Fine Day at SBC
by Poochi Venkat
16th was a fine day for business and railfanning! Tthe highlight was meeting with our very own Jay Balakrishna.
MAS - SBC
It all started with me having to visit SBC for a routine business trip. Fellow-IRFCAian Sathya had work at SBC too so we decided to take 2007. We booked tickets on sunday and I reached MAS on 16th morning at 5.45 am. By that time, the loco for 2007 had come in. It was AJJ WAM4 21239 (i was wishing for a WAP4). The drivers were already in the loco so I couldn't talk to them much. The chief looked very senior and business-like! His shirt was an interesting red colour, contrasting sharply with the assistant's regular blue outfit.
Sathya arrived a little later. After our routine inspection of the loco (!), we moved to our coach - C7 - which was just behind the front gen-car. Ah! quite close to the loco. As I had the working TT in my hand as well as my writing pad, railway officials on the platform looked at us respectfully from a distance! (we could've been loco inspectors, you see...). On dot 6am, a wonderful twin-tone emerged from the loco and we moved out smoothly. By the time we had crossed Perambur, the chief had notched up to MPS. We were flying down the mainline till...as usual...the Avadi caution stretch brought us to a crawl :-( Thanks to that we were late at TRL by 13 minutes. Then it was MPS, MPS all the way to AJJ where we were 4 minutes ahead.
At this point I could make out a sort of rumbling sound coming from somewhere to my left. Was it the bogie....or the springs....or...? Well, what do you know...it was our dear Sathya having a nap and that was him snoring! I woke him up in time to show the point where NH4 crosses under the mainline (just after MCN). 2007 was thundering down the tracks with WAM4 & chief going flat out. The customary shatabdi-style breakfast done with, I grabbed a few winks: that lovely two-tone was a soothing lullaby. The horns cleared the way for miles ahead and WAM4 21239 was really showing off. The interesting thing was the drivers were sounding both horns always - not just when starting from rest. I wish all drivers would do that. Such music!
We arrived at JTJ 10 minutes ahead of schedule. I spotted 14553 Gooty baldie with a long BOX-N rake waiting for us to go by. Crawling through the platform, 2007 rapidly notched up again. This trip happened to be Sathya's first one on 2007 and he was absolutely thrilled. (but he's a regular on the 2008). Past Kuppam, track-doubling was in full swing. In certain sections, lines had already been laid. Realising that IRFCAians need sleep too, Sathya and me switched off for a while, absolutely confident in our drivers to take us to SBC ahead of time. I briefly stirrred awake to find us crawling - we had reached BWT already! 6024 was at the other platform waiting for us to pass through. After BWT we were not doing MPS. Many restrictions. Sathya was producing that rumbling sound again. Back to sleep for us.
Then we were up to discover we had passed KJM. Our coach was coming alive with tinkling cellphones and wailing youngsters. As we sped through the suburbs of SBC, I marvelled at how the chief had maintained MPS for as long as possible. Shatabdi was really living up to its name after quite a while. We pulled into SBC 14 minutes early...ah...what a magnificent run! Myself and Sathya squeezed our way to the front to observe the loco change process. WAM4 21239 proudly stood there, showing us it was still a force to reckon with, given a capable driver. A few minutes later, the loco moved out, to be replaced by a KJM baldie, WDM2c 14028. As the loco was being coupled, we bid goodbye to 2007 and moved onto the FOB. From the walkway, I took a couple of shots of the baldie top-view. After a brunch of idlys at the station restaurant, Sathya and me left for our respective destinations, planning to meet later.
Now it was business-time. Surprisingly, the office was very cooperative and I got all my work done by 2pm! I wish those secretatries and office-boys will be this effecient for ever! Thinking that a whole day would be required for my work, I had booked my return that night to MAS by 6518. Anyway, I now had time till 22.30....a solid 8 hours for railfanning. Promptly I called Jay Balakrishna. He had arrived in SBC only that morning. Tired though he was, he was ready to meet and talk about trains...that's the spirit of IRFCA! After lunch, myself and fellow-IRFCAian Ravi Sundararajan proceeded to Jay's house ay Hennur. Enroute, at BNCE level crossing, the gate was shut....something was coming...both of us hurried out of the car to the tracks and within minutes, with a short "paaaam", there appeared WDP4 20005 (cabin leading) coming at full throttle with Kacheguda exp. I positioned myself for a shot and snapped as the loco blasted past. A truly fine beast in action! As we reached his house Jay himself was at the driveway, welcoming us with a smile, albeit tired. Following a wet welcome from his dogs, we straightaway got to discussing trains...Jay presesnted us the CD of his famous rail videos. What a treasure!
Ravi had to leave early for a prior commitment. I stayed on, talking about a lot of connected subjects. We planned future outings, video recordings. A couple of hours of railtalk later, I realised I had to get to SBC immediately to catch night action, to have dinner and board 6518 (in that order). After goodbyes and plans to meet later, I hurried onto the main road and hailed an autorikshaw. The driver was one of the best I have seen - he maintained MPS all the way to the station, that too, on Bangalore roads...! We reached the station rear entrance by 9pm which helped me spot lots of locos arriving, departing and generally strutting their stuff.
The night gave a magical effect to the station. The whole atmosphere was filled with the throb of WDM2s and the whine of WAP4s - pure symphony! The locos looked absolutely magnificent. I got into action with my camera at once but the light was too low... still, i'm ever the optimist :-)
Here's the list of all those beasts and brutes: (16th, 21:00 to 22:30, SBC)
- WAM4 21278 ITARSI (at rest, in the siding)
- WAM4-6p 20565 (at rest, in the siding)
- WDM2a 17551 KJM (alive, in one of the middle lines)
- WDM2a 14030 ED (moving out with SBC-CAPE exp)
- WDS6 36243 KJM (very busy shunting)
- WAP4 22274 ED (ready to haul 6732)
- WDM2a 17441 KJM (alive, at one of the platforms)
- WDM2a 16372 ED (alive, in one of the middle lines)
- WDM2a 17581 ED (proudly arriving with CBE-SBC intercity exp.)
- WDM2a 18342 KJM (arrived with MYS-MAS kaveri exp.)
- WAP4 22273 ED (to haul MYS-MAS kaveri exp.)
- WDM2a 17446 KJM (alive, at one of the platforms)
- WDM2a 17311 KJM (alive, in one of the middle lines)
- WDM2a 17776 KJM (smartly pulled in with 1013)
- WAP4 22223 ED (arrived quietly with Lalbagh exp. from MAS)
I somehow managed to squeeze in my dinner between all this....By this time it was 10pm and I sauntered to the front of my train (6518) to say Hello to the driver and brute. The brute was WAP4 22390, freshly painted in the now-typical blood-red-with yellow-band Erode Shed livery. And....surprise! the chief driver was that same senior-looking, business-like, red-shirted gentleman who had driven the 2007 that very morning; and he was wearing that interesting red shirt again! Ravi Sundararajan had said he might drop in to send me off so I waited for a while by the loco. With just 15 minutes to go for departure, I went ahead and greeted the driver, who turned out to be quite friendly. In fact he said he had noticed me hanging around the Shatabdi loco that morning at MAS!! I lost no time in introducing IRFCA and he said he was Chennai-based, even driving WAP5 locos for Rajdhani, between MAS and BZA. I complimented him on his excellent driving that morning on the 2007 and he smiled it off as just another day at work! I went on to tell him that I was returning to MAS by this train and hoped he would display his driving skills once again.
As the stern assistant climbed into the cab, I exchanged telephone numbers with the chief (he stays in Perambur), bid goodbye and ran back to the rear of the train; I now realise trains on IR can be really loooong...I was puffing and panting by the time I reached my coach and gratefully sank into my side-lower berth. Within minutes, 6518 pulled out smoothly. After a brief halt at BNC, we picked up rapidly and were speeding through the peaceful countryside, the Moon washing down everything with its silvery light. It gave me a sense of peace knowing that the chief working the brute up front had become a friend! After the TTE had checked tickets, I turned in for the night, mouthing a silent prayer for the drivers who were staying awake on duty while we slept.
Back in MAS (17th early morning)
One irritating thing with overnight trains between Bangalore and Chennai is that you've just started sleeping when it's time to awaken and get off!! It wasn't so bad this morning as I had had a sound sleep. After freshening up, I moved to the door, savouring the chill biting wind outside. As we pulled out of perambur, I spotted a train coming up on the opposite line out of MAS. It turned out to be WAM4 21239 AJJ (the one that hauled 2007 on 16th morning) hauling 6324 HWH-TVC exp. (running 1 hour late). After crawling past the signals, we passed BBQ shed with plenty of WAM4 locos standing about.
Lurking inside the shed was ED WAP4 22273 with Sapthagiri loco AJJ WAM4 20613. As we gently pulled into platform number seven, I spotted GTL WDM2 18899 all throbbing and ready for the long day ahead with 1064. Resting at the adjacent platform was LGD WAP4 22238 which had just brought in 6003. I then realised I had to pick up friends of mine who would have arrived just then by 6003! After a brief search, I located them as well as our taxi driver. That fellow was holding up a name board with "poochi-venkat" written in bold black letters...causing curious stares and smiles from passers-by! All of us made a beeline to Planet Yumm for a refreshing cuppa and then headed home for a hot bath and much-needed rest!