Growing up with trains in Delhi
by Shashanka Nanda
Delhi has never been in the same league as Bombay or Calcutta when it came to being a 'Railway' city as Delhi's public transport system has been predominantly road based. Despite that, trains have somehow been a constant fixture in all my years growing up in this city and I am taking this opportunity to share some memories of all these years with you.
My earliest memory of trains in Delhi dates back to the time when I was just a 4 year old and we used to live in Ramesh Nagar in West Delhi. Every now and then my grandma used to take me along to visit her sister who lived in Kirti Nagar area and the MG lines to Jaipur used to pass practically through their front yard. I remember those sunny winter afternoons when the grannies used to sit in the lawn shelling peas and knitting sweaters and gossiping about Mrs. Sharma's latest necklace or Mrs. Verma's daughter running away with the milkman. Oblivious of it all I used to be cycling around the lawn in a tricycle stopping and watching in joy awe the magnificent steam trains that passed, and jumping with fright whenever they used to let rip their whistle!
A few years later, my uncle got married into a family that used to live the government flats in the Netaji Nagar area. This development meant numerous journeys in Ring Railway EMU's between Kirti Nagar and Sarojini Nagar. I used to love the fast pick up of the EMUs which used to be clean and shiny then having been introduced a few years back alongside the 1982 Asian Games. Proximity to the Kirti Nagar station also meant that we could take an EMU direct to New Delhi station to catch long distance trains. So my adventures in the GT Express used to be preceded by a fast 30 min EMU ride that used to drop us right inside NDLS. My dad used to then take me to the famous Lassi Wala opposite the Pahar Gunj entrance and only then would father and son think of boarding the train.
In the mid - 80s we moved to our current residence in Janak Puri which wasn't exactly on the railroad map so my travel was mostly by road, even though I used to beg my dad or uncle to stop for a moment on top of the Delhi Cantt. Flyover and let me survey the yard and only when I was satisfied were they allowed to move further.
After Class 5, I joined the senior section of my school at Barakhamba Road, which was a stone's throw away from the Shivaji Bridge station outside NDLS. Many a time, we could hear the horns of trains arriving or departing at NDLS and I used to make mental guesses of what train it could be depending on the time of the day and the sound of the horn. At least in those days you could easily distinct between a WDM2 horn and a WAM4 horn.
As I grew, the subjects got more boring and I preferred bunking school and spending hours at Shivaji Bridge or Tilak Bridge watching the WDMs, the WAMs and the WAPs run endlessely in and out of NDLS while my friends whom I use to tag along used to tear their hear trying to figure out what was so sexy about a diesel smoking up or why on earth an antenna was called something as weird as a pantograph!?!
Many a time, I used to purposely miss the school bus, catch an EMU till Patel Nagar and then trudge a kilometer through the filth to the bus stop and catch a rickety DTC bus home. Money being a scarce commodity then, I used to buy the cheaper 2 rupee anti-clockwise ticket to Patel Nagar, but used to catch the longer clockwise train via Nizamuddin to maximize the bang for the buck. Once or twice a TT did catch me, but I could always claim that I asked the driver it'd go to Patel Nagar and he said yes. so how was I supposed to know if it went this way or that!
Going to college in DTC buses was a mini train-spotting session as we used to pass through the under bridge outside Shakur Basti yard and one could invariably spot a couple of trains waiting for clearance. That was the place, where I saw my first WDP1. I clearly remember it was 15002 in the standard red-cream livery, but what really caught my attention was the now famous 'baldie' short hood. To my untrained eyes, the 'sleek' and sexy loco looked as if it could easily do 200kmph and I really used to watch out for these locos and other baldies WDM2Cs who made an appearance at more or less the same time as the WAP4s!! Those wonder years for me, thinking that the high-speed age was finally dawning on IR with the appearance of these 'aerodynamic' loco. It took a couple of more years of 'growing up' before I started working and moving around the country that I really got to see these magnificent machines in action.
It was the starting of the Internet age and I had barely got my first email ID active. Those days even Google was not around I guess, but I typed Indian Railways Pictures into a search engine and the resultant was a site full of WDM2 pictures by a gentleman called we also know as Diesel King! God only knows how happy I was to learn that I was not the only nut on the planet!! Another few months down the line I formally joined this wonderful place called IRFCA. It's been close to 4 years now that I have been here and as our friend from Badnera once said that all of us love trains as kids, but some of us don't grow up.
Well neither have I. I am close to 26 now and I still fight for the window seat and yes I watch Thomas the Tank Engine too. its much-much better than Kaanta Lagaa....