by Arnab Acharya
It was Saturday, the 27th July, 2002. I had a couple of hours notice to go to Bhubaneswar. By the time I reached the nearest railway booking at Jadavpur, it was almost noon. Although the previous day's TV records had shown availability of 141 SL berths, I was allotted RAC30. 'Reached Howrah at 2120. A cobalt blue-light blue 2704 rake was waiting behind a WDM2. A clean rake, with emergency windows in orange. 8007 Up was just getting in at PF21, behind a faded light blue WDS/4, SHF, with large windscreens. Is this what is known as Jumbo?
I saw my name in S8, berth 47. One painful thing, the entire booking list was in Hindi! 'Tried reading the names and gave up. Ultimately, tracked my berth through the PNR number, which took a couple of minutes (they were in English, thankfully!). The 18-19 coach rake was an air-braked one, the standard cobalt blue-light blue. The General coaches at the end looked new. At one of these coaches, people were getting up in a queue! The length of the train I saw was vestibuled fully. Also noticed the new complex's road being next to PF21.
My berth was the lower one on the 2-berth side. With my height(5'8"), it's a problem. Worse was to come. The 2 halves of the berth sloped, where they met. Neither could be bolted vertically. At 2140, it started raining cats and dogs. Rainwater started seeping in under the windows. Shutting both shutters arrested the problem somewhat. One of the glass shutters kept flying up a third of the way (for comic relief but, I wasn't amused). Later, I discovered that the coach was a converted one. The paint on the window bars had come off, revealing the maroon below. The middle berths on the 6-berth sides showed signs of repair. The standard announcements were going on, about departures of 8007, 8034, 8615. In fact, 8615 Up came in at PF20 at 2155, when it was scheduled for departure! 'Had been getting whiffs of smoke from somewhere close. 'Located the guy, in red 'tantrik' attire, and made my displeasure known. He put it off, soon enough.
8007 left on time, at 2205. The blow of the engine sounded like a WAM/4. The run to KGP was not very fast, at 60 kph or so. 'Tried to wheedle the TTE to give me an upper berth, before KGP. There were none, he said, but, he'd try. He took his own time. So, I lay down on the one I had. There was a huge group travelling to Puri, of some railwaymen and their families. They were still enjoying jhalmuri, alukabli, ghugni, when I went to bed. Another alarming thing I noted was the burning contraptions that the chaiwallas carried, to supply piping hot tea. Have we forgotten the inferno on 2809 (8001) Dn, a decade or so back? We're paying a safety charge, I noticed in the SER TT. Incidentally, the current TT is much more handy but, I wish they'd put in a better map. The one I had around 1985 had a very detailed and clean map.
Sensed KGP ~0015. Slept on and off. The train was making 75-80 kph at night, going by the sway. Had put the alarm at 0500, as Bhubaneswar was scheduled at 0535. ~0500, I woke up to realise 8007 was standing still for quite some time. Soon after, some diesel-led train passed, likely to be 7046 Dn East Coast. We left Nergundi at 0520. 8007 started after that. At 0530, we crossed the 5625 Dn SBC-GHY Express waiting at Kendrapara Rd. Reached Cuttack at 0540, left 0555. Meanwhile, 2842 stormed in behind double diesel locos, in VSKP orange-cream-maroon livery. Was impressed to see Coro having 5-6 AC coaches. Wish it had less stops on the HWH-VSKP stretch, resulting in a better run. Saw the track from Talcher come in and join us, at Barang Jn. The electrification proceeded from here on Southwards. Reached BBSR at 0625, at PF4 (leftmost from HWH dirn). Chanced the (usual) blue rake of BBSR -Srikakulam Rd Intercity in the BBSR shed, which is on the northern side of BBSR. Saw the (usual) blue rake of 1019Dn Konark on PF1, most coaches were CR. The rake had a clean look but wasn't too long - forgot to count.