IR Explorer Trip 2003

2003-01-27

by Poochi Venkat

Part1: MAS-NGP

Right from the start this trip has been a different experience altogether...what with missing GT, the girl, a bus ride to JBP from NGP....

A lot of surprises too. Most significant being 6595 Sangamithra Express...well, at that point of time, when no other option was available, I took the plunge and booked by this train direct to JBP. Rewarded with a wait-listed ticket, I put through a last-ditch call to SK and poured out my woes. In a calm voice he assured me everything would be taken care of...sure enough, within two hours, my berth was confirmed.

So I was going on the trip after all! Thanks to SK's magic.

The next day (9th), after discarding my faithful rucksack with its interesting contents (?) and considerably lightening my overnighter I landed up at MAS around 12.45 with that same office assistant. Vivek Hari was already there. As 6595 had not yet come in, I deposited my luggage with the office fellow, parked him securely near one of those hot-chocolate booths and proceeded for some train-spotting.

Plenty of brutes were arriving and departing. An interesting sight was sapthagiri exp. arriving with AJJ WAM4 20427 (also painted in the yellow/green livery).....and....at the other end was another WAM4!! (AJJ 21260). Looks like the Driving Car of sapthagiri had developed a snag once again...

Finally, at 13.35, a good 25 minutes late, arrived Sangamitra Exp., an 18-coach rake hauled by KJM WDM2c 17902 (not a baldie). The drivers looked understandably tired. As the train gently screeched to a halt, I located my coach and asked my assistant to get in and occupy the berth. A lady in the next cubicle had just stirred awake and groggily enquired where we were. I was amused at her startled gasp when I replied "Chennai" with a grin.

Having secured my berth, Vivek and myself moved to the platform end. Within minutes, a bright WAM4 (21315) in that "smiling" itarsi-shed livery moved in to take charge. Then came our driver, broad-shouldered and huge, bending considerably to get through the door of the loco! The assistant looked normal...should we say hello to them or not??

After photographing the loco, I moved to my coach while vivek stayed put in front. locating the TTE, I requested him to change my berth to LB (i had got SUB). He searched through his sheaf effeciently and alloted a LB in the next cubicle. And it turned out to be a trackside berth...great! Another gentleman had moved in by this time and he turned out to be Dr. Joseph, a friend of a friend of mine. He was on his way to Varanasi for a conference. So, fine company - and fine berth - all the way to JBP...

Good. Everything's settled. Only we have to get going...:-)

It was now 14.02. An interesting two-tone sounded and we were moving. At last...IR Explorer Trip 2003 had commenced (at least for me!). As we passed the platform end, Vivek was there waving and wishing me best-of-luck....I would certainly need it...

Apparently we were going ahead of Pinakini Express (waiting impatiently in the next platform)... Pinakini's dep. is actually 14.00. Being a 'superfast', I thought that would go first.

So, the chase was on!

Truthfully I was quite apprehensive about strange trains with strange numbers with stranger routes and 6595 was a perfect candidate for this category ;-)

Would this train reach anywhere on time? Would we get priority at all?? Let fate play its hand....

I was proved wonderfully wrong.

Here are the details of that memorable run....

  • 14.02 dep. from MAS (27 min. behind schedule)
  • 14.52 GUMMIDIPUNDI - Zooming through the station!
  • 15.04 We're touching 105 kph... terrific WAM4!
  • 15.11 TADA - 105 kph thunder through the platform! i'm grinning in excitement... I'm sure the loco's grinning too - with its 'smiling' livery.
  • 15.18 SULURPETA - grrr! caution order at work: crawling through...15 kph
  • 15.27 88th km from MAS - Navjeevan Exp zips past with 22508 WAP4 in charge. Blood-red loco, deep-blue coaches and bright-green fields...a real challenge for my olympus and kodak!
  • 15.35 doing102 kph; asst. driver peeping backward to see if we're all coming along!!
  • 15.39 NAYUDUPETA - Yahooo! blasting through at 105, horns blaring! BZA WAG5 23210 light, at the other platform.
  • 15.43 Hard braking and horn blaring for an instant: A bus tried to cross the unmanned LC, came onto the tracks and reversed just in time...idiots!
  • 15.45 111th km - Halt in the middle of nowhere...for 15 sec. (?) Then sedate pick up.
  • 15.48 Approaching 75 kph
  • 15.52 Zipping along at 85.....I'm looking out for Coromandel (2841)...
  • 15.56 130th km - Rapid brrraking (no doubt, a caution order!). Where's Coro?
  • 15.57 Hey! Here it comes...2841 Coro thunders past with 22328 LGD WAP4 (raj livery). 132nd km...still crawling! Looks like only our line has the caution stretch. Many gangmen at work. Then NOTCH-UP-UP-UP! Chief-driver going all out!
  • 16.05 GUDUR arrival! Amazing! Only 5 minutes late! I stood on the platform, Exhilarated at our progress. My cellphone tinkled - it was vivek and I told him we were already at Gudur, still ahead of Pinakini (arr. at GDR 16.25). I wandered around a bit, spotted a few locos: 20602 AJJ WAM4, 21227 BZA WAM4 (navy blue/maroon) and 23686 AJJ WAG5ha with a BCN rake.
  • 16.11 still at GDR. No idea why the delay. Anyway, full confidence in our chief to zoom us to BZA.
  • 16.12 Starter yellow. Some passengers hurry into their coaches but slowly get out again.
  • 16.15 Lovely two-tone from the ET WAM4 and we gently move out of Gudur.
  • The next halt's only at BZA so we can expect some hi-speed action! Zipping through MANUBOLU. Crossed AJJ WAG5ha with BOX-N rake toward GDR.
  • 16.30 Slowing down to a crawl...20kph speedboard...Lots of track maintenance work.
  • 16.34 Still crawling - Seems to be one loooong caution stretch.
  • 16.35 Accelarating at last. Crawling again...till VEDAYAPALEM: 166th km then pick-up
  • 16.55 Approaching Nellore. Doing 80kph only.
  • 16.57 NELLORE - No Halt! Thrilling to zip through (if only at 80) with everyone on the platform gawking at you.
  • 16.59 Chief Moorthy NOTCHING UP rapidly.
  • 17.05 Zooming at 105 kph! WAM4 making mincemeat out of this18-coach rake!
  • 17.20 Still doing 105...so far the longest we've travelled at this speed. Euphoric...
  • 17.22 BITRAGUNTA - Sailing through at 95 kph.
  • 17.24 Accelarating steadily.
  • 17.27 205th km: Super blast 110 kph!! Hurrah for WAM4 and super-chief!
  • 17.33 Jan-Shat with BZA WAM4 zoomed past on its way to MAS.
  • 17.34 Aaarrrgh! Rapid braking - down to 50 kph - Through KAVALI
  • 17.40 Approaching 100 kph.
  • 17.50 Touching 105 again...this is real SF...great late-evening action...WAM4 showing us it is still a force to reckon with, given a capable driver.
  • 18.00 down to 75kph: Lots of speedboards with 75kph restriction.
  • 18.04 hissing brakes...slowing down rapidly
  • 18.06 261st km: HALT! Just for 10 sec.
  • 18.08 Coming up to 70 kph.
  • 18.10 Speeding through SINGARAYAKONDA at 90 kph. Along the other line a familiar headlight is approaching us at high speed: Hey Wow! cutie-pie WAP5 thunders through the station with Chennai RAJ! Poor guys - Running late as usual.
  • 18.20 Our coach is coming alive. Everyone sipping the by-now-very-diluted chai and coffee.
  • 18.31 Slowing down perceptibly. I go back to the door to enjoy dusk and savour the nippy wind.
  • 18.33 Swishing through ONGOLE at a sedate 75 kph. Loco headlights illuminating tracks in the fading twilight.
  • 18.40 Decided to switch off for a while. Coach is very smooth! Can't even hear the clickety-clack of the wheels.
  • 19.50 Oops! I've slept for more than an hour... doc. Joseph gives me an indulgent smile...stifling a yawn, I proceed for a wash and end up at the door! We're doing about 102... great loco! Great driver!
  • 19.54 Slowing down a bit for TENALI. The station whizzes past in a blur of tubelights, bulbs and the SM's green lantern. I get back to my seat and chat up the good doctor. He already is a railfan.... for this conference he chose to go by train even though he's entitled to air travel. So we shared lots of information on locos, stations and everything else....lots of praise for Sanghamitra's performance so far... a real competition to TN and GT! Also getting hungry...
  • 20.15 Slowing down rapidly
  • 20.18 Passing through KRISHNA CANAL at 50 kph. Hey...This means we've almost reached BZA...Sure enough, there, the ponderous Krishna River Bridge approaching us...We trundle over the mighty river, lights from boats twinkling far below.... The girders echo and amplify the click of wheels...
  • 20.28 There's lovely Vijayawada station! Ah...the first leg of our journey is complete. A BZA WAM4 21277 is standing on the loop. Inside the trip shed lurks LGD WAP4 22304.
  • 20.30 Arrival BZA. With a final hiss, 6595 grinds to a halt having come in 10 minutes ahead! 6 hours & 28 minutes for 431 kms. a fine run!

BZA has an incomparable charm.... the vendors, the stalls, the officials, the porters, the announcements... I promptly got out of the coach and hunted for "edible liquids". Located the Vijaya Dairy stall and got packets of buttermilk. Then sprint to the HPMC stall for tetrapacks of apple juice. Right! Now i was stocked up for the next leg of this trip.

Balancing the packets and straws, I weaved my way along the crowded platform toward our loco. ET WAM4 was resting quietly, very unassuming. And there was our super-chief. I complimented him on bringing us ahead of time even though we were quite late starting from Chennai. He nonchalantly replied he would've come in a lot earlier but for those troublesome caution orders! He turned out to be quite friendly and I talked about IRFCA and what we do. He was surprised that there are actually people who love our railways!

It was already 20.45 by now and I returned after thanking the chief once again. Well, my berth was still intact (??) and doc. Joseph was relaxing with his walkman, waiting for dinner. Asking him to preserve my dinner should it arrive right now, I moved out onto the platform again.

  • 20.50 still at BZA. With a short "paaooom", 23854 BZA WAG5 pulled in with a vaccuum rake. It turned out to be VSKP-NDLS link express.
  • 20.51 Ah! starter yellow. Within seconds, WAM4 sounded its two tone boldly which had passengers scurrying to the coaches. We then moved out smartly past more locos waiting for night duties: BZA WAM4 21262, BZA WAG5 23532 , WAG7 27460 (shed?).

The new crew seemed determined to better Mr. Moorthy's style and we were doing pretty well even on the great left curve to the Delhi line. Dinner finally arrived and we set about eating in earnest. I'd rather not comment on the quality but it was pathetic. What doc. Joseph had ordered from BZA (supplied by platform vendors) was a lot better and I ended up sharing his meal. By this time we seemed to be doing quite a good speed. An informal calculation resulted in 95 kph.

21.09 We're slowing down rapidly and have stopped! At KONDAPALLI. This town is famous for wooden toys of which I have some lovely examples. We started off a couple of minutes later and the coach, as smooth as ever, lulled us into a well-deserved calm. I was feeling quite a bit sleepy, what with all the excitement of starting off on this journey and finally 6595 exceeding all expectations so far.

22.02 A final visit to the loo then standing at the door and drinking in the ripping cold wind. Stars twinkling brightly in the inky black sky gave the effect of some ethereal journey...we were doing 105kph already.

Wowowow! What's happening to 6595?....TN, GT...better watch out....here's an "ordinary" little train with a seemingly "simple" loco performing unimaginable feats... Mentally wishing good luck to the drivers, I reluctantly shut the door and turned in for the night. doc. Joseph was rumbling peacefully and I soon joined him.

Dec. 10th (next day)

  • 06.28 "Coffee sir cofffeee....garam chai....soodaa tea "...ah...oh...hmmm... Why can't thes guys let us sleep in peace? I groggily glanced through the window to see brown fields and blue skies rushing past. Freshening up, I opened the door a bit and was greeted by a powerful blast
  • Of ice-cold wind! Brrrr....we were truly on the deccan plateau! I dared to peep outside, risking a frozen head and was pleased to see ET WAM4 still with us!
  • 06.30 Dawn blaze through NAGRI - 102 kph! amazing!
  • 06.39 Slowing down rapidly and crawling through HINGANGHAT: Goods on the mainline so we're on the platform road...this is a common problem everywhere. Why can't the goods be halted on the platform road while express trains go through on the mainline? This time it was a fully-loaded coal train with 50 BOX-N wagons hauled by just one of those wonderous beasts, a WAG7, 27254 from AJNI.
  • 06.42 Gently picking up and reached 90 kph.
  • 06.52 Still at 90. Sun rising like a big tasty orange!
  • 06.57 Slowing down again to just 30 kph and crawling through SONEGAON.

In a little while, we passed CHITODA cabin, where the lines separate toward Wardha and Sewagram. Then we were slowing down and sure enough, there was that terrific curve leading to Sewagram station. I primed my trusty olympus and clicked as ET WAM4, looking beautiful in the early morning sunlight, entered the curve. In the distance was a WAG7 moving toward Mumbai with a long BOX-N rake. We carefully negotiated the curve and approached Sewagram.

  • 07.24 arr. at SEWAGRAM. Just 3 minutes late...everyone was wrapped in sweaters, mufflers and monkey-caps. Chai-wallahs were doing brisk business. Up front, the assistant was taking tea into the cab for himself and the chief.
  • 07.27 "Paaaaoooam"...and we were off. Awaiting Nagpur! I was sure we would reach NGP on time. But that was not to be :-( Though we started off in a sprightly manner and came up to 100 kph, caution orders and speed restrictions soon undermined us.
  • 07.42 Rapid braking...crawling...finally halt! At TULJAPUR. for 60 seconds - then picked up speed to 90 kph. golden fields, accentuated by the early morning sun, zipped past us.
  • 08.07 Crawling again at 20 kph...and stopped! At BORKHEDI
  • 08.15 Still halted at Borkhedi! There goes my hope of thundering through to NGP...
  • 08.18 Finally started. Very slow accelaration.
  • 08.22 Doing just 50 kph. Breakfast arrived. The upma-vada was a lot better than last night's fiasco called dinner! We ate heartily and washed it down with surprisingly fresh coffee from the pantry.
  • 08.26 Down to 30 kph through BUTI BORI. Most disappointing...wonder why so many slow-downs...23052 BSL WAG5 hums past with a BOX-N coal train
  • 08.40 Halted yet again! At GUMGAON. LGD WAG5 23918 trundles through with a BCN rake.
  • 08.43 Started at last... We were now approaching the outskirts of NGP. NH7 is running alongside, with even autorikshaws overtaking us! There...we're now passing KHAPRI where NH7 crosses the lines to enter the City.
  • 08.56 Sailing through AJNI at 50kph. Spotted WDS6 36153.
  • 09.00 Crawling into platform #1
  • 09.01 arr. NAGPUR...damn....21 minutes late... this is the first time, in all my trips north, that i'm not getting off at NGP! The original plan was I arrive on 9th morning at NGP by GT, spend the day with my friends and then take a bus to JBP the same night. Well... things turned out differently and here i was, at NGP station, looking out whether alok patel might join me.

Part2: NGP-ET

NGP was deliciously warm and it was nice to stretch out and soak in the sun! Still no sign of alok. Passengers had finally settled in and new crew had taken over. dinshaw's icecream was very tempting but my throat (already sore) wouldn't hear of it.

  • 09.15 The fine two-tone sounded again... Jabalpur, here we come! Sanghamitra smoothly moved out of the platform, onto the left curve and rail bridge over the NG lines.
  • 09.18 An interesting scene unfolded before me - big brute WAP4 (22300 CNB) was approaching us with NZM-BSP exp. while a navy-blue ZDM smartly pulled in below us! and here we were, in the middle of these two! Soon we picked up speed but not so aggressively and levelled out at about 80kph. Excellent weather.
  • 09.53 105 kph thunder through SONKHAMB! Lovely deccan countryside. Feel like getting out and running across the vast land stretching to infinity...I was reminded of my NDLS-MAS return trip way back in Dec. 1987, by TN (16 coaches and a solitary WDM2). We had halted at Sonkhamb, waiting for a crossing. Eating hot aloo bonda, I was standing on the ground absorbing the panorama as well as the sun. A distant horn was heard and before we knew it, there was this WDM2 ultra-blasting past us.....whooooomm! I've never seen or felt a diesel go that fast before. It was TN indeed, enroute to delhi.
  • 10.05 Slowing down for KATOL...and...halt! For three whole minutes.
  • 10.15 Notching up furiously!
  • 10.17 110kph super-thunder through KALAMBHA...long-live WAM4!!
  • 10.28 Still doing 110!! Record speed duration for 6595 so far. I'm at the door now, letting the chill wind blast me...just nirvana...
  • 10.29 ET WAM4 20699 races past with 3-coach vacuum rake and track-recording car (Shat livery)
  • 10.40 Finally slowing down from top speed...
  • 10.49 Official halt at PANDHURNA. 25 minutes behind schedule... Approaching the hills: scenery ever better than before...
  • 10.54 Gently moving out of Pandhurna. A triangular speedboard says "115 RAJ EXP".
  • 11.05 Halt at TEEGAON. A Banker is attached to our train: ET WAG5ha 23747.
  • 11.14 Superb two-tone from the rear and a lovely answering blast from the front (nostalgic memories of Bhor ghats and WCMs)....We're off!

A pair of ET WAG5ha locos were on the other loop: 23823 & 23824. The rear loco was running dead. As we rounded the curve, a really long BCN rake was approaching cautiously, headed by...two WAG5 locos with one WAG7!! The three beasts looked grand, with the BCN rake behind them stretching as far as the eye could see.

  • 11.20 The lines are climbing noticably. These two beasts are doing an easy job of 6595. Mountains all around us and we're playing hide-n-seek with them...The blowers of our locos are clearly heard, enhanced by hills and the surreal silence...Little wonder what inspired Rudyard Kipling...
  • 11.26 Going through a tunnel! Built way back in 1918. Lovely vista as we emerge into the sunlight.
  • 11.30 Another tunnel. The other line curves steeply around the hill while we go through.
  • 11.34 Braking a bit...the land around us flattens out...approaching a station, I guess.
  • 11.35 halt at CHICHONDA. Just then, WAP1 22013 pulls out with BSP raj. Our banker is decoupled very quickly.
  • 11.36 we are moving again. That was like a professional pit-stop! Should make ferrari proud, eh?
  • 11.42 100kph dash through HATNAPUR.
  • 11.50 TKD WAG5 rushes past with mixed goods rake
  • 11.55 Master-blaster 110! CR drivers are real F1 class!
  • 12.04 Master-thunder-horn-blarer through AMLA! Real grand to see the dust flying...
  • 12.17 Heavy hissing of the cylinders and we slow down rapidly to a crawl...
  • 12.19 Official halt at BETUL. Still 25 minutes late?? Inspite of all that thunder :-( a lone BSL WAG5 21242 on the loop.
  • 12.22 We pull out of the platform smoothly. Hard to believe this is also India...everything's so different...that's the magic of IR...bringing everything together...taking you everywhere...
  • 12.35 Tunnel! The hills are closing in and we emerge through a sort of valley. Top-lighting of the noonday sun gives a magical look. The silence is deafening...
  • 12.39 Tunnel again.
  • 12.40 One more tunnel. Typical dry & moist deciduous vegetation all around. Beautiful forests.
  • 12.45 Slowing down a bit...crawling through the ghats. This is Madhya Pradesh in flesh and blood!
  • 12.51 Humming through DARAKOH. Spotted two ET WAG5 locos mu-ed: 23110, 23033. They were in that now-rare brown and cream livery. After passing the station, WAM4 notched up aggressively.
  • 12.55 Whooomm! Back to 105 kph! Lunch arrives. Looks interesting so I decide to go ahead. Doc joseph will dine on fruits to give his stomach some respite. And...the food is surprisingly tasty. So it all went in at MPS! Only then did i realise that I had spent all my energy calculating train speed and straining to spot locos!
  • 13.05 Braking again...official halt at GHORADONGRI. Attractive peaceful station. Well, just 23 minutes late...made up 2 minutes!
  • 13.07 We move out quite strongly.
  • 13.49 Sedate 50 through KESLA. Fine ghats! next time we should take a passr. Train, get off at all these places and explore.
  • 13.50 Marginally faster at 75kph: speedboards here too.
  • 13.56 Halted at KIRATGARH for 2 minutes.
  • 14.00 WAG7 27352 rushes by on the distant other line with BOX-N rake. Nice lighting! Hey...our drivers are at it again... Super notch up!
  • 14.02 Ahhhh....105 kph once more!
  • 14.05 Aagh..short-lived glory...strong braking...and down to just 50!
  • 14.09 Halt... We're at the famous ITARSI curve. There's the station shimmering in the distance. A WAG7 is moving out with an enormous BCN rake toward Mumbai. 30 seconds later, we start again. As we moved into the station, I spotted WDS6 36173 (does ET have its own WDS6 locos?) and a WDM2 17261. That's nice: an ET WDM2 at...ET itself!
  • 14.15 halt at ITARSI ... wow! 15 minutes early!!

The station was as busy as ever. As we screeched to a halt, I was out of the coach in a trice and got to the front. The drivers were just getting out, all wrapped in winter clothing. The weather was very pleasant. I took some shots of our faithful WAM4 having finaly arrived home...an Itarsi-shed WAM4 at Itarsi!

After the drivers had settled down on a bench by the loco, I wished them and congratulated them on the superb run just completed. They were suspicious of me (!) at first but then opened up. They were based in NGP. The chief looked younger than the assistant. He told there was comfortable slack for this train so he was able to reach ahead of time without exceeding MPS. A couple of more snaps later, I bid goodbye and wandered around the platform.

It was 14.20 and the WAM4 was still coupled. I continued my wanderings and went front once more. Only at 14.26 did the WAM4 finally pull out.

A bit sad to see the fine beast go...it had brought us safely all the 1400-odd kilometres and that too, ahead of time. I involuntarily smiled at the loco as it moved off in the distance, smiling back with its ET livery.

And then....time for our diesel beast to take over...

Part3: ET-JBP

Sorry, gang! Got stuck in itarsi...loco change took a bit longer than expected ;-)

It was ET Jumbo, WDM2 17800 which took over from WAM4 for the rest of our journey.

Finally, at 14.43, A fine blast of the horns indicated we were on our way...my first trip down this line.

As we snaked along the lines, I could see the steep curves to our left, leading to delhi.

A few minutes out of the station and we are still crawling. Some train is coming toward Itarsi on the other line...the loco looks like a KJM WDM2...hey...KJM? Well, the livery appeared quite the same as the KJM colour scheme...it turned out to be 17866 Katni WDM2b rushing past with a full BOX-N coal rake.

Then started our diesel odyssey... Rapid notch up...full smoke...what fragrance!

  • 14.56 Zooming through GURRA, horns blaring. WDM2 throb echoing from the trees...sounds like we have a dozen beasts hauling us..! Single line after SONTALAI...we're doing 75 now.
  • 15.08 Tunnel! our WDM2 roars through majestically
  • 15.12 GORATAWAI... double-line now. Jumbo accelarating beautifully...touching 100
  • 15.17 Fantastic...amazing...105 kph diesel thunder!
  • 15.19 Rrroaring through GURAMKHEDI...dust flying...everyone on the platform hastily shielding themselves!
  • 15.26 Rapid braking...SOHAGPUR...goods on the mainline...just a few boxes...no loco! Just for that we crawl through the loop...aaargh...
  • 15.31 Jumbo alco going full out...terrific accelaration smoke. Real F1 chief driver....
  • 15.46 Arrival at PIPARIYA. Expert braking by the chief....a minute later, sharp horns sound in the distance. There was this beast charging at us...certainly appeared to be a super-express with no intention of halting at pipariya.

I took up position on the platform, ready to capture high-speed diesel blast. Wow! the beast is honking continuosly and thundering down the line...everyone running away from the tracks... Here it comes...as the loco (ET 17259 WDM2) neared the station still at high speed, a screaming whine emnated, indicating the dynamics had just been applied...sounded like a 737 coming in to land with reverse thrust in full power... what an effect! The driver had a big smile as he entered the platform. Certainly another F1 guy!

So the train was stopping here...it was JBP-Rajkot express.

  • 15.48 A short blast of the horns and our Jumbo pulls out of pipariya (with us in tow, of course)
  • 16.15 The light's perceptibly changing to a smooth evening hue...the smoke of our WDM2 glows golden in the sunlight! Also getting chilly. We're speeding along at 90. inside our coach there seems to be a congregation of TTE's...on the side-berths...sipping tea and discussing charts. Never seen so many of them in one place! The aroma of chai is irresistible so myself and doc. Joseph order a cup for ourselves...ah...just what we needed...
  • 16.35 We are braking rapidly....approaching GADARWARA....uh,oh...not again!...18358 ratlam WDM2 with tanker rake on the mainline. So here we are, crawling through the loop once more...

Plenty of the semaphores...look fantastic...whatever said and done, no modern signal can match their character and grandeur!

We're out of the loop now...almost at once, great smoke up front : Our F1 chief and jumbo furiously notching up. Really great...no wasting even a minute.

In a way, all this looping and crawling affords plenty of opportunity to savour the unbeatable experience of WDM2 notching up...a professional sound-and-light show!

  • 17.08 Hitting 100kph!
  • 17.10 Yahoo...ultra-jumbo-thunder through KARELI! Nothing on earth can surpass this ...
  • 17.23 Still ultra-thunder... through GHATPINDRAI...station's an absolute blur...i'm at the door with a big grin on my face!
  • 17.35 Yeeesh...short-lived jumbo thrill...hard braking again....
  • 17.37 Crawling once more on the loop.... through KARAKVEL. 14964 Katni WDM2 with empty passenger rake on the mainline. Out of the loop...rapid pick up with all the effects!
  • 17.50 Wheeeoooom....100 kph blaster through SHRIDHAM...trying to take a picture but light's low and the wind real strong.
  • 18.00 Twilight zone! Everything looks magical...jumbo's headlights slicing the darkness.
  • 18.15 Houses are starting to appear...we're approaching some big city. More houses, buildings...finally bikes, cars....
  • 18.20 Slowing down gently...we're entering jabalpur city. Our single line transforms itself into many lines...Hey, isn't that the narrow-guage line nearby...ah! tomorrow starts our NG yatra...
  • 18.26 Finally arrived at JBP....Great run!

I gather my "belongings", say bye to doc. Joseph...he insists on seeing me off. I then commenced scanning for Vaibhav or Roopesh but had no idea how they look. Two fellows were walking down the platform looking at the coaches...could they be Vabby and Roopesh? They continued down the platform past my coach.

Lugging my luggage, I started to follow them. As per agreement, we were to meet near the loco. But these guys continued past the idling jumbo and just walked off the platform! Grruh! So they were not Vabby & Co. I stood next to the loco for sometime, Mentally passing on a word of thanks for bringing us to JBP in royal style. I walked back and relaxed near my coach for a while, wondering what to do.

Trrrr---rrring...that's my cell. Wonder who's calling. It was PVS Praveen! He was still in Pipariya and would be arriving in JBP by the Jan-Shat, at 21.30

Then a brightly dressed chap came peering in my direction. Within seconds, "Poochi? hi, I'm Vaibhav!" so THIS was the "stay cool" "bye for now" Vabby...a big smile and we moved off toward the exit. I stopped briefly, looking back gratefully at 6595 still on the platform, thinking of the magnificent journey all the way from chennai...a sincere wish that this train continues to perform so well always...

Roopesh was there too and we proceeded to Vabby's relatives' place. After settling in, we realised it was almost time for the Jan-Shat to arrive and all of us rushed to JBP to meet our Guntakal man. By the time we reached the station Jan-shat had come in and we had to sprint up the FOB to that platform. How to locate our fellow? Praveen had warned he was real tall and all we had to do was keep looking upward (!). I then remembered telling him to call me the moment he arrives so we looked for a STD kiosk on the platform. There it was, a little further down and sure enough, a very tall person was bending triple to reach the telephone. We tapped his shoulder gently and asked, "Praveen?". He unfolded himself to his full height. Aha...no doubt this was our lambuji!

After enthusiastic introductions, we returned to the house. Post-dinner we laid out plans for our NG Yatra. One thing was inescapable: We had to get up 4am! Then get ready in the biting cold and finally head back to the station. Two hours of intense planning later, we set alarms and turned in for the night, dreaming about the forthcoming trip.

That's in the next part to follow. Hope you enjoyed this one!

Material provided by Poochi Venkat, Copyright © 2003.
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