by Jagan Mohan


I just got back after a pilgrimage to the holy town of Varanasi (Benaras in IR-speak). My parents had come up from Salem and I took them there for a "Ganga snanam" - a dip in the river Ganga, as well as to visit the Kasi Viswanatha and the Kasi Visalakshi temples.

We departed NDLS at 1545 on Friday 11 July afternoon by the 5206 Lichchavi Express. As we reached the station quite early, at 1410 itself, we were in time to see twin WDM-2As hauling out the 2402 Shramjeevi Express. Either the Shramjeevi was late that day or its departure time from NDLS has been changed. While still on the subject of the Shramjeevi, the IR website lists the Shramjeevi as the 2402 Shramjeevi N Express. Does anyone know if this "N" actually stands for something or is it a typo?

Power for the Lichchavi was a WAP-4 from Kanpur (CNB) shed, road number 22314. I went up to watch the power being attached to the rake and came away filled with admiration for the daring, skill, nimbleness, and dexterity of all the people involved, especially that brave chap who actually gets down into the narrow space on track between the loco and the take. He skipped from sleeper to sleeper as the loco edged forward and skillfully built up the coupling. On two occasions the loco edged forward a bit too much and I thought the poor chap must have surely been crushed, but he emerged safe and sound in a way that Houdini would have been proud of. And this is all just another day at the office for him and thousands others like him.

Lichchavi was on platform 8, and a little later another WAP-4 came up on the track between platforms 9 and 10. This one had road number 22311, but was from Howrah (HWH). It was not attached to any rake while we were there, but I suppose it was there to take charge of one of the eastbound Rajdhanis.

The Lichchavi pulled out right on time and made good time past all those little stations like Tilak Bridge and Chander Nagar Halt. Just before Ghaziabad (GZB) a rust-coloured train came in from a track that curved in towards our left. This turned out to be a Bareilly - Delhi - Bareilly train, and I think it was coming in from Old Delhi. Anyway, we raced past it and kept on.

22314 had an annoying tendency to jerk just before stopping and it caused a lot of irritation among my fellow passengers, especially some fellows who spilt their tea after one particularly nasty jerk.

About two hours after we departed Delhi, we pulled up at a siding. Shortly afterwards, a blue-coloured rake streaked past at high speed. I am sorry to say I was not quick enough to catch the engine go by, so I cannot say whether it was a WAP-4 or a twin WDMs. I thought at the time that it was probably the Poorva Express, but I just checked on the IR site where it says that Poorva doesn't run on Friday. So could someone tell me which train that might have been?

After that crossing, we were still not destined to get going again, as we sat there for another hour as first one, then two, then three, and finally FOUR Rajdhanis went thundering past us at very high speed. The first pair had twin WDMs, the next pair had single WAP-4s. They went too fast for me to see which trains they were. Luckily for me I went through my accumulated IRFCA mail *before* this post and saw that Rabi had anticipated my question by listing out the Rajdhanis for me. Thanks, Rabi.

I agree with Rabi that the Lichchavi has to idle away for an hour to let a procession of Rajdhanis cross by. But then again, its not so bad. I'm not aware if the Lichchavi has any prestigious history behind it, but since its just an ordinary Mail/Express it has to yield to superfasts and Rajdhanis. Then again, the delay meant we reached BSB at a more convenient time of 0630 instead of 0525.

Throughout the journey it was pitch dark, very few lights to be seen anywhere, a lot of water everywhere following the rains.

We stopped at another siding before Tundla to allow yet another Rajdhani to overtake us. This time it was hauled by a WAP-4 and it too blazed past us at very high speed.

I got up a little before we reached into BSB. It was already light and when I went to the door I saw that our power was now a WDM-2 type diesel loco. I was mentally kicking myself for not being awake when the power was changed. However, I'd like to know where the power is changed for Lichchavi: CNB or ALD?

I couldn't get the road number of the diesel at BSB as my parents & I were rushed by an army of touts/autowallahs/guides and it was all we could do to extricate ourselves from them. However I can state that BSB is undoubtedly far and away the FILTHIEST station I have ever seen on the IR network. It has cows roaming around the platform as if they own the place, cowdung everywhere, zillions of flies,... ugh!

After finishing our pilgrimage at Varanasi (the city is as dirty as its station, and the Ganga so dirty at the ghats that we hired a boat to go to the other bank and bathe there) we returned to the station. We were to leave by the 2559 Shiv Ganga. I had been told at NDLS enquiry that it would depart BSB at 1845. But we were informed by our hotel manager that its time had been changed and it would now depart at 1810.

As some of the temples we wanted to see were closed till 1700, we reached the station by 1600 itself. We thought we would go wait in the upper class waiting room (we had 3A tickets). While searching for the waiting room on platform 5, I saw the twin WDM-2s leading the NDLS-bound Shramjeevi coming in on platform 9, the last platform.

However, there is only one waiting room for all classes at BSB and its condition is perfectly atrocious. So instead we went to the much neater & cleaner cafeteria. It had one surly waiter to took 30 minutes (I swear!) just to notice us and come over to ask what we wanted. His sloth suited us fine anyway since we wanted to kill time till 1845.

We sat there till 1700 just to have a two slices of bread each, with butter for my parents and jam for me. During that time we amused ourselves listening to the announcements. One particular train from Gorakhpur was going to "arrive shortly" for over an hour before it finally turned up.

Anyway, the Shiv Ganga rake was shunted in onto platform 1 by 1720 itself, and we got into the AS2 3A coach to wait in the cool of the AC. The AC composition on the Shiv Ganga is one composite 2A and 1A coach, and two 3A coaches. Quite unusual.

Again I went out to watch the power being attached. Yet another great display by gray haired chap who bravely coupled the loco to the engine. I really cannot praise these people enough. Power for the Shiv Ganga was a Gonda WDM-2A, road number 16036, long hood leading. The driver told me we would change to a WAP-4 at ALD.

I am quite confused about the loco allocations on the eastbound route. Considering that a single WAP-4 is able to haul a full 24-coach rake at 100+ kmph, I thought all the superfasts would get this loco type. Yet the ordinary Mail/Express Lichchavi got a WAP-4 while superfasts like Shramjeevis and some Rajdhanis got twin WDM-2s. Is it that when MUed the combined power of the twin WDMs permits higher speeds that a single WAP-4? But the superfast Shiv Ganga with a 22 coach rake got only a single WDM-2A, not twins.

Is the IR trying to save time for superfasts by keeping them with diesel power only in order to avoid wasting time changing power? But then the superfast Shiv Ganga changes power at ALD, while the superfast Shramjeevi runs diesel even when under the wires between NDLS - ALD.

While coming in to NDLS I saw the Lucknow-bound Shatabdi go past in the opposite direction. It was a very peculiar rake with large picture windows, and I guess they were the much-talked about LHB coaches. To my amazement, power was a GZB WAP-5! Now, if I'm not mistaken, the WAP-5 is one of the most powerful high-speed passenger locos in IR service today. Why allocate this monster to haul a tiny (comparatively speaking) Shatabdi rake? Wouldn't a WAP-4 do? It seems like overkill to me. (At NDLS today [Monday] morning to see off my parents by the 2626 Kerala Express I saw the Dehradun Shatabdi with a LKO WDM-2 power.)

Anyway, back to the trip report, at GZB I saw the famous (in our mailing list atleast) WAP-7 Navkiran loco sitting all alone with both pantographs down.

A couple of passengers jumped out of the slowly moving train and one of them landed on a point, stumbled, and came close to being getting himself run over. Anyway the train stopped momentarily at GZB, so he could have got out onto the platform if had wanted. Idiot.

By the way, the Shiv Ganga paused at GZB although it doesn't have a commercial halt there. The Lucknow Mail was going to NDLS and it was just pulling out of GZB as we got in. It had *nine* AC coaches: 1A x 1, 2A x 4, 3A x 4.

Shortly after GZB we halted at a siding to allow the 2553 Barauni - NDLS Vaishali Express to overtake us. Perhaps the Vaishali was late so it was allowed to go ahead in order to make up some time. But I'm just guessing here.

Reached NDLS at 0800, late, tired, preparing for the long drive back to Noida... (we'd left our car at the NDLS parking lot.)

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