KK Line Mega Trip
by Herambh Patankar
Bombay to Raipur
I left Bombay on my KK Line mega trip on 26th Feb by the 2859 Gitanjali Express. My route was Bombay - Raipur - Vizag - Koraput - Rayagada - Vizag - Howrah - Puri - Bhubaneshwar - Hyderabad - Madras - Tirupati - Kolhapur - Bombay. I took an early morning local from Andheri station. I changed over to the central line at Dadar. On my way I saw a couple of KJM WDM2c in addition to the regular WCAM3 locos at the VT trip shed. Reached Bombay VT at 5.30 a.m. The Gitanjali was waiting on the platform. I got into My coach A2 . It was fourth from the loco. This was a brand new coach with huge windows. There were 4 ac coaches 2 second ac and 2 third ac coaches in all. The Loco in charge was a KYN WCAM3
At 5.55 the Konkan Kaniya Express from Madgaon pulled into our adjacent platform ( Platform 16 ). This train had a Pune WDM2c. On this platform was a serpentine Que. I found out that this line was to bard the general coaches of the Pushpak express.
We left Bombay VT at 6.05 am sharp. Just as we left the platform, a KJM WDM2c was getting attached to the rake of the Konkan Kaniya express to take it back to Madgaon as the Mandovi express. The link is that the Pune loco which brought the Konkan Kaniya to Bombay goes back to Pune in the evening with the Mahalaxmi express and the KJM loco which brought in the Udyan from Bangalore the previous night goes to Madgaon with the Mandovi express
Crossed several trains till thane. I could make out the 1012 Mahalaxmi express because of its Pune WDM2 which we crossed just after just after Sion. Just as we entered Kasara saw a lone WCM6. As we were getting our bankers, the ERS bound Mangala Express came in with an Erode based WDM2. In the ghats as we were crossing the Ehgaon viaduct ( the tallest viaduct in India till the Konkan Railway was built) I saw a lone WCAM3 waiting at a signal on opposite side. Crossed the Howrah - Bombay mail ( Via Allhabad) just before Igatpuri.
At Igatpuri a Santragachi WAP4 was put in charge of the train. Left Igatpuri and saw the AC Loco trip shed. This shed is infested with BSL and Itarsi WAM4. also seen were a couple of SRC and JHS WAP4.The train picked up speed after Igatpuri. Reached Nasik in just 40 min.
At Manmad saw the Vasco bound Goa Express. A Pune WDM2 was in charge.
Saw a couple of Gaziabad WAP1 and a Pune WDM2 getting ready for taking the Tapovan Express till Nanded.
Just after Chalisgaon overtook a double headed goods train with Abu Road Shed WDM2 in charge. Saw a passenger train with Vatwa shed WDM2 at Jalgaon.
Reached Bhusaval 20 min. before time. On the adjacent platform the Delhi bound Goa express was all set to go with a GZB WAP1. On the other platform the KK pulled in with two Itarsi WDM2.
Left Bhusaval and passed the Electric loco shed onto the diamond crossing with the goods lines .Just as we entered Akola I saw the last coach of a MG passenger train going towards Khandwa, unfortunately could not see the loc or which train it was.
The WAP4 was going like a bullet . This ensured that we reached Badnera 30 min. before time. At Badnera Zubin Bhai was there to meet me along with his friend Mr. Agarwal loco Inspector. As we were going to have a 30 min halt at Badnera, Zubin Bhai's friend treated us to some refreshing cold drinks at the railway refreshment room.After we left Badnera, we passed Wardha as it was getting dark. I went to the doorway to see the line towards Madras branch off.
As I could not see anything from the dark glasses now, I got into a conversation with my co-passenger. He was working in the Overhead Electric Traction Dept. at Liluah in ER. He told me that 25 kv electric system first started on the Howrah Baddharaman section and it was executed by professionals from Italy. He also mention that he was amazed to see the roof top travel in the Bombay Suburban trains and that all this would automatically stop when Bombay suburban section will be energized to 25kv AC Traction.
We were running 45 min before time at Buti - Bori. As a result we were detained at Ajni for about 20 min. At Ajni we crossed the Bombay bound Calcutta Mail. This is a long train with a SRC WAP4 in charge. Reaced Nagpur 25 min before time. A friend from my MBA batch based in Nagpur came to meet me along with some sumptuous dinner which his wife had packed for me.
At Nagpur spotted the Sewagram Express with a BSL WAM4 in charge. Also saw a Bhilai, Bhusaval and a newly painted Tata WAM4 in the Trip Shed. The Tata wam4 had HP and high speed written on it. I don't know much about WAM4 markings.
Crossed another diamond crossing just after Nagpur. Had my dinner and decided to hit the sack. After we passed Bhilai, the attendant woke me up at 1am. We reached Raipur at 1.20 am. I went off to the retiring room to have a good nights rest before resuming my Journey to Vizag next Morning.
Raipur to Vizag
Had to take the Samta Express to Vizag on 27th Feb. I reached the platform at 7.30 am. The VSKP - Korba express had just come in with a Raipur WDM2. After eating a Noth Indian version of a Dosa I went to platform 5 Ehere my train had just pulled in. The Samta with a brand new rake pulled in with an Itarsi WAM4 . This train had been converted to Air Brakes only a week back. As a result 3 AC was empty. I again got a brand new Second AC coach with huge windows. These SER Coaches are real neat.
Left Raipur at 8.20 am with a VSKP WDM2c in charge. The VSKP shed logo is really cool. It had a coloured picture of a light house on the hill. This immediately became my second favorite shed logo surpassing the boat on the ERS shed locos. However the running deer sported by the ED locos continues to be my all time favorite.
The train went on slowly till Mahashamud. Just before Harishanker Road crossed a big river to enter Orissa. We soon reached Kantabanji ,At Kantabanji thw toilets of our coach were cleaned by a machine. This machine is basically a diesel driven compressor and a water tank on wheels. It has a long hose pipe. Water is pumped under pressure in the toilets. There were patches of Jungle from Kantabanji to Titlaghar. There is a gradient from Kantabanji till Rayagada. As a result all goods trains we saw from Rayagada to Kantabanji were Double headed (VSKP WDM2 or WDG2 in all cases ) and used to have a VSKP WDM2 as a banker.
Just before Titlaghar, the Koraput-Howrah train ( 5 coaches with a Bondamunda WDM2 ) took a turn towards Shambalpur. This train links with the Shambalpur -Howrah express. The Koraput segment of this train has 5 coaches of which one is a 3AC coach.
Crossed another big river between Titlaghar and Kesinga. The run from Kesinga till Rayagada is through Jungles but it is a double line. Crossed the Rayagada -Sambhalpur express. It had a Bondamunda shed WDM2 in charge.
Just before Rayagad saw a railway line come out from the hills on a tall embankment. It was the Koraput - Rayagada line. Fell asleep after Rayagada. Woke up just before Vizainagaram.
As I looked out of the window the sun was setting. We soon stopped at a small station. I saw a loco with a unique dark green and red livery. It was a WDM2 from Bokaro steel city ( BKSC) shed. The train was the Allepey - BKSC express. That day I discovered 3 new diesel sheds on SER, Raipur, Bondamunda and BKSC
Reached Vizag at 7.45 pm just 15 min. late . ISA was there at the platform to receive me.
Vizag to Koraput ( Via KK Line )
We Reached Vizag at around 7 am our train was at about 7.45 am.Our First sighting was the VSKP- Raipur passenger with a Raipur WDM2
Our Train pulled in after 15 min. Loco in charge was an unbranded ( Shed and Zone not mentioned on loco ) WAG5. Later ISA found out it was a Bhilai shed loco. Our train had a coach with a pantograph at the end. Initially we mistook it for a memu power coack to act as a banker. Later on we found out that it was an RDSO coach to check out the electrification. More on this coach later
Myself and ISA settled down in a first class cabin. Only two of us in the cabin of 4. The train left on time. Soon we found ourselves at Kottavalassa. In the Kottavalassa yard there are at least 3-4 trains from Kirandul laden with Iron ore from the Bailadhila iron ore mines. All these trains have 3 WAG5 locomotives and in all cases from the VSKP shed. I saw a trio of WAG5 at Kottavalassa which This trio had a unique combination of a VSKP , Kanpur and Itarsi WAG5. The train soon left Kottavalassa but that gave us enough time to have some nice home made dosa.
About 3 km from Kottavalassa we parted ways with the VSKP Kharagpur line. At the parting point there was a board saying "Rail link to Bailadhila iron ore mines". We could soon see the Mighty eastern ghats and the mountain we had to climb.
45 min after Kottavalassa we came across a board saying "Anantagiri ghat begins". Thus began our long climb to Arraku streaching over 80 km.. over the next 3.5 to 4 hours we would climb to up to 950 meters with the ruling gradient being 1 in 60. This was not as steep a climb as our Khandala ghat but quiet steep. Here none of the trains including the empty freight trains going to haul iron ore from Kirandul have bankers.
Our assault on the Anantagiri ghat commenced with some sharp curves. Soon we got into our first tunnel and onto the first viaduct. The entire climb was filled with tunnels, viaducts and sharp curves. Most of the action in the KK line lies in the first 90 kilometers.Till Koraput almost every two stations we crossed a triple headed loaded goods train coming down the mountains.
Soon we climbed up till the Bhora caves station. The previous day we had been by road to the Bhora caves. Bhora caves are ancient caves. Inside the cave there is a marking which denotes the passage of the railway track 150 meters overhead. A pillar is to be erected over this marking in case the caves become unstable. Just before the station we had a beautiful waterfall.
Soon we reached a board mentioning the highest point on BG track in India. It read about 965 meters ( not very sure of the exact figure). The next stop was Shimaliguda - The highest BG station in India. The station had a board proudly mentioning this. ISA walked back to the station building to photograph himself along with the board. By then the train started. ISA made a dash for our coach. The way ISA ran that day could put P.T. Usha to shame.
Soon we reached Arakku. Arraku marked the end of the climb. From Arraku we went along the banks of the river till Koraput. Arraku to Kirandul is science running along river and through jungles.
Just after Arakku we crossed the Kirandul - Vizag pasenger. This train had a blue and white WAG5 in charge. Its shed was Simhagiri. I guess that Simhagiri is another name for the Vizag electric shed.
Just before Koraput we crossed another river on a majestic girder steel bridge. Reached Koraput around 2.15 pm. The drivers change here. It is the Vizag drivers from Vizag to Koraput and the Kirandul drivers from Koraput to Kirandul
We immediately went back to the RDSO coach at the end. It was called NETRA and was used to test electric traction. This coach was air-conditioned with LHB type big windows. It was of German make we even asked the person in the coach if it was German but he did not know anything. Also at the back of the coach was a diesel generator. We liberally clicked pictures of this coach. The RPF guys were watching us but the chose not to react.
We went to the station managers office to get endorsements on our circular journey tickets. The station manager was kind enough to put us in a rickshaw and guide us to a good hotel.
Next day when we reached the station, we came to know from the station master as to why we were not questioned by the RPF guys. Our act of getting out from the first class coach, speaking to the guy in the RDSO coach ,photographing the coach from all angles and top it all us going to the station masters office and he escorting us out to the rickshaw made everyone at the station think that we were railway officers!
Koraput to Vizag ( Via Rayagada )
We left our hotel at 5.00 am. , Hiked for a kilometer we were lucky to get a rickshaw which took us to the station. The rickshaw was topless and we could enjoy the natural air conditioning. One can never enjoy such air in Bombay. ISA felt a bit chilly but I was enjoying it. We reached Koraput station at 5.30 am to take the Koraput - Vishakaptnam ( Via Rayagada ) passenger. Our friend the station manager of Koraput was accompanying us till Vizag.
Our train got pushed onto platform number 2. The train had a VSKP WDM2 in charge. Also a 3 AC coach was attached just behind the engine. This coach was being tested and was not open for passengers. Incidentally the previous day our Vizag - Kirandul passenger too had an ac coach belonging to the RDSO. As a result each and every train we traveled by had an AC coach on including the 2 passenger trains which never have AC coaches .
The train left at 6.00 am. sharp and soon we parted ways with the KK line. The crisp n cool early morning air, which was blowing through our window, could beat the air conditioning equipment of the latest LHB coaches hands down. At the next station we had a siding dedicated to NALCO. Here we saw special tanker wagons to transfer chemicals to the NACO plant. These wagons had "Designed by RDSO" written on them. Soon we passed the NALCO factory. There we saw the loco shed which housed some WDS-6 locomotives which belonged to NALCO. By the sun started rising and the whole sky was bathed in a beautiful orange glow.
This line has about 38 tunnels and soon we entered the first tunnel. Being in the last coach we could see the entire length of the train snaking over all those curves. The train entering the tunnel was a glorious picture with the WDM entering the tunnel bellowing smoke and the sun rising over the hill. The cold air made us shiver. The WDM2 was one of the second most smokiest locos I have ever seen. ( The honours of the smokiest locomotive go to a blue and white Kalyan WDM2 which was taking the Netravati express from Kurla to Ernakulam on an April afternoon in 1998). A diesel locomotive going into a tunnel is one of the greatest sight for a rail fan. And I really enjoyed this sight on the Koraput -Rayagada run.
Soon we crossed short bridges and tunnels at regular intervals. Under a couple bridges I saw tribal ladies in their natural pristine glory. Apart from the four of us there was not a soul in our coach. The station manager told us that several stations on these lines were closed due to lack of passenger traffic. This region is one of the most backward but beautiful regions in India. The stations on these lines have no electric supply. They are powered by generators which are turned on about 15 before the arrival of a train. On this section the Neals ball token is used.
We came to a halt at a station built right in the middle of 2 mountains. We did not have the authority to proceed further. I went to the Locomotive to photograph it. I got into a conversation with the driver, but I was politely declined the request to foot plate. The poor driver feared some loco inspector will catch us. Soon we heard horns in a distance. The Bhubaneshwar - Koraput express for which we were waiting was approaching. The train came in behind a colourfull WDM2 from Bondamunda shed. We left soon after the Bhubaneshwar -Koraput express departed.
All the time we were gently climbing down. Koraput is about 850 meters above sea level while Rayagada is only 223 meters above sea level. For the next 2 hours we had to descend the hills. The standard pattern of this journey was a deep valley on one side. At regular intervals we had tall steel viaducts immediately followed by tunnels. The curves were not that sharp though. The train was doing a good 80 kmph. The dynamic brakes were on throughout and and the way the loco was smoking off , I bet it could put a steam loco to shame. At this time we had misty clouds around us better than those in the Khandala ghat during monsoon. It was a great High Speed ghat run through the clouds.
Soon we started getting down in altitude. We then joined the Raipur -Vizainagaram line just before a station called Singapur road. As we stopped at this station and I got down at the platform I realized that I could boast to others that I had been to Singapore. We reached the next station Rayagada at 10.00 am. Sharp. The air became warmer now. Rayagada had a clean platfom with beautiful pink bouigenvela plantations. The opposite Vizag- Koraput ( Via Rayagada) passenger came in on platform one. Rayagada onwards the train was packed. Our coach being the last one was not all that packed. We left rayagada at 10.30 and soon crossed a tall bridge.
Soon we crossed into Andhra Pradesh. The AP orissa border is marked with a stone reading "Welcome to Orrisa" . Just 500 meters from the border on the AP side is the Konerru station . The station manager told us that this station was blown up by Naxalites 3 months back. We reached Bobilli at about 1 pm. Here we saw the Bobilli Salur rail bus. I was a bit drowsy so started dozing. I woke up just before Vizainagaram. At Vizainagaram we met the Madras - Calcutta line.
We soon reached Kotavallassa. We converged with the KK line. At Simhachalam we could see the electric loco shed and some WAG 6 peeking from behind the trees. We could also see the bifurcation of the line to Vijaywada.
We reached Vizag at 4.00 pm. The Hyderabad bound Godavari express was there on platform 1. We went back to our hotel. What a journey it was. This was the best train ride I had on the whole KK line trip. Where else can you experience three seasons viz. Winter, Monsoon and Summer in a short span of 6 hours ? I must also add that this line along with the Konkan Railway fan is a pilgrimage site for anyone who calls himself a Diesel fan. Where else can u get High Speed ghat running with constant Dynamic Braking and tons of smoke. Apurva Bhai are u listening!
Vizag to Howrah
On 3rd march I took a trip of Vizag city. After seeing the beaches of Bibilipatna, scaling the Kailash hills and a panoramic view of the Vizag harbour complete with a goods train in the harbour pulled by a WDS6 of the Vizag port trust, it was time to leave Vizag by the east coast express. As all other trains were full I had to take this crawling train.
I reached Vizag station at 9.00 pm. My train was to leave at 10.00 pm. I saw the Kirandul -Koraput passenger on platform with the blue and white Simhagiri WAG5. This train had the same RDSO coach ( Netra ) which went with our train to Kirandul 2 days back.
At 9.45 pm. Our train came in with not one but two WAM4 from BZA shed. Of these the second loco was dead and had its pantograph down, I guess it's a case of path saving. On the other end a orange and cream VSKP WDM2 was coupled. I got into the old vaccum braked second AC coach. To my dismay I discovered I had a side lower berth. A side berth is miserable to sleep on especially for a tall person like me. Cursing my luck I changed over to my shorts and settled down to sleep.
The days roaming around in the hot sun had taken its too on me and soon I was fast a sleep. At about 4 am I woke up I felt we had stopped some where for a long time. Being sleepy I went to sleep again. I woke up at 7 am. Thinking I was at Bhubaneshawar, but I was wrong we were at Khillakot a good two hours from and detained on the loop line. I went to the door and heard a horn of a WDM2 at a distance. We were waiting to be overtaken by the Trichy - Howrah express. The train with a VSKP WDM2 charged past us.
We soon left Khillakot and were meandering along the banks of the Chilka lake. The lake was all golden due to the rising sun rays. We reached Khurda Road at 8.45 am. We had a 10 min halt here for crew change. I went to the loco and I was surprised to see a Raipur WDM2 in charge. I came to know at Khurda Road that we had met with a minor accident the previous night.
I came to know from our driver that near Bherampur a railway gate on the busy Calcutta - Madras national highway was closed. A drunk truck driver ignored the closed gate and rammed it. He passed right through the gate after wrecking it. He went off safely, but the truck driver immediately behind him thought the gate was open and merrily drove through it. As the back portion of the truck was just about to leave the track, our train rammed the truck at the speed of about 80 kmph. The truck driver and his assistant sustained some injuries but were lucky to be alive. No one else was hurt in the mishap. The only other casualty was our Mighty Vizag WDM2. It sustained some damage as a result it could no continue the journey further. It somehow limped to Beharampur. After a 3 hour wait a Raipur WDM2 ,brought from somewhere volunteered to take us till Calcutta. Well
all I could say about this is that if u drink and drive, you are an idiot. Guys drinking is bad but drinking and driving is suicide.
We reached Bhubaneshwar at 9.00 am. We were about 5 hours late. However due to the ample makeup time this train has, we eventually reached Howrah 3 hours late. I immediately picked up my cell to call up Samit to brief him about the train position. He and Milan were to receive me at Howrah station. After Manchheshwar we parted ways with the Naraj bypass and went into single line mode. We crossed the Kathjauri river, a part of the Mahanadi delta system and entered the city of Cuttak. I manage to scavenge an omelet and a couple of biscuits at Cuttak. This train has no pantry car so you have to rely on what you get on my platform. We soon crossed the mighty mahanadi river. It was an awesome sight.
I climbed up onto an empty upper berth and fell a sleep. I was woken up after Balasore where the attendant came with my lunch . the egg curry served was not at all compatible with my palate and the meals were not exactly of a five star quality. At this stage I started getting hallucinations of the best pantry car I know- The pantry car of the 2123/24 Deccan Queen. After lunch I was just staring out of the window as the poor Raipur WDM2 was trying its best to makeup for the lost time by coasting through the lush green paddy fields.
Kharagpur arrival was 4.30 pm. I took a snap of our loco as it stood on the longest platform in India. The same WDM2 was to go all the way to Howrah. Later Milan was delighted to see a Raipur WDM2. He had never seen one before. Just after KGP saw an unbranded WDM2 Jumbo. It had no shed or zone markings.
I sent Samit regular SMS messages from my cell updating him on my position. I sent him the last message as we passed Santragachi. Saw some WAP4 in the SRC electric shed. Between SRC and Tikarpara crossed the empty rake of the Kurla express. A BSL WAM4 was taking it back to the SRC yard. After Tikarpara just as we were meeting the ER tracks, we passed the backside of the Liluah car shed. Saw a couple of vintage coaches with EIR written on it.
At 7.00 pm pulled down to a stop on platform 22 in the new Howrah station. The I saw a couple of friendly faces. They were fellow IRFCA members from Calcutta Samit Royachowdary and Milan Chaterjee.
A Day in Calcutta and Howrah to Puri
I reached Howrah on 4th March at 7.00 pm by the East Coast express from Vizag. Milan and Samit were there at the station to receive me. We first went to the SER Yatri Nivas which was packed. Milan suggested we try the Maharashtra Nivas at Bhawanipore. This place was near Milan's house. We got in a taxi. I was awestruck by the massive Howrah Bridge as we crossed it. On the way to the Maharashtra Nivas , Milan and Samit showed me Calcutta landmarks like the Writes Building , Eden Garden etc. We soon checked in the Maharashtra Nivas. I felt happy to meet a Marathi speaking soul for the first time ever since I boarded the Gitanjali express.
I had heard a lot about the Calcutta Chinese Cuisine. Before leaving Bombay my father advised me to go and have Chinese food at Park Street. The 3 of us went to a Chinese restaurant in Park Street. The 3 of us being hard core non-vegetarians treated ourselves to quicken and lamb. Over the meal we discussed everything except trains for a change. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Samit. Milan accompanied me to the Maharashtra Nivas. From there Milan went home.
I woke up the next day at 5.00 am. I had to go to the Kali Goddess temple. The closest mero rail station was Jatindas Park, a 5 min. walk from my place. The station after Jatindas Park in the direction of Tollygunj is Kali Ghat. This station is just 500 meters from Jatindas Park. I decided to walk down to the Kali Temple. I had my darshan and I walked towards Kali Ghat station.
I decided to have my first taste of the metro right away, though Milan had promised to take me around the Metro that day. I entered the Kali Ghat station. As I descended the stairs, I felt that I had entered into an all-together different world. The usual filth of Calcutta gave way to a spik and span, sparkling clean well-lit station. For a moment I could not believe I was in India. Till then my impression about Calcutta was a city filthier than even Bombay, the sight of people bathing on the foot path early in the morning was enough to put me off. But after seeing the Metro Railway, hats off to the people of Calcutta for maintaining there railway. We guys from Bombay need to take a lesson or two from these guys from Calcutta.
I soon went to the ticket window and asked for a ticket to Jatin Das Park. The two men at the counter smiled at each other when they heard Jatin Das Park as these stations are on a walking distance. I explained them that I was from Bombay and had come here just to see the Metro Railway. They were very helpful. They also helped me to operate the Ticket Gate. I soon got my first ride in the Metro Railway. These trains run on an electrified third rail. The acceleration and the quality of the ride is very smooth. In 2 min we reached Jatin Das Park and I got my first taste of the Metro Railway.
I soon reached the Maharashtra Nivas. Milan came there at 8.30 and we set off on the trip of Calcutta. We walked down to the Kali Ghat tram depot. I tried photographing a tram in the depot, but the guys there kept shouting asking me not to do it. We soon boarded a tram to Tollygung. This was the fist time I sat in a tram in India. ( I had ridden a tram in Zurich when I was a school boy) From Tollygunj we took the Metro Train to Dumdum. And Milan did keep his word of showing me some nice birds of all feathers. ( I will not go into the details of these birds least I foul upon the sanctity of the IRFCA Group.) I was amazed by the metro rail especially its cleanliness.
Milan told me that these people are so particular about cleanliness that on one particular occasion when a man from Laloo's kingdom decided to paint the town red literally by spitting paan on the Metro railway platform, the railway officials forced him to remove his shirt and clean up the mess.
We reached Dum -Dum. Tollygunj and Dum - Dum are the only two stations overground. We decided to take the circular railway local to a station below the Howrah Bridge. At Dum-Dum we saw a lone WAG5. Soon a train from Rampurhat came in with a HWH WDM2 in charge. Soon our local came in.
In the true Bombay tradition I found a comfortable spot by the door. This was the first time I travelled by an AC emu. I am used to DC and recently AC-DC emu. I found the acceleration of these machines to be smoother.
We reached our destination and took a ferry across to Howrah. The boat ride gave me an opportunity to photograph both the cantilever Howrah Bridge and the cable stayed Second Hoogly Bridge. We walked back across the Howrah bridge and took first a tram and then the Metro to esplanade. Lunch was taken at Nizams. I packed myself a couple of Kathi Rolls for dinner.
We took the Metro back to Jatin Das Park. I went to my room and freshened up for the long journey ahead. Left the Maharashtra Nivas at 4.30 pm. Had to take the 6.00 pm. Shri Jaggannath Express to Puri. I took a detour to take the taxi via the Second Hoogly Bridge, a slightly longer route, but I was rewarded with a ride over the Second Hoogly Bridge. We soon crossed a long bridge over the railway tracks just after Howrah station and at 5.30 pm reached Howrah Station.
The Vizag-Howrah-Puri-Vizag rout was planned at the last minute. As a result it was not covered by my circular Journey ticket. I booked the Vizag - Howrah and Bhubaneshwar-Vizag leg in second AC. The Howrah - Puri leg was booked in Third AC. Our train came in at 5.40 pm from the SRC yard. We left at 6.00 pm. It was time to say goodbye to Milan and think him for being a wonderful guide. I WAM4 ( TATA shed I guess ) was in charge.
I was happy to find I had a lower berth. However the whole days roaming in the hot sun had taken its toll on me. I had my packed dinner at 6.30 pm. I went out and located the TC and had him to sign my ticket. I gave my lower berth to a fellow passenger. I just climbed up and went to sleep. I was dead tired and did not want to be disturbed. I was soon fast a sleep. Next thing I came to know is that we were on the Puri platform. I hurriedly dressed up. I saw our loco. It was a Kharagpur shed WDM2. It was in standard IR dark blue and light blue livery.
I went to the retiring room and freshened up. I kept my luggage in the cloak room and headed straight for the lord Jaggannath temple. I had my darshan and went to the SER Hotel. This is a heritage hotel with a typical English construction and ambience. I had a great breakfast there. A satisfying hot cup of coffee in this hotel marked the end of my visit to Puri.
Puri to Hyderabad
On 5th March at 10.40 am left Puri for Bhubaneshwar by the Nilachal express. I purchased a second class ticket and upgraded it to Third AC in the train. I noticed electrification on the track from only one station before Khurda Road. The electrification between VSKP and Bhubaneshwar was complete. However only goods trains were plying with electric locos. I saw a couple of electric goods trains near Bhubaneshwar. One had a BZA WAG5 while the other had 2 VSKP WAG5.
I reached Bhubaneshwar at 11.15 am. I put my luggage in the cloak room and for the next hour was loafing around the station. I had fried fish for lunch. The Bekhti in Bhubaneshwar is great. Reached the station at 1.00 pm. Our train, the Konark Express came on the platform at 1.15. Now I had two tickets to travel on this train. One was from Bhubaneshwar to Vizag and the other from Vizag from Hyderabad ( part of the circular journey ticket). We had a brand new coach with big windows and an exceptionally powerful AC. The coach was well lit too. This was the best AC coach of the whole KK line trip. No one can beat Central Railway when it comes to maintaining Air - Conditioned coaches. I had another pleasant surprise when the attendant gave us our bed sheets towel and pillow cover in a neatly packed brown paper bag. The sheets were spotless and the envelop had "Central Railway Mumbai Division" written on it.
At about 1.30 the Dhauli express from Howrah pulled in on the adjacent platform. This train had a Kharagpur WDM2. We left on time at 1.50 pm. The journey was very pleasant and a visual delight, especially along the Chilka lake between Balugaon and Khillakot.The VSKP WDM2c in charge of our train was doing an excellent job. By the time we reached Palasa it was dark. I could not see a thing. By 7.00 pm I got bored. I could not sleep as I had to change my seat and shift my baggage at Vizag. The next two hours were spent cracking censorable jokes in Marathi with the coach attendant and the AC Mechanic. We reached Vizag on time.
We reversed a Vizag and now a Lalaguda WAP4 called the shots and it was going real fast. I fell a sleep after Vizag and got up only at 8.00 am. We were on Kazipet platform. Kazipet onwards a WDM2 from Kazipet was in charge. It made a decent job of the continuos 1 in 100 up and down gradients . We reached Secunderabad on time at 10.30 am.
Trainspotting in Hyderabad; Hyderabad to Madras
After getting down at Secundarabd at 10.30 am from the Konark Exprers on 7th March, I went to my uncles house. After freshening up and lunch I called up Sashanka Nanda ( Shanky ). I went to Shanky,s flat. His flat is a rail fan's paradise. From his house you get an unobstructed view of the Hussainsagar lake and the railway line from Hyderabad which runs along the lake. If you are lucky you can see a plane take off from the nearby Begumpet airport also.
Shanky asked me to pick up my camera and go down to the railway tracks with him. It was time to photograph the HYD- MAS express. We reached on the tracks and soon heard a loud horn at a distance. Soon the horn got louder and the mighty WDP4 came into sight. This was my first encounter with a WDP4 at such close quarters. We then went back to shankys house. By then Gautam, Parthasarthy ( GP ) had come over. Shanky told me that he had to go to Nellore the next day and he too would be travelling with me on the Charminar Express . It soon started raining. A welcome relief on the Hyderabad heat. The Godavari express with a WAP4 and 6 ac coaches went by. I then went back to my uncle's house.
Next day met Shanky at 11.00 am. We then went to meet Laksham ( Laksh ) at his office. After a brief meeting with Laksh we went for a boat ride in Hussain Sagar. We gave the boatman some money for tea and had an extra long ride. We then had Hyderabdi Biryani for lunch. Next stop was Shankys house. Here we again went on the tracks to photograph a light WDP4.
I then said bye to Shanky for the moment and went back to my uncles house to pack my stuff. I reached the Hyderabad station at 5.30 pm. Our train the Charminar Express was to leave at 6.pm. Shanky who was taking this train till Nellore met me at the platform. Our coaches were at 2 different ends of the train. I went to my coach secured my luggage and had my ticket endorsed by the TC. I told him I am in the last coach till Kazipet.
At 6.00 pm sharp we pulled out of the station. We soon passed by Shankys flat. His friend was there in the balcony waving at us. We joined the Wadi -Secundarabad - Kazipet line at Hussainsagar junction. The Secundarabad - Manmad express with a WDM2c ( Kazipet shed I think ) went by. At Secundarabad station, Shanky showed me a WDP1 baldie. He also showed me the Lalaguda shed and some MG stock at Moula Ali. I had become dark by then and the WAP4 was thundering at about 100 kmph. It made the 1 in 100 gradients look like nothing. At Secundarabad the coach was crowded and there was no place for both of us to sit. So I dropped off the idea of travelling with Shanky till Kazipet and went back to my coach.
In one of the second sleeper coaches, the lights and fans were not functional. As a result both the AC mechanics from over coach were called upon to attend to the fault. As this train has 5 AC coaches there are 2 AC mechanics. My coach was HA1 a composite second AC and a first AC coach. Unfortunately my berth was near the corridor between the 1AC and the 2AC coaches. A tube light, which could not be turned off, did not let me sleep properly. Through out the Night I could feel the WAP4 thundering off to glory. This WAP4 locos have a fantastic acceleration. I rose up at 7.30 am near Ennore. We were on time. AS we entered Madras Central, I saw a lot of AJJ and Erode locos at the electric trip shed. Also on the platform was the Jaipur- Madras express. It had a Baroda Shed WAM4 in charge. How could a BRC shed loco come all the way to Madras. What route had this train taken. Can someone enlighten me on this. ISA was there at the station again to receive me. We then proceeded to car by Pondycherry only to return on 11th night.
Train Spotting in Madras and Madras to Thirupati
On the morning of 12th December having woken from a goods nights sleep we first went to Madras Central station to see off ISA's father on the West Coast express. He was going to Salem. After seeing him off we had to kill time till 1.50 pm. I had to take the 1.50 pm Madras- Thirupati Express for Thirupati. ISA gave me a choice between a trip on the MRTS and a trip on the MG emu. We settled in for the MG EMU as the MRTS would be there for years while the MG EMU would be soon consumed in the fire of BG conversion.
We walked across to the Park station. In a distance could see the MRTS fly over part ways with the BG and MG lines to Chengalput. We were to go to Tambaram and come back to Egmore. Soon a cute looking MG EMU came in. Keeping up with the Bombay tradition again I found a comfortable spot by the door. These MG machines in spite of being small r really packed with energy. It 's acceleration was as good as a BG EMU. As we left Madras Egmore station saw some GOC WDP2 and WDM2 parked. WE crossed a train hauled by a WDP2 after Egmore. We were running parallel to a BG goods train with passenger coaches modified to carry Maruti Cars. The loco was an ED WDM2. Also on the other side a YAM1 hauled goods train consisting of tankers went by. Now days WAM1 hardly ventures beyond Tambaram in the Madras direction except on the Madras Beach - Pondycherry passenger and the odd goods train.
We cot off at Tambaram and immediately took another MG local back to Madras Egmore. Here I saw a YAM1 standing on the opposite track. This MG electric stock both the EMU as well as the YAM1 look real cute. One thing that I observed was that the YAM1 was getting a really great erection. Its pantograph was erect very high almost at 90 degrees. The pantograph stood as high as the loco body itself. Both the MG as well as the BG stock have the same pantograph. Also the height of the BG overhead wires and the MG overhead wires is the same. As a result, the MG pantograph has to reach almost 2 times the height of the BG pantograph. The MG trains can go up to 75-80 kmph. These trains also sway a lot.
We reached Madras Egmore at 1.00 pm . After a quick lunch I was off to the central station. My train came in at 1.40 pm and after 10 min left for Thirupati.
The cool AC coach was a welcome relief from the sweltering Madras heat. This train is a green and yellow push pull train. It has an AJJ WAM4 in matching livery at the Madras end and a drivers cab in the front. This rake leaves MAS for TPTY in the morning as the Saptagiri Express and after a 10 min halt at TPTY returns to MAS as the TPTY - MAS express. After a 10 min halt goes back to TPTY as the TPTY - MAS express ( the train I was travelling by) . After a 10 min halt at TPTY return to MAS as the Saptagiri Express.
I could see a lot of rakes stables at the Basin Bridge train care center. We parted ways with the Jolarpet line at Arkonnam. Saw the Arkonnam shed. Seems that all the WAP1 have disappeared from AJJ shed. We crossed into Anthra. Here the route is very beautiful with lakes and mountains. Also the up and the down lines run separate on either side of a lake. At Renigunta, the driver walked from the End driving cab to the loco at the back. The train reversed and took a sharp turn to the right parting ways with the Main line. In 10 mins we were at Thirupati. The Venkatadiri express with a Kazipet WDM2c was on platform 1. I was soon on my way to Tirumala where I would spend the night and have Lord Balaji's darshan.
Tirupati to Bombay via Kolhapur
On 13th March I reached Thirupati station at 6.00 pm to take the Haripriya Express Kolhapur. The train was to leave at 6.50 pm from platform 1. I waited at the platform till then. I had shaved off my head at Thirumala and I think I was looking really hep. I saw the sun setting in the distance. The Narayandri express was on platfrom 5. This brute of a train is 24 coaches long. It has a Lalaguda WAP4 till Guntur. Guntur onwards the mighty WDP4 is in command. This is the most popular train between SC and TPTY.
Our train came on the platform soon. The Haripriya Express is maintained at Kolhapur. This train has two segments one is KOP-HYD and the other KOP-TPTY. The TPTY-KOP segment of the 7315 is combined with the 7430 TPTY-HYD Rayalseema Express. We had Kazipet WDM2 at the helm.
My fellow passenger was a business man from Kolhapur. The poor chaps bag got stolen at Thirupati station. The AC mechanic unlocked the coach and got in He got into the coach just behind the mechanic. A couple of well dressed youngsters got behind him. The put some dirt on has back and told him that his shirt was dirty. The poor chap left his bags and went to the basin to wash off his shirt. In an instance both the youngsters and his brief case were gone. Luckily he only had his clothes in the briefcase all his important documents and cash were in the other bag. Guys Thirupati is a holy place but its station is equally unholy. It is notorious for such incidents.
After dinner at Renigunta I struck up a conversation with the AC mechanic. He told me that there was a dacoity on the KOP-TPTY Haripriya express a couple of days back. The train left Hubli at 8.00 pm. At Hubli a gang of 30 miscreants boarded the train. At a lonely spot after Hubli the pulled the chain. Armed with knives, they looted all the passengers of the second class coaches in the KOP-HYD segment. They soon reached the KOP-HYD AC Coach. One of the thugs put his head through the half closed AC coach shutter while the other banged on it. The AC mechanic smelt a rat. He kicked the thug hard on his head and slammed down the shutter and bolted it. The Ac mechanics presence of mind saves both the AC coaches and the KOP-TPTY segment from being looted. One of the passengers called the police from his cell phone. By then the driver too realised something fishy was going on and he started the train and stopped it on a level crossing. As usual the police arrived late only after the thugs had escaped.
I then settled down to sleep in the ancient vaccum braked Second AC coach. The AC Mechanic told me Kolhapur gets the worst and most ancient coaches on SCR. There is lot of neglect and step-motherly treatment to Kolhapur from SCR . The people of Kolhapur have a long-standing demand that the Pune-Miraj-Kolhapur segment be transferred to the Central Railway only then will this section improve. A classic example of this is the Mahalakshami express. This train is always full and it is the most popular way to go from Kolhapur to Bombay. This train was always with the South Central railway and was Numbered as 7311/12. The maintenance of this train was pathetic and the coaches were fit to be in a railway processions. The political bigwigs of Maharashtra's sugar belt did not take to this kindly.( The sugar belt is Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara ,Pune, and Ahmednagar districts and the cash rich sugar lobby is the strongest in Maharashtra politics. No wonder Shri. Sharad Pawar is one of the richest politician in the country) In 1994 the politicians had the 7311/12 Mahalakshami Express become the 1011/12 Mahalakshami Express. The train was now handeled by Central Railway . This train immediately got the best coaches in the Bombay division. Within an year this train became air braked. Today the best and the newest coaches on CR can be seen on this train.
We had a long hault of 2 hours at Guntakal. Between 1.30 am and 3.00 am the following trains get into Guntakal station:
- 7316 KOP-TPTY and KOP-HYD Haripriya Express
- 7430 TPTY-HYD Rayalseema Express and TPTY-KOP segment of the 7315 Haripriya express.
- 7429 HYD-TPTY Rayalseema Express and HYD -KOP segment of the 7315 Haripriya express.
And after a massive shunting the following trains leave Guntakal station.
- 7315 TPTY - KOP and HYD - KOP Haripriya Express.
- 7429 HYD - TPTY Rayalseema Express and KOP - TPTY segment of the 7316 Haripriya express.
- 7430 TPTY-HYD Rayalseema Express and KOP - HYD segment of the 7316 Haripriya express.
Now this is a real complicated shunting. I will try to put a flash animation of this shunting on my web site.
We left Guntakal at 3.15 am behind a GTL shed WDM2. I went to slepp antt got up again at 7.00 am just after Hospet. As we approached Hubli I saw the track from Bangalore join us. Just before hubli saw the GM locomotives workshop. It was a glorious sight to see 3 WDG4 and 1 WDP4 basking in the early morning sun. Had breakfast at Hubli. At hubli saw a passenger train with a PA WDM2. Also a couple of GTL WDM2 and a PA WDM2 were waiting nearby. Traffic on this line is dominated by the GTL and the PA WDM2. At Dharwad had to wait for the Miraj-Hubli passenger which came with a PA WDM2. Dharwad is 750 meters above sea-level and the weather was very pleasant. The run from Dharwad to Belgaum is spectacular. Lots of curves and the train continuously runs through a dense forest. At a particular crossing station located on a curve, we had to wait for a trio of WDM2 running light. The 3 GTL locos smoking on a curve made an awesome sight. Man I love the diesels especially the WDP4, the WDG4 and the good old WDM2. Reached Belgaum on time at 10.55 am. We had to wait for the Mumbai-Bangalore express. The sparkling blue CR rake arrived behind a drab looking brown Pune WDM2. At Khanapur had to wait for 20 min to cross the Jaipur-Bangalore express. The KJM WDM2 flew by pulling the vaccum braked rake behind it. Had an half and hour halt at Miraj. The WDM2 was put on the other side. We had a nonstop run from Miraj to Kolhapur. This was a real treat as apart from Haripriya Express each and every train is a fast passenger between Miraj and Kolhapur. Even the prestigious train no1011/12 Mahalakshami Express.
Reached Kolhapur at 2.45 pm. 15 min before time. My cousin had come to pick me up at the station. I would spend the next week at my Auntie's house. In Kolhapur. Some time in that I week I went to the Station to meet the driver with whom I had foot plated. I had to give him his photographs that I had taken oh him in the loco. A shunting driver was to attach his loco to the train. A khalashi was guiding the shunting driver for the coupling. My friend the loco driver was so dedicated to his work that he started doing the guiding job himself. He did an excellent job. What a smooth coupling!
On 20th March reached Kolhapur station to take the 1012 Mahalakshaimi express back Home to Bombay. I got the dreaded side lower berth again and I could not sleep well . I could feel the train take those sharp curves in the small ghats after Satara, the section I had foot plated on. As the lights in the coach were off I could make the faint outline of the hills even through the dark glasses. Through the window I could see the bright flickering burning torch that the person holding the Neils Token was holding. Had a 5 min halt at Pune. I got down for a cup of tea on the platform. I went back down the memory lane remembering how I used to stay up studying late when in college in Pune and used to frequent this platform at this time of the night for a cup of tea. The Pune WDM2c would continue till Bombay. After leaving Pune stood in the door till Shavaij Nagar. The WDM2c thundering in the night over the Sangam Bridge was a treat for all my senses. This was the first time I was doing this section in a diesel train. I went to sleep after Shivaji Nagar only to wake up Bhandup. Reached Dadar on time at 5.55 am. I said goodbye to the train . I had finished the last leg of my long journey lasting a month and was back home.
I waited on the platform for a cup of tea. As I was sipping my tea I was thinking about the journey I had just finished. I had never been so close to the Railways in my life. For days I virtually lived on the train. I had seen so many things, and met and interacted with so many people on this journey. And a trip with the emperor of rail fans - ISA increased by knowledge about trains by ten folds. I don't think that I will ever get a chance to make such a big trip on IR again. IR is great. The trains may be dirty and late, but IR is the soul of India. Just as I finished my tea and kept down my cup I hear a horn in a distance and could see a headlight of a train approaching us from VT side. As the train pulled in I saw that the board in front of the WCAM3 read "Gitanjali Express". The same train by which I had started my mega trip about a month back.