Erode Trip Report
by Sandeep Mohan
Well, could luck get any better than this? We finally got an official sanctioned letter stating that we could visit the Electric Loco Shed at Erode. Naren and myself decided to do this trip in terms of visiting the shed and also for Train Spotting so we booked out tickets for Saturday mornings Bangalore-Coimbatore Intercity Express which was hauled by Erode WDM2B (First time we are coming acorss a WDM2B from Erode Shed). The run was fantastic and the line right upto Erode was very smooth. There was not much of traffic in terms of crossings on the single and double line stretch. We had Coimbatore-Lokmanya Tilak Express crossing us somewhere after Dharmapuri and then a couple of electric locos running light on the double line stretch between Salem and Erode. The locos were from Arakonnam and Jhansi. We overtook a BCNA freight which was hauled by a Lalaguda WAG7. At Salem there was a dead Erode WDM series loco and another WAG7 of some shed. At Magnasite Junction we crossed a single and twin WAG7 set that was going to haul a overloaded BOXN rake filled with coal to Mettur Dam. Another very important thing about the Intercity Expres is the pantry car. I can easily say that its up there with the best. We had masala dosa that was prepared in front of us and the pantry car was clean. In normal cases one look at the cook area and you will want to avoid the food but everything was clean.
We reached Cauvery about half an hour late but I don't know how we lost time as we were running well. The first painful stop was just outside Cauvery station and then we moved into the station and stopped again for nearly an hour. Erode was just 3 kms and we were wondering whether to walk it or not. In any case we decided to stay with the rake and then we finally moved to Erode. We were again stopped just outside Erode and right next to the Electric loco shed. This was again another half an hour stop. Those who knew Erode well decided to get down and walk upto the station. During this wait a passenger train hauled by a Golden Rock or GOC loco passed us heading towards Tiruchi. In any case we finally moved but very slow. There were speed restirction boards stating 10 Kmph and we soon figured out what was going on. Tracks were being shifted that was running to platforms 2, 3 and 4. Catenary was also being shifted in accordance to their relative platforms and rail lines. So the story at Erode was; every train was manually sent IN and OUT of Erode and only platform 1 could be used. None of the signals within the station premises worked and all points were manually controlled by pointsmen. This made every train coming into and leaving Erode an hour or more late.
In any case the first thing Naren and I had to do was to check the retiring rooms at Erode but all were full and cheapest available was an AC room for Rs.350 and this was way beyond our budget. So we camped around Erode station and found a lodge for Rs. 150. After this we went for lunch and then headed straight for the Electric Loco Shed.
Now this is one shed I would like all of you to visit. I have never imagined a shed that could be clean and so process oriented. There were not many locos at the shed. There were just 4 WAP4s, a WAG7 and Arakonnams or AJJs WAM46PE. We did see a WAP4 and WAG7 lifted on cranes and without their bogies. I guess there is not much to see in a electric loco shed. The only parts that do need attention are the bogies, axles, traction motors, compressors and some key components inside the loco that don't require to be removed and kept aside. I asked the person who was guiding us on why Erodes WAP4s were limited to just 110 Kmph when there are sections the locos go to that allow higher speed. He said that their WAP4s some 5 years ago were certified to run at 140 Kmph but they were facing very short lifespan of the wheels at this speed. Wheel wear was very high. The maximum life for an axle being 2 years was only coming upto 5 to 6 months when run at speeds of 140 kmph+. They have also done test runs at 175 Kmph on the Erode-Shornur sector. All this was done some 6 years ago. WAP4 22603 was sent to Erode but they then decided to give it to AJJ as Erode was overloaded. Erode handles 130 locomotives; both WAP4 and WAG7 put together. This may not seem much but when I asked about this; our guide told us that they were already finding it difficult to maintain the exisiting set of engines. There was one thing very clear at the shed. Its not the number of locos you hold that matter the most; its how well you can maintain all of them. After the rounds at the shed we had tea in the shed canteen. The most expensive thing on the menu was Rs.16 and that was for the meals served during lunch.
Naren and myself headed to Cauvery station after the shed visit. We caught Kovai Express headed by Erode WAP4 and then a couple of other express/passenger trains; all hauled by electric locos. We headed for the cauvery steel/iron bridge which had a speed permit of 90 Kmph for the down line. While we were at the bridge we could see two diesel locomotives parked at Cauvery station but we were too far to figure out from which shed they were. The leading one was a definite Gooty WDG loco but it was hard to tell what the trailing loco was. So after out short photo shoot session on Cauvery bridge we headed to the station. In the process we met the South Points Cabin Incharge and then we met the Station Master at the station. The two locos at the station were from Gooty. Naren has posted a picture of these. One a WDG3A going to GOC for POH and I think it needed it a lot as it had a whine coming from the idling engine and sparks were flying off from the exhaust even at idle rpms. The trailing loco was a Rebuilt WDM3A with a smashed long hood. Looks like it had hit some fallen boulder but the locos had come via Bangalore and they had a 40 Kmph speed limit since the trailing loco was damaged. These guys never moved from Cauvery station but the leading loco was still running.
The sun had set and we could not do anymore photography so Naren and myself decided to sit at Cauvery station and just train spot. Our first train was West Coast Express headed to Mangalore hauled by what we presumed to be KJMs WDM3D loco. It coasted past us at good speed with a dead WAP4 behind. We then asked the SM at Cauvery what the scene was to the dead WAP4. He then said that there is a traction power block from 1600 Hrs to 2200 Hrs in the evenings at Erode Junction due to track shifting work and he was right as every train headed on the DOWN line had Diesel power with a dead electric loco behind. We also saw a couple of light Diesel locos going up towards Salem and this was to bring in the already late running trains into Erode since power was shut down on the catenary. It was 1930 hrs and we decided to head back to Erode Junction to continue our train spotting; moreover we could get a better idea as to the trains coming/leaving, observe loco changes since there was a power block in the sector. We did this by hopping onto Mumbai-Nagercoil Express and this was pure luck for us that it stopped at Cauvery station. A freight had also pulled into Cauvery station just before Mumbai-Nagercoil; it was hauled by twin Erode WAG7s.
Upon reaching Erode station we noticed the OHE car running up and down checking catenary alignment. The catenary was totally stripped on the lines heading into platforms 2 and 3. During this time we could also notice many pointsmen with their green lanterns/torches guiding trains over each point they had to cross on the 10 Kmph speed limit. We also realised that this was the best time to train spot at Erode Junction. Trains were coming and leaving every five minutes. This was not the case during day time. Right from 2000 Hrs till 0230 am we were at the station and never got bored as there was so much traffic. During this time we also found out that the WDM3D we saw hauling West Coast Express towards Managlore at Cauvery station was 11106 and it was Erodes locomotive. WDM3D was detached at Erode and sent back towards Salem to bring in another train; it was Chennai-Coimbatore Intercity Express but this time the WDM3D contined the run to Coimbatore. I found this strange as in the case of West Coast Express it was detached and the WAP4 took over. In any case trains kept coming in with Diesels with dead electrics behind.
We stayed at Erode station till around 0200 hrs and then sleep started to crawl into us and so we decided to leave and head back to our lodge.
Sunday morning we headed out again to the south out skirts of Erode station. It was a long difficult walk on the ballast and thankfully there was a tree between the lines to give us some shade. Life was boring as there was not much traffic and we headed back to the station around lunch time. Decided to have lunch at the station but food was not up to the mark. In any case we were back to our train spotting and also our long wait for Coimbatore-Bangalore Inter city express. It had not even arrived from the opposite direction and we were wondering when we would ever reach Bangalore that evening. In any case we kept an eye on the work that was going on the down lines coming into Erode station and also the many trains that came in and left.
An hour before our train was to arrive it was announced that it will be 45 minutes late. In the process Kongu Express (Weekly Coimbatore-Nizamuddin train) arrived before Coimbatore-Bangalore Intercity. We were wondering whether to upgrade ourselves to Sleeper Class but then the TT assured us that our train was right behind Kongu and it probably was waiting on the outs skirts of Erode. He was right. Soon after Kongu left Erode Intercity came in. There was just one crossing between Erode and Salem and the train was Guwahati-Ernakulam Express with a AJJ WAM46PE. The crossing took place at Sankaridurga station. We missed another crossing as the double lines split. The best part of our return journey was we were given preference over Kongu Express, Mysore-Tanjavur Express and Mysore-Tuticorin Express. We overtook Kongu Express at Dharmapuri and the other two express trains were made to wait. We blasted through Bangalore East station but we were nearly 2 hours late. Naren and myself took a bus back home. We were both dead with the extreme heat conditions at Erode. Hope you have enjoyed this Trip Report. Given below are some of the trains we saw at Erode. We saw a lot more but did not note them.
4 December 2004
- Chennai - Mangalore West Coast Express - Erode or ED WDM3D 11106 with dead ED WAP4 trailing
- Mumbai - Nagercoil Express - ED WDM2A 16805 - ACD Fitted. This train reverses from Erode and takes the Tiruchi line with another diesel locomotive.
- Kerala Express to Delhi - ED WAP4 22258, loco was detached and 22221 took over. There was some confusion when the train came in. The crew change took place but they forgot that there was a loco change. The new crew took the WAP4 that brought in Kerala Express to the shed and brought in the replacement loco.
- Kanyakumari Mumbai Express - ED WAP4 22570
- Yercaud Express to Chennai - ED WAP4 22306
- Tiruchirapalli-Ernakulam Tea Garden Express - ED WDM2C Baldie 14048. This was a loco with strange livery. It was very much an Erode locomotive but in KJM colors and a thin red stripe running around the loco. The other strange thing is that it left Erode with a diesel engine. This train normally gets a WAP4 on the Erode-Ernakulam run.
- Niligiri Express to Chennai - ED WAP4 22294
- Chennai - Coimbatore Intercity Express - ED WDM3D 11106 and dead ED WAP4 22340
- Alleppey-Chennai Express - ED WAP4 22220
- Gorakhpur - Trivandrum Raptisagar Express - ED WDM2A 16805 - ACD Fitted and Arakonnam or AJJ WAM46PE 21304
- Ernakulam - Bangalore Daily Special - AJJ WAM46PE 21607
- ED WDM2 16802
- Coimbatore to Chennai Cheran Express - ED WAP4 22268
- Mumbai - Kanyakumari Express - ED WAP4 22526
- Bangalore - Ernakulam Daily Special - AJJ WAM46PE 21239
- Mangalore - Chennai Mail - ED WAP4 22572
- Chennai - Mangalore Special - AJJ WAG5A 23282
- Tanjavur - Mysore Express - ED WDM2C 14075 - ACD Fitted and ED WDM2 16802 as banker. Don't really know what this engine was doing behind the rake.
- Trivandrum - Chennai Mail - ED WAP4 22550
- Swarna Jayanti Nizamuddin - Trivandrum Express - AJJ WAM46PD 20689
5 December 2004
- ED WAP4 22259
- Ajni WAG7 27121
- ED WDM2 18491
- ED WDG2 14668
- ED WDM2A 18236
- AJJ WAG5HA 23781 & 23683
- Tondiarpet WDS4B 19323
- Mangalore - Chennai West Coast Express - ED WAP4 22281
- Nagercoil - Coimbatore-Mangalore Passenger - ED WDM2A 16878
- Jammu Tawi - Mangalore Navayug Express - AJJ WAM46PE 20510. This train splits up at Erode. One half goes to Mangalore and the other half to Tiruchi
- Dhanbad - Alleppey Express - AJJ WAM4 6PE 20436
- Patna-Ernakulam Express - AJJ WAM4 6PE 21266
- Chennai-Coimbatore Kovai Express - ED WAP4 22244
- Alleppey-Dhanbad Express - AJJ WAM4 6P 21275
- Ernakulam or ERS WDM2A with container rake came in from Tiruchi side
- Coimbatore - Chennai Kovai Express - ED WAP4 22543
- Tiruchi - Palghat Town Passenger - Golden Rock or GOC WDM2 18699R
- Coimbatore - Tanjavur Jan Shatabdi Express - ED WDM2 18835 - ACD Fitted
- Coimbatore - Nizamuddin Kongu Express - Maula Ali WDM2B 17430
- ED WDS6 in New Paint Scheme 36013