Ahmadpur - Katwa NG Trip
by Saurab Basu
This Late December Morning was again a bit special! Not like the usual times, when we move out for a weekend trip or to a nearby city attraction, but this time was a bit different! Thora Hatkey as you can call it!
We had planned for this Narrow Gauge trip just a couple of days back! Considering the distance, we were a bit puzzled to plan it, but tracked it smoothly, in a later part of time and decided to move out.
Woke up early and gave Samit, the wake-up call at 04:30 in the morning. We had plans to take the M207 HWH-BWN Main line local, but reached Howrah early, at around 05:45 A.M. I met Samit near the Arambag's Food Counter, in front of the Sub-urban ticket counter near the Subway. I had already taken two tickets to Ahmadpur @Rs.29/- per person (166 K.M.).The distance between Howrah and Ahmadpur being 166 K.M.(via Chord). We hadn't met earlier, so as soon as we found each other, rushed in towards the electronic display boards, to find that the C 245, HWH-BWN Chord local was to leave from Platform No.- 4 at 06:10 A.M. The EMU had a 12 coach rake, and we found two window seats waiting for our occupancy. Having ourselves comfortable, we gazed outside for a quick loco-spotting. A WDM hauling the 3017 UP HWH-Rampurhat Ganadevata Express was parked on Platform No.- 6. The compartments were packed to the full, with visitors for the historic Pous Fair in Bolpur (Shantiniketan). Our EMU started on schedule. It was quite dull when we started. Clouds and the Smog made up for an invincible combination, and I feared missing out on good photography. While the EMU moved on, both of us felt the chill of the green nature, in and around the suburbs. Pollution free nature is what we appreciate.
The train rolled past Dankuni JN, Baruipara, KamarKundu and lot more stations en-route our destination-Barddhaman JN. We reached at 08:15 A.M. prior to the scheduled arrival time of 08:18 A.M. It was real chilling out there, and we quickly headed towards the Narrow Gauge Platform. Comparatively, a tiny structure, this Narrow Gauge platform is the starting point of the Barddhaman - Katwa Narrow Gauge Line. We had a few shots of this track and the platform, and moved on towards the Broad Gauge Platform No.-5, where the 233 UP BWN-Rampurhat DMU was to depart from. The train scheduled at 09:10 A.M., departed almost ½ an hour late at 09:37 A.M. from BWN. It was packed till brim and we had almost no room to stand. It was the perseverance that counted, and we made it till Ahmadpur. The train was running One Hour behind schedule, when we reached Bolpur. The rush got halved, because majority of the passengers were for this station. The weather got even worse, and it was drizzling mid-way between Jhapter Dhal and Guskara. Both of us, at one time thought that we were surely going to miss the NG from Ahmadpur, as it was high time. The train scheduled to reach Ahmadpur at 10:43 A.M., entered the station at 11:35 A.M., almost late by an hour.
It was the luck that favored us, and we found the Four Coach Narrow Gauge Rail Bus waiting on the other end of the Ahmadpur Station. I hurried towards the ticket counter and bought two tickets to Katwa @ Rs.13/-per person (52 K.M.). The Sky and navy Blue combination liveries of this Narrow Gauge Rail-Bus were brought from Nagpur, very recently. And to our surprise the entire composition was wonderfully maintained and compared to the Shantipur-Nabadwip Ghat section, these rakes were far more comfortable in their seating arrangements. We had quick shots of the Rail Bus, and discussed within ourselves, to move towards the driver for foot plating. Both of us then approached the Driver, who readily agreed and we boarded into the cab with great enthusiasm.
By then, all the tiredness of that hectic session, between BWN and Ahmadpur, by the DMU, had disappeared. I was sparkling with joy, because this was something really special. My First Foot Plating experience ever! A real thrill running inside me, truly! We settled within the Cab, soon after introducing ourselves to the driver and his assistant. The driver was a real calm character, while his assistant had a temperamental mindset, regarding our interests in Railways. Both of them made a perfect combination altogether. In the mean time, the guard asked the driver to proceed, and he started the 'Ashok Leyland Engine' of this Rail Bus, and whistled before moving ahead. The Journey Began! A few questions came to us, regarding 'why are we here? And what we do?' Once they were satisfied with the answers that we are true rail-fans, they got comfortable.
The 'Blue Beauty', started rolling down the trawling tracks of the Narrow Gauge line. I was like 'Wonder Struck' for a moment or two, and knew nothing what to do! It felt so delighting, that I just seemed to get driven into the world of dreams. This Narrow gauge track is just like a paradise on earth. I would definitely mark it as the best existing NG track in Southern Bengal! Nature's beautification at its best! The combination of Engineering and Natural craftsmanship has made this line one of the most spectacular NG lines, I have ever seen. The track has an MPS (Maximum Permissible Speed) of 15 Km/Hr.
The Assistant Driver showed us the paper Ticket issued by the Originating Station- Ahmadpur for the driver and himself. We also had a look at the orders for Controlled speed in the sections between Labpur & Kirnahar of 15 Km/Hr and Jnandas Kandra & Ambalgram Halt of 10 Km/hr, due to track problems and maintenance work, between these regions.
The train at times rattled through the golden paddy fields, with the ducks floating in the ponds and the birds flying around. The cow boy returns with his herd along the muddy path. It's Bengal at its best all through! The curves on the track and the rattles of the moving rail bus made up for an extra ordinary recipe all through. And once the curves were passed by, the track seemed to move straight into the horizon. It was a beautiful permutation combination game on.
Picturesque stations crossed our way through. A station like LABPUR, which has been declared as a Model Station, has been a dream for me to visit once in my life time. And today my dream came true. Labpur is the home town to people like Our Cabinet Defense Minister, Mr.Pranab Mukherjee, and the Famous Bengali Writer, Tara Shankar Bandopadhyay. Another station that caught my attention particularly was KIRNAHAR. Kirnahar is an old station, and has a lot of history behind it. The Stations in this NG line have a similarity. Almost all of them have an existence of a Banyan Tree. It's wonderful to see them, truly!
We shared a few smoke breaks together with the railway men, and had cups of tea at different stations. It was the innocence of the driver that touched me. He was really a great man, to have shared Indian Railways, with us the IRFCAns.
The entire route is a single line track, with manual signal systems all through. We got to encounter the first and only crossing en-route at Jnandas Kandra Station. The Home Signal was not working, and as a result, the Station Master informed by wireless to proceed further. At Jnandas Kandra, we got down of the train and had a quick number of snaps of the approaching Rail car on the other track. The composition for our partner was really distressing. It had a combination of the CR Loco, The Shantipur-Nabadwip Ghat rake and two old rakes of the Katwa-ADP Passenger. This mixed combo of liveries was not at all appreciable! And comparatively they looked much dirtier than our ones.
The train moved further, and we crossed Nerol (Nirol?), Nerol (Nirol?)Gram Halt stations to reach AMBALGRAM Halt station. The first token was taken from this station, the Token No. being 09. Guard told the driver to proceed to STB. Soon after this, we could trace the broad gauge line nearing us. It was within a minute's run, that we started running parallel to the Broad Gauge Azimganj-Katwa Track. A few semaphore Signals were also located en-route Katwa. And the beautiful level crossings in the way just seem to complete the scenic picture post cards of the memorable trip report.
It was now a mere half an hours game left. I was feeling the end, already. But still there was another surprise on the cards. Once we approached the bridge over Adjai River (Ajay as we call it; but on railway boards this is the spelling!), the NG and BG tracks amalgamated together, to form a single entity. This was a real beauty to watch, and now we were all same, whether BG or NG. Wonderful way to display engineering unity!:[)
It was already 15:10 by then, and we slowly rustled towards the Katwa JN Narrow gauge Platform. On our way, we spotted the Katwa Loco Shed, and planned to pay a visit, during the next half an hour waiting time. And truly speaking, this was also a worth while visit. So once the rail car parked on to the platform, we had a quick word or two with the railway men, shook hands and thanked them for their co-operation in making this trip a real success story, all through. The assistant went off in a flash, and we could not take a photograph, but the driver with an evergreen smile on his face posed with his engine, to give us a complete portrait, of the pride that he shared. Truly, because of such people in our Railways, it no longer remains like an ordinary mode of transportation, but converts into a life long relationship that we can cherish for ever! Sincere Thanks!
That was not the end of it all. We rushed out towards the Katwa Loco Shed, and found the two 'Black' beauties. The royal steam that we call, were a real delight to us. We had some snaps of the two Locomotives. They were used for the Barddhaman Katwa NG line, till 1995. A sure miss, truly!:-[(
We had encountered some questions, this time also, but once the loco shed workers got to know that this is nothing but our passion, then they readily allowed us. And told us that there were few more loco's, kept for display, but now some of them are in National Railway Museum, New Delhi, and the remaining two have been kept as a vintage display in Katwa Loco Shed. We also spotted a few broken boilers here and there. Samit, took some more shots of the loco interiors and we also had a few ones of the parked rakes. The old brick red NG rakes, are now used to work as a combined accident relief unit in this NG section.
That was quite a lot of information, before we had a look at the watch. It was 15:45 already. So we hurried towards the station, and bought our return tickets to Sealdah @Rs.27/-per head (152 K.M.). Before having seated in the train, we thought of having some food, as all day went on without any real fill in to the stomach.
So we had some cake, biscuit and tea, and of course a last smoke before setting up for the 4 ½ hour long ride back to Dum Dum. The EMU was awfully dirty, and we swapped three compartments before getting a good pair of window seats for ourselves. The journey was dreadful, with crossings on almost every station, of this single track route. We had to wait for at least 12 trains to pass by, in all, and ultimately reached Dum Dum, all tired after having traveled 363 K.M's in a day!
A Life Time Memorable Trip truly!!
Sincere Regards: Samit Roy Chowdhury, for giving me wonderful company. The Driver and his Assistant in the NG Rail Bus from Ahmadpur to Katwa