MAS-TRT by Sapthagiri
by Shyam A.R.
My friend and myself had planned for a trip to the hill temple at Tiruttani (TRT) and we decided to go on thursday. TRT being connected by rail, we decided to make the trip by train (who wouldn't:))))). We wanted to get some high speed action if possible, which ruled out taking the EMUs out of MAS. Hence, we decided to take the Sapthagiri express. What we planned was this: take the Sapthagiri out of MAS, get down at TRT, finish our darshan and stuff, and return by the same train.
Thursday found me getting up at 0430 and departing by 0500. We parked our vehicle at Guindy and decided to take the EMU till Park (MSPK). Just as we arrived at Guindy, we heard the twin tones which I recognised as my favourite beast's, i.e. the WAP4. It was the 2638 Pandyan express from Madurai (MDU) and furiously trying to make up time before reaching Egmore (MS). The result was the 22549 ED WAP-4 went at max. speed round the curve(80kmph) with Pandyan through Guindy station. What a way to start the day!!!!! It was 0520 and I knew that 2638 would not reach MS on time (which is 0530). After we purchased our tickets, we boarded the BG EMU, as MG stops at MS at 0525. Parallel to us on the MG line, was an MG EMU. Seeing this, I could remember Ranganath's idea of making a farewell trip on MG:)))). I hope we all find some time to make this trip before June 30, when MG within Chennai becomes history, along MG EMUs the world over. It was a sad sight to see out BG EMU effortlessly pulling past the panting MG train and we left it far behind and reached the next station. Till MS, we did not see anything else, except the preparatory work going on the MG lines for gauge conversion. Reaching MS, I saw that the Rajdhani liveried GOC WDP-2 #15524 had brought in the Rockfort express from Tiruchi (TPJ). And of course, our predecessor at Guindy, 22549 WAP-4 was sitting serenly with the panto down, proud after a good night's work:))) (actually early morning's work:)). Soon we reached MSPK and made our way to MAS.
In MAS, there was the inevitable queue to purchase tickets and I was hungry already. Man, railfanning is a very hungry business indeed!!! I stationed my friend in the queue and went into Planet Yumm to have some breakfast. Very quick and efficient service. Soon, I was ready for the day's work. It was here that our main course was to start, the trip till MSPK for starters:). Serious foody, am I not:))). I began to go around the various paltforms to see who had brought in whom. But time did not permit me to cover all places. All I was able to note was 22255 ED WAP-4 had brought in 2672 Nilgiri express from Mettupalayam / Coimbatore (CBE). We decided to check out our train, the 6057 Sapthagiri, stabled on Platform 11. To my surprise, the rake was an ordy. blue coloured one, belonging to TVC, with a mismatching Sapthagiri coloured AC CC. Ok, disappointing, to say the least. But the loco more than made up or this. We went to the front, and to my great great joy, 22224 ED WAP-4 was going to be the power!!!!!!!!!! I could only anticipate the great trip that lay ahead. On the adjacent platform was the CBE bound 2675 Kovai powered by 22536 ED WAP-4.
Other sightings: 20422 AJJ WAM-4 brought in the 6042 Alleppey express at 0615 (10 min late) Composition: SLR, 2 II, 1 2A, 1 3A, 2 FC, 10 SL, 1 Tatkal, 1 II, SLR (20 coaches). Any other train with more than 1 FC??
7054 HYB-MAS express arrived at 0615 (20 min late). I could not see the power for this train. Most probably an LGD WAP4.
20616 AJJ WAM4 was stationed on a paltform with no load. It was like all its AJJ cousins, Raj liveried.
Composition of Kovai: SLR, 4 II, 2 ES, 5 2S, PC, 1 CC, 2 II, SLR (17 coaches).
Composition of Sapthagiri: SLR, 6 II, 1 2S, 1 CC, 2 II, SLR.
Kovai left only at 0620. We were to leave at 0625. Ultimately, we left at 0630. Central then was at it's busiest best, with our train departing, EMUs arriving at the suburban terminal, rakes being shunted to the Basin Bridge (BBQ) yard, and trains arriving, all simultaneously. As we were leaving, in came the 6602 MAQ-MAS mail with 21233 AJJ WAM4 (Raj), and the shunter 19337 WDS4B of TNP was idling on a line, looking for a rake to play with. Just before BBQ, crossed the 6044 Kakinada-MAS Circar express, with BZA WAG5 23858 at the helm of affairs, successfully (read on time) arriving at the destination with it's charge. Soon, we crossed the BBQ electric loco trip shed, which was surprisingly deserted, maybe since most trains had not arrived yet. I could see only ED WAP4 22340 and LGD WAP4 22517 (HWH mail's power???). We took a left from BBQ and I began to anticipate a nice fast trip, especially since I had positioned myself at the door of the SLR right next to the loco, and could hear the soft hum of the brute. But our chief applied the brakes in deference to a red light and we had to wait for 15 min before Vyasarpadi. The culprit, I soon found out, was a damn EMU crossing from the direction of Beach (MSB) and proceeding towards Avadi. Soon, we got the all clear, and after sounding the melodious twin tones (oh what sweet music!!!!! Especially on hearing it at such close quarters!!!!).
It was evident that our chief by then had become impatient at the delay. No sooner had we crossed the junction before Vyasarpadi, we started picking up. The WAP4 was in a mood to show off it's prowess, especially since it had been trusted with such a small 12 coach load. "No problemo" he seemed to say (as in Terminator II). Perambur (PER) was crossed in a loud twin tone mixed blur, with the passengers waiting on the EMU paltform looking with awe at the sight. A very loud 90kmph through a busy station is not a joke isn't it? But the chief at the helm of affairs was not content with a mere 90, especially when he had an overpowered loco. We continued to speed up, touching 109 kmph (MPS??) just after PER. On the other line came the AJJ WAM4 21256 (Raj, of course) with the 2624 TVC-MAS mail (I think), with a surprise visitor WDP4!!!!!!!!!!!! The train was one long blur, but I was able to catch the loco details and the presence of the blue dead DP4 just behind the good ol' king of AJJ as I was right at the door:))). Wonder what's going on, I thought. We maintained a steady and very smooth 110 kmph. The ride quality at 110 is superb on this route. We soon crossed Avadi, where ED WAP4 22360 crossed with a longish load (CBE-MAS Cheran??).
A small digression here: for those who do not know, Avadi is a huge military facility, with the Army and the Air Force having facilities around. Which is why a small line branches out at Pattabiram (station next to Avadi), and terminates at the Pattabiram Military Siding. There are regular EMU services till here. Also, Avadi is where they manufacture the Arjun tanks, and since these are transported by rail, Avadi is significant from the railway viewpoint also. In fact, this is the situation right the times of the British Raj, when they developed this small place called Armoured Vehicles and Ammunition Depot of India (AVADI-hence the name).
Pattabiram was crossed at 102 kmph and at 0700, 22268 ED WAP4 rushed past us towards MAS and some rest. I could not find out what train it was, this may have been Cheran, and not the previous one. Alas, all good things come to an end. Veppampattu showed us a double yellow and the chief had to bow to it. We were down to 30kmph and crawled till Tiruvallur which was reached late at 0730. From Pattabiram to Tiruvallur, quadrupling work is in full swing: the catenary and the posts are ready, but not the tracks!!! Earthwork is more or less complete, with two more lines laid in stretches. One thing to note here: there already was a third line till Tiruvallur from Pattabiram (where quadrupled tracks stop), but now that is being relaid now. I suppose this is to upgrade it to 100kmph as was reported in the press sometime back. So till the new lines are complete, only two lines and too much traffic (pass. trains, EMUs and goods) on this stretch, making it a chicken's neck between AJJ and MAS. Beyond Tiruvallur, no work is visible, I suppose four lines till AJJ is till a very distant future:((((. Till then this line would be one of the most unpredictable ones in the country, such that an on time departure at AJJ need not guarantee a timely arrival at MAS.
Anyway, just after Tiruvallur, around 0740, we crossed 27490 ED WAG7 goods and 23432 AJJ WAG5HA with a BCNA rake in quick succession. By now our chief had become very impatient and wasted no time on seeing a green light and we were soon back to cruising at 110kmph. Standing at the door at 110 on this stretch is a very pleasant experience, feeling the rush of air and of trains in the opposite direction (which are aplenty), and there are little jerks. Add to this the frequent sounding of the twin tones, which can make a truly enjoyable experience:)))) I would never forget this!!! In the meantime, we crossed a few freighters, besides overtaking some more.
- AJJ WAM4P6P 20449 hauled train
- 23266 TKD WAG5HA goods (TKD said WCR, I thought it belonged to NR. Then to whom does the diesel shed at TKD belong, since NR uses them heavily????)
- 27333 GMO WAG7!!!!!!! (It was turning out to be a day of assorted and rare flavours:))))
- 27466 ED WAG7 goods.
We crossed AJJ at around 0800 and after taking the Renigunta (RU) line, we started hitting 80-90, when 23809 JHS (!!) WAG5HA crossed us with a freight. I was thinking, add LDH, BRC and ET, things would be pretty much complete:). Tiruttani (TRT) was reached at 0815 and here we got down. Soon Sapthagiri left. By now I was thinking that 1064 Dadar express would soon follow, so we decided to wait. And weren't we rewarded!!!!!! Hardly 5 min had passed, when we could hear the horn of an approaching train. On looking out, we could see people scurrying across the tracks trying to make way for the furiously smoking beast. And let me tell you, the diesel looked awesome!!!!! So powerful, so frightening with all the smoke and the continous use of the horn!!!!! What a wonderful sight!!! As I was standing right opposite the SM's office, I could not take a pic:(((. Needless to say, 1064 charged past us like a buffalo towards a red cloth, smoking and continuosly horning, easily at 100+, trying to make up lost time. The scene was just too magnificent!!!!! I promised myself that I would come here to take a pic of this once again. It was just too good to miss. The power was a GTL WDM2A 17775. Soon, we left the station.
We arrived back at the station around 1005, hoping to make it on the returning Sapthagiri. According to the TT, the returning train is called 6054 TPTY-MAS express, and 6058 Sapthagiri returns only in the evening. But everyone called the returning train Sapthagiri: even the name board on the train did.
As we were sitting at the station, 23430 BSL WAG5A brought in the 6204 TPTY-MAS express arrived (2 hrs late!!!), with it's usual SWR rake it shares with the TPTY-MYS express. We let it pass and waited for Sapthagiri, for I was in no mood to go home early, especially since another WAP4 treat awaited me!!! Unfortunately Sapthagiri was 80 min late, said the SM soon after. Now having no choice, we just waited trying to catch some action. But even that was little. 23650 TKD WAG5 took AJJ WAM4 20449 (dead) towards RU. 27302 AJNI WAG7 led a BOXN rake towards RU at around 1100 and 23648 TKD WAG5 went past towards AJJ soon after. It was quite boring and I was observing the people on the platform. There were many flower vendors, who were packing their cargo and sprinkling them with water to keep them fresh, in the meantime gossipping and chatting with each other. I could help wondering about the role played by a railway station, how important it is in a small town like TRT, and how people regard the station. I could compare this with Kushwant Singh's description of the Mano Majra station, and how the village people regarded the station with pride, in 'Train to Pakistan'. Our Railways plays a very important role in rural folks' life.
Anyway, it was soon 1215 and a BCNA rake arrived on the loop line in from RU headed by 24052 JHS WAG5HB and stopped. I knew that our train was now on its way, and sure enough, I heard the twin tones, albeit a different this time round. This horn was less shrill than the WAP4's we came with. I was hoping that it would not be a WAM4, when to my joy came 22588 ED WAP4 leading Sapthagiri at 1230. This raises a question: what happened to the WAP4 that brought in the morning train into TPTY? It cannot have some other link as usually Sapthagiri operates with a fixed push-pull rake with a dedicated loco. So did the WAP4 developed any fault or was it sent with another train? And where did 22588 come from? So many questions and no answers. I positioned myself at the door, in the second coach from the loco. Soon, we left and the driver seemed to notch up within no time and were doing 110 kmph. He knew that we were late and also that the same rake had to do another trip round to TPTY, so he tried to make up time. And boy, did he not try!!! Soon we crossed AJJ and hardly had we cleared the AJJ loco shed that the chief notched up aggresively and we were back at 110. What an amazing ride it was!!!! AJJ to Tiruvallur was 28km and we covered that distance in 17 min flat!!! An average speed of 98.8kmph!!!!!!!! What an absolutely fabulous ride!!!!!
Some spottings at AJJ: TNP WDM7 11013 parked on the platform serving the AJJ-CGL line. 22295 ED WAP4 want past with unkown train (probably 6012 CSTM express) around 1300 near AJJ.
We resumed 100+ after a 3 min halt at Tiruvallur. The chief was sure in a tearing hurry. Amongst the blur of passing trains, I could make out a coal rake with an unidentified loco, a goods with LDH WAG7 (variety is the spice of life), and a local EMU with the letters KBT????? What does KBT stand for???? Unfortunately, at KM 31, we slowed and soon stopped. I was by this time hoping for a record run all the way till MAS, but that was not to be:(((((. On leaning out the door, a goddamn goods rake was in front of us on the same line, barely 500m in front of our loco. I cursed the damn fellow. We waited there like that for an interminable interval, when the guard of the goods began to wave his green and the goods started. Soon, we too started and continued at what road traffic would call bumper to bumper!!! This section is really crying for quadrupling, as the same scene was witnessed on the other line. Just as we were moving at 30 kmph (advance with caution), on the other line I saw TKD WAG7 27476 led goods, followed by 21233 AJJ WAM4 led passenger train (could not identify-maybe 6023 MAS-SBC express), closely followed by 23771 AJJ WAG5HA led oil tankers, and again closely followed by an EMU. Whew! 4 trains in just 5-10 min!!! And each within sight of each other!!!! Congestion indeed! We followed the goods impatiently through Thirunindravur (which had a loop line but the goods was not stopped here: wasting more time), and finally got the all clear just before Hindu College and the chief decided to come back to 100 with a vengeance!!! Horns blaring without respite we tore through Pattabiram, and soon Avadi (where the damn goods had been stopped at last) at 105 kmph. This continued all the way till PER, and I was delighted to watch all the Chennai suburbs flash by. Near some wayside station, I saw a guy trying to close his ears to the WAP4's horn. I could only feel sorry for the guy, who could not appreciate a twin tone like a railfan would. For me it was heaven!!! I always want a train to horn and not go silent.
PER was reached at 1405 and then it was slow drive till MAS which we reached at 1425. Sightings at MAS and BBQ:
- 22345 WAP4E BRC (JP-MAS s/f)
- 22231 WAP4 LGD (Charminar?)
- 22221 WAP4 ED (this one oddly looked dirty with paint peeling-odd one out)-waiting for the outgoing MAS-TPTY express?
- 11003 WDM7 TNP
And on one side line, stabled away from peering eyes, was the new kid on the block, 20008 WDP4!!! So my morning sighting was right!! What was he doing here? The CBE-MAS-CBE intercity had arrived with 22526 ED WAP4 and was ready to depart with 22259 ED WAP4. We got down and quickly went to MSPK and took a BG EMU to Guindy and home. At MS, I saw that 22550 ED WAP4 had brought in Pallavan from Tiruchi and the return Vaigai was given 21256 WAM4P6PE AJJ. Saw a WAG7 hauled goods flash by before getting down at Guindy and giong home after a very eventful and enjoyable trip.