The Dead Zone at Virar

The dead zone is an electrically neutral area at Km 63 on the WR out of Mumbai. This zone allows the dual voltage locos of the WR to change the working voltage while on the run. The area between Churchgate and Virar is charged to 1.5 KVDC while the area north of Virar is charged to 25 KVAC.

The zone is a few kms north of Virar and is accessible only by foot.

These are pictures from the dead zone trek that was done by Viraf Mulla, Shrinivas Joshi, R. Venkatesh, Rajan Matthew and me on the 1st of May 2001. The purpose was to document the unique practice of the changing of the pantograph during run. This practice would be history in a few years when the 25 KVAC would be extended into Mumbai.

The trek also exposed us to the misery of the people who have to commute north of Virar. There are no locals for them as the DC EMUs cannot travel in the AC section. So they have to put up with horribly crowded 'shuttles' and with WDM2-hauled DMUs.The lack of EMUs north of Virar means that the suburban Mumbai is forced to end at Virar. The introduction of the AC/DC EMU may ease the matters in the near future.

Morning of the 1st of May 2001, Shri and I take the Dombivali - Vasai Road DMU, whose pics can be seen here. We met Rajan on Vasai Road platform and then took an EMU to Virar.
bsrdsl.jpg (49851 bytes) From our Virar bound EMU — a Vatwa WDM2 coupled with an Ernakulam power at the north end of Vasai road station. Trains travelling to Konkan railways from the WR get a change from electric to diesel here.
After meeting Viraf and Venky at the north end of pf 3 of Virar, we begin our trek.
flat00.jpg (58233 bytes) As the dawn breaks, an empty container rakes arrives at Virar. There is a C&W scrapping yard to the left of this location.
flat.jpg (93218 bytes) The WCAM1 dual voltage loco gets an order to divert extreme left at Virar home signal.
approach.jpg (55626 bytes) The desolate landscape at the site.
tr4.jpg (64999 bytes) A crowded shuttle heading into the dead zone.
nagangi.jpg (34895 bytes) The 2952 Up Rajdhani approaches the Narangi creek bridge. Note the pillars of the bridge. We used steel sheet laid between the up track to cross over to the other side. This unsteady crossing is a challenge which has to tackled to reach the dead zone from Virar. Many mudskippers in the silt beneath!
upraj.jpg (42587 bytes) We sighted only two WCAM2s that day — here is one of them hauling the Mumbai bound Rajdhani with the DC panto already up.
warn.jpg (25769 bytes) 500 meters to the dead zone. The 'A' signifies the beginning of the AC territory.
warn1.jpg (25139 bytes) More warning signs — the top board asks the loco crew to lower the DC panto, the middle is a graphical symbol of one vertical line, one horizontal line and another vertical line. We need some guidance about the meaning of these symbols.
warn2.jpg (33860 bytes) More warning signs — this is the corroded sign by the down track which states 'DEAD ZONE BEGINS'.
warn3.jpg (49076 bytes) Still more signs by the down track — the first structure states 'heavy saline pollution' while the up track side (not visible in this pic) states 'heavy chemical pollution'. The second structure has an 'A' as before, then there is a graphic asking the loco crew to raise the AC panto. The lower most sign is three vertical lines, one below another.
dz.jpg (64588 bytes) An out of sequence of pic showing the text on the earlier 'horizontal between vertical' sign — "OPEN DS FOR SPEED BELOW 40 K.M.P.H.".
dz1.jpg (52846 bytes) A container train coasting at about 60 Kmph with both pantos down — the pic shows the upper part of the warning sign. The train is taking advantage of the slope from Vaitarna towards Virar and the heavy laden weight of rake.
approach1.jpg (97234 bytes) Another container train arrives in a similar fashion — coasting at high speeds with the panto dropped. The pic shows the view of the warnings from some distance. Now that we know what to expect, another trip needs to be done to map the signs and correct functioning of the dead zone.
fr.jpg (37269 bytes) In the correct sequence, the first to arrive after our arrival at the dead zone was the 502 Up Dahanu - Virar 'DMU'. However the first electric train to arrive was the 14 Up Valsad - MCT fast passenger with double decker coaches.
ACpanto.jpg (70323 bytes) The loco did not drop the panto where expected, but had the AC panto up even at the location which we believed was the center of the dead zone. I was trying to concentrate the camera on the panto which should have dropped in front of me. The leading double bar DC panto and the trailing single bar AC panto is clearly visible of this WCAM1.
deadzone.jpg (81387 bytes) The train hurtles into the dead zone with the AC panto extended.
fr1.jpg (64265 bytes) The panto finally drops so far away from where we stood.
fr2.jpg (60778 bytes) A selective scan of the dropped panto.
fr3.jpg (50382 bytes) The DC panto finally raised.
scrjt.jpg (74372 bytes) King WDM2 does not care for this AC/DC nonsense. This is the 7018 Dn. Secunderabad - Rajkot weekly express proceeding at full speed without any hindrance at the dead zone.
scrjt1.jpg (91580 bytes) Guntakal shed WDM2 # 18898 pulls the 7018. These locos bear the livery of Gooty shed from where they were transferred to GTL. I believe the 'diamond in a circle' insignia of the GTL shed on the hood used to cover the older GY shed logo is actually a decal.
dndsl.jpg (76153 bytes) More treats for a diesel nut — the Vatwa and Ernakulam WDM2 seen the first pic arrive north-bound at the dead zone. Note the 'D' on the up line — this must be signifying DC just as A stands for AC.
dndsl1.jpg (105095 bytes) I can understand the Vatwa power romping the WR lines, but what is the Ernakulam power doing so far from its home? And why is it being hauled towards further north? Normally the ERS power having hauled trains from KR are cut off at Vasai Road and then sent to Bandra diesel shed for trip maintenance.
tr2.jpg (70901 bytes) More double deck coaches as the 9022 Up Surat - MCT Flying Ranee arrives on the scene.
fr5.jpg (78609 bytes) The desperation of having to reach Mumbai for one's vocation. People undertake extreme danger like standing on the debris guards of the lower deck windows.
fr6.jpg (77184 bytes) Pressure of population — the toilet window glass is missing and there are people in there too.
fr4.jpg (46331 bytes) Many of these people would detrain from their dangerous perch at Virar from where they can take an EMU to south Mumbai.
gang.jpg (146965 bytes) Breakfast at the dead zone — from left: Shri, Viraf, Rajan and Venky.
tr5.jpg (96864 bytes) The 9025 down Mumbai - Porbandar Saurashtra express arrives at the dead zone.
tr6.jpg (101092 bytes) The loco as yet does not drop the DC panto.
tr7.jpg (129029 bytes) The DC panto going down at last. The dropping of the panto is a slow graceful action, which reminded Rajan of the view from the rear of an aircraft landing on a runway. By comparision, the panto rises quite fast.
tr8.jpg (77516 bytes) More down trains — the 9023 Mumbai - Firozpur Janata express.
tr9.jpg (74564 bytes) Panto is still up in this relatively empty train. As we found that there is no uniformity about where the pantos would be dropped and raised, we decided to split the group along the zone in the hope that within all our pics we would get a complete sequence.
cont.jpg (47142 bytes) Next a container train arrives from Vaitarna side. The AC panto was dropped way before the dead zone.
cont1.jpg (47711 bytes) Yet another container load which mimicked the earlier train in dropping the AC panto very early.
coast.jpg (73053 bytes) The WCAM1 power of the container train coasting at high speeds. The assistant waves at us.
dz3.jpg (85157 bytes) The brake van of each container rake had the letters 'BLC' written on them — is this a station code?
check.jpg (65072 bytes) We saw this courageous procedure in a number of up as well as down the trains. The assistant driver leans right of the door to visually check the changed panto. You can barely make out the assistant hanging out and having a look.
half.jpg (86435 bytes) Wiser by experience, we spread out through the dead zone. You can see Rajan and Shri catching the AC panto of the WCAM1 of the 9032 Up Kutch express lowering.
raise.jpg (90303 bytes) And the raising of the DC panto.
upranakpur.jpg (94175 bytes) More Mumbai bound traffic — 4707 Up Bikaner - Mumbai Ranakpur express.
mysterybox.jpg (62592 bytes) We could not understand the function of this line side box. The flat cover can be slip upwards revealing a large unmarked plastic box inside. The box emits a tiny beeping sound which we took for a 'train on line' indicator. However the sound is so tiny that it may not warn anyone who is not listening carefully.
tr12.jpg (103169 bytes) On the way back from the trek — the 45 down Bandra Terminus - Vapi passenger at the Narangi level crossing north of Virar.
tr11.jpg (99152 bytes) The WCAM1 locos of the 45 down shuttle. The WR takes wayward stone protection seriously — even the 'portholes' of the loco have been guarded.

Trip report soon.

Check out Viraf's page on the same subject for comparision.


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