Bhopal and Ujjain trip
by Roopesh Kohad
This report is about the trip which I and Vaibhav Sarin made on the weekend of 28th July. The prime motive of the trip was to travel in one of the Shatabdis as I haven't been on any one of them and experience sustained high speed. So initially we thought of going to Gwalior which was not very far yet could give good experience of Shatabdi. But later on I proposed to go to Bhopal to which Vaibhav agreed readily. So we did reservation for Bhopal by Shatabdi(2002) Chair car for 28th July and return by Bhopal Express(2155) 3A on 29th July. We were looking for a branch line travel in Bhopal other than mainline Delhi-Chennai. Only other line that goes from Bhopal is towards Indore which comes under Western railway to our surprise.
On morning of 28th 5.30 am we were on pf no. 1 of NDLS. The rake was already put in place when I came. The first generator was of Rajdhani and making loud noise. Loco was WAP-5 30000. We then came back and settled in our seats. The coach was dull. Colour was pink tinge in coffee color. The lights were not bright enough. Outside rain made the interior very damp. Our seats were the last in coach 67,68 near the door. Other coaches were better with good lightings, wall paintings and color. The number of foreign tourists seemed to outnumber the number of local travellers in train. The windows were having double glass with white moth balls indside them which looked odd.
Train started slow and stopped just outside the pf. The Bareilly shatabdi also took off with us and ran parallel for some time. Again on HNZM we stopped for 2 minutes. The run was slow till TKD, then it suddenly gained speed. We passed Faridabad at good speed (100+). We chatted for some time with catering staff. He told us that though train belongs to NR but everything is looked after by CR people, even the drivers are from CR. He did justify by saying that it runs mostly in CR territory.
The run mostly was good around 100 but it did not excite me as I used to dream that it will run at sustained speed of 120. Why shouldn't I be as till some time ago it was the fastest train on IR! It hardly touched 120, I am not sure. We were delighted to see 2952(Mumbai Raj) on its way to NDLS just outside Mahtura on Mumbai tracks.
We reached Agra, 30 minutes late. That was a disappointment as I thought that if it reaches Agra at 7.55 am, average of 100, then it must run sustainably at 100+ for it to makeup slow run till Faridabad and slow runs due to other reasons. Vaibhav was totally unexcited as he told me that he has seen higher speeds in Howrah Raj which has reportedly been cleared for 140.
We reached Gwalior 29 minutes late. Most of the foreign tourists alighted at Agra and Gwalior. Now strength in the train was very mearge. We went through whole train. Coaches were empty. The passengers too were mostly sleeping. The low occupancy plus most of the passengers sleeping made the atmospehere dull. Bhopal Shatabdi seemed to have very loe patronage. We sat on different seats of different coaches. The executive class too was empty. It hardly had 10-12 passengers when we saw it.
We went to attendant with cassette of "Lagaan" to play it. The speakers of our coaches were poor. Very little sound was coming overwhelmed by clickety-clat and rumblings of train. We could hardly enjoy the music. Though it was better in other coaches. We reached jhansi 20 minutes late. There we were surprised to see HNZM-Trivandrum Raj. We could not see any reason except that there maybe some problem in Konkan railway.
We bougth CR timetable at Jhansi. At Jhansi lunch was loaded. Vaibhav was delighted to know that lunch will be served. The Jhansi to Bhopal run was good with average mostly above 90. Train did not stop anywhere in between. At one time it looked as if train is going to reach before time. But it reached on time 14.10.
The rake is cleaned at the platform itself for return journey which is at 14.50. That is why in the announcements the announcer urged passengers to carry mineral water bottle with them so that they save on time to clean. Very few passengers alighted from train. At Bhopal train was virtually empty. I think catering staff were more in number than the actual passengers. The rake was quite old and return of coach in which we travelled was due in coming october.
Overall satisfactory journey but no feeling of high speed and glamour of Shatabdi. One thing is that I have travelled to Bhopal many times while going to other places but this was effortless travel and never felt like I am 705 kms away from home when alighted.
Same day we went to Habibganj station to find out about Indore line trains and trainspotting. The station is very neat and clean with 3 pfs. 3-4 trains originate and only 5-6 trains stop there. The tracks adjacent to were so clean like we had never seen. Photographed station from overbridge and NDLS bound Dakshin Exp.
Next day at 5.30 am we were at Bhopal Jn. to catch 8234 Narmada Exp to Ujjain. It was already there. We sat in the SLR coach next to loco WDM2. It was 19 coach all maroon. It left 10 minutes late at 6.00 am. It is passenger from Bhopal till Indore though from Bilaspur it is exp till Bhopal. So it stopped at all the stations except one station "Panchwan" if I remember correctly. There are a LOT of stations in between. A station used to come at every two minutes. But still train ran on time and stopped for hardly a minute at most stations.
Bhopal till Ujjain is electrified but double only in few sections. The route was very beautiful. Green and green and green but not dense forest like. Also not much human population to be seen. Traffic on route also seem to be very less with only one passenger and 2-3 freights crossed us in opposite direction and none crossed us in our direction. Journey was therefore uneventful but we still enjoyed.
We reached Ujjain at 11.00 am. We roamed a bit at Ujjain station. Vaibhav was delighted to see MG train. Pf 3 was for MG and a train to Mahu was ready to leave. We shot 2-3 photos with one that of new WAP4 of BRC with new livery of small yellow band and grey bottom.
After sighseeing again came back to station at 14.00 to catch Malwa Exp. 9367 scheduled to depart at 14.50. It came at 1520 but the announcement of it coming started at 14.45 itself. We were quite frustrated with this wrong announcements as we were to catch train to HNZM at 2115 too from Habibganj. There was quite a rush in general coaches but we did manage to sit.
There was a passenger train to Ratlam at pf 2. It came from Bina hauled by WDM but without taking away its loco a spanking new BRC WAP4 was attached in front of that 6-coach rake and departed in fromt of us. What a waste of power! Territory is that of WR.
From Indore, Malwa Exp. came hauled by WDM2 Ratlam but at Ujjain WAM4 was attched. Train reversed direction. This time we were at the last coach. It was 19 coach rake. It ran at good speed till may be 95 as I clocked it whenever it ran at good speed. It stopped only at few stations like Maksi etc.(forgot others). We sat on the door alternately for most of the journey. Felt really good sitting there and whole long train negotiating a curve. Satisfying moments.
We reached Bhopal 1900 pm 15 minutes late but train covered up 15 minutes. Our faith in IR rose. Vaibhav fell on platform while alighting but is was not serious. He was alighting wrong way opposite to train movement.
We collected our stuff from our staying place after having dinner. We were again at Habibganj at 2100 to catch HBJ-HNZM Exp 2155. There was peace at platform, no hawkers, no beggars and no hustle bustle. We were in 3A. Both the rakes of this train are new. This one was definitely. I have never such neat and clean coach even in Raj. Toilet was clean. Washbasin area was good and a door mat kind of carpet provided near toilets. A mug was provided in toilet below the tap. Bed roll was spotless. Everything was good.
At Bhopal we ran to see the loco. It was WAP-4 most probably Jhansi. We had to rush back as it stops only for 8 minutes there. As we were quite tired after to and from journey to Ujjain we slept immediately after train left Bhopal. This was for the first time that I slept so long at stretch in train and never got down before destination station if I ignore Bhopal. I slept at about 2200 some distance after Bhopal and woke up only at Kosi Kalan at 0650 or so. Almost 9 hours. It made unscheduled stop at Ballabhgarh where Vaibhav alighted. It reached right time at 0755 at HNZM. Comfortable journey.
Overall we travelled 705(NDLS-BPL)+184(BPL-Ujjain)+184(Ujjain-BPL)+ 701(Habibganj-HNZM) = 1774 kms costing 850+26+52+676 = 1604 Rs. in four different trains all of which were new to us. From the luxury of Shatabdi to drudgery of Narmada and Malwa to 3A comfort of Bhopal Exp. Vaibhav had made AC coach travel debut in non-Raj train. Thanks for reading till here.