Nanded-Bombay by Tapovan Express
by Herambh Patankar
At last posting the trip report of the journey I took on the Tapovan from Nanded to Bombay on 1st October. After paying my respects to the Sachkand Sahib Gurudwara, reached Nanded station around 9.20 am for the 10.15 deperature of the Tapovan Express to Bombay. Around 9.30 the Sachkand with her Gooty WDM2 left for Amritsar, but only after shattering the eardrums of a few souls on the platform. As the Sachkand was leaving, a green coloured Pune WDM2 was getting coupled to the rake of the Tapovan express in the washing lines. In the mean time it was announced that the tapovan would leave from platform 2.
Soon about 2000 Sardarjis crossed over from Platform 1 to platform 2. This group of Sardarjis would play a key factor in the entertaining events for the rest of the day. In the morning when I was having my darshan at the Gurudwara, an elderly Sikh gentleman told me that there was an all India farmers rally at Bombay on 2nd October. As a result a whole contingent of Sardarjis had come to Nanded from all over Punjab. They were to seek the blessings of Sachkand Sahib before proceeding to Bombay by the Tapovan. I never realized the significance of this remark till I saw the 2000 strong contingent get on the train. Only problem, while they had tickets, they had no reservations and being a Saturday the train was fully reserved. Now the Tapovan is a small train of about 14 coaches and half of them are used by SCR till Aurangabad while the other half are used by CR from Manmad. As soon as the rake was backed on to the platform, the Sardarjis occupied all available coaches. The GS was jam packed, even the luggage van was not spared. The TC then told the sardarjis to leave the first two coaches vacant else go anywhere they want. The first 2 coaches were the Nanded, Parbhani and Jalna reserved quota. The brunt of the people were to board at Aurangabad and Nasik. However the TC was not too worries as his shift got over at manmad. Taking care of the disgruntled Aurangabad, Manmad and Nasik was the CR TC's job who would start his shift at Manmad.
After the train was on the platform, did the AC Mechanic turn up, unlock the coach and started the air-conditioning equipment. After the coach cooled up a bit I moved in, Only to find out I was on an asile seat. This happened as the seat numbering in that particular coach was slightly different than a normal coach. Requested the TC for another seat, he did the needful and I settled in the window as the train moved. Nanded was about 340 meters above sea level. Calibrated the altimeter of my watch accordingly. Then was a quick dash to Purna junction. We were joined by the MG from Khandwa on the right hand side. Saw some WR coaching stock. Unfortunately view of the MG locos was blocked by a stationary goods train. After we left the platform saw some SC MG stock put on BG flatcars. Had a delicious Omlette for breakfast. The pantry car of the Tapovan was a drastic change from what it was about 4 years back. I rated it as the worst pantry car on Indian railways. However a month back the contractor changed, and later on as I discovered, this was one of the finest pantry cars in terms of both hygiene and quality of food on Indian Railways.
Reached Parbhani about 20 min late. Went to the door to get a shot of the line form Parli. However one bozo got in the door at the last min to move to the Sc coach and ruined a great pic of a triple headed goods approaching from Parli. The lead loco was a blue coloured Prabal loco. The heat was on and I stepped back into my coach. The train was picking more passengers at Shailu and Jalna. Passed behind the Chikalthan airport and into Aurangabad about 5 min early. Aurangabd station was crowded. I did not leave the comforts of my coach but tried to imagine the chaos going on in the second class coaches. At Rotegaon crossed the Marathwada express headed by a MLY WDM2.
Earlier in the day, the waiter while taking the dinner order recomeneded the Chicken Biryani and also offered me a tour of the pantry car later on when the Biryani was to be cooked and show me some interesting events. Will leave the conversation with the waiter and the interesting events in the pantry car out of this report. Members interested in details of this bit, please feel free to contact me off-list.
By the time I had finished my business in the pantry car, we had entered ankai station. Missed the convergence with CR line from Daund, but managed to take a picture of the points where exchange between SCR and CR traffic takes place. Got some pics of Ankai killa and the Thumbs up hill. At AnkaiKillla photographed a stationery goods train on the Daund Manmad line. I found out that my batteries were low so had to get a new set of batteries from the pouch I have around my neck. Normally I always keep my ticket in my wallet, but that day for some obscure reason put the ticket in the pouch. Just as I took out the spare battery from the pouch, my ticket came along with it, and at the next moment saw my ticket flying out of the door. Finished taking the picture I had to take and walked back to my seat. Went and spoke to the TC and explained to him what happened. He told me not to worry as he had signed me on the chart and he would speak to the TC turning up at Manmad. He also mentioned science I had booked my ticket on my credit card and I was carrying my credit card and drivers license with me, in case if a flying squad turned up, just try to convince them using my card and my license. This young TC was very polite and helpful. Quiet different from the usual TC's we get on IR.
Reached Manmad 10 min early. Here we were to change both locos and the TC's. A WCAM3 would get into the act. I and the Nanded TC got off. Quickly met the Manmad TC and briefed him on my situation. He said ok not to worry, but he was hassled by other matters. Those other matters provided the fireworks for rest of the evening,
After we spoke to the next TC at Manmad about my ticket problems, the TC was mobbed by passengers holding reserved tickets in second class. All the reserved compartments were jam-packed with the unreserved Sardarjis from Nanded. Added to them were the the crowds at Parbhani and Jalna. As a result people boarding at Aurangabad with reservations had no place to sit. Speaking to the Sardarjis was a bit tricky due to their sheer strength in numbers. Even though most of the Sardarjis were polite and had said a polite no to the request to vacate seats, they looked a bit intimidating with the kirpans and swords. To further complicate things there was a language problem. The Sardarjis knew only Punjabi. They did not know Hindi or Marathi. The local Marathi population was not too good in deciphering Punjabi. People traveling with their families, ladies and tiny kids had to stand. They had to endure the appalling conditions but at the next halt that was Manmad, they felt they had enough. At Manmad the confronted the TC and asked him to sort out the matter. Two TCs were gheraoed by the angry passengers. As usual the GRP/RPF were conspicuous by their absence. This was a total contrast to the morning where the top man of the RPF Nanded Division was traveling in our coach from Nanded to Aurangabad on an inspection. We had RPF at all the stations where the train stopped.
Considering my vunerable position as my ticket had flown off and the chaos around me, it was prudent to walk back to my coach and occupy my seat. In the mean time I called up IRFCA member Sachin Buddhisagar who was to meet me at Nashik and told him about my lost ticket. Requested him to get me an unreserved Nasik-Dadar second class ticket. This was my protection in case I met a TC at Dadar station. In the meantime some of the reserved second class passengers came in occupied the empty Nasik quota seats in the AC Chair car. They told t he TC they had no place in second class so they are in the AC Coach and are willing to pay the fare difference. Obviously the TC could not do it as those seats would be taken from Deolali and Nasik. Soon the Maharashtra police were called in. The police officer promised the second calss passengers that he will try his best to accommodate the passengers in the second class and that they please leave the AC coach. The passengers left the AC coach and went back to the appalling conditions which were worsened by the influx of new passengers from Manmad. However little was done by the police in easing their plight. The few local police could not do much with the 2000 strong Sardarji rally members.
The train left Manmad about 15 min late. Stood in the door till Nasik. Recorded the highest altitude of 660 meters at a station called Summit after Manmad. Now I realized why this station is called Summit. Probably must be the highest point on the original Bombay-Nasik-Bhusaval-Khandwa-Itarsi-Allhabad-Calcutta route of the GIPR. At Lasalgaon crossed the Godavari express. Was a rare sight of two WCAM3 headed trains crossing deep inside AC traction territory. Reached Nasik 20 min late. My rescuer the reliable Sachin Buddhisagar met me on the platform with the unreserved ticket. As we were entering Nasik, saw the platform overcrowded with people bound for Bombay. I was expecting more chaos at Nasik, and expected the train to get delayed. Maliciously the train left Nasik in 5 Minuites. Probably due to the short halt ans sheer volume of passengers, people just scrambled in and would realize the situation in the coach only after the train left the station.
Train went on till Deolali and stopped at platform 2. At Deolali the train's destiny finally caught up with it. The train refused to leave Deolali. The reason being a group of college students guys and girls who had reserved seats in second class did not get their seats. They pulled the chain. Looking that at last some reserved passengers pulled the chain, all the reserved passengers who had no seats supported the students. This was the start of the 2 hour long halt. The reserved passengers got off and went to the station master. I went to the loco and decided to witness this scene first hand from near the loco. After about 20 min the signal turned red from green. Some passengers thought that our train would be detained while other trains could overtake us by going through platform 3. The reserved passengers were in no mood to let that happen and were contemplating a rail loco. No train to pass till their problems are sorted out. The stationmaster tried to act smart by telling the driver to blow the horn so that passengers will climb up the train. Keeping in line with the events of the day, the stationmaster like all other previous railway people involved in this incident was trying to wash the responsibility off his hands. The driver dismissed it off as a bad idea as he knew passengers knew that he could not start he train at a red signal. The driver was not too keen on confronting the angry passengers. Got into a conversation with the driver. The driver felt if they got to Igatpuri after alerting the RPF before hand the RPF would take care of the situation and make sure all unreserved passengers were out. The driver too was not happy at the delay. He wanted to finish his shift and sink in his warm bed in Igatpuri. Yes these were Igatpuri based drivers.
The Kanpur bound Udyog Nagri express blasted off at a high speed. A brand new BSL WAP4 was doing the honours. The driver told me that the BSL WAP4 was now a regular link for this train. On the platform the Sardarjis and the reserved passengers were trying to communicate and reach a solution, but thanks to the usual language problem no luck. Soon some GRP turned up. They got to Deolali in a jeep. The GRP tried to confront the Sardarjis but it was futile as all the Sardarjis got out of the train with their swords kirpans and laathis. That was the end of the confontration with the GRP. The GRP now tried to find a peacefull solution. It was suggested that the Varanasi - Kurla express that was trailing us be brought on platform 3 and all the unreserved Sardarjis board that train. The leader of the Sardarjis seemed to agree to this idea. Most of them got off at the platform. It was also mentioned that thjose al lwho wanted ot go on the BSB-Kurla express do so as that train would leave first. Sure enough the BSB-Kurla express pulled in behind an Itarsi WAM4. All of a sudden all the Sardarjis got back into the Tapovan and occupied their places. They were saying "You guys are sending us to Varanasi as this train is going to Varanis". Possibly could be because everyone was calling that train Varanasi express rather than Varanasi - Kurla express. Also possible the destination board read Varanasi express too. Soon several reserved passengers got in the Varanasi - Kurla express. True to their promise, the railway controller let the Varanasi express go ahead of us. After 10 min we too left deolali. Now we were about 2. and half hours late.
Soon dinner was served. Delicious chicken biryani. Half the coach was eating it. This was the culmination of the slaughter of 4 hens earlier in the day. It was served with a papad. This chicken biryani was one of the finest I had ever eaten. It put several well known restaurants in Bombay to shame. For a moment wondered how lovely would it be if the served this Biryani on the Wellington - Auckland Overlander. The chief in the hurry to get home showed us the havoc a WCAM 3 can wreck. The whole train was shaking and being able to balance the biryani plate on the seat table was bit of a challenge. At Igatpuri the Varanasi - Kurla express which left Deolali before us was on the adjacent track. However we left Igatpuri first. This is the advantage of having an AC/DC locomotive. Just 5 minutes in Igatpuri. We were off even before the other train could get a new loco.
Was tired so turned on my Ipod and fell a sleep. I could feel the WCAM3 setting the tracks on fire. Woke up around thane. Reached Dadar at 12.15. am. 1 hour and 45 min late. Not bad 45 min time was made up. Got of at Dadar and met no TC there. End of an eventful journey.