS express. The loco was the WDP 4 # 20000 that was running long hood leading. The loco had a works number that said ‘Model GT46 PAC, Serial number 968713-1 date 02-01’. The massive bogies of the loco had the text ‘GM HTSC’ embossed on them - these are the simpler, non-radial bogies.

At the exact time, the JS express departed towards Mumbai, accelerating quite rapidly out of MAO.

I could phot a Pune WDM 3A # 18688R which was idling on the middle road. I had spotted a Pune WDM 3A on earlier days too. I guess this must have been the Konkan Kanya express power.

This loco had a probable link of

  • Pune - Kolhapur by 1011 Mahalaxmi
  • Kolhapur - Mumbai CST by 1012 Mahalaxmi
  • Mumbai - Madgaon by 0111 Konkan Kanya
  • Madgaon - Mumbai by 0112 Konkan Kanya
  • Mumbai - Pune by 1011 Mahalaxmi

At the end of this link, the loco covers about 3000 Kms, which is the standard schedule for the WDM 2/3A locos.

Just then the 2779 Goa Express departed from pf 2 towards Braganza ghat with Baldie # 14041.

Our own train, the 1098 express arrived almost 30 minutes before schedule behind Pune WDM 2 # 16750.

This loco hauls the 1097 express from Pune till Castle Rock. After this a ghat qualified loco is attached at the front of the train and the crew work the leading loco down the Braganza ghat. The ghat power is let off at Kulem and the Pune power hauls the 1097 all the way to Ernakulam. On the return run, the Pune power hauls the train in the leading position throughout. The train is banked through the Braganza ghat during the climb (the down direction !) by triple WDG 3A locos.

Pune - Ernakulam - Pune is quite a long haul for a Pune loco, second only to the Pune - Manduadih - Pune or Pune - Darbhangha - Pune runs of other Pune powers.

The Pune 16750 was an obvious ‘hand me down´ from Itarsi - the ‘Pune´ roundel on the hoods was hastily repainted on top of the older and larger Itarsi markings. The cab too contained stickers (Have you the correct authority to proceed etc) in Hindi that mentioned that this loco was indeed from Itarsi. The loco has somewhat unusual works markings:

‘Indian Railways
DLW
WDM 2 - 2450 July ' 96’

Where the 2450 must be the last four numbers of the long winded number like ‘I-3389-03-2365’ (loco number of the 1098 from the last year). The 1098 rake has only one SLR that day instead of one at either end. One SLR was removed at ERS as it turned sick. The rules dictate that the rake must have the SLR at the trailing end - the guard's station in the SLR contains the mechanical along with the valves to operate the train's continous brakes. The SLR is the Second class, Ladies, bRake combo - (where the brake is the guard's brake) and they would be required in case the train is to halt on the gradient.

Accordingly the SLR was removed from the MAQ end of the rake and shunted to the Mumbai end. A few nuns, sitting in the SLR were bewildered as to why their coach was singled for detachment. They would face detachment and reattachment at the other end once more at Londa.

The 16750 loco took 5000 liters of diesel from the fuel filler located on the second track.

The 1098 departed right on time towards Kulem. I was in the first coach from the loco, the unreserved coach. The coach was totally empty so I could sit where I want or stand at any door.

After an excellent run from MAO, the train was stopped by a blocking distant signal at the outskirt of Kulem. After many minutes I could see the same track occupied by a tripled coupled WDG 3A locos. These locos must have arrived down the ghats and must have pulled ahead of QLM yard so that they could stable themselves in a siding. Once the locos cleared the line, the 1098 started once more.

These very triplets were to bank our train in the ghats. Since I had walked the ghats a few days back it was almost as if I was watching a movie in fast-forward. The lands I took some time and considerable efforts to walk through were covered in a jiffy.

At the first station, Sonaulim, we were halted to allow three WDG 3A bankers to descend first. At the next station, Doodhsagar, our train was sidelined to allow the Vasco bound Amravati express (with twin WDM 3A baldies - this was the first time that I have seen WDM 3As baldies running double headed though I have seen plenty of WDG 3As MUed - baldies or otherwise) to cross.

I noticed an abandoned station Ghotgewadi between DDS and CLR - this was used during the MG days.

I took some pics of the landscape and of a natural formation near Castle Rock which is the reason for the place's name.

The halt at CLR was quite rapid - 5 minutes and the bankers were disconnected and we were off. By this time it was getting dark and the loco's dim headlamp did not illuminate the road well. Like mentioned, I was in the first coach - only two other persons with me.

We were halted at the Londa distant for a long time, almost 30 minutes. The platforms must have been occupied and were allowed to proceed only after the Pune bound Goa and the Bangalore bound Rani Chennama must have departed.

At Londa there was the shunting of the Pune loco at the other end and of the lone SLR at the Hubli end. Departed LD almost 1 hour late.

We exchanged our berths with another family as they wanted to travel together with other members of their clan.

It turned out that they had given berths to us that had not belong to them in the first place. The rightful owners came in at Belgaum and evicted us - so we in turn reclaimed our original berths.

Slept after BGM and got up only at the approach of Pune. Arrived on pf 2 only 10 minutes late.

Material provided by Apurva Bahadur, Copyright © 2002.
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