LHB Raj Footplate, Kota, and Dara Passenger
by Vikas Chander
Bharat and I had been working on planning a footplate on a WAP-5 hauled / LHB rake Mumbai rajdhani since Jan of this year. Work pressure and traveling meant that this day would take a while in coming. As it turned out, May 22nd was D-day.
We left our respective workplaces at around 1.30pm and reached NDLS at around 3pm, well in time for departure. We met up with our contacts and after the mandatory small talk was out of the way we headed out to PF-12 where the beauty lay in wait. The LHB rake with WAP-5 # 30002 looked the beauty it was and our excitement for what lay ahead was evident on our faces. We were introduced to the drivers who were a pretty friendly crew and settled down to wait for departure.
Departure was right on time at 4pm and the smooth start was a testimony to the fine piece of engineering the WAP-5 actually is.
We had a glance at the speed restrictions chart given to the drivers prior to the start of the journey and were really surprised at how many there were.
We passed by Nizamuddin, TKD, and Faridabad crawling for the most part of the journey due to the numerous speed restrictions and hardly crossed a speed of 80kmph on this section. On one of the stations in this section, a tanker rake blocked the main line and the Rajdhani was pulled on to the loop to pass the tanker rake. This translated into a further loss in time which would ultimately translate in a total time loss of 25mins upon arrival at Kota.
The braking of the WAP-5 was very smooth and even - again partly attributed to the loco itself and partly to the driver who seemed to be in excellent nick.
The signal sighting of the Asst. Driver in tricky lighting conditions was also a revelation. They could sight and report signal aspects long before I could see them.
Acceleration was always very slow between speeds of 20 kmph to 50 kmph - I guess to avoid the jerks - but beyond 50 kmph it did not take the train very long to jump to 100+ kmph.
The drivers confirmed that the couplers (and lack of buffers) in the rake caused a lot of jerks which has been widely reported on this site. The coupler between the first coach and the engine has some sort of padding inserted but not the rest of the coaches. That was one of the reasons why the drivers were accelerating very slowly. Most of the speed restrictions uptil Mathura were of the 20kmph variety and were pretty long stretches. The driver would reduce speed in advance and then simply put on " cruise control", sit back and relax till the T/P sign was reached. Notch up sloooooowly and lose about 5 minutes every time!!! Then they would accelerate and try and catch up time.
After Faridabad, the Rajdhani really stretched it's legs and sped upto 130kmph (which is the top speed). however, these bursts of 130kmph were short ones due to numerous speed restrictions. Interestingly, speed restrictions between New delhi and Fardidabad were of the 20 kmph variety while after after Faridabad they were of the 60-100km variety.Mathura was finally reached, about 25 mins behind schedule -- bear in mind that there was not one red light on the total stretch between Mathura and Delhi and the total delay was due to speed restrictions. This is definitely one aspect the railways need to look into. Maybe this section is being geared up for the much touted hi-speed corridor between New delhi and Agra and that is why so much repair work is going on.
Once Mathura was behind us, the Rajdhani maintained very high speeds and was touching 130 kmph for most of the sections. It was pure joy to be in the cab. The ride quality was silky smooth and you could not feel that the train was at 130 kmph. I had my video camera on and whenever I leaned out the door to shoot, the threat of the camera being pulled out of my grasp was very real. A lot of freights passed by and the wind tunnel being caused between the trains was very very scary. Nevertheless, I managed to shoot a lot of hi speed pass bys. The frontier mail crossed us also at a very high speed and I managed to get footage on this crossing also. All in All, I shot about 45 mins of video - something I will definitely treasure for the rest of my life!!!!
Soon, dusk was upon us and this twilight running was a feast for the eyes. The cab lights came on and were promptly switched off as we could not see outside. The small ceiling halogens then sufficed for the drivers to read the Restriction charts etc. Bayana, Ganagpur and Sawai Madhopur were passed at high speeds. All signal were green and there were very few speed restrictions. Suddenly, - the first red signal encountered since New Delhi which quickly changed to green. The driver inquired on his walkie-talkieif this was a faulty signal but was asked to proceed. The reason for the
red signal was due to a block failure which had been now rectified.
Full darkness was upon us now and the night running was very exciting as well. Traffic form the other side had slowed down considerably. The driver then served us tea which was one of the most relished drinks I have ever had.
The train at 130kmph, the dimly lit cab, bright signals indicating a clear path ahead, a clear night and the LHB rake shining in the barren landscape - what a setting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We reached Kota outer which was red and the train slowly decelerated to 7kmph - the slowest speed recorded since departure - the driver spoke to control and was advised of a line occupied ahead - the loco was approaching the outer and would now have to stop - an unthinkable thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - but, about 20 mtrs and at a speed of 7 kmph - the signal turned green and we were on our way. We soon docked at Platform #1 at Kota.
The total distance - I think it is 440 kms took us 5 hrs apx. which means an average of 85 kmph - not bad considering all the speed restriction enroute. We got of the loco - slightly stiff - but with a lifetime experience behind us - never to be forgotten!!
I will upload some videos from this footplate soon.
We booked into the Railway retiring room at Kota station - clean, very big, and Rs 300 per night with an air-conditioner.
Next morning, up at 6am, got ready and went upto the Loco Lobby to meet our contact there who would take us on the Dehradoon express till Morak. The Dehradun express was already waiting at PF2 and we got on to the loco.
A WAM-4 - old and battered workhorse of the IR - was in charge and departure was dot at 8am. At 90kmph the loco was wobbling around like a tractor and we were wondering if the loco would derail.The difference between the ride quality of a WAP-5 and a WAM-4 was startling - like a Mercedes Benz and an Ambassador!!! Anyway, a top speed of 102 kmph was hit and after about an hour's running we came into Morak station. After saying our goodbye's we waited for our rented car to come pick us up which it soon did. We then traced our steps backward to Dara pass bridge. I can safely say this is one of the top railfanning sites in the country. There are 3 bridges here in a radius of 300 mtrs. An old british built stone arch affair on the down line and 2 steel bridges on the up line. We spent about 3 hours in this spot shooting videos and stills of the passing traffic which included the frontier mail. There is a neat little trackgang hut perched on a ridge just above the tracks and in between the two main lines. It provides an excellent vantage point and respite from the grueling heat and direct sunlight. Would recommend any railfan to do darshan of this spot. Will upload some pics taken at this spot soon
After wrapping up from this location, we had lunch at a nearby dhaba and then headed out to Dara Station. There is a very nice curve outside Dara station and we set up equipment here and waited for some traffic. The noon day heat was behind us but we still recorded a temperature of 49 degrees here. The land around us was pretty unhospitable - rocky barren and lots of thorns - one of which pierced Bharat's shoe and I am sure was very painful. God - the lengths crazy railfans can go to can be sometimes very intimidating!!!The Paschim express and the Trivandrum Rajdhani passed us and we got excellent footage on these 2 passbys. - will upload soon.
By now it was 5 pm and we decided to head back to Kota. We reached Kota around 6pm and did a little recce around the station. Not finding anything interesting we went back to our retiring room, bathed, changed clothing and the boarded the Dehradun Express back to Delhi, thus marking the end of THE most significant railfanning trips Bharat and I have made since we got to know each other in Jan 2003, I guess eclipsing the KK line trip as well.
I will try and upload some pics and videos as soon as time permits.