Satpura Odyssey (IR Explorer)
by Vaibhav Sarin
The time has come for the moment for which whole of the IRFCA was patiently waiting for The Trip report of the IR EXPLORER 2003 (SATPURA ODYSSEY). First of all I would like to thank all those members without whose contribution and help this trip would have not been a successful one. This trip has been one of the most successful trips conducted by the members of this forum. I would be requiring your patience as normally people become restless in long trip reports hence I have decided to divide the whole saga into 4 different parts. Here I am now presenting u the first part of the Journey.
Arrival at Jabalpur
It was the afternoon of the 9th January when I arrived at the H.NZM railway station to board the 1450 Mahakoshal express to Jabalpur. There was a sense of excitement as this was for the first time when I was gonna meet some new people who share the same passion and that is Indian railways. On arrival at NZM I came to know that the superfast Gondwana express also known as Mahamaya express was running 2 hours behind the schedule I was little worried but my fear was dispersed when I came to know that our train was to depart at right time. It was 3:45 pm when roopesh arrived at the station with his backpack and stuff. Soon the rake arrived on PT-5 hauled by a WAM-4 6P of Itarsi and we placed ourselves on our seats in the AC 3-tier coach. The train departed bang on time that is at 4:20 pm as we slowly snaked out of the station the trip SATPURA ODDESSEY had started.
Being a non express train Mahakoshal had plenty of stops in its belly. We stopped at Ballabgarh, palwal, kosikalan, mathura and many others which was spoiling the average speed of the train leading to a delay in arrival of 15 –20 minutes at every station. But still the train managed to hurtle down at 105 km/h.. The TTE who was based at Agra was an weird chap. As soon as he had completed his checking he started make announcements in train at top of his voice that nobody will dirty the train and nobody will keep the doors unlocked. I found his attitude very annoying as in ac coaches educated and responsible people travel. I wanted to break his balls off give him some lecture but then I didn´t say anything as never wanted to spoil my mood. At Mathura roopesh and me had tea. I must mention that the new food plazas, which have been opened by IRCTC, are really wonderful providing hygienic packed food like pizza´s sandwiches and various eatables including the Indian sweets for those who have sweet tooth. I must also mention that parallel pantry which runs in the Mahakoshal express are one of the best pantries. The food, which was served and had been loaded from Agra was hygienically packed and was being given in proper trays which is quite uncommon in non pantry trains.
It was dead night when we arrived Jhansi at 12 0 clock. The train by that time was already running late by one hour. Soon the electric locomotive was detached and a diesel WDM-2 of Jhansi took over and once again we were rattling on the tracks. There was intense fog and the track had plenty of joints as the rails had not been welded therefore there was a lot kattar- kattar type of sound. Roopesh was enjoying his deep sleep on his upper berth where as I was not feeling sleepy at all as I have a very bad habit of sleeping diagonally on the bed, which I was unable to do on the side lower berth. It was early morning when we arrived at Banda. This place is hardly 140 kms from Kanpur. There I saw a unique thing a WDM-2 with with blue marker lights. This locomotive reminded of WAM-4, s of AJJ, which also have blue marker lights. Poochi later told to me that those were actually Plain LED´s which give a bluish tinge. Thanks Poochi for telling me about it. We haven´t yet reached manikpur when the darkness started disappearing I could see the region was very beautiful and the train was traversing through hilly region, which remanded me of the region around Gaya. We reached manikpur 2 hours behind the schedule thanks to the dense fog. The Hot tea awaited me at the station, which was one real great experience. Soon there was reversal and with locomotive on the LHF we were on the run again.
At satna our whole ac coach went empty there were hardly any people on board our coach who travelling to JBP by this train. . Anyways the train was now trying its best to cover up one more interesting fact which I noticed on the CR route was that at each level crossing small gardens were present which had attractive flowers I guess CR is in afforestation drive but the view of these small gardens were really kool. We arrived Jabalpur or Joobalpore as the British´s used to call it 2 hours behind schedule. The station was pretty neat and clean. Though I was able to see the NG track no rolling stock was visible. At Jabalpur my uncle was waiting for me as we had decided to stay at their home. After the poochi´s reservation debacle it was know that he was arriving by the 6595 which arrived at JBP around 6:15 pm. Hence we had a quick bath, which was followed by lunch, and we were off to Bedaghat (Marble Rocks) for which Jabalpur is famous. The picture Ashoka,s shooting has been carried out at this place ( The scene where kareena kapoor is first seen by Sharukh khan) . Anyways not diverting from the topic I must say that those visiting JBP must also go this place and enjoy a boat ride in river Narmada. As the place was 15 kms away from the normal city we dashed back to the railway station where the unfortunate Poochi was waiting for us as the train had unexpectedly arrived on time. I met Venkat for the first time but we were chatting as if we have known each other for last many years. Venkat told us that the Praveen is gonna arrive from Pipariya by the Jan shatabdi express. Venkat was the total professional photographer among us who was armed with his SLR camera and various types of rolls. Soon after the dinner we were back at the station to catch hold of Praveen. Again as usual we arrived late at the station we had to run towards the platform. Praveen was the tallest of the guys but we were unable to spot him due to the crowd but my uncle was able to spot him at the STD booth as he was about to make a phone call to us. This is how we all four chaps met.
We chatted a lot that night. Venkat showed his photographs which were just fabulous but then we decided to sleep at 12 0 clock in the night as we had to board the Satpura express next morning.
Jabalpur - Gondia - Nainpur
It was 3:45 am in the morning of 11th January when the first alarm rang thanks to poochivenkat,s Cellphone. I was the first one to head for the toilet. Soon everyone had their daily chores done and we were ready to hit the station. My aunt had prepared light b, fast for the journey. We had coffee and arrived at railway station bang on time at 4:30 am in the morning. Roopesh went to get the tickets for the first class but came back with second class tickets and a reply that tickets will be upgraded by the TTE in the journey. We could see the Satpura express standing at the NG platform. Guys I would like u all to know that the Jabalpur station doesn´t have the facilities to maintain any NG train. They are maintained at Howbagh. Hence the rake departs from Howbagh and comes to Jabalpur before going to Gondia via Howbagh Nainpur. We departed ½ hour late from the schedule departure time. Since we were running through a railway track, which was infested, by slums on both the sides the driver was using excessive horns. Dual horns were blown whenever w/l boards or a blind curve was visible. As far as speed is concerned there are no doubts that Satpura express is the fastest NG train of India. It leaves far behind its distant cousin Shivalik express far behind. But mind u the high speed of 50kmph was restricted to straight track and not the ghats section where there was plenty of curves. The whole train was of 8 coaches. For the first few years we were just confined to our seats, as it was too windy and chilly. It was when the sunlight came that we started enjoying the run. It was at Shikara Rly station that we had our tea snacks and the real photography shooting started. I must say that the condition of these NG trains even the Satpura express is terrible. The coaches are in dilated condition. I must also comment that while travelling in the locomotive its very difficult to photograph as the space is less plus at high speed the locomotives shakes more than the coaches do. The ground clearance of the fuel tank of the locomotives is very less hence the ZDM,s are often prone to fuel tank leakage´s.
We reached Nainpur on time. Guys what I have to say for Nainpur is that its due to being a railway junction that the city exists otherwise There might not have been a single shop there. At Nainpur we had our breakfast that was Aloo bonda (sort of potato cutlet) and tea. With Tea I remember our lambu Mr. Praveen has a very bad habit of drinking a lot of tea. Hey mate I advice´s that reduce your tea intake. I liked Nainpur station a lot because I have never seen any NG junction in my life. Soon we departed from Nainpur and our train picked speed as usual. Since Satpura express doesn´t stop at all the station the second class was not that crowded as the passengers are. There were plenty of speed restrictions on the track as the old wooden sleepers were being replaced and new metal ones were being laid. I thought that very less maintenance was being carried out on these tracks but it was good to see that railways is trying to maintain the lines. By the time we reached Balaghat tiredness had started taking its toll. I could see that everybody was thinking that when would Gondia jn arrive. Beyond Balaghat uptill Gondia the track passes through normal fields, flat terrain and relatively straight track. Its good that the Balaghat – Gondia section is closed as the joy of the journey was finished. A soon as we reached Gondia there was some clicking of photographs and we ran towards the Veg refreshment room. Had our thallis, tried Alloo chaap ( potato cutlet) which Poochi had bought . The food I must comment was horrendous, hell of a lot chilies it appeared to me as if the guy had put spices instead of salt. Anyways we still wanted to have it as our condition was like Beggars cant be Chosers as we were dam Hungry. Praveen and me went and bought the tickets for the return journey. At Gondia when we departed at 2:15 pm we saw a SRC loco wap-4 hauling Howrah Mumbai mail. The loco number was 22347. The mail had the RMS coach on second place. Our stop at Gondia was of 1 hour 25 minutes. Satpura express has dual rakes hence a different rake was deployed in the UP direction. Venkat enjoyed the Satpura run a lot as he was always armed with his SLR photographing what ever he wanted to. Praveen roopesh and I was chatting all the way discussing about ourselves and how we joined irfca. ZDM-2r was the locomotive, which was hauling us effectively. Inspite of railways being declared as non-smoking zone people continued to smoke cigarettes. We reached Nainpur 15 minutes late. We were suppose to stay in the officers bunglow at Nainpur but we came to know that it was booked for somebody else. Hence we started searching for a lodge which was decent I was ready to shell out even 500 bucks per night, as the main buzzword was a decent accommodation. We booked 2 double rooms at sujeet lodge price being 80 bucks per night. The toilets were outside and were for common use. Once in Nainpur we had baths so that we could come back to our senses and go for decent dinner outside. The dhaba (roadside vend) where we had meals was the best in the town and we retired to our ASAP as a big day led ahead of us. Using public toilets are not a problem till Praveen was there as the Domex was the brahmastra which we were using…