Dawn Session at Basin Bridge
by Poochi Venkat
Myself and Bharat Moro planned to check out new rail-photographic spots around Chennai and decided on the Basin-Bridge area. This has two ROBs: the first one is the Elephant Gate bridge. This is the one you pass within minutes out of MAS. The second ROB is just at the end of BBQ station, where the lines split toward AJJ and BZA.
Waking up at 4.55am, I manged to reach MAS by 5.45am despite my brain protesting and body un-cooperating...Bharat (having started from Vandalur at 04.35) joined me in a short while. As always, MAS was chockfull of passengers, some sleepy, some fresh, some angry, some smiling...We decided to foot it down to the Elephant Gate ROB first. As we briskly walked down the road, we spied a familiar figure in blue, coming toward us: One of our driver friends! He had just arrived in MAS by one of the morning trains and was heading back to the running room for a good rest.
We promised to send him off later in the day and finally reached the ROB at 06.10. MAS is to the south of this ROB. The view of the lines was quite congested. Though there is a lot of railtraffic under this bridge, there are a lot of catenaries too, which prevent a clear view of the trains themselves (but gives a nice industrial look). The area around the tracks is unfortunately quite trashy, which is unattractive. The plus point is that you get good top-angle views of the locos and coaches almost all the way upto the platforms and buildings!
We spotted a rather tired-looking WDS6 36003 (TDP shed, ED diesel livery) rasping past with the rake of 6518. Incidentally, this loco, looking brand-new, was snapped by Rangachari Anand at TBM, when he was in Chennai some months ago. A couple of minutes later, an interesting twin-tone sounded and here was ED WAP4 22224 (ED livery) looking terrific in the early-morning light, snaking toward us with Kovai Exp. I hurridely positioned myself and got some good-looking (?) top shots.
After a short while, GT passed under us toward MAS, headed by silent-brute ED WAP4 22357 (ED livery). I rapidly pulled out my trusty olympus u-II and took a few shots. It was now time for "big boss" Chennai Raj to move out. By the time GT neared the platforms a distinct two-tone blast got us craning our necks...a flash of white among the trees and a red streak....aha...it was WAP5 today! Surprising, since the Raj gets WAP5 usually on weekends. The clear lovely whine of the WAP5 wafted across to us. I ran along the ROB, much to the amusement of passers-by and put my olympus in rapid-fire mode! This is where an SLR is a must:
In most AF compact cameras there is a 1 sec. Time-lag between pressing the button and the shutter actually firing - and trains are 'moving creatures' - which means, with an AF compact, you'll have to press the button slightly ahead of the precise moment....you mistime that and the loco's either not entered the frame or it has already gone out!!
This WAP5 turned out to be 30000, looking all clean and neat. The leading generator car (inactive) was in Raj livery while the trailing one was unfortunately in Shat livery...anyway the formation looked colourful ;-) We then dashed across the road to the opposite side to view the Raj moving away on the curve and that's when the WAP5 driver opened up....oof...terrific pick-up! in seconds, no sign of the train...
The view north of this ROB takes in salt-cotaurs to the west and BBQ coaching yard to the east. The main lines take a smooth curve eastward. In winter (october-february) this is a good place to snap trains approaching MAS.
Today there wasn't much activity around salt-cotaurs. We then took an autorickshaw to the Basin Bridge ROB and this proved to be great location. Southward you have the platforms and structures of BBQ. To the north you have the BZA lines and to the west you have the AJJ lines. This ROB straddles both sections. Just then, Sapthagiri Express zipped past, the yellow-green livery looking attractive as the train curved its way toward AJJ. The faithful WAM4 (trailing) was AJJ 20613 (as always, in yellow-green).
The view from one spot on this ROB gives a superb view of the AJJ lines. Just the right location for Compressed-Tele shots! (Sridhar, this is for you!). The lighting (march-august) is perfect for shots of trains approaching MAS. From a point further down this bridge - along the AJJ section - look back and you get a fine view of the lines curving to and along the BBQ platforms. For this, a medium tele (105 to 200mm) will give great shots.
Uh...i know this trip was only a recce but my hands were itching for a SLR...the point is if you stand at this location, you really can't see the train until it's already on the BBQ curve! We realised a look-out person is necessary: They should be on the bridge itself from where they can wave to us (or contact over mobile) indicating the train's on its way. You then have time (at least a few seconds) to get ready for that once-in-a-lifetime-shot...
Just then, across the bridge, TN had silently moved in along the BZA lines...headed by ED WAP4 22508. Looked quite good in the early-morning golden backlight.
As the 24-coach rake moved past BBQ, a familiar short 'paaam' sounded and finally...there was the beast...full of action...sound...power...GTL WDM2 18981 with 1064! What a sight...the chief notched up exactly on the curve (it's an upgradient here). Smoke 'n' loco made a mean sight as the train approached. I fired away whatever I could. Being an AF compact, the u-II was slow so I managed about four frames (with an SLR you would've probably blown 15!).
As the loco growled past us, we spotted the chief looking fresh and smiling - and making smoke - obviously enjoying his work! (and thrilling us...) It was a heartening sight to see the clean CR coaches sparkling in the sunlight as they passed by. This rake didn't have the DQ pantry.
Bharat and me then took a rick back to MAS. Aargh...this driver was going like a WAP5...crazy! Anyway we got off at the station complex and a cop caught the driver for bringing us down a no-entry stretch....after a hearty breakfast at Planet Yumm, we returned home for some rest and then back to work...