Raipur Rajim Narrow Gauge Trip
by Vikas Singh
I reached Raipur station by the Geetanjali Express from Kharagpur at 0315hrs on 15th June. I had gone to Kharagpur to see the recently restored Garratt. The train was late by one hour at Raipur. I checked into a hotel near the station.
Since the first NG train was at 0630hrs, I couldn't risk taking a quick nap. Some years ago before I had discovered my passion for narrow gauge, I had done the Raipur-Dhamtari section. So this time I wanted to do the Raipur-Rajim section.
After watching television for some time, I was at the narrow gauge platform at 0500hrs. Unlike other NG platforms, the Raipur NG station is right near the main station gate. However there is no covered shed but only a small dingy waiting hall covered with filth. Tickets are sold from the main BG ticket counter. Unlike the BG platform which is quite clean, the NG platform is very dirty. The tracks are covered with filth and it took quite some courage to walk along the tracks. The rake for 1 RD 0630 Raipur-Dhamtari Passenger was at the station. It was a six coach rake: GSLR 748, GS 820, GS 825, GS 838, GS 898, and GSLR 379.
The second class passenger coaches for Raipur NG section are mostly of 1980s vintage. The ones built in 1984, 1986 and 1987 have wooden seats that can seat 34 passengers. The ones built in 1988 have soft seats and can seat 38 passengers. The GSLR can seat 14 passengers. All the second class coaches have been commissioned in 2006. They have probably been moved from Satpura lines. The builders' plates were all in bad shape and I could not identify the workshop from any of the plates.
The diesel loco shed is around one kilometer from the platform. The tracks were so dirty that I abandoned my attempt to go to the shed by walking along the track. I went back to the BG station and took the FOB to reach the shed. The shed homes five ZDM-4A locos: 220, 221, 224, 229, and 234. Only minor repairs are being carried out here with scheduled POH being done at Motibagh workshop. Near the shed I could spot the Inspection Car PR 10 of 1916 vintage. Two coaches, GSR 837 and GS 559, were also spotted nearby along with four covered goods wagons of 1979 vintage.
Sharp at 0630 hours we left hauled by ZDM-4A 234. As is common on most NG lines today, IR has withdrawn gatemen from all level crossings. Instead a porter travels in the train. Before every level crossing the train stops, the porter walks up to the gate, closes the gate and then the train crosses the gate only to stop again. The porter now opens the gate and runs towards the train which then continues the journey. This way 3-4 minutes are wasted at every gate. There were six such crossings till Mana station, 11km away and we reached there at 0720hrs! Before this we had stopped at Raipur City station for two minutes. Till Mana, the track passes through a slum and there is hardly a foot's distance between the tracks and the hutments at many places. Open drains follow the track with a terrible stench at several places.
After Mana the next station was Bhatgaon. This station has a proper shed and booking office. There were two more level crossings till the next station, Kendri. We reached Abhanpur junction (28km from Raipur) at 0800hrs. There was railway magistrate checking for tickets here. As we approached the station we could see 10-12 TTEs along with policemen at the station. Since a large number of passengers were traveling ticketless, they started jumping down from the running train and running away. The unfortunate ones got caught at the station. A sizeable crowd had collected at the station to watch the action.
2 RA Rajim-Abhanpur passenger was already at the station. This was now to go to Rajim as 1 RA (Abhanpur-Rajim) passenger. It was a four coach rake with GS 473, GS 454, GSR 927, and GS 895. GS 473 and GS 454 (1960 built) were the oldest coaches that I could spot on this NG line. The engine on duty was ZDM-4A 229
At Abhanpur there is crossing with the 2 RD 0630hrs Dhamtari-Raipur passenger. At 0810hrs 2 RD arrived hauled by ZDM-4A 221. It was seven coach rake, with GS 831, GSR 894, GS 840, GS 903, GS 896, GSLR 731, and GS 905. Seeing the TTEs at station, this train stopped at a distance from the station and people started running away. The policemen and TTEs now rushed towards the train to catch the offenders. The same drama again unfolded with few unlucky ones being caught. While those who could pay the fine were let off, others were caught and brought back to the station to be prosecuted.
Abhanpur is a junction for lines to Dhamtari (45km away) and Rajim (17km away). At 0825hrs 2 RD left and soon 1 RD left too. An eight wagon ballast rake was there at Abhanpur siding. Fresh ballast is being laid on this section. To haul the ballast specials, ZDM-4A 224 has been recently transferred from Motibagh to Raipur shed.
The Rajim passeneger left at 0840hrs, ten minutes behind schedule. There was only one station en route, Manik Chouree. We reached Rajim at 0910 hours. There is a triangle at Rajim for reversal but it is not used. The engine was reversed and attached at other end. The station building has been recently built with a big waiting hall. However for some strange reason the hall was locked. Rajim is situated at confluence of three rivers, Mahanadi, Pairi, and Sodhu and hence has religious significance.
We left Rajim at 1005hrs reaching Abhanpur at 1015hrs and back to Raipur at 1145hrs. Compared to the Raipur-Dhamtari route, this route does not see much traffic. Though all the seats were occupied, the Dhamtari Passenger had people hanging out from the doors and some even sitting on the roof.
At Raipur, 3 RD Raipur-Dhamtari Passenger was ready to leave. It was the same seven-coach rake of the 2RD but this time with ZDM-4A 220 on duty. It left at 1205hrs.
There are five daily services in each direction and the last train from Raipur is at 1705hrs. It reaches Dhamtari at 2040hrs. The crew stays behind and the same train comes back in morning as 2 RD. The last train from Dhamtari is at 1745hrs which reaches Raipur at 2115hrs.
The same day there were reports in all major newspapers that in a meeting attended by railway minister, CRB, and the Planning Commission chairman, money has been sanctioned for gauge conversion of this line. the DRM has now been asked to forward the gauge conversion survey report which was completed a year ago. The entire route has no major bridge and is on a straight alignment. There hardly appears to be any major hurdle in gauge conversion. It is now only a matter of time before this NG line is closed down for conversion.