South trip report

2004-05-01

by Shyam A.R.

Last week I had gone on a trip down south covering Rameswaram, Karaikkudi and Madurai. I have composed all my IR observations and written a trip report in parts. This is the first part of it. I hope I would have your comments.

Tambaram-Rameswaram by 6713 Sethu Express: May 1, 2004

It was a bright sunny morning as I woke up on the 1st of May, and the only thing that occupied my mind then was the trip on an MG train lasting around 18 hours!! It was going to be the longest trip for me on any MG train, and I certainly looked forward to it like any good IRFCAN:)))

We reached Tambaram (TBM) around 12 noon, leaving me with plenty of time for some local trainspotting, as 6713 departed only at 1300. I had loaded my camera in anticipation of some good rail photos, my first such expiriment. I had planned on catching two main things at TBM: the old YCG-1 which had been plinthed at the entrance of TBM, and the WAP4 hauled 2635 Vaigai Express bound for Madurai (MDU), which was scheduled to arrive at 1250. After dumping all luggage in my coach, I set off seeking my targets. However, I was in for a disappointment. The YCG1 was no longer to be seen anywhere!!! I searched and searched, but to no avail. What a nice start indeed!! However, no disappointment would last for anyone, when they had something like the WAP4 to look forward to! Same with me, for the WAP4, which is incidentally my favourite machine, has never ceased to amaze me. What a beast!!!! Amazing, Amazing, and of course, so macho looking!

I made my way back into the station, only to see a coal freighter hauled by a WAG7 paasing through TBM towards Chengalpet (CGL). I could not see the number, which I knew would be of use to our veteran Rabibrata:))). Anyway, I told myself I would catch the loco before Villupuram (VM), as that was the last of electric territory on this route. I then positioned myself on the foot overbridge, facing the Sanatorium (It should be Sanitarium, actually) end of the station, waiting for the beast, which was expected to arrive at 1250. However, I thought things would be a bit too close, as Vaigai did not arrive till 1255 and my train was leaving in 5 min!! I rushed back to my train, getting a nice scolding from my worried parents:)). As soon as I occupied my window seat (lucky, am I not ;)))), I looked toward platform 8, and what did I see, but the number 22381!! It was a WAP4, no doubt with the Vaigai!! I knew that since 2635 was late by 10 odd min, it would certainly overtake us!!! A BG electric overtaking a puny MG electric!! What a scene it would make.....

Anyway, 6713 left at 1300 sharp, led by the puny little 21914 YAM1 of TBM (where else:)) with a small 14 coach load (1 FC, 1 2A, 2 SLR, 2 II, and 8 SL coaches). We pulled out of TBM and I looked back, only to see the WAP4 led 2635 following us!! My guess was right!! I promptly left my seat and made my way to the door, and saw the incredible pull of the P4. It came bearing upon our tiny rake (in comparison!!). The 22381 ED WAP4 had a load of 16 coaches (2 SLR, 2 II (unre.), 1 2A chair car, 1 CC, and 10 Second sitting coaches). Needless to say, Vaigai overtook us, though at a slow pace. There were four people in the P4 cab (2 in each). Any training session or what?

By then the YAM1 decided to show what a fine fellow he was, saying that two people can play ball. He aggresively notched up, touching 72 kmph in no time. Alas, 75kmph was the MPS for the MG rake, and so the BG brute won the race. I was constantly looking out of my window, and could see the Vaigai ahead. So he was not going very fast either. 6713 was maintaining a constant 72 kmph, and what happened? At Urapakkam, we overtook Vaigai!!! It was held up at a red signal (no doubt due to the WAG7 freighter that had gone ahead). I mumbled my thanks to the WAG7, as I was witnessing a keen tussle between the lil one YAM1 and the big big WAP4!! 6713 maintained the speed constant and things were quiet for a while. After sometime, I grew restless...where was Vaigai? And I could look ahead only, in the direction of motion, or had to turn my neck to see behind. So, I told my sister to tell me if the 'perisu' (meaning big one) came from behind, as she faced the back of the train. No sooner had I finished telling this, I heard the typical whining of the WAP4 motors, and sure enough, he came from behind. Sounding a long burst of the horn, the Vaigai majestically pulled past us, doing around 90 kmph and accelerating!!! What a sight!! Soon, he went ahead, no more to be seen. Soon we reached Chengalpattu (CGL) at 1335, 5 min before time. On the way, some further sightings:

  • 23771 WAG 5 hauled NMG rake passed us towards TBM (AJJ I think)
  • 27126 WAG 7 of AJNI was the coal freighter (which caused the magnificent race!!)

Some spottings at CGL:

  • 2040 YDM 2 (????) coupled to TPJ CGL Pass.
  • 21920 YAM 1 was being coupled to an oil tanker rake (with lot of hammering)
  • A UNIMAT machine made by Plasser India

We pulled out of CGL and hardly 5 min had passed, i.e. at 1350, when I heard a WAP 4 sound. This time it was the 2636 MDU MS Vaigai (very very late). The power was 22244 from ED. Soon we were back doing 72kmph, but then had to slow to around 60 kmph, reaching Madurantakam (MMK) at 1420 (10 min late), Melmaruvathur (MLMR) at 1440 (10 min late), Tindivanam (TMV) 1520 (20 min late)

Till then there was absloutely absolutely no activity on the BG line, making me wonder whether this line was really the highest passenger revenue generator for SR!!! Everything seemed so sleepy....Except one incident after Melmaruvathur, when our chief decided to race a public transport bus going our direction on the parallel NH 45. For some time the bus seemed to win, but not till YAM1 showed what an electric loco is capable of. Soon, we easily pulled past and were tearing down the tracks (in MG terms), until a speed restriction cropped up suddenly.:((The bus obviously made off, much to my chagrin. I always hate it when a bus overtakes a train:)) (even if I am travelling in the bus!!).

Only at 1525 (just outside TMV) did I see another train on the BG line. This time it was the Pondicherry-Tirupati (TPTY) pass. led by 18699-R WDM2 of GOC. Another thing I observed: at KM 133 from MS (or MSB??) is a neutral section. Also another such section just outside TBM towards Vandalur (so is that a neutral section every 100 km or so??). Soon, we pulled into a loop line (KM 135) to let the YAM1 21922 hauled 6854 Cholan Express bound for TBM cross. As we aproached VM, the BG line seemed to wake up a bit, as two trains passed in quick succession: 18362 GOC WDM2A led the Trichy(TPJ)-TPTY special, and the 22232 ED WAP4 with the Pondy-MS passenger (this I presume would have been the loco for the 2631 Nellai that night). We reached VM at 1630 (5 min late-slack time??).

Some sightings here:

  • 18694-R GOC WDM 2-I would be seeing this chap in a few days' time.
  • 21919 YAM 1
  • 22381 ED WAP4 (of Vaigai fame) (it was WAP4's day out in MS-VM, for I did not see a single WAM4 that day)
  • 6139 YDM 4A
  • 18597 GOC WDM 2A (14 days schedule loco)
  • 6138 YDM 4 (All YDMs here belong to GOC)

Our diesel power was to be 6133 YDM 4A SHF. So, after some 7 years was I travelling by a MG diesel....wasn't I looking forward to it!! We pulled out of VM at 1645 and just as the tracks to TPJ and Cuddalore (CUPJ) diverge, an ED WDM2 18537 went past towards VM with a goods rake...the first ED diesel of the day.....and of course the last, for I was entering fully MG territory. The diesel (YDM4) put up a decent show, though he couldn't match the YAM1 due to many speed restrictions. One thing I observed was the slower pickup, which even my sister noticed...We passed through a station called Thiruppadrippuliyur, whose code is CUD!!!!! Another of IR's sense of humour at work, isn't it? 6713

Schedule:

  • Cuddalore Port Junction (CUPJ) 1805 (25 min late)
  • Chidambaram (CDM) 1915 (45 min late)
  • Mayiladuthurai Jn. (MV) 2010 (40 min late)

Some sightings on the way: 6149 YDM 4A, 6225 YDM 4 at CUPJ; 6531 YDM 4 at MV.

At MV, I saw the rake of the 6854 Kumbakonam-Tamabaram Cholan Exp. It had one coach labelled SC!! An orphan SCR coach, with no way to make it back to its parent zone, as all the routes linking SR and SCR are now BG!!!

We crossed Thiruvarur Jn. at 2130 (50 min late), where I saw 6137 YDM4. After Tiruvarur, I decided to hit the sack partly because the journey had become a bit dull and also I wanted to wake up early to catch the last leg to Rameswaram (RMM). However, like Naren said in his report, I can't sleep much on a train, and I woke up at 2200. The train had stopped somewhere. Suddenly, I saw a huge flare next to my coach. Looking out, I saw a person standing in a seperate enclosure holding a long burning stick on one hand and a token on the other....a token pass!!! My first such experience, that too in the dark! I suppose the flare was to signal the location of the token to the passing train. Soon a pass. train led by 6277 YDM4 came on that line (which incidentally was the loop line, so low speed), and the token was exchanged. The burning stick was stuck into a hole next to the enclosure and the flame promptly got doused. The fellow then calmly walked to the SM, who turned some machine in his office which gave him a token, which he tied up in the key and gave to our loco pilot. Only then did out train start....such a laidback and slow approach!!!! I could not help comparing the system in newer block sections and this one.....dating back some (50???) years.

Another break from sleep: Thiruthuraipoondi Jn. (from where a line branches off to Vedaranyam)... I saw a board on the pf saying MG Railbus....is there such a service here....from where to where??

We reached Ramanathapuram (RMD) at 0530 (40 min late). I woke up here, and after the customary morning kapeeee....kapeee, chaaya...chaaya here, I was back to business. 6713 maintained a constant speed of around 50 kmph and we were passing through lush (and I mean lush) scenery. For it was raining and all around I could see only green. I positioned myself at the door and could see all green mixed occasionally with black (from the loco:))). No people around, no villages, only green land, dotted with windmills and a lonely parallel NH 49 to keep company here. The train had mostly emptied at RMD. Amongst all of these was our loco blowing it's two tones regularly (apart from W/L sign locations)...he kept up the rhythm oooooooo-oo, oooooooo-oo. What a wonderful noise, that too early in the morning!!! Contrast this with the silent performance of the YAM1!!! Soon, after crossing Mandapam station, we reached the high point of this route.....the Pamban bridge. Labelled Pamban Viaduct in railway parlance, the train slowly chugs on the bridge with the customary ta dan-ta dan, of any bridge, except that this bridge is right on the sea!! I could see the horizon on the Palk Strait on one side, and the road bridge above us on the other side....what a wonderful sight!!! Soon, we passed through the part wich opens to let ships pass and then we reached Rameswaram island....25 min on the bridge. We passed through Pamban R.S. which was still sleepy and went 15 km to reach RMM at 0645 (5 min before time!!!). Quite a lot of slack time between RMD and RMM (1hr 55 min for a dist. of 45 km).

I had to get down here:(((as this was the last stop. However, I was happy that I had travelled on an MG line which along with the Pamban bridge would become BG, resulting in either modifying the present bridge or building a new one.....I would recommend this trip for all railfans, especially the early morning bridge crossing by Sethu exp....a really wonderful experience indeed!!!

My return trip by Sethu till Karaikkudi and by Pandyan from Madurai to home will form the next parts of this report.

Around Rameswaram (RMM) and the lost line to Danushkodi: Date May 3, 2004

This is in continuation of my earlier trip report on the Sethu express. At Rameswaram, I wanted to visit Danushkodi, which once used to be the farthest point for IR down south. The famous Boat Mail used to arrive at this station, next which used to be a pier from where ferry boats to Sri Lanka used to ply. In 1965(or 64??), a severe storm wiped out Danushkodi entirely. That was the end to the railway at this point.

From Rameswaram, I travelled along the NH49 to Danushkodi. There have been some photos of rail tracks hidden under the sand on this route, and I wanted to locate them. The highway is very smooth and has very gentle grades, so much so that I began to wonder whether it really a newly designed highway. For I suspected that the road with it's gentle grades resembled a railway line, and this was further confirmed when I learnt that a railway track used to exist here. Soon we reached the end of NH49, but Danushkodi was still 5km away. The place was in the middle of nowhere, surrounder by the sea on both sides and only a few huts here and there. Also, there was heavy rain, making the sea look ferocious. But the main purpose of my trip down here was to go to Danushkodi and if possible, locate the railway station that once existed there. So, we got into a van that made it's way along the beach (yes, right on the sands!!) and sometimes in the water itself!!! The old highway and the railway line had been completely destroyed, I was told.

Ultimately, we reached what was once a thriving sea port, with regular trading with Sri Lanka, i.e. Danushkodi. The place looks absolutely absolutely beautiful, surrounded on two sides by the sea, the narrow strip of land ending at what used to be a port. Alas, today there remains only a few ramshackle huts, in which the survivors live, surrounded by the ruins. I set out to find the railway station ruins, if at all they still existed. But I could not locate it, but saw only the reamins of a school, a passport office, and a water tank (possibly for railway use???).

I sought out a local, an old person, who was around when the town existed. He said that the railway station used to start at the spot my van was standing and extend till the very end of the strip of land. My van was standing on the remains of an old road, so my guess was right, that the current road has been built on the old railway alignment. However, all the station buildings had been destroyed completely, he said. The old town had come up, with the railway station at the centre. This I could attest to, as all the ruins I saw were located around the area the station used to occupy. So, the station was the mainstay of the town. The person also said that daily, there used to be six trains arriving and six departing, giving me an impression of a busy station. So it should have had a yard and at least 3 platforms. Though the area which he said was the 'railway plot' was large, nothing remains of the station. What a pity indeed!! The thought of a once busy town, served mainly by a railway line (belonging to South Indian Railway??) and continuous arrival and departure of steam hauled MG trains, with all their accompaniments, getting completely destroyed due to a single storm depressed me. The whole place, though very beautiful especially in the rainy backdrop, has a strong feeling of nostalgia to it. I could but only marvel at the skill of the railway engineers of yore, who had designed and constructed a bridge across the sea and an MG line over the shifting sands of Rameswaram island till this tip of land called Danushkodi, right next to the pier, so that trade was facilitated. How wonderful it would be if the old railway could be brought back into existence!! (It seems SR has a plan to contruct a line to Danushkodi, though I have no idea of when it will be done).

I returned back to the raod by the van, constantly looking out for the now disused railway tracks. I spotted it halfway to RMM, right next to the highway, a small stretch of MG tracks, half submerged in sand. If I recall correctly, there were some photos of these very tracks (by ISA??) in our picture gallery. Are they still around? No wonder the highway had so gentle grades. I remember, after seeing these tracks, the highway took a sudden turn towards RMM then there were quite a few steep grades. It was consistent with my knowledge that the line to Danushkodi did not pass through RMM, which got confirmed later (next part of the report).

I returned to my hotel, wishing that Danushkodi would soon regain it's old importance and more importantly (to me:))) it's lost railway connection.

Rameswaram-Karaikkudi Jn. by 6714 Sethu Express: May 3, 2004.

After visiting Danushkodi, I wanted to locate the place where the line to Danushkodi split from the line to RMM. I was to board the Sethu Express to go to Karaikkudi, which departed from RMM at 1510. The station is quaint and has an old world charm about it. There are three platforms, of wich only 2 and 3 are in use. I saw 2 YDM4s at RMM: 6138 and 6312, one of them for the RMM-MDU pass. On this train, I saw a coach labelled R6885/Y. What does the 'R' stand for? Rebuilt coach????

The Sethu rake was shunted on platform 2 by 6349 GOC YDM4, LHF. This was the loco allocated to Sethu for the day. We occupied our seats in the II (unre.) coaches. This was the first time I was travelling by an unreserved coach, and it turned out to be a good experience. First of all, there was no crowd at all in both the coaches!!! We had a full cabin to ourselves, and the whole coach had around 20 people. We decided not convert our tickets into sleeper ones, as this coach was good enough. The coach was clean and well maintained, and anyway the train started. With a short blast, the YDM4 started puffing away and soon, we were off!! I again positioned myself at the door hoping to catch sight of the lost line to Danushkodi. 6714 soon picked up speed and we quickly reached Pamban, the station just before the viaduct. Till then I had doubts about one place, where I thought I saw tracks, but dismissed it as imagination.

We arrived at Pamban around 1530, and the train pulled to a stop. I wondered what the matter was, as Sethu did not halt at Pamban. Looking at the loop line, I saw the signal at proceed. A crossing! What train, I wondered. I was feeling bored and was looking out the door, when I observed a small culvert next the one under our track. This culvert did not have any track, but was covered with sand and was wide enough to fit a single MG line. My curiosity was aroused, and I got down and went to the culvert, but could not see any track. Looking around, I saw some metallic bridge beams placed directly aligned to the culvert some distance away, toward the viaduct end of the station. As I walked toward these beams, I found some tracks!!!! These were below the beams, and were normal railway track, MG, fixed to sleepers and not discarded rails!!! Here was a railway track not being used and is submerged by sand!!! Also, it was directly aligned with the culvert, so they had to pass on it. The culvert was indeed a for railway track!!!! I looked around for someone to ask about it, but found no one. I returned to my coach and saw that the SLR coach was two cars behind me. I decided to ask the guard himself.

And what did he say.....the tracks were indeed for Danushkodi and they diverged from Pamban R.S. itself!!!! The signal posts of Pamban R.S. towards RMM once used to additionally contain a signal post for the Danushkodi line!!! So, the line to Danushkodi split from the line to RMM at Pamban and proceed directly following the alignement of the current NH49. Mission accomplished!!!

I wanted to ask more questions to the guard as he seemed to be the talking type, but right then came the 90 min late 6701 TBM-RMM Express on the loop line hauled by 6132 YDM4 and he had to do the customary flag waving, and then our train left. Anyway, I had suceeded in locating the lost Danushkodi line and I sat back to enjoy the Pamban bridge again. The train crossed the bridge and passed through the same places I had described in my earlier report, but was held up at Paramkkudi to let a 6039 YDM4 led train cross. We passed through Ramanathapuram, Manamadurai Jn. and reached KKDI around 2030, almost an hour late.

One thing I would like to mention here: the unreserved coach I took had little crowd till Manamadurai, but even then people sat only one person per seat, i.e. 8 people per cabin only, as specified by the seat numbers. I shudder to think how things would be in an unreserved coach in states like Bihar, where even sleeper coaches are filled to capacity!!! So this was really no experience in unreserved travelling, I suppose:)))

Madurai Junction Observations: May 5,6 2004

Madurai Junction (MDU) is one of the most important junctions in this area, being a seperate division of SR. At this junction, 4 lines converge, from Chennai, Bodinayakkanur, Nagercoil, and Rameswaram. Of these, two are BG (Nagercoil and Chennai) and 3 MG (RMM, Bodi and Dindigul(DG)-an MG line runs parallel to the MS bound BG till here). Such a station is bound to have quite a lot of action (though nowhere to the scale of say MAS, ET or BZA), all diesels. One thing I was looking forward to was the diesel action. In Chennai, one does not get to see diesels much as it is electric territory. At least in places like SBC or ERS, one can see both types of locos on an equal scale. But in my city this is not the case....hence electrics are my favourite anyday. Of course, a train is a train, be it electric, diesel, BG or MG. So I was looking forward to catching some action at MDU.

Firstly, I had a stroke of luck. My hotel was located bang opposite the station. So I could pop in any time I pleased. This is what I did on Wednesday. It was around 1800 and I went in. The fist thing I saw was the announcement board announcing the arrival of 2641 Thirukkural Express. Well, this was a train I had not seen till now, so I had no idea of it's rake composition or power. So I settled down to wait. Meanwhile I saw a long VB rake in one of the non pf lines. I thought it must be one of those crawlers to some insignificant place. So I did not bother much about it. Meanwhile, it was sharp 1820, and I heard the horn of 2641. It was bang on time (till MDU:))). Soon, it came on pf 1 with 18485 ED WDM2. It was a 17 coach rake (2 SLR, 8 SL, 1 PC, 1 2A, 1 3A, and 4 II). I noticed that it was a TVC division train. Any idea with which does 2641 share its rake?? Soon this train left and there were not many other trains around for at least 3 more hours. So I decided to call it a day and return the next day.

In the meantime, I saw a shunter WDS6 36013. This loco belonged to ED. There was some question about the home sheds for shunters in the south in the discussion board, and the answer given then was TNP (tondiarpet) and SBC (Bangalore City). Well, ED too seems to be one such shed.

The next afternoon, I returned back to MDU (where else ;))). This time I saw that the 6127 MS-Guruvayur Koodal Express was scheduled to arrive shortly. I wanted to get some pics of this as I knew it's power would be a GOC WDP2. So I positioned myself on a road-over-bridge just outside the station, lying in wait for this beast. In the bargain, I got a lot of bemused looks from passer-by, as I was standing on this bridge under the hot sun with a camera in hand:))). Quite a scene I suppose!!! 6127 arrived at 1550, 30 min late. I could make out the loco to be a GOC WDP2 15534. After 10 min, I thought the train would move, but after the flag waving, it continued to remain at a stop. This happened a couple of times: the loco pilot (asst.) and the guard, and the SM would wave the greens, but the train did not move at all!!! The WPD2 chief sounded both his horns quite long, in frustration, I suppose. But it was music to ears!!!! The signals out of MDU turned from red-amber-green-amber-red-amber-green(variety is it not???)!!!! At last, the train left at 1640 (1 hr 10 min late!!!). I could not note the rake composition except that it was a 15 coach rake consisting of SLR, SL, II and 3A.

This train having departed (though with utmost reluctance:)))), I entered the station hoping to see more. All was silent for sometime, with the sun beating down, making me feel drowsy (most people on the pfs seemed to be sleeping:))). But it was not to be for long. A long oil tanker train came into the station from the Dindigul side hauled by 17711 WDM 2 of GOC. This came to a stop on pf2. I then decided to explore all the pfs, and came across 6516 YDM4 and the empty rake of the MDU-DG pass. One thing I observed here, till now I did not notice this: the pass. rake (MG) did not have side buffers. So are they CBC coupled? Is that for all MG trains??? Then I saw an AV (dual: AB and VB) coach. It was an inspection coach (I think for it had observation windows at it's rear). Here is what I observed:

  • Coach built in 1972 (AV then or modified later??? We did not have AB then right??)
  • Fit to run at 100 kmph.
  • It had 3 pipes at it's end besides the coupler itself (so seperate pipes for AB and VB)I forgot to note the coach number!!!!

I made my way back to pf 1, when I heard a train approaching. It was a dual headed goods!!! It was a loaded 40 wagon BCNA rake, with the powers of ED WDG2s 14640 and 14741. My fisrt sighting of a WDG2!!! This train halted here for 5 min and then departed. I resumed my wandering and arrived at the stabling lines for the Pandyan and Vaigai expresses. The line for Vaigai was empty; only the Pandyan was locked up. I had a good look at the train I was going to travel in that night. Near the rake was a dead ED WDS6 36011. Walking back to pf 1, I passed by the MG lines, and what did I see? The heritage steam engine YG 3358!!!!! It was nestled in between two coaches and was still bright and shiny!!! It made a wonderful sight, looking so majestic:))). A steam loco is the best looking loco of all, in my opinion. The following was inscribed on the a plate on the loco:

  • Loco Inpector: W.A. Woolridge
  • Driver: D. Devaraj
  • 1st Fire Man: K. Munisamy
  • 2nd Fire Man: K. Venkatraju

It was 1735 and ED WDG2 14692 hauling the long VB rake I had seen yesterday stopped on pf 1. So this one was bound for some place...I resolved to find out. Soon after the oil tanker left. By now it had started to rain slightly, so I scurried back under the pf shelter. Feeling the need for a cuppa, I had some tea from Planet Yumm, the food mall on pf1. Then I set about to find the whereabouts of this mysterious VB rake. I call it mysterious because it had not a single name board. And all it's coaches were from different zones!!! An truly assorted rake it was!! Also, many coaches had been transferred from SCR, and I could see the old SC markings besides the newer zone markings....quite a shoddy paint job. And surprise surprise!! It had a 3A coach!!! A VB train witha 3A?? You are right, the 3A was an AV (AB and VB)coach belonging so SR. It's power was ED WDM3A 14127. These quilities of this mysterious rake attracted me more and I walked its entire length and noted it's composition-19 coaches pretty long huh??(old zone if any in brackets): WCR SLR, SW II, SECR II, WCR II, WCR II, SR 3A (97102/AV), SW SL, SWR SL, SWR SL, SWR SL, WCR SL, CR SL, SC SL, WCR SL (SC), WCR SL (SC), CR SL (SC), CR SL (SC), CR II (SC), CR SLR

This would deifinitely win any variety contest!!!! What a rake!!! So any guesses as to what train it is? Well, there no boards, or charts on the rake, none whatsoever. The information board at the entrance was mute about this train. After some time, there was an announcement that the MDU-MS summer special would leave from pf 1 at 1915. So, this mysterious train was bound to MS of all places!!!! Wonder why SR could not find a better rake. But one thing I must mention here: inspite of it's weird characteristics, one could not call the rake dirty. It was quite decent looking as far as cleanliness was concerned (though I don't know about the interiors). One more thing: this train would get overtaken by Pandyan and Nellai during the course of it's journey.

This mystery having been resolved, I resolved to leave as it was getting late for me (I had to pack and board Pandyan at 2030). However, the 6788 (Jammu Tawi) JAT-MDU express arrived on pf2 then, and I went to have a look at it. The train, having arrived at 1755 was only 25 min late. Rake composition: 1 II, 1 2A, 4 SL, AND 1 SLR. Power was GTL WDM 2A 17175 (where did a GTL loco come in from????). I have a confusion about this train. This starts from JAT as the JAT-MAQ-CAPE/MDU Himsagar express, but the TT does not show the CAPE part of the train? Where does the train split 3 times and what would be the route it takes? Also, if the 7 coaches that arrived at MDU was just a third of this train, then just how long is the full rake, and what is it's composition? Lastly, what is the Navyug express....one part of this train? Someone please clarify.

Anyway, after this, I left the station and returned to board Pandyan.

Madurai-Mambalam by 2638 Pandyan Express: May 6, 2004

This is the final part of the reports of my south tour. This is about my return back home to Chennai by the Pandyan from MDU till Mambalam (MBM).

Pandyan was scheduled to depart from MDU on time at 2030. I reached MDU an hour before itself, for two reasons. One was some last minute trainspotting and also I wanted to refuel at Planet Yumm, which I hoped served quite decent stuff, and I was not let down. The veg. noodles I had was tasty and hot. One mention: IRCTC is really doing a great job, especially setting up food malls all over. I can recall food malls in MAS, MS and MDU (now), and read about the one in NGP and ALD(??). Where else have these been established? How are these? This is vital information for railfans, for railfanning is quite a hunger inducing job, in my experience. Why don't we have a list of such good refreshments (apart from the IRCTC establishments) so that rail fans may perform to their optimum in areas new to them (I myself have planned a trip to NDLS, so such info would definitely be vital to me:)))). I would, for one, recommend Itarsi (ET) and Vijayawada (BZA) as good places to refuel.

Anyway, back on rails, i.e. of Pandyan!! After my supper, I hoped to catch sight of Vaigai, which arrived at 2015. Unfortunately, Vaigai was an hour and twenty min late!!!!!! Something very very wrong!!!! One good thing (though it served no purpose) was the announcement expressing regret for the late running of Vaigai. Till now I had not heard anything like that in Chennai, but after Apurva's post of his trip to NGP, I suppose it's pretty common. But then it did come as a surprise.

Anyway, the Pandyan rake had been unlocked and people started boarding. I noted the coach composition (23 coaches): 1 SLR, 1 II, 1 1A (yes 1 full 1A, H1), 1 2A, 3 3A, 1 F1, 1 EX 1 (any idea what this is???? this was an SL coach though), 13 SL (1 Tatkal), 1 II

Power: twin GOC WDM2s 17835 Jumbo trailing, and R 18694 SHF leading

Well well, so were getting twin powers!!! Good wasn't it? If you recall, I had met 18694R previously at VM (Villupuram). So my second meeting with this chap in a week. Maybe he's a regular on Pandyan.

Before we left, the RMM-MDU pass. arrived with 6312 YDM4. Then, it was starters for us!! Without much ado, creating no noise (I mean the horn), 2638 slowly crept out of MDU accompanied by frenzied waving from the people on the pf to others who were visiting MDU for the summer vacation. We cleared the station outer, and soon crossed the Vaigai river and slwoly picked up speed. Actually, it wasn't so slow as we had twin diesels, but I still feel the loco pilots weren't pushing the throttle fully. For the pickup was somewhere between that of a regulat WDM2 and a YAM-1. Maybe they were taking it easy on the locos or I judged it wrong:)))). Soon, we reached 90 kmph (at last!!! especially after travelling MG, this seemed like going supersonic!!!). We kept a steady clip at 90 and I was straining in the dark to spot the MG line (where they cross the BG). At 2055, we slowed down into a loop for a goods crossing, but then it was actually Sholavandan station. I was looking out for the (very) late running Vaigai, which should cross us somewhere before Dindigul (DG). This ultimately happened at Vadipatti, where the Vaigai was held on a loop and we sped past at the same 90. I could not note the loco shed and number details due to the speed and darkness though it certainly was a single WDM2 (maybe 2A). I saw an MG pass. hauled by 6138 YDM4 at Kodai road. Now this is one station which indicates its British Raj history. The old station building (for MG) resembles the old world type of roof and construction. A nice sight.

2638 schedule:

  • Kodaikanal Road (KQN) 2120 (8 min late)
  • Ambathurai (ABI) 2140 (8 min late)
  • Dindigul (DG) 2155 (10 min late)
  • Manaparai (MPA) 2250 (8 min late)

After DG, I went to sleep. I had a middle berth and had to content myself by listening to the train's sounds. However, there were not many, except the occasional run over joints. The run was very smooth and quite silent. Also the locos seemed to too silent (for me!!!), or maybe because I could not hear them (my coach was the 14 from the locos). Anyway, compared to the MG lines I travelled the past week, this appeared as though one had pressed the mute button on a TV remote. What noise did the MG tracks make!!!! Is is because of lesser maintainance priority by SR? Anyway, I fell asleep quite easily, though I was a bit restless. I woke up slightly at 2250, and again at Tiruchirapalli (TPJ). We reached TPJ on the dot at 2315. Here I saw the empty sleeping rake of the MS-TPJ Pallavan express, to which was coupled GOC WDM2 18866, most likely the loco that brought it to TPJ that evening. On leaving TPJ, I saw the 6121 MS-CAPE express on a far side platform, which till then was hidden by the Pallavan rake. 6121 was 20 min late (maybe it had been detained to let Pandyan cross, instead of stopping somewhere outside TPJ). We crossed the Cauvery silently (not that it had much water:)))) and halted at Srirangam at 2340. Now I don't think that is a stop. Maybe it was a crossing for MS-Tuticorin Pearl City???

After Srirangam, I simply could not keep my eyes open, and succumbed to sleep. This time it was more long lasting. I woke up only at 0400. In between, I just recall stopping at someplace to let a loud long horning train at a great speed cross us (maybe Pearl City or MS-TVC Ananthapuri). Anyway, at 0400, we had reached Chengalpattu (CGL). I got up and posted myself at the door. I had actually wanted to awake at VM itself to catch the loco change to a WAP4, but well sleep was too irresistible!!! It was raining again, but I still stood at the door. We soon picked up speed outside CGL and well, we know of the WAP4's brute power:))) What to say??? Easily doing 90+ (maybe 100+ - I could not time due to darkness), we reached TBM on the dot at 0430. Before TBM, I walked through the vestibule to reach the 1st coach so that I could catch the loco number. After I reached S1(2nd from loco), I heard some music.....what else, the great twin tones!!!! And the chief was quite liberal with it.....after a silent night with diesels this was indeed an great performance with many encores!!! At TBM, I saw the loco: ED WAP4 22220 (one more 2 would have been nice:)))).

After TBM, I hoped to witness some nice high speed action in the suburbs, but that was not to be. I suppose some EMU was ahead of us, and all we got was proceed at cautions:((((Result: 45-50 kmph only with a halt at St. Thomas Mount for 5 min!!!! We reached MBM only at 0525 (25 min late). Here I detrained and left the station for home sweet home.....last sighting: the low beam of another WAP4 waiting at MBM outer (2632 Nellai I suppose). But I could not wait and watch for that and had to go home.........to write this series of reports and print and upload my photos........ and get your reviews and comments:)))))

Thanx for the (very) patient reading:))))))))))

Material provided by Shyam A.R., Copyright © 2003.
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