Nagpur-Jabalpur NG trip report
by Vikas Singh
Nagpur- Jabalpur is the longest NG route in country today. The total route is 401 kms with 27 stations and 29 passenger halts. Fresh after Pulgaon-Arvi stretch the previous day, I reached Nagpur station at 0930 hrs. The auto rickshaw driver wished me "Happy journey, Saab" For the first time in my life; I had heard these words from a rickshaw Walla. Tipping him liberally for having made a memorable start, I began my search for the elusive SE zone TT. After spending half an hour in going from one counter to other, I could finally locate the right counter, tucked away at one end. A completely bored and disinterested man gave me a dust-coated copy. Moving on, bought a second-class ticket for Jabalpur Rs.54.Compared to this the cheapest bus service from Nagpur to Jabalpur costs Rs.150.After a sumptuous breakfast at Comesum, made my way towards the NG platform. Though Nagpur has extensive NG connections, servicing eight pairs of trains everyday, the NG platform is poorly maintained. To reach the platform one has to walk across NG tracks, which is covered with all sort of refuse. There is no foot over bridge. Nobody bothers to sweep the platform. The platform was swarming with flies. To add to that was horrible stench coming from a nearby open drain. This apathy for NG section has got to do with the fact that while Nagpur BG falls in CR the NG section is in SECR. So much so for the zonal divisions.
I was waiting for the 1150 hrs 1 NNJ Nagpur-Nainpur Jabalpur passenger. The train on most days has a First class coach. Reservation for that is done in the train only. The reason why advance reservation is not done is because occasionally the FC coach becomes sick and is not attached. 4DN Nainpur-Nagpur fast passenger came on time at 1100 hrs. The same rake then returns as 1 NNJ. It was a 11 coach rake. Some coaches were 1974/78 built and some were 1984/87 make. Save the two guard cum luggage coach with seating capacity of 17, all the other 9 coaches had 34 seats. To my horror I realized that there was no FC coach. It meant 17 hrs overnight journey on second-class wooden seat. Desperately I checked with the guard if there was any chance that FC coach would be attached at Chindwara or at Nainpur. His response was an enthusiastic NO!
Surrendering myself to fate, I managed to "capture" one of the long berths with four person sitting capacity. ZDM 3A (No 196) was soon attached and sharp on time at 1150 hrs we departed. The train was not so crowded and I was sitting like a Raja. However the pleasure was short-lived as the train soon made an unscheduled stop at Motibagh. The coach was soon jam-packed with people. Despite all protests and shouts, there were seven of us sharing my "Captured" seat.
Around 500 mts from Nagpur station a NG line branches off towards the Motibagh shed. Motibagh diesel shed is the biggest NG shed in country. Till Itwari junction (5 kms away) the Nagpur-Gondia BG line runs parallel to NG line. From Itwari junction, one NG line branches off to Nagbhir junction (111 km). While one line continues towards Chindwara. Two electrified BG line - one to Koradi thermal and one to Khaprikheda thermal run parallel to NG line on either side. From Khaprikheda station, a non-electrified BG line runs parallel to NG line branching off somewhere between Takli and Malegaon station. After Malegaon,it is entirely NG terrain till Chindwara. The first major station after Itwari, Saoner was reached on time at 1330 hrs. Saoner station has foot over bridge. After Saoner the next station was Kelod. Kelod is the last station to fall in Maharashtra. After this station, the entire NG section is in Madhya Pradesh. The next major station was Lodhikhera. Here the wooden sleepers were being replaced with cast iron sleepers. 12 kms from here was Savsar station. Most of the janta got down here. Here we had crossing with 2 NHJ Nagpur Howbagh Jabalpur passenger. After Savsar the incline increased. Gradient varied from 1 in 100 to 1in 150.The next station was Ramakona.
Till Ramakona we could see cotton field on both sides. After Ramakona the hilly terrain starts. We could see Palas trees (Butea frondosa) in full bloom. The whole mountain range seemed to be bathed in bright orange color. Palas is rightly called forest flame. It was quite a scenic sight to see train move across hilly tract covered with bright orange flowers. The breeze was cool and refreshing. The next big station was Bhimalgondi, 12 km away. Nearing this station the gradient was 1 in 80. A board at far end of station warns loco pilots to be on guard against falling boulders till next station, Kukrakhapa, 14 km away. This 14 km is the ghat section on this stretch. The line now passes thru Sagun forest (Tectona grindis). I was all the time standing near my favorite observation post-the door. Seeing the train negotiate sharp turns amidst dense forest and deep valley on both sides with cool breeze on the face was an unforgettable experience. From the next station Umranala, the plains took over and it was familiar sight of what fields on both sides. We reached Chindwara station on time at 1750 hrs.
Chindwara is at distance of 149 kms form Nagpur. It is connected with BG mainline at Amla. The BG section from Chindwara to Parasia was completed seven years back. There are two daily passengers to Amla and a fast passenger to Bhopal everyday. The old loco shed is at some distance from the station. A friendly rail man offered to show around the shed. A 658 WT tender (20021) could be seen at the shed. The old turntable was also there. The shed was however much smaller than steam sheds at Nainpur (still in good shape) and at Motibagh (part of NG museum). The shed is in complete mess with only the fašade remaining intact. The glass windows were all broken and the lines were utilized by sick NG wagons. With a heavy heart I started back for the station. Enroute a accident relief rake was spotted along with a ballast carrying goods rake. The NG section has three relief rakes at Itwari, Nainpur and Chindwara. Seeing me take photographs of the relief rake an over attentive rail man started shouting. Rather than pick up an unnecessary argument, I quickly moved to the station premises.
A new power ZDM 4A (No 236) had been attached at the other end. The old staff had changed and new crew taken charge. They were to be on duty till next crew change took place at Nainpur. A two-man GRP team also took charge. I was told that most night trains had GRP escorts. Since there was still time to depart, I had hot samosas and chai at Railway canteen.
Three loco types ply on this section
- ZDM 4 A that can do maximum speed of 55 kmph.
- ZDM 3 A that can do maximum speed of 45-50 kmph.
- ZDM 2 R that can do maximum speed of 40-45 kmph.
Sharp at 1815 we left Chindwara. The first station was Jhilmili. After this station at 1238 km mark we crossed the famous Pench River. This is the only major bridge on the section. Though it was near to dusk by now, I could not stop myself from going back to Mowgli and his friends from Kipling's Jungle Book. The first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Pench is the all time classic "Jungle Book" written by Rudyard Kipling. This book was inspired and based on the earlier works of Robert Sterndale, whose writings included "Seonee-camp life in the Satpuras", "Mammalia of India and Ceylon" and "Denizens of the Jungle". Kipling's main hero, Mowgli, was inspired by a true account of a boy in 1831 brought up by wolves in the district of Seoni. This account was published in a short writing by Sir Henry William Sleeman in his published "An account of wolves nurturing children in their dens".
At the Karaboh station we had a long wait for the crossing with 2 NNJ Nagpur Nainpur Jabalpur passenger. We were now in soybean belt of MP. By now it was pitch dark outside and I had to leave my post and settle near the window. We reached Seoni station 45 mins late at 2115 hrs. Nearing the station we crossed Bengagnga River. Had chai at the station. Seoni is district town and the station therefore had computerized reservation facility. Between Seoni and next station Bhoma, the line passes thru barren hilly tract with sparse vegetation. At Bhoma most of my co passengers from Chindwara got down and I was the raja once again. There were only five of us in the coach now. The train now picked up speed and we would have done 45-50 kmph in the next stretch. Suddenly near Gangatolla halt the coach jerked violently and train came to an abrupt halt. When the halt exceeded 10 minutes we decided to investigate. We found the guard and loco pilot coming out of darkness profusely cursing the locals. Apparently some local had fixed an iron piece loosened from the track in between the gap between two rails at fishplate. The driver was saying that this had been done at two places. At one place the iron piece had broken down on impact with engine wheels while at the other one it had gone down inside the gap. Had this not happened the train would have derailed. I was told that this had happened for the second time in last two weeks. All this time the two GRP men were conveniently absent. Probably by now they were in deep slumber! Despite trying his best the loco pilot could not dislodge the piece. We all thanked our stars for having survived a major accident. The guard informed at Gangatolla about the problem and we proceeded further. We finally arrived at Nainpur station at 0000 hrs, one hour behind schedule.
Had a quick dinner of egg curry and rice at railway canteen. The safety bracket of our coach had broken down. It was repaired and we left Nainpur at 0030 hrs. I tried to lie down on the berth but at 46 inches the width of the berth leaves much to be desired. I was carrying my sleeping bag but despite several valiant efforts, I could not fit myself in. After trying for half an hour I gave up. The seat was immediately seized upon by a local who was soon snoring away to glory. By now I had a terrible backache as for the past thirteen hours I had been sitting on a wooden seat. Tried to catch some sleep sitting but that too proved uncomfortable. I could not open the windows, as it was quite cold by now. Also having done the Nainpur-Jabalpur stretch earlier in daylight, I was not quite keen to do any observation from the door. The train was moving very fast now. We did the final Nainpur-Jabalpur stretch of 111 km in less than three and half hour. We reached Jabalpur on time at 0400 hrs.
Thankfully the hotel where I was staying Satya Ashoka had arranged a pickup. I slept like a donkey till late afternoon. Then got up, had nice hot water bath followed by real nice Gujrati thali. Soon I was back at station for the 1555 hrs Gondwana express to Delhi