Moving on to the Future with the Aerodynamic DMU from Shalimar!!
by Saurab Basu
"Japanese", 'Astonishing", "Imported" and many more…..
The regular vernacular and other dailies added many more adjectives to this New Aerodynamic DMU Service launched between Shalimar and Digha, for two weekends, on a trial basis. I R has announced of this service on regular weekends if things go right, in the near future, between Shalimar and Digha, the shore town, recently joined by rail.
Without any delay, Samit and Myself, we decided that we must have an experience. I had seen photographs of the Bhimavaram (Near Secundrabad) Service, where similar services were launched recently. This is the third service launched, after the Bhimavaram and Jammu-Udhampur Section (As Samit told me). The only resistance was the weather, which was quite exhaustive, the entire week. We were lucky to have it play a pleasant part, and add to our enthusiasm.
As planned, I left home early, and took a Metro to Rabindra Sadan (that's the nearest station to Samit's Place). It was the 14:20 Hrs Metro from Dum Dum. A rather uncommon sight greeted me at my destination, when I found a Non-Stop Metro, with vacant rakes, horned through towards Dum Dum. I don't know if it was for inspection, or due to shortage of rakes at Dum Dum. But it was pretty un-usual, Interesting as well!
I Reached Samit's place within ten minutes, after a rather long episode of bargains with the cab drivers, most of whom were reluctant for a short drive. Soon after this, we had a glass of Thumbs Up and started for Shalimar. A ride over the Second Hooghly Bridge, as always, made me feel proud to be a "Calcuttan" (Kolkatan:).
We headed for the booking office from where we had taken tickets, the last time. This time, it was closed, and we got to know that this office remains open only during Morning, and it is the Counter near the platform, that serves during the evening hours. Accordingly, we made our way to the booking office, and got our tickets for Digha (The Distance being 186 kms, charged Rs.31/- per person-II ORDY). Presumably I knew, that formatted Platform tickets are not available in Shalimar, and I was eager to get one. So I asked the booking clerk for a platform ticket, and he suggested that I did not need one. When I mentioned that it meant as a nice collectable for me, he was happy to hand me with a Hand-Made one. It was a blank paper ticket, with a mention of 'ONE PF TKT-Rs.3/- (Three only)', hand written on it. I got the carbon copy of course.We bid the clerk with thanks and headed towards the platform. A shuttle had just arrived from Santragachi, and the station had handful number of people.
It was 16:50, and we had almost an hour to go, before our train arrives. Loitering around on the platform, we decided to move on and have a chat with the RPF guys sitting in front of the Yard Master's Office adjoining the Platform. Two Kharagpur based WDS6's were looking picturesque in the yard, with the Vidyasagar Setu and the Blue Skies making a perfect backdrop for them. On asking for some photos, the staffs denied, and mentioned of the yard being a prohibited place. We had a bit of a chat with them, while one of them enquired about the DMU, mentioning his return after a long leave. I was most happy to share with them the Schedule; I was carrying, for the Holiday Special Service.
Soon the conditions were overcast, and it was drizzling moderately. We moved towards the Shed on the platform, and within ten minutes, after the drip-drop session was over, moved out towards the Level crossing, to shoot the approach of the High-Profile DMU. By then, we could hear its arrival. Spotted our stand near the Eastern Cabin, and were ready to shoot. The Grandiose Outlook and Beautiful sight kept me enthralled for a while, before I took photographs. Compared to the usual services, it was affordable day dreaming for me. In reality, the Indian Railways are moving ahead, and making us proud, I thought. She entered the station, with enthusiasts all round the place, appreciating the new look, with spell bound eyes!
Soon, we had to hurry ourselves to the platform. It was an Eight-Coach, Dual-Cab unit. For an instance, I thought, am I in a foreign country? She was parked just in front, and local people gathering all over, to have a glimpse. The Red, Blue and White livery was quite dazzling, instead of the overcast and gloomy surrounds, and we were desperate for some snaps. The frontal appearance like the ones in the "Bullet Trains", made me feel proud (I was!). It looked highly futuristic! We spotted a Press photographer, capturing the beauty in different moods, and approached the RPF men on the platform, with a request to take a few snaps. This time we were lucky, and the guy told us, " let me move out, and you can!". Both of us happily snapped a few shots, with due gratitude to him.
Asking the driver if we could have a snap of his cab-inside, he obliged and we managed a few shots there as well. The sign boards by the side had a mention: 1MD/2MD Holiday Special - Shalimar-Santragachi - Mecheda-Digha- Santragachi. On the windscreen in front of the cab, it had an LED Display board, with the destination name in Hindi and English glowing on it -DIGHA. The cab-interior was quite attractive as well, with a spacious and comfortable seating for the drivers, and a systematic control panel to operate in front. I suppose, they have a PA system installed as well, because I saw a microphone like entity, amongst the various other gadgets installed. The view in front was appreciable too, and had an air-liner touch to it ;-).
We hurried in to the third compartment after the frontal cab, the first two being Ladies, and Vendor. The windows were sizeable and had no usual bars on them. Instead of which, miniature ladder like welding has been done so as to prevent hazards (?). The dual cabs in this train are Air-Conditioned, and the first thing we found, on board, was that there is a provision for air-conditioning the coaches as well, with equipped ventilation systems installed already. And as I was mentioning in the cab, we found that there was provision for addressing system in the overhead centre pane. Cushioned Seats, Fluorescent Lights, Large windows and quantitative leg-space, we had the perfect ingredients to set up our departure. But, as our habits are beyond controls, the interiors had patches of dirtiness already in place. The glowing lights added a glittering touch to the shining steel, all around. We got ourselves two windows to settle by, and then had a quick interior photography. Meanwhile, amongst some of the locals, an old man came up with a thought of us being from the press, and emphasized on the fact of having toilets installed in this train. We agreed with his thoughts, because any train traveling a distance over 150 km should have toilets, and tried to make him understand that it was a new service and probably within days to come, that would be done for sure. But, he seemed a bit off track, and went on stressing on the fact that we were reporters, and should write on this! He seemed definite and when we tried to prove ourselves as railway enthusiasts, he arrogantly mentioned that he was not so foolish to believe our words at all! Sarcastic truly!!
It was time to move on, and the driver horned couple of times before heading off with a rather jerky start, which I suppose is because of a new control system, that requires more hands -on! and accustom.
We started on time, at 17:50 Hrs and were greeted on at every level crossing passing by, with an amazed look. The bus like windows opened from down to up, with a fixed upper unit. The cool breeze was setting us on. But one thing that rather disappointed both of us, was the window frames, that were badly finished, and had an aluminum look, made of badly constituted fiber glass. Samit took a pic of the fiber distortion, already in place!
This DMU has only one stop at Santragachi between Shalimar and Mecheda, after which runs as a regulation passenger service. It is noteworthy that a Passenger service (DMU) runs between Mecheda and Digha regularly, and is extended from Shalimar and till Santragachi (on UP and DN) on weekends. That' swhy the train number remains the same (1 MD/2 MD - MD for Mecheda-Digha), with only a Holiday Special added to it!
We stopped at Santragachi, where a number of local people hurried on boards and we found all seats fill in at a glance. After this it was an express Service till Mecheda..Non-Stop Funda! We kept on gossiping and pranking jokes all through, and whizzed past every station, with eager eyes watching us. It was a One Hour Run to Mecheda, before we crossed the Rupnarayan Bridge near Kolaghat in darkness, and reached Mecheda.
All of a sudden, we thought not to move further, because, we thought that would be waste of money and encounter unnecessary trouble in finding a hotel at Digha that late! And we were done with our mission of experiencing the DMU by ourselves. So having decided unanimously we got off, and bid farewell to the Aerodynamic Beauty, while she moved past and blinked into the far beyonds!
Slowly, we headed towards the exit of the station, for the booking office and got our Return tickets @ Rs.14 /- each for a 59 km ride (II-ORDY) to Howrah. Shared one of the few smokes and headed back to the platform, where our EMU was to come. Meanwhile as we waited, the WDM 3A 14007 VSKP- Bauldie, hauled Faluknama Express zoomed past towards Howrah. The Howrah-Mumbai SAMARSATA EXP passed earlier, with a WAP4 in command, as far as I remember:-). The Howrah-Puri Sri Jagannath Express arrived a few minutes later, with a WAM4 Tatanagar in lead, this time.
Soon after this Three EMU's arrived in the UP direction, and we had our EMU - the MH132 DN Medinipur - Howrah Local rolling in to the platform at 19:40 Hrs. Expecting a sufficed crowd, glad to find seats, we headed back, on a tiring journey. It was a regulation EMU with all stops enroute. The run was fine, and took us almost Two hours to reach Howrah at 21:30 Hrs. I was feeling tired and dizzy and took a couple of siestas before we were there. The EMU was parked at the PF No.15, the longest walk in Howrah. The Faluknama was standing alongside on PF No.14. We hurried out, and got a cab. Samit dropped me as usual at the Park Street Metro Station, from where it was one of the few last time trains that I got at 21:57 Hrs, to Dum Dum. Within 22:30 I was home, with my parents astonished at my Quick return! "Hum Aisey Hi Hain" -- I told them.:-).