Chennai Trip

by Apurva Bahadur


The trip was planned fast. I got tickets just a day before the travel date (a small miracle). Pune - Chennai was by 1063 Dn. (RAC 58!) and the return by 6012 Up (clear due to the return quota). I had decided not to travel AC class even if the tickets were available it comes in the way of 'education'. Had these trains got an old 1st class, I would have fought tooth and nail for a berth in those.

By the time I arrived at the station on the 24/25th June midnight, my ticket was confirmed and I got a side lower berth. The 1063 came a few minutes late behind WCAM 3 # 21947 on platform 3.

The 6010, 1082 and the 1020 came on the up line towards Mumbai. Before the 1063 arrived a Guntakal WDM2 # 18983 was being started in the siding and I assumed that this was the power for my train but that was not to be as another Pune WDM 2 blocked the siding.

The 1601 Pune - Manmad passenger rake was standing on the platform 6 (Pune dep ~ 0110 hrs) and there was another Guntakal loco standing on the same line which assumed to be the 1601 power. However this loco (GTL shed WDM 2 # 17175, short hood leading) was to be the 1063 power. The loco was being intensively checked by the crew, although this is the first time I have seen a diesel loco being checked on the main line at Pune. The train departed a few minutes late from Pune. As expected, the police party came and firmly asked all the passengers to shut the windows - not glass but the shutter. There was no point is fighting nature and the police, so I went to sleep - it is a pleasure to sleep in a train.

There was a flat wheel on my coach and that marred the sound experiance of the journey, so after one speed, it was only a steady thud-thud-thud. My coach was virtually at the end of the rake which meant that I could not hear the power's chuffing. The train was worked quite fast, I could feel huge curves on the side berth and we seemed to make good time in the night.

By the time I got up, the train was standing at Gulburga. A hoard of office going goers descened upon our carriage. These gents travel daily from Gulbarga to Raichur (~ 150 Kms each way) and back by the same train pair (1063/1063). There is an intercity express between the two cities after the departure of the 1063, but that would leave these office goers late at RC. As per my watch and also the station watch we departed Wadi a few minutes before time.

Observed the branch track for Hyderabad. Also observed the Wadi bypass (taken by the SBC Rajdhani), a BOXN coal with double WDG 2s stood on the bypass track obviously meant for the Krishna thermal power station. At the entrnce of the Krishna power station I heard a smart horn, by the time I reacted, I missed an oppotunity to phot a light WDG 4, however I got a far shot of the GM power.

Our WDM 2 had ample smoke and the lovely mellow horn charchterestic of the WDG 2s. Nice transition kick too, I could feel it way back in the rake.

The train stopped at Mantralayam Road (MALM) for rewatering (the tt does not list this as a stop). The Tungbhadra river running next to MALM ensures ample water for the purpose. Observed the fantastic rock formations at Kosigi by the track side. The newly introduced air brake raked 6010 Up crossed us at Kupgal. After MALM the train could not pick up much speed, so we were constantly losing time.

We were stopped at Aspari while overtaking some holiday special on a loop line. Some train with an Erode WDM 2 C crossed us by the main track. Once we started moving I observed that the power for the holiday special was one of the rare Erode 'cab front' WDM 2s.

The 1082 crossed us at Molagavalli. Two of the neighbours had massive amount of domestic luggage (buckets, water tank, pots, pans etc etc - they was shifting house from Mumbai to Bellary - via Guntakal) which was placed under every seat in the cubicle. These two persons also used one of their top berths for storing still more goods while both of them slept '69' (not spooning!) on the other top berth.

They nearly got away except a few kms short of GTL when the head TC caught them with excessive luggage and fined them for the same. My luggage was shown to the guilty as an example of 'model luggage'. Guntakal was lovely as usual. I observed the curved track from Hubli via Bellary and Hospet join our track from the right (North West). There was a sparkling red baldie Kazipet WDP 1 hauling the Hyderbad Guntur passenger on the next passenger. Is this the fate of the flagship products of the DLW at one time?

The WDM 2 was changed at GTL and a new Guntakal shed WDM 2 # 16389 (long hood leading) was attached at the head of our train. I did not stray far from my train, remembering Shri's fate.

We departed GTL over 20 minutes late. Observed the rising track to the left towards Dronachalam at the exit of the GTL yard.

Train had an unofficial stop at Gooty. Observed a station master at a small station giving the green flag to our train and also talking to the crew on his walkie talkie at the same time.

There were a number of 'green bullets' (BCN) and 'black bullet' (BOXN) rakes with coal or other minerals. I am still unclear about the source and the destination of these trains.

The 1063 has a pantry car and food is not a problem with a waiter coming your way every few minutes with something new. Being ecologically concious, I saved all the used casseroles in the plastic food tray to return to the waiter when he came to collect the tray. Instead of doing something like 'recyle' or 'dispose suitably', the man chucked all the foil stuff out of the window!

There is so little space in these trains, that there is no alternative to chucking out of the window. Even the 'garbage bin' under the washbasin of an AC sleeper, is nothing but a chute dumping the garbage on the tracks.

Most of the small stations had their gensets running, which seems to point to a power failure in the area. Or they may be charging their storage batteries in the daytime.

Observed the horde of beggars moving through the train in this section. Children who would wipe the floor with their shirts and then go around collecting money for the task, blind persons singing songs, eunuchs touching you, handicapped persons showing their deformity; at time it was almost like a freak show with newer varieties of deformed persons walking through the coach.

While being sympathetic to anyone's handicap, I was determined that I would not pay a single person who was begging.

I could do that by feigning sleep as the beggars crossed me. It works! I also discovered that one more horror of second class travel - second hand cigerrette smoke, can be very effectively be filtered out by a handkerchief. So during the night I slept quite well with a hankie covering my face and nose.

Went to the station master at Cuduppah and confirmed that he had no idea why the station had a code 'HX'. His explanation was that the railways must have used up codes such as CUD or CD etc. Also confirmed by the gent was that Cuduppah did not have an alternative name (like Bezwada for Vijaywada hence the station code BZA). So the deepest station code mystery on the IR remains unsolved.

The 6012 Up crossed us at Razampeta. This is a stop for both the trains. But as there is only one platform, our train was stopped on the main line making getting off quite a challenge for some ladies with children and baggage.

The 1063 also stopped at Koduru which is not mentioned in the SCR tt. There is a ghat section between Koduru and Renigunta where one can observe loaded train crawling behind full bore WDG 2s with screaming turbochargers. Some freight trains are banked here.

We were running over 30' late at Renigunta. Ran in the front to phot the WDM 2. Photted the WAG 7 with twin headlamps from Erode (now showing on Shankar's showcase). There was another tiger striped WAG 7 (also Erode?) on the main line with a BOXN rake. Also a BRC shed WAG 5.

I was shown the 'hill darhan' (you can see the Tirupati hills from here) point by co passengers at the entrance of Renigunta but had to explain that my god lay elsewhere. My manic actions through the day had already proved that I was really a freak who should not be argued with.

The AJJ shed WAM 4D-6P took charge of the 1063 at Renigunta. The loco had a special MU connector at the Cuduppah end (meant for Saptagiri?), while the Chennai face of the loco did not have this connector. Obseved a MEMU which apparenently runs Chennai - Renigunta lurking in the opposite platform at RU.

The yellow starter signal was given to the 1063 even as the electric power was being attached. Seems some sort of report filling exercise - "signal given at 1740 hrs, Saar, but the train departed later due to reasons not known to my department...."

The 1063 with electric power departed RU still running late. As we got to the main line the Saptagiri with a pushing WAM 4 (or a WAG 5) came on the Tirupati branch from TPTY. Alas, was caught without a camera at hand.

Once on the way, the extra power of the WAM 4 is obvious. This is a dull journey. The loco has a one toned horn and ample power so there is no strain as the train lashes the gradients and curves in the scenic section between Renigunta and Arrakonam.

Observed the tracks bifurcating short of AJJ towards Katpadi. There is a similar entrance to this route from the AJJ side for train coming from MAS side. Tried to observe the newely converted BG track from Arrakonam to Kanchipuram / Villupuram. There seem to new separate platforms at AJJ for this route.

Observed a MEMU which runs Arrakonam - Katpadi.

Lots of stoppages due to track work and EMUs ahead. But when give a change the 1063 driver really hammered the train to gain every possible second from the late running schedule.

There was one unofficial stop at Perambur and then finally we arrived at MAS only 5 minutes late. Humid - hot - tired etc.

Checked into the hotel which is almost opposite the Chennai Central station - the rear of the hotel overlooks the Chennai Park station. Recommened to stay here.

Next two days was spent is solving the problems of misbehaving HHPDEMUs (High horsepower diesel electric multiple unit trains). The 'normal' DEMUs have a 700 HP V 12 engines with electric transmission, there are two trailer coaches in a set. The HHP version have a 1450 HP V 16 engine and there are three trailer coaches. The massive engine starting batteries (450 AH) were below the expected standard of charge and the resultant voltage dip during cranking caused the electronics in the control panel (designed by yours truly) to misbehave.

The first day morning was spent at the Royapuram yard where three of the five HHP units were stabled. As I worked on the panels in the DEMU, a plethora of trains were going by - WDG 2s from Erode with BCN rakes, WAG 5s from BRC, ET and BZAs with assorted BCN/BOXN rakes, EMUs etc. The Royapuram is on the branch which starts at Basin bridge and proceeds to the Chennai Beach via Washermanpet. Further the track goes to Tambaram and then to the rest of South India. Some weekly passenger trains also use this route. Venky traveled on this route a few months back with his Egmore - Ahmedabad holiday special.

Observed the BHEL made "two low hoods on either side of a high cab in the centre" loco operating on the Chennai harbour tranfer line. These locos are also found in Mumbai port and pics of these rare locos can be seen on ISA's website.

After lunch we continued our work at the Swamy Nagar carriage & wagon facility south of Egmore. The 9 coach HHPDEMU rake was towed by a Tonidiarpet WDS 4 (with no train brakes!) so that the DEMUs may be fuelled. The Swamy nagar facility is new and homes legendary (amd long) rakes such as Pandian, Vaigai, Pearl city etc.

Photted a number of MG EMUs, some of them have got a full advertising livery like the Mumbai units. Photted WDP 2 pushing Pearl City express to the Egmore platform from the pit lines.

The diesel fuel facility at this instant is a single TK wagon whose contents are transferred by a small hand start diesel pump into the fuel tanks of the DEMUs.

The facility also maintains (and fuels) the 9 coach DEMU (with three 700 HP engines) which runs morning and evening from Chennai beach station to Kanchipuram. It is wildly popular and janata can be seen sitting on the 'Shaku' couplers or standing many to a door ladder. There is just no place on this train a few stations out of Chennai Beach. The second day began by a visit to the ICF to meet the officials and solve problems with two HHPDEMUs in the 'furnishing division' at Perambur. The visit to ICF is like a 'boy in a toy shop' - there is so much to see and not enough time to absorb. While everyone around you is nonchallant about the AC/DC EMUs or the underslung DETC (OHE vehicle built with two flat underslung engines driving two weatherproof alternators and electric transmission) or the new 1st AC sleepers with 70 tonnes couplers - you can only try and assimilate.

There are no cameras allowed in the ICF.

Later a visit a few kms away to the 'shell division' of the ICF (Vilivakkam) - meet officials etc. Afternoon was spent at Royapuram yard to demonstrate the SR officers the improved performance etc.

Late afternoon I was dropped at SK's office in the SR HQ. From then onwards we found so much to talk about that we wound up at 2230 hrs!

Next morning check out time - Anand Krishnan picked me up from the hotel. We moved to Chennai Central station - left the luggage at the cloak room and went footloose.

A few incoming trains, some ED/LGD WAP 4s, some AJJ WAM 4s, lots of Tondiarpet WDS 4s. The fancy painted MFD rake (rerailing and accident relief rake) of the MAS division backed onto a platform.

Observed the two coach self propelled ARTV (accident relief and tool van) which is a hydralicic DMU with undefloor engines. One coach is a tool van with the rerailing equipment while the other is an airconditioned hospital (including a small operation theatre).

The 6012 Up rake was already in place and I took my seat - a side upper berth. The loco in charge was AJJ WAM 4D6P # 20689. The loco had a familiar logo of a humanoid with outstretched hands and legs which, Sridhar Shankar had explained, was the logo of Tatanagar shed. However that explanation is not true except if this was an ex TATA power. The train departed right on time - dull - dull - dull -to Arakonnam. There was a 4 coach DEMU at AJJ, maybe to run the services between AJJ and Kanchipuram.

Renigunta - ten minutes late. I was in the 8th coach and hoping for some diesel sound from where I sat after this.

The Guntakal WDM 2 # 16200 (long hood leading)was marked with the text "14 day schedule loco". SK had discussed this just the previous evening - this is done by enlarging the capacity of the liquids. The RU starter signal has additional illuminated windows with M and B written. The ASM explained that this stands for Mainline (to Mumbai) and Branchline (to Gudur).

The 6012 rake was watered at Renigunta. The train departed almost 30' behind schedule. I had taken xerox copies of the tt pages in various sections to mark time and this proved a lot of fun. 12 Up is a slow train as compared to 1063 and we stopped at almost all the small towns.

So back in the rake, I could not hear the loco in action and that was a dissapointment. There was a WDG 4 hauled and WDG 4 banked freight in the ghat section after Renigunta.

We crossed the 1063 at Pullampeta.

The weather was beginning to close in and we had a few spells of welcome rains near HX and all the way till GTL. The same loco continued with this train at GTL. The police party now closed all the windows and ejected the persons traveling short distance.

Dinner at GTL with egg curry and their fantastic parotha. Sleep after that till the morning at Pophlaj.

We had an X crossing with 6009 down. Please see the Pophlaj webpage for details. We were still running 30' late. Bhigwan to Daund has an additional track laid but the track is yet to joined in places (missing fishplates etc). At Boribial we were stopped for many minutes to allow a single headed TK train to cross us. I have never travelled in this section in the morning and was pleased to see old station buildings and structures from the time of the GIP.

Daund arrived and departed within 5 minutes. Nonstop to Pune except the mandatary stop at the Mudhwa level crossing (which is kept open till the last possible moment). Crawl into Pune platform 5.

Photed the Pune WDM 2C # 18737R in a sand and red livery on the double decker Pune - Daund passenger on platform 6.

Went home, shower and face the crushload of work at the office.

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