Igatpuri in the Rains
by Sandeep Mohan
Igatpuri. I was supposed to go with Deep Soni and gang a couple of weeks ago but ended up getting drunk at a friends place the previous night which was a SATURDAY. Anyways I was planning this trip with tons of help from Abhishekh Tamhankar and Pradeep Galgali. The 3 of us would meet at Dombivili triangle and train spot every other week but things started to get boring. Same old stuff. WAG5s and WAG7s with their ever consistent container rakes. It was fun for me at the start of my first train spotting sessions in Mumbai cause I had never seen so much container traffic in my life (even down south in Cochin, Kerala). The speeds were also the fastest I have ever seen for freight movement. In any case it was getting boring and the two other buddies of mine recommended Igatpuri. We decided on Igatpuri for a couple of reasons. One to find out how exactly the DC to AC changeover takes place and the other to was visit the AC trip shed. It was only once we reached Igatputi that we realised that there was a lot more to be seen.
We decided to leave on Sunday (03 july 05) by some train that leaves Dadar (Starts it journey at Dada Terminus too) at 0755 hrs. Pardon me for not being exact on any of the trains and their numbers. Everything is still new to me here and my train spotting sessions are nowhere as much as how I used to do it in Banaglore. We opted for General Coach travel as the distance would not allow us to reserve tickets (i suppose). The loco was the usual WCAM3 with its rear panto raised. Is this right? Out of excitment Pradeep wanted to take a picture of the locomotive but this ended up with the RPF dude who actually asked Pradeep whether he was thinking of blowing up the locomotive. I really don't know why the RPF never asked me anything. Maybe its because Pradeep was with the camera. In any case he let us off just when the singal tunred to "caution". This mix up with the RPF was my fault. I've faced a ton of these issues while shooting in SBC, with Naveen Jain at CSDR and at Dodballapur with Naren. Its ridiculous but I guess there are some places that we must avoid photography (or get a permit).
The run was good till Kalyan and thats where Abhishekh joined us. The very moment we left Kalyan the run was disappointing. We kept slowing down every time we built momentum and this was a sick feeling. The drivers out here seem to love hard braking and every time he hit the breaks you could get that burning smell from the asbestos brake blocks. There seems to be mix of AC and DC traction poles enroute. However the AC masts suspending the DC wires don't have the same look as pure AC territory. Its a bit of a mix and match of AC and DC design. This is something you have to see. Explaining it would be difficult. The part that suspends the DC wire looks that of a AC equipment but whats behind it (the insulator) looks like parts from a DC component bin. The highway that goes to Delhi or some other place was running alongside for quite some time. In the meantime we crossed the Mangala express headed with a ERS locomotive and a couple of freights. Freights for some strange reason had 3 locos up front and they were all WDM2 series locos from Kalyan. All of them we fired up and mued. I guess we were a bit late arriving at Kasara and we had 3 WCG2 bankers attached for the 14 km super climb towards Igatpuri. Kasara now has a new AC traction substation just beside the DC one that looks wired up and ready to use & the Kasara to Igatpuri run has 3 lines instead of the usual 1 that accompanied us from Kalyan. I guess the 3rd line is dedicated for freight. Our already crowded General coach just got better and I ended up standing on the step of the coach. I was really worried cause I had to hold on for nearly 14 kms and our train was climbing a ghat that was seriously steep and beautiful at the same time. I could not enjoy the beautiful greens as much as I wanted cause I was tense. My hands started to ache cause they were holding my full body weight but I had no choice. The run between Kasara and Igatpuri is slow but beautiful. I guess the beautiful greens and damp rocks/boulders get their looks from the mild drizzle that was constant. We went through a few tunnels and many a time the lines would be apart. There was an instance where the two down lines where around half km apart from us and I could still hear two screaming WCG2 bankers that were waiting on the lines. If there is no train passing the line I bet you can atleast hear them approach a km away. Its so quiet. There are plenty of beautiful spots for photography between Kasara and Igatpuri and this stretch is best done by foot. 14 km does not sound like much for a trek. Just be careful while in the tunnels.
I kept a lookout for pantograph changeover from DC to AC but the rear panto was still raised and we were very much on DC. Another thing I have realised after reading the FAQ is there really is no particular pantograph that needs to be used while operating AC or DC. I guess any one of them can be used depending on conditions.
The first thing we wanted to check was the loco change but we were confused. Our WCAM3 cut and went to a dead end line that was quite close to the rake, lowered and raised the alternate pantograph. During raising the pantograph the spark we heard was typical AC and not DC. Anyways we left things at that and waited for the Itarsi power to take over the train. It was a WAM46P series loco in raj livery. Itarsi have the best looking WAMs ever. They have done some small modifications on the loco such as the cab doors that now has sealed and fused in glass windows (not the shutters). The other mods I noticed were the rear view mirrors. They are large and useful. The cab interiors were also very clean. Another thing I noticed was they were a lot more silent compared to AJJs WAM4 locos.
The train we arrived on left Igatpuri with its Itarsi power and we were off trying to figure out how the changeover takes place. The FAQ on our website describes this very well but it does not apply for all the lines at Igatpuri. I also feel that its better to see how this AC/DC system works than having someone explain it to you. The current changeover switch is the most interesting one. There are similar such phase cut off switches that we can notice on some heavily populated traction masts; you'll notice a small circuit OPEN/CLOSE breaker on top of the mast and thats linked to a lever thats usually got a Godrej lock on it so nobody can turn off power for a particular section. This same lever at Igatpuri is operated by a machine that looks exactly like the one used for automated points changeover. The machine is probably linked with the singal box controller so whenever an AC/DC loco enters the station the required power on a particular stretch of the catenary is selected. As of now all platforms have dual voltage capability however the arrangement is made in such a way that PF1&2 cannot receive AC loco hauled trains. Well they can receive AC hauled trains but the loco can pull into the PFs with just 3 coaches on it and the rest outside Similarly PF3&4 cannot receive DC hauled trains. A DC loco can just about enter platform 3 from Kasara side but cannot bring in the whole rake onto the platform. The loop that runs next to the line on PF3 supports only AC traction. This line is used for the AC loco to go back to the trip shed after it brings a train onto platform 3&4. Whenever a WCAM series loco brings in a train from Kasara side the loco switches to AC just when its about to stop. Once the loco is cut off from the rake it goes forward onto a short dead end stretch and reverses back immediately using PF2. The loco is actually running on AC only for a short period of time or just for the shunting purpose.
The story for freight is even more interesting. Just outside Igatpuri towards the AC trip shed is where the goods yard is. All AC hauled freights are brought to this yard and then shunted to Igatpuri station using twin or single (depending on load conditions) WDS6 shunters. We were very lucky to see this take place and it was a different thrill to see twin yellow Kalyan WDS6 shunters struggling to haul a container rake. The locos were not mued but it was superb to hear these mini beasts struggle with a load. It sounds as if the whole setup on the WDS6 is hydraulic when they struggle. Though notched all the way up it sounds as if the loco is on the verge of shutting off cause the engine is running down due to excess load. You get to experience this same feeling when a WDS4 struggles to start a 24 coach load while its shunting. In the case of the WDS4 the engine can actually shut down if the load is excess. The smoke is something else. Thick and black; just like the days of steam. Its the same story for freights hauled in using WCG2s from Kasara side. The locos cut from their rakes at the station and WDS6 shunters take the rake to the yard where a WDM2 or AC loco takes over. AC locos can move about on a few loop lines next to PF1 but cannot start any freight from the station. There are some dedicated lines for freight that are pure AC and DC. Its not the same story for freights as how express/mail or passengers trains are handled.
Our time spent walking around Igatpuri station was the best. We stumbled on two ERS locos. Both were dead and one was the ex ED 14048 WDM2C baldie. Was wondering what the 2C was doing but a phone call to Jimmy Jose solved the issue. ERS WDM2Cs usually have no trains to haul towards Igatpuri side that are 20+ coaches but in this case it must have been a Summer Special and the loco would be going back to ERS dead. The other was a ERS WDM2A but im sure this has a link for the Mangala. The super surprise was Golden Rocks WDP2 in its original Green/cream livery. This was the first time I stumbled upon a WDP2. During the days I was studying in Chennai I never really did any train spotting though I knew I could see a whole load of DP2s at Egmore. This GOC WDP2 had a very large and broad exhaust. Another surprise was Bhagat ki Kothi's WDG3As which was also in the most boring livery that seems to be the norm with most sheds these days and thats the Raj livery. There was no shed marking on this loco other than the small letters just below the cab. This was the only Diesel loco that was live. The other dead diesel loco was from Erode. This one had a small yellow background patch painted where the road number was written and it was over this that they stenciled the number. Im really sorry that I have not menntioned any of the road numbers (i was actually carrying a note pad and pen). When I get excited I just forget about everything else cause I just want to watch these beasts; even if they are dead.
The AC trip shed was pure nirvana. I guess there were around 16 AC locos lined up. 2 WAP4s from Santragacchi and a WAP1 from Gazi. One of the Santragacchi's had a similar paint scheme of KJM though both the Blues were lighter. Also the first train we saw leaving Igatpuri with a WAP4 was from Jhansi shed. Tatanagar mades its presnece felt with a WAM4 series loco. Most of the locos we saw at the trip shed were WAM4s from BSL but they were all in a sorry state. Then there was ET and LGD with the only WAG7.
Kalyan WDM2 Diesels were there but all of them were mued as triplets. I guess they need brake pressure more than power. Its still a mystery to me as to why they use more diesels instead of electrics for freight. I guess its due to loco shortage.
We did not visit the DC trip shed which is on the Kasara end of Igatpuri station.
Lunch was at the station. I took a chance with the chicken curry though it was flooded with oil but it looks like my stomach has seen worse so nothing happened. Pradeep settled for egg curry and Abhishekh was very happy with his veg biriyani. All this and the bill came to just Rs. 74. I don't think it gets any cheaper than this.
We had a very exciting jounrney to Igatpuri and I guess its my best. We boarded some passenger trainat 1500 hrs and headed back to Mumbai. Brake test is done only on the DOWN run and not for the UP which I guess is the case for the Karjat-Lonawala sector. It was only then I realised that when I do make the next trip it would be best to get off the train at the brake test point. Spend the day among the hills and then board another train that stops for brake testing to get back to Mumbai. Or you could trek it back to Igatpuri which should be around 5km from this point. I also realised that the Karjat-Lonawala sector is nothing in terms of a visual treat compared to the run between Igatpuri and Kasara. This really is the place to venture out for photography. The best time would be winter. It would be nice to photograph a train with its headlights piercing through the thick mist.
Well thats all folks. Nothing much took place after we left Igatpuri. We met the UP Mangala Exp at Kasara which was with the usual ERS link and was getting twin bankers attached.