Mumbai-Agra-Mumbai and 2954

2002-05-31

by R.Venkatesh

I travelled to Raja Ki Mandi to attend a friend's wedding. It was a four-day short trip. This note will mention about my journey by the Intercity Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin [NZM] to Raja Ki Mandi [RKM], the train spottings had by me at MTJ on Sunday evening, followed by a synopsis of the 2954 return trip to Mumbai.

Enroute to RKM, near Agra Cantt [AGC], last Friday (May 24,2002), I went by flight from Mumbai to New Delhi [NDLS] and then took a taxi to go to NZM. The taxi passed atop our beloved National Rail Museum (NRM) at Chanakyapuri. It was evening 18:40 hrs at that point of time. The temperature was at 41 deg. Celsius - something we Mumbai folks were never really used to in summers. For us, 35 deg. Celsius was heavenly! More so, when I also found that there were marks made by vehicles on the tarred roads that looked like tyre marks! It looked to me like the tar got about melting at those temperatures! Also, I felt the distinct smell of burnt material all through the taxi ride - is it the rubber of the tyres or something?

Arrived NZM at 19:00 hrs as per my estimated time, and I had a hearty dinner at the NZM restaurant on the main platform; there was never going to be any Pantry Car in that short train, viz. the 1104 NZM - AGC Intercity Experss that was already parked on platform 3 of NZM. The announcement was already on repeatedly, about the departure time of that train - 19:35 hrs. And I was going to board that train with a confirmed ticket for RKM.

My friend at RKM warned me (after I got the reservation) that they considered the 1104 to be the worst of the lot of trains, and he strongly suggested that I take a bus - notably the Rajasthan or the Haryana Motor Transport Corporation buses. Or even, a share-a-taxi that would charge me nominally. He went on to tell me about the travails of the 1104 - that it had a reputation of starting 15-20 minutes late from NZM, and that it reached RKM very late at night! I still preferred our beloved train route - going at a steady pace, and reaching the destination.

When I boarded the 1104, I found that I was the only passenger in the reserved coach with a confirmed ticket! The rest of the coach was empty! Just then the TTE came into my coach, checked my ticket and remarked that that's the way we were supposed to travel - get a reservation a couple of days in advance, board the train, and travel comfortably. It looks like most of these people here do not do that. 1104 started from NZM 10 minutes late, just as my friend had said. As we were dragging out of NZM, I could see the adjacent Dakshin Express come onto Platform 2 of NZM for people to board. And just after we cleared our platform, the lights of a WAP-4 dazzled on me on the opposite track. As I guessed, this was of the 2137 Punjab Mail coming from Mumbai, with a Ghaziabad WAP-4 (4A?).

My coach - the reserved coach among the last few at the guard end - was empty, that is, until we halted at the next stop, viz. Okhla. There a lot of people barged into the coach. The next halt was Tughlakabad [TKD]; it was very dark and I could see neither the WDM Northern Railway shed, nor the WAG Western Railway shed around TKD. Subsequently we crossed the Northern Railway territory and entered Central Railway territory at Faridabad [FDB]. While there, a number of plainclothesmen (around six) boarded the train and started checking passengers for tickets. I overheard the local people muttering that the checks had intensified on that train, and in fact, quite a few were caught ticketless and were hauled away.

Ballabhgarh came after quite a long time, given the fact that we were late and were cruising at amazing speed to try and make up for lost time. I was confident anyway that we'd reach on time. The rest of the journey was routine except at Hodal where the bulk of passengers alighted and once again, my coach got empty. By the time we reached Kosi Kalan, I was aware that we crossed Haryana - perhaps earlier - and entered Uttar Pradesh - near about Mathura [MTJ]. While at Kosikalan, I saw the 2001 Bhopal - NDLS Shatabdi Express whizzing past us at a great speed. I tried to go out and see whether CR or NR was written on the 2001 coaches but before I could get to reach my door, it was too late! As we all know, that is supposed to be the country's fastest train.

It was already around 21:35 hrs, and sleep overtook me until we stormed into MTJ. In all that darkness, I could not do much of spotting, except for one thing. We were detained at MTJ because the Rajdhani Express - probably the one heading to Bangalore City (2429) - overtook us.

As we subsequently dragged out of MTJ - around 22:15 hrs - I saw the last two WR lines (to my right facing the locomotive) diverge off to head to Vadodara [BRC] and subsequently to Mumbai Central [BCT], while we continued along the Central Railway line. As some of you very rightly said in an earlier posting, the next station was BAAD (and not BAD as was wrongly printed on the CR timetable). From Baad, to our right (facing the locomotive), we could see a lot of yellow lights and a number of tracks beneath action-brimming AC traction lines. I later learned that this place was the Mathura Oil Refinery where oil was probably kept stored. In fact, it seemed that this place was even visible from the first station on the WR line on the other side. In fact, around this place, we were taking a crazy left turn and proceeding towards the EAST.

Subsequently I went off to sleep on my seat in the now-empty coach. And I got up upon feeling us taking a very sharp turn towards the SOUTH, and found that RKM had just arrived and I had to alight. The track and the RKM platforms were curved southwards as we faced the loco. It was 23:20 hours - the train was supposed to have been there at 22:25 hrs! I was finally driven to my friend's place and I reached there at 23:45 hrs.

So much so about the 1104. It was a tiring, but a very pleasant and cute journey. Now about the return trip.

It was 16:00 hrs on Monday May 27, 2002. Actually I would've tried going to the RKM station and taken one of a number of trains to go to MTJ, viz. the 2137 Punjab Mail (Mumbai - Firozpur), the 1077 Jhelum Express (Pune - Jammu Tawi), or the 2645 Millenium Express (Ernakulam - H.Nizamuddin). (Incidentally, just to share a personal thing with all of you - my computer at work is called "Millenium" to commemorate the Millenium Express - there are two such trains). But my friend advised me against taking any of these trains for fear that I might end up getting them late and even miss out on the connecting 2954 August Kranti Rajdhani Express to return to Mumbai, schedule to depart from MTJ at 18:40! From RKM, therefore, I took a Rajasthan Motor Transport bus from the nearby bus stand to proceed to MTJ, to catch the 2954.

As per my plans, I reached MTJ on the dot at 17:35 hrs. And as I was alighting from the bus, I saw the 9020 Firozpur - MCT Janata Express going above us. I remembered an earlier thread about Janata Express and trains having only Sleeper and II classes. This is one such train; the other one is the Delhi - Howrah Janata Express (I think that's the 3111/3112 Lalquila Express. Or, are they different?).

Then I took a cycle-rickshaw to proceed to the nearby MTJ station. While entering the station premises alongside the road, I could see some buildings - one belonging to CR, the other to WR and a third one - it read "Northern Railway" when I thought, it should've read "North EASTERN Railway (NER)". (The meter-gauge MTJ - Agra Fort [AF] - Achnera [AH] line comes under NER).

A few minutes later, while I was waiting outside MTJ for loose change, I saw the 2952 Rajdhani (New Delhi [NDLS] - BCT). It was being hauled by that all-pervading WAP 5 ABB loco with those cute, harmless-looking pair of little lights in the middle of it's face that work like powerful devils at night-time by their dazzles that could be seen for miles on end! As I was waiting with bated breath, the 2952 slowed down while approaching the platform, then the loco hooted, and it along with the rest of the train went past MTJ without a halt!

Subsequently I entered MTJ and had light refreshment, and did a few spottings while waiting for the 2954 to reach me at 18:38 for a two- minute halt. Some of these spottings are mentioned below. A number of WAG locos based at TKD (WR) and Kanpur [CNB] (NR) were seen around hauling freight.

While on the wait, they announced the 1077 (PUNE - Jammu Tawi [JAT]) Jhelum Express that arrived on platform 2 around 15 minutes late. This was powered by a WAP-4 CNB (NR) loco. I think this loco gets attached to this train at Igatpuri [IGP] itself. Around this time, on the main platform (PF 1), the 1450 (NZM - Jabalpur [JBP]) Mahakoshal express arrived, hauled by a pair of (double-headed) WAM (4?) Itarsi [ET] locos. Just then, the 1077 departed towards NDLS and they announced the 2645 Millenium Express (Ernakulam [ERS] - NZM) on Platform 3. I was thrilled to wait and watch the train after which my work computer has been named! That too, for me, this is a rarity because this train runs once a week (it runs on two other days as Kongu Express and Trivandrum Express). Quite contrary to my expectations, this train did not have the usual dark-and-light blue livery - instead, it had the brown livery like a number of those ordinary trains. That too, for a Superfast!!

At this point, my train (2954) was announced on PF 3. The lights of this train were already visible for miles on end as the train was approaching me. I was waiting with bated breath to watch yet another WAP 5 loco behind those cute little lights emitting those devilish Candelas. But much to my dismay this time, the loco behind this one happened to be a WAP 4E Vadodara [BRC] loco!!

This looks to be nothing new. In fact, on February 18 during my office trip to NDLS via the 2951 Rajdhani, while I alighted at BRC to watch the loco changeover, I saw those dazzling lights far behind the horizon and much to my dismay, a WAP 4E BRC loco appeared. I asked one of the drivers about what happened to the ABB WAP 5 GZB loco. He first exclaimed "Oh, that computer-controlled loco?" and then went on to say that the 2951 would not haul it on that occasion. It seems these loco drivers describe the WAP-5 as the "computer-controlled" loco. And it looks like they are using WAP 4E BRC locos as frequently as the ABB WAP 5 GZB locos.

Meanwhile I proceeded to board the 2954 during that two-minute halt. The only interesting thing I was looking for was at Kota [KOTA] where my office colleague's father was the stationmaster and I was looking forward to trying and meeting him. But it was taking a very long time for that station to reach, and I was feeling very tired after the night-outs (in Northern India, the weddings usually took place at midnight). Therefore I crashed after dinner and missed out on KOTA; the food was very good that night. Nothing sensational happened in the AC coaches - what can one possibly see through these? And the train reached BCT at 10:30 hrs - 15 minutes late the following Tuesday morning.

Before concluding this note, I wanted to share with you all one of my long-cherished wishes, during my return trips from NDLS to Mumbai while I'm on this line. The wish has been so strong lately over these several months, that I keep train-spotting in my mind by seeing the CR time-table on the NDLS - Mumbai CST [CSTM] route every evening these days. I missed out on this journey of my wish list on my last occasion while at Delhi, and on this occasion too while at Agra, due to unavoidable reasons. I wanted to return to Mumbai from NDLS in the following manner. Take the country's fastest 2002 NDLS - BPL Shatabdi Express that leaves NDLS at 06:00 hrs and hurtles through FDB leaving a cloud of dust behind. Get a good taste of that train journey. Then, get off at BPL at 14:10 hrs, have a good lunch, and spend the rest of the time there spotting trains until 16:35 hrs. Thereafter, take the 2138 Firozpur [FZR] - CSTM Punjab Mail and reach Mumbai the following morning. The 2137/2138 is one of the prestigious trains on my favourite Central Railway. I wanted to see the designated "Train Superintendent" of this train - he is assigned a role as the "Captain of the train" as per the CR time-table (do refer the passenger rules section). The only other train on CR that has this train superintendent is the 1019/1020 Konark Express (CSTM - Bhubhaneswar [BBS]). Incidentally, as per the CR time-table, the 2137/2138 Punjab Mail is one of two trains on CR having almost all combinations of coaches (1A,2A,3A,SL,II,P,T). The only other train on CR as per the timetable having this combination is the 1063/1064 Dadar [DR] - Chennai [MAS] Express.

All in all, it has been a very nice and successful trip to RKM. Thank you all very much for the patient reading.

Material provided by R.Venkatesh, Copyright © 2004.
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