by Samit Roychoudhury
On the road right now... At the moment on the ADI-JAT Exp en route to Jodhpur and using my friend's laptop to write a tiny report of my trip so far. Havent done any real railfanning, havent really had the chance.
HWH-Kalyan by the 2102 Jnaneshwari Exp. Pretty regular journey...Nothing exceptional happened except that the 2A coach was many vacant berths.... An me and my friend had the entire compartment to ourselves. The train kept getting delayed and making up... and covering up a delay of 45 minutes seemed way too easy. That too it had a standby loco... For some reason the usual WAP4 was missing an we had a run own WAM4, needing a paint job. Couldnt find any shed markings on it... maybe Bhilai as it had a saffron-cream combination. The food was standard and for the first time i saw (and had) fried Chicken on a train. Reached Kalyan on time where we got off and waiting about an hour for the Deccan Exp where we had II class reservations. The train was the usual airbraked II coach and reasonably comfortable. The weather was terrible... very hot. We stayed at Lonavla for a day and boarded a LNL-Pune local the next day and reached Pune. We were supposed to take the Koyna Exp at 1605 hr.
Reached Pune Stn at 1430 as we were supposed to meet Apurva and Swaran and soon we were chatting. Apurva and Swaran entertained us with info while we waited. Swaran had lots of pics to show too. And soon they had to go. We knew from before that the Koyna was running late due to a derailment (of a goods train near Jejuri) We waited and waited, In the meantime tried to get our tickets changed for the hatabdi which they wouldnt allow.... if we canccelled we would lose 50%. The Koyna finally came in at about 1940. The CC coach was almost totally empty. Had a tired and boring journey to Dadar where we reached post midnight. Took a cab to friend's place in Versova...and got cheated by the cab... Actually multiple cheated. The meter showed about 2 times the amount and on top of that the 500 note we gave to driver was returned ... He had quickly replaced it with a 100 note an claimed we had given him less... i didnt realise till he did the same with my friend too....by which time it was too late.... a Rs 300 journey cost us Rs 1200. i hope he has had a sufficienly drastic accident somewhere.
After a days fun in Bombay we departed on the 7th by Gujarat Mail. Took a cab to Dadar and waited there. The platform was really crowded as a local departed. Dadar isnt a pleasant station under any circumstance. Rajan Mathew had come to meet us there and it was good to see him. Chatted with him a while and when the train pulled it we boarded the 2A coach. It was as well kept as usual and the bed roll sets were already in place. Went off to sleep and woke up after the train pulled up into Ahmedabad station. Headed for the NID campus for a couple of days. Also found out that that Bholu Mascot (in addition to the IR 150 logo) has been designed by NID.... pathetic work that.
More in my next report. Sorry the details are rather sketchy... but didnt really have much opportunity for more. The highlight of the trip was the general heat wave...Lonavala... the hill station was HOT and so was Pune and Bombay and Ahmedabad. In addition, the pollution levels in Ahmedabad have gone way a lot and the water has worsened... its brackish now.
Travelled by 9111 ADI-JAT Exp from ADI to Jodhpur. Uneventful trip... Usual vacumn braked rake. The 2a coach was clean and the train was more or less maintaining time over the single track section. As noted earlier the entire stretch upto Marwar is MACL. Had to wait some time in Jodhpur and then catch the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Exp. This was a clean airbraked rake. Had one 3a, two SL and the rest unreserved. Had a BGKT WDM2. Reached Jaisalmer early morning. The next day went to the station to get a glimpse of the palace on wheels. Couldnt see inside as the passengers were asleep. The attendant said i could come back at night but i didnt make it. The coaches were disappointing from outside. Didnt look too new and the markings looked stencilled (even the decorations). The only nice thing was the brass emblem on each coach. The POW symbol was shoddily painted. the loco as far as i remember was a Tughlakabad WDM2. Left for JU by the Jaisalmer - JU exp. It maintained time. From JU caught the JU-AII pass to Ajmer. This was a pretty long rake and airbraked. Wasnt crowded at all. leaves JU about 7.50 am and got into ajmer about 1 pm. train was a pass between JU and marwar and a fast pass beyond. Was a pleasant journey if you ignore the heat. Had a BGKT WDM2.
Had an interesting autorickshaw trip to Pushkar. Autos are not allowed there and this guy had trouble negotiating the hill stretch and had his engine cough and seize at least 10 times but we finally made it. Next trip was by Ashram Exp between Ajmer and Alwar. Was at the station before midnight and had to wait for an unearthly 2 am before the train came in. AII station is full of signboards... Standard panels in yellow and black. Cleaner than before. A few platforms on the farther side are still MG. Saw the Chetak Exp draw in. The MG coaches somehow looked tinier than they used to :-). Ashram drew in... Airbraked and hauled by 2 WDM2s. Spent the night sleeping and woke up early for Alwar. Spent three days at Siliserh and had a relaxing time.... And then back to Alwar to catch the Marudhar Exp to Agra. Nothing really exciting about this train. Dont even recall whether it was AB or VB. The track between Alwar and Mathura wasnt good at all.... Even though its a newly converted MG line i believe. A lot of rocking and stuff. Made it to agra by about 8.30 pm.
From Agra we took the Shatabdi till Delhi. Was disappointed by it. More importantly we didnt have a problem even though we had got Shatabdi reservations on a circular ticket even though we were told its not allowed. The TTE didnt create any fuss. The train itself was just average. the coaches were dirty. Had a wap5 in command. The coach we were in had brown interiors. I think they need more luggage space as we were very cramped. The food was terrible. Started off with mineral water and nice enough soup and sticks..... But soon we were served some rice, dal, roomali roti and chicken. That was bad. The chicken had its skin still on. Everything tasted awful and i noticed people were returning their trays in 5 minutes. i think they should serve snacks instead of such hideous meals. The curd was good though... And we got icecream too. The train pulled into Delhi about 10.50 pm. It was about 20 minutes late at Agra earlier.
The first day in Delhi we visited the railway museum. Met with Mr. Agrawal the director and he very kindly gave me a copy of the new museum guide. Its done pretty nicely though it can still be improved. There seemed a few new exhibits since the last i was there... A WAM1 and a WAG1. They have quite a few Hornby etc models now but not kept well at all. One set even had wrong labels (a goods rake labelled as a Chunnel Exp). At the far side on two flatcars was a newly arrrived YDM1. One caried the body while the other carried the bogies. Interestingly it carried shed markings of Wankaner. Wasnt aware that Wankaner ever had a diesel loco shed. Also made a trip to Rail Bhawan (a very uninspiring place) to talk to officials to figure out whether i needed railways permission for my Atlas. Met with a couple of people who had no idea till someone called another official and found out i could do so. The place itself is a little intimidating. One has to acquire an entry pass which is filled in Hindi at the reception and has an hours time limit.
Met up with Mohan Bhuyan which was a pleasure. It tuned out he knew my hosts well and we all got together. Vaibhav and his friend also dropped in (sorry i forgot his name.... Raju???)... and we had a good time talking. i hope he gets his WAP flavoured car horn soon hehe.
Next was the most obnoxious trip. All ye be warned. The Brahmaputra Mail sucks big time. i was told it is a VB rake but it was AB. The troubles started right out. The coach was old and unclean. Had rat somewhere. We ordered Egg Curry and it had some awful spice and no taste. The curd was... incredibly... burnt. Couldnt really eat much. Anyway the guy above me was busy drinking with his companion but i let him. Next comes the surprise.... i woke up middle of the night and see a shape at my feet. Its my co-passengerr from the upper berth with something in his hand. Some eye focussinga and i realised he had my small bag and had taken out my Discman. i nudged him and he was still dozing and and then woke up and said he wanted to listen to some music. i started creating a scene and the attendant came and hushed him away to his berth. i found he had gone through my tickets etc. i told his companion the next day that if he drank again i would create touble.
The next day was no better. The food still was just as bad and the loos as dirty. The Chicken fry we ordered turned out tastleless spicy curry and i went made a complaint at the panty car. The 2A coach was filled with people....the outside berths packed. i went to the TTE to complain and he got defensive saying they all had passes..... and i told him that hardly was a reason since the coach shouldnt have more than its marked capacity.... Since we were paying for the space too... Had a tiff with him. The corridor too had people and going to the toilet wasnt an easy job. But what else can you expect from Bihar? Anyway the crowd thinned out after Sahibganj. The upper berth guy was drinking again and this time he got down and landed on my friend hurting her and then falling back on her. i called the TTE to complain and he was shifted off to another berth but came back soon after. The GRP also did nothing. i later leant from his companion that he is an armyman being sent back due to excessive stress and that he is insane and thought i was an anti-national. Didnt really buy that and i spent the second night with my eyes open for most part watching him peep over continiously especially since he had pushed me back and attempted to hit me when i had compained about him. Luckily there were no further incidents and we got into NJP at about 4 am, an hour late. Waited outside the waiting room (the waiting room was too smelly to enter) and when the charts for the DHR train was released went to see if there was any vacancy but it was fully packed so with sorrow we had to take a shared sumo. Was hoping to get a train ride later. There is only one NJP-Darjeeling service which is diesel hauled and the diver of the sumo told me there are very frequent derailments of the loco and resultant traffic snarls. There are more services beetween Darjeelin and Kurseong which are steam hauled, including the tourist special. On the way up we saw two trains on the way and one at the station. Unfortunately while in Dajeeling we couldnt get a ride as we both had cough and cold and climbing up steep staircases and roads were not pleasant expeiences. Headed to Kalimpong by road and was back at NJP to catch the Kanchankanya Exp back to Sealdah. We had booked for this train the day reservations had opened and had got one confirmed and one RAC1 ticket and the RAC one hadnt got confirmed till the morning of departure. We took the NFR bus from Kalimpong to NJP. This seems to be operated under a contract. We had bad seats but managed to change. On reaching NJP we found the our tickets were confirmed. Miraculously there were empty berths in the 2A coach which i found strange. A nice feature was that the request for lower berths we had filled in the reservation form was still maintained even though we didnt have confirmed accomodation then. The train had one 2a and two 3a coaches and was airbraked. It maintained good speed till it got near Calcutta but somehow lost about 2 hours in stoppages in the single line sections and landed up almost 2 hrs late at Sealdah. This train had some private food people who looked liked rly staff as they took orders from NJP itself so beware. The Parathas we were promised werent there... got only rice.
Thats about my trip in general. Sorry guys its kind of sketchy but i dont remember too many details and didnt really have the opportunity to note things down. Comments are always welcome.