Where Are The Raindrops!
by Sridhar Joshi
Trip Report - Mas to Pune - 2900 words approx.
Whenever somebody is transferred to Mumbai from our Office, and is very dejected, we cheer him up telling him that he can see in one season the rainfall that he has seen his lifetime in Chennai! I was also looking forward to a trip to Mumbai during the monsoon. No, I wasn't transferred, but it was my dream to one day do the Konkan Railway from Mumbai to Madgaon and back during the monsoons. A function at Hubli on a Friday came as manna from heaven, and I took the entire week before the function to make a nine day weekend.
I set off on the 9th July by the now converted 2164 from Chennai. As I stepped in to the RRI cabin to say Good Morning to my friend who was on duty, I could see the rake already berthed and raring to go at about 5.45 hrs. I also met a few friends there and settled into my side lower berth (the ultimate refuge, once again of scoundrels called railfans!). The pride of hauling me out of Chennai went to the GTL WDM 2 17530, in its usual attire.
We were off the tracks of PF 7 exactly at 7.00 hrs, and we were aspected on the slow line. The BZA bound Jan Shatabdi was also out at the same time from PF 2A(and that is not a typo!), and was on the first line. Operational convenience, that our train would be put on the fast line at Basin Bridge as the Jan Shatabdi veered off to the right towards BZA. A quick wave of goodbye to the friend at the RRI and the one in the Jan Shatabdi later, I settled into my berth 23 in S4, 6th from the loco. Here, I could hear the sweet tones of the loco, the beats and the throbs, and at the same time I could make a quick dart or two to check out the loco change as and when it happened.
I was happy to first note that the coach was very well maintained, and was a 2000 made coach 00232, to be precise. After the mandatory ritual of ticking of the ticket, the TTE went about his job, and I, mine. A good strong cup of coffee, and I was out with my scrap book. Meanwhile, we had passed my apartment at Perambur, before which I could see at least a couple of thousand people waiting for us to get off their way. Yes, the Trivandrum Mail and the GT Express were waiting for clearance to get into MAS, both led by Ed WAP4s.
Tiruvallur Home signal was passed at 07.43, and we were taken off the fast line and put on the up line in the two line section ahead. TRL starter was passed at 07.50 at about 80 kmph. When we were thundering through Manavur, the Chennai bound Jolarpettai Exp passed us, again with a WAP 4. Passing AJJ loco shed and the station at leisure, we picked up speed as we swung into the tracks leading us towards RU. Once here, I had my breakfast, a very wonderful, still hot Pongal and Vada. The former, as Mohan and Shailesh would testify, is really great for an early morning breakfast, and as for me, I would love to eat this any time of the day! The run later was very fast, with three cautions, we easily passed the AJJ RU Pass at Taduku at 9.02. The Pass was a good 30 mts late, and we were ourselves about 15 km away from RU, which we were supposed to hit at 09.15.
Noticeable about the AJJ RU Pass was that it was headed by two locos, both from the AJJ shed, both WAM 4s, both converted into microprocessor controlled ones. The loco doing the "honours", if that could be called, for the Pass was the 21320, which has been featured on the gallery and the dead loco, 21261 was probably put through its motions, being a new convert to its ilk.
Arriving at RU sharp at 09.15, one could spot the Sapthagiri Exp curving away towards TPTY. The stop at RU meant I had to rush to the loco, and found nothing sensational happening. Chatting up with the Pilot, I noticed he signed a fuel consumption register, which said he had used up 700 lts of fuel. It also said that the train number was 1064. The change in number is probably yet to register, even a few TTEs collecting S/F surcharges were writing out the numbers as 1064! Many announcements en route were also made in the number of 1064, and it seemed we were still using the first wife's name, when already into our third marriage!
Did somebody up there hear the purpose of my trip? The day had dawned bleak and grey, not certainly rain threatening. But, there was absolutely no sunshine, even at Renigunta, when at around 9.00 the sun has to be blazing down. The train left Renigunta at 9.25, 5 minutes behind schedule of the Time table, but it was too little to cause any worry. We did the short stretch at a modest speed and left Koduru at about 10.10. 11 mts late. The second line is being laid from Balapalle to Pullampet, and the new tracks switch sides here and there. The linking is mostly complete, but some patches still need to be linked. We stopped for clearance at Obulavaripalle, after passing an Oil rake.
The bridge over the Cheyyar was being rebuilt on the right side of the track towards GTL, to accommodate two tracks. We passed Ontimitta, thundering past the 6011 towards Chennai which was headed by GTL DM2 17777, the loco that worked the 2164 on the third of July.
We hit Cuddappah and halted only briefly, as the earlier position of this being the lunch station was no longer required, as the Pantry Car was in position to satiate the hunger of the travelers. We passed a WDG4 led iron ore rake headed towards RU, and maintained a steady speed. At Krishnapuram, or was it Gangeyapalle, which I could not notice due to some goods rake, we passed the 1081 Dn from Mumbai, after waiting at the Home signal for the train to arrive.
We stopped briefly at KOndapuram, may be for a minute or two and were headed off – not before the 2163 passed us at full blast. How may times I have wondered that we have to go past our pairing train – this was once again unlucky. May be next time I will travel wearing a lucky talisman – and may be two others will be wearing the same on the other train – and that will win! At Vanganur, we noticed another bridge coming up on a permanent Diversion. We stopped – started at another of those new stops – Tadiparti it was this time. And then on we increased the speed steadily, for our next halt was at Gooty.
In between, I entered the Pantry Car with a co passenger and had a sumptuous and good meal of Chicken Curry and chapathis and rice. We tipped of a waiter at the Pantry and were made to sit like Maharajahs inside the Manager's cabin – were given extra helpings. Till we were in SR territory, I had entered the toilets for a quick smoke, which I could not do in SCR territory – as I was not familiar with the systems prevalent there. I was lost for a smoke after a big lunch – and the waiter who I had tipped earlier was handy. As I queried him – he just closed the cabin door and said – Ab shuru kijiye – koi andar nahi aayega! I lit up and was quickly competing with the WDM 2 that was hauling us. However, I lost steam – the DM2 had quite a lot of fuel in it, and I came out after a smoke – a very poor second to the DM2.
At Jakkalacheruvu, the first rain drops hit us, and what a sight it was! I had set out to see rain, and had been with a fully cloudy day thus far, with no sunshine. As I saw the landscape right form RU onwards – I was happy for AP. Successive drought years – and at least now the raingods have been smiling. I thought of myself as a Tony Greig doing a pitch report on Channel 9 – Yes, here the keys are going some way into the pitch – it is really watered and will be bouncy – I would chose to bowl on this pitch – was what was going on in my mind, as I saw the soft underbelly of mother earth on what was parched and drought ridden.
At Patakottacheruvu, we passed the 1013 – or rather, the 1013 passed us as we waited for clearance. The other train thundered past us led by a KJM WDM 3A. A quick stop and start at – GTL – of all places – we were off in 4 mts – there was no loco change. I had to scurry back to the compartment, as I was near the loco waiting for the change to happen. As the starter turned yellow, I thought that there was some problem with the shunt signal and they were using the starter. What a shock it was for me when I saw the driver furiously waving the green, and I rushed to S1. I can already see some members grinning, visualizing me running on the platform!
We separated from the tracks going towards HPT. We seemed to be telling the other track to bear the brunt of the ore load – we are really high speed! But the other track seemed to tell us – yes, go on, you have a lot to carry as well! The Raichur TPS was ahead. It turned very grey, howling winds and started to rain hard after Nancherla – the first block off Guntakal. The hard rains meant that the shutters had to be downed – and what a shock! The maintenance of the coach was good until then I had thought – but I realized the window channels and the base of the window and the frame are the most neglected areas during the routine maintenance. Most coaches had gaps of about a couple of mms. And water was really pouring into the coaches thru the gaps. All of us had to hurriedly open the glass windows, close the other metal shutter and then close the glass ones. However, this took a good part of a few minutes and by then, many a piece of luggage was wet with the water streaming down the aisle of the coach.
We passed the section between AD and MALM at full speed, and the 6009 crossed us somewhere – as I was to find out at MALM. The coaches were watered at MALM, and we set off across the TUngabhadra, which was having some water as compared to my earlier trips. Rains were happening at last in AP! Halfway on the bridge, to the left side towards Wadi, on one of the Rest gaps in the bridge, there was a board painted Karnataka state as you went towards Wadi and Andhra Pradesh on the other. This is something I have noticed many times, and it was only this time I realized that at least on this bridge the two states are close together, in fact back to back. A pessimist would say that they don't see eye to eye!
Rainy Raichur was passed at 17.25, with me missing the hot upma at that time – it was too wet to venture out. Anyway, I was happy that the trip I set out for – was turning out to be a real wet one! Thanking the wet heavens, I sat back and waited for the next bridge across the Krishna. The bridge was cleared at 20 kmph, and on the right as you go to Wadi was the new bridge, meant for two tracks. The substructure was completed, with the dates painted on the segments as and when they were completed, and the latest date I saw was the 24th of March. There was no sign of the superstructure – the bed on which to lay the tracks – probably they were being fabricated elsewhere along the riverside. The pillars – or the piers had the mandatory protruding iron bars, all neatly bent on the inside – ready for further additions. As I could see the piers in a neat line, it formed a nice bed – one that Mukesh "Bhishma" Khanna would have traded for the arrow tipped ones in the Mahabharat serial.
Another interesting fact about the station itself – the Krishna station has the station nameboards in five – yes five languages. Painted across the yellow board is the name Krishna in Kannada, Telugu, Hindi, English and Urdi (!) – making it probably the only station to have 5 languages on its nameplate!
We stopped started and stopped started at Narayanpet Road and Yadgir may be about 15 to 20 mts late, but still made it to Wadi on time. Another interesting happening. I chatted up a Sub Inspector, who was leading the mandatory security team on the train and found out that he was coming up to Wadi. I started off asking about his family etc. and asked him if would smoke! Audacious it may seem, but I took a chance – I needed to smoke! He replies that he does, but it would be too much for him to do it while on duty, particularly as his call to fine offenders on train. I cajoled him and asked him out away from his chatting colleagues – two coaches down to S1 and offered him a WILLS. He accepted my offer and asked me to head into one of the toilets while he would go into another. He suddenly stopped short, told me to have a relaxed smoke in the loo, while he stood wait for me outside! True to his word, he waited for me, and later told me, that since he was anyway reaching the end of his duty in few minutes, he could afford to wait.
We stopped at Wadi, and I rushed to the front of the formation in steady rain – no loco change here either! I came back and saw if I could complete THE HINDU crossword of the day – there were still a few clues to crack! I cracked a few – three more to go, when I heed to the inner voice – I needed to eat as I was hungry. We again headed, past five coaches – where I saw an interesting sight. More about that in a few minutes. We waited for about 25 mts to be served by the same waiter – 3 of us had 18 chapathis at 1.25 per piece and veg curry. Dinner over, we had a cup of hot milk.
As we were going to the Pantry, I saw a family occupying an entire bay in S6. The oldest members were in the traditional Lambada attire, the next gen was in the normal pant shirt / saree, and the gen 3 was wearing the latest fluorescent noodle straps and short skirts – the two girls were twins and looked a cute three or four years old. I couldn't help wondering as to the generational adjustment being made – and healthily in a tribal family. Hats off to the oldest couple there – they were accepting the reality of the times unlike most of us.
I dozed off, setting the alarm on my mobile to 0200, as I had to get off at Pune. I made one last rush at Solapur – no sign of loco change here either. As I got up I strained my eyes to see Uruli fly past – we were probably doing 100 at this dark rainy hour. I had reckoned the time to be 0145, and yes, we would be in Pune in another quarter hour or so. Two more stations, the Manjari Bhadrak halt, Loni and Hadapsar later, we came to a grinding halt at the home signal of PUne for 4 mts, before being let in on PF 1 at 0215. This is the first time that I am alighting a train on PF 1 at Pune. My brother in law was there, and we went to comesum for a coffee. The crowd in noodle straps, micro minis and men with hep costumes, showed the new India. How the S6 party and the mod group coexist is something that amazes me.
We went home, changed and went to sleep. I could not sleep, and I woke up my b-i-l, and asked him to drive us back the 5 kms to the station again. He could have cursed me under his breath, but that didn't seem to bother me. Outwardly happy, he came back with me to the station at 0400, just as the 6009 was leaving. We had a look at the Maharashtra exp arriving, reversing and leaving frrm PF 2, and the rake of the Sinhagad being berthed and that was it! No more action at Pune till 0600, when we left for home.