by Apurva Bahadur
A rather rushed trip report....
Some members of the Pune chapter of IRFCA and the MRSP (Model Railway Society of Pune) had an outing on the Pune - Miraj line. This single line section is diesel hauled. The line has upper quadrant semaphore signals which are lit with oil lamps during the night. The section has Niele's ball token that has to be picked up on the run by the assistant driver using a reed hoop. Most of you probably already know all these facts about this line.
The line passes through scenic territory. Being hauled by a loud WDM 2 through desolate mountainous land is a real pleasure. We met at 0545 hrs at pf 5 where the SHL Pune shed WDM 2 # 18512 was ready to start the dirty rust coloured, vacuum braked rake of the 7384 Maharashtra express. The SCR GM was supposed to be on the line ahead for an inspection, so everyone was quite tense.
Sadly this line is being handed over to the CR's Pune division on the 1st April, so a number of the traditions of the line would also die with the SCR, Hubli division's departure. CR would be under a lot of pressure to 'modernize' the line (doubling, colour light signals, tokenless interlocks, electrification !!!) so there are limited days to enjoy the raw, final frontier feel of the section.
The IRFCA members present were Shirish, John (Mani), Devendra and myself. My wife Shyama and daughter Aditi were also traveling. The other persons with us were the members of the MRSP. Totally we were 15 1/2 ticket load of (Aditi has a half ticket) passengers.
The ticket booking clerk at Pune Jn. did not know where Jarandeshwar was ! So most of us bought tickets to the very next station, Satara. Most of us had cameras, there were at least 2 video cameras in the group.
We departed late at 0630 hrs in darkness. Unlike the north India, which is reeling under a cold wave, Pune is strangely warm and not even a sweater was needed to combat the morning temperature. Most of us were in the GS coach (2nd from the loco - the 1st was a RMS coach).
The train stopped at Ghorpadi where the 318 passenger from Kolhapur crossed us. The next stop was at Saswad Road, where the 7304 Sahyadri crossed us. This detentions made the 84 almost 30 minutes late and the driver tried the level best to make up the time.
The first ghat section was crossed in pre dawn light. The first stop was at Jejuri where a lot of the GS passengers got off and we got place to sit comfortably. The next stop was at Nira where the rake was watered. After stopping at Londand, and Salpa he train proceeded non stop to Wathar. Just before Wathar is the horseshoe curve at Adarki. Actually the curve is more of an Omega shape with additional 90 degrees curves apart from the main 180 degrees loop.
After Wathar (highest point on the SCR), the train then stopped at Palsi and then finally at Jarandeshwar. This station used to be the Satara Road station in the MG days. The first photo session of a departing WDM 2 was done here.
After the train departed, the tiny station went back to the idle activity till the arrival of the next train. The 16 railfans overwhelmed the tiny SM's office to see the working of the Niele's ball token machine. We returned on the line by the 316 passenger. I found out first that the 315 passenger from Pune (which we used to get out of Adarki) was on time - had this train not come, then we would be stranded at Adarki till the next passenger train arrived, sometime in the middle of the night. The nearest road connection is also some kms away.
The passenger loco was sounding superb. The slow passenger trains and the part load WDM 2 have a meditational quality about them. I would like to do a greater distance in a stopping passenger train sometimes. In case of a mail/express, the loco accelerates beyond a speed where the sound gets drowned in the slipstream.
After stopping at Palsi and Wathar, we were dropped off at the only pf at Adarki. I ran in the front of the tracks to phot the departing 316 passenger, while others climbed the hill for a better view. As soon as the train departed, I ran back to the lookout point at the rear of the AKI platform for a view of the 316 through the loop. The train arrived a few seconds noisily rolling down the slope.
Once the train went of the loop silence returned to this D class station. Silence that hurts one's ears. After a few minutes of silence, came the 315 passenger into the loop. The train went into the tunnel and finally broke clear into the home run at Adarki. The loco made a lot of smoke while arriving. We took the 315 passenger to the next station, Wathar.
All of us went to see a really deep well (dry...) and then had a guess session of the exact function of the lock bar at the facing point out of Wathar. Good amount of rail fanning banter was exchanged.
Standing in the Wathar yard was a small rake consisting of TK wagons converted to carry water - janata was filling water from this, so there must be serious water shortage in these parts.
We had lunch (eggs curry, rice, puri, chicken curry of a rather small chicken). By that time the 7308 Koyna arrived at Wathar. The base kitchen has an order of 30 meals for this train. I wonder how the business survives on the small order of only one train, but then it does.
Some of us got lazy (including the entire IRFCA gang...) and upgraded our tickets to the nearly empty aircon chair car. We needed to sleep off the exhaustion for a while. Once we were refreshed, we had another session of loud railfanning talk in the coach. Loud enough to cause some passengers to change their seats away from us!
The mobile phone worked in surprising places - full strength signal at a tiny station of Jarandeshwar but not at the larger village of Wathar. I got a call from Swaran (who could not come) in the middle of the ghats.
Incidentally, one of the Bhagat Singh movie was shot at the Wathar station - accordingly, the station signs were painted in Urdu as one of the languages. The booking area also had cheap wooden veneer - this was a film set and it showed ( from close by). Wathar station building is a classic structure. I think it is already a heritage structure. The base kitchen has a very solid looking cupboard with an elaborate engraved monogram of the SIR.
Swaran met us at Pune station as we arrived.