Howrah-Bardhhaman-Khana Jn. Trip Report
by Saurab Basu
The Lost World - A Steamy Retreat and Some High Speed Action
Exactly One Year back, on the Christmas Day of 2004, Samit and myself, we set out for the first bon voyage of a fabulous rail fanning season there after. And these were the best settings to mark the anniversary, with a call for some historic snapshots. After all, we wanted to set a benchmark for this successful year of Railway enthusiasm.
Much earlier in the year, during our visit to Adra JN, along with Tim Makins, we did spot a few condemned Steam locomotives near the old Bardhhaman Steam Shed. So this was the best occasion to re-discover the lost world of the yester year.s beauties. And of course, a contrasting package was planned, so as to enjoy some high speed action as well. And for this the best spot could be nowhere else than KHANA JN, doorway to the famed Sahebganj Loop.
Quickly an itinerary was chalked out, with plans to take the 3015 UP Howrah. Bolpur Shantiniketan Express at 10:00 AM, and have a break journey at Bardhhaman JN. Then take the Bardhhaman. Asansol MEMU at 13:30 Hrs, Dep.. BWN: Arr.. KHANA. 13:50 Hrs. The Return plan was kept flexible, as we wanted to opt for the first down service, once shooting was complete.
Milan Chatterjee was to join us this time. He was in Kolkata for some work, and had opted for reaching Samit.s place. Subhabrata came to my place from where we went over to Dum Dum JN to take a Down Service to Sealdah. An Asansol based WAG. 5 A. 23364, near the Outer greeted us for the start of this wonderful day. Upon reaching Sealdah, a quick round of spotting included a freshly painted WAP. 6. 22402 ASN / WAG. 5 RH. 23255 LDH and Vadodra (BRC) based WAG 5, near the Electric Trip Shed. It was already 08:27 AM when we reached Sealdah, and so a cab was the best option to reach Samit.s place. Milan was already there before, and so we wasted no more time, but to quickly set off for Howrah. A rather long queue for tickets, after which we were through, with the Howrah. Khana. II. M/E boarding clearance in hand upon exchange of Rs. 41/- per head, via chord. The booking clerk was terribly inattentive and that resulted in printing out wrong journey tickets. Samit had asked for Return tickets, and she printed Both Single Journey Tickets, instead of Return. Once discovered we had to pay Rs. 30/- as the Cancellation charges, and get it finalized. It was as usual..System Fault.. This is just a small instance to reiterate on the negligence and unprofessional approach, these booking clerks offer.
Once the Entry was fixed, we had to hurry to the Platform No. 9, from where Shantiniketan Express was to leave. A couple of fresh WAP. 4 Locomotives attracted us for a while, but time running out, we could not afford any shots this time. The Shantiniketan Express was moderately populated this time, and we got ourselves good seats. Being in the opposite side of any possible action on sight, we were deprived of real time rail stuff, but the journey was a real whisker, taking us past in just over an hour to Bardhhaman JN. A rather asthmatic looking WAP. 6. 22411 ASN, needed a good round of inhaler to rehabilitate back on her job back from Howrah. While, in contrast to that a WAG. 7. 22717. AJNI was sparkling with the glory of this fortunate dawn, celebrating the smile of our relationship with the their World.
We were dot on schedule this time, and without offering any time to relax, it was time to move backwards, in search of the lost paradise. Subhabrata told of spotting a WDM. 6 while entering the station, and so the team went keen towards reaching out for it. It was a lust for the.Silver. of this trip. But all went in vain, as to what Subhabrata was mentioning to be a WDM. 6 was actually an usual WDS. 6R, with the hallucinating presence of WDM. 6 in Bardhhaman, inspiring the stars of his mind. A WAG. 7 - 27017. MGS, was the first to be shot, outside the platform area. While we were keen on focusing the subject, another beauty attracted our view finder. This was the Single Front Window EMU that has been plying on the Sealdah and Howrah Divisions, nowadays. It looks splendid when compared to the standard EMU Rakes in action.
Within minutes, a long trail of Wagons, powered by a WAG. 7. 27009. MGS, continued the proceedings for few moments. Subhabrata was focused on the side view of this sizzling beauty, aiming towards the illustration of the various Electric Class Locomotives. The Exemplified images were truly worth, the goal set. But at the same time, the light conditions were also not the very best on offer. So quickly we turned about, to focus back on the primary subject. STEAM!!
Just opposite to where we stood, the very first page of this heritage novel waited our visit. An old Steam Crane, looking rather distressed, stood there to tell the story of the golden days, he had passed through. I stood up and thought of sharing his biography in my mind. The bygone years must have been very remarkable, when he actually played the active role for the Railways. When the Steamy Chugs used to fill the air around, with a mystic touch of itself, he must have shared the pride of the show. Today, he is a silent man, who has so much to speak. Today, History is so neglected. We are very busy with the present and the forthcoming, but never turn around to salute the heroics of them, who led us to cherish these accomplishments!!
A couple of snaps, and just then a glittering WDM. 2. 16448. HWH landed up to steal the show. She was draped in the newest of Red and charged with a couple of Yellow stripes that added more to the photogenic attitude. She kept on having a good round of trial job outside the Diesel Shed, and then returned back to the nest. Having read out the first page of today.s book, the urge to dive even deeper into the Golden Age, inch by inch, made us step ahead. It was the necessity to feel the core, and understand our negligence, towards preserving the history and heritage, that insisted Our TODAY!
A plan to visit the Bardhhaman Diesel Loco Shed was not to see the world of reality, this time, but still we had the commitment for the WDM. 6 Class Locos (ONLY Two of them probably), which is hopefully going to be fulfilled very soon.:-)
A long walk after this, amidst some of the most precarious surrounds, finally led us to the.Land of Dreams.. The Legendary Steam Shed of Bardhhaman JN. The structure that stands today is completely dismantled, with no glamour. It is just the Supporting Beams standing upright, weathering the extremes, with a rustic touch, as if counting the days of extinction. Still a spot of white, in this Lost World, smiled with our steps. It was an Accident Relief Van, in a simple White and Blue Livery, with a touch of Brown, adding lust to the look. This Self Capable, Three Coach MFD Tool Van was built by RCF. Kapurthala in the Year. 2000, with the coach numbers being. 00980A - 00983A. A Twin Cab unit, this ARV Car is well equipped and has a beautifully maintained interior. Hats Off to the Workers who have done a great job. A stop by for some time, to shoot her, was soon going to change over, with the first sight of the distorted work Horses.
There they stand, in complete state-of-despair, struggling for the last chance of survival!! Three Steam Locomotives are still present in this Shed. A Couple of them share the same Class. WG, while that of the third one could not be deciphered, because of inaccessible surroundings. The first one is abandoned with the Shrubs of Ages and in a dilapidated status. This once again proves, how valueless, History IS! She stands completely surrounded by the shackles of dense ambushes, covering from tip to toe. I could really feel the last moan for life, and the need for a minimum recognition, for the dedication. The rock solid wheels, now having tolerated so many years of disregard, are shaky enough to fall apart. People share their Natural Instincts near by and as a result, what could have been a heaven for us is transformed into Hell.
The Builder.s Plate for all of these Locomotives is no more to be found. They might have surrendered to the time or share someone.s pride collection. While we were having the photographs, some of the local railway men, told us that inside the Shed, still one Loco is in a better condition. Waiting for that was losing time, and at the same time we wanted at least something worthy. And YES, definitely, the Third One was still in some kind of shape. The Loco was clean from any ambushes, apart from the same decrepit look. We felt so helpless to preserve these splendid beauties! Each and every integral part of these locomotives have been removed, with only the structures remaining to perish till extermination. Even the front Casing of the Locos, the symbolic icon, shining with the wave of Steam, is now nothing than a large hole, decrepit of any show.
Samit and Myself, we had a peep into the Cab of this Locomotive, with Subhabrata, being busy for every possible details, to capture. He is really crazy to shoot and truly does that with great dedication. We shared a few snaps, posing with pride in front, to feel the days, when the Loco-Pilot used to bring his pride Locomotive out for the daily duties. Today, she is no more draped in a fresh coat of paint, but instead a thick layer of dust is the make up towards her doomed destiny.
This was an atmosphere, where I was feeling not at the best of minds. So a shift over was the next course of action. We decided to have a look into the Accident Relief Van, and explore the interiors. All the equipments are well arranged and we had a peer to peer view of all the objects. They also have a first aid facility available, but no operation theatre. We had quite a lot of snaps, and especially the Ambushed Loco was looking like a beast from here. It was time to bid adieu to the.Past. and move out for some.Action..
A walk alongside the old structures reminded us of the time, when this area used to be the Hub of Locos, with the collapsed office buildings, with a full team of workers in them, active and running the system with full swing. Meanwhile the Asansol based WAG. 5 - 23364, that we had spotted near Dum Dum JN, earlier that day, passed, far away, with a loaded number of wagons. On the other direction, it was the Howrah Rajdhani, on its return lap, hauled by WAP. 4. 22632. It was a nice long view, from far behind to have a sight of the Rajhdhani.
We were soon to reach the Platform from where our MEMU for Asansol was to leave. This time the destination being Khana JN, we boarded towards the front-end and started dot on schedule at 01:35 PM. It was just a matter of 15 minutes, before we found ourselves, in search for some Speedy stuff. Khana JN is merely 14 km from Bardhhaman JN, and this is the beginning of the Sahebganj Loop, where the Grand Chord bisects out, towards Durgapur and the Loop line, starts its journey for the North-Eastern part of the country, via Bolpur Shantiniketan, Rampurhat, Malda Town etc.
Just upon landing, we were greeted by the DN Amritsar. Howrah Express, hauled by a WAM. 4D. 21284. MGS. It had a short stop, at Khana JN, as we headed for the Ticket Counter for our Return Tickets. Milan was to part off from here, towards Durgapur and we got ourselves tickets for Howrah, by II. ORDY @ Rs. 23 /- head, for a 115 km ride, via Chord. Now we were settled, for some pre-lunch shoot out, with the first visitor being the DN Shantiniketan Express, on its way back to Howrah. She has been witness to a major part of this trip, in reaching Bardhhaman JN. This time I got the Loco Road Number, for the Jamalpur Patent. The WDM. 2. 16531 smoked high, while negotiating the entry curve in approaching the Main line, after a picturesque curve outside the loop.
Earlier, towards Bolpur, it used to be a Single Line territory just after Khana JN. Now a Fly-Over has been constructed above the Grand Chord section, to enable both way traffic. The Sahebganj Loop, starts towards the left from Khana JN, going on for a Circular Curve towards the right, crossing over the Main Line beneath, and then meets the old Loop line, after a considerable distance. While on return, the trains approach Khana from the Right Side.
It was not very late, when a speedy customer, a WAP. 4. HWH, crossed over with the Sealdah. Jammu Tawi Express. This was the Flag to mark. Lunch Time. We opted for the nearby hotel, close to the Highway. Milan, the local boy, was confident enough about the restaurant.s location, which ultimately went in vain, and we had to cover more than double the distance in getting there. But ultimately, it was worth the toil. A relishing Chicken Do-Piazza and Roti, associated with some Thums up, at.Paul.s Hotel., was a great combination to enrich our spirits. The most attractive part of the lunch, was the approach road, amidst one of the purest essence of Bengal. Green!!
The Van charged us reasonably, despite Milan.s mislead towards the overdrive of almost 4 km. One notable point is that here the vans have a Top Hood covering the seating area, much like the traditional bullock carts. An unique experience, to feel the true scenes of urban serene.
Once back to live action, we had a patient customer, a WDM. 3A. 14138. HWH, smoking steadily, while starting after a short stop, for Malda Town, with the Express service. As she proceeded slowly, with the wave pulling the smoke backwards down, it made up for a wonderful combination. It was almost time for the Sun to return after the day.s duties, over.
Our next spot, was on the Over bridge for some Elevated Action. Soon a couple of Express services fulfilled the last wishes too. It was a combination of Diesel and Electric, the former being a WDMx. GONDA, while the later being a WAP. 4. HWH, hauling at a good speed of over 80 kmph. We were truly satisfied, and expected nothing more from this day. Milan, again turned up with yet another info, this time regarding our DN MEMU, to arrive at 04:45 PM, which eventually turned up no later than an hour later. We got the DN Asansol. Bardhhaman MEMU at 05:45 PM, taking us to BWN at 06:15 PM. I was sure of missing my Weekly TV Series, and eventually ended up reaching Howrah at 09:15 PM, after taking the DN Chord EMU from BWN to HWH. We at once boarded the DN Kanchanjunga Express from BWN. It was a quick point that we had tickets to Howrah, and that too II. ORDY. Even the destination being Sealdah, would have worked, after paying the difference in fare, but with tickets to Howrah, that was impossible.
After reaching Howrah, Samit took a cab, while Saubhabrata and myself, we boarded an L238 Bus. I dropped off at Airport Gate No.1, while Subhabrata continued till Barasat. It was almost 10:45 PM, when I reached home.
Anyways, I missed Sai Baba that day. But still it was another side of the coin that I had enjoyed with.
After all this is HIS playground, wherever you search, He IS there!
Sincere Thanks to: Samit Roychoudhury. For being a Wonderful Companion, as always. All the Members of the Eastern Railway Family, who made this day, come true, Subhabrata Chattopadhyay. For his excellent and enthusiastic Company; & Definitely, Milan Chatterjee. for his company and pretty much a comic presence:-()