Rajasthan Sojourn

by Akshay Marathe


Photos from this trip

BCT - Bharatpur by 2903 Golden temple Mail

Here is the trip report of my BCT - Bharatpur journey on 6th January by the legendary Frontier Mail (now Golden Temple mail).

Even though I stay at Borivali, I decided to board the train at BCT. So, I set off from my home at 7 pm. I had planned to take the 7.30 fast EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)from BVI. This EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)departs from platform 6 at BVI, due to which I do not need to climb FOBs. I reached BVI at 7.10 pm. I purchased a ticket to BCT, and proceeded to platform 6. The 7.13 fast EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)was yet to arrive on platform 6! Meanwhile, BCT bound Ferozepur Janata arrived on platform 5. After the Janata arrived, the 7.13 EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)crossed over to platform 6. I had anticipated that the 9024 will depart after EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)clears the points. But the controller had something else in his mind. The 7.13 EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)was allowed to proceed ahead of the Janata express! This is not all. After the 7.13 EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)left BVI, my 7.30 EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)pulled into platform 6. Only after that, the 9024 was cleared to proceed!

My 7.30 EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)was a DC rake, and thankfully a Jessop coach stopped in front of me. Both the bags which I was carrying comfortably fitted into the luggage racks. This was one journey for which I did not want an MRVC rake. I got a window seat. The EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)started at 7.40. The run from Borivali to Andheri, though non stop, was done at a sedate speed as we were following another EMU. I was expecting a good run after ADH, but surprisingly, the EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)stopped at Vile Parle for a full 5 minutes. Normally EMUs pass through Vile Parle at a good speed.

The run after VLP was normal. As usual, Bandra - Dadar was a fantastic run. My EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)overtook the 9024 Janata at DDR! The EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)reached BCT with a delay of just 8 minutes in spite of the slow run. This shows how much slack is built into WR's EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)schedule.

I proceeded towards the M/E section of BCT. The 2903 Golden Temple mail was scheduled to depart from platform 1. The 9005 Saurashtra mail was waiting for departure from platform 1 when I reached the station. Platform 2 had a lone SLR coach and dead WCAM-2P #21878.

I then proceeded to the waiting area, where I met the rest of my group. As soon as the 9005 departed, the coach position displays started showing the coach positions for 2903. We then proceeded to the platform. My reservation was in B-1, berth 55 (side lower!). I checked the reservation charts. Thankfully, our coach was not SMB-ed. B-1 was a 94 make coach, numbered 941431. I was a tad disappointed on learning this. B-1 was the 14th coach in the rake.

Finally, the rake of 2903 was shunted into the platform at 8.50 pm. B-1 was a 62 berth coach. Berth numbers 63 and 64 were converted into Linen rooms. There were 8 coaches behind B-1, which means that the rake was of 22 coaches. I found out my berth and settled down. Immediately, a gentleman approached me requesting exchange of berths. The berth he offered me was berth #39 in B-2 coach. I gleefully accepted that berth, as that too was a side lower. I also got an additional benefit. B-2 coach (#061020) was a full 12 years newer than B-1!!

I arranged my luggage below the berth and dashed to the head of the train to check the locomotive. It was WCAM-2 #21865 of BL shed. The AC coaches of this train had WC occupied/vacant indicators in the cabin above both the doors. An innovative feature indeed, but with one quirk. There is a separate latch in each toilet for the sensor of this indicator. So, if by any chance someone does not use that latch, then the indicator displays "Vacant" instead of "Occupied".

The train departed bang on time at 9.25 pm. As we were leaving the platform, I spotted the rake of 2901 Gujarat Mail on a adjacent platform. WCAM-2P #21878, which I had spotted dead earlier, was in charge of the train. After Mahalaxmi, the LP began notching up. The 2010 Shatabdi express from ADI crossed our train at 21.35. Our train was did a maximum of 55-60 kph upto Santa Cruz. After Santacruz it picked up some speed, and crossed Vile Parle at 80-85 kph. After a brief slowdown at Andheri, we were again at 90-95 at Goregaon. This speed continued right upto Borivali. We reached BVI at 22.09. Surprisingly we departed in exactly two minutes, at 22.11. Normally, every M/E train has to wait till an EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)crosses over to platform 5 from the Dn slow lines.

We then crossed the neutral zone. AC territory brought about a magical transformation in the WCAM-2. We started accelerating rapidly as we were crossing Dahisar. Within no time, the train was doing mps. The WCAM-2 left me speechless with its acceleration. The run from Dahisar to Virar was simply fantastic. We overtook an EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)on the Panju island between Bhayander and Naigaon. We crossed Virar at 22.31, two minutes before time! The distance from Borivali to Virar was covered in just 20 minutes. BVI - VR is truly a fantastic stretch till date.

At VR, a passenger with a BRC WAM-4 attached at BRC end was waiting on platform 5. The run after Virar was at mps, with many SRs thrown in. WCAM-2 impressed me with its acceleration every single time. At Kelve road there was a train in the loop line, but I could not see where its locomotive was. Meanwhile, I made the final preparations to try and sleep. Dahanu was crossed at 23.27, 10 minutes late.

I hit the sack after Dahanu. The run from Gholvad onwards was superb. The train was doing good speeds continuously. We reached Surat at 01.05, delayed by 5 minutes. The 9018 Saurashtra Janata express was waiting on one of the platforms. Soon, The BDTS bound Lokshakti express pulled into the platform adjacent to my train. WCAM-1 #21805 was the power for the Lokshakti. My train departed Surat at 01.10. I soon went to sleep.

The train was moving at 20-25 kph when I woke up next. From the time, I guessed that we were nearing BRC. Soon we pulled into BRC at 03.05, delayed by 18 minutes. We departed from BRC at 03.23, after a halt of exactly 18 minutes. I decided to stay awake for some time to experience the acceleration of WAP-4. And the WAP-4 performed as expected. We ripped past Chaayapuri at mps. I again went to sleep.

Again, I woke up as we were entering Godhra Jn. It had now become the routine. I used to wake up 5-10 minutes before every halt. Perhaps 6th sense of railfanning caused this ;-) Departed 22 minutes late from Godhra. I slept for another 30 minutes after Godhra. Then at 5.15 I folded up the berths and completed the morning chores.

At 5.41, a WAP-7 hauled Rajdhani crossed my train, a couple of km before Dahod. Finally we pulled into Dahod at 5.45, delayed by 37 minutes. While we were waiting at Dahod, a NWR train hauled by a diesel loco passed towards Mumbai. From the name boards on the SLR, it seemed like the Ajmer - Mumbai express. But I am not sure about it.

We left Dahod after a brief halt of 2 minutes. It was still dark outside. The run from Dahod to Meghnagar was eventless. We arrived at Meghnagar at 6.15, and departed at 6.17. The delay had now increased to 39 minutes. The logic behind the halt at Meghnagar is inexplicable. Hardly 2-3 persons got into the train at Meghnagar.

The train accelerated quickly after Meghnagar. Approximately at 6.30, we crossed the only tunnel on the Mumbai - Delhi route, near km 596. By now, there was some light. I had heard about Dahod - Ratlam section's beauty from fellow members. So, I decided to check out whether the weather was conducive for some doorplating. As soon as I opened a door of the coach, I was greeted by a cold, chilly wind. But the sight outside was wonderful. There was some fog, but it was not affecting visibility. The train looked like a snake on the curves. I could make out that a WAP-4 was heading our train. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. After 5 minutes at the door, the cold became too much to bear. I decided to retreat into the coach.

The run was continuously at mps. We had numerous crossings of container rakes. There were so many of them that it would be difficult to keep a count! I went to the door just before Ratlam. We crossed another container rake before the station. We arrived at Ratlam at 7.25, just 10 minutes late. Just as we were pulling into the station, a container rake departed towards NDLS. We overtook it at the very next station. There were some 3-4 freights waiting at the station. At Ratlam, the staff of Eureka Forbes did a good job of cleaning the coach. We left Ratlam after a 22 minute halt.

Saw the MG section of the station while we were leaving from Ratlam. A lone YDM-4 was parked there. After negotiating the points, we started accelerating swiftly, in typical WAP-4 style. Then came a surprise. At 7.55, I saw another Mumbai bound Rajdhani headed by a WAP-7! So the Rajdhani which I saw at Dahod must be the 2952, and this was the 2954. I stayed at the door for some more time. A couple of stations after Ratlam, brand new TKD WAG-9 was waiting in the loop line with a BCNA rake in tow.

I returned to my seat after that, as it was still cold outside. This train has a lot of slack in RTM - Nagda section. 52 minutes are allotted for just 42 km. Sure enough, our train arrived at Nagda at 8.22, 5 minutes before time. There was no sign of the tea vendor from the pantry since morning. Finally the first round of tea was served at Nagda. We departed from Nagda at 8.27 pm, 2 minutes before time.

Ten minutes after Nagda, it was time for another late running train to cross us. At 8.45, the Delhi - Mumbai Garib Rath crossed my train, instantly recognizable due to the assortment of VB and GR Livery coaches in the rake. But I missed seeing the loco of this train. Meanwhile, breakfast was served. The regular cutlets and omlettes was the menu. I opted for cutlets. The cutlets were decent enough. The wappie was continuously impressing me with its fantastic acceleration. I am a fan of the P-4 now!

At 9.15, another P-7 hauled train crossed our train at a station called Suwasra. It must be the Paschim express. We reached Shamgarh, our next halt, 2 minutes before time, and left on time. The endless container traffic continued throughout the journey. After Shamgarh, the run was slighty slow initially. But later, it was a great run at mps. Between km 812 and 813, I checked the speed of our train. It was 109.09 kph. We reached Bhawani Mandi at 10.05, delayed by 13 minutes. There was a lot of crowd on the up line platform. Perhaps some local service was expected to arrive there. We departed from Bhawani Mandi in a minute.

The next major attraction for me was the famous Dara Viaduct before Kota. Thanks to Samitda's atlas, I was able to know exactly when will we cross the viaduct. Meanwhile, our train crossed the 904 km mark 13.5 hours after starting from BCT. Its average speed for the first 900 km was an impressive 66.67 kph! At 10.19, the GHY-Okha express crossed our train, headed by a CNB WAP-4.

I went to the door armed with my camera just before Kanwalpura station, hoping that lady luck favours me and I get an opportunity to spot a train on the viaduct! Alas, that was not going to happen. A diesel hauled train crossed us before the viaduct. Nevertheless, I stayed at the door, marvelling at the sweeping curves in the section. The curves seemed never-ending! At times, the entire 22 coach rake and the loco were visible. Kanwalpura - Dara is truly an amazing section. I enjoyed every bit of it. This is one section every railfan should cover in the day time.

I stayed at the door for a few minutes after Dara and returned to the coach. The landscape had changed now. There were mustard fields all around the railway lines. It was a nice sight, with a yellow carpet on both sides of the tracks. Some distance before Kota, the Mumbai bound Swaraj express crossed our train. It had its regular BRC WAP-4. We reached Kota at 11.20, delayed by 5 minutes. A BOXN rake was waiting on the line adjacent to our platform. It departed while we were entering the station.

We departed from Kota after the scheduled 10 minute halt. Just after the station, we crossed a fairly long bridge over some river. We overtook the BOXN rake at the very next station. It was headed by three WAG-5s. We picked up speed immediately. I was eagerly monitoring the coach movements in this section, which is said to be the best maintained permanent way.

All the while there were yellow carpets on both the sides of the track, due to mustard fields which were in full bloom. We reached Sawai Madhopur at 12.40, maintaining the delay of 5 minutes. At Sawai Madhopur, BRC WAP-4s and 22677 were sleeping on one of the tracks. We departed in five minutes.

Meanwhile, I ate some parathas which I was carrying with me. I had not ordered IRCTC lunch. I thought that there is some slack built into the schedule between Sawai Madhopur and Gangapur city, because 58 minutes are allotted for a distance of 64 km. I was right. We reached Gangapur City bang on time, in spite of a not-so-great run after Sawai Madhopur.

Even at 13.40, there was no signs of lunch from the pantry. It made no difference to me, though. I went to the door at Gangapur City. The start was slow. For 3-4 kilometers, we never exceeded 60 kph. I returned to my seat after half an hour of enjoying the speed and yellow carpet! The RCF manufactured coach was much better than ICF coaches. Soon, we arrived at our next scheduled halt, Shri Mahabirji (SMBJ). We had lost 8 minutes.

We departed from SMBJ in minutes and were on our way. The run from here was simply superb. The driving was aggressive. The LP accelerated very quickly after every SR, as the schedule is tight here. As said by many of our experts like Shanx and Bharath, the track quality is very good after Kota. The coach remains very stable.

Finally, at 14.30, the much awaited lunch arrived from the pantry. The poor guy serving the lunch had to bear the ire of all passengers as everyone was irritated by the late lunch. The pantry service of this train was really poor. The previous night, they had served "batata vada" at 11.15! Very few people will think of eating at this time! Only one person from the entire coach bought the vadas. In the morning also, there was no tea before 8.30. Breakfast too was bland, with option of just bread-omlette/bread-cutlet. I noticed the poor service much more, since my previous train journey was in the Mandovi express:-)

Our train overtook a BRC WAM-4 hauled passenger just before Bayana Jn. We reached Bayana jn at 14.55, 17 minutes late in spite of the wonderful run. A container rake was waiting on a non-platform line for us to overtake it. We left Bayana in two minutes.

Bharatpur Jn, the next halt, was my destination. Some time after Bayana, I packed up my belongings (i.e. a notepad, camera and the atlas!) and moved to the adjacent coach with my baggage. There were a couple of senior citizens from my group in the adjacent coach, and unloading their baggage was my responsibility.

I grabbed this opportunity of doorplating, and stayed at the door right upto Bharatpur. At Sewar, one station short of Bharatpur, there was an SR of 30 kph due to ROB work. The pickup of the train after the T/P sign was simply amazing. We were at 100 kph in no time! I really cannot find words to praise the WAP-4. At the same time, a thought always crosses my mind.."If the WAP-4 has such great acceleration, then how will it be in a WAP-7 hauled train?!" I hope I can find the answer to this question some time in my life!

Finally, the train pulled into Bharatpur at 15.25 (14 minutes late), exactly 18 hours after the departure from BCT. We alighted quickly with all the luggage. There were many passengers who alighted at Bharatpur, most of them visitors to the bird sanctuary 3-4 km from the station. This train serves as a good connection between Mumbai and Bharatpur bird sanactuary.

After a headcount of all the members of the group, we proceeded towards the exit. From there we proceeded to our hotels in a vehicle that is called an autorickshaw there!

Thus ended a fantastic journey in a fantastic train. Except the pantry, this is a great train. There were a very few unscheduled halts. Majority of the delay was only due to speed restrictions.

We covered 1210 km in 18 hours, at an amazing average speed of 67.22 kph, with 16 scheduled halts excluding BCT and Bharatpur. Now, THIS is what I call a real superfast. Not the trains having a speed of 55.01 kph:-)

Thank you very much for reading the long report. Part two (Bharatpur - SWM by Kota Jan Shat) and Part three (SWM - BVI by 2980 JP - BDTS SF) will follow soon.

The Blitzkrieg

Here is the second trip report of my Rajasthan trip. This report is of an amazing journey by the NZM - Kota Janshatabdi express between Bharatpur and Sawai Madhopur.

Date of Journey: 10th January 2009

The scheduled departure of this train at Bharatpur is 15.48. We reached the station at 14.50. Just as we were entering the platform, a container rake led by twin WAM-4s #21633 and 20690 departed from the station. All of us went to platform three. At a point, I suggested that we wait at this place till the coach positions were displayed on the indicators. Our entire group of 23 people had reservation in D-5 coach. We kept our baggage at one place, and some of the people went to a nearby stall to have tea. Four of us waited to keep a watch over the baggage.

Soon, a container rake pulled into the loop line. This was an indication that the Golden Temple Mail is about to arrive. There were announcements too about its arrival. But, before the GT Mail, the Bhiwani - Sawai Madhopur passenger pulled into platform three. It was a 10 coach rake hauled by BRC WAP-4 #22393. Most of the people on the platform got into this train. It departed at 15.15.

At 15.30, there were announcements that our train will shortly arrive on platform 3. This announcement was repeated 4-5 times. The coach position too was displayed on the LED boards. And what a surprise! The board right above my head showed "D-5"! At 15.37, BRC WAP-4 #22561 pulled into the station with ASR bound Golden temple mail. It departed within 5 minutes.

Then, suddenly at around 15.40, it was announced that our train is an hour late! Naturally, people turned towards me for an explanation, knowing my love for IR. I expressed my inability to explain the cause for the sudden change in the status of the train (by the way, trainenquiry.com was indicating that the train is right time).

So, one of our group members decided to enquire with the SM about this confusion. The SM's reply was an extremely hilarious one. He said "Saab, pehle maine galat button dabaaya tha (Sir, earlier I had pressed the wrong button!)"

So, now I had one hour at hand for some railfanning. But unfortunately, during that hour, there was very less traffic on this hitertho busy line. A light WAG-7 towards Mathura and a BCNA rake towards Kota was the only traffic during that hour. I could do nothing but sit patiently and impart some IR gyaan to the group members, who bombarded me with questions as if I was the CPRO of IR & I could change anything and everything in IR at wish! The delay of our train was now announced as 1 hours 15 minutes.

At half past four, we started planning our strategy for loading 45 bags and 23 people into the train in the 2 minute halt! At 17.00, I spotted a WAP-4 and JS rake entering the platform. There was no announcement about the arrival of the train. Perhaps the SM feared that he might press the wrong button again:) All bags and people safely boarded the train! We departed at 17.05. The 12-13 coach rake was peanuts for the WAP-4! It started accelerating like mad as soon as the points were cleared.

After successfully executing the task of boarding the train, we had another task at hand. Unreserved and WL people had occupied all our seats. Since our group was large, we were successful in getting our seats within 5 minutes. A few of them refused initially, but were forced to vacate their seats by our "crowd"!

After settling down in my seat, I started observing the coach. It was made in 2002. All windows had retractable sun shades installed on them. Cleanliness and maintenance was good. Overall, the coaches of this Janshatabdi are far better than CR's coaches of MAO Janshatabdi. The coach had a route display inside it. LEDs were arranged all along the path of the train. The LEDs of the section which was crossed glowed with red colour, and the LEDs of the section which was yet to be crossed glowed with green colour. There was a GPS based information display board too. It displayed the following information, one at a time, in Hindi as well as English:

  1. Last halt
  2. Next scheduled halt
  3. Current train speed
  4. Distance to the next scheduled halt
  5. Whenever the train crossed a station, the name of that station wasdisplayed.
  6. When the train stopped at a scheduled halt, the text "Welcome to " was displayed.

We bought coffee from the IRCTC staff. It was soon dark outside. Hence I preferred to stay in my seat. The train was given a clear line throughout. The display inside the coach never showed speeds above 109 kph. The WAP-4 was literally toying with the short rake. In no time, we reached Bayana. The LP too was fantastic. The train used to reach mps from a dead stop in about 3 minutes.

Except 4-5 speed restrictions, the entire run was done at speeds above 105 kph. Due to the darknes, nothing was visible outside the train. The run right upto Sawai Madhopur was without even a single unscheduled halt. I passed the time by monitoring the information display in the coach. For some time, a person with a data log sheet came to inspect the board.

We reached Sawai Madhopur 19.20, delayed by 1 hour and 20 minutes. In spite of the high speed run and few SRs, we had lost 5 minutes. This shows how tight the schedule of this train is. LGD WAP-4 #22517 was sleeping off in a siding. While we were leaving the station, the Gujarat bound Gujarat Sampark Kranti pulled in, headed by a WAP-4. Thus ended a fast and furious journey.

This was by far the best journey in the entire trip. The train covered 183 km in just 2 hours 15 minutes, with 5 halts (a halt every 30-40 minutes on an average). The average speed was a mind blowing 81.33 kph! But, what surprises me is the mps of this train. Why is it allowed to go only at 110 kph? All conditions are favourable to run it at 120 kph. BRC WAP-4s are fit for 130 kph, the NZM - KOTA tracks too are fit for 130 kph and Janshatabdi coaches are fit for 120 kph. But still this train runs at 110 kph!

One full circle

Presenting the third, and final trip report of my Rajasthan trip.

The final journey of my trip was from Sawai Madhopur to Borivali by the 2980 Jaipur - BDTS superfast, on 12th January 2009. We started from our hotel at 2030 itself, as two members had to board the 2976 JP - MYS express, scheduled to depart at 21.40.

We reached the station at 21.00. While we were nearing the station, the AK Rajdhani pulled into the station. Unfortunately, I couldn't spot the loco. The horn sounded like a WAP-5/7 though. It left immediately. At the station, I was greeted by LGD WAP-4 #22517, stabled at exactly the same spot where I had spotted it two days ago, on 10th. Along with it, a BGKT Jumbo WDM-2 too was sleeping in the sidings.

We kept our luggage outside the station, and two of us (including me) went to the enquiry office to find out the platform where our train would arrive. Our trains (2976 and 2980) were supposed to arrive on platform 2, the up mainline platform. So, we moved all the luggage to platform 2, and waited near the FOB. Now I had about an hour and half to spend at the station. The immediately expected trains were the 2976 JP - MYS, 9019 Dehradun Express and 9024 Firozpur Janata.

The 2976 was announced first. In the sidings, the LGD WAP-4 was energised to haul the 2976. The spark produced when its panto touched the OHE caused a disturbance in the announcement system. It went towards the NDLS end of the station to switch tracks, and soon went towards the Kota/JP end of the station from platform 3, horns blaring. Before the 2976 arrived, a container rake screamed through the station towards Kota at a great speed. Soon after the container rake passed, a headlight was visible in the distance, at the Kota/JP end. It slowly negotiated the points, and entered platform 2. It was the 2976 express, running bang on time. I was expecting a BGKT loco in charge of the train. But I was in for a surprise. LDH Jumbo #17926 was in charge of the train!

Soon, the Dehradun express arrived on platform 1 with an unknown loco. The Firozpur Janata arrived on platform 3 headed by BRC WAP-4 #22209. But the 2976 was given clearance before the 9024. It departed at 21.30. Again, on seeing the Firozpur Janata bound for Mumbai, people asked me "Why didn't we take this train? It will reach earlier!" On this, I had to explain them the concept of overtakes! One gentleman also said "Wasn't this train called Frontier mail some years ago?" Finally the 9024 & 9019 also departed, leaving the station silent again, but not for long.

Soon, twin BGKT locos running light towards Kota arrived on platform 2 and halted as the signal was at Danger. They got the green in about 5 minutes and proceeded towards Kota. I could see another headlight coming from the NDLS end. After a couple of minutes, a container rake hauled by a WAG-7 entered the station slowly. The signal was still red as the twin locos had not cleared the next block. The container rake received the proceed signal before it could stop. It swiftly accelerated, and by the time the caboose crossed me, it was doing 55-60 kph.

A BTPN rake hauled by a WAG-5 passed towards Kota at 22.15. Then I decided to have a stroll on the platform to find out the loco of my train. I spotted a waist level headlight at the Kota end of the station. On going closer I found out that it was BRC WAP-4 #22538, the power fro my train for SWM - BRC sector. I returned to the place where our baggage was kept, and proceeded towards the place where our coach would arrive. Meanwhile the BRC WAP-4 went to NDLS end, and returned to Kota/JP end on the track between platform 1 and 2.

Finally, my train arrived at 22.45. Again the loco link was a surprise. This train too had an LDH loco, WDG-3A #14743. The coach position displayed at the station was wrong. They hadn't taken coach BE-1 into account. So, BE-1 arrived where B-1 was displayed. Our coach, B-1 was a fairly new one, numbered 05118. my precious SL berth #39 was occupied by someone. I requested him to vacate the berth. He started giving excuses like "My leg has been fractured". On persisting, he finally vacated the berth. His actual berth was the SU in the adjacent bay! He faced no problems climbing into the SU with his "fractured" leg ;-) All the six seats in the bay opposite to my berth were from my group.

The train deperted at 23.06, 16 minutes behind schedule. Again, the P-4 started showing what it is capable of. I arranged by "bed", and then helped the others to secure the two MBs in position. We hit the sack at 23.30 after the TTE checked our tickets. We reached Kota at 00.15, delayed by 14 minutes and departed after a longish 20 minute halt. The delay increased to 25 minutes due to the long halt. One thing that I noticed was that the Janshatabdi coach was far more stable than 3AC coaches of both trains. Is it just a co-incidence?

After Kota I slept pretty peacefully (compared to my normal sleep in trains). I woke up 3-4 times around 2-3 am. I remember seeing fairly thick fog outside, but still the train was doing 90-100 kph. I slept through the halt at Nagda. I woke up sometime at 3.50. I was expecting Nagda, but soon, I saw a Neon sign saying "Diesel loco shed, Ratlam". Yes. The shed has large a neon sign facing the tracks. It was then that I realised that I had slept through Nagda.

Arrival at RTM was at 4.04, delayed by 22 minutes. The crew change was done quickly, and we departed in 6 minutes. I fell asleep again, and woke up while we were entering Meghnagar. We departed at 5.15 after the customary 2 minute halt. I decided to fold up the berths and sit on the SL now. After transforming the berth into a seat, I finished my morning chores, and settled into the seat. Unfortunately, it was not a trackside seat. We reached Dahod at 5.40.

Apparantly there is some slack for this train between Dahod and Godhra. 1 hour 22 minutes are allotted for the section. In the opposite direction, this train has been allotted only 58 minutes. Our train covered the Dahod - Godhra section in an hour and 3 minutes, reaching Godhra bang on time at 6.44.

The Godhra - BRC run was the best run of the journey. The start from Godhra itself was fantastic. We were at 110 within no time. We blasted past all stations at mps. We were at BRC outer at 7.40. We were made to halt at the outer for approximately 5 minutes. I spotted the rake of Vadodara express in the yard. Some of the coaches had advertisements of Tata Power. Finally we pulled into BRC at 7.50. My coach was 6th from the loco. I quickly went to the head of the train to see the loco change. A WCAM-1 was waiting on an adjacent siding.

The WAP-4 was quickly decoupled from our train and went some distance ahead. I saw the loco in daylight for the first time. It needed a good wash! Soon, the WCAM-1 was coupled to our train. Its road number was 21825. Announcements were being made that the Awadh express is expected to arrive at BRC by 9.30 am!

I returned to the coach. My co-passengers had bought some pakodas. They were very tasty. We departed from BRC in exactly 18 minutes. We had to wait for tea since this train has got no pantry.

The progress was slow till Itola, due to work of some bridges. We overtook a BCNA rake hauled by ASN WAG-5 #23595 at Itola. Finally we started accelerating after Itola. The difference between WAP-4 and WCAM-1 is instantly noticeable! Nevertheless, the acceleration of WCAM-1 was fair enough.

At BRC a tea vendor had boarded the train. The tea was fantastic. I had two cups of it. Along with tea, I also ate some theplas for breakfast.

The amount of freight traffic on this section was mind boggling. On an average we were crossing one freighter between every two stations, and overtaking a freighter at every alternate station. The freighters were mainly BCNA, BOXN and containers. A notable crossing was of a freighter ferrying MG coaches. We crossed this freighter somewhere near Palej.

We reached Surat at 10 am, maintaining the 5 minute delay. In one of the sidings at Surat, I spotted the rake of ST - Amravati fast passenger. It was a brand new rake, consisting of all 08xxx coaches. We departed from ST after 5 minutes. The run from Surat to Valsad was eventless, punctuated with lots of freight crossings. There were a few desolate NG coaches at the junctions from where NG lines branch off.

I went to the door with my camera after Dungri. We were riding the yellows after dungri. Finally we got clearance to enter BL. The LP notched up quickly to 55-60 kph. My main interest was BL freight yard, where fellow railfans have been spotting MRVC rakes pretty regularly. But that day there were no MRVC rakes at BL. The lines to the west of the tracks had some BCNA rakes. The east side yard was empty. There was a BRC WAP-4, ET WAM-4 and an unknown WAG-5 in the east yard.

We halted at BL at 11.15, delayed by 15 minutes. A container rake charged through the station in the opposite direction. After that, a passenger waiting on platform 1 departed towards BRC. My train too left in 5 minutes. We accelerated quickly out of BL. I was now in familiar territory. We crossed Udvada at mps, overtaking a container rake in the process.

We reached Vapi at 11.41 and departed after a quick halt. The coach was pretty empty now. Many passengers had alighted at Surat, Valsad and Vapi. The outside temperature was in the 30s now. We had to tell the attendant to increase the cooling. We crossed Dahanu at 12.20. The Dahanu yard had no freights.

Dahanu - Palghar run was quick. We departed from Palghar at 12.45, delayed by 15 minutes. But I was confident that the train will reach BVI on time. There was plenty of slack between Saphale and Virar. The train slowed down to 20 kph at Kelve road due to an SR. After the SR was over we picked speed again. I packed all my belongings.

Throughout the trip till now, I had been pretty lazy as far as railfanning was concerned. But now, it seemed that the railfan in me had suddenly come out of hibernation. I had the urge to doorplate the last section of the journey. So, I went to a door with my luggage while we were exiting Saphale. We were doing only 45-50 kph. I was wondering why we were going so slowly. I got the answer soon. As we neared the curve after Saphale, I could see another train just ahead of my train. I took a pic of that train, but with the limited zoom of my camera, the pic was not so good.

We were riding the yellows all the way till the Vaitarna bridges. Finally, before the south bridge, we got a less restrictive signal, and the LP started notching up quickly. The pickup was amazing. I loved the mild whining sounds made by the coach alternators while accelerating.

We entered Vaitarna at 60 kph. The starter was green. So the LP accelerated even more.Once again the WCAM-1 proved that it is no slouch in AC mode. We again slowed down near the Naringi bridge due to a caution order. On the other line, a WCAG-1 hauled BCNA crossed my train. there was a neutral zone inside the 20 kph SR.

After the SR we again picked up speed, and crossed Virar at a decent pace. We mainteined that pace till Nalasopara. At Nalasopara, to my disgust, brakes were applied. All my hopes of the train covering up the 15 minute delay vanished into thin air. We came to a dead stop a couple of signals before Vasai Road. After a halt of 3-4 minutes, we slowly started moving. We passed through BSR at 60 kph. Speeds were sedate till Naigaon. We again started picking up speed on the Panju island. We crossed the south bridge at a good speed, and blasted through Bhayander station at mps. We maintained a good pace till Mira road.

I was expecting the Jaipur Garib rath to cross my train at any moment. But it didn't cross at all. After Mira road we started slowing down again. We crawled through Dahisar. The NZ was negotiated at the crawling speed. I witnessed the lowering and raising of pantos from the door. Now, the rest of the people from my group too came to the door. As expected, I was summoned to tell them the platform on which the train will be received at BVI. We kept crawling nearer and nearer to the outer signal of BVI, which was showing red. Finally, when the loco was hardly 50 metres from the signal, it turned amber, with a route indicator, which meant we were going on platform 6. It was a boon for me, since I do not need to climb any FOB if I alight at platform 6.

Slowly, the train negotiated the points and entered platform 6. It halted at BVI at 14.00. The delay increased by 9 minutes in the Palghar - BVI section, in spite of a fair amount of slack! The train covered 997 km in 14.9 hours, with an average speed of 66.91 kph. The average speed is very close to Frontier, even though the 2980 had an mps of 100 kph between BRC - VR whereas Frontier had an mps of 110.

The trip which started at the same location i.e. platform 6 of BVI, on 6th January ended at the same location on 13th, completing one full circle. And what a marvellous trip it was. All the three train journeys were fantastic in their own right. Fortunately, all the LPs were aggressive. None of the LPs were accelerating slowly. This was my first journey in a WCAM-2 hauled train after I became a railfan & started understanding the differences between various locos. The WCAM-2 is a great loco too. This trip will definitely remain etched in my memory for a long long time, for both IR as well as non IR aspects. The experiences I got in this trip are simply unforgettable.

I sincerely thank everyone for patiently reading the three trip reports, which were not short by any means. I hope you liked them.

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