Howrah - Pune
by Rajarshi Banerjee
This report has been due for sometime. My return from Calcutta was slated on the 7th of July by the 2130Up HWH-PUNE Azad Hind S/F exp.
Well 7th July found me waiting at HWH on pf no 21 at 8.30pm. The 2130 had been rescheduled from July 1st to leave at 21.10hrs, a much better and time of dep. and arrival at Pune at 07.55am rather than the unearthly 4.45am. Most of the time it used to run before time and reach by 4.15-4.30am.
The empty rake shunted in from SRC shed with a WAM4 6P AB loco from the BSL shed a little after 8.30pm. The SL were all 02 and new bogies with tubelights fitted on all of them. AS2 was shown to be located 4th from the ENG, but after shunting in with all the luggage and even chaining my suitcase, the charts were fixed showing AS1. Utter confusion prevailed for the next 15mins with people shouting and TTE nowhere in sight to clarify which bogie would be what. Add to that the blinkers on the platform were also malfunctioning near the AC bogies.
Finally close to 9pm the TTE showed up as the waiting pax pounced on him and he was at his wits end as to explain why this confusion had happened. It seemed when the train left the SRC yard some idiot forgot to change the board in the middle of the bogies and thus this switching of AS1 and AS2. Anyways finally I and my mother again shifted the luggage to the new AS2 which was 5th from the ENG.
I got down and was walking towards the ENG when a loud long WAM4 like horn pierced the silence. The HWH-Rayagada exp was pulling out with its WAM4 at exactly 21.04hrs. Before that the 20/21 bogie long HWH-MAS mail pulled out with a WAP4 SRC shed at exactly 20.45hrs. The mail was hauled by a WDM2 from the SRC shed and due to the sheer length of the rake the WDM2 had to be pulled right upto the STOP sign on the platform.
At 21.10hrs our starter turned yellow, ours was a 17 car rake 2 SLR,2 GEN, 1 PC,2 AC3T,1 AC2T, 9 SL. We pulled out with a long loud volume WAM4 blast at 21.15hrs. We ambled thru to Tikiapara at 10kmph and then started to pick up, only to brake very hard and slow down near Dasnagar. We passed SRC at 21.35hrs and picked up speed. Ours was 47,48 side upper and lower, so I had the luxury of front facing windows.
It was nearly 10pm and I had my dinner, we continued to speed up and slow down. The driver was typeI (may be wrong here), even inside the AC bogie the brake shoe smell could be felt on and off as he drove real quick and had to brake equally hard. It was quite thrilling as we did hit the three fig. mark a couple of times in the HWH-KGP stretch. We crossed Uluberia and then the Damodar river at around 50-60kmph. We then did a high speed run till Deulti, where again we slowed down to cross the Rupnarayan at 30-35kmph. It seems this bridge has also become a distressed one with a permanent speed restriction on it.
By now my mother was sleepy and I had to find myself another place to enjoy my night siesta. Fortunately berths 1-16 were quota from BSP so I settled down at 15. We were switched on the middle line from Mecheda onwards, and we zoomed past PKS at 22.22hrs. PKS- KGP was done in good fashion with just one slowing down for the distressed bridge after Khirai. We slowed down after Jakpur and halted at KGP outer at 22.52hrs. The distance of 45kms was done in 30mins flat. We left at 10.56hrs to pull into KGP exactly at 11.00pm scheduled time. I got down and saw a couple of people get in the SL bogies.
At 11.02hrs the WAM4 gave a long horn and we started to inch out. We crossed the long platform and then started to open out real quick. There were splendid curves along till Kalaikunda and I could see the distance signal shimmering emerald green as our master thundered across the dark countryside. We did slow down before Sardiha but then onwards it was terrific run. A WAP4/1 in-charge train crossed us before Jhargram with 3 AC bogies, could be the NZM-PURI Kalinga exp. We slowed down just once after Jhargram for 5mins due to speed restrictions probably and then just before TATA. 2 mail and 3 freighters crossed us in the opposite direction. Ghatsila was sped past 12.20am and we pulled into TATA at 00.50hrs more than 10mins before time. By now sleep was overwhleming me and I returned to my berth and hit the sack.
I woke up at 6.25hrs when we were stationary at RIG. But fell asleep again to wake up at 8am nearly. We had crossed Champa and were doing nicely along on the middle line. We slowed down at 08.15am and pulled into BSP at 08.20hrs again 10mins before time. I got down and walked on the platform to see the drivers changing from here. After washing my mouth I settled down as exactly at 08.4oam we started from Bilaspur. We crossed the points and then started to pick up but quite slowly. We crossed Dadhapara and then started to rattle along the countryside.
The third line construction betw'n Champa-Bhatapara was on in full swing and our train slowed down a number of times due to permanent way works. We crossed from MP to Chattisgarh and reached R at 10.23am a few mins late due to the innumerable speed restrictions on the way.
We left Raipur at 10.30 and thundered along till DURG. This was the best run thru out the whole journey as I saw a number of lines criss crossing towards Bhilai Steel plant. Most of the freight movement was by WAG5,WAG7 from the BNDM,ASN,TATA sheds with a couple from the AJNI,ED shed also doing honours. I managed to spot only a lone WAG9 waiting on the loop line before BHL for signal. The up and dn lines travel a fair distance apart from Bhilai till almost Raipur. We sped at a good 80-85kmph and pulled into DURG at 11.05hrs, 25 mins before time.
One thing I noticed that at all Stns they were announcing 2130 UP HWH-PA "Superfast exp" though they generally never announce superfast exp for the 2859 or the 2101 etc. Can anyone clarify???
So we had a longish halt, at 11.12hrs the RIG-Dongargarh JS pulled in on pf no2. It was also 1/2hrs before time. The loco in charge was a WAM4 6P from Bhilai shed. Huge windows were placed on the lone CC and the 2S was also having fairly large windows. It was a 7 coach affair only. I walked down to have a look at the ENG, it was newly painted maroon and seemed quite clean in the interiors too. The master was noting down some readings in his log book looking up at the meters placed in front of him. What could that be, I wondered??It was 11.30 almost and I retraced my steps back to my bogie.
At precisely 11.35hrs, the familiar long WAM4 blast sounded and we began to inch out of the station. We picked up speed after merging onto the main line and sped till Rajnandgaon. Just before Rajnandgaon we crossed the 8033DN ADI-HWH exp with a WAP4 SRC shed in charge. It was announced running 50mins late when we were standing at DURG. We reached Rajnandgaon at 12.00hrs and left after a brief halt.
Surprisingly so far there was no rain till now, though on my way I got heavy rain right from WD-RIG stretch. After crossing Darekasa, the scenery changed from plain fields to rugged terrain. We slowed down again as we encountered sharp curves, speed limits of 45kmph were placed and double tracking on the turning side was seen. As we crossed the tunnel which falls only on the UP line, a WAP4 turning majestically with a long train in tow was spotted. The 2101dn LTT-HWH with its assortment of 10AC bogies crossed us at a good speed of around 55-60kmph. It was a red and yellow WAP4 not a blue P4 like the one I had while coming.
We slowed down before Dongargarh and as usual diverted to the loop line, courtesy main line occupied by a BCN freight, we crossed the platform picking up and slowing down. The BCN rake was saddled with a twin WAG5 from BNDM shed. Then till Gondia, we did nicely along crossing another WAP4 headed shorter train. Pulled into Gondia at 13.28hrs. Left Gondia at 13.32hrs and sped till Tumsar Rd, thankfully crossed on the main line at 50kmph and halted at Koka stn at 14.15hrs. Left after a halt of nearly 20mins, clearly the 2130 was running before time. I dozed off by now after the frugal lunch on the train.
Woke up at 3.25pm when the train was stationary at NGP outer. Left after a agonising halt of 1/2hr as a freight train on the loop line was allowed to go ahead at 3.40pm. Pulled in on pf no2 at 16.00hrs late by 15mins. Shockingly pf no1 was occupied by a WAG7 AJNI headed long wagon freight. Wasn't the HYB-NDLS AP exp scheduled to pull in around that time? Got down and sure enough as I walked down towards the ENG, a WAP4 headed train was standing impatiently on the outer signal waiting for clearance. The Vidharbha bound for Mumbai was on pf no3. Changed dep time at 4.45pm. Its ridiculous that a prestigious train like AP exp was waiting due to absence of platform while a freight was blocking it!!!!! Really when will the IR guys set their priorities right???!!!!!
At 4.05pm the freight left and by 4.10pm the AP pulled into pf no1 in a hurry late by 1/2hr almost. It was a majestic 24 car rake with 1 AC1,3 AC3T, 2 AC2T, PC, 13 SL,3 GEN, 1 SLR. P4 was from LGD shed. At 16.12hrs our starter turned yellow and we began to move out. Picked up speed very rapidly thru Ajni and blasted past Gumgaon doing close to 100kmph. Now it had began to drizzle but stopped after a few kms. Crossed SVG at 5.10pm and braked smoothly to a quick halt at WD at 5.16pm. What followed then was a nightmare!!!
When the starter didn't turn green even by 5.30pm, I sensed something was wrong. Sure enough caught hold of the train conducter and came to know some idiot had called and informed NGP control room at 5.00pm that a bomb was placed in the Azad Hind exp. The guard wouldn't allow the train to proceed until the bomb squad cleared it. At 6.00pm the local police conducted a search checking for unidentified luggage till 6.30pm which revealed a sole bag lying in the toilet of S2. Panic spread as bomb squad was yet to leave from NGP. Finally two constables had the guts to bring out the bag and IDIOT who had forgotten it and gone for a stroll came running to claim it. He got a severe dressing down from the police as well as the other pax. What I found most surprising was even when the NGP control room had information at 5.00pm about the bomb till 6.30pm the bomb disposal squad was yet to leave NGP.
The 2859dn pulled into pf no 1 with a very grubby, unwashed WAM4+6P+HS+AB TATA loco in charge at 6.16pm, 10 mins before time. Even with 19 bogies the WAM4 managed to reach before time. Some power really the AM4 has!!!! It left at 6.28hrs scheduled time and 10 mins later in came the BSL-NSP pass with a WAM4 DB BSL loco. It was almost 7pm and still the SM wardha was not sure whether the squad had left NGP, some irritated pax gheraod the SM and demanded immediate starting of the train as the caller was 99% hoax. This led to heated exchanges betw'n the guard and the pax. Finally at 7.15pm the SM confirmed the squad had left for WD and would reach by 8.45pm. During this a couple of freight trains left towards NGP and Vidharbha came and went by at 6.00pm. A so called fire fighting unit leaves for the spot more than 2hrs after the news of a bomb has been received, such is the alacrity of the staff!!!! I shudder to think what would happen if even one of the call turns out to be real instead of the normal hoax!!!!!
By now the AC had to switched off and inside the compartment had become suffocating. Dinner was served at 8.30pm and while no one was in a mood to eat, another rumour floated that 2 bogies in the end would be cut off and then the train allowed to proceed. Finally a little before 9pm the squad arrived and the search started with the equipments and two cute labrador sniffer dogs from both ends. A thorough search predictably revealed nothing and at 9.50pm the announcer yelled that the 2130 would leave shortly. Pax heaved a sigh of relief and at 9.54pm a long horn sounded followed by a even longer horn from the ENG as we started to move out at 9.55pm, late by 5hrs nearly so PUNE was expected not before 1.00pm. Our master was in saddle since 4pm and BSL wouldn't be relieved before 2.00am at BSL assuming make up on the way. Even then 10hrs on the wheel, instead of a 6hr stint, I must say that our IR staff deserve kudos for the adverse circumstances which they have to work in!
Then the WAM4 blasted everything apart on its way and reached BD at 10.56pm, the distance of 96kms in 1hr flat with just one slowing down near Dhamangoan. We left BD at 23.00hrs and halted at AK outer at 23.56hrs. Pulled into AK at 00.00hrs on pf no1 when I dozed off as we left AK at 00.02hrs. Train was late by 4hrs 20mins here . Didn't know when BSL,MMR,Kopargaon and Belapur was crossed. Got up at 7.20am and found the train halted at Rahuri Stn. Pulled into Ahmednagar at 8.10am as we were following the Baramati-DD pass. Also halted at Vilavade for one crossing. Came to know that we had made it to MMR 3hrs 15 mins late but got delayed again betw'n MMR and Belapur. Left Nagar at 8.15 and reached DD outer at 9.30, late by 3hrs 30mins obviously due to ample recovery time in the Nagar-Daund run. The run was at a sedate 40-45kmph due to very sharp curves on the way till Ranjangaon. Then the WDM2 picked up speed and halted at DD outer for the Hutatma exp to speed by with a WDM3A in charge.
We pulled into Daund at 9.40 and halted at quite a long platform. Now we had entered the color light signal territory from the semaphore signalling territory. The WDM2 PUNE shed reversed and attached itself in the rear. Left DD at 9.55 and did very well till hadapsar reaching by 11.00 itself but then till PUNE was a crawl at 20kmph. Finally pulled into pf no3 at 11.15am 3hrs 20mins late, making up nearly 1hr 40mins though could have made it by 10.30am had it not been for the delay in the MMR-belapur run.
Thus ended quite a eventful journey. Thanx for a patient reading.