Hat trick Trip to Digha
by Saurab Basu
HWH - DIGHA - SANTRAGACHI - HWH Trip Report
The Third Time!! Yet Again it was news to me that the Howrah - Digha direct train service being inaugurated shortly, and surely it was irresistible, but to experience the same.
So, on the dawn of the 4th of September 2005, my parents and myself, we set out to make this short weekend tour to the bay town.
The first Express from Howrah to Digha was flagged off, barely a week ago on the 27th of last month. This being a weekly service (available only on Sundays at present), it was expected to be packed, and so I took no chances but to reserve our seats right through IRCTC, and be on a safer side. And boy, it was filled to the brim! This is the only service having an Air-Conditioned Chair Car facility, but we opted for the Second Sitting (II - S) instead.
The scheduled departure from Howrah being 07:45 AM, we had to start early, just after having a delighting cup of morning tea. The cab driver was exceptionally well behaved, and took us to our destination, well 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure. I was more than happy to have got some time for spotting some dawn - action at the busy Howrah station. But before that, I peeped into the Enquiry Counter to know the platform from where our train was to depart. The counter board read 0827 UP Howrah - Digha Special Express - Platform No. 13. It was now that I had my parents seated on the platform chair and started spotting some morning action.
Platform No. 13 had the HB-83 Howrah-Amta 9 Coach EMU Passenger, ready for departure. It was a regular SER livery of Brown and Cream combination. On the adjoining Platform No.- 12 was a WDM - 3A - HWH - 18811 along with a WDM - 2 - Jamalpur - 16626 that had hauled the Jamalpur - Howrah Express. Platform No.-10 had the 8311 UP ISPAT Express parked on it, ready for take off, shunted into the platform by a blue-liveried WDM - 2 - SER-KGP - 16383. The display board on the tail end of the platform had substantial details of the coach composition of this train. It was like - C2-SLR-C1-PC-SS-S4-S3-S2-S1. This is in the order from rear to front (Just behind the commanding loco). Next on the list was the Platform No. - 9. This one had the HWH - BWN Main Line EMU - 204 ready for departure. The 1160 DN - Gwalior - Howrah CHAMBAL Express was soon to arrive on the Platform No. - 8. This was the first WAP - 4 spotting for the day. The WAP - 4 - ER-HWH - 22531 was in its usual look, with the Red and Black livery, but with a desperate need of a bath.: Soon the vacant coaches of the DN-Jamalpur - Howrah Express made room for the 3232 DN - Danapur - Howrah Express arriving with a WAP - 4 - HWH - 22302 in charge.
It was enough of Loco and EMU spotting, before the arrival of the vacant coaches of the 0827 HWH - DGHA (DGHA is the Station Code for Digha / better known as - DIGHA FLAG STATION) Special Express was announced, approaching Platform No. - 13. It was 07:20 AM already, and a sizeable wave of crowd was spotted approaching the platform. My parents felt a bit puzzled, in view of this rush, and I assured them that we had ourselves secured seats. Although well placed in the crowd wave, I could not take down the entire coach composition of the train, because of this massive population. The train was soon shunted into the platform, headed by an unusual WAM - 4/6 P - CR-Bhuswal - 20569 AB, doing the job. The Air-Conditioned coach was placed third from the rear of the train after a Luggage/SLR/Guard and the GNL (Ext) coach. Next to the CC was the first of the three reserved coaches, the S1 coach. We were just on the right spot, where our coach landed, the S2. The seat numbers 67, 68 and 70 well identified from the platform, we placed ourselves in front of the nearest door and waited for the staff to open the doors, before we could entrain.
Sooner than later, we could figure out the railway staff, who enabled us board the train compartment. This was a regular 2S coach, with a 3 X 3 alignment on both sides of the isle. We were settled quickly, with me admiring my favorite - Window Seat.:-) The remaining 15-20 minutes went on like a rocket, and we started off a bit late, on this Sunday Morning, but smoothly. The commanding loco was a WDM - 2 - SER - KGP (could not take the number though).
The Howrah out yard by then was almost buzzing, with a couple of WAP - 4's No. - 22507 with an unknown Express and No. - 22399 - SRC with the 8004 DN Yeshwantpur - Howrah Express, making their way in, after a considerable haul, and almost five EMU's snorkeling their way after negotiating the frequent "Outer" halts.
After many a days, I got to see two smoking WDM's too. The WDM 3A - 36078 was smoking high in the backyard, while her partner a WDM 2 was doing the regular shunting job for another morning departure.
We moved steadily at 50 - 55 kmph, after Santragachi and passed Andul in a flash. A long trail of Goods headed by twin loco's was a rare sight. The front one being a WAM - 4 - Tatanagar - 20558 and (supposedly the dead) loco in the rear was a WAG -7 - Bondamunda (Am I right with the spelling??:-) - 27232. It was a smooth move on the SER - KGP Main Line till Bhogpur, from where we took the Panskura East Outer to turn left wards, for Tamluk. It is from here on that the pace throttled a bit, till the next station - Raghunathbari. It was nice to see that the doubling work between Raghunathbari and Shaheed Matangini is in gradual progress.
After Tamluk Junction Cabin, we entered the dedicated single line territory. This time I saw a Sign placard right after the Junction Cabin denoting the words - 'WELCOME To The TMZ - DGHA BG Line.'
Moving ahead of schedule, we had a few halts on the way, because of the unmanned L/C's (Level Crossings). This was no surprise to me because earlier also when Samit and I traveled on this route during the early days, this was in practice. The train approaching an L/C would stop near it and a Gang-man with a long chain in hand would detrain from the loco. He would man the gate till the train crossed over. While he unmanned the L/C shortly after and had his chain in hand, the driver would just halt for a few seconds after the L/C, having the gang man board the Guard's Cabin. Now, there are only a few un-manned Crossings, between Tamluk and Digha, while majority have a part-timer serving it.
The surprise of this trip, was the dramatic turn-a-round of the approach from the local cattle, while they had us approaching the nearest of proximity. During the earlier phase of the track, the local cattle used to try and make a divergence between the track and itself, estimating a possible threat. Today time has made them resistant to the motions and throttles and they withstand the approaching loco with its long trail, quite as usually as anywhere else in India. Trains are now a part of their life and there is no reluctance but it was instead a 'used to' affair!!
We had multiple halts near NandaKumar and Laban SatyaGraha Smarak, making way for a late arrival at Digha by almost 15 minutes. While at the Digha Station, it was a modest crowd, heading for a wonderful weekend. This weekend was a bit special, because of 'High Tide' prevailing! In vernacular we call it as ('Sarha Sarhir Baan' - The word 'Baan' means High Tide and it is during the month of August-September every year that these record tide waves hit the coastal belt of Digha. I don't know the exact meanings of the words 'Sarha Sarhi', though presumably it is near to something that happens in a Tug-of-War. A natural tug in this case..Haha...).
One thing that I forgot to add-on earlier is that I got to meet the same driver with whom we traveled back from Digha to Santragachi, earlier this year, at Digha, after detraining. We shook hands and shared greetings, and he offered me another joy-ride, but I could not oblige, because of having a plan to stay back, this time.
Moderately anxious about our Hotel Accommodation in Digha, we tried our luck at the famed Saikatabash (A Govt. Accommodation with Restaurant facility). We hired a Van-Rickshaw from the station, charged at Rs.10/- per head from New Digha to Old Digha. And we were successful, with ourselves assigned a twin double-room suite. In this crisis situation and parallel crush towards Digha, this was something unexpected, and we were glad to accept it at the first chance. The Hotel- Saikatabash (Bengali word meaning - a Home on the sea -front). Having our keys for the Suite No. - 18A, on the second floor, we quickly made our way to check in and have a shower after a reasonably paced journey.
A petite lunch after this, and we were on a short drive of relaxed day-dreaming. Dusk saw us at the Beach, just a 20 seconds walk from our Hotel. Having some sea-side food, like Fish Fries and Shrimp Cutlets, took us towards the dazzling Beach-Market of Old Digha. Old Digha is, as the name suggests, the earlier version of the place, with Higher Middle to Middle Class accommodations available. While New Digha is now getting famed, because of it being the Railway head. Hotels are being constructed in a row, now. The major difference between Old and New Digha is that Old Digha does not have any Sand Beach on offer to the visitors. The sea-front is all concretized here, with Boulder racks guarding the vulnerable waters. The sea in Digha is well known for its turbulence and drifting sand. Danger is a usual company here, and it is the desperation of humans that it waits for before giving any chances. During such occasions of High Tides and fatal waves, there is a team of local fishermen and water patrolling staffs who work in safeguarding the tourists from the unknown risks, in way preventing any un-natural casualties. But still it happens, because of man's inevitable desperation, to conquer nature!!
We got to know about a handful of incidents that happened just a month ago, plunging human life into tragic consequences, because of his own decision to negotiate with a susceptible nature. This made my parents over cautious and the consequences being not allowing me even to feel the waters from the farthest proximity. Still the setting sun with the glory of the seamless red was a real delight to watch.
New Digha on the other hand has a partial range of manned sea, controlled by occasional stretch of boulders, but after that continuous pavement of sands prevail. The beach enjoyment is thus relish able here.
Having had a long time of cool sea breeze drifting our minds towards wonderful refreshment, we called it a day off, and had dinner, before reaching the ocean of siesta.
Next day early morning, it was time to welcome dawn. The rising sun was full of aspirations for a bright and clear day ahead. The day we reached had showers from wandering clouds, at most parts of this shore town. This made it a pleasant surround and a build up for an inspirational weekend (Weather-wise:). Although there was nothing special but yes we enjoyed every single wave building up and sharing the zeal and power that nature has.
Sitting back and realizing the inner significance of these waves, it seemed that they are something so very similar to our lives. The high ones approach as we do when we attain a success, while the low ones, have that definite aim in mind to reach the goal, and succeed. It is a series of crests and troughs that our lives are constituted of, just like the endless waves of a sea. There is no end to it, and the horizon is just the beginning!!
The day went passed in comfortable relaxation. Off and on a high tide would come splashing across the concrete barrier walls and as if wash away all hardships of life and empower it with even more freshness to deal with. It is like a balancing game that continues for ever..
After a series of routine appetites, we had some shopping, and turned off once again. Next day, at dawn, it was decided to go to the nearby Delta. This is one of the famous attractions in Digha. In Bengali, known as 'Mohana' - The point of confluence, between a river and the sea.
The Delta is famous for an extensive Fish Market, dealing in exports and Imports of fresh and sea fishes. This is situated at the speck where the river - Champa (As known locally, a tributary of the River Subarnarekha) meets the Bay of Bengal. We had our breakfast early in the morning and hired a Van-Rickshaw (These are the typical conveniences in Digha), for Rs.140/- both way and set off.
Having a go there was primarily for the scenic beauty and at the back of it was a plan to buy some shrimps and other fishes. We got a fairly reasonable deal and bagged almost 4 lbs (Pounds) of fish back to Kolkata. It was quite a lot to relish for a couple of weeks. I did a bit of photography in and around as well, including the dancing waves and the fisherman areas.
After having a breezy weekend it was time to wave adieu to the tides and the sea, and move back to our regular life. The reservation was done on Monday for a Tuesday departure, from the Digha Station. There is no Computerised Reservation facility in Digha, so they follow the Manual Current Reservation System here. It is a Card Board Ticket issued, having mentioned as - Journey Cum Reservation Ticket. The counter clerk mentions at the back of it the Seat Number and Sex/Age of the Passenger. A hand written Reservation Chart is prepared then and there, and the ticket is then handed over. Although, the Computerised System is not available, but a Reservation Form is still mandatory to be duly filled in and submitted.
In cases where the Passenger is a Senior-Citizen, (SRCTZN) the clerk hands over a Paper ticket, with a clear mention of the fact - SRCTZN on it.
We were to take the 8028 DN Digha - Santragachi JN Express departing Digha Flag Station (DGHA) at 13:25 Hrs. So after our return from Digha, we just had some light refreshment, followed by a lunch at the Restaurant and then quickly headed of for the station. The station had a large number of folks queued up in front of the Booking Counter for their tickets. Having our seats assigned already, I just made my parents sit in the right places, and started some note downs. This time I was successful in taking the Coach Numbers and the Loco Road Details as well.
Here it goes from the Rear to Front: The Loco in Command WDM-2 - KGP - 16465.
|Class||Rake Number||Coach Details|
|II (Second Class)||868457/AB||General|
|II (Second Class)||008485/AB||General|
|II (Second Class)||988405/A||General|
|II (Second Class)||878465/A||General|
|II (Second Class)||978466/A||General|
|II-S (Second Seating)||998601/A||S1 (Reserved)|
|II-S (Second Seating)||978608/A||S2 (Reserved)|
|II-S (Second Seating)||938617/AB||S2 (Reserved)|
|Luggage+SLR (II)+Guard||868707/AB||Luggage + Guard's Cab + General Seating.|
The return journey was nothing very eventful, excepting that after Panskura East / outer, we seemed to be flying passed every station. The train rocketed at 100 Kmph at times, and with rain giving us a great company, we reached Santragachi at 16:43 Hrs. It was a smooth haul, excepting the track between Raghunathbari and East / Outer and near the Level Crossings between Digha and Kanthi, where we had a few halts. A Panskura - Howrah EMU Local came in at around 17:15 Hrs, and we boarded it, to reach Howrah by 17:30 Hrs. A quick cab-catch and we were at home within an hour and fifteen minutes time.
It was a nice and relaxed time out there. Even now I feel like hearing the thunderous waves hitting hard on the golden coastline.
Note - The Views and Descriptions / Comments made in the write-up are completely personal and not intended for any individual and / or concern.