Mini Trip to Katpadi
by Poochi Venkat
Yesterday I had an assignment at Vellore Medical College. given a choice between rail and road to reach Vellore, I naturally opted for the former! myself and Dr. Sebastian (in charge of the assignment) decided to take 2639 Brindavan Exp. as it reaches Katpadi (BG railhead for Vellore) at a decent hour! Since the whole plan was last-minute, we were unable to get confirmed tickets. So we settled for open ones.
Reaching MAS at 6.45 am, we headed for platform #2 where 2639 was stabled. This trip being 100% work, I concentrated on giving instructions to my assistant, checking the cameras as well as exploring the possibilities of getting confirmed seats. I deftly got my unsuspecting assistant to take charge of equipment and cajoled the good doctor to look for the TTE regarding our tickets. Ah! now I could slip away! Walking briskly to the front of our train, I saw ED WAP4 22223 coming in to take charge of us. This loco was quite spotless and fresh. The morning light gave this brute a soft look which belied its capabilities! The customary coupling process ensued, with the khaki-clad station-pilot inching the giant carefully toward the coaches. It really amazes me how they control this huge thing so precisely!
uh oh...there goes my cellphone, tinkling without inhibition....i'm supposed to be on duty...it was the indeed the doctor, trying to trace me. Time was 7.10, just five minutes to departure. Mumbling a not-so-effective fib, I hot-footed it to the rear where doc. Sebastian had managed to get seats in CC1 for all of us. I'dve preferred the 2S class but guess it was ok since I was on assignment and we had a lot of discussion to do on how to go about the work....no standing at the door or dreaming about max. permissible speed! On dot 7.15am 2639 moved out but a bit cautiously. We continued at a slow pace upto perambur from where, with a perceptible "kick", we picked up. I could imagine the chief furiously notching up and the brute up front obeying faithfully. Within the next 10 minutes, 2639 was flying down the lines. I began to relax. One half of my brain was enjoying the scenery, the second half was noting down the train's progress while the third half (??) was listening to the doctor's instructions.
At avadi, we slowed to a crawl. Doubtless a caution order (there seems to be a permanent caution on this stretch!). Expert braking by the chief as not a drop of coffee was spilt! The CC coach had fairly smooth suspension though, at higher speeds, vertical rocking was quite evident. Past Avadi, we notched up rapidly and MPS was maintained for the next 20 km. Sheer bliss! i tried to inject a bit of "railfanning drug" into the good doctor....of course, he responded but more out of politeness...well, one can always try!! We thundered through Tiruvallur and past the long line of buses & cars (most of them headed for Tirupati) at the outer LC. Braking a bit at Manavur, 2639 continued at about 75kph for about 5 minutes and then it was back to MPS. Breakfast over, doc sebastian decided to switch off for a while....here was an oppurtunity to get away. Making sure my assistant was awake with his eye on the equipment box, I strode to the door.
For the past few days, Chennai and environs have been enjoying excellent weather. This was evident from the cold invigorating wind blowing outside. The morning sun added a golden touch to the misty fields and distant hills. By now we were passing Mosur and 2639 was slowing down for AJJ. Then appeared arakkonam air force base, houses, more houses, more lines and we were down to a fast trundle. My watch showed 08:20... bang on time! As our train crawled through the platform, I could see adventourous souls were jumping onto...and jumping off...the unreserved coach behind us. These guys must've taken lessons at this...they were absolute professionals! Some EMUs were standing about and I spied a WAG7 at one of the far sidings heading a BCN rake towards west. Past AJJ West-Cabin, 2639 notched up in a relaxed pace and I headed back to my seat.
The doc was awake but thankfully not searching for me. I got around to discussing IRFCA and he revealed that in his schooldays, he used to stand near Perambur railway bridge when walking back from school and watch trains...until it got dark... but then, priorities shifted and he became a doctor! We moved onto talking about Communications technologies and came around to how cellphones have revolutionised lifestyles.
Here I made a point about IRFCAian Ronald Kappel posting a message from a moving train....wait! why not try the same thing from my mobile?? Ah...yes...i composed a short message on my cell at once and posted it to IRFCA. the cellphone said "message delivered"....good. but i've not checked the IRFCA site yet. Well, if the message had indeed been delivered, then i'll start sending live reports....!
2639 was happily blasting through Sholingur, Thalangai and other stations, with mighty WAP4 really showing its power. We tore through Mukundarayapuram (where NH4 crosses the mainline) and thundered across Poiney River Bridge. What a feeling! It was now 9am. With about 10 minutes to go for Katpadi, I shook my assistant who was peacefully dozing and directed him to take the all-important equipment box and get to the door. CC1 was quite active, with rustles of paper, the occasional wail from an obstinate baby, cellphones tinkling with the most weird tones...
Doc. Sebastian and I collected our stuff and carefully moved to the door. We were already slowing down and within minutes, the platform appeared. Right on time at 09.11, with a gentle hiss, 2639 ground to a halt. "Begging" the platform passengers to give way to us, we got down and made our way to the exit. Katpadi still retains its old-world charm. I was transported to the old days when these lines were worked by steam and you had the aroma of coal everywhere! "Phrrrweeeoooeeet...!" There goes the guard's whistle. A long blast of the fine two-tone horns sounded in the distance and good-old Brindavan Express pulled out quitely. As the last coach passed us, I couldn't resist waving out to the guard. And he waved back with a smile!
We then proceeded to Vellore by car. The rest of the day went by in work. When we had finished, it was a bit late to return to Katpadi. Sad, because i was hoping to catch 2008 roaring past! Some other day then.
We finally returned to Chennai by road at 11pm. Here's wishing Brindavan Express gets back its beautiful dark green/yellow-ribbon livery!