8003 Trip No. 2
by Arnab Acharya
The journey home is always the sweetest and the longest, they say... I couldn't agree more! 'Got leave at short notice, with some LWPs (leave without pay) thrown in... Booked my tickets, both ways, on 22 Jan. The ticket was for 29 Jan '03 by 8004 Yeshwantpur-Howrah Express.
Since my office is in the Whitefield area (eastern suburbs) in Bangalore, I planned to board from Krishnarajapuram, known locally as KRPuram (close to railfan Karthik's home). One of my office friends dropped me at the station at 1610 hours. The approach to the platform is pretty bad. Lucky if you don't sprain your ankle! 4 platforms in all, 8004 was to come in at Pf 2. As I made my way there, a 10-coach passenger came in hauled by a WDM2 at Pf3. No boards, but, likely to be Madras-SBC Pass. On Pf 2, there was an outdated board (no mention of AC), fortunately in English, mentioning the coach sequence of the Expresses stopping there. Very few respectable trains do. My coach was AS2, a 3AC, which turned out to be 6th from the rear. MASC-bound Shatabdi breezed through at 1655, probably behind a WAM/4. A light Pune WDM2 passed towards MASC. What was it trying to do, the lonely lady?! The watch ticked on, yet no sign of 8004... Announcements were being made to the effect that it was coming. Finally, at 1730, an unwilling KJM WDM2C trundled in 35 mins late with the 21-coach rake - the composition being 1 2AC, 3 3AC, 10 SL, 1 Pantry, 2 luggage-cum-general, 1 Parcel van (the last car), rest General. My berth was SU40, i.e., side upper. The change was the 2 additional 3ACs, over last time that I rode this train. My coach was 018114/A. We started at 1740. The next station was Whitefield, the uncrowded reservation counter from where I got my tickets. Devangonthi and Malur passed by, at a comfortable 80 kph. The window was foggy, all through, due to a small crevice at the top. Air was getting in and water condensed. 'Noticed broken glass pieces between the 2 window panes - broken window repaired! I thought of changing out of my office clothes into something comfortable... I got stuck up in the toilet for some 25-30 minutes. 'Tried to open the door, just wouldn't! Finally, started shouting and banging (staying locked till Howrah didn't seem a nice choice!). One of the AC coach attendants heard and guided me from outside. Maybe, next time I'll file a case against IR. The other toilet was stinking because of whatever stuck in the pipe, don't ask how! So, that's 3AC for you at Rs.1369 versus 497 in SL!
Bangarapet was touched at 1825-30 (still sweating it out in the toilet), Jolarpettai at 1957-2007. The evening snacks was piyaji each and tomato soup. 'Had the latter, to keep the stomach jazz at bay. Kazipet was at 2122-7. The irritating thing was this - all the way 8004 kept on adding to its late timing. I stood at the door on the right side (facing the loco), as 8004 slowed... The pf was on the left. 'Noticed a blue-red tigerface with a goods in tow, on the other side of Kazipet, facing Bangalore. Dinner was Chilli chicken & rice - an odd combination really! That, too, at 75 bucks. 3 of my co-passengers joined at Katpadi, one of them having gone to Vellore for treatment. He was a NFR employee, at Alipurduar. He told me that the NFR MG-to-BG conversion had started and the KIR-Alipurduar track had closed in Decemeber, 2002. In fact, we had an interesting act. There was this lady in the next coupe, who had some operation on both her feet. She needed this NF guy's lower berth (39). So much so, she pulled up her sarre and displayed her feet. To this, Mr.NF also pulled up his garment and displayed his 'belt' on the hip, explaining that was why he couldn't give her the berth! Ultimately, I suggested her to get the chart from the TTE and identify berth-holders who could accommodate her. She did that, got her berth and thanked me for my 'idea'! There were 2 more colleagues in the same coach travelling to Calcutta. 'Had some 'adda'. 'Went to bed and slept till realisation dawned that we were at Vijayawada (0630-0640). I hoped 6004 was behind us! The TT says 6004 reaches Gudur at 0050-52. 8004 should be passing Gudur at ~0100. 'Else, we would only be more late. It turned out, this 4Dn was capable of being late without help from the other 4Dn (which was behind us, somewhere)! 'Lazed in bed for a while, feeling quite happy to be going home... got up to gaze out through the foggy window at the lush green fields of Andhra. Amazing how Andhra always seems to be green, Naidu magic or otherwise! 'Sped for a while on the new bridge on Gautami(Godavari). 'Stood at the door to see some 17-coach rake behind an electric on the dual bridge. The old bridge still stands strong, bereft of track, a mute spectator of time - just beside the one we were speeding on. I'd have loved to hear it tell me the evolution of the Express rake-compositions and when it last carried an iron lady. We took Pf 4, some 4-5 of the last coaches with no platform! I wanted to get a SCR TT. I was told, I could get it VSKP. The 2 min halt (0938-0940) was too short to try anything more. On a left siding, I saw 3-4 vermillion-red coaches clubbed together as 'Lukas Special'. On Pf5 was a 6-7 coach passenger rake, behind a Vijayawada WAM4. 8004 started out and 'gobbled' its track - I like that a lot! Incidentally, the town got its name from Raja Mahendra(Nagar), one of my acquaintances tell me. There was a similar word in the '()' part. Tuni was at 1115. I have a separate memory here. Dad had gone with his friends on a South India trip l-ong back. Here, he took a 3Up snap (b&w, obviously), behind a steam loco. 'Passed Narasipatnam(?) at 1145. On our right, the opposite track went off. Sometime later, another came in and started running parallely. On the way back, I saw this was indeed the other parallel track. Maybe, SCR couldn't get that track (to Rajahmundry) to run side by side?
We reached Vishakhapatnam at 1305 at Pf1, running close to 2 hours late. The MASC-bound 6003 was at Pf3, behind a Lallaguda WAP/4 power in Raj livery. Btw, are all WAP/4's in Raj livery? As 6003 pulled out (1320) with its array of old and comparatively new blue caoches, I took stock of it. 11 Sleepers (one of which was after the rear luggage, with 2 general ones to follow), 5 AC's, rest general/luggage, totalling 23 coaches in all. The WAP/4 crawled out, as if dozing after its lunch, and took the left turn out. Even during the dull afternnon, VSKP was warm and the adjoining city looked nice, hills and all. Like the Brindavan, this SR rake, too, looked unkempt (ACs and all). In recent times, I found 1013/4 and 8003/4 to be clean. At 1320 again, the Durg-VSKP Passeneger came in - a 7 coach vacuum rake, behind a Raipur WDM/2 power. I got down and walked all the way to the rear end of Pf1, towards the now-rear of 8004. There's a platformlet (Pf 0?) beside Pf1, with a capacity of 7 coaches or so, leading out to the other end of VSKP. A lone vacuum Tata-Alleppey sleeper (S8) was parked there. At Pf2, 6004 was expected soon, it was announced. 'Looked for the SCR TT, no luck. 8004 departed at 1348, behind a KGP WDM/2, the usual blue coach livery. Incidentally, we arrived with a Arakkonam shed WAM/4, from Jolarpettai (?). Soon after, we met the Tirupati-VSKP Express. After the reversal, we were the 6th coach from the front. Maripallem and Simhachalam North passed by. The SER TT doesn't mention all the stations here. There were a couple of halt stations. (It was hard to read fast through the foggy window.) Somewhere soon after VSKP, I noticed a cement plant(?) on our right. The interesting part was a NG track in it, with a faded light blue loco. This looked a smaller version of the small shunters, once seen in Howrah. At 1428, we passed the Gurudev Exp to Nagercoil. It was a 17 coach vacuum rake, behind a WDM/2, with a lone 2AC. It was waiting some 3-4 tracks away and we weren't exactly beating the speed record (as usual)... Got a good view. Is this a standard practice? Some 'jharti-parti' vacuum rakes turned into 'new' trains? From an AC coach, it's very difficult to find what a passing train is. You don't get to be prepared till it is passing by. By the time you try to get a hold of its boards, it's gone! If there are trains at close gaps, the task is harder. Like in and around VSKP, we passed some air brake rakes but, can't say which was which! Vizianagram was at 1503-5, Srikakulam Rd at 1603. At S Rd, 'spotted a SER bottle green coach with orange at the windows, with 'Engineering camp coach' written. Palasa was at 1703. Some 13-4 years back, I had passed this on the way to Madras, on the HWH-MASC Mail in the evening. The daylight was fading, then. Somehow, it had seemed like New Jalpaiguri. However, now, it seemed ordinary. There was a goods rake facing Howrah, behind 2 WAG5C's. Another interesting thing on this journey was, ALL the goods trains that I saw morning onwards were pulled by twin locos! Brahmapur was at 1840, quite dark to see the Chilka. Khurda Rd was at 2055-2108, departed Bhubaneswar at 2135. Not much to do, except the 8 of us,in our coupe, chatting. One of them turned out to be some Mr. Ojha, related to one of the Producer of one of the Bengali soaps on TV ('Ayk Aaksher Niche'). He was looking for forests for stock shots. I suggested Chalsa (Mr. & Mrs. Iyer) in North Bengal, Koraput-Kirandul and Konkan railway. By the time we reached Cuttack, it was 2.5 hours late. We departed at 2206 precisely. 'Got up in the night to find that it was KGP. 'Left my berth, went to the door and saw a station board, to this effect. We left at 0407. As usual, the KGP-HWH run is never smooth, the last 4-5 runs in the last 6-7 months experience tells me. We were finally at Ramrajatala at ~0600. The weather outside was chilly but, I was feeling thrilled to be home. 'Passed some day train - could be Dhauli-Rupashi combo or Ispat. 'Stopped at the HWH-outer at 0615. 'saw some EC-coaches' train leaving, with an AC. It could be seen that ER was altered to make it EC. Was it Black Diamond? The board was the tricolour livery. The name looked like 'Dainik Express', in the hazy dawn. Also spotted the vacuum raked-3008 being taken out - must have been close to 12 hours late. At 0630, we were let in at Pf20, after letting the empty rake of Sec-bound Falaknuma in at Pf18. We were to have come in at 0415. 8006 was at Pf19, 8008 at Pf21. We had been hauled with a Tata WAM/4 from KGP.