by Bharat Vohra
Trip Report: Saurashtra Explorer - PART I
This one had been on the cards for awhile but didn't find to many takers. Vikas was the only person who agreed to come along but had to pull out last minute on account of some urgent work. So it was with some apprehension that I decided to go ahead with it.
This trip was going to be a bit of nostalgia and a bit of exploration. Nostalgia because I had visited or passed through a lot of the places with my dad (who was in the railways) and exploratory because it was 2 such places that we had decided on going to together but somehow never materialized. I had, after all these years, decided that I will visit these very places on my own one fine day.
Those 2 places that had eluded me earlier were Bhavnagar (BVN) and Veraval (VRL). I was well aware that a lot would have changed since. To start with the metre gauge would be all but gone, steam would have long disappeared and the newer broad gauge would have taken over all these routes. My plan was to travel from Ahmedabad (ADI) to BVN on the new BG intercity express and in doing so traverse one of the routes that had so far eluded me - Surendranagar - Bhavnagar. I would stay the night at BVN and then make it by road to Dhasa early the next morning to board one of the last few MG journeys that continues to cut across Saurashtra all the way to the port town of Veraval. This to would be a new route for me but none that I had planned on with my dad many years ago. I would stay the night in VRL and then catch a train back to ADI which would traverse through all of the places that I had visited with my dad almost 12 years ago - the days when steam was still active and metre gauge held sway in these parts. The places were Junagadh, Jetalsar, Rajkot, and Wankaner and then we would rejoin our route to ADI at Surendranagar Jn.
Since my reports have the habit of being far to long, am going to make a conscious effort of posting them in multiple parts or a report for each day of my trip with a separate one for the introduction (this).
Boarded the 0610 Jet flight from Delhi to A'bad. Making such an early start wasn't as much of a problem as worrying about what the weather conditions would be like at the time. Thankfully the dreaded north Indian fog didn't play spoilsport that morning and I made it to ADI well in time. Auto ride to the station from there and I 'checked in' by 0800. My trip had just begun.
A word about the drive from A'bad airport to the city - it has got to be one of the most pleasant airport - city drives ... well at least till the Shahi Baug area! You start off with the usual landscaped lawns surrounding the airport area and just when you think its all over starts the cantonment which is lush green and expectedly well maintained. Next up is the old government housing area which includes the State Guest house and the Circuit house - which are some of the more notable buildings amongst all the old constructions there. And finally Shahi Baug which is one of the better areas of the city ... the next 10 mins or so to the station are the usual 'urban dump' that we're so used to but a majority of the drive is as I said - very pleasing to say the least! Bought my ticket, purchased some supplies for the journey and soon I was on my way scouting the station and yard. There was a fair bit of activity at the time but I wasn't counting. First stop was to photograph the shaking minarets which are at the Sabarmati end of PF1. Rumour has it that they've stopped shaking after the Gujarat earthquake. Don't know the authenticity of that but what I do know is that they made for a great sight! Strolled over to the old carriage yard to see if the underground temple still existed. This is one of the many things I remember from my trips to the area in the early 90s. It was of course still there ... 250 years old apparently and plumb in the middle of the carriage shunting neck! Great place to worship I thought! :-)
Went over to the MG side after that which is now only a shadow of its former glory. ADI station has 12 platforms - 8 of which cater to BG and 4 to MG. Till about '97 the story was quite different - 6 MG platforms, 2 dual gauge platforms and 4 BG platforms. ADI however still retains its no.1 position on WR as far as MG arrivals and departures are concerned - no less than 50 movements a day. But that figure will only reduce as the years go by. ADI serves the branch line to Botad which used to connect with the lines to Bhavnagar and Veraval not so long ago. It also serves the heavily trafficked commuter corridor to Mehesana with branches to and from Kalol, Ranuj, Patan, etc. The third MG line from ADI goes through to Nandol Dahegam, Himmatnagar and onwards to Udaipir and Chittor. The last line mentioned curves right and pretty much disappears from station limits. It can only be seen clearly from PF 11-12. The other 2 routes run parallel (on a 2 track section) to the BG line and divert from the BG alignment just short of Sabarmati yard. The line to Botad eventually loops back and goes over the BG alignment near a station called Chandlodiya while the Mehesana one continues to run parallel to the BG route to Delhi. That in itself was a double track MG section at one time.
There were about 10 Royal Orient coaches parked in the MG saloon sidings and I spotted another 11 when I walked over to the MG carriage yard at Kankariya (KKF). KKF yard was home to 2 steam sheds in its heyday - 1 for the BG and another for the MG. And even so the MG one was not the main shed for the ADI area - Sabarmati steam shed enjoyed that honour! The BG shed was a small affair - probably only providing shunters and eventually shut down sometime in the 80's. The MG one continued till the early 90s - again providing shunting powers for the exteremly busy MG yards at ADI. Sabarmati shut down as late as 96-97. Today KKF has not only lost both steam sheds but the once massive and busy MG carriage yard has been reduced to half its size to make for the new BG pit lines - the old BG yard proving to be much to small. KKF even had freight loading sidings for the MG. Today only the buildings stand there - the lines having been long uprooted. Apart from the BG pit lines that have come up there, the other new facility there is a DMU car shed which maintains the stock for the ADI-Palanpur-Abu services. The electric loco trip shed is on the BG side of the track and doesn't officially count as part of KKF yard. On that particular day though it was a beehive of activity with as many as 10 locos in shed and a colorful one at that thanks to the multiple liveries from Valsad shed on the one hand and the SRC and Bhilai powers on the other!! Quite a sight!
Also seen at KKF were 3 beautiful old MG carriages nos. RA 56 (based ADI), RA 25 (based ADI) and RA28 (based Mehesana) all with different wheel arrangements. One was a 4-wheeler, the other was an 8-wheeler and the third, hold your breath, was a 12-wheeler! Sadly they had been condemmed quite a while back and stood their alone looking at the changes swallowing up the area around them. I just wished I could have had a look inside..
Trip Report: Saurashtra Explorer - PART II
10:30 was the scheduled departure of the Intercity (henceforth known as I/C Exp) and the Vatva (VTV) power that brought it in from KKF was the same one that hauled it till Surendranagar Jn. The train is made up of 11 coaches with the first 5 bound for Veraval and the next 6 bound for Bhavnagar. The trains are split at Surendranagar Jn. and this operation which I shall describe a little later is very interesting. Train departure was 20 mins late thanks to the rake arriving late from the yard but that was to be the latest the train would ever run and it eventually reached BVN on time!
The ADI Sabarmati stretch is a 4 track section - 2 BG and 2 MG lines running parallel till the Shahi Baug Cabin which is the control tower for the Sabarmati river bridge from where the MG tracks merge and run through the bridge as a single line. This bridge once had a single BG track, a single MG track and a dual gauge centre track. The alignment curves right a little after leaving ADI station and continues to do so till the river bridge. It can be a lot of fun with dual MG-BG running and this is a common occurrence as well thanks to the MG route still being rather busy! While we didn't get any of this, there was an ADI bound MG passenger train that crossed us and soon after the late running ADI Rajdhani. The BG lines on this 6 km section work as dual single lines with 2 way operation. Our train for instance was on what would otherwise be called the up line! If you look to your right while on the Sabarmati bridge as you head towards Sabarmati stn you will see some magnificent old houses - rather mansions - perched on the banks of the river. Quite an impressive sight and I heard from someone in A'bad later that one of these belongs to the Mafatlal family. On the other bank of the Sabarmati, the AEC or A'bad Electric Company looms large with its tall cooling towers and assorted industrial structures. After the bridge, one spur of the BG line cuts across the MG line to enter the AEC power plant. The MG lines in the meantime divert to the right to their part of Sabarmati (SBI) stn and yard.
A quick halt at SBI where there was a solitary Itarsi WAG5 and a couple of VTV WDS4's doing odd jobs and soon we were on our way to Viramgam curving left and heading westwards. The MG line to Botad crossed us soon after in the form of a rail over rail bridge at Chandlodiya station. A little after this a double electrified track takes of from the mainline and forms the branchline to Gandhinagar Capital. The electrification on the mainline ends soon after.
The SBI - Viramgam section is a double track non-electrified section with MACLS signalling in use. This corridor handles freight from the Kandla port side as well as passenger and freight from the Rajkot / Porbandar / Hapa side and for this reason it is a double track section. From Viramgam the lines split in the form of single line sections to their respective destinations. 3 freights were crossed on that short 1 hour run to Viramgam - the first was a BCN freight, the second was a container freight and the third was a double headed BOXN freight with a 13xxx series JHS WDG3 leading!
At Viramgam, LQ signaling takes over and extends only to its station limits on both ends. MAUQ resumes soon after. I wonder why? The MG branch to Katosan Jn and Mehesana has been wiped out and only traces of the old alignment can be seen. The BG works seem to be complete at least on the exit from Viramgam Jn. - am not sure how much of the stretch is actually ready. Once complete this would form a shorter route for freight coming in from the Kandla or Rajkot side and heading north. It would save the hassle and time lost in the reversal at SBI yard. I also read somewhere that for this very reason, the Gandhidham - Palanpur section is slated for gauge conversion next. Need to get cracking on an itinerary for the Kutch area as well! :
From my trips with my dad in the early 90's the 2 most memorable scenes I recall from Viramgam Jn. are that of a WG (Rajkot shed) about to depart with the Viramgam Passenger (42 up) to ADI where it would be replaced by a WCAM1 for its journey to Bombay. The other memory was of a YP hauled passenger train pulling out of Viramgam Jn for its late evening journey to Mehesana running parallel to our train (Saurashtra mail) as it did so. Viramgam not only had an MG branch to Mehesana it was also home to a rather large transshipment yard for freight transshipment between MG and BG. That yard ceased to operate when the MG line from Viramgam to Rajkot and beyond was converted to BG in 1980. Traces of it alongwith an old turntable can still be seen but what's replaced it today is a BG wagon depot complete with shining steel shed!!
A Ratlam WDM2 stood at the head of a VB passenger train rake at Viramgam on the newly built BG platforms. These very platforms once catered to steam hauled MG trains! Talking of VB rakes, there are quite a few I noticed on the ADI - Rajkot section which was suprising as I thought WR had converted most if not all of their passenger rakes to air-brake operation. A note on locomotives in the area - VTV locos hold fort on these lines with almost all passenger services in their capable hands. A few passenger trains are however under Ratlam (RTM) powers. Freights are handled primarily by VTV and some RTM powers and a few stray powers from BGKT and ABR sheds. The only other locos that make it here are the designated powers for the trains originating from the south. I got to see 1 Erode and 1 Gooty loco on these routes hauling trains from their respective regions. It was nice to see a lot of RTM powers in use here - a shed who's days I thought were numbered what with all the electrified sections surrounding Ratlam nearly marooning it! The recently converted routes - that of Surendranagar - BVN and Rajkot - VRL are entirely in the hands of Vatva locos.
The single line section to Surendranagar surprisingly had a lot of traffic on it although that didn't deter the steady progress of our train. There were trains standing on the loops waiting to be crossed or overtaken on almost every alternate station enroute. Great train running I might add with the same speeds of 100 being maintained on this section as they were on the double track uptill Viramgam. 3 freights were crossed at midway stations and a passenger train was also overtaken in this short stretch of 65km.
Surendranagar was reached in good time and from then on there was a frenzy of activity and some operations which would impress even the most ardent time saver model railroaders! A VTV power waited on the loop at the head of an LWR departmental special as the action picked up at the station.
A little before our train pulled in, the 5 coach portion of the I/C Exp which had originated from VRL had arrived on an adjacent platform. Soon after our train arrived the 6 coach portion of the I/C Exp which had originated from BVN pulled into the last of 3 platforms. In the meantime the VTV power that had pulled us from ADI and the first 5 coaches bound for VRL detached from the rest of the rake and moved a little ahead on the same platform. The loco that had brought in the portion originating from VRL moved out of its platform with the 5 coaches attached, moved towards the Viramgam side signal cabin and then backed the same coaches into the 6 coach rake which had come in from BVN. The newly formed 11 coach 1/C Exp was now ready for departure towards ADI. The loco that had brought in the portion originating from BVN in the meantime ran around and eventually plugged on to our portion of the train, now bound for BVN! And within minutes all 3 trains departed in their respective directions! Quite an operation that and all of it conducted within a few minutes only! Not only that, in doing so they also made a platform vacant for the Dehradun bound Uttaranchal Exp which had just come in from Okha. That in fact was sent ahead of the ADI bound I/C Exp!
Surendranagar Jn. was an important MG junction till gauge conversion work started a couple of years back. It had a branch to Dharangadra (a junction on the Viramgam-Kandla BG line) on one side and a line running through to BVN on the other. Surendrangar MG stn itself was a terminus with 2 platforms and a middle line for locos to slip through. While the line to BVN has been converted recently, the line to Dharangadra is still under conversion and as was the case in Viramgam, only works on the exit from the station limit seemed to be complete. Both Surendranagar and Rajkot had an MG counterpart of the BG Saurashtra Mail which would provide a connection for passengers traveling onwards to BVN and VRL respectively. All 3 trains were equally prestigious and the connection was always made in good time. The 2 distinct memories I have of Surendranagar were that of 2 YPs simmering in the trip shed (they used to operate trains on the Dharangadra branch) and the 'Mail' powered by a YDM3/5 readying to depart as the BG Saurashtra mail pulled in. Today all that's left are the MG platforms, shelter and watering pipes. The track bed is now replaced by flourishing weeds! The trip shed is gone ... wiped out is more like it and one can just about see the remnants of the old turn table there.
Surendranagar departure was about 10 minutes late and that gave me enough time to gulp down a meal of cold 'aloo - puri' which thankfully was not oily or spicy! Amul flavoured milk is sold all over Gujarat and that was a big boost to my otherwise bland meal! I rode the VTV power hauling its puny 6 coach load from Surendranagar to Botad - a run of a little over an hour. The loco had a striking dark blue / light blue livery - not one to be confused with AB livery though and more importantly the paint quality was outstanding - almost like a metallic finish! It also had stenciled on its side, 'driver friendly cab' not that I noticed anything different from the usual WDM2s! MPS on this section is 80 km/h and as a result of that freight and passenger trains on this section run almost at the same speed. The track has apparently been tested upto 135km/h so I wonder why they've give this section such a conservative MPS!
The freights that I was mentioning all originate from Pipavav Port (south west of BVN on the Gujarat coast). This section was in fact built in collaboration with the Port and from Botad Jn. to Pipavav is known as the Pipavav Railway Company! The newly converted BG line is only a year old and Pipavav has already clocked a million tones of originating freight - all in the form of containers. As a matter of interest all traffic from the port is inward so you have empty container freights returning to the port every couple of days!
Pipavav railway company originates from Pipavav town and touches the original railway alignment (then MG , now BG) at Rajula. So the only stretch built from scratch was the Pipavav - Rajula section. From there on it was gauge conversion all the way and although the route through Botad would have proved the shortest both in terms of kilometers and access times the port refrained from funding gauge conversion on a section who's route was longer than that of Botad - Surendranagar. So the net result is that ADI-Botad has now become an isolated MG section and the BG freights have to travel through Surendranagar and Viramgam in order to access the WR mainline at ADI! Penny wise, pound foolish I thought!
Botad was reached on time after a non-stop run which even whizzed past the erstwhile junction at Jorwarnagar (who's NG branch to Sayla closed down in '87). There was of course little or no evidence whatsoever that the MG ever existed here, leave alone the NG! At Botad, the MG line from ADI joins us on the left before the station limits as you head in the direction of BVN. Botad Jn. still sees about 10 MG trains a day (5 up / 5 dn) but this was at one time a much busier station. Evidence can be seen in the form of a reasonable sized railway yard which is now majority BG and only a small part MG. The yard was big enough then to accommodate 3 BG platforms now and an MG island platform as well. Between platforms 1 and 2 of the new BG station one can see traces of uprooted MG carriage pit lines. A dead YDM4 was at the head of a very neat looking 6 coach passenger train which would form the last departure for ADI that evening. On another line (of the 4-5 that are left) were a bunch of 8-wheeler MG tank wagons. There is a refueling point at Botad and that's why those wagons were here. Botad also had the honour of being an MG steam shed homing 4 YGs, 2 YLs and 2 MAWDs around the time of its closure in the late 80's.
Thankfully, Botad still retains its old station building, shelters and benches as do most other stations along the route. Nothing grand about any of them yet elegant in their own right. Station architecture is more or less standard along this route except for Bhavnagar station which has a flatter construction style as opposed to the sloping roof constructions one could see everywhere else. The raised BG platforms, have of course, marooned the station buildings made originally to the more delicate MG specifications!
Dhola Jn. was our next scheduled halt. The train kept good time throughout with only 1 scheduled crossing which took place soon after Dhola. There are only a handful of trains on this route as it is so delays are rare! The track quality is pretty good and both the loco and coach rode well. Signalling is MACLS throughout and the typical station enroute consists of no more than 3 tracks and a single platform. The Junction stations of course have multiple platforms. I sat in the first coach from the loco on the journey from Botad to BVN and enjoyed the music of the WDM2 as it made merry with its load of 6 coaches, fiercely accelerating away like an EMU and braking hard into the station limits. A steady 80 was kept at throughout!
From Dhola Jn, the line splits - one portion continues to BVN and the other part to Dhasa, Mahuva, Rajula and eventually Pipavav. All stations mentioned here save for Pipavav were MG junctions not to long ago which also gives us an insight into just how dense the MG network was here! We would continue to BVN of course and Sihor Jn. was next which used to have an MG branch to the Jain pilgrimage centre at Palitana. Gauge conversion is in progress here as well although far from complete. About 20 mins prior to our arrival at Sihor, the Palitana hills can be seen - a refreshing sight indeed after the rather uninspiring landscape we were witnessing all through that day! Sihor jn stn has a 1946 marking on it for some reason - although the line was built well before that. The construction of the station building is a little different to the rest as well. Between Sihor and Bhavnagar is a station called Vartej known for being the railhead serving the famous detergent manufacturer - Nirma. A goods siding could be seen but had almost no evidence of possible loading activity!
Bhavnagar was'nt to far away now and the station of immediate interest to me would be Bhavnagar Para or BVP. This was like a suburb of BVN town and more importantly the main hub of activity for the railways there. Well, not much of a hub after gauge conversion but some important installations still exist there - that of the divisional headquarter office, the main railway staff colony and even the MG workshops. These workshops were originally built only to carry out POH to freight stock but continue to this day turning out no less than 1-2 MG coaches per month! Not a hint of an MG line anywhere close by so I asked the obvious question - how are they transported to the rest of the MG network? By road of course - on trailer trucks!!! Well, if Tivoli Garden can do it with BG coaches in Delhi, am sure BVP workshops can do it as well! Although the workshop shares its boundary wall with that of the station and one could see the old industrial sheds inside, I didn't think I'd get to see any rolling stock but lo and behold a freshly POH'ed MG GS coach was standing inside - waiting for road access to the next set of rails it would travel on. This leads me to another point - some of the side effects of gauge conversion! The workshop has apparently been kept running due to the large workforce that it still employs - all from the hectic days of MG activity. It is apparent of course that this must be burning a huge whole in the railways pocket not to mention the impracticality of it all! BVP was also home to a rather large and busy MG yard which housed amongst other things, a steam loco shed homing no less than 35 powers (22 YPs, 6 YGs, and 7 YLs ) in its closing years. All that remains of that yard and shed now are ruins and rusted flood light masts!
Bhavnagar was reached 5 minutes before time and the evening chill had started to pick up. My first task was to find accommodation which I did in the form of retiring rooms located above the station building. Rather spacious retiring room with a large shared verandah outside but that said, not exactly the best kept one. Still, the linen was clean and there was ample water in the taps! That done, I scouted around the station and yard. Not much to be seen from a railway angle save for an all new coaching depot with pit lines, the DRM's carriage and the ART train. There is still a lot of construction going in within the station limits - including that of raising platform 1 to BG standards. So at the moment platform 2 is being used as the receiving and dispatch platform with the middle line being used for loco run arounds. No civil work seems to be entirely complete actually leaving the station in quite a big mess and worse still it was difficult to tell what the final yard layout would be or what the MG layout was like - something that interests me a lot! I did walk around some of the older building there which housed the MG goods sidings at one time. The MG has gone but the buildings still retain that old charm - solid wooden doors with 'goods office' inscribed over them and large door knobs. While all of these goods sheds were in a dilapidated condition and about to receive the axe anytime now, the station building had retained some of the better maintained older fittings - an old wrought iron gate marking the entry to the station with BGR engraved in its centre - 'Bhavnagar Gondal Railway' and some solid old wooden doors with brass knobs and markings such as 'Linen Room'. Bhavnagar station's other attraction and probably its most well known are its famed lady porters. It really does take you by surprise seeing so many of them all at once and there is no male porter to challenge their supremacy there and probably never will be either! : A tradition that will never change with time. They wear a red sari, blue blouse and the trademark brass arm band displaying their porters license. Oh and they hate to be photographed!!
Watched the departure of the Bandra bound express and then made my way outside for some dinner and to arrange for transport to Dhasa Jn. early the next morning. I turned in early that night with the satisfaction of having made it to Bhavnagar - one of the 2 places that had eluded me in my travels with my dad. There were however still some regrets - that of not being able to see the Bhavnagar Maharaja's palace and not going further down the permanent way that evening to explore what could have been traces of the Bhavnagar tramway or the NG branch line to Mahuva!!
Trip Report: Saurashtra Explorer - PART III
Day 2 was to be a very early start for me. The driver of the vehicle that I hired showed up on time thankfully and we set off at about 0440 for the town of Dhasa after a quick cup of tea or shall I say saucer of tea (as is the custom in Gujarat)!! Dhasa was 80km away and took an hour and a half to cover. In keeping with the high standards of highways in Gujarat, things started off well..the road was excellent all the way till Sihor town which is where it became a bit of a dirt track all the way to Dhasa! Quite suprising really - every other state highway I've traveled on in Gujarat till date has been excellent. The driver turned out to be an interesting chap and had family working in the railways to! His father was employed at BVP workshop as a fitter and that's precisely where I gathered all the information about the workshops from! He described to me the days of MG and the days of steam when there were as many as 12 arrivals and an equal number of departures per day..how freight was loaded in the sidings at BVN and BVP and what a sea of activity the area was. Today there are only 3 arrivals and 3 departures daily and absolutely no freight! I wonder if the BG will ever be able to win back any of this!
Dhasa Jn station was reached at 0610 and we had yet another round of tea before I bought my ticket and scouted around the station for some more relics. Dhasa town was still asleep then and the only semblance of activity was the tea stall adjacent to the station serving passengers about to board the 0650 departure to Veraval. Dhasa had a lovely old station building with an architecture distinctly different from what I had seen on the Bhavnagar line. The platforms had still not been raised here as only 1 BG passenger train calls on the station daily and other than that it is a passing station for BG freight from/to Pipavav Port. The MG is now restricted to a terminus platform and a couple more stabling lines. The extent of the MG yard that was can be gauged by the goods shed which lies some distance away from the farthest BG line on the other side. A couple of flood light masts from the MG days stand testimony to what was. A 5 coach rake had been placed on the platform and on the adjacent lines was a dead YDM4 which was powered up a little later. Some spare stock coaches lay on the last line as well as the BVN DRMs MG carriage which disappointingly was an ICF built one. The train to VRL had on it a first class coach surprisingly and this was not even listed on the WR TT. Apparently it is a regular feature on this train! The coaches had been swept and the loos washed clean - a pleasant surprise no doubt!
Train departure was right time at 0650 and I rode the SBI based YDM4 till Dhari - about midway on the line to VRL. It was cold at that time in the morning and I bore the brunt of it in the form of a blast coming in from the drivers side window! Great fun nevertheless! MPS on the section till Khijadiya Jn was 75km/h which was only 5 less than its BG counterpart not to far away. This MPS continues on the line leaving Khijadiya and heading north-west to Jetalsar and onwards to Wansjaliya. On our route however the MPS dropped to 50 soon after Khijadiya and continued till Visavadar Jn.. From Visavadar Jn. till Talala the MPS is set at 30km/h and for good reason to - part of that section cuts right through the Gir lion sanctuary. 65km/h is maintained as MPS from Talala to the end of the line at Veraval. Signalling on our route was LQ throughout but surprisingly almost all stations were devoid of starters and advance starters! All stations on the route were staffed save for a couple of halts where the guard sold tickets and this process more often than not delayed the train a great deal. However we never ran more than 20 minutes behind schedule and eventual arrival at VRL was 10 minutes late.
Station architecture differed slightly on this route as a part of it was built by the Bhavnagar and Gondal states and another part by the Junagadh state. Veraval, at the end of the line for instance was built by the Junagadh state railway. Some stations had upto 5 tracks including goods siding lines which had now been done away with. Traffic on the route had dropped greatly courtesy of it being cut of from the MG hub at ADI and also from BVN, Surendranagar and Rajkot. Freight traffic has disappeared completely from this area. Till recently both lines out of Veraval were MG but a few months ago the newly converted BG line from Rajkot was extended from Junagadh to Veraval making it a dual gauge Junction and terminus. There are 2 main MG routes remaining today in the Saurashtra / Kathiawar area with several branches from the various junctions mentioned above. The first route is the one I was traveling on from Dhasa (closest MG railhead to BVN) to VRL via Khijadiya, Visavadar and Talala. The other route is from Khijadiya to Wansjaliya cutting the new BG route at Jetalsar and meeting the BG again (Rajkot-Porbandar route) at Wansjaliya. The more prominent of the branches is the line from Visavadar to Junagadh where it meets the VRL - Rajkot BG line. The other branches are the ones from Talala Jn to a place called Prachi Road. From Prachi Road the line runs to Delvada on the one side and to Kodinar on the other - both termini.
Now since the 2 main routes and several branches that I've just talked about lie cut off today from the rest of WRs MG network, rolling stock maintenance has been 'localised' as well. The main coaching depot for the entire Saurashtra / Kathiawar MG network is at Veraval. The POH of these coaches is carried out at Junagadh and Bhavnagar workshops - both previously wagon workshops in the days when MG freight still ran! Junagadh does still handle some wagon POH but that's primarily for departmental stock. Locomotives working these lines are all Sabarmati (SBI) based YDM4s which have their trip shed and refueling point at Jetalsar Jn. The sole ART for this region is also based at Jetalsar Jn. Ajmer continues to be the POH destination for these locos and all transfers to BG flats are carried out at Jetalsar. All of this makes for some very interesting operations where locos and rolling stock are rotated and sent back to their respective service points using well thought out and pre-planned links.
Khijadiya Jn. was to be our longest halt enroute to Veraval that morning and came up within 30 minutes of our spirited run from Dhasa. The YDM4 was in top shape and that coupled with the good condition of the track made 75km/h seem a lot smoother on the MG loco than 80km/h did on the BG loco! Khijadiya looked promising from a distance with rolling stock occupying 3 of 4 lines adjacent to the main platform. 1 of these lines had on it 4 coaches which would be attached to our train and run through to Veraval. They had come in on a scheduled working from the Jetalsar / Wansjaliya line the previous night. On track 3 was a set of hopper wagons which probably made up a works train. Track 4 had on it what I thought to be a freight working but sadly not so - it was a collection of left over freight stock waiting to be dispatched to the works at Junagadh. Another terminus platform with stabling line on the Veraval end made up the rest of the station area. This part of course had stopped being used for awhile now. I figured later on seeing the track layout that the 'main line' was very much towards Jetalsar and the long forgotten terminus platform must have served trains on the route to/from Veraval! Some brisk shunting followed and that enjoyable activity coupled with the early morning chill and the rising sun casting its golden light on the charming station building at Khijadiya made for a refreshing start to the day! Sadly there was no piping hot tea to accompany all of this..
Our journey progressed from Khijadiya now at a more leisurely 50km/h and soon we were in the bustling town of Amreli which was a district headquarter and looked the part. The first of 2 flag stations followed soon after and there were scores of people waiting to board - ticket issuing would obviously be awhile! Apparently no one travels ticketless on these lines save probably for a few 'sadhus' and no one boards the solitary first class without proper authority. A habit which I fear would fast disappear with the coming of the BG. Having said that, this particular route seems to have been overlooked completely in all the frenzy of gauge conversion activity. Possibly because they have achieved their immediate goals - that of connecting Pipavav port and the 2 important towns of the region - BVN and VRL - with the Broad Gauge. No signs of construction anywhere, none of those threatening BG concrete sleepers strewn carelessly along the countryside and certainly no 'platform raising' activity! The MG is here to stay - for awhile at least and thank god for that!!
At Dhari, the next town of any significance on that route, I transferred to the first coach from the loco after enjoying another round of tea with the crew. Dhari was one of those typically laid back stations one could find so easily anywhere in this country - where time stood still save for the arrival of a train! Visavadar Jn. was next where the line from Junagadh joins the Veraval route a little before station limits. Visavadar was a single platform station but a long platform at that with a crossover suitably provided in the middle to accommodate 2 trains together - akin to the one we saw at Achnera Jn. on our Agra trip some months ago. 4-5 tracks made up the rest of the yard with a customary and now defunct goods siding and a long forgotten turntable at the Veraval end of the station.
Between Dhari and Visavadar as we get closer to the coast, the vegetation and landscape start changing quite drastically. Till this point, the landscape was typical of what one would experience in inland Gujarat and Rajasthan - a mix of being arid in some parts with shrubs being predominant and with fertile green fields in others. The transition in topography after Dhari was such that one could see cacti growing side by side with palm plantations. The stretch through the Somnath / Girnar hills which comes up soon after Visavadar and which continues through the Gir sanctuary is distinctly different in its flora and fauna. As would be expected of a sanctuary, there is dense forest cover here accompanied by low hills full of jagged unforgiving rock faces and the railway slices through all of this in the form of elegant curves and deep cuttings. After Talala Jn., coconut and palm trees made an appearance again and held sway till our journey's end at Veraval.
Our speed dropped to 30km/h soon after leaving Visavadar and would continue to be so till Talala Jn. The 2 scheduled crossings our train would have on its run would also happen between these 2 junctions. At Kansiya Nes I boarded the cab again and would ride till Talala Jn. to get a 'ringside' view of the Gir sanctuary. I had visited the sanctuary with my dad on our trip to Junagadh in 1992. Although there is a station called Sasan Gir on the Visavadar - Talala stretch, Junagadh being a bigger town is the preferred railhead for the sanctuary and most people make it by road from there. Although we visited the sanctuary only for a couple of hours that evening in '92, we were fortunate enough to spot a lion and what a sight it was! The crew said that if I was lucky I might spot one again today as lions sitting out near the railway line is'nt so rare an occurrence. Most crews have at least 1 such spotting a week! Now wouldn't that be an ideal ride for a nature lover!! Speed has sensibly been kept at a safe 30km/h allowing crews to apply their brakes well in advance and thereby allowing the kings of the jungle ample time to clear the permanent way. There have been no incidents of lions being run over in many years now and that's partly due to the fact that night running of trains on this section was stopped as long ago as Indira Gandhi's regime. I was not to be lucky that day - all I spotted was a 'langoor' running across the tracks but the thrill of the ride itself was enough to satisfy me. Not only is it an exciting one where one can hope against hope to spot a lion sometime somewhere but its also a very stunning run with all those cuttings, curves and the dense forest enveloping you. The only people or man made objects we encountered on that 30 minute ride were those at a manned LC for a road crossing that was most definitely a forest track for animal watchers. Although these were relatively low hills we were cutting through we did traverse gradients upto 1 in 120!
A fairly lengthy river bridge is the only open space one sees after these dense forests and almost immediately after that the track curves sharply right to reveal Sasan Gir station - a lovely little station built on a curve with a river on one end and surrounded by hills and a thick forest all around. A YDM4 hauled 5 coach train was already waiting there for us - our first crossing for the day. Since that had come in before us, it had been received on the platform line while we were on the through line. A third line made up the station yard which had water filling pipes along its length - meant to fill tank wagons with water (sourced from the hills) to serve the drier areas below. There were no tank wagons on the line at the time but we were to see a few at Talala Jn. Not only that, the second crossing which arrived on the through line from Veraval soon after we came to a halt had as a part of its composition, 2 8-wheeler tank wagons. These would be detached at Talala Jn and left in the siding for filling through the day. The train would continue onwards to Prachi Road and Kodinar and on its return to VRL that same evening, it would pick up the loaded tankers. Talala Jn. had a somewhat larger yard than the previous junction Visavadar but with only a single 1 train platform to its credit.
I rode the coach again from Talala to Veraval and we pulled in about 10 minutes late. The mid-day sun was beating down by then and that coupled with the humidity of this coastal town made things a little uncomfortable. Managed to get a retiring room yet again, dumped my stuff and headed out to the town for lunch. Pigged out on a Gujarati thali and then caught some local transport to the famous Somnath Temple and beach. Somnath temple is famous as the one that got ransacked by the Mohammed of Gazni centuries ago. The temple architecture and the sheer size of it is imposing no doubt but better still is its fabulous setting - bang on the Arabian sea! One can get the most beautiful view of the ocean from that high perch that the temple offers. Thankfully it wasn't to crowded at the time I visited, so had a quick 'darshan' and made my way to the beach! The water was an amazing blue - something I haven't experienced even in the finest of beaches at Goa. The sand wasn't exactly silver - more muddy gray but reasonably clean for a beach that busy. The camel ride looked tempting enough and soon I was elevated to a few metres above sea level!!! Bumpy and back breaking no doubt but an experience I won't forget in a long long time to come - especially the part when the camel lifts up or drops down. Given the mood of the camel, one can experience more g-force with that than one would on the most harsh air pockets while flying!! Ride over and photos clicked, it was time to savour the sights over a much needed drink of coconut water!
Back to the station in the evening to watch the last few arrivals and departures of the day and the ever addictive activity of shunting on the metre gauge lines. I could sit there for hours on end and watch as the YDM4 went up and down the shunting neck marshalling stock onto the platforms and in and out of the coaching depot. It was an interesting operation as well with no less than 20 movements (for the duration that I sat there) where the shunting crews sorted carriage stock for the next days departures as well as those which had come in for their scheduled inspection at the coaching depot. A couple of carriages were marked, 'booked to JUD Wksp' as well. The coaching depot was located at the Rajkot end of the station prior to gauge conversion but was knocked down to make way for the new BG pit line. It now occupies what was the steam loco trip shed. A turn table which does'nt even have the honour of a lead track today lies isolated a little distance behind. There are 2 MG platforms (newly built after conversion) out of which only 1 is in use - the other line is used as the approach to the carriage depot and to stable stock at other times. 3-4 lines make up the carriage depot and another 2 make up the pit lines. The rest of the yard is all BG now which has no less than 3 platforms which is a trifle much for as little as 3 arrivals and an equal number of departures a day. But I guess traffic would increase over time. Just as a matter of fact, the MG has more traffic at this station a day but that still pales in comparison to its heyday. The old station building is intact but completely marooned thanks to the height of the BG platforms. However works had been completed here well in time before the opening of the BG station to the public and hence everything looks neat and clean here especially when compared to BVN. A wrought iron gate still exists here at the old MG entrance with the insignia 'JR' of the erstwhile Junagadh State Railway inscribed on it.
There are plans to extend the BG line to the Somnath temple complex but there seems to be little or no activity on that front and in any case the locals think it's a lot of hogwash!! Veraval is still home to a thriving fishing port and allied industries and evidence of this can be seen easily on the drive to Somnath temple from the station. There is a huge fishing dock on the way complete with trawler repair and building facilities and on a conservative estimate no fewer than a thousand trawlers were parked there at the time. It is a most impressive sight and even for someone like me who's lived in Bombay for the better part of their life, I haven't seen so many fishing trawlers till date. Till some time ago, Veraval was a small sized commercial port as well with the MG lines running beyond station limits all the way into the loading docks. On the road journey to Somnath temple the road hugs the boundary of the railway station and I spotted old MG tracks crossing us at no less than 4 points with further barricaded entries into loading sidings and godowns - showing just how much traffic was on offer at one time here. Some of these tracks have now been uprooted or simply tarred over. 2 lines are still very visible though and branch out into a bigger yard once they enter the loading area. The people of Veraval town that I spoke with told me how there were at least a couple of originating freight trains every day carrying coal, cement and grains from the docks to inland Gujarat and vice versa. This practice although reduced existed till the time of gauge conversion. The MG line to Rajkot was closed soon after and the rest of the network in the region truncated at various points leaving the traders with little or no choice to resort to trucks and the highways of Gujarat. The traders haven't offered freight to the railways since - not even after gauge conversion. Another source of revenue lost forever!
Dinner consisted of some yum street side 'bhel' just outside the station and some fruit which the area around Veraval is famous for. Turned in early that night and got in some much needed hours of sleep for the last day of my trip that lay ahead..
Trip Report: Saurashtra Explorer - PART IV
The last day of my trip had a relatively leisurely start with me not having to wake up before 6am! Scheduled departure of the I/C Exp was at 0730 and the same Vatva power that had brought it in from ADI the previous night was to do the honours today. It was one of those rebuilt units in so called 'Erode' livery! I had one last look at the MG yard - which hadn't yet come to life - and soon we were off on another route which was MG domain till only a few years ago.
WDM2R 18628 performed well and soon we were clipping away at the MPS of 80km/h (the same as that of the S'Nagar-BVN line). There was a cold draft blowing in and I decided to brave it anyhow by keeping the window open. Veraval town and the rest of coastal Gujarat was only just waking up and it was almost like the train's horn was their wake up call that morning. Lush green surroundings complimented by coconut and palm plantations accompanied us for at least an hour into our run until we were well and truly inland. Signalling on the route was MACLS and the typical station had a 3 track layout with platforms on either side of the yard. Some stations even had 3 - am not sure whether this is wishfull thinking or what? The run to Junagadh was a 90 min run with just 2 scheduled halts inbetween. The coach rode well and more importantly remained empty all the way till Jetalsar. I did realize that the track on this section was very new - only a couple of months old but what still left me baffled was the crawl at which we went over the turnouts at each station - it was excrutiatingly slow and a lot slower than anything I had ever experienced before. This was however not the case on the S'Nagar - BVN line.
About 15-20km short of Junagadh Jn, the Girnar hills came into view again. We had traversed the other side of the hills the previous day on our run through the Gir sanctuary. It made for a beautiful sight with the early morning light and the sun still rising to the occasion! Junagadh Jn. was soon reached and as we pulled in, I kept my eyes firmly fixed to the right looking out for any signs of the old MG station and yard that I had visited way back in '92. The MG line from Visavadar joins us from the right a little before the platforms begin. 1 MG line cuts across the BG line and runs parallel to it on the left. The other lines branch out as the terminus platform lines and stabling lines to our right. A 4 coach rake was standing on 1 such stabling line. The terminus platform was there in '92 as well and served exactly the same line it serves today. However that wasn't all the MG boasted of then. Junagadh had a busy steam loco shed with a holding of 22 YLs when I visited there 12 years ago complete with ART train (with steam crane of course), turn-table and coaling/watering yard. All this would have been to our left as we proceeded towards Rajkot so after observing the lines on the right, I rushed to the door on the left only to discover 2 more BG platforms and absolutely no signs of the MG steam shed and yard. It had been wiped clean of the surface of this town!
The MG line that I talked about earlier, which was now on our left, had on it a 'dead' albeit freshly painted SBI YDM4 on it. This line would cross the BG alignment again after the platform to enter the MG workshops at Junagadh which were on our right. The station building and structures have all been retained but have of course suffered some indignity by the larger than life BG platforms! If you look back to your right as the train pulls out of Pf 1, you can see what seems to be the city clock tower or possibly even the tower of the Junagadh Maharaja's palace. A very tall and graceful structure indeed. Soon after that the MG line cuts across to enter the workshops on the right. Another place I would have loved to have visited had I the time and prior permission to do so.
I remember spending a night at this station - in an MG saloon car parked on the lines adjacent to the steam shed. When there wasn't any traffic through the station, we had the hissing and chuffing of the steam locos providing us with a very soothing background score. It was sheer bliss! Later that same night, our carriage was shunted to the terminus lines I talked about earlier and placed at the end of a passenger rake which would form the early morning departure back to Jetalsar and onwards to Rajkot. All this under the aegis of a designated steam shunting power of course! The mail / express trains in the area were all handled by YDM3/5s from SBI. All other passenger trains and shunting was in the capable hands of steam locomotives and freights were powered by SBI YDM4s. A lot of traffic and a vibrant selection of motive power to boot - all sadly gone into oblivion now!
Jetalsar is a short 27 km run and was reached some 30 mins later. Jetalsar, in its heyday was the busiest junction on the Rajkot- Veraval route with lines branching out to Rajkot, Junagadh, Wansjaliya and Khijadiya. The route map is pretty much the same today but the once busier half has gone to the BG and the less important branches remain with the MG. Needless to say passenger traffic has shrunk significantly and freight traffic has disappeared. I recall the large freight exchange yard Jetalsar had and in the 3-4 hours that our carriage was stabled there on the very same trip in '92 there was at least 1 freight train arriving or departing each hour! Many more passenger train arrivals and departures of course! Jetalsar was home to the largest shed (of 5) in the Saurashtra area and had a fleet of 36 locos (21 YP, 5 YG, 3 YL, 7 YB) based there. The loco shed building remains to this day and now houses the trip shed and refueling facility for YDM4s from SBI. Also still around is the steam crane ART which once had a smiling elephant face painted on its trunk!! :-)
No sooner had the MG line from Wansjaliya crossed over the new BG alignment at the approach to the station, I could see at least 20 MG 8-wheeler box wagons standing on a line to our extreme right at the shunting limit for the metre gauge. These very wagons had once made up train loads transiting through a rather busy goods yard at Jetalsar on their way to serving different pockets of Saurashtra. Today they lay there in wait of a very uncertain and glum future! Some would be lucky enough to enter departmental service, most others would probably face the cutters at Junagadh. A part of Jetalsar yard remains intact from what I remember it to be - the part housing the shed, ART and the main platform lines. The other half which housed the other platforms and goods yard has been cleared to allow for the construction of a BG island platform. The original and main platform is still low level serving the MG on one side and gently raised on the other side forming the main BG platform. The transfer sidings for MG stock are at the end of the platform. There were at least 4 YDM4s in the trip shed at the time we passed through - the same shed housed live steam locomotives when I saw it last! The MG line to Khijadiya veers of to the right soon after station limits.
The train had become reasonably crowded by then and although there were a couple more stops between Jetalsar and Rajkot, the crowd only partially emptied at Rajkot Jn. I stuck to the comfort of my window seat facing the direction of travel and alternated between timing the speed of the train to sipping on water and munching on biscuits which would form my breakfast that morning! The only notable halt after Jetalsar was that of the erstwhile state of Gondal. The Gondal Maharaja was well regarded as a role model for other state administrators in the Saurashtra / Kathiwar area. 193 princely states governed the area which we now know as Gujarat. Out of these 8 were first class states. Gondal was one such state which prospered under the Maharaja and who's subjects were a very content lot. The Gondal station building is an all white solid looking very impressive construction and has little or no resemblance to the design styles followed at other stations along the route. Simply put, it is unique! Soon after the station limits, one can see the Palace tower at a distance - still the tallest structure in the area and even though the princely state might not exist today, it does seem like the Maharaja is still watching over his subjects from that tower. A very impressive construction and it led me to wonder if the station building had been inspired by it at all. You can actually see the palace tower continuously for a good 5 mins after the train has pulled out from Gondal station.
The suburbs of Rajkot stretch to a place called Bhaktinagar which was our last halt on this newly converted section. Bhaktinagar I recall, was a fairly busy operation by MG standards with upto 3 platforms and an active freight loading siding. Remains of the sidings and some more rusted flood light masts can still be seen. After Bhaktinagar and as we approached Rajkot yard, I was at the door again looking left to spot the remains of the old MG trip shed at Rajkot which was adjacent to a full fledged BG steam shed. The BG steam shed was built around 1980 (possibly the last BG steam shed to built in the country!?) close to the time of gauge conversion. It was the only BG steam shed in the area and an important one at that. It shut down in the early 90's. The BG shed structure still remains today housing the ART train while the MG has disappeared completely. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of MG steam locomotives - scrapped of course - lying on the lines next to the BG shed. Must have been lying on a very short and isolated stretch of track as well cause there are no MG tracks left in Rajkot anymore! As a matter of interest, Rajkot was an all MG affair when it was first built. I was to far away from those locomotives to spot the class or road number and I could just about make out the shape of the boiler area that was visible and which my photographs confirmed later.
The 2 MG terminus platforms at Rajkot have been replaced by BG ones and an 8 coach rake stood on one of these powered by an Ratlam WDM2. On this very stretch 12 years ago I had photographed the BG and MG Saurashtra mails standing on either side of their common island platform. The BG one hauled by a WDM2 of course and the MG one standing behind a YDM3. We were the only other occupants of the 5 platforms that Rajkot has today and a little after our train moved into platform 3, a double headed (VTV) BOXN train came in from the ADI side. Soon we were off and as we negotiated the awesome curve out of Rajkot station, I could see a VTV WDS6 standing in the saloon sidings - where our carriage once stood before transferring to an MG one! The MG bridge over the Aaji river still remains to this day and must have looked very impressive in its heyday. The MG followed a slightly different alignment into Rajkot and even after the curve and bridge are passed, one can see evidence of the old alignment a little distance away from the BG line. A little distance out of Rajkot is a stunning station building - now abandoned - which must have been an MG station serving the outskirts of the city. I had never noticed this on my previous trips there and it came as quite a revelation to me! I managed to photograph it as well and shall upload it soon.
The run to Wankaner is 42km long and the I/C does it in about 40 mins. Speeds were upto 100km/h now and the afternoon sun made things a little uncomfortable especially when the train slowed or came to a halt. Having said that, train running on this single line section all the way from Rajkot to Viramgam was exceptionally efficient and even with moderately heavy traffic that afternoon, we halted only once to allow for a crossing and were put through a loop on another occasion. At every other station it was a clear run through! Signalling on the Rajkot - Viramgam route is MAUQ with Rajkot and Wankaner being under MACLS. Viramgam strangely enough has LQ signaling.
The train negotiates a leisurely S curve on its run into Wankaner and in doing so the Wankaner Palace can be seen clearly at the top of the hill where it was constructed. It looks down on the town and is easily visible from miles away. I have had the good fortune of visiting the palace on 2 occasions - once with my father in '93 and once when I made a trip on my own to see the last of steam there in '98. The palace has also featured in Mark Tully's show on Discovery channel recently. It is a must see for any visitor to Wankaner - as our countless other relics of the erstwhile princely states scattered all over the glorious state of Gujarat. Wankaner City is a halt station built on a curve a few kilometers away from the main station. It is from this station that the palace can be seen clearly and the other noteworthy thing to look out for is the old MG bridge over the Machhu river. This again lies between Wankaner City and Wankaner Jn stations. Just before the Wankaner station limits, a single track leaves the mainline to form the freight bypass at Wankaner. This bypass was built to reduce transit times and distances for freights coming from the Kandla port area heading to the Rajkot/Hapa/Porbandar area and vice versa. Earlier on they would have had to reverse at Viramgam Jn. Soon after station limits, another track leaves the mainline and heads right into what was the MG part of Wankaner Jn. This track forms a platform line and a couple more goods bypass lines. The MG tracks have all been removed but the shed building remains and surprise, surprise - so do a few steam locomotives!! :-) Unfortunately I didn't get a good look at the shed area or the steam powers standing there as there was a BOXN freight (being overtaken by us) on the goods loop line. I did step out to what was the MG side anyhow and it was nice to find that the old MG platform has not been raised yet! My last visit to Wankaner was in July '98 and some pictures and descriptions can be seen on http://railinindia.tripod.com/wank.html Wankaner shed had a holding of 16 locos when I first visited it in '92. Wankaner was busy at the time with a double headed BOXN working waiting to be overtaken and 2 passenger trains waiting to depart in the Rajkot bound direction. One of them was the Ernakulam - Okha Exp headed by an Erode WDM3. The other was a local working behind another RTM WDM2.
Surendranagar was our next halt due at 1310 hrs. We lost time on the way somehow and eventually reached 15 minutes late. The I/C Expresses from ADI and BVN had already arrived and the Veraval bound train had already been split. On this occasions however, there was an add on to the already entertaining shunting drama - the very same BG saloon car of the DRM of BVN that I had seen on day 1 of my trip had come in with the I/C Exp from BVN and was heading further west to the Rajkot side. It now had to be plugged onto the VRL bound I/C Exp. So not 1 but 2 locos were involved in this function. The rest of the routine shunting and rake merging / splitting followed and I took advantage of the time there to have another aloo-puri meal - this time a little warmer than the last meal I had there! Departure was eventually 10 minutes late and soon we were on out way, heading to Viramgam.
Traffic on the way included 2 crossings with passenger trains, 1 freight crossing and a freight overtake. On the approach to Viramgam I could see a long BCN train on the line from Kandla / Gandhidham waiting with a VTV power at the outer to allow us through. Another BCN freight headed by a BGKT WDG3 waited for clearance towards the Kandla side. Quick halt at Viramgam and we were back on the double line stretch to ADI. Some fast and non-stop running here as well with about 3 trains crossing us and soon we were running ahead of schedule with a 20 minutes early arrival at SBI. We were to be there for almost 30 minutes and during that time SBI didn't disappoint with its busy traffic flow. First up was a double RTM WDM2 headed BOXN train which left towards the Ajmer side. Following close on its heels was a light RTM WDM2 possibly heading to the Gandhinagar branchline. Next was a BGKT WDM2 hauled BCN freight which from the track assigned to it was almost certainly heading towards Viramgam. Just then the Jammu-ADI express (recently involved in an accident) came in from the Ajmer side behind a VTV WDM2 and after a quick halt was allowed ahead of us. I checked the TT and its scheduled arrival at ADI was a little before ours. While all of this was going on, 2 WAG7s which had probably brought in a working to SBI yard were running back towards the ADI side light. A lone WDS6 from VTV in striking orange cream livery marshaled some petroleum tanker stock on the yard lines. By then it was departure time for us and just as we moved out, another BCN working from the ADI side pulled in headed by a rebuilt RTM WDM2 in 'Erode' livery!
After the Sabarmati river bridge was crossed, I couldn't spot any traffic on the last 6 km stretch to ADI but the MG did not disappoint and soon enough our last crossing for the day was to be an SBI YDM4 powered 7 coach passenger train on an early evening commuter working to Mehesana. And as I relished in the sight of it notching up, I thought to myself - long live the MG! That wasn't all the MG I was to see that evening ... We arrived on the BG platform closest to the MG side and I decided then to catch an auto from that very side. In doing so I would have to cross the 4 MG platforms which had on it a light YDM4 and at least 2 passenger trains about to depart. Things looked busy! I don't know how long the MG lines at ADI would continue for but I bid them goodbye this once hoping that I'd see them again someday soon..
- Bharat Vohra