Kalka Trip Report
by Vikas Chander and Bharat Vohra
The FP on the WAP5 / Mumbai Rajdhani was one of the truly memorable railfanning experiences Bharat and I ever had and we had promised ourselves more to come in the future.Next on our list was a WAP7 hauled train and the Kalka Shatabdi seemed to suit the purpose well.
Early morning - the 11th of July - I was up early and reached Bharat's house at 0515 hrs instead of the designated 0530 hrs. This caught Bharat on the wrong foot and he could not complete his morning rituals - the job or the bath - a mistake the drivers and I had to pay dearly for throughout the up and down journey.
We reached NDLS at 0530 hrs and spent some time at both ends of the station. The Bhopal and Lucknow Shatabdi's left on WAP-1s and there were the regular arrivals and departures.We were disappointed to learn from the Loco Lobby that the loco in charge of the Kalka Shatabdi was a WAP4 and not a WAP7.
Soon it was time for departure and we met up with our contact at the SM office and headed out for the loco. Departure was dot at 0740 hrs. This was our first FP experience on a WAP4 and I was quite impressed with the loco and somehow it seemed more powerful than a WAP5. Maybe this was because the cabin was small and we were quite close to the windscreen and by being closer to the action (read track), one got a higher adrenaline rush. Acceleration was smooth and much faster than the WAP5 Mumbai Raj because the drivers did not have to compensate for the jerks. The MPS of 110 kmph was always reached quickly and fewer speed restrictions meant that the train was on time at all stations. Our IR railway contact looked after us really well and breakfast was served in the loco itself during a stop at Kurukshetra. The shatabdi at 110 kmph, a cup of hot tea in one's hand and a choice of cutlet or omlettes sandwiched between 2 bread slices - Ahhhh!!!!! this was life!!!!
A lot of mixed traffic was on display on the opposite track - ConRaj, BOXN, tankers, passenger trains all passed us by at hi speeds. The 2 Shatabdis - Kalka and Amritsar went past at their expected timings. My trusty old Sony PCR120e Handycam was hard at work. Poor thing - she has really seen some tough trips ranging from the heat of Gwalior, the cold of Simla, the dust of Dhaulpur, the humidity of Vizag/KKline, the air pressure of hi speed passbys and the fear of hanging on to signal posts - she has come thru on all occasions. If ever it dies on me I guess I will replace it with another PCR120e - the trusted handycam of all railfans!!!
We soon reached Ambala and after a brief stop proceeded to Chandigarh on the single track mainline. Running was fast on this line as there was lesser traffic and the track was very good as well. Chandigarh was reached on time and we got off the loco to stretch our legs and meet the SM who was there to greet us. We were treated as real VIPS including salutes from RPF guys while in the midst of taking a video of the incoming Paschim Express. There was a huge communication gap and the necessary banker required to take the train upto Kalka was not arranged for. After a few walkie -talkie exchanges between the driver and the Station Master, authority to proceed without a banker was given and we were on our way.
Kalka was soon reached and after exchanging formalities with the SM we proceeded to have a sumptuous lunch and decided to look around the yard. The IR official was by now feeling the heat so we asked him to rest in the SM's office which he gratefully accepted. We then took some shots of the 2 WAP7s in the yard and the various NG locos.
We discovered behind the NG loco shed, a full fledged NG coach making factory.
It was Sunday and the factory was closed except for the GRP guys at the gate. A little bit of sweet talking and we managed to convince them to let us in. This was a 100 year old factory, manufacturing narrow gauge coaches from scratch. I was hugely impressed that in this modern age such a primitive factory existed and actually manufactured rolling stock which is being used on the Kalka Simla and KVR lines.It even had it's own iron foundry complete with 2 mini blast furnaces!! I was really impressed and wondered what it would be like to visit this place when all the staff was at work - I believe 600 people work here per shift. Bharat and I promised a revisit some time in the future.
Now remained the little matter to get what we started out for in the first place. The WAP7 was ready for departure on the Himalayan Queen. I wanted a video of it leaving the station so went on ahead on foot for a distance of about 100 mtrs and shot the train leaving the station. The driver stopped to do the mandatory brake test and I hopped on and we were on our way!! Wh
at a beauty this loco is - a spacious well laid cabin, really comfortable seats, smooth as silk ride, real nippy acceleration, brute pulling power -lovely lovely lovely. This loco beats all other locos hands down on the IR. The WAP5 which I was impressed with, pales in comparison to this loco. The ride was so smooth that if one closes their eyes, you could imagine being in a Mercedes or a BMW. The passage over complicated points etc could hardly be felt. Acceleration was very fast and the jump from 20kmph to 110 kmph was really quick. The section from Kalka to CDG has a speed restriction of 45 kmph and the driver would simply put on the BPCS switch and relax. I asked the driver what BPCS meant - he told me the CS was "controlling speed " but did not know what BP meant. All he knew was this was some type of a switch. Similarily, ZPT was for PT = panto but Z was some type of switch. Maybe some IRFCANS may know the full form of BP and Z??
A word about the driver - he was a real character - he was smoking away to glory and narrating all his various experiences in a real animated fashion. He would the offer his prayers to every passing temple and would then respond to the Asst. driver's signal callouts by shouting " Yeaaahhhhh - Right " in a typical Amercian West Coast accent!!!! He really made the journey come alive inspite of probably breaking every rule in the book - smoking, leaving signal sighting to the Asst driver, overspeeding (the MPS was 105 while he went upto 115kmph) and all this while a senior official was in the loco!! But we loved him and his little antics so probably the official did not object either. There was a little embarrassing moment as well when the Asst driver told us the the official with us had ruined his career by fixing responsibility on him for overrunning a signal. He was demoted from driver to Asst.driver for 5 years. We felt sorry for him as he seemed to be a nice fellow.
Ambala was passed and then some real fast running. The evening Shatabdi's passed us by again at hi speeds and I got some nice video action as well which I will upload soon, The Delhi bound Kalka shatabdi overtook us at Panipat. The IR hospitality was again on display in Kurukshetra were there was a reception committee which served us tea and sandwiches - Long Live Indian Railways!!!
We finally reached Subzi Mandi where we were detained for a good 15 minutes. It was only after the job threatening remarks made by the official to the traffic controllers, did better sense prevail. We soon received the green starter and made our way into NDLS
So, thus concluded another memorable railfan trip and the longest footplate we have ever done - a total of 10 hrs!!! Will upload some pics and videos soon - should I include music like the Dara Pass video or leave it with raw sound???
Vikas / Bharat