Chennai Raj Trip Report
by Gautham Parthasarathy
In mid-august(Aug 17-20), I was in Delhi till Friday and hence decided to take the 2434 Raj back home to Chennai. So I booked in 2A and waited expectantly.
But before that, I also made a day trip to Agra by road. And believe me, for a railfan, that is better than taking a train from NDLS(New Delhi) to AGC(Agra Cantt.) for a bit of trainspotting!!! Along the way, the road runs parallel to the permanent way for most of the time and you can see almost every kind of loco and other rolling stock. I spotted my first WAG9 along the way hauling a huge load. Also spotted the LHB Raj from Mumbai hauled by a WAP5 going at very high speed. Passed my vehicle in a flash!! Was an amazing sight. Very interesting thing - a goods train hauled by a couple of WDMs kept me company almost thru'out the journey. Was good to see it appear and disappear with the track from time to time!!! In the lead was WDMx 16083 in Pune(?) livery while behind it was 17804 Jumbo in a livery similar to GTL's. What sheds were these from?
The next day, of course, I was in HNZM(Hazrat Nizamuddin) to start on my very first Raj journey. My intention was to enjoy the luxurious comfort and the excellent service onboard the Raj to the hilt. Before boarding, I dropped into Comesum's for a bite and found it to be a very good place too!! So the signs were all good.:-). Didn't have much time to go around the station but I did spot the BSL(Bhusaval) Gondwana Exp with a..... you won't believe this..... LGD WAP4 22355!!! I've seen LGD WAP4s on some wierd links, but this was crazy!!!!!!
Anyway, it was time for my Raj to roll in and when I leaned forward towards the edge of the platform, I saw a flash of white with 2 red stripes. Ah.... another first! Never been in a WAP5-hauled train before this.:-) Soon, it rolled to a stop before me and I found my coach. Not a difficult job in a 12-coach rake. I expected the P5 to rock with this load and he didn't disappoint me. Loco was 30003 and my coach was a 98xxx stock.
1535: Dep from HNZM was very smooth and although we didn't speed up very much, I was still impressed with the acceleration. Just outside the platform, on the restaurant side, I saw ED(Erode) WAP4 22580 standing alone. What was a loco doing there??? Almost immediately, Kerala Exp came in the opp direction headed by ED 22294. After that we rapidly picked up speed to more than 100kmph heading towards TKD(Tughalkabad). In the meantime, also spotted MGS(Mughalsarai) WAG7 27078 and ABR(Abu Road) WDM2 16818, both on the goods line with loads. But here,all my hopes of the P5 showing off were dashed.Around 1600 hrs, at Faridabad, we encountered Mangala-Lakshadweep exp hauled by a BSL WAG5 23698. But since TKD, 2434 had been literally crawling at 15-20kmph and continued in the same manner thru Faridabad New Town!!!! When I looked out, there was no major track work that I could see. Could only assume that goods traffic was blocking the way.At 1620, at Asaoti, Samta Exp went by lead by ET(Itarsi) WAM4 20450. From here, we speeded up. Now we had about 30-45 mins to cover up. And man, was the P5 equal to the task!!! The acceleration was no less than an EMU's!!!! The loco simply scoffed at the load and seemed to hit 120kmph at will.Along the way I also saw a goods train hauled by 2 WAG5s and 1 WAG7. Interestingly, ALL pantos were up (sorry, no pic). Is it possible to couple WAG5s with WAG7s?
- 750: AGC arrvl. Saw Punjab Mail led by GZB(Ghaziabad) WAP1 22015 giving way (preference order) to Jhelum Exp. Now I didn't catch Jhelum's loco but just saw a flash of white and red. Has Jhelum started getting a P5/7 or was it just a Swarnajayanti-like coach?
- 1820: Tremendous running from AGC onwards!! Almost constant 120+ till Dholpur (or is it Dhaulpur?). En route, just caught a glimpse of a rake in DQ-like livery flash past. Could this have been the Taj exp?
- 1827: Sped past Dholpur Jn. Whats the "junction" for here? I caught sight of an MG/NG line as well as a plinthed(?) Steam loco facing the permanent way. Anyone know what this is?
- 1910: GWL arrvl. We seem to have made up some time after getting late earlier.
- 2017: JHS arrvl. 2032: JHS dep. After this we were brought our soup & dinner and I turned in early as it had been quite a tiring week.
During all this time, there had been a constant stream of food and drinks being served by the staff and I was quite full up a long time before dinner!!! Must compliment the Raj staff as they were quite helpful in all respects and very hard-working. Seems they sleep only about 4-5 at night on train, and if the train arrives late at MAS(Chennai Central) (which it seems to be doing regularly these days) they get even less since next day's dep is at 0620 hrs. Poor chaps!! Just one annoying thing. There was so much to eat and drink that it became quite impossible to start immediately after we had been brought the food. And the staff, through subtle signals, urges passengers to finish up quickly as they have to clear up everything to get ready for the next course. Anyway, with a tiring day behind me and a stomach (and God knows what else!!) full of grub, I slept right thru BPL(Bhopal), ET and the Ghat sections and woke up only as we were leaving NGP(Nagpur). So can someone tell me if the Raj requires any bankers?
- 0535: NGP dep. About 30 mins late. But it was again a fantastic run after that. Raj is cleared for 120kmph between BPL & BZA and the drivers knew THAT very well!!! As a result.....
- 0800: Balharshah (BPQ) arrvl. Bang on time!!! But if the IR site is to be believed, this station has been deleted!!!! Wierd. Here I saw WDM2x 17516 in greenish livery. Which shed? Also met the MAS-JP superfast with BRC WAP4 (couldn't catch #). While leaving BPQ saw WDM2/3A(?) 18737R (am not sure about this number) again in that same greenish livery.
Just as we crossed the truss/girder bridge after BPQ, I saw a new-look guard wagon on a goods train coming in the opposite direction.It was green and was stretched, with an elongated & split canopy and with 4 axles. Could this be one of the new RDSO-designed wagons fit for higher speeds? I remember Apurva posting a scan of the same sometime back. Anyone else come across something similar? (It was a little too far off for any kind of snap or number-reading.) Wanted to mention this too. Saw the latest version of "Abandoned". It read "ABONDEND".
- 0950: Crossed the Godavari bridge and raced through Ramagundam a few minutes later. MPS thru this section.
- 1100: Arrival at WL(Warangal).One thing I need to write here, throughout most of the SCR run (and some parts of CR after NGP that I saw) track replacement was in progress. I saw LWRs and CWRs lying parallel to the tracks and one stretch between BPQ(Balharshah) and WL on the Down line had already been replaced. Is this happening to enable higher speeds on this section? Any info?. Saw BZA (Vijayawada) WAG5D 23838 with a goods load. Whats the 'D' for? Also saw the second Kerala Exp after the last day's exp headed by my fave loco - ED 22269. Also saw an AJJ(Arakkonam) WAM4 21298 in a now familiar role of hauling goods. This one had "Fit for Goods only" written on it.
- 1315: Crossed Madhira. Saw WAG7 27490 (which shed). Why does this loco sound so familiar???
- 1418: BZA arrival after that fantastic loop around the yard & the huge shed and over the lines to VSKP. This part used to fascinate me when I was a kid and it still does today. Saw LGD WAG7 27554 standing light in the yard line. This is the one with waist-level headlights. (A couple of days ago I saw LGD WAG7 27594 near AJJ with waist-level headlamps. Are there 2 such locos with LGD or am I just mixing up some numbers?)
- 1430: Dep from BZA.
Until this point, we were bang on time and kept doing good time till NLR(Nellore) which we crossed ahead of schedule. Just a few kilometers later, at KM167 from MAS(Chennai Central), we stopped. At first I thot it was just a stop signal. But after we had halted for about 15-20 mins, I realised the matter was not simple. So I made a quick trip up front to the loco to meet the drivers. There I learnt that there was some damage to the OHE near an RoB just ahead and hence the delay while repair-work was on.
Naturally I got chatting with the drivers - 2 very nice men from BZA who got curious when I told them about the IRFCA forum and our activities. They wanted me to raise a topic in our forum - namely the attitude of railway authorities towards the BPCS or the cruise control feature on the WAP5s.The BPCS, naturally, taking into account the inertia of the load,always displays some amount of hyteresis. Therefore, when you keep BPCS engaged for a long time, you will always have speed readings with some amount of positive and negative tolerance. For example, if BPCS is set at 120kmph, due to uneven terrain and grades, actual speeds will always vary between 117kmph to 123kmph depending on the severity of the grade/slope. This is because the loco will take some amount of time, however minimum, to react and bring the train back to the BPCS-set value. This is a fundamental physical law that cannot be annulled under any condition.The drivers were apparently facing flak from Inspectors going thru the speed read-outs of the trip. Their primary problem was that the inspectors were not aware of the hysteresis displayed by the BPCS and as such came down severely on crews which exceeded MPS even by a single kmph!! Of course, this meant that the drivers could do MPS under no circumstances. What, the drivers asked me, was the use of importing and driving these expensive machines if they couldn't even be driven at speeds permitted by the track?Of course, you might argue that there are far more advantages than otherwise in operating these locos but I somehow felt that the drivers were being treated unfairly in such situations. I have travelled with a few drivers myself and know that whatever happens, they would never take their attention away from the instruments at anytime. So why this treatment meted out to them? Can't basic physical laws be understood by IR authorities?But I am diverging from the report. So here comes the conclusion.
2130: We reached MAS fully 85 mins behind schedule. I could only think of what sort of rest those poor stewards were going to get before their return journey started within the next 9 hours!!
Anyway it was good to be back in Chennai after a great week and a fantastic journey!! I wasn't tired at all after the trip. Probably speaks volumes of the comfort that the Raj provided. I wanted to hang around but headed home knowing that this was going to be only the first of many such journeys in the future.