Chittaranjan Locomotive Works
by Saurab Basu
The Legendary Elegance of Human Engineering
The first time when we had started focusing on the various Locomotives of Indian Railways, the category which attracted me the most was that of the Electric Classes. They are one of best integrated power Units in service. And the Hub, which controls this entire network, with the Demand and Supply Chain Management is no other than the World Famous - Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, popularly known as 'CLW', to most of us.
We thought that it is the time to share our delight with them, who are proud to be the designers of the First III - Phase Electric Locomotive, in India.
This trip was a bit unplanned because of uncertain circumstances. It was decided late at evening on the 23rd of November 2005, that we were to move out the very next day, by 09:30 AM, taking the Poorva Express / Udyan-Abha Toofan Express, which ever is available. I was lucky to have got a holiday on the 24th of November, because of Thanks Giving Day, and so accepted Samit's plan without much dilemma. Actually, the story was somewhat different. Samit had designed a Livery for WAG - 9 H and it was accepted by CLW, approved by Railway Board. That Brand new Loco was our primary attraction, this time, and Samit had the intimation from Sujeet that the Loco would be moved to Production within the 27th of December. So we could not afford to delay, and had a quick pack up and head for Chittaranjan. The trip was special because Mr. Buddhadeb Saha was also joining us, and it was a great chance for me to meet him for the first time.
Accordingly as planned, Subhobrata was waiting in front of Samit's house, and I took the third Metro of the day from Dum Dum JN at 07:30 AM, to meet up, and start from Ballygunge Circular Road. Reaching Howrah was smooth, where we met Mr. Saha near the ticket counter. Had our tickets for Chittaranjan by II - M/E (Main) @ Rs. 67 /- per head and straight off went to the Platform No.9 from where the Howrah - New Delhi Poorva Express was to leave. We met the Ticket Checking Officer, but came to know that we are not allowed to board the train with this ticket, as Poorva has a distance restriction of 450 KM's. Time was running out, and we could not afford to wait for long. Instead it was time to take chance on the 3007 UP Howrah - SriGanganagar Udyan-Abha Toofan Express. The train parked on Platform No. - 8, already had the Second Class (GNL) coaches, filled out. So we decided to board a Sleeper Class and have our tickets upgraded, by the TTE.
The train departed dot on schedule at 09:40 AM and we had good seats for ourselves. Soon the TTE landed up, and we had our tickets upgraded to Sleeper Class, in exchange of further Rs. 68/- per head. The TTE was very well behaved, and surprisingly, had a very neat writing. (I mentioned surprisingly, because generally the TTE's stagger out all over the Paper ticket, but this TTE had mentioned all the details very transperantly).
The journey was rather uneventful, apart from a few attractive spottings. They include Three SHAKTI's at different places. One was spotted near Bandel JN, the other near Shaktigarh and the third one was at its home town - Andal JN. I am sorry about not noting down the numbers, but the liveries of all the three beauties were unique, and dazzling.
The other sightings included the couple of Rajhdhani's crossing us at high speed. But that again is like a regular spotting for us. Sharing a few words with Mr. Saha, multiple rounds of local snacks and a couple of refreshers, we were through to our destination - Chittaranjan by 02:25 PM. Samit had informed Sujeet (by the way Sujeet is no other than Sujeet Mishra, an integral part of IRFCA and off-course CLW. It is because of Sujeet that this trip could be a reality), about our itinerary and so we took an Auto-Rickshaw to reach the Manager's Office at Chittaranjan Locomotive Works.
We met Sujeet at his office, where we shared a few words over a wonderful cup of the heritage 'chhai' (tea) and it was time to start shooting. A Toyota Qualis was standing outside for our service, throughout the visit. We chalked out the spots, quickly, so as to shoot with the best glamour of sunlight on offer.
The very first mark was on a freshly assembled WAG - 9 (Doctor Silver) 31082, with a regular livery of Green and a Yellow stripe on it. The Loco was parked right opposite the Testing Shed, where a rather dilapidated looking WCM-5, waited our visit. The WAG - 9 was looking quite contrasting to the WCM and the White Toyota Qualis that we have been riding. A few shots of the first Doctor and we made our way towards the next location. Samit had been telling about a couple of Broad-gauge Steam Locomotives, preserved and kept in CLW. We were naturally eager in spotting these, as well. So the next stop was definitely in paying a visit to the maestros of the bygone days. And there they were - heads up high with a feeling to make everyone proud and delighted by the entire panorama of these refreshing delights - a couple of WG Class locomotives, the 8407 and the famed - 'Antim Sitara' (meaning - The Last Star) - 10560.
Light was deteriorating gradually, and we had a considerable amount of work left. But, a short encounter with some interrogating RPF Guys, stalled our pace. A visit to their out post near the Gate, was required. The officials were very well behaved and were doing their job quite proficiently. They had a talk to Sujeet, after which things were back to normal. A number of smiling faces, gave us a green signal to move forward.
The very next attraction was the prime star of this campaign, Samit's pride - the WAG - 9H, 31086, which he had designed the livery of. The Queen, was on her Red Carpet, ready to serve the country very soon. She was kept in the Shed, near the Maintenance and Manufacturing Area, and shared room with another of her genres, a WAG - 9. These are the Electric Loco Assembly Shops of CLW, where she was having a final round of make up. Named as the Doctor Silver, this High Capacity Goods Locomotive, shares the story of success for all rail fans like us. Samit must have been more proud for having draped her in the most beautiful color schemes, one would have ever expected. The Red Look felt like a Loco from Germany. She was looking absolutely gorgeous, with the new schematic G - 9 and three Blocks designed on each side. Defining the Loco at that moment was possible by only a single word - ELECTRIC!:-).
We had a round of snaps, while she was having the final touch up, and as soon as it came to us that a Shunter was approaching close, to take her out into the day light, we immediately decided to finish off the remaining stories, before settling with the various angles of our Chief Guest.
Sujeet had requested us some snaps from inside the WAG - 9 - Doctor Silver, and so we made a quick switch over to the first location. On the way, the Diesel Generating Set, designed on a WDM - 2, was waiting our attention. This one is a rare spot, a 1750 KW Generator Set, blocked up on a typical WDM - 2, is indeed something rare and unexpected. A short visit to Sujeet's Office, for some of the Equipments and System Shots, that he had asked for, and we were right in front of the 31082.
This time, all four of us climbed up and had a close look inside the Cab. The Control Panel, System Monitor and the various other details of the Loco, were especially interesting, along with the cushioned and comfortable driving seats. At least now Railways, have presented the Drivers with a bit of comfort. The Satellite System on top of the Loco is a new addition to the Generic features of these Cabs. A few snaps, and an irresistible scene awaited us.
An active WDS - 4D, is now a rare sight. Numbered - 19731, and lucky to find her close to the WAG - 9, Subhabrata and myself, we made the chase to win a few memorable captures. She looked very old and tired, but still strong enough to serve for quite a long tenure. Before leaving the spot finally and heading back towards Samit's creation, it was decided to have a look at the WCM - 5 as well. She stood neglected, with the shrubs of ages, surrounding all through. The Loco - 20103 lies in the Test Shed, with the markings of - Booked to CLW - 12 - 01. The desperate need for a bit of care, seemed reflecting from every angle.
It was time now to swap locations quickly before the dusk became even more emphasizing. We were right in front of the Electric Loco Assembly Shops, and the Red Queen had already been parked outside the Shed. Time short, and so it was a clicking session, from every possible corner we got. A sneak peak inside the Loco, with a great amount of satisfaction and gratitude for us, and Our Great Railways, was all that came in our minds at that time.
On the opposite side, it was the arena where the complete life cycle of a dedicated Locomotive can be understood, as deeply as that of a child to complete human. The first structural casing to the final brush up, all the stages of the work horses can be studied in detail. The bogies of WAG - 7 / 9 's, WAP - 4 / 7's and WAM - 4's stood there to tell the story of yet another accomplishment achieved by the hands of Human Engineering.
It was time to head back to Sujeet's Office, as we had to buy our return tickets. A warm welcome back to his office, and a cup of tea with Ex. General Manager IR - Mr. R.K.Vir, made it a pleasant evening altogether. Samit went to buy the tickets, but returned empty handed, because Tickets were handed over only an Hour in advance. We had a target to return by the Mithila Express, expected to arrive at 23:02 Hrs at CRJ.
Words went on, as we had a round of discussions with Mr. Vir, on some of the prime aspects of Railways. Topics from Jamalpur having outraged the purpose of itself, SER Proper Man Management to the Centenary Celebration of Electric Lighting in Railways, approaching in the year 2007, came up with the numerous sips over the sizzling drink. It was definitely a diplomatic evening, with Sujeet and Mr. Vir sharing some of their exclusive thoughts and stories, from the days they spent with the family of Indian Railways. Mr. Vir also added that he is going to re-publish his book on CLW very soon.
As usual, I requested Sujeet for a small souvenir from CLW, to take back home as a memorabilia. Sujeet searched out and handed me over a wonderful detail catalog of each Electric Loco, manufactured by CLW. It also has photographs of the Locomotives, with their details on the other side, with a small write up on CLW and its contribution to the Indian Railways. Upon request he gave his autograph on two of the 3 - Phase A/C Electric Locomotives, designed by him - the WAP - 7 and WAG - 9 H.I was then the happiest man:-)).
A short visit to the Museum, located at the Ground Floor of the Manager's Office - CLW, was an added attraction to us. The Loco Models, on display are of sophisticated Quality and substantial detailing. A couple of WGs, and a YG included the Steam Fleet of models, accompanied by a WAM Loco. A detailed Topographic Area Model of the township of Chittaranjan, comprises the central show of this museum room. An Electronic Map of India, showing the stages of Railway Construction in the country, at different phases since 1873, is another great addendum, alongside the various photographs of CLW's achievements throughout the tenure of its service till date. A nice collection of CLW's golden memories was shared by four rail fans, that day.
It was 07:30 PM by now. Subhabrata and Samit, were desperate for some shots of the illuminated Work Shops. This time, Sujeet joined us as well, and we headed straight to the Electric Loco Assembly Workshops, where a YAM - 21912 was having a long break, before being declared as a retired unit. While on contrast a brand new WAG - 7 - 27758, was sharing the same ramp to feel the greatness of becoming a dedicated unit soon.
The extravaganza of illumination, creating the most picturesque post cards, the Railways can ever offer. The Locomotives were so realistic to our lives, that it cannot be explained, unless felt on your own. The speculation of the colors is a wonderful experience to share. The Glow Lights, at times made the Locos to smile, while on the other side, shadows created the ghostly environs, making it for an incredible composition, with every ingredients of diversity, fitted just in the perfect places.
Shooting continued till 09:25 PM, throughout the interiors of the Locomotive Life Cycle, and then it was time to call for the day. Sujeet parted off, soon after; while we continued on to have our dinner at the Hotel - Sonali, which we have been hearing about a lot from Samit. It was really a good serve except the Thums Up that had some controversies with it. After a hot dinner of well cooked Chicken and Roti, we moved on to the station. First Class Tickets @ Rs. 277/- per head was booked, which we were suppose to upgrade with the TTE in Mithila Express. Arrival was unexpectedly, dot on schedule @ 23:06 Hrs. We had to rush out towards the Front End for the Air-Conditioned Coaches. We won the race quickly and met the TTE in the AC - II tier. Availability was confirmed in the AC - III Tier, and we boarded in a hurry. Payment of the difference in fare and some requested 'Bakshish' to the Traveling Ticket Clerk, made it a happy environment for a well deserved siesta.
Mithila Express, as renowned, was a super crawler and reached Howrah 1 Hr and 35 minutes past schedule, at 06:15 AM, the next morning. The journey had no events at all, except the dominating population of the cockroaches at every corner of the AC Coaches. These are one of the most hated tetra pods of their genre. But still the vestibules of the coaches had a sticker, mentioning last maintenance of these coaches, carried out, barely a fortnight back.
Dawn at Howrah is always a bit crowded, because of the pre-dominant incoming long distance traffic. We headed straight towards the gateway and parted off for our nests, after a sip over some morning refresher. Samit took a cab, while Subhabrata and Mr. Saha, and myself, we opted for public buses. The Route - 219 took me home by 07:10 AM.
It was a life time experience, traversing through some of the most unearthly territories of Indian Machinery. All credits to Sujeet, for whom we could bring home some of the most treasured memories, of the evergreen Chittaranjan Locomotive Works.
Sincere Thanks to: Samit RoyChoudhury - For being a Wonderful Companion, as always. All the Members of the Eastern Railway Family, who made this day, come true, Subhabrata Chattopadhyay - For his excellent and enthusiastic Company, And sharing his A - 95 Power Shot, to capture some of my Dreams. Mr. Buddhadeb Saha - For his Company and sharing a vast arena of Knowledge regarding the Railways. & Last but never the Least - Mr. Sujeet Mishra - IRSEE - Chittaranjan Locomotive Works.