2000/2001 India Trip

2000-11-16/2001-01-09

by John Lacey

Trip to Chandigarh, 2000-11-16.

Have just returned from a quick trip to Chandigarh by the Shatabdi out of New Delhi. Loco was WAP5 30002 (ABB), Rajdhani generator, 9 WGCZAC, 1 WFCZAC and Blue Generator Car.

Panipat arrival was 05.50, depart 08.55. There was a stop at Mohri and a delay before Amaballa, so the arrival was 10' late. The return was fast and punctual, with arrival time 15.33. Cannot report much of other train activity as it was difficult to see outside from aisle seat due to drawn curtains and seats not aligning with windows.

Most impressed by the quantity and quality of food served in both EC (outward) and CC (inward) and the presentation of the staff.

Delhi to Cape report, 2000-11-25.

I travelled last Sunday on #2432 Rajdhani from H.Nizamuddin to Trivandrum, and then on to KK. Loco on departure was WAP4A 22279, with a load of blue gen, AC1, 3x2T, Pantry, 4x3T, red and cream gen. Deaprature was 1' late, and despite some pws, there was fast running at 120-130 kmh beyond Palwal, with Mathura 135 kms passed in 85', an average of 95 kmh.

A "Welcoma Aboard Rajdhani" tray with handtowels, wet tissues and cold guava juice was the first of a veritable procession of trays bearing meals and snacks: tomato soup, bread sticks, bread rolls, vegetable dishes, salad, chappatis, curd, fruit salad, curry puffs, sandwiches, cashew nuts, wafer biscuit's, tea/coffeee, ice cream. And then it was but a short respite before dinner! (Continental Veg was the choice this time, for a change).

Kota arrival was a minute early, in 268' for 469 kms (79 av.) There was some slow running both before and after Nagda due to late trains in front, but Ratlam was passed in 164' from Kota-266 kms at an av. of 97.

Beyond Godhra there was a stop for more than 75 mins: I overhead "engine failure" but I don't know if it was on our train or another. The next morning on the KR WDM2 17676 was in charge, and it continued right through to Trivandrum, for over 25 hours. 88 minutes were made up from Madgoan, with a Trivandrum arrival 5' early! I can't really comment on passing trains seen, except that all KR trains seen were WDM2. On the WR electric line I saw one diesel hauled passenger under the wires. On the Nagercoil line, both 371/372 passengers were double headed WDM2.

The next day 6122 KK-Chennai Exp was hauled by WDM2A 17835. Approaching Egmore I caught a glimpse of YDM 2025 which looked like a regauged or MG version of a NG loco to me. Any comments on this one?

Coimbatore to Puri report, 2000-12-04.

Last Monday I caught 6606 Nilagiri Exp to Chennai. A WDM2 brought in the train some minutes early, but after 6 more bogies were added, departure was 10' late behind Erode WAP4 22358 with a load of 18 bogies. At least one of the GS was used to convey parcels/mail bags. Chennai arrival was 1' late at 05.51, and Central was very busy at this hour. There were some late arrivals, the Cheran Exp 21' late while the Grand Trunk was 50' late.

As my car was at the rear I was not able to record the no of the engine of 2842 Coramandel Exp on departure.(Load was SLR GS WGFSCWAC 2xWGAAW @xWGACN Pantry 11XSL GS SLR). It was an overcast day (a cyclone was brewing) and as the windows were dark it was often difficult to note the nos on passing trains. The large round house at Bitragunta was seen abanadoned but at least partially intact. During the stop at Ongole a SC suburban EMU set arrived; also present was a large orange Plasser india track machine. As far as Baparta all freights seen were double headed; then came a series of single headed freights. Despite a series of signal stops, Vijayawada arrival and departure was on time at 3.45-4.00.

There were many signal stops during the night and Khurda Road times were 05.22-05.40. Locos here were WDM2 16723 led by another WDM. It may have been imagination, but there seemed to be a whiff of coal smoke still in the air at Khurda Road.

Blue WDM 2 16419 brought in 19 bogies on the HWH-Puri Express and departure was at 07.00 and rain began to fall shortly after. There were two crossings in the 50' spent at Sakhi Gopal (Cutack pass and Puri-ADI exp) while the Puri arrival was at 08.53.

As I have enjoyed very pleasant previous stays at the SER Hotel at Puri I was anticipating a relaxing seaside holiday there. Alas, it was not to be. The Hotel is neglected, dirty with broken furniture and non functioning fittings (1 of 2 lights did not work; despite pleas, nothing was done). The meals, once so delightful, verged on the inedible. Despite repeated requests for veg, I was served only non veg meals in a dining room full of mosquitos.

This was a very great shame, but I found somewhere much more pleasant to stay.

Puri to Delhi report, 2000-12-05.

Neither had it been a quiet holiday at the SER Hotel in Puri. An hour after I moved into my room, workers began demolishing the second (out of use) bathroom. Later, painters completed their singing of songs while they were painting the outside of my room at 23.50.

So it was a relief to ctach 2421 BBS-NDLS Rajdhani on Sunday 3/12. Blue WDM2 18553R from GZB headed a heavy 17 bogie train, all in red/cream: generator, 3x 2T, 8x3T Pantry WFAC WFACEN (a code I've not seen before: it seemed to have a sub-pantry with mobile trolleys in the former luggage compartment)) WFAC Generator. The WFACEN was to be occupied by a party of VIPs from HWH.

Departure was 5' late, and both up and down double headed WDM 2 freights were passed before Cuttack. Speed occasionally reached 100kmh, but there were pws and 3 additional stops ranging from 30 secs to 3 mins before Balasore was reached 23' late. More freights, both single and double headed were seen before GZB, but the timetable must have recovery time built in as arrival was only 2' late, without any sustained fast running.

However, there were many stops approaching Calcutta and at one there was a man with flags and a walkie-talkie on the platform, so it was no surprise that HWH arrival was 25' late.

The new loco was WAP5 30003, and a fast start was made at 17.12, 12' late. There was one extra stop before Asansol at at 19.25, 12' late but compared to earlier in the day we were running like the wind. The very fast booking of 29' for the 59 kms to Dhanbad was not kept, and departure thence was at 20.28, 31' late. Fast running continued throught the night and morning and Aligarh was passed at 08.21, and when GZB was through at 09.28 I thought an early arrival was on the cards.

However, the usual slow run followed, ad NDLS arrival was at 10.07, 3' early.

There had been the usual Rajdhani series of meals throughout the journey. Non Veg breakfasts consisted of cornflakes, chicken cutlet omlette chips toast coffeee an apple and plantain. Veg lunch was vegetable soup roll okra rice paneer chappatis dal and curd in an earthenware pot. While afternoon tea was served with a warm curry puff slice of cake and sweets. Continental Veg dinner was tomato soup roll macaroni and boiled vegetables in a cheese sauce vegetable cutlet and a cassata ice cream cake.

A Comments book was produced on the final leg, and the comment before mine was written by an MP, and it read, "Service excellent but the food was poor".

A subtle touch came after GZB: the steward brought in a tray with the usual mouth freshners: also resting on the tray was a Rs 100 note.

Lucknow report, 2000-12-07.

There was a thread a little while ago about the prospects for a high speed line in India. After my trip to Lucknow yesterday, I think the alignment already exists- Delhi (or GZB) to Kanpur at least. The line has virtually no grades (I did see 1 1 in 500 post!), no noticeable curvature; and the alignment is more suitable than say the the Bologna-Milano line in Italy which has Eorostars running at up to 240 kmh, and ordinary trains at 160 kmh. I caught 2003/2004 on a day trip return. Loco was WAP5 30004 both ways on an 11 bogie load.

Departure was 1' late, GZB was sowly passed at 06.54, and then speed picked up. I was on the wrong side for posts, but these speeds are calculated as averages from the timetable distances.

  • New Delhi-Kanpur start to stop including pws 5 stops totalling 15': 90 kmh overall.
  • NDLS-Panki start to pass, including pws and 2 stops: 424 kms in 263': 97 kmh
  • GZB-Panki 404 km in 231' incuding 2 stops: 105 kmh
  • Etawah-Panki 128 km in 69': 111 kmh pass to pass
  • Chamrola-SaraiBhoput: start to pass 105 kms in 59':105 kmh
  • Barthan-Panki 108 kms in 56': 116 kmh pass to pass

Riding was generally smooth; smoother than it was on the Rajdhani a few days ago. So despite the extra stops and the pws and other slowings, 25' remained for the last 11 kms from Panki for a punctual arrival in Kanpur. Delays here meant that arrival was 1' late. Quite a number of freights, both double and single headed, were overtaken

There were more delays on the return journey. Early darkness meant I could not record any meaningful interemediate times. If I had heard an announcement correctly a goods train had stalled in front. Nonetheless GZB was passed at 21.00, there was an 8' stop outside NDLS where arrival was 3' early, at 21.42.

Brief Shimla Report, 2000-12-09.

On Thursday night I caught 2311 HWH-Kalka Mail. Loco was WAP5 22283 and the load SLR GS GS 2x WGACCW WGACCN WGFCCWAC 6xWGSCN RMS GS SLR. Loco 148 worked the Shivalik Exp of 5 well filled FCZ and 1 SLR/CZR. Newspares mineral water and tea and biscuit's were distributed after Kalka, with breakasts loaded at Barog.

The return journey that night was the same load on both trains, but all the 14 passengers were allocated to the one car. The BG loco was not attached when I retired. Running, apart from the Delhi arrival 34' late, was punctual.

Trivandrum Rajdhani report, 2000-12-12.

I caught Sunday's Rajdhani from H.Nizamuddin. The load was WLRRM 5xWGACCN WCBAC 4x WGCACCW WFAC WLRRRM and the loco WAP4 22324, all in red and cream. Deaparture was punctual right on 11.00, but running was slow until Ballabagh was passed in 30' for the 30 kms. Speed now rose to 120-130 kmh, and Mathura was passed at 12.25, in 54' for the 105 kms from ballabagh. Running continued, mostly at 125-130 kmh, apart from a slow pws where steel sleepers were being replaced. As I do not have station distances for this section with me, the following are some averages taken from km posts:

  • 1220 to 1120: 51'27" an average of 117 kmh
  • to 1120 ; 51'53": 116 kmh.
  • to 920: 24'01" 125 kmh

The train came to a stand at Gurla Jn at 15.18, stopping for 8 ', and a slow run followed to Kota arriving at 15.39, 9'late. After the 10' stop here, good running resumed, with Ratlam passed at 18.39.

Once again, there were unexplained stops in the night, but running next morning was close to time behind WDM2B 17859. However, after Madgaon there was some ballast thrown up, the brakes were applied and then the train came to a stop. This happened again.

Eventually, the loco was declared a failure and it was removed by a WDM off KR 11 pass (2 hours late) at Kumta. The Rajdhani had a 3 hour wait here until WDM2 18253 arrived to take over the train. The departure from Kankanadi was at 22.00 4 hrs 40 min late.

Ernakulam Jn was 07.50-07.58 (6hrs 8 min late) while eventual arrival at Trivandrum was at 12.23, 6 hrs 13 mins late. I did not mind the delay, as it gave me the opportunity to see the beautiful Keralan scenery, but I felt sorry for the train catering crew who would be back on duty for the return journey just six hours later.

Once again, the meals and snacks were copious in quantity and of fine quality. Morning tea and a full breakfast were served this morning.

Trivandrum-Chennai Mail report, 2000-12-14.

I caught Wednesday's 6320 Mail from Trivandrum, due from platform 1 at 14.00. At 13.04 a double headed WDM hauled long southbound freight passed through p1 while 6320's rake was still being asssembled in the yard.

Eventually the empty rake was shunted in at 13.59: due to this and the fact that my bogie was at the other end, I was unable to note the loco. Load was 20: WGSCZ GS 11x WGSCN 2xWGACCN WGAACW WGFCCWAC GS GS SLR, and departure from Trivandrum was 36' late.

At Quilon was a large rail-mounted beautifully painted and lined crane TSC 703 Vikrant: what motive power does this crane have? Lateness reached 59', but departure from Ernakulam was back to 36' late.

Loco this morning was WAP 22218, and Perambur was left 68' late, with arrival in Chennai at 08.47, 52' down.

Egmore report, 2000-12-14.

Just after 13.00 today, the following locos were stabled at Egmore:

  • WDP2 15503, 15516
  • YDM2 16880, 16872, 16881 2032 shunting
  • YAM1 21919 on a MG freight facing south.

At 14.08 WAP 22049 arrived with # 5630 Gwuhati-Chennai Express, running 18 hours late.

Amballa report, 2000-12-17

I caught this morning's Amrit'sar Shatabdi to Amballa,and I was most impressed by the riding of the new German cars. Loco was WDM2C 14002 on a load of 2x generators, 8x CC 2xEC. The wide windows provide excellent vision but it is the smooth riding which really stands out. I could not time from the km posts, but the 60 kms from Holambi Kalan to Diwana were covered in 38', an average of 95 kmh despite two per way slacks, one quite severe. This would indicate that running speed may have been 120 kmh. it was certainly smoother than the Rajdhanis I've experienced.

A menu card was produced, and there was a woman among the steward staff: these were both features I've not encountered before. As an indication of how pleasant a trip it was, I wished I was staying on board when I alighted.

The line was very busy, with WAG5HB on two oil trains (with an empty wagon behind the loco in each case) plus other freights being overtaken. Two expresses were also overtaken, and at Khere Kalan both up and down freights were passed.

WDP2 15509 arrived at Amballa with about 20 bogies on 2497 Shan-E-Punjab, and made a simultaneous departure with 2011 Chandigarh Shatabdi.

Amball it'self was busy: among many other happenings, WDP1 10520 brought in 334 pass ex Amrit'sar. WAP 22037 brought in the 20 bogies of 4518 Exp; included was a First Class/First AC composite (WGPFAC).

I returned on 2526 Paschim exp: the WDM on 19 bogies was replaced by WAP 22353. The running was nowhere as smooth nor as fast as in the morning so it is not the track which explains the good ride in the Shatabdi! New Delhi arrival was 11' late.

Delhi to Pune report, 2000-12-22

One of my intentions on this trip was to travel on India's fastest train: the Shatabdi to Bhopal. Loco on Monday 18/12 was WAP 30010 and the load 2x WLRRM 9xWSCZAC (3 were empty) WFCZAC (8 passengers on the chart to Bhopal; a few to Gwalior or Jhansi, the rest for Agra).

Departure was on time, but then came a 6' stop at H. Nizamuddin. More stops and pws meant that the speed of this train did not reach the allowed 140 kmh, and my two Rajdhani trips were faster to Mathura. An express, an emu and two freights were refuged between Palwal and Agra: these may have caused the delays. In the event, the time to Agra was 2hrs 27 min which was only marginally faster than the fastest WP on the Taj Express booking which, from memory was 2h 35hr.

No time was regained to Jhansi, but thereafter running was faster. The fastest section was probably Khajraha-Lalitpur 73 km in 36': 122 kmh. Bhopal arrival was at 14.25, 15' late, and the same loco worked the return journey.

Overall, I found this train disapoointing compared to the other Shatabdi services I have experienced: the food and service lacked the style and flavour of the previous day's Amrit'sar train. On the Amrit'sar train there was a welcoming "tea kit" (in a bag so labelled) on a tray with a thermos of hot water and a proper cup and saucer, wheras on the Bhopal it was a tea bag in a polystrene cup. The peas in my non-veg breakfast were burnt and stuck to the bottom of the foil, the croissant was stale. Lunches were loaded at Jhansi and the vegetarian lunch was a big improvement over the disapointing breakfast.

From Bhopal I caught 2138 Punjab Mail which arrived 1 hour late behind 20614 on a load of SLR 2xGS 1AC/2A Composite, 2x2A 3x3A PC 8xSL SC SL. Another 4' were lost to Itarsi, but then time was regained during the night to reach Kalyan only 32' late at 06.52. Here I made a mistake by continuing to Dadar rather than have a 2 hr 15 mins wait for the Udyan Exp on which I had a reservation to Pune. Needless to say, Dadar arrival was 80' late at 08.25.

So I then travelled in a very crowded SC on the Koyna Express and this was a healthy antidote to all the luxury Rajdhani and Shatabdi travels I've enjoyed. Conditions were such that I did not record loco or load details, but Pune arrival was 15' early. I was surprised to see double headed WDM2 hauled freight trains en route.

Coonoor report, 2000-12-18.

I've not had much luck with the NMR. Yesterday's news had reports of a cyclone brewing after a month of dry weather.

Last night I caught 6605 from Chennai, and thanks to P.Krishnan, Subbu and Sriram who gave me a splendid farewell at Central. Loco was WAP4 22295 on a load of SLR PPS (RMS) GS GS WFAC AC3T AC2T AC2T FC SLR (Military) FC 7xSL SLR. There seemed to be quite a lot of slow running early in the night, but Coimbatore arrival was only a few minutes late at 05.04, and WDM2 18451 took over. MTP arrival waqs early, and again it was to the news that MTP-Coonoor trains were canceled, and have been for the past month.

However, at 06.30 X 37389 steamed into the station and then ran down to the coaling area. Perhaps it was being coaled to work a per way train later? The WDM shunted the stock and then brought out the rake for the 08.15 pass to Coimbatore (which I caught; again!).

Perhaps I'll have more luck at Darjeeling next week?

Catch up, 2000-12-29.

As all trains MTP-Coonoor are cancelled I am presently in Coimbatore using this chance to catch up. I have so much to report from Pune, that I will defer this to later, except to say a mighty thank you to Apurva for his exceptional hospitality, the like of which I have never encountered elsewhere. Krishanan in Chennai told me that I had not reported on my Chennia-Nizamuddin trip. I wrote a report, but it disappeared, so I will wrtite another, but this too will appear later.

To answer Royston's question: in most places I have visited ther have been public internet facilities. The quality vary considerably, even on a day to day basis. There was an excellent modern establishment in Pune, but it was hit by a blackout and I lost some mails before sending them. It was impossible to get a good connection in Chennai the other day.

I tried opening a Hotmail account before I left Australia, but I found it so slow there I switched to yahoo, which has been mostly fine. I madesome mistakes at first, due to unfamiliarity, (and there is no spell checker!) but since then I've lost only a few messages. And then in India various friends have said,"no,don't use hotmail".

Cost has varied from Rs25 to 50 an hour. But sometimes a say Rs50 hour is very slow connection. It really does vary from place to place and from day to day.

So, for now, back to Pune

Pune-Daund report, 2000-12-29

I caught the 11.20 passenger from Pune to Daund last Sunday, 24/12., to ride the double deck cars. Loco was WDM 17936 on SLR 4xWGSD 3xGS WGSCZ GS SLR.

Despite the poor condition of the the DD cars, they rode well, and were very steady at speed (on the upper deck at least!). The train was well loaded, but with some spare seats. I was particularly interested in riding these cars as the Sydney suburban system is now all double deck stock.

Returned on 1078 JammuTawi-Pune Express, running 33' late (otherwise I would have missed it). It was still very full indeed right at the end of this long journey and arrived in Pune behind 18579 8' early, despite a 8'stop at Hadaspur.

Pune to Dadar report, 2000-12-29

Despite being the host of another party on Christmas Eve, Apurva was at pune station early on Christmas morning to see me off on the deccan Queen. There was no loco attached when I recorded the load of SLR 8xSC 5X ACChair Pantry 2xSC SLR and departure was at 07.14, with dadar arrival at 10.25.

Pantry Car stewards were busy; there was on offer chai, tomato soup, idlis; then breakfast choices of omlette, veg cutlets, baked beans on toast.

The Shatabdi Exp was passed on Bhore ghat. It had two bankers. Once through Karjat passengers (well used to the brief stops in the Mumbai area? or just worried like me?) started moving their luggage to the doors and standing there, ready to alight at Dadar! This made me very apprehensive, but Viraf met me on arrival and as he had assured me, the suburban trains on Christmas day holiday were only "lightly loaded." Even so, this was quite an experience for me!

Dadar-Chennai Report, 2000-12-29

On Christmas Night, Viraf kindly escorted me to Dadar to catch the Chennai Express. It was indeed a pleasant surprise to meet ISA, Venky, and Mr Anand Senior here waiting for us as I arrived, somewhat flustered, after another "lightly loaded" suburban. As ISA has mentionedI was WL 1 but the only name on the Chart for cabin A. There was one other passenger present, and then two more joined at Pune. Cabin B had 4 family members booked, whileCoupe C was nominally empty, but occupied all the way.

From Pune the loco was WDM2A 18761, but I have mislaid theload details. At a station with a name like "Mantralyam Road" (I don't have the SCR TT) there was a seat with MSMR still visible. While at guntakal (11.28-11.45) WDG44 12019 arrived with a long freight, and several others were passed later in the day.

While the train was up to 60' late at times, Reningunta arrival was only 5' late, with 8' down departure. Here WAM 4 20536 was attached, but delays meant that the Chennai arrival was 39' late at 20.44.

Lunch from the Pantry car came in a form I've not encountered before: a series of tiffin carriers in a thermos carrier. One had rotis, another dal, a veg curry, with curd in a recycled Kwality ice cream container.

Coimbatore to Chennai report, 2001-01-01

I caught #6606 Express on Friday 29/12 from Coimbatore, and it arrived there 8' early behind WDM2 17543 on SLR WFC WFAC WGACCW WGACCN WGACCW 3xSL 3xGS (1 for RMS) SLR, with WAP 22232 taking over after the Coimbatore section was added.

Departure was 15' late at 20.55, and soon there was astop followed by another for 16' for a crosing, and Tirrupur was left 32' late. So I was surprised the next morning to find the Chennai arrival was only 1' late.

Subbu later showed me the Working Time Table which has times more closely aligned with these "late" times I have quoted here, rather than the public timetable I have used.

Chennai to H.Nizamuddin report, 2001-01-01

After 24 hours in Chennai, I was on the rails again, catching 2433 Rajdhani on 31/12. Unlike my previous trip when I was the only passenger in H1, on this occasion I was WL 1 on WL 8 and another passenger was WL1 on WL7: both of us were confirmed. There were some part-journey passengers in H1 on this journey too, eg MAS to BZW and from Nagpur to NZM. Loco was WAP1 22059 on a load of WLRRM WFAC 3xWGACCW ACP 5x WGACCN (1 was marked "Extra" but it did carry passengers). Both generators were blue, but otherwise it may have been the same set as on my previous trip: the 1A was the same car. This one has framed posters of Modern Art Worksin the vestibules, the coupes and the corridor. According to the charts, there were 37 vacancies in 3T, 7 in 2A and 3 in 1A. Departure was 4' late, and there were dark storm clouds present for the first part of the day.

The running was free of most of the delays present on my previous trip; there did not seem to be as much traffic. And the run to Vijayawada was non-stop despite some slowings, ; the total time was 5 hrs 34 mins and 33 secs, with an arrival 16' early. Onwards to Nagpur there seemed to be also fewer freight trains, but there were some slow sections, and out of course stops. One of these occurred before Asifbad Road (apologies for misspellings: I don't have a SCR TT and sometimes could not jot down the full or correct name) where there was wreckage remaining after a dreailment or collision. Dornakal had been passed at 14.10, and Warrangal at 15.03.

Two long stops occurred near Waringarh (17.49-17.59 and 18.02- 18.26 so they were after dark and I could not read the name clearly: the first was at a yard there). There was a loud speaker announcemnt, presumably about the delay, which may have concerned an engine failure, but I could not really undersatnd it. So after this fairly extensive delay, I was surprised to find that the Nagpur (where it was raining) arrival was also quite early, at 21.01 not 21.27.

I was awake at midnight: the train slowed down, there was long whistle (was it just a coincidence?) and then the train returned to the previous speed of about 100- 110 kmh. There a round of applause in another compartment; later, the coach attendant knocked on the door and saluted, "Happy New Year".

There was a stop at presumabley Itarsi at 0.53, Bhopal 03.23 and Jhansi at 06.25. While I woke at the stops, I was asleep before the departure.

Gwalior, where a WDM on a passenger was overtaken, was passed at 07.40, and Agra Can'tt at 09.01. Here WDM 14001 was shunting, and there was later a stop after we had overtaken a steel train, and then an express was ahead, which was overtaken at Kithan.

At Mathura(09.44) WDP 15530 was stabled in a siding and 20167 on 9023 Mumbai-Firozpur was overtaken; in the lead of this train were 3 milk tankers.

After some 130 kmh running, there were some more slowings on this busy line, but arrival at Hazrat Nizamuddin was still 5' early at 11.20.

Chennai-H.N. Rajdhani report 15/12, 2001-01-01

Apologies for this late and out of order report: I had written one earlier, but it seems to have become lost. As I had spent the previous evening with Krishnan, Subbu and ISA (and met Krishnan's family and Mr Anand Senior) I was a little apprehensive about the 06.20 departure time of 2432 Rajdhani, but I arrived at Central in plenty of time to see the Nilagiri Exp arrive on time, and to check the load of 2432 on platform 2A. The loco was WAP1 leading WLRRM 5X3T (1 "Extra" and empty) ACPantry 3x2T WFAC WLRRM (blue at rear).

Not only did I have a compartment to myself,: I was the only passenger booked in H1 (two berths in my Cabin A were marked for BZW quota, but they were never taken up). The Train supervisor asked me if I wanted to move to coupe C as I was travelling alone. Being the sole passenger I thought I might be neglected (this would certainly happen in Australia). But no, the extremely well dressed Catering Supervisor soon called to welcome me aboard, deliver 3 newspapers, and to discuss my meal choices. And there were two stewards too! Departure was 6 late, and there was one 10' stop and slow running in the first hour.

The usual non veg breakfast had an omlette served on a rice/potato cake, much nicer than a hash brown, and there were grapes too. Despite the delays, Vijayawada was reached in 5 hrs 52", and the Pantry Car was loaded here.

As I was on the westward side, I saw for the first time the stunning location of BZW town squeezed onto the river bank below the high cliffs-all my previous journeys have been on the other side so I have missed this sight.

I had learnt on previous Rajdhani trips that if I was to have a continental veg meal, it was better earlier in the journeu, so that was my choice for lunch: soup, cutlets,chips, mixed vegetables with paneer, curd,salad, pomegrante seeds.

There was a stop at Warrangal at 15.42 and some coal trains werer passed/overtaken before a flaming red sunset. So dinner that night was Indian veg: vegetable soup, fried rice, dry vegetables, dal and an excellent dish whose name I asked for (sazbhi? paneer) chappatis, salad, curd, orange segments. Wardha was passed at 21.28, and then the Nagpur stop was 22.29 to 22.39.

The next morning saw a stop at Jhnasi from 07.00 to 07.12, and Gwalior was passed at 08.23. I was shocked to see the state of the former NG station and yard; ther wwere some decrepit NG rakes which previously werer kept in clean external condition. A large part of the yard is now BG carriage sidings. The NG at Dhaulpur (09.04) looked in much better condition.

There was a stop in a through road at Agra Can'tt at 09.44-09.47 while at Mathura (10.31) we passed 20561 leading 3 bogie milk tankers on a train which was marked as Mumbai-Delhi- but I could not see the number.

There was some 125 kmh running after Kosi Kalan where a NG steam loco at the Country Inn is visible on the Delhi side of the station, and H. Nizamuddin arrival was at 12.21.

Chennai report, 2001-01-01

It was very pleasant to spend Saturday off the rails in Chennai. Krishnan had noted that in a discussion thread here about Indian food in other countries, I had mentioned that I often had Sunday breakfast in a local restaurant which served masala dosai: so I was invited to join his family for a South Indian breakfast! As he had to go "on shed" he had arranged for a "relief crew" in the afternoon, so I was joined by Subbu and we talked trains and timetables within earshot of Egmore.

And then it was my turn to farewell a member of this group, who was taking the Charminar Express, rather than being seen off myself. The loco was WAP4 22201 on a load of 24 bogies: 15xSL 2x GS 2x SLR 2x 3A2x2A 1x1A/2A.

Amrit'sar Report, 2001-01-05

There was a report in yesterday's press that the NR would adopt measures to deal with the fog problem in the North: speeds at night would be reduced, trains would run in "convoys" and Shatabdis would no longer overtake goods and other trains en route.

As I was reading this on the Amrit'sar bound Shatabdi, I anticipated a quite late return to Delhi that night (Thurs 4/1). The loco was WDM2 14027 (long hood leading) on a load of 2 Generator, 2 EC 8 CC. According to the charts, there were no vacan't seats in CC while there were 7 in each of the two EC. Departure from New Delhi was right on time,but I could not time from the posts until after Ludhiana. But I estimated that running speeds were up to 105-115 kmh. The 46 km from Panipat to Taraori took 26 mins, an average of 106 kmh. Riding was very smooth.

There were a number of slowings, and a 10 min stop before Ambala where the departure time was 22 min late. There were more delays beyond Amabala (perhaps from late running preceding trains, and there were both passenger and freight trains being overtaken), but Sirhind to Doraha 38 kms took only 21 mins an average of 108 kmh. There was a 20kmh pws and a short stop before Ludhiana and departure was 46 min late. WDM 15843 on the Amrit'sar-Dadar Exp was passed here and a Jumbo on an express at Phillaur. I was now able to time from the posts and running was at 100-120 but mostly in the 106-112 range. A little time was regained to Jallandhar (44min late), and 38 kms from Phillaur to Jallandahr can'tt was run in 21 mins, an average of 108 kmh.

A vertical boilered steam crane was dead outside Jallandar City. Eventual arrival at Amrit'sar was 46 mins late at 13.46. #2497 had been cancelled, but #2498 did run. I returned on 2030 with the same loc (short hood leading) and load, though this time in EC2 rather than EC1. All the CC cars were fully occupied except for C8 which was empty; there were 10 vacancies in each of EC1 and 2.

Soon after departure tea was served: cashew nuts, hot pastry, a masala snack pack, chocolate bar, and a syrupy sweet. Later bread rolls and breadsticks were delivered from a wicker basket while each bowl of tomato soup was individually poured by the steward from a large thermos. After dinner fruit was also selected from a wicker basket. Once again I was most impressed by the catering service on this train, and the whole efficient and professional, yet attentive and personal style was a stark contrast to what I noted on the Bhopal Shatabdi. These comments apply to the different crews in both the EC cars.

Again the riding of both EC cars was very smooth over the whole range of speeds from say 50 kmh to 120 kmh. There was an occasional jolt or shake but the ride was greatly superior to that on the Rajdhani or the other Shatabdis I've experienced. The soup and tea were always steady!

Times on the return were:

  • Amrit'sar; 17.05 (17.05)
  • Ludhaina 18.55-18.59 (18.53-18.58)
  • Ambala 20.33-20.36 (20.19)
  • New Delhi 22.57 (22.50)

Dehra Dun report, 2001-01-08

On Saturday 6/1 WDM2 17564 worked the Dehra Dun Shatabdi on a load of 2 generators, EC and 8 CC. Incidentally, the the Amrit'sar Shatabdi was headed by WDM2C 14014 short hood leading, on the same set as worked my train on Thursday when the loco was long end leading.

Departure was 2 mins late, and then a slow run followed to Meerut (which also occured in the return direction), departing 08.42 (0.22 late). Ten minutes were regained to Saharanpur where the loco changed ends, but the stop occupied the full 20 mins. Haridwar was left at 11.35 (0.10 late) while Dehra Dun was only 3 mins late at 12.43. Trains here were running late and it was a bleak overcast day.

The Executive Class car WFACZ 1803 was in excellent condition, and despite it's build date of 1988, internally it looked brand new. The reading lights were of a new design, and excellent, and the overhead lighting was diffused by a grey panel which has 4 pairs of night/emergency lights fitted, as well as eight fans flanking this.

The colour scheme was set off by a light pink wooden strip above the light trough which concelead the ac ducts. the seats were upholstered in a deep blue/aquamarine pattern which matched the deeper darker colour of the centre carpet. This colour scheme and the light curtains with grey pelmets walls and window frames (small ac size windows) made for a very relaxing and pleasant ambience; more relaxing than the red upholstery and flourescent tubes of some other cars. Both floors and walls (to half height) in the toilet compartments were deep blue tiled.

It was a very smooth riding car(giving an excellent performance in the "tea test") and it had received a POH at JUAW on 16.9.2K.

Times on the return journey were:

  • Dehra dun 17.00 (17.00)
  • Hardiwar 1812-1816 (18.05-18.10)
  • Saharanpur 19.30-19.49 (19.30-19.50)
  • Meerut 21.03-21.12 (21.11-21.13)
  • New Delhi 22.48 (22.40)

The 41 kmh average over the 66 kms from meerut to New Delhi was rather slow! Executive class meals and service were excellent. Tea on the return was cashews, masala kure packet, hot samosa, chocolate bar and a wrapped sweet from "Agarawal Sweets, Dehra Dun". Dinner was soup with hot rolls and the freshest bread sticks I'v had yet.

There was a menu card for "Today's Dinner":

  • paneer Do Piazza or butter chicken
  • channa masala
  • mixed parantha
  • Zeera-Pullao
  • Curd
  • salad
  • pickle
  • Seasonal fruit
  • Kesar Pista

The catering manager also discuussed the choices with each passenger and also offered a Non Veg/ Veg Continental Dinner: the latter being mixed vegetables in white sauce. There was aslo a service of juices and soft drinks on demand, and some children near me were kept very well supplied.

It is a long time (17 years)since I have flown in India but I suspect that the service on this and the Amrit'sar trains is far superior to that on Indian Airlines.

Bhopal report, 2001-01-08

I thought I would have another ride on the Bhopal Shatabdi to see if my earlier disappointing run on the fastest train in India was a "one-off" So I caught 2001/2002 on Sunday 7/1 with WAP5 30000 leading 2 generators, 8 CC (118 vacan't seats) and EC (7 vacan't on chart; I had been WL 17).

Departure was on time and a good run was made through the suburbs, but the expected acceleration beyond Hazrat Nizamuddin did not occur. Later the reason became apparent: thick fog! At places when it was fully light, I could not see beyond the adjacent track. Speed was kept at about 50 kmh all the way to Mathura, passed at 09.43, by which place the fog had lifted and speed was higher. Although the New Delhi-Agra section was run non-stop, the time was 4 hrs 24 mins with a 02:30:00 late departure from Agra.

Although speeds reached 128 kmh on occasions, a further 6 min were lost to Gwalior through per way slacks. Beyond Gwalior there was some fast running: eg. from KM 1191 to 1181 took 4'34" an average of 134 kmh.

The two lines divide and run on separate alignments at several places, as discussed in a message a few months ago. Beyond Sonagir the lines cross over and run on the "wrong side" for several kms through rocky and hilly country approaching Datia. I presume this was done to ease curves/grades on duplication.

Another six mins were lost to Jhnasi, and departure was now 02:40:00 late. Near Basai an Express in a livery of Red (above the windows) White (around the windows) and Blue (below the windows) was passed. At Dewanganj there was a rake of container flatcars: some of the flats were labelled "Rajdhani Express".

Bhopal arrival was at 16.21 due 14.10 and departure was at 16.55, tabled 14.50. Lunch had been served after Jhansi and now on the return, after Sanchi a "Central Railway Shatabdi Express" carton appeared with two hot (in both senses) egg pakoras, pistachios,sandwich, KIt Kat and a rich pastry sweet in it's own box. Jhansi (19.55-20.03) and Gwalior passengers (21.04-21.06) had to wait until after Agra (22.24-22.28) for dinner.

After Jhansi the running felt fast, and from Gwalior to Agra the ride was distinctly "lively". However, after Agra the ride was much smoother even though speeds seemed to be high. Fortunately, there was no fog and under a full moon New Delhi arrival on Platform 10 was at 00.51. New Delhi station was the quietest I have ever seen it.

Lucknow report, 2001-01-09

Inspired by the recent thread on high speed possibilities for IR and impressed by a fast run on the Lucknow Shatrabdi early in December, I decided to travel on this train again.

Although listed on the departure board as from Platform 11, it actually departs from 12. Loco was WAP5 30003 2 Generator (1 NR red) 8 CC EC with 80 vacan't seats in CC and 7 in EC. departure was on time at 06.20 and GZB was passed in 32 mins.

There was fog about, but not as thick as on Sunday until later in the journey. However, running was not affected, and speed throughout the journey to Kanpur was generally 120 kmh, except for the pws/signal/slacks/stops. The main delays occurred after Tundla, and this is reflected inthe average speed which is inclusive of two stops totalling 7 minutes:

  • Tundla-Samhon: 123 kms, 96'22": 77kmh.
  • Samhon-Ambiapur 55kms in 28'21": 117 kmh
  • Samhon-Govindpuri 95 km in 56'33": 101 kmh.

Some earlier averages are:

  • GHB-Aligarh; 106 km 60' 12": 106 kmh
  • Khurja-Aligarh: 43 km 22' 45": 115 kmh
  • GZB-Khurja 63km 38'27": 99 kmh

Faster were:

  • Aligarh-Hatras: 30 km 15'28": 118 kmh
  • Hathras-Tundla: 48 km 26'20": 110 kmh
  • GZB-Tundla 184 km 102': 108 kmh

The "mystery steam object" seen near Govindpuri in december was dead on this occasion. Kanpur arrival was at 11.15 (5L) and Lucknow at 12.36(1L).

The delays on the return journey occurred near Kanpur. Immediately after the start at 16.40, a second stop was made further up the platform and the restart was at 16.45. then came a further stop at govindpuri and it was quitesome time before speed was gained- and then came another slowing. Eventually a late running 8475 was overtaken at Jhinjak by which station running had been at about 120 kmh.

Quite a few freights were overtaken in this direction as had been passed on the outbound journey. GZB was passed at 21.09 and New Delhi arrival was at 21.51 (6L). The time from Rura to GZB, non stop but with pws, was 221 mins for 371 km, an average of 100 kmh.

Material provided by John Lacey, Copyright © 2003.
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