Meeting Pune IRFCA Gang and Pune-Miraj Trip Report
by Naveen Jain
This is one of my first attempts at writing a trip report. This report is about my return journey from Pune to Madgoan by Goa Express on 12th October, 2005.
I reached Pune Station at about 1600 hrs. I was supposed to meet the Pune Gang at the AH Wheeler. I spotted Swaran, Karad and others of the PUNE gang waiting near the AH wheeler bookstall. After exchanging pleasantries we moved towards the Miraj end of platform 1 where Apoorva and others soon joined us. I did spend a nice half an hour chatting with the Pune gang who gave me a lot of tips on the route ahead.
We spotted a long BCNA rake hauled by a WDG3A going towards Daund/Miraj side. John and others of the Pune IRFCA gang were in the EMU just behind this train and soon joined us at Platform 1.
Soon the Goa express arrived led by a Pune WDM3A 18858R from the Daund side. We all went towards the end of the train where we waited for the new loco to be attached. Surprisingly, the same loco which got the train from Mammad was attached.I had expected a WDG3a or a Shakti to be attached as I had seen that Goa Express hauled by a WDG series quite a few times.
We started off at 1650 (5 mins late) from the Pune station with the train slowly moving from the loop to the main line. As we left the station, I could see a plethora of tracks (used by goods to access the Ghorpuri goods yard) and the two main lines (The Daund line to the extreme left and our line to Miraj somewhere in the middle). To our right was the coach stabling lines. Soon we reached Ghorpuri and we came to a dead halt (though our started was at "Caution"). I leaned out and could see the chief's trunk being loaded on the loco. The Pune Loco shed is next to the Ghorpuri station. Next to the loco shed, I guess is the goods yard. The DC traction exists till a few metres from the end of the Gorpuri Yard on the Miraj Side.
Soon we left the Ghorpuri station and picked up speed as we passed through outskirts of Pune. The Chief was continuously sounding the horn as he notched up. I had positioned myself very close to the Loco and could now start hearing the compressor and the melodious beats of the diesel engine revving up. I was a bit disappointed as this loco was not a Whistler as some of the Gooty locos.
Soon we reached Sasved Road and were greeted by a awful stench. A peek outside revealed the cause. Just by the side of tracks there was a pond and by the pond side a group of people were brewing illicit liquor. Sasved Road also heralded the beginning of the Token territory and Semaphore signalling. There is a massive curve at the Miraj end of the Sasved Road which will be a very good spot for rail photography provided we can stand the stench. As we crossed the Sasved Road station, I could see the assistant leaning out of the left loco window and reach out to hook the Token from the hands of the station employee.I guess we would have been doing around 50-60 KMPH at that time. The Assistant seemed to be wearing some kind of Arm Gaurd to protect his arm from injuries. Also noted on his hand was something which looked like batting gloves (cricket batting gloves) which were off-white in color. I guess they serve dual purpose - one to protect the hands of the assistant and the second to show the position of the hand to the station employee who holds the token.
We picked up speed and were soon travelling at 80+ KMPH towards Miraj. I was waiting for Shindwane station where, as told by Pune Gang, a minor ghat section begins. Soon we crossed Shindwane and I started to feel the train slowing down gradually but I could still hear the loco at 8th notch. A look outside confirmed the fact that the ghat sections had started.
After some time, we slowed down to a complete stop. We had a "Danger" signal and were stopped at the mainline just before entering the station. Soon, I could see a blue colored loco hauling the Bangalore -Jodhpur Express.It is the first time I am seeing where in we are stopped at the entrance to the station while the crossing train enters the loop on the other side. I guess the station master did not want to have the hassle of sending a guy to collect two tokens (thrown down by both the assistants) at the same time. The Train was stopped on a up gradient and on a nice left handed curve. I did take a photo but came out blurred due to low light situation. Once the Bangalore-Jodhpur express came to a stop we got "proceed" signal. Our chief slowly started the train and took sweet time notching up. At the station, the assistant threw his token and collected the new token for the next part of the journey.This time as we were at very low speed, hew did not use the protectors (the arm guard and the cricket gloves). after the Token was successfully collected, the chief notched up aggressively and we quickly picked up speed.
It was dark soon and I had the opportunity to see high speed Token exchange in near complete darkness.The chief seemed to be an excellent loco pilot and I could easily make out when he notched up and when he was coating. Except in some visible up gradients (could make out by looking at the lights of the coaches behind me) when our WDM3A struggled to maintain speed chief would have been either at 4-5th notch or at Idle.
Token exchanges continued for a few more stations and most of them at high speeds (90-105 KMPH). Soon we reached the end of the token territory though the semaphore territory continued on till Miraj.
We had our first commercial stop at Satara where we were in about 10 mins before time. The next stop was at Karad where we crossed the Maharashtra express (Kolhapur-Gondia). Here again we reached about 15 mins before time. Sangli was reached again about 15 mins before time. We finally reached Miraj about 30 mins before time (21:10 hrs)
I moved from my SLR coach once we reached Miraj and searched for a TTE to find a sleeper where I could sleep away my tiredness. I was fast asleep before even the train left Miraj and only woke up at Kulem.
Some observations on the Pune Miraj route: 1) Though the route is mainly built on the OLD MG alignment, some of the bridges are new. Also, at some places, the new BG alignment is a significant distance away. In one occasion, I could see the MG alignment about 300 metres away on the side of a hill where as the BG alignment was through a valley
2) There are a lot of spectacular curves on this section. If fact there is a 180 degree curve somewhere before Satara where the train goes through two tunnels and the station is just at the end of the second tunnel.
3) There are a lot of places where the gradient is steep (may be 1 in 75 or so) and our 21 coach Goa hauled by a WDM3a had a perceptible loss of speed
4) There is massive track replacement going on in this section. I could spot the rails for the track replacement machine placed just adjacent to the tracks.
Many thanks to the PUNE IRFCA gang who came to meet me at Pune on a working day.