Guntakal - Kolkata
by P V S Praveen
GTL - BZA by 7226
I hardly had any time left now. The watch was showing 05:30 pm, and I was still in the DRM's office. I had to rush to Santosh Electricals, get the signature on the illustration and rush to the DTDC office to send the documents to SBC Finally, after much hungama, I finally made it to the station to catch the 7226. My reservation was in S2, Berth No: 2. I told a rather surprised TTE that I would be foot plating in the loco, and that I would be joining in at Dronachellam.
After seeing that my folks were comfortably placed in the AC2Tier, I took my water bottle and went up the 200009 WDP4 Short Hood Forward. Got introduced to the Driver and his assistant and clambered inside the loco and had a quick look around. Hmmm not bad, the loco had some comfortable seating positions, with the controls conveniently located for driving. On the wall was the Monitor, which had all the critical parameters on display. The entire operation is computer controlled and the driver has relatively little work to do. While driving short hood is real pleasure, (very much like the WAP4) driving long hood could be real pain, and both the drivers acknowledged this fact. This loco is pretty lengthy, and has a speed restrictionof about 95 Kmph, while the WDM2A has a speed of 105 Kmph on the Dronachellam section. This loco has the alerter, very much similar to the Dead Man Handle in the EMUs. If no control is operated for about two minutes, the light starts flashing on the dashboard, and the driver has to deactivate it, by pressing any control or the deactivator.
We started at 1915 hours sharp and took the line to DNC. The Chennai Mail had come on to platform 5 and the GTL Beauty 16200 was assigned to take it up to RU. As we took the sharp curve to the left from the DRM's office, the Sander light on the console started flashing. This loco has automatic sanding facility apart from the manual sanding button on the console as well. We were having token less territory up to EddulaDoddi after which the token section begins. We are cruising at a comfortable 95 Kmph, and had a load of 18 coaches, with 2 locked GSCNs behind the loco. Even at this speed, I could hardly feel the speed, given the superb ergonomics of the DP4. The same speed on a DM2A would have me rocking and shaking by now. The twin headlights piercing into the night made a superb sight.
At around 2015 hours we pulled up in to Pendekallu station where we halted for about 15 minutes for tomato loading. About 150 crates of tomatoes are loaded here daily, for Guntur and BZA. Once the loading was through, we got our starter and were off again. Driving the DP4 is a pretty simple affair. On the dashboard console of the driver, you have:
- A removable lever for forward/backward movement of the locomotive. This lever can be used in a single direction only.
- An aircraft-type notching lever, with about 8 notching positions.
- The Dynamic brake with a plunger type supportive switch. This leads to a more efficient braking.
To set the loco in motion, all you have to do is to release the brakes and set the notch in the first position, and subsequently notch up for more speed. Its braking prowess is simply awesome.
As we went along, I chatted with the drivers about their duties and their lives etc. These folks were coming up to Donakonda, which comes at around 0150 hours. They would be staying there, the whole of next day, and return back with the Amaravathi, the following night. Their running allowance was Rupees 83 for every 100 kilometers traveled, and they did not relish the idea of working the DP4. The MG Steam locos were much fun. At Dronachellam, They asked me to join them from Nandyal Onwards up to Donakonda for the second round of foot plating in order to view the Chelama ghats. Wow! I promised to get back.
At Donakonda, I went back to the AC2Tier coach for my meals, and after spending some time, I entrained the loco, once again at Nandyal at around 2220 hours. This time I took the Assistant's chair, and it was an amazing feeling having the beast under your control.
We were doing about 90 Kmph, with me occasionally blasting the horn at the W/L board and at the curves. We had switched off the cab lights and it was a wonderful sight, we three in the loco, darkness all around and the twin headlight piercing into the darkness ahead.
We pulled over at Diguvametta loop line for the passage of the incoming Guntakal passenger from Guntur. We had to wait for about 15 minutes, as there was a problem locking the points and the incoming passenger had to be piloted safely on to the main line. After this train came in, we got our line clear token ‘C34’ and started off. The night was pretty cold and it was totally dark. We closed all the shutters and the talk also got lesser as all of us concentrated on the tracks ahead.
The Chelama tunnel soon loomed ahead, and we pulled on to the loop line, for the Prashanti Passage. A KZJ Shed dual DM2A was stabled on the main line. After about 5 minutes, we started again, after the Prashanti crossed us, invisible, on the other loop line. We crossed the 1543 m Bogad tunnel next. This tunnel had tubelights and all, but this day, they were not working. We crossed the watering station, GazulaPalli and by the time I said goodbye to my friends at Giddalur, it was around 0000 hours. I went to S6, took a lower berth and went to sleep.
BZA - HWH by 6004
There was a lot of action at BZA. As soon as we came in, the 2711 Pinakini express pulled out from pf: 6. The Satavahana & the Ratnanchal also pulled out from their respective platforms within the next few minutes. As we waited on Platform 7/8, the AJJ WAP4 headed 6004 Mail pulled in to the platform. It has:
- 2 x AC 2 TIER Coaches
- 2 x AC 3 TIER Coaches
- 1 x AC 2 Tier Cum First AC Coach
- 10 x Sleeper Class Coaches
- 2 x SLRs
- 4 x WGSCNs
Amazingly, for a train that runs through 1663 Kilometers and has 2 nights and a complete day of journey between MAS & HWH, there is no provision for a pantry car. However, as I was to find out during the course of journey, this was more than adequately compensated for, by some superb local catering as & where available. You had the entire gamut of catering services, right from the ubiquitous tea & coffee to the not-so-freely-available Guavas etc made available for you. Here is a list of foodstuffs that I came across on the Kolkata Mail:
- Tea & Coffee
- Soan Papdi & Pootha-Ray-Kulu (A Telugu Sweet Dish) at RJY
- Guavas, Cold Badam Milk & Butter Milk at RJY
- Idli, Vadaa & Bread Omelette almost everywhere.
- Lunch from the TUNI VRR
- Hot Puris & Fresh Fruit Juice at VSKP
- Jhaal Muri & Peanut Masala on the Andhra Orissa Border Sections
- Chikki & Roasted peanuts almost everywhere
- Hot Singadas (Samosas) at Sompeta & Ichchapuram
- Hot Puris & Mishti Doi (Sweet Curd) at Khurda Road Jn
Apart from this you had people selling all sorts of knickknacks like playing cards, magic pens, small toys for kids, murals, curios, chapatti plates etc. And of course, the regular beggars, urchins & the Hijras formed the rest of the gang.
By 0640 hours, we pulled out of BZA. The morning continued to be cold with the sun just beginning to show up. We were doing about 80 to 85 Kmph, not going really fast, as there was some obstruction ahead of us. In about an hour we touched Eluru. We halted on the main line platform, which has been lengthened to accommodate 24-coach trains. This is a pretty good aspect in all the major stations in this section. The train doesn't have to slow down a lot to take the loop line. The main line platform does the job. By 0835 hours we reached Tadepalligudem, with its FCI godown located close by. The NH5 Kolkata - Chennai was running parallel to us, and work on the quadrupling the stretch was going on in full swing. Thank you Mr. Vajpayee for having conceived the wonderful idea of the Golden Quadrilateral.
Soon, we were approaching RJY and glided across smoothly on the new Godavari Bridge, which is indeed a splendid sight with its unique construction. As we were approaching RJY, I could find the newly constructed MEMU shed to my left. Not many years ago, on the same area, WP's used to stand. The RJY steam shed is now in a dilapidated condition, with practically nothing left behind. A tower car filled up with the traction crew was waiting on one of the sidings to allow us to pass. The CCT-TPTY 16-coach passenger was stabled on platform No: 1. This train had a couple of sleeper class coaches as well.
Soon we left RJY, and to the left I could see the Sathya Sai Gurukulam. Soon we were doing the 75-degree Kadiyam Loop, and it was an amazing sight seeing the Raj-Liveried WAP4 Hauling the 21-coach formation. By 1000 hours, we were blasting through Dwarapudi at 110 Kmph. I was tired from the previous day's activities and went to sleep.
By the time I got up, we were at TUNI.The young software engineer going to Kolkata from his native Amalapuram was having an altercation with the VRR Staff, and demanded his money back. I fell asleep again, and by the time I got up, we had crossed Anakapalle and were speeding towards VSKP. I set out with my usual equipment of Domex Floor Cleaner (to tackle smelly bathrooms) & Mug, Soap & Shaving Kit.
By about 1335 hours, we were pulling in to platform 1 of the VSKP station. As we were approaching, the 6003 HWH-MAS Mail with the LGD WAP4 was pulling out. The Durg Passenger was stabled on Road 2, and the TPTY Express on Road 4. VSKP station was a hot bed of activity. The station authorities had set up a special counter to assist the sportspersons arriving for the 32nd National Games. I went to the AC2Tier where my folks were traveling, and got some food for myself.
There were some hot puris being made near our coach and I just couldn't resist the temptation of having some. Had 2 plates of hot puri bhaji. Finally at around 1350 hours we left VSKP behind a VSKP WDM2 Raj Liver SHF loco, which was pretty much excited and fired up, going by the way it was being accelerated and decelerated.
We flew past Simhachalam at around 1400 hours. Hijras once again came for cash, but I drove them away. At around 1455 hours we slowed down near Vizianagaram. The bus to Parvathipuram was going full speed on the road besides us, and an adventurous duo on their Bajaj Chetak, were flogging their poor beast to its maximum. Probable race with train? At Vizianagaram, we encountered a BZA Dual WAG5HA locos hauling a 58-car BOXN rake. On the platform, a group of people was running helter-skelter trying to locate S2. We again resumed our journey after a short halt.
At around 1510 hours we passed Nellimala and encountered a VSKP bound MEMU. By 1520 hours we were blasting through Garividi station and the Ferro Alloys Corporations' plant at Sriramnagar. On the sidings, I could find a small shunter engine (the make is doubtful) coupled to a 6-car BOXN rake. If only this chotu loco were to pull the 24-coach Karnataka up the Makalidurga incline! @#$%$#@! . 1530 hours saw us pulling in to Chipurupalle station. ‘Chipuru’ in Telugu means a broom. So, is this the place where brooms are made???
By 1545 hours we flew past PONDURU, and my favourite Jhal Muri Wallah passed by, and I took a generous helping. The next station was Srikakulam Road (or Amadalavalasa) at 1555 hours. A WAG5HA 23740 headed BOXN rake was stabled here. After pulling out from Srikakulam road, I could see a fractured pipe line, near the line, and the jets of water sprouting out from the pipeline in an artistic fashion, was beauty indeed.
1610 hours saw us crossing URLAM and we reached Naupada Junction at 1640 hours. The NG Line to Gunupur starts from here, and not long ago (prior to 1992), the Chhotu NG steam loco in front of the SBC station used to work here. I could see a couple of blue coloured NG Coaches, and also a miniature NG Brake Down Special. Oh Cho Chweet!!!
As we halted, a couple of people tried to get in with a huge sack. I questioned them and they got back saying that they were railway employees and had a pass with them. I said nothing and got down and stood on the platform. After some time, the man who was helping the lady get in came down and objected to my questioning, TTE Style. I was pissed off by this idiot and told him in no uncertain terms that, as a full SL class fare paying passenger, I had every right to prevent unauthorized people from boarding the coach. To this he reiterated that the lady was the SM's wife. Man, you have had it!! You dare speak to me about Railway Connections???? I shouted at him on top of my voice, and banged the coach door tightly, as the Mail took off once again, leaving behind a rather surprised and flabbergasted person. I usually don't take nonsense of this sort.
Anyway, going further, at around 1655 hours we halted at PUNDI station. An empty VSKP-PALASA passenger headed by a VSKP WAG5 was stabled on the loop line. At around 1705 hours, we came across a thundering PURI-ADI express hurtling along at full speed, on the up line. By the time we reached Palasa, it was 1710 hours. The entire canine family complete with mama, papa & 3 pups (along with an amorous male eagerly vying for the female's attention) was eagerly accosting the passengers at the Omlette pushcart. The lady announcer announced in a rather tipsy tone that the 6004 will be leaving shortly from ‘Plate’ form No: 1. Good going ma'm, when is your next round of drinks?
We passed through some dense shrubs and bushes on the outskirts of Palasa. The twilight was fast approaching, and work on the NH 5 running parallel, was going on in full swing. By 1720 hours we crossed Summadevi & met the HWH-TPTY express near Mandasa Road. We were doing a cool 110 Kmph now, and as it was getting cold I downed the glass shutters. We blasted through Baruva at 115 Kmph. The halt at Sompeta was a small, two-minute affair. From here, one can go to the Arogyavaram eye hospital. By 1800 hours we had crossed Ichchapuram, the last station on the Andhra border. As we were standing there, the Falaknuma express to SC crossed us at a good speed on the up line. Bramhapur came in at 1820 hours. LIC's ads were prominently displayed at the station.
Bramhapur also had the ‘Plate’ form announcement. We were off by 1835 hours and again halted at Chatrapur at 1900 hours. This station has a striking resemblance to another ‘Chhattarpur’ near SATNA in MP. 1915 hours,HUMMA was gone, and I wondered whether AR Rahman & Remo Fernandez got the inspiration from their HUMMA number from this station. BY 1925 hours RAMBHA was crossed and wait a minute! Did I hear that the Buxom South Indian Actress is from this place? By 1935 hours, the train was really rushing along at a very good speed, and I could see the dark silhouette of Chika Lake in a distance. I was dead tired by now, and after having my lemon rice, I took the LB & went to sleep.
Got up once again to the sounds of ‘Garram Puri’ and found myself at Khurda Road Jn. I got down and had some hot puris and some Mishti Doi (Sweet Curd). As the train got moving, I got talking to my co-passenger, who was in the senior managerial level position at a Chennai-suburb based electrical company. Senior Manager on a business trip to Talcher in a Sleeper Class??? Something was wrong. Well the company was on a cost cutting measure and as a result all frills were out. Pathetic, really pathetic.
We chatted until Cuttack Jn, and finally the manager got down, only to leave his suitcase keys behind. I frantically searched the place, but he was nowhere to be seen. I approached the TTE on duty and apprised him of my problem, but in vain. Tried to talk it out with RPF, but that too didn't work out. By the time I was going to announce in the PA system, the Mail was ready for departure and I had few options left. Came back to my berth and went to sleep. In the meanwhile, the 2841 up Coromandel express to MAS had pulled into the adjacent platform.
We were at KGP by 0345 hours. The Puri Nizamuddin express was expected any moment. After about 15 minutes, we started out again. It was pretty cold again, and I went off to sleep. Near BAGNAN, the sound & light show of an EMU overtaking us on the third line shook me up, and I decided to investigate. Sure enough Local No: 630 was giving a very tough fight to the 6004. Ultimately, it had the last laugh as we had to wait for nearly 40 minutes at Ramrajtalla to get the signal. While we were waiting, the Dhauli-Rupashi Bangla combination sped past at 0625 hours. A SRC WAP4 headed unknown day express followed the Dhauli.
The next train was the All Airconditioned empty rake of the Gyaneswari super fast express from PA to HWH. The next in the queue was a rather pathetic looking 6 - coach TATA Shatabdi hauled by a TATA WAM4, with medieval, pre-historic & badly dilapidated AC Chair coaches. What a state of affairs!!! Finally at around 0645 hours we pulled in to platform 21. The Falaknuma express was just pulling out from the adjacent platform. Prajwal & his dad came to pick us up and we trooped off to Jowtalla for a 2-day stay at Kolkata.
HWH - VSKP by 6003: The Return Trip
We were all set for departure from Flat 1D, Panchsheel Apartments, Jhowtalla, by 1900 Hours. The Mail to Chennai was scheduled for departure at 2045 hours and a cushion time of 1 hour 45 minutes was required to negotiate the maddening, rush hour traffic of Kolkata. So, finally after dodging the maniacal taxi drivers and the huge big buses & ‘mini’ buses and the odd trams, and the pedestrians thrown in with pot holed roads, we finally made it to the Kolkata new station by 1950 hours. The coolie on the parking lot asked for ‘just’ Rupees 70/- to carry those couple of suitcases and that drove us mad. With me picking up two suitcases and bag and mom & dad with the other pieces, we arrived on platform No: 21.
The Mail was already stabled on the platform and it was a really pleasant sight to see travelers waiting patiently in the queue to get their seat in the general compartments. I think the other Zonal Railways should also follow suit at all their major railway stations. The 6003 Mail had a weird arrangement of coaches and it seems SR has not gotten over its past days of haphazard arrangement of coaches for the 6003 Mail. IN the AC Coaches for example, we had:
??? Can't the folks follow some order? And in the Sleeper Class Coaches, this was the order:
TS1—S1 to S7—S9 & then S8
Do we have something known as “order” over here?
And another interesting part I noticed was the presence of two SLR's for the train. Why Two SLR's?
We had the Howrah Koraput express on the adjacent platform. By around 2045 hours, we got the starter and the SRC WAP4 slowly pushed off in to the cold and foggy night. The run up to KGP was superb with the WAP4 displaying tremendous hauling capabilities. After the TTE came in at around 2130 hours, I arranged my bedding and went off to sleep.
The next day, by around 0300 hours, I got up to answer a call of nature and try as much, could not get any sleep. By 0330 hours, we had pulled up at Khurda Road Jn: and I helped myself to a hot cup of tea. As I opened the door and came on to the platform, a figure shrouded in a heavy shawl, suddenly ran up to the coach and got in, arousing my suspicion. I questioned his identity and he replied in a menacing tone and an aggressive tone that no one questioned him about selling tea. I got up closed the door tight and told him slowly and in a very stern voice, to mind his business, albeit slowly and to talk properly. These incidents are pretty much common in trains across India, in the Sleeper Classes. You can't help it, if you want your luggage to be safe. Anyway, the 2842 Down Coromandel express hauled by twin WDM2s from the VSKP shed pulled into platform No: 2 We got our starter and were off again.
By the time I Got up again, we were speeding past Chilka Lake, and it was a real treat to the eyes. Had some breakfast at Palasa, where a couple of daytime passengers masquerading as long distance travelers came in and took the adjacent seats. As I observed, one of the chaps quietly slipped in Rupees 30/-in the hands of the TTE, for the journey to Vizianagaram. No receipt & no SL charges. The easy way out! Well, how I missed my camera; else I would have done something about thisThe Mail was moving briskly: I didn't do much of rail fanning as clambered on to the upper berth, and went to sleep. Periodically, time & again, I had to keep shooing off wandering mendicants and others, who would try to barge in to the empty area of the coach. Unless the traveling public sits up and takes notice, nothing is going to happen to these people.
Back to rail fanning, I saw a deserted station after crossing Nellimarla. The station board was hardly visible and the building was in shambles. At Vizianagaram, the Durg VSKP passenger was waiting for us. By the time we entered VSKP, it was 1240 hours, and the Chennai Egmore - Dibrugarh express was ready for departure from platform no: 2. We made our way to the retiring room no: 9 We had to attend my friend Bindu's marriage the next day, and I was to meet my friend in the evening.
I was ready by 0330 hours (am an early riser, and somehow couldn't sleep further) Dressed up and went to the platform to catch some action. The 2841 up HWH-MAS Coromandel express led by twin VSKP WDM2s came in to the platform no: 1. The coaches were filled to capacity and even the usually empty HA1 had waiting list. The General compartments were crammed with people. In the meantime, the LGD WAP4 took charge, and after about 15 minutes, the 2841 left platform No: 1.
I was feeling hungry, so had a hot plate of Upma & Vada & some coffe at the snack bar. After some time, the 7045 up HWH-HYB East Coast express came on to platform No1 at around 0450 hours. It had some pathetic looking VB coaches + a solitary AC2 Tier Coach. I went back to the room, and came back by 0720 hours to check out the 1VK Kirandul passenger. Here is some information about this train:
- VSKP - Kirandul - VSKP Passengers (1VK/2VK)
- Departure from VSKP
- 0745 hours
- Arrival at Kirandul
- 2230 hours
- 2 Sleeper Classes + 1 FC + GSCNs
The front SLR and a WGSCN was reserved for the AP Tourism's Rail Cum Road trip to the Araku Valley. This train is AB and has a BCNA as a part of the rake. It is hauled by a VSKP shed WAG5HA. For more info on the Araku Valley Trip, kindly contact me off list.
VSKP-GTL by 2718 & 7225
After attending the marriage, we finally got back at 1210 hours, to catch the return Ratnachal express to BZA. The train had not yet arrived from BZA, and by 1230 hours, a huge crowd had gathered on the platform. Finally, the express pulled in at 1240 hours, and after seeing my folks in the AC Chair Car, I went to S2, seat No: 1, only to find it occupied by an elderly gentleman. Ok, no problem sir, please have your seat, I will sit beside you.
The 24-coach train was packed, and we left VSKP at 1305 hours behind a LGD WAP4. The 8003 HWH-YPR express was waiting for us at the home signal. We were cruising comfortably at 100 kmph and life was on its own in the Chair Car. The drunkard in the adjacent bay kept dozing off and was in a real pathetic shape and continued his journey up to BZA sleeping near the door. His friend, the police constable from the Anakapalle Police station also dozed off, and realized much to his horror, that he had missed Anakapalle, when the TTE told him that. The poor soul had to get down at Annavaram and go back.
We had the regular food and drinks supply and I helped myself to Tomato Soup, Cutlets Tea & Coffee along the way and some Soan Papdi at RJY. In the meanwhile, uncle got up from his seat No: 1 to go to the toilet and I promptly took up my seat No: 1. Uncle came back and took his seat No: 2. Going further, I observed a strange sight at Medapadu at around 1555 hours. There was an electrified line complete with catenaries and contact wires et al, for a non-existent loop line at this station. Strange. We crossed the usual SLO, RJY, TP Gudem, and Nidadvolu etc. All along the way we had lots of action, in the form of the SBC-GHY express, the Corro & the East Coast, BZA-VSKP Janmabhoomi, the Simhadri & the TPTY-CCT Passenger, the 4 odd WAG5HA headed BCNA's and finally the RJY bound MEMU at Mustabada.
While crossing Gannavaram at around 1840 hours, I observed that the starter & the advanced starter were showing green aspects but the home signal was at danger aspect. Couldn't quite understand. Anyway, after Nidadavolu Jn, the WAP4 really blasted away on all cylinders and we were zooming up to Elluru and beyond. Near BZA, I saw an amusement park located nearby. By the time we pulled in to platform No: 6 of the BZA station, it was 1915 hours. The 7225 Amaravathi express to UBL was parked on platform 5. I went out to Rail Aahar located outside the station and bought some garma garam Upma, Masala Dosa & some cold curd rice for my folks & me.
By the time I finished my dinner, the 7225 slowly pulled out from Platform no: 5. The Gorakpur-Ernakulam express had come in to pf 5: and had pulled out a few minutes back. The DP1 was doing fine and soon we were cruising at a comfortable 100 Kmph. The tennis team from the Andhra University was going to Dharwad to attend the inter-university tennis tournament, and I gave them some info: about UBL-Dharwad, GOA, and GTL & SBC. AT GNT, the LHF DP4 took over and after having a grape juice, I checked out the GNT-YPR passenger on PF #1. The Sleeper Class coaches had some reasonable good booking with a majority of the folks headed towards ATP & SSPN. We pulled out, halted at Nallapadu Junction for about 10 minutes, and by the time Phirangipuram was through, I Closed the glass shutters and went to sleep.
A Shivering gang man with his progeny requesting to be allowed up to GTL woke me up at Maddikera, and I opened the compartment door and let him in. The poor soul was in a real bad shape; was he running a temperature? It was 0530 hours by the time 7225 pulled in to platform No: 6 of GTL station.