Dadar-Bhusaval by 2859 Gitanjali Express
by Vivek Manvi
Photos from this trip can be viewed here: Dadar to Dadar Trip.
It had been over three months since I had been on a railfanning trip. This is when I called up Bharath Moro and we made a plan for a short weekend trip to complete the triangular route from Mumbai-Pune-Daund-Manmad-Mumbai. The original plan was to travel on the Udyan Express from Mumbai to Daund and from there, take the Jhelum Express to Manmad and take another train from Manmad back to Mumbai. However, it being the peak summer vacation period, all trains showed a long waiting list. Udyan as usual was full; Jhelum too had a waiting list. With a fear that we might have to scrap our plan, I decided to see if we could do this journey in the reverse direction. As soon as I searched IRCTC for accomodation available to Manmad, I found that there were only two berths available in AC 3 Tier on the 2859 Gitanjali Express in the Bhusaval quota. Without hesitation and with a feeling of triumph, I booked our tickets from Dadar to Bhusaval on the Gitanjali. From Bhusaval to Pune, all trains were full again, but nevertheless, I booked our tickets (WL 2 & 3) in AC 3 Tier on the 1040 Maharashtra Express hoping that they would be confirmed before we start our journey. The last leg of our journey from Pune to Mumbai was to be on the 2124 Deccan Queen and there were plenty of seats available in AC Chair Car! Our tickets on the 1040 got confirmed three days before our departure from Mumbai and now we could relax, knowing that we would not have to run from pillar to post at the last moment.
Bharath arrived in Mumbai the evening before our journey and spent the night at his company's guest house at Dadar. I could hardly sleep that night because of two reasons, the first was that I was not used to sleeping at the time normal people do? and the other was that I had to leave my place as early as 4:45AM in the morning to board the Gitanjali Express. Anyway, I left my place on time and boarded a slow local to Dadar. At Dadar, I met Bharath who although sleepy was all geared up for the trip. We were heading straight into the furnace that Central India is during summers. As soon as we climbed down the steps on to the platform, we could hear a distinct whine approaching us and growing louder. Bharath and I exchanged knowing looks with each other and soon, WCG-2 #20153 arrived with the Mumbai-Bhusaval passenger. The passenger looked pretty much full and it departed soon. We were to overtake this train sometime later. After a quick cup of tea at the platform stall, we strolled around the station. The 6010 Chennai-Mumbai Mail was standing at platform no. 5. The rake looked pretty empty and we thought that it was being terminated at Dadar! However, it finally departed towards Mumbai CST. Announcements were being made for the arrival of the Indrayani Express to Pune. There was a good crowd waiting to board the Indrayani. The Indrayani departed and we now waited for the indicators to display the coach positions of our train. But, CR had different plans. It was now only five minutes to the arrival of our train and the indicators still showed the coach positions for the Indrayani. We then asked a seasoned porter for help and it took him just a second to answer our question. We were happy that our coach, AS-1 was going to be near the loco. This meant that we could keep listening to the horns of the loco through the journey as well as get down and check out the loco at every halt.
The Gitanjali arrived at 0615 behind a WCAM-3 #21933. We boarded our coach #048101A, an AC 3 Tier coach built by RCF, Kapurthala in July 2004. The interiors looked pretty snazzy with berth indicators on the night lamps and piano type switches for the fans and lights.
We departed at 0620 and slowly picked up speed. We could see a coach from a DMU belonging to NCR parked outside the Matunga workshop along with a WDS-6 from Kalyan. Kurla was passed slowly at 0630. There is a speed restriction of 10kmph because of work in progress on a subway at the north end of the station. The other suburban CR stations passed in a flash and we were crossed by innumerable mail/express trains arriving at Mumbai. There was a crossing every five minutes! Thane was passed at 0645 and at a speed of 40kmph. We kept traveling at this speed through the Parsik tunnel and then picked up speed. No freight was seen on the Diva loop line, but we saw someone wearing a white T-shirt clicking photos of our train from the rail overbridge on the Diva-Vasai line. Was it any of our IRFCA gangmen? We arrived at Kalyan right time at 0700. The departure was at 0705 and we snaked across the points and proceeded north towards Kasara. Our view of the Kalyan electric loco shed was blocked by an EMU. Anyway, we sped through the far flung suburban stations which look exactly like one another. We overtook the Bhusaval passenger at Khadavli at 0725. On the Kalyan-Kasara line, the gradient begins much earlier as compared to the Kalyan-Karjat line. One can actually feel the train climbing the gradient while sweeping through long curves. Bharath and I marked some curves, which would be really good for photography. The train was doing 90-100 kmph constantly in this section. Suddenly, the speed dropped down and we came to a screeching halt near Vashind. Someone had apparently been knocked down or had fallen down from a moving train. We started again in five minutes and arrived at Kasara at 0810. Two screaming WCG-2 bankers were attached at the rear. In five minutes, we began our ascent up the Thull ghat. A new 25KV AC substation is being built at the north end of Kasara station right next to the old 1.5KV DC substation. CR seems to be going at full speed as far as the conversion to 25KV AC is concerned. We traveled briskly up the ghats ably supported by the twin WCG-2 bankers. The arrival at Igatpuri was at 0835, bang on time!
Soon, the WCAM-3 was detached and it moved away towards a siding. A blood red SRC WAP-4 could be seen standing at a distance along with a parcel van. I always wonder why the parcel van is attached to the Gitanjali at Igatpuri instead of Mumbai. Platform length at CST is insufficient, maybe? Anyway, as soon as the current in the OHE was changed to 25KV AC, the WAP-4 sounded a short horn and slowly reversed to take charge of the waiting Gitanjali. At that time, we could only faintly imagine the thunder it was about to unleash on the route ahead. As soon as it came near, we saw the loco from close quarters. It was a blood red Santragachi WAP-4 #22317. At 0855, the driver let loose a long blast of the HT horn of the WAP-4, which sounded exactly like a WAP-5 HT horn. The driver notched up aggressively and we were at 40kmph even as we were crossing the Igatpuri AC trip shed. The trip shed was full of WAM-4s from Itarsi and Bhusawal and a couple of WAP-4s from Kanpur and Jhansi. We quickly hit our top speed of 110kmph and maintained it. The section between Igatpuri and Nasik Road is pretty scenic with long sweeping curves and gradients. The up and down tracks separate from each other on a couple of occasions here. It was like sitting in a long roller-coaster at 110kmph. The driver was liberal with his use of the WAP-4 horn as small stations passed in a flash. Asvali was passed at 0920 and at 80kmph, with horns blaring.
Before we could even realize, we were on the outskirts of Nasik, with acres and acres of vineyards telling us that we were in the wine capital of India. Deolali was crossed at 0930, and at 90kmph, again with horns blaring. This is where the Salman Khan starrer, "Tere Naam" has been shot. The movie has visuals of WAP-4 hauled trains speeding through. We could see Nasik Road station in the distance, but the driver showed no intention of slowing down. He applied the brakes at the last moment and we entered the platform at 40kmph! We came to a halt at 0935, about ten minutes late. What a ride it was so far! We departed from Nasik Road at 0940. The route from Nasik Road to Manmad is a total contrast to the Igatpuri-Nasik route. The track here is mainly straight and the surroundings are barren apart from a few fields scattered here and there. This was a prelude to what Central India had in store for us. The temperature was rising, but it was not too hot and we stuck around the door. Lasalgaon was passed at 1015 at 100kmph. A station named 'Summit' was passed at 1025. Any ideas why this place is called 'Summit'? We couldn't spot any summit nearby, or is this the highest point on the plateau? Soon, the Ankai fort and "Thumbs up" rock came into view, heralding the arrival of Manmad Road.
Manmad (MMR) is an interesting junction with lines branching out towards Mumbai, Bhusawal, Daund and Nanded. The Manmad-Nanded line, which was MG earlier, is now BG.
We spotted the modified BSL WAM-4 #21331 parked in a siding outside MMR station. This loco has now been stripped of its huge windscreen and now features conventional WAM-4 windscreens.
Bhusaval - Pune by 1040 Maharashtra Express
Bharath and I were to travel from BSL to Pune by the 1040 Gondia-Kolhapur Maharashtra Express. After a long and fulfilling railfanning session in the heat of Bhusaval, we were looking forward to relaxing in the AC 3 Tier compartment of our train. The scheduled arrival of the 1040 at BSL according to the TT is 1800 and the departure is at 1805. However, a five minute halt at BSL is no longer possible as the loco change has shifted from MMR to BSL. The train now gets a Pune WDM-2 for the entire journey from BSL-KOP. We could see a green colored Pune WDM-2 #17898 in the siding for more than an hour before the train's departure. Even at 1745, there were no announcements about the 1040! 1800 came and went and there was still no sign of the train. At 1820, we had enough and enquired about the train. We were hoping we had not inadvertently missed the train due to our sprints from one end of the station to the other in order to catch the never ending action at BSL. We were told that the train was delayed by around half hour and was expected to arrive any time soon.
Anyway, the train arrived behind a BSL WAM-4 at 18:30. The loco was changed and the Pune diesel took over. We were waiting to see how the 16-coach train performed behind the D loco on a track fit for 110kmph. It was an old loco built in 1980, but had been rehabilitated and sported the new desk type controls for the driver. There were a lot of military cadets on board the train and there was a mad rush to fill water at the drinking water taps on the platform. The departure was at 19:00 with a long blast from the WDM-2 horn. The train slowly negotiated the points with the WDM-2 smoking furiously. The acceleration was decent but nowhere as compared to the acceleration of the WAP-4 we had experienced in the morning. The train reached 100kmph after a very long time as expected. The time taken from 20kmph to 100kmph was nearly eight minutes! Bhadli was crossed at 19:20 at 95kmph. We were soon at the outskirts of Jalgaon. The arrival at Jalgaon was at 19:28. We crossed the stationary Varanasi bound Kamayani Express. After a halt of five minutes, we were on our way again. The driver notched up and we reached 90kmph in eight minutes. In nine minutes, we were doing 95kmph and in 10.5 min, we touched 100kmph but only briefly as we had to slow down for a caution order.
The arrival at Pachora was at 20:06 and the departure was at 20:10. Quite a few waitlisted passengers had also boarded our AC 3 Tier coach and the coach with a capacity of 64 now had atleast 75 people on board. The TTE was having a field day with "adjusting" these waitlisted passengers. The train was doing a steady 90-100kmph and as it was too dark to see outside, we settled down in our berths. Chalisgaon came at 20:42 and few of the waitlisted passengers got down. With a little more space now and nothing else to do, we decided to take a nap upto Manmad (MMR). We decided to skip the dinner served on board and thought of grabbing a bite at Manmad. Both of us fell asleep instantly and woke up only by the commotion caused by people boarding at MMR. The arrival was at 21:50. We got down and looked around to find something to eat. The only thing that looked inviting was bread and fresh omlettes, which were being served by a food-stall. We also stocked up on some potato chips and water. The Nanded bound Nandigram Express was stationed on the platform next to us. We departed at 22:02 and slowly made our way out of the station.
This was my first time on the Manmad - Daund line and I was looking forward to seeing the Ankai fort area although it was dark. The train took a sharp left turn out of the station and accelerated towards the single line unelectrified territory. We crossed a stationary BCNA freight headed by twin Pune WDM-2s. We hit a speed of around 60kmph and soon we were near the Ankai Fort hill. Soon, another line joined us and ran parallel. I knew from Bharat & Mohan's trip report that the Manmad-Nanded and Manmad-Daund lines run parallel to each other for some time. But this line showed no signs of going away, so we doubted that it was the line to Nanded. We slowed down and finally came to a halt at Ankai Killa station, which had no platforms. I thought that it would be a crossing, so I waited to see which train it was. Bharath, being really tired and sleepy decided to hit the berth. After nearly ten minutes, I heard the horn of an approaching diesel loco. Soon, I could see a headlight approaching, but it was from the direction of Manmad and not Daund! My mind went into an instant calculation mode thinking of which train was about to overtake us. Soon, it all became clear as the train passed us. It was none other than the Nanded bound Nandigram Express, which we had spotted at MMR. So, the other track was indeed the Manmad-Nanded line. I saw the Nandigram Express take a sharp left turn nearly 200 meters away and disappear out of view. We were still stationary and soon the much awaited crossing happened. An express train headed by a KJM WDMx loco crossed us at nearly 70kmph. We were given the proceed signal at 22:45 and we were on our way again. The lines to Nanded and Daund diverge from each other at a point about 100 meters out of Ankai Killa station. Our train picked up speed rapidly thereafter and I decided to stand at the door for five more minutes. Countless stars could be seen in the clear summer sky. Such beautiful sights are no longer seen in cities like Mumbai. With that thought, I decided to go to sleep with an aim of waking up at Daund. I somehow managed to climb/squeeze on to the middle berth and lay there looking at the pictures clicked earlier during the day on the camera. We stopped at Yevla at 23:00 and were crossed by another express train. The departure was at 23:15 and within minutes, I fell asleep.
I woke up to see our train stationary at a major station. The time was 03:00AM. This had to be Daund. Wearing my shoes, I headed out to the door. Daund station was like any other typical station on IR at night time. Scores of passengers were huddled around each other wrapped in shawls. Some were sprawled across on the platform fast asleep. We departed at 03:15, our direction reversed. The yard at Daund was empty at the time apart from a BCNA and a BOXN freight. We picked up speed and proceeded towards Pune. We were running nearly half hour late but I knew the 1040 had enough slack to ensure that we would reach Pune on time. Soon, I could see a mid-mounted headlamp approaching us from a distance. Mid-mounted headlamps in this section could mean only two things - it was either a WDP-4 or a WDG-4. Soon enough, the beast arrived. It was WDP-4 #20012, "Baaz" hauling the 1013 LTT-CBE Express. The train crossed in a flash and was gone. All I could hear then was the throbbing Alco engine of our ancient WDM-2. We were blasting at top speed through all the wayside stations between Daund and Pune. Soon, I could see another headlamp approaching us. This one looked like it was top-mounted. I put my eyes into 10X optical zoom to find out what it was. I didn't have to wait long. It was an LHF WDG-4 hauling a yellow-green BCC rake. Two EMD loco sightings within fifteen minutes of each other. This was cool!
Bharath joined me soon and I told him about the WDP-4 and WDG-4 sightings. We stood at the door chatting away and soon we could see bright lights on the horizon. We were fast approaching Pune and one by one we crossed the far flung suburbs of the city. We slowed down as soon as we entered electrified territory. The train snaked across the points to enter platform number five. The WCAM-1 headed Jodhpur-Bangalore Express was waiting at platform number one. We finally came to a halt at 04:40, bang on time.
Both the Vasco and Nizamuddin bound Goa Expresses were stationed next to each other. The Vasco bound train was headed by Pune WDM-3A #18757R.
The Goa Express loco change has now been shifted from MMR to BSL. MMR is not a scheduled halt for the Gitanjali, but the train halted at MMR, nevertheless! The time was 1030. We were shocked to see the NZM bound Goa Express was allowed to proceed before us. Now, our 5000HP WAP-4 hauled train would have to trail the 3100HP WDM-3A hauled Goa Express. This would be a good test of the WDM-3A's capabilities as we would constantly on its tail. The question remained - How long would the underpowered train delay us? Anyway, this unscheduled halt gave us a chance to take a look at our loco taking a breather after a fast run from NK to MMR.
We departed MMR after a halt of ten minutes. A couple of WAP-1s were parked in a siding at the north end of the station. The line towards Nanded kept us company for a while before taking a sharp right turn and disappearing from view. I traveled on this line quite a few times during the MG era. As soon as our train hit top speed, the Central Indian summer heat hit us as well. It felt as if we were standing next to a steel furnace. It was impossible to stand at the door. Railfanning had to take a backseat and we retreated to the cool confines of our 3AC coach.
I slept through most of the remaining journey as we blasted through Nandgaon, Chalisgaon, Pachora and Jalgaon. It was really surprising that we were constantly doing 110kmph even though we were trailing a 23-coach train (as we later found out) hauled by a grossly underpowered loco! Full credit goes to the Pune WDM-3A for not delaying us even one bit ;-)
Soon, we were at the outskirts of Bhusaval and slowed down. We came to a halt right next to the Goa Express, which was getting a loco change. We were only ten minutes late! As we got down from our coach and walked ahead towards the loco, the afternoon heat in Bhusaval hit us and reminded us that it would keep us company till evening!