In the Land of the Work Horses!
by Saurab Basu
Loco Shed Trip Series Part 1 - Howrah Electric & Diesel Loco Sheds
Not Even a couple of weeks had passed since I had taken the Bardhhaman - Katwa NG Trip, that Samit, called up and informed about his Photo Permit being Granted by the Eastern Railway Authorities. It was a Bingo! Time for us, and we made Howrah to be the first port of call, this time. Choosing the next available Sunday, on the 16th Of October, it was thee day to set of on a fine note, with the heritage domain of Howrah, on the cards. As planned, I went to Samit's place, by 11:00 AM, when he was ready, with his new S2 IS to play with. I had my old Manual Camera, with a 200 ASA film loaded to shoot, for the day. Till then I had no ideas, as to what was waiting for us. Having a quick cab-catch, we made to Howrah by Quarter to Twelve in the noon. It was yet another sunny day, after the rain clouds had bid us adieu, with the approaching fall. Altogether, the weather was just fine, to shoot on, with the Sun standing in the right place.
A light refreshment in the Monginis Food Plaza at Old Complex, after buying a couple of Platform Tickets, made us feel just fit to set off. Starting the day, with some shots in the platform area, seemed to act as a good appetizer. A freshly painted WDS-6R-36067 HWH, shunting the UP Rajhdhani Express, came in to be parked on the Platform No. - 9, itself. On the adjoining rails were the two superstar beauties, waiting for their turn. A WAP- 7 - 30206 - GMO, doing its duties with the NDLS-HWH Rajhdhani, and a WDM 2 - 16508 - HWH doing some shunting jobs, stood high to tell the tales of their university in dimensions. It was not long before, we were enthralled by the Entry of one of the rarest visitors in Howrah, a WAP - 6 ASN - 22402 serving a dead WAP - 4 - 22620 - CNB, with the DN Varanasi Express. A WAM - 4 / 6P - 21375 - TATA (HS/DB) was the next, to visit the shooting floors of Howrah, on the Platform No. - 14. The starter was already heavy, and we decided to move on.
Taking the Pavement adjoining Platform No - 9, we decided to take some Overhead shots of the Station Complex. Traffic was usual, and the pre-dominance of WAP-4's was an adding factor. The Buckland Bridge and the gorgeous Howrah Bridge stood high to share their pride with us. A couple of WDM - 3A's were making their way, into the station premises, from the out yard. Samit clicked some, while I had a couple of snaps, and we moved back towards the station, after a smooth refresher.
One of the WDM - 3A's had already kicked off by that time, while her friend was getting ready to haul the HWH - Malda Jan Shatabdi Express. The WDM - 2C - 14132, looked to be in appreciable status, and she was fuming high. We allowed her to leave, while the P-7 snorkeled her way, carving across 4 lines, as if asking us to shoot her from various angles, and so we did. Time was ticking in a hurry, and we had countless jobs to do. So we decided that it is now the time to start the walk towards the hub. But before that it was time to for a WAP-4 22378, getting ready to start off with the Howrah - Chennai Coromondal Express from Platform No - 15. Quickly we made our move back towards the Station and got on to the second floor, towards the First Class Waiting Halls, for a snap of the Station Building and the Glamorous Howrah Bridge. The long Queue of the Taxis, waiting outside the station complex, looks great from this part of the place.
Now it was time for the long trail towards the Loco Hubs of Howrah, the Diesel and Electric Sheds. We took the End of platform No. - 8 to start off with. Soon the Coromondal, left and we were greeted by a couple of EMU's speeding their way towards the station. A WAP -4 22630 BSL made its curved entry just outside the Buckland Bridge area, with the famed Super Crawler - the Kurla (LTT) - Howrah Express, arriving on time (!), that day. Both Samit and myself, we were astonished to see her on schedule. May be she knew, that her fans were waiting!! ;-).
A WDM - 2C from VSKP, was charging on and off frequently near the PF No. 18. The orange and cream livery looked brilliant in the dazzling Sun. Soon, it was time for a KGP based WDM 2, to make way towards the premises, with an Express service, negotiating a long and snaky curve in the out yard. Accompanying her was a WDS-6 R 36000, with the Howrah - Raxaul - Mithila Express.
We strived on, along the rails, with a steady sight and a couple of recharging vitamin ;-) doses, to keep us steady, amidst the over head Sun. A WDS - 6 peeped in from across the green shrubs of the side line, and gave us the glance of what laid ahead. The walk was almost getting paced, when the vacant rakes of the Geetanjanli Express, were being shunted to the SE Yard of Santragachi, by a WDM -2 KGP. The Loco Pilot was one of our known folks, and waved hands. It was a satisfactory moment!! We could just turn around, before two relatives were coming towards us, in great show. A WDS - 6R - 36217 - HWH and a WDM - 2 - 16132 - KGP, were on the same angle, underneath the Buckland bridge, going towards the yard for some evening duties to perform.
The walk continued on the uneven graveled landscape, and we were closing the Tikiapara coaching Yard, by now. We were desperate to capture the LHB Rakes parked in the coaching yard. So we entered the premises, and started the search for LHB. And there they were, bathed by the glowing Sun. The entire feeling was thrilling, as for the first time, we got to have a glimpse the German Technology Coaches, that are here to serve the Howrah - New Delhi Rajhdhani Express in the near future. A general look around of the Coaching Yard, included the rakes of the Howrah - Ranchi Shatabdi Express and the regular Rajhdhani rakes parked in the individual bays for maintenance work. The regular VB Rakes of various other trains and the RMS rakes were a value-added sight. Before moving ahead, it was time to shoot as quickly as we could, and we did so. This place was packed up with Shunters (WDS - 6's and 6R's). I am sorry, not to have noted their numbers. And what we noticed was that a new wash area is under construction to make room for another trail of passenger rakes, undergo thorough maintenance.
The walk continued, as we approached the end of the Coaching Yard, and the EMU Car Shed was already visible. The distance between Howrah and the Loco Shed is almost Three Kilometers. Walking on the track, is both tiring and risky, so we had a constant look at the Signal Posts, ahead of us, to keep note of the movement behind our walking trail. Meanwhile an Old and tired looking SRC based WAP - 4 - 22365, started with an Express Service, while her counterpart, a South-Eastern based EMU was hauling a Down Service, back to the pavilion. While we approached the vicinity of the Howrah Loco Shed, a Jamalpur based WDM - 2- 17456, hauling the 3016 DN Bolpur - Howrah Shantiniketan Expressed rattled past at a considerable pace. This service is famous for the Jamalpur Locos in use. It was now that we could actually feel our steps into the famed Howrah Electric Loco Shed area. A couple of WAP- 4's greeted us, past the Entrance, serving as the Dwarpalakas (Dwarpalaka is the Sanskrit word meaning - Gatekeeper).
Just after entering the Loco Shed, it was time to meet the Foreman (Electric Loco Shed) and confirm our identity with him. Once we were flagged Green by the Foreman, it was time to start photographing the spectacular Work horses.
Both of us, we went on clicking for almost 20 minutes. Although my photographs did not come out great, and I am waiting to see Samit's ones too, still we both were highly satisfied. Especially to me, it was like a dream come true, because I had never ever thought of entering the Loco Shed in my lifetime. All credit goes to Samit this time.
Inside the Loco shed were countless number of WAP-4's, couple of WAP-7, and the WAP-6 that we saw at the station.
The List of some of the Locos spotted in the Electric Loco Shed - Howrah '
- WAP - 6 22402 Asansol (ASN)
- WAP - 7 30206 Gomoh (GMO)
- WAP - 7 30207 Gomoh (GMO)
- WAP - 4 22611 Howrah (HWH)
- WAP - 4 22321 Howrah (HWH)
- WAP - 4 22326 Howrah (HWH)
- WAP - 4 22611 Howrah (HWH)
- WAP - 4 22638 Howrah (HWH)
- WAP - 4 22630 Bhuswal (BSL)
We spent some time, shooting the Locos and then went on to the adjoining Diesel Loco Shed. This is a BUZZING Ground, with the honking Locos continuously fuming and exhilarating the generous display of liquid engineering at its best. This is the nurturing ground for these excelling power units. The Diesel Loco Shed has two Sheds, with 4 Bay Areas. These Bays have a capacity of 4 locos at a time. A couple of WDM's were found, being freshly painted, along with a WDS 6 being maintained. The 4 Bays, in total had 10 Locos parked, for various check up purpose. The place on a whole is very dramatic, with the smell of Diesel, all around, and it seems unearthly, because of the variety of sounds. This time also, it was the turn for us to greet the Diesel Shed Foreman first. He was in a meeting, inside the conference room on the 3rd Bay. We shared a few words, and then it was Bingo!
The greased floors made life difficult at times, but it was the enthusiasm that counted. Both shooting and noting was impossible, so what I chose to do was to photograph first. Light was deteriorating already, and we did not want to waste the show. So we shooted to the brim, and then steadily walked across to see the activity going on, inside this noisy area. While Samit went on clicking with his S2, I had the prejudice of not getting the very best of shots, because of low light.
Here is the list of some of the Locos spotted in the Diesel Loco Shed - Howrah '
- WDM - 2 17997 Howrah (HWH)
- WDM - 2 16509 Howrah (HWH)
- WDM - 2 18430 Howrah (HWH)
- WDM - 2 - R 17982 Howrah (HWH)
- WDM - 2 17704 Howrah (HWH)
(* Rabibrata Pls rectify if I am wrong with the numbers, because I made it from my blurry pictures) Just Kidding..Don't Mind...And do let me know if I went wrong with the numbers..:-)
A couple of WDS - 6 R's were being freshly painted, while their parents, the WDS - 6's were standing aside and smoking high. This is not fair!! ;-)
Once done, it was time to think of returning back. We were thirsty and had a drink from the nearby Hand-pump to quench our thirst. Just outside the Loco shed an unusual Loco was parked. It had the numbers - 14141 on it, and resembled a WDM - 3A, with no Bogie, but just the Wheels to support. I suppose it is a model depicting the purpose of this place (I am not sure, what the Loco is used for!).
We walked forward towards Liluah, which was a Two Kilometer way further. The Second Unit cum Maintenance yard under Tikiapara and Liluah was shortly passed by, with the first encounter with a couple of enquiring RPF's. They were doing their job, and once confirmed that we were railway Enthusiasts with Official permission, were the most obliged folks to share a word with. The walk amidst twilight, with the setting Sun, as if bidding us adieu, seemed to be ending soon. We set off track, near the Goods Cabin - Liluah, and took the approach road towards the station. Fatigue was creeping in, and so Samit decided to take a cab back home, while dropping me at the nearest Metro inlets. The day went fine, except the tiring walk and off course the return journey by the cab, which made us encircle the entire city of Howrah, to take over to the Vidyasagar Setu. The driver took us through the longest 'short-cut', I have ever experienced in my life, covering more than 16 Kilometers extra. It happens only in India!!
The lighted Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hoogly Bridge) looked like the Manhattan Bridge of New York, as we crossed in towards the Downtown - Kolkata. Samit dropped me at the Rabindra Sadan Metro, from where it was a matter of half an hour for me to reach home by 07:30 PM.
Samit had a long negotiation with the cab after this, costing more than double, what he would have expected..
I would like to sincerely thank the following persons, without whose help and co-operation, this Trip would never have been a story to share with.
CPRO / Eastern Railway - for the Photography Permit Samit Roychowdhury - for his wonderful company. Loco Shed Foreman - ER / HWH Div. - Diesel and Electric Loco Sheds.
Part 02 - Asansol / Gomoh and Andal Loco Sheds
Day - 01 - Howrah - Bardhhaman - Asansol - Gomoh - Asansol ->
Not even a fortnight had passed by, before we planned for yet another get away. This time our team was going to get enriched by another great enthusiastic and energetic personality. Samit and myself, we got the opportunity for the first time to meet and interact with another IRFCAn from Kolkata - Subhabrata Chattopadhyay. The decision to go to Asansol was because of its location, this time. It forms the central point of our tour chart, with a plan to reach Bokaro Steel City, and Andal, both on opposite directions, with the prime attraction being Asansol.
As always, I left from my place, by 07:15 AM to take the third Metro of the day from Dum Dum JN at 07:30 AM and reached Samit's place at 08:15 AM, sharp. Samit was ready to depart. We took a cab to Howrah, and went past after negotiating with multiple traffic jams. It was decided, to meet in front of the Old Complex - Monginis Food Plaza. Quickly we moved towards the ticket counter and booked tickets for Dhanbad JN @ Rs. 71/- per head by II - M/E. A call to Subhabrata's cell phone, had him in front of the meeting point, within minutes. We were to take the 3015 UP - Howrah - Bolpur Shantiniketan Express.
It was just 25 minutes to go, and soon there was an announcement of our train, leaving from the Platform No. - 8. We had some time, before the HWH based WDS - 6R - 36000 brought the vacant rakes of our train. Boarding on to the Second compartment after the Serving Loco, we got ourselves two window seats to take us through to Bardhhaman, which would be first point of Break Journey, towards our destination. The Loco in command, was none other than a Jamalpur Work Horse - WDM 2 - 16570.
This train is famous for its Jamalpur based Power Units. The start was dot on Schedule at 10:05 AM. On the platform no - 5 and 6 were two contrasting characters on offer. A Regular EMU, standing paired with the new conventional EMU with a dimensional windscreen, serving now a days, in and around. A peep into the Loco Shed, soon after this, is one of our regular habits, to start off with. A Couple of WAP - 7's and multiple WAP - 4's, encircled the Shed Area. A WAP - 6 - 22407 from ASN was doing some good homework. A busy cosmopolitan of the P's truly. The run from Liluah onwards was just as perfect, as one would expect from this train. The Sealdah Rajhdhani crossed near Dankuni Junction, where the lines to Sealdah and Howrah bifurcate. There was a WAP - 4 on command, this time. The journey was rather uneventful after this, except the pace at which we made it to Bardhhaman, by 11:15 AM, 5 minutes before schedule. There were a few WAG - 7's spotted in and around.
We had a good 1 Hr and 5 minutes to spare, before the BWN-ASN MEMU was to take us to ASANSOL, the centre point of our tour, from where we were to reach out for Bokaro Steel City. In Bardhhaman JN, the Shantiniketan Express was parked on the Platform No 3. Having shot our Loco from the best of angles, we moved down toward the front end. A WAG - 7 - 27128 - AJNI, was found with a long trail of container rakes, moving at a considerable pace outwards from the Platform No - 1.
Adjoining to where we stood, was another WAG - 7 - 27509 - GMO, parked on the high side line. Shooting her was a real pleasure with the wonderfully carved skyline, as the ultimate background. Time was speeding on, and so did we. Stepped towards the PF No - 5, from where the MEMU to Asansol was to depart. His counterpart was on the adjoining platform no - 4, after having brought in, a down service. It was not having a very good time, amidst people practicing their morning routines, all over the place. It was almost 10 minutes left before we would be starting the Bardhhaman - Asansol ride, and so we preferred to avoid the last minute rush, and boarded the second-most compartment after the primary unit.
The MEMU was moderately populated, and we got ourselves settled in front of the windows near the vestibule. These are converted MEMUs, that have a window, in place which served as the Toilets at one point of time. This has made the room for standing comfortably. Starting on time, we gained good pace after Khana JN, from where the Main Line and the Sahebganj Loop lines separate. Numerous Goods Rakes were found parked in the side lines of different stations, with WAG - 5's and WAG - 7's on duty. Seats were not available until Durgapur, past which, on both sides we encountered a series of Coal Mines and Iron and Steel Plants. Spotting was impossible, because of our standing postures and what we could feel was the screeching and ghushing echo between Durgapur and Asansol, because of the close by Guard walls, escorting the rails from within the Coal and Iron territories.
It is a real splendor to watch some of the distinct machineries of these factories, doing their job with great swiftness, during the afternoon hours. The ropeways had on them hanged carriages full of Iron-ore, being transported from one part of the complex to the other. Soon to arrive was Andal JN, one of the points of our interest, where we have plans to visit the next day, for its famed Diesel Loco Shed and unique liveries on offer. Andal is the Junction station because the lines bifurcate after this towards Sainthia JN and the other one traversing straight towards Asansol JN. The major station passed after this was Raniganj, famous for its Collieries. Within minutes we were at our destination, after covering a total of 193 Kms, from Howrah. By the time we had reached the station, the plan to go to Bokaro Steel City had changed by a 180 Degree and we were now set for Gomoh JN. We had three stuffs to do before leaving Asansol.
First get our tickets for Gomoh JN @ Rs. 34/- per head, II - M/E, then book a retiring room in the station. Finally have lunch at the Refreshment room. So we did. And luckily enough, we got the A.C. Retiring Room @ Rs. 450/- for Three Persons. Lunch was not the very best, as expected, because of it being at the later part of Afternoon. We could not have the Chicken - Rice as planned and a weary Egg Curry was the best substitute available. There was no room for errors, and we completed this episode quickly, so as to have some shoot-out, before the proceedings continued.
Having had a proportionate supper, and a good One Hour to spare, after covering all important jobs, we decided, why not go snapping for some time. The 3151 UP Sealdah - JammuTawi Express was to arrive here by 04:30 PM, allowing us enough time to have a go, around. Couple of Asansol based G5's (WAG - 5) and a freshly painted G9 (WAG - 9), were the first to be spotted. We were crazy to shoot the G9, but because of the Greenery all around the station, the mission failed.
Asansol Loco Shed is home to one of the rarest class of Locos produced for the railways - the WAP - 6's. The Station Building is also quite old, and resembles, a typical British Colonial Architecture, especially because of the Red touch it. A Puny NG Locomotive from the Barchhaman-Katwa Line, adds to the pride of this configuration. The freshly painted and well decorated Loco is the - BK - 1 - named as 'Tilottama'. It has been plinthed, in the central part of the Entrance Bay Area, with a well maintained Garden around. Another such Loco from the Ahmadpur-Katwa Line, numbered AK12 (?), is plinthed just outside the Howrah Station, near the Old Complex. Due to the congestion and over crowded surrounds, it seems difficult to cherish its beauty. We had a few shots of the BK - 1 as well, and decided to have some contrasting views with the illumination, too.
In the mean time, a rare visitor - WAG 5 HA - BRC - 23295, was creeping in through the side line adjoining the Platform No - 1. We could hardly afford having some shots, because of the entire attention, being magnetized towards the simmering beauty from Mughalsarai - WAM - 4P - 20627. She was standing right on the Platform No - 2 with the Down JammiTawi - Sealdah Express. Staying on the platform was not affordable, after this point of time, because of three elegant friends approaching us, with an incredible angle on offer. A pair of Asansol (ASN) based WAG - 5A - 23524 and WAP - 6 - 22415 were approaching the third contestant, a WDM - 3A - 18955R from the Diesel Hub of Andal (UDL).It was a Three - to - One Game, because of the Asansol and Mughalsarai Locos arriving to share a snap with the delegate from Andal.
With the skyline matching perfect, the WDM - 3A won the contest, with some extraordinary poses, this time. It was a photographer's delight, with the unique combination of the clear sky and the matching livery. A faint announcement of the UP JammuTawi Express could be heard, as we were moving back towards the platform. The train was arriving on Platform No. 2, within 5 minutes. With a couple of stressed steps, we made it to the platform in time, near the GNL Coaches, when the WAP - 4 - 22508 HWH hauled, Sealdah - JammuTawi Express, crawled into the crowded platform. The train was a bit behind schedule and left Asansol within a minute from its arrival. Expecting seats was like day dreaming, so we parked ourselves near the door of a well populated compartment.
It was a rather unpleasant journey till Gomoh, with passengers landing almost all over the place. The toilet doors were jammed with loaded sacks and other materials. The RPF Guys, came in, had a look and fetched a Hundred Bucks from the owner, who without any scope of argument handed over the cash. This is their regular fate, as a fellow passenger remarked, because the RPF folks are just the official bandits, of this route, and a toggle with them would make them land in no where except harassment and unnecessary delay. The lower middle class crowd is the best diversity that has made Indian Railways so exceptional. A single train is the worthiest example of unity in diversity, an interaction with splendid cross-culture and tests ones adaptability to its ultimatum. There is room for one and for all, and that is the integral principle of Indian Railways, as the token of democracy.
The arrival of Dusk was soon awaited after we passed Dhanbad JN. The line passes through some of the most breathtaking plain landscape with numerous curves and multiple bridges on its way. The setting Sun, with the last rays in it, paved the day with the torch of nature, waving our minds with high expectations, from the glowing moon. A breezy arrival at Gomoh JN, almost 15 minutes past schedule, was expected. It was 10 minutes past 06:00 PM, and we wanted to waste no more time, but to look for our return tickets first. A walk across the station to the ticket counter had us meet a rather unpleasant looking Station Master. We had our Return Tickets, by II - M/E @ Rs. 34/- per head, and then peeped in for the last touch of luck. It went in vain, as the Chief Yard Master of the Station had left for the day, and he was the only person able to permit us some shots. A pretty freshly painted WAP - 6 from the Asansol Shed was on its waiting time at the platform No - 2 with the Durg - Danapur Express. The fluorescence of the Numbering on both sides, looked futuristic, but the inability to shoot went on paining hard. A visitor from PATRATU (PTRU) was shunting an unknown Passenger service at the adjoining platform. I don't remember if it was a WDS (?).
Having almost 1 and a half hour before the return service to Asansol would be available; we started a walk towards the Gomoh Electric Loco Shed. A couple of minutes walk across the platform took us in front of the Electric Trip shed, with a huge Track Placement - Plasser Machine, bathed in luminescence.
The approach to Gomoh Electric Loco Shed, is a real pleasure to feel the unseen craters of the Moon. We hurdled our way, almost in Zero visibility for quite some time, before landing up in a completely vibrant atmosphere. It looked like a Halo of Engineering, amidst the Panorama of the "Gleaming Green". The semi-circular Shed area was almost half full of WAG9's, making it up for an unbelievable sight. GMO is home to a beautiful series of Locos, truly. The 180 Degree vista was spectacular, with the engines glowing to full capacity.
I was so enthralled by the entire sight that taking down their numbers went out completely. We were desperate to have some shots, but never had faith in the possible misfortune, and so did not even try to test our luck. There were a couple of WAP - 7's as well, with the patent 30207, a regular visitor to Sealdah, now a days, with the Kolkata Rajhdhani. Discussions with one of the Loco Shed personnel yielded, that the WAG - 9's were all being shifted from here to AJNI. A Glory soon to be lost. Samit mentioned of having seen the day light bioscope with almost 15 Locos composing the complete 70 mm Screen. This time it was only 7 - 8 of them, and even that was something crazy to look at.
Another spectacle was the lift up of a WAP - 7 onto the overhead Hangar for fitting to the Bogie. Watching a complete Loco being craned and carried from one place to the other is something funny. It seemed to be child's play. The WAP - 7 was lifted by the overhead unit and the bogie replaced. Within 10 - 15 minutes, the P7 had its new bogie fitted. This is truly an Engineering Masterpiece. The loco shed has two bays forming its Testing and Maintenance Work Area. A WAG - 7 could also be found, but there was no trace of any WAG - 9H. We could not afford to wait for longer, because the Gates were already closed by now, and it was the other way, round the market place that we had to take to the station, this time. A paced stride, took us to the station within 10 minutes, where it was now turn to satisfy our appetite. We had some great local snacks, which included a couple of Pakoras (Fries), and a welcome Thumbs Up, to raise the toast for this wonderful weekend.
The waiting seats on the platform were the best friends for us after this, towards a never ending wait for the DN Varanasi - Asansol Passenger to arrive. The scheduled time was 07:20 PM, while it got delayed by almost half an hour. The boredom of this waiting hour was somewhat subsidized by the Smooth entry of the Howrah - New Delhi Rajhdhani Express, with a well aged WAP - 4 from the source shed. A sip into the recharging cup of lemon tea brought back the zeal for more. It was soon after this that the 302 DN - Varanasi - Asansol PASS arrived on the platform, and we quickly boarded, an almost deserted looking General Compartment. It was already chilling out there, and a vacated coach meant additional cold. All Windows closed, and we seemed to shrink on the seats. A couple of guys sitting opposite to us had a usual encounter with the Ticket Checker. Surprisingly, the Checker was intoxicated and demanded Rs. 50/- towards their luggage. Once denied to pay, he threatened them. This is nothing new, but the bureaucratic corruption that accompanies Indian Railways. And the luggage they were carrying was well within the normal allowance limit of 20 Kg's, with two persons on board.
The journey was like a tortoise on the race, completely fatigued. Multiple stoppages outside the various stations, made us lose enough time. At Asansol Outer, a 30 minute Halt, was the ultimate test of our perseverance, which we won, and at least 5 trains were allowed on the opposite direction, before we were allocated. It was 11:30 PM, and the station looked alluring with lights, when we stepped on the Platform No - 2.
The Cold made its presence well felt, and we could afford only a photograph of the Loco that had taken us through - WAM - 4P - 20678, before my Camera betrayed with an alert, and denied me of any further snaps, all through the rest of the tour. Thanks to Subhabrata, for the many photographs I shot with his camera. I am sincerely grateful. It was then time to hurry out of the station, in search for some food. The Refreshment room had long closed, and so we took an Auto-Rickshaw @ Rs.60/- UPDN to take us to a Road-Side 'Dhaba'. Food Quality of the Highway side 'Dhaba', was too good to resist. The Owner of the shop had himself cooked for us that night, because his official cook had left for the day. It was 10 minutes past midnight, when we were having Roti with Chicken Do-Piazza. The Hot and delicious food, fulfilled the much needed physical appetite, after a great day, and much more to come up. The Auto took us back to the station, where we headed straight for the Night shot of the illuminated BK 1, waiting for us. Having had enough of her, the destination was the Retiring Room No - 1.
Not even half a minute into the room, when we felt that rest was a part of our daily routine, and this is thee day, to experience something different. The Toast in the Dhaba, had recharged Samit and Me, and Subhabrata was even more enthusiastic. That was it, and we decided to put our winter stuff on, and Shoot, till we were tired. Although I had a dead camera, but the atmosphere was so electric that the entire feeling disappeared. It was a series of all the Locos we shot, from 00:30 AM till the knock of dawn. Most of it was on the Platform No. 2 and 3 of the Asansol Station.
Opening the account with a sparkling WAP - 4 22506 HWH, seemed to be a good starter for the second innings of the day. While we were shooting her, from the other side, all of a sudden a couple of models arrived. The beautiful livery of these Andal twins - WDM 2 - 16622 and 16697 looked attractive during the night, with their head lights on, and no other external lights to illuminate. Soon a MGS based WAM 4 - 21321, hauling an Express Service arrived. Shooting was on, and we kept chatting with the Loco Pilots, who were extremely courteous, upon showing their Loco photographs. A GMO based WAG - 7 - 27330 was the next spotting, and the first one in the 'G' Series, for the night. Samit and Subhabrata kept on clicking after the WAG - 7 and the couple of DM 2 s, while my ears were eager towards the Passenger Announcement System, to mark the approach of the next visitor.
Having had a tidbit in and around, and after noticing a downfall in the number of services for a certain point of time, we agreed to try a walk towards the Electric Loco Shed - Asansol, and try some snaps of the illuminated Locos. A walk over complete darkness, with a goal to watch the dream sight, proved to be a blessing, with which, we found ourselves greeted by the RPF guys near the Picketing office of the Loco Shed. The police men were very courteous, presuming us to be from the Press. Once clarified about our identity as rail fans, they were a bit astonished as well.
Inside the Loco Shed, the Duty Officer In-Charge of the Foreman's Office, went through the Permission Letter, and gave us a shaky consent, to shoot. But hardly could we have a photograph, that the very polite Officer, asked us not to, because the Foreman was not there presently, and that might lead to some problems. We were the most obliged group and headed straight out of the Shed. A freshly painted WAP - 6 was waiting in the Shed yard, with the fluorescent side numbering, glowing brightly. It was a dream scene to keep watching. The Illuminated Boards, displaying 'Electric Loco Shed - Asansol', added the X-factor to the atmosphere. And a WAG -5 RH - 23815, bathed under the focus beams, stood with all the pride, she deserves.
Assuming the steps falling on the right places, surrounded by the pitch darkness, all round, we paved our way slowly and gradually back towards the platform. A charging refresher was something we needed, and we had it! Waiting our turn for some more action, while one of the rarest visitors in this part of the country, a Ludhiana based WAG - 5 HR - 23819 (LDH) had a scenic entry into the dark, outer territory. Watching us click, at this part of the day, the pilot, with a mind full of questions, hurried down the steps of his Loco and rather hurried towards us, with his search light focused.
The first and the most general question was to know what were we guys doing at the mid of the night, on the station? When we replied that we were ardent rail fans, and it is as a part of our hobby that we were shooting, the Pilot kept on insisting as to whether we were from the Press or not? As always, the reply was negative, accompanied by a touch of smile on our faces. It was now that he had all the doubts in his mind, cleared and we got engaged in a conversation. Sharing the photograph of his Loco, found the man satisfied, inspite of the many hardships he shared with us. He was rather upset with the entire system, and referred that Eastern Railway has one of the worst Signaling Infrastructure, one can ever expect.
Some of the horrifying experience, he added, were tragic and could have lead towards serious accidents, at times. It was very shortly, he mentioned, that he was traveling at over 80 Kmph, with a through out GREEN Corridor in the Main Line, when all of a sudden, it was found that they were channeled into the Loop Line. He had no choice but to immediately apply Emergency brakes, causing enough damage to the life of the Loco, to avert any further consequences. The Driver also stated that signaling in the Northern Railways is far more sophisticated and maintain good standards. When we told him that we have a web-based forum named IRFCA, he insisted us on mentioning these outages, as a point of discussion. Nothing much could we do, in assisting this traumatized person, but to share a few words and promise to send him the photograph of the beautiful Locomotive that he shares life with!! This is something we should call dedication, where life is so valueless in front of the Responsibilities, these persons have taken, to strive ahead for a prosperous India.
In the mean time, a Tatanagar based WAM - 4 - 20661 made a silent entrance, adjoining the Ludhiana beauty. Busy in conversation, we could manage only a couple of snaps, when we had the first encounter with an RPF, this time. He was performing his job, well, and asked us about what we were doing. We had the Permission letter ready for him. Hurdling to go through, he could manage only a smile, after this and asked us for some Tea. We went focusing upon our job. A second refresher was nearing its necessity, and we did want to go with it.
Time was speeding like a rocket, and when we noticed that, it was 04:15 AM. Just then it was time for some Honky action, with a WDM - 3A from Howrah, made a noisy and smoky entry. She was hauling an Express service, while before this the other platform had served a WAM - 4 - 20592 - MGS hauled passenger service, towards Howrah.
Oh, I forgot to tell you all the best part of the game. While we were busy in shooting the various Locos, a man noting all the Loco Numbers, came towards us and seemed to be flattering us in all means. He was selling high on words, with topics all over the country. We could not get it at first, but when he went on enacting and imposing to be a remarkable personality, it was confirmed that he floating in the mid of this cold night.
Accompanying us till the Retiring room, it proved difficult to get ourselves out of his words. Subhabrata was the best person, for him to continue enacting with. This was the time when this unavoidable difficulty started to become an invincible story. It was the Ticket Checker who rescued us for the day, and we were safely through to the room, for some rest. Incredible Stuff!!:-))
Freshening ourselves was the first thing, before we parked ourselves on the bed to have some rest. Sharing a glimpse of the photographs and appreciating each others efforts, we gradually dived into the World of siesta, waiting for the morning lights to lay the tracks of yet another day of RailFanning!!
Day - 02 - Asansol Loco Shed - Andal Loco Shed - Bardhhaman - Howrah
Morning was unusually early, compared to the time we slept at. It was 08:30 AM, when I got up and waked Subhabrata up. We were to take my Camera to the nearest Photo Shop, to try a way out. So we did. Subhabrata and me, we took a Rickshaw from the Station to the nearest Supermarket @ Rs. 10/-. Luckily the Camera shop was open. The shop keeper was very polite, and I tried to check if a new battery works out good. The failure pertained, and what the keeper could do best was to preserve the photos that I had clicked with the camera. He took it to the dark room and brought out the film in preserved state, but unfortunately could not resolve the outage, and advised me not to hand over the device to any local shop. It was only a courteous gesture that we could share, before leaving. All hopes were gone!
Back to the Retiring room where Samit was ready to start. Immediately, we flagged off. It was time for some breakfast in the Refreshment Cafeteria, before take off. Later on a cup of tea on the platform and there we go! A long walk to the end of the platform, towards the Shed, took us there within 5 minutes. Imagine the night time now, and you feel like viewing one of the best contrasts of Loco Diversity. Meeting the Loco Shed Foreman, and a Green Signal from him, had us all set. There were almost 25 Locomotives, predominantly from the Home Base, accompanied by some neighbours from nearby. It was a beautiful sight all together. Different colors and spectacular maestros, all waiting to be shot, one by one. There is not much to write about the shots, but to take a note of the Loco road Number.
The Loco Details of the Spotting made in the Asansol Electric Loco Shed is as follows:
A Couple of Andal (UDL) based WDM-2's were the Enty Focus this Time. The Re-Built Locos - 18673 R and 18633 R, greeted us as we went past, with a gracious smoke to share the glory with!
ASANSOL ELECTRIC LOCO SHED - LOCO ROAD NUMBERS:
Inside the Loco Shed there were a wide variety of Locomotives. Their Numbers and Details are as follows:
- WAP - 4 22530 HWH
- WAM - 4P 20592 MGS
- WAG - 5 RH 23595 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23815 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23357 ASN
- WAM - 4P 20511 ASN
- WAM - 4P 20678 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23293 ASN
- WAG - 5 A 23074 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23212 ASN
- WAP - 6 22404 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23389 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23397 ASN
- WAG - 5 A 23630 ASN
- WAG - 5 RH 23592 ASN
- WAP - 6 22402 ASN
- WAP - 4 22374 HWH
- WAG - 5 23879 ASN
- WAG - 5 A 23005 BHILAI
- WAG - 5 RH 23598 ASN
- WAP - 6 22405 ASN
- WAG - 5 A 23325 ASN
Shooting them was a real fun, as we did it from every possible angle, we could. The Shots were quite unique, as well. Especially, the WAP - 6s were a real treasure to shoot on! There are only 12 Locos from this Class remaining in Asansol. Slowly but surely, they belong to the World of a lost glory.
Just outside the Loco Shed, was some action awaited. A WAG - 9 GMO - 31037, with a considerable trail of Load, entered the out yard in style, twisting herself through to the Side line, for some desirable rest. Considerable Passenger Traffic included a dirty looking WAP - 4 22239 HWH - hauling the FAST Bi-Weekly Akal Takht, from Sealdah to Amritsar. While it was time to shoot her, that a fresh and ever charming liveried WAP-4 from SRC 22637, brought in the DN Adra - Asansol Passenger Service.
She is being tested in this section, for a future build up. Soon it was time for the home based WAP - 6 22403, making a curving entry into the Loco Shed yard, for some sleep. As she horned past, her brother in law, a WAM- 4 21204 from Tatanagar, gushed in with the DN Danapur -Tatanagar Express. We kept waiting, for the final few of the morning, when the HWH - NDLS Poorva (Deluxe) Express, slowly made her presence felt into the station complex, with a busy movement on offer, as always. This time, on duty was a WAP - 4 CNB 22230. She was looking rather tired, but yet steady. A real strength of character!
Back on the platform, where a UDL based WDM - 2 18819, was being coupled to her sister, the 17347, for some EXTRA Power, further towards the Northern territory. While, a lethargic - 17293 kept smoking, before the start of a rather long journey, with the UP Muzaffarpur Passenger towards the usual Power change. A sharp watcher, WAP - 4 22585 HWH was keeping close track of all that was going around. She was judging her position amidst three of her dominant counterparts.
The drama continues here in Asansol, and so we decided that it was quite a lot, before having a much needed lunch and then plan out the rest of the day.
A packed lunch with some sizzling hot chicken on offer, made our day. Sharing some usual rail fanning stories, the lunch session continued till half an hour, in the Refreshment room of the Asansol Station. We made our way back to the room, from where it was finalized to pack off for the trip. Samit was not feeling the very best, and so in spite of a Yes and No, we centralized to the point of calling it a day. It was the refreshing rest in the cool Air Conditioned Room, that changed all minds, and we were now fully charged, for more. Andal, the last spot in this circuit was a must go, for its Dazzling Diesels.
The Down Service of the Jammu Tawi - Sealdah Express, was shortly to arrive at the Asansol JN. So, it was high time before Checking-Out from the Retiring room, and hurrying for the return tickets. A couple of MEMU services from Adra and Bardhhaman added to the population of the station, within few minutes. Soon, a fresh WAP - 4 from HWH, hauled the service for us. We had tickets to Howrah, by II - M/E - @ Rs. 71/- per head.
The train was packed to capacity, and it was the desperate search for some room, that took us near the side doors. A mere 20 minutes travel time, seemed to be a never ending one, because of the incorrigible movement of crowd, to-and-fro. We could not help ourselves, other than tolerating the heave and clamor of the vendors, appearing in every thirty seconds.
The horrifying journey ended soon, and we stepped down on to a picturesque Andal JN Station. Andal is a Junction station, because of the lines bifurcating for Sainthia JN and Asansol JN from this point. A quick look for the action around, and it was time to move out for the much focused Loco Shed. Towards the North-West side of the station is the Loco Shed, located. A kilometer's walk made us reachable, there. On the Platform Number - 5 was a beautiful WDM - 2 - 17293 was having a late Sun bath. A long trail of Oil tankers passing side by side to our Express looked to merge near the horizon, because of a sharp convergence of the two tracks, after the platform. Sharing a snap with the first beauty, we thought of not disturbing her during the resting time, and better make it to the Shed.
Andal Diesel Loco Shed
Awarded as the best Diesel Loco Shed in the year 2003 - 2004, the Andal Diesel Shed shares a story of pride, with one of the most dazzling liveries, Diesel Locomotives have ever been ornamented with. The Blue and Cream combination, gives these Work Horses a touch of uniqueness, compared to any other contemporary of their Class.
Being a Sunday, we had no Officials in the Main Office Building, and instead had a Round way to surf through. The Central Bay areas, had number of workers, and now it was time for the Official Permission. We shared the Photography - Permit, with a number of Officials, who were impressed, by the kind of Hobby we share, amongst a community of 3000+ count. It is the instinct that makes us love the Railways, and feel very much a part of this diverse culture of India and its Legendary Railways!
Primarily focused upon 6 Bay - Areas, the Loco Shed also has an integrated Assembly Area, and Workshops based upon their day to day activities. Far down towards the Eastern Side is the Old Steam Shed, which once used to be a Hub of some of the most beautiful Rolling Stock, of their Era. Now, the days have gone, and Diesel Locomotives have added to the pride and prejudice of the Railways, to form an Integral Part of these Sheds. An encounter each with Five different Officials, had us finally, through. Meanwhile, some of the Blue-Birds were returning back home, after their Day's job was done with. The nests were slowly beginning to fill in, and we started snapping the birds, with a smile on every face.
A Sign Board with mentions of - 'SCRAP MATERIAL' was the first noticeable feature in the area. In and around, there were no signs of any Scrap. Instead, it was a WDS - 6R, being re-fuelled at that stand. Pretty ironical, as to the perspective of placing the display!
Having a head count of almost 15 Beauty Pageants, we could not resist ourselves, but to have a great clicking time, from several angles. At times, Subhabrata was almost lying down, to have some interesting effects to the photographs. One thing that is definitely appreciable is that the Loco Shed has some excellent maintenance facilities.
Sharing the moments of joy and pride, I had to take down the Numbers as well. So here they go:
ANDAL DIESEL LOCO SHED - LOCO ROAD NUMBERS:
The Locomotives all belong to the ANDAL Diesel Loco Shed (UDL).
- WDM - 3A 18870 R
- WDM - 3A 18786 R
- WDM - 2 17471
- WDS - 6R 36068
- WDG - 3A 13019
- WDS - 6R 36108
- WDG - 3A 13021
- WDG - 3A 14770
- WDM - 2 16175
- WDM - 2 16115
- WDM - 2 17377
- WDM - 2 17xxx (Being Re-Painted with a Sky Blue Livery)
- WDM - 2 16720 (The Loco is being assembled back, after some maintenance)
- WDS - 6R 36090
- WDS - 6R 36107
With a mere half hour for dusk remaining, we settled in calling it a day, and bid adieu to the Birds, allowing them some rest, before the start of yet another morning, filled with lots of activities to perform as a part of their regular routine.
A couple of yards out of the Central Bay Area, we were suddenly stunned, with the sight of a group of Old Shunters. They stood telling the story of the Golden days, when they were a part of this Team. With Shrubs grown thick, all over them, we got to know, that this is the 40th Anniversary of their Retirement. It was a shocking stuff, to witness, one of the best Class of Shunters in such a dilapidated state, desperately needing some preservation and care. The approaching Dusk gave us enough background to take some memories of the yester year's delight, back home.
ANDAL DIESEL LOCO SHED - WDS - 4 Class Locomotive Numbers:
The Loco Sheds to which they primarily belonged, is not known.
- WDS - 4B 19146
- WDS - 4B 19356
- WDS - 4B 19359
- WDS - 4 19121
All of these FOUR Locomotives are in such a delicate state that is quite unimaginable. The Entire Units are scrapped, excluding the exterior parts, waiting to get shattered off, by the hands of nature!!
Having done with the Loco Shed, we stepped back towards the Station, where it was the 04:45 PM MEMU, bound to Bardhhaman to take us home. A Gusty WAM - 4 - 20627 from MGS, hauling an unknown Express Service, whizzed past in no time. While taking the Over-Bridge from the PF Number - 5, we spotted the Star of Diesel, a WDM - 3A, the SHAKTI - 13102. The Brick Red livery, with patent symbols, looked Electric. A Plasser Based Tamping Express - 3958 TMO / BGA - 09 - 3x, was parked just beside her.
Andal is a place, filled with day long activities. And this was no exception. Spotting one of the Shaktis and then a couple of Beautiful WDS - 6R's 36069 and the one we had seen to be re-fuelled, 36068, added to the show, with some noisy and smoky movement, during the spectacular twilight.
Sounds of a sharp entrance from the Western end grabbed our attention, very soon. And it was time to witness one of the best Freight movements, I have ever seen in my lifetime. A WAG - 7 27339 from Gomoh, was in a real hurry, as it approached with almost a 100+ Speed, and covering the station, within no time, with a long trail of Wagons. This was something Happening, I can say.
While the sharp action was over, a rather snaky entrance of the Down Sainthia - Andal Passenger DMU Service, with a Palindromic WDM - 2 17671, in charge, made its way gradually to the PF Number - 5. The livery was an old Light and Dark Green combination, similar to the ones that used to run in the Hasnabad - Sealdah Line, before the section was electrified.
Our train was getting delayed, and dusk was waiting minutes, before calling the stars to hand over the responsibilities. Mean while it was time for a last action number, before our MEMU could arrive. An LKO Based PRAVAL, WDM - 2A with its distinct Sky Blue schema, entered the station, with the DN Jhajha - Guwahati Express. The Locomotive was fresh and clean, to impress.
It was soon after this, that the DN - ASN - BWN MEMU arrived, at 05:10 PM, to take us back to Bardhhaman. Considerably crowded, we got ourselves seats to give some rest to the tired legs. A Short siesta with a round of Tea and some chops, took us to Bardhhaman by 06:45 PM. The connector BWN - HWH Chord EMU Service, was to take off from the adjoining Platform, within 5 minutes, and so we wasted no time but to climb up the over-bridge and reach the PF Number - 3, for the EMU. A considerable movement of crowd scattered around, to take the Main line Local, making room available for us. And Then? A couple of Window seats waiting for us, had the pleasure of serving us, all through to Howrah. It was time to share a snippet through the many snaps, Samit and Subhabrata had clicked on, during this excellent trip. A round of fresh air and the remainder of siesta, carried forward from the MEMU journey, back till Bardhhaman, and we were through.
Reaching Howrah at 09:15 PM, it was a gamble to take chance with the last couple of Metros remaining for the Days service, and I accepted the challenge. After having a great company for the couple of days, we bid adieu to Subhabrata who was to take the L238 Bus service back home. A commitment for the future, and we parted off. Samit, as always, dropped me near the Park Street Metro Station, where I still had good time for the second last train to make my way back. It was almost 10:30 PM, when I stepped in Home.
Tired I was, but the Panorama of Gomoh, with the fairy of the G9 Jungle Book, remains a dream, that would to see the dawn of reality, sometime very soon.
Sincere Thanks to:
CPRO - Eastern Railway, for the Photography Permit. Samit RoyChoudhury - For being a Wonderful Companion, as always. All the Members of the Eastern Railway Family, who made this day, come true, & Last but never the least, Subhabrata Chattopadhyay - For his excellent and enthusiastic Company,and sharing his A - 95 Power Shot, to capture some of my Dreams.