Satavahana, Warangal, Nellore, WDP-4
by Shashanka Nanda
Get a life, get on the Satavahana: 2002-01-30
I had to go to Chennai on a business trip all of a sudden on Jan 24th, and due to the last moment decision, I could not get confirmed resv. on the Chennai or Charminar Exps. So decided to try an alternate route as suggested by Gautam. I took the 2714 Satavahana Exp from Sec'bad (SC) to Warangal (WL) and the 2622 TN exp. from WL to Chennai (CEN). and believe me people...whatta ride it was..here's the lowdown on it
Being a Thursday the train was relatively empty and I parked my bum on the last II chaircar of this 17 coach rake which is hauled by all sorts of locos ( the train in our ToI pic is the 2714, with a WAM4, Gautam has travelled with a WAG5A ) but in my case it was the usual WAP4 (# 22202) from LGD shed doing duty. I had reached the station well in advance to be able to do a spot of railfanning around the station. Alongisde on PF1, the SC-HWH falaknuma exp. was also standing, waiting to make its run with a lovely green-white strip-red WDM2C baldie from VSKP shed. This livery somehow suits the baldie raher than a regular short hood WDM.
After the Falaknuma left, along came my good ol' buddy the WDP4 (#20008) with the 7054 Chennai Exp. and soon a WDM2C ( of the rebuild variety ) shunted the Narayanadri Exp. on to the PF1. I was surprised as the loco looked like a spanking new loco ( ok..newly rebuilt !!) from Erode !!!! ( the livery ), wondering what an ED loco was doing shunting at SC I rushed to check it out, well it turned out to be a KZJ loco only sporting ED colors. Another WDP4 (#20007) soon whistled down to haul the Narayandri out.
And then my train departed and cruised at 40-50kmph thru LGD & MLY where it was crossed by the passenger coming from repalled being hauled by a GTL WDM2B. And then at Cherlapalli station we overtook a parked BCN/BCNA freight rake being hauled by an MUed combo of a WAG5 and a WAG7 from LGD !!!!! I never knew this was possible. Moving further down we crossed the KZJ-SC MEMU, which all of a sudden halted at the level crossing #T104 to let off some passengers !?! After that we were doing abt 70kmph when a an 18 coach exp. Whizzed by hauled by a WAM4-6P from LGD. Since the destination boards were all in telugu, I couldnt figure out what train was it. At Waryapalli station, I crossed a funny looking freight train being hauled by a GTL WDM2. Funny because I had probably never seen such cars before. It was a 10 car rake without a brake van. The rakes were classed as BOBS and they are used to carry ballast and it seems are meant to replaced those X shaped coaches.
After that the East Coast Exp on its way to HYB crossed my train hauled by a WAM4-6P from BZA. And thats when the fun started....till now we were coasting at about 70-80kmph and I was begining to wonder that how is it that this train manages such a fast scheduled speed. The track to WL from HYB is a continuous stretch of 1:100 grades up and down like a roller coaster. Just before Bhongir, we got all signals go and the WAP4 effortlessly shot till 100kmph and to my surprise it kept accelerating on...and to recheck, I timed the next 2 kms with my stopwatch and it took 67.3 secs to clear the 2 kms, which works out to about 112-114 kmph !!!!! It went beyond that speed and I reckon it touched 120 almost going downhill on a long 1:100 grade, before the driver spotted a near amber and distant red for the Bhongir home signals. Short of space he slammed on the brakes and I could see the sparks fly in the early evening and the magnesium linings on the brakes working hard gave out such a wonderful smell....( well tell u what..I just love that smell)...The driver had to put on so much brake that I could literally see the brake dust flying as we came from 120-0 in less that 2 kms. And believe me I almost felt like kiiling the cabin guy when within 5 secs of coming to a standstill, the signal turned green !!!!
Anyways, the driver took off again and I timed the acceleration of the loco. It took us about 104 secs to reach 100kmph from 0 with 3 uphill 1:100s and I downhill 1:100. The way the loco made mincemeat of the steep grades was a sight to behold.....the wind in my hair...I just wished it'd go on and on and on.....he kept up a steady 100-110 kmph run for about 30-40 kms which like manna from heaven and it lived upto its reputation.
While this run like hell continued...the AP exp on its last leg towards HYB crossed by at 100kmph of its own hauled by a new (red-yellow-black) LGD WAP4 and so was the Krishna Exp. Also I saw numerous and oh so numerous freights to and fro SC-HYB. Most of them were hauled by WAG7s from LGD. There are probably a zillion of these at LGD, plus a couple pf BZA WAG5s and AJNI WAG7s and another from TKD which was hauling a fuel tank rake. The WAG7s are found in various guises these days...the standard blue-white-red which are dime a dozen across the nation. Some of these have been retrofitted with a twin beam sealed headlamp casing instead of the regular single light on top. I have seen some WAG5s and WAM4s also with this fitment. Then u have the newer WAG7s in light blue livery. Some of these had the twin beam lamps fitted on top of the cab but with a short height casing which is sleeker than the normal one, plus there are some which have the twin lamps in a nacelle at waist level.
Another thing I noticed on the way was that most signboards on this strech are now painted black on flourescent green instead of the usual black on yellow.
Anyways, as we slowed down to arrive bang on time at KZJ, I noticed that the electric trip shed at KZJ is really huge...too huge for a trip shed. I dont think SCR will have to work much to setup the new permanent elec shed at KZJ to augment the humongous diesel shed there. Pulling out exactly 2 mins later, the 2714 took 10 mins exact to cover the 10 km to WL arriving exactly on schedule. With a heavy heart I got down...for I have rarely seen such fantastic runs by any IR train. So any day u feel jaded and need a life...get on the satavahana.....take my word, u'll love it
Warangal Station and the TN Express: 2002-01-30
My TN exp for the onward journey to CEN was a good 3 hrs away, giving me plenty of time to beer and a quick meal, beofre it was tiem to head back to the stn. As plenty of trains were expected. The GT express on its way to CEN came in on schedule with a WAP4 (#22258) from ED shed of SR followed by a LGD WAP4 (#22312) hauled godavari exp to VSKP from HYB. Next up was a 25 min late Navjivan exp on its way to ADI (Ahmedabad) from CEN and this too had an ED WAP4 (#27255).
After that the action was limited to a couple of freights going thru WL with the usual retinue of WAG5XXs hauling BCN/BOXN rakes. The locos were mostly from Itarsi, TKD and one WAG from LGD (again!!!).
Bang on time my TN exp arrived behind a WAP4 (# 22254) again from ED and I settled down to take my place. No sooner than it left WL, the WAP was up and running to 100kmph with the seemingly endless 24 car rake behind it. Being tired after a hectic 3 days of nonstop work, plus the 2 hrs+ at the door of the 2714 and the cool Beer and Biryani , the gentle lullaby of the steel wheels hammering the track put me to sleep soon. And when i woke up, I couldnt believe my self...I was just 34 km away from Chennai. never in my life did I sleep so much in a train...well anyways I had a long day ahead of me, so a good sleep was useful. The traffic was pretty thin considering that most trains were either behind me (except the GT and the 7053) or were yet to leave CEN. First out of the blocks was the CEN-HNZM Raj..hauled by a GZB stabled WAP1 ( it had been ages since I saw a WAP1) and the horn sounded like no other locos...a sort of an angry snorting bull or soemthing.
Entering BBQ ( Basin Bridge Jn.) I saw a couple of WAM4s from AJJ/BZA, some WAP4s ED/LGD. pulling into chennai, there was a surprise. The Dadar Exp. was waiting to pull out headed by a WAM4-6P/D in the Saptagiri Exp. livery...any idea how many such locos are there at AJJ ?? and aren't they dedicated to the Saptagiri ??
Anyways...I noticed a few things from this and my previous trips to CEN and NLR:
- No JHS (Jhansi) WAPs come down south anymore...earlier the GT/TN/Kerela all used to be hauled by JHS based WAP4s, but now ED locos have taken over all WAP4 trains out of CEN. Only the SCR trains like charminar and 7053/4, plus the SER trains like HWH mail and coro sometimes get the LGD P4s. Only the Raj gets a GZB WAP 1/5
- Where have all the AJJ WAP 1/4s gone ( BTW..there were WAP1s at AJJ , weren't they ??? ). I havenot seen a single WAP loco from AJJ in last 2 months or so ??? I reckon that they have all transferred to ED, but why ?? Why set up a loco shed to serve a major station like chennai so far away ??? ED is abt 400 km away while AJJ is only 68 km from chennai and I thought AJJ WAS the premier loco shed for SR ?? Any reasons for this ???? BTW can the SBC guys tell me what locos are hauling the Brindavan/Lalbagh/Shatabdi/SBC-CEN exps. and also the SBC mail. I saw the CEN-MYS exp with a AJJ WAM4.
Egmore - Nellore - Egmore: 2002-01-31
On 26th Jan I decided to go to nellore for the weekend as I had some personal work there. Looking at the SR TT, I saw a new train the Chennai Egmore - Jodhpur Exp. Since I had never taken a northbound train outta Egmore and wanted to check the route it took, I decided to jump on it since the schedule also suited me.
Reaching Egmore at 1430 for the train's departure time of 1515hrs, I was totally amazed to see that 2 out of the 3 general coaches upfront were practically empty. So I parked my self on a cool vantage point on the 3rd coach with 4 other people in total in my coach.
Soon the inbound Vaigai Exp steamed in behind a GOC shed WDM2, the loco was soon unhitched and shunted across to the other end to make its return journey to Madurai. Meanwhile I saw a YAM1 hauling a 12 car fueltank rake on the MG lines, plus a funny looking green colored diesel shunting a few other fuel cars in the marshalling yard. Any one know what MG diesel is there in Egmore ??? I'm sure it wasnt a YDM4.
I really didnt know which direction the train took, but I guessed it travelled to Madras Beach - and then somehow get on to the main CEN-BZA though I wasnt quite sure how. But even at 1510 hrs there was no sign of any loco on my end, the beach end, and I couldnt see the Tambaram end of the train from where I was. Since I dint wanna stra from my coach, I rushed back to check my end, but funnily there was no LV plate. Finally at 1600 hrs I saw WAP4 coming in from the beach end, and then I realized that there WAS some problem. After watching the coupling ceremony which lasted some 5-7 mins ( the couple didnt disengage from the loco) I went back to my coach and the train moved at 1610 finally , a full 55 min behind schedule.
It coasted at 15 kmph till madras beach stn. Where it halted for 2 mins. I saw an empty BOXN rake headed by an WAG7 from ajni at beach. Moving northwards from beach we were squeezed into a narrow passage between the port trust walls with only two tracks running thru. One track on which my train was and another mixed guage line with the MG rail in centre. But looking at the condition of it, I doubt if it is used anymore. The mixed track contd. till royapuam sidings and. But on the curves, there were 4 rails on the track with an extra gurad rail provided for the outermost rails, which made a very strange sight.
Then we moved on to Washermanpet...curving out to join the main line to join at Korukkupet Jn. and I finnaly solved this personal mystery. We overtook a pasenger at Tondiarpet and crossed the inbound Navjeevan Exp behind an ED ( see again an ED loco for a northbound train) #22306 WAP4 just before Minjur. At Minjur my train stooped and I guessed right, we were about to be overtaken. Since we were behind schedule we had strayed right into the schedule of the NDLS bound GT exp. And soon an ED WAP4 (#22273) thundered by at 80 kmph with the GT.
Strangely the GT does not carry the parcel van it used to carry earlier. And it is now only a 23 car rake. (12 SL, 4 general, 1 pantry and 6 AC) but on this day it had a speacial SR inspection coach behind it. Looking at its condition and style, it could very well be the GMs coach himself.
The inbound Coromandel Exp. then crossed us again with an ED WAP4 followed by the Gudur Gummidipundi passenger ( 4 cars no brake van) just beyond gummidipundi with a WAM4 from AJJ incharge. The light had fallen and in the distance I saw the waist level lights of a WAP loco. Coming close it was the stationary and well before time WAP5 ( #30004 GZB) hauled Raj headed towards CEN. My train stopped at that station too ( cant remember the name something like D***peta), and the Raj pulled out, I was amazed at the rate it accelerated within the PF only and sadly it again had a Shatabdi gen car at the rear, though it was not in use.
A few WA5/7 hauled freights crossed us when at Gudur station we were greeted by the TVC bound Kerela Exp behind WAP4 (#22358 ED???) and another light WAP4 (LGD) at Manubolu station. Reaching Nellore way behind schedule I arrived at 2010 hrs. I finally managed to get msyelf away from the Marwari's who seem to be the only patrons of this twice a week train.
My return trip was in the Circar Express which I took from Nellore in the early hours of 28th jan and I slept all the way to Chennai, only to spot the usual WAP4s and WAM4s at BBQ and again I saw no JHS or AJJ WAPs, conforming my earlier assumptions made in report 2.
Riding the WDP-4: 2002-01-31
I departed from CEN for HYB on the 29th evening at 2230 hrs in the 6004 HWH mail. Actually since no direct train bein availble to HYB at that hour , I took the mail till NLR and switched over to the 7029 ERS-HYB Sabari Exp.
The 6004 had a LGD WAP4 upfront, on the next PF the Allepey Bokaro Exp was waiting, scheduled to depart at 2240. The loco which brought that in was a cream and maroon ( TATANAGAR livery ) WAM4 from Bhilai loco shed. It had uncoupled itself and had been shut down and interestingly, the loco which was to haul it towards Tatanagar was a AJJ WAM4 !!!! What a funny thing, an SER loco brings and SR train from an Sr territory station. And then an SR loco hauls it out towards an SER territory destination. IR is really really strange
Departing on time...I saw loads of the new high capacity parcel vans ( HCPV) stationed at the siding after the end of PF1 at CEN, the journey till NLR passed quietly as I dozed off after a tiring day, and I arrived there at 0140 hrs. Soon after the 6004 departed the Trichy-HWH Exp. Came in behind another AJJ WAM4, it is an 18 coach train and this too had a HCPV at the end.
Next up was the TVC-Gorakhpur Rapti Sagar Exp behind another AJJ loco classed as WAM4-6PD-E, now what is this 'E' in the end signify. I have seen a couple of WAG5s from BZA with this E suffix hauling expresses and also some WAp4s have an E suffix, any xplanations ????
The hours from 1200-600 are really busy at NLR with virtually non stop passenger traffic in both directions, the CEN bound 7054 Exp from HYB came in with 2 coaches upfront marked Guntur - Chennai , when did this start ??? It had an SCR departmental inspection car at its tail end. Its loco was an LGD WAP4 (#22213). Soon after a BZA WAG5 hauled an 30 coach rake of the NMG coaches, ie. the motor car carrying coaches at about 50 kmph thry NLR headed towards BZA. Each coach was marked as having a carrying capacity of 10 tonnes only.
The CEN bound Circar Exp was next from Kakinada, behind a WAM 4-6PD from AJJ and it was soon followed by the GT exp with an ED WAP4. Again I checked, no parcel van and 23 coaches.
Next up was a train which I would rather rename the "Spawn" Express. Becos it starts life as one train when going out of TPTY, but ends as 4 diff trains, or starts as 4 diff trains but ends as 1 train. this ladies and gentlemen used to be the longest train in India before 24 coaches came in vouge. I'm talking abt the TPTY-VSKP & Kakinada & Narsapur & KZJ bound Tirumala exp. first 2 coaches were marked KZJ-TPTY, next were Kakinada-TPTY coaches, next VSKP-TPTY and finally Narsapur -TPTY coaches totalling 22 in all. this is an entirely vaccum braked train hauled by a BZA WAM 4-6PD.
Then was the TPTY bound Narayanadri Exp from SC behind another LGD WAP4 (#22355). Before my train, the Sabari behind an AJJ WAM 4D-6P (#21240) arrived at 0350 hrs. and here's where the fun started.
Morning came and we had an high speed rendezvous with the CEN bound Pinakini Exp behind an LGD WAP4 just before Tenali Jn. from where my train branched towards Guntur. At Guntur I got off and sacmpered to witness the decoupling and coupling ceremony. By the time I crossed 12 coaches and reached the loco, the WAM4 was already off and running away to the distance and on came the Big Bad WDP4 (#20001). Practically all trains behind the WDP4 from GTR towards SC-HYB run LHF and this was no different. So I asked the driver how diificult was it driving it LHF, he said it was difficult but no options ....and then he said, how do I know all this and why was I asking, and then I gave him a 12 sec xplanation abt me and IRFCA, and he said, do I wanna see inside ???????
Before he finished his sentence I was inside the cab sporting my best cheshire cat grin, and the driver gratefully acknowledged my unsaid request for a footplate.....even though my luggage was lying all in the open in my coach looong back...I was determined not to let anything come in my way.
I stationed myself between the two driver seats in order to aviod being seen by any staff ....so I could see anything to start with...but the trademark blast from a WDP4 horn signalled the starting of the festivities :o)... the builder's plate on the loco read serial # 988713-2 and build date 12/00. Soon we were beyond the Guntur station and crept upto 40 kmph....
For me the horn of the DP4 is like an intoxicant, the more u blow it, the higher I get ;o), but people seem to think otherwise, all along the way, I saw people with their fingers stuffed in their ears the moment the big fella passed them. Infact one poor guy, who was performing his early morning routine in the bushes, literally jumped like a frog out of them when the DP4 blasted past him barely a few feet away. But this loud noise it seems didnt catch the fancy of a kid who threw a rock at the loco sometime back, abd damaged the right quarter glass of the cab, this incident occured a few days back and can be recorded as the first accident the WDP4 met :o) heheheheh
We had accelerated to 70 kmph now, the acceleration is smooth, just like an electric loco, there is no transition as in a WDM2. It may not be in the WAP4 class, but certainly it accelerated almost like a WAM4, we had an 18 car rake behind us. We did about 10 km at abt 70kmph and abt 90 kmph, when we had to haul down to zero and halt a signal.
Here's a note abt driving LHF on the DP4. Earlier I had mentioned that driving it LHF is like driving blindfolded at night, but for the asst, driver, who sits on the right, its like driving blindfolded at night and that too blindfolded. Apart from the never ending long hood, he faces the trapezoidal obstruction of the radiatior housing as well as another oblong projection jutting out of the hood around the centre of it. This is not present on the driver's side. This means that the driver actually sights all signals and sign boards himself and calls them out to the asst. Who then fights really hard to search for the oncoming signal/signboard in question and finally acknowldeges it. On a curve banking to the left, he may actually miss it even. Similarly for the gradient markers placed on the right, the driver ends up missing them altogether. So all in all it makes for a challenging job for the crew, who enjoy it, simply becos, driving the loco otherwise is ridiculously easy. It seem like driving a loco in MSTS, but i'm sure its much much tougher. Hats off the the drivers for taming such an uncontrollable thing.
Along the way, we passed quite a few passengers and freights. At Naloginda I got down, thanking the driver profusely and scampered down to my coach, thankfully my stuff was untouched. Hitting the main KZJ-HYB line just before Bibinagar, I encountered the WAM4/6P BZA hauled Golconda Exp. and just before Ghatkesar, on along downhill 1:100 I saw the Sabari's opposite number rushing on full song towards me. A WDP4 at full throtle probably gives less smoke than a WDM2 at idle. It approached us blowing short toots from its horn and 90kmph, and when it was just 10m away, the driver unleashed a loooooooong blast and rushed past me. When it was gone, I realized I was practically deaf, with the blast still stinging in my ears...we touched a max of 100kmph just about then...and thundered into MLY (Maula Ali).
In the MLY marshalling yard, I saw a lot of condemned coaches, spare rakes, and also lots of metre guage sleeper class coaches, with the bogies removed and shells mounted on BG flat car rakes. Probably for transfer to some other divn. as MG is soon gonna vanish from SC. I also saw a huge 66 tonne crane with BIG BEN emblazoned on it all over.
We arrived into SC 20 mins late, and I saw a VSKP WDM2C baldie refuelling itself for the Falaknuma run. Also present were WDP1s 15059 and 15067 along with big brothers 20008 and 20003 WDP4s. Pulling out of SC, I had an uniterrupted run to HYB, briniging to end a tiring but magical experience. Something I'll never forget.
As I sign off this report, I see a WDP4 running LHF just under my window, rounding the necklace road along the Hussain Sagar Lake. The sun is rising over HYB as the 7053 exp from Chennai completes its last few kms run. Have great day