South India Darshan
by Shashanka Nanda
Just returned for a 2 week trip down to the south of the country. But first i'd like to tender a note of apology to the Chennai IRFCAns for not being able to meet them. I had a bout of acute food poisoning due to which I had cut short my Chennai visit and moved to Bangalore. All my chennai trips have been jinxed, when it comes to meeting the gang there, wonder why ???? anyways, here are some notes from the journey.
I started from Delhi on the 25th of august by 2622 TN exp. Since the trip was a sudden one, I had no option but to get myself a Tatkal ticket. my coach was the last sleeper coach and behind me were just the 3 general compartments. The loco was WAP4 #22358 from SR's ED shed, in the standard Rajdhani livery. Departing bang on time, the TN coasted at 60kmph till TKD and after that the WAP4 just rocketed ahead, surging through Faridabad at over 100kmph.
Since it was too dark to afford any real railfanning, I decided to hit the sack. My bedtime dose of reading was provided by Time magazine's Asia Travel issue, which in my opinion was interesting, but somehow it just didin't feel fresh.. I mean there wasn't anything new about it....
Morning I woke up near vidisha and while speeding past vidisha, I managed to get a snap of Ashoka's famous stupa (monastery) at Sanchi. Reaching Bhopal 15 mins. before time, I saw the Indore bound Malwa Exp. standing on an adjacent platform. The train reverses at BPL. The train was being hauled by a WAP1 from GZB shed. It was the first time I saw a WAP1 hauling a vaccum brake rake, though I knew that many WAP1s are VB capable. A few minutes later, the Agra-Jhansi-Itarsi passenger came in behind an Itarsi (ET) based WAM4-6P and behind the loco was a dead Mughalsarai WAP4. IRFCA member Gautam has reported this train being hauled by a WAP4 from JHS regularly. Immideatly after that the Mumbai (LTT) bound Kamayani Exp. from Varanasi snaked in. This too was hauled by a WAM4-6P from ET. ET based WAM4s now sport the red-cream rajdhani styles livery, and most locos now have the newer twin beam sealed headlamps retrofitted.
Leaving Bhopal, we sped through the jungles of MP, I saw a loaded 44 car BOXN rake hauled by an Ajni WAG7, and at the end of the rake, another WAG7 from NKJ was banking it !!! and 10 mins later, I saw a triple WAG5 hauled BOXN rake !!! who wants to go to KK line now ;o) ?? The Narmada river at Hoshangabad was in its full fury, with floods been reported in that area. Hence there was a 15kmph speed restriction on the bridge instead of the normal 70kmph (the concrete bridge towards ET. The old girder bridge towards BPL has a 30kmph restriction). Reaching ET before time again, I saw another Varanasi-LTT exp.(2166) train pull in behind us. This train though runs via Jabalpur. Funny thing was that this train had only 18 coaches but was hauled by twin WDM2s. Moreover the twin diesels were infact WDM3As (old WDM2Cs) a 14XXX loco and a 17XXXR loco from the ET diesel shed. Imgaine 6200hp for a 18 coach train, which is more than what even a Raj gets (WAP5 is 6000hp).
All through the route the weather was perfect, and I never missed travelling in an AC compartment. The ghats between ET and NGP were lush green after the monsoons, and all around me were spectacular vistas of dense green hills, my train snaking through tunnels and crossing viaducts. Little streams and rivulets criss crossed the scenery, and small waterfalls sprang up everywhere. Trust me, post monsoons, this section matches if not outdoes the beauty of KR or any other section on IR. I have taken a few pics of the ghats which I would put up soon.
At kalambha station, we overtook the Jaipur-MAS SF exp. Usually it has an BRC WAM4 doing the honors, but this time it was the turn of a WAP4(#22238) to do duty on the train. I guess this is another candidate for an SF overtaking an SF. running out of camera film, I decided to concentrate a bit more on reading (for company, I had RK Narayan's "A tiger for Malgudi"- a truly wonderful book). I also met a friend of mine on board, so railfanning basically ended for the day.
I got up next morning at Ponneri, just in time to see the TN to pull in at MAS 12 mins before time. Apart from the usual AJJ WAM4s and ED/LGD WAP4s at Basin Bridge, there was a surprise at MAS Central. I saw a WDM7 (#11008) in GOC colors, shunting the rake of the SBC-MAS mail !!! for starters, I never thought WDM7s made it as far upstream as MAS, and secondly.. weren't all WDM7s supposed to be based at ERS ?????
It was in Chennai that I got hit by food posioning and all my hopes of catching YAM1s and WDP3As vanished in thin air, as I ended up in a nursing home with needles stuck up my posterior ;o). My colleagues drove down from SBC and took me back. The drive was pretty boring. I was hoping to catch atleast something on a level crossing on the way, but no such luck :o(
After spending a few days in bed and later in the office, it was time for me to proceed to HYB. Me and Mr. Srinivas of IRFCA planned to meet before I departed, but unfortunately we couldn't. Anyways, at SBC station, I did drop into Mr. Rakesh Misra's office for a few minutes, before I caught the 7686 exp. to KCG. Eariler this train was numbered 7085/6, but of late it has changed to 7686 since the terminal station is now KCG (6 - HYB Divn.) instead of SC(0 - SC Divn.) It was fun to be back behind my good old WDP4 (thsi time #20005 running LHF) and sure as hell it didn't disappoint me, accelerating to 90-100kmph past YNK and running like that all night long. Some notes from this trip included spotting a Saptagiri (green-yellow) livery WAM4 from AJJ hauling the MAS-SBC Pass. at BNC. At BYPL, we waited for a OHE tower car (the older smaller one in a orange-blue livery to cross) while a WAG5HA from BRC pulled alongside. Last time around I saw a TKD WAG5 pull along at the very same spot !!! WAG5s and 7s do travel a lot nowadays...
At Yelahanka, the empty rake of the YNK-ADI exp. was parked on one of the sidings. At hindupur, we were crossed by the Kurla - Coimbatore express, this train was hauled by a 17XXX class WDM2 from KJM shed. At Penukonda, we crossed a long BCNA rake hauled by a combination of a KJM WDM2 (#18307) and a Pune WDG3A!!! It wasn't the first such pair. At GY I saw another WDG3A (GY) paired with a KZJ WDM2. Also spotted was a GTL WDM2(17728) coupled with a KJM WDM2 (17171) at Dharmavaram. Just after DMM, we crossed an MG exp. train on the MG line which runs parallel to the BG track. Just before entering Anantapur, we overtook an MG exp. A few miles down another MG exp. being hauled by a GTL based YDM4 was overtaken. I was wondering how the sight would look from outside.... a monster WDP4 hauling 23 coaches at 95kmph thundering past a puny 10 car MG rake with a YDM4 upfront ??? We reached KCG about 10 mins before time.
The very next morning, I caught the Delhi bound AP Exp. from HYB. It was hauled by a WAP4 from LGD (#22322), early in the morning, I had spotted the Krishna Exp. depart for TPTY. Funny thing was that it had an extra ACC coach attached in the end. But surprisingly, it was all locked up. At HYB station itself, the HWH bound East Coast exp. was getting ready to leave just after my train. Doing duty that day was a surprise, an ET WAM4-6P+DBC (#21370). Normally a LGD or a BZA loco does duty on this train. Also standing in the HYB yard were WDM2s from KZJ (16499), PA (16705) and MLY (shunter 18229). Leaving HYB station on time, we had to stop within 300m of the station to let the incoming exp. from Chennai pass. The WDP4 is back on duty on this train, after a brief stint by the GY based WDM3A studs. Enroute to SC we were passed by the 7007 Godavari Exp from VSKP (WAP4 22005) and the Dakshin Exp from HNZM (WAM4 BZA). At SC station, we reached 15 mins late, due to the hold up at and HSJ.
I spotted the empty rake of the COA-SC Gautami exp. headed by a WAP4 from LGD (#22512). But what got me wondering was the presence of 3 pipes instead of the normal 2 (BP and FP) of an Air Brake only loco (aren't WAP4s Air Brake only ??) or is it possible that some have DB capabilty (the new ones). Anyways, leaving SC we coasted past MLY and at Charlapalli we were crossed by a long BOXN rake hauled by a pair ot Bondamunda WAG5s. They were in the SR/SCR livery of maroon/blue. It was the first time I saw an SER loco that far down south !!! Just before Bibinagar, the Narayandri Express from TPTY thundered past my train at 80kmph hauled by another WDP4... and just after that, the COA-SC express went past with a BZA WAM4 incharge.
At Aler I saw a long (57 car) BOXN rake behind twin LGD WAG7s and just outside Aler another 56car BOXN rake with twin LGD WAG5s went past. Both were loaded to the brink. I was on the door after Aler and suddenly I saw a lot of smoke issuing from one the front coaches. I was in S11, which was almost in the middle. Immideatly I alerted the TTE in my coach, who promptly the alarm chain. The train screeched to a halt at a level crossing, and the gate man ran back inside to alert the authorities on the phone. He mumbled in Telugu that he saw huge flames leaping out of the coach undercarriage... and I ran towards the stricken coach, only to find that the dynamo belt of the coach had jammed, which caused the dynamo motors to overheat, and thus the smoke... so much for huge flames !!!! The asst. driver promptly cut off the offending belt and all was well in 10 mins we were ready to roll again. But all this casued a 30 min delay by the time we reached KZJ. In the elec. trip shed (soon to be made a full time electric shed) there was a blood red WAP4 (#22540). I wonder what shed it was from, as this seemed like a brand new loco???
It was a peculiar situation in Andhra with the Krishna basin in AP relling under drought, while a few hundred km to the north, the Godavari basin is facing floods !!! the Penganaga River at Balharshah had breached its banks and you could see boats plying in what were actually paddy fields... . From here on it seemed like a dead loco procession. At Bhandak I had seen a dead ED WAP4 (#22359) on a siding at Bhandak, while near NGP, I found a very late running TN exp. to MAS with an ET WAG5 doing duty !!! At NGP, the HWH-Mumbai mail, pulled in just after us, with a very cool looking cream top - red bottom liveried WAP4 (#22318). SRC sure has some neat looking WAP4s which are a welcome relief from the hordes of Raj colored machines scampering all over India. Crossing the coal belt in Maharashtra, we entered the forests of MP again. At Teegaon the AP got a pair of MUed WAG5s from Itarsi to cross the ghats. But one of these locos was switched off to conserve power as a single WAG5 is sufficient for these ghats where the max grades are about 1:70 only. At Ghudankhapa, where you can see a Monkey Hill style catch siding climbing way up on the hill. A loaded BOXN rake crossed, with 3 WAG5s from ET shed at the business end !!
It was dark soon after, and I became engrossed in the adventures of Frodo Baggins in the mines of Moria, and went off to sleep somewhere after ET. I was woken up by cries of "Petha Petha Petha..." (petha is a sweetmeat, and is best found in Agra), and just after Mathura, the BPL Shatabdi howled past like a bullet. I was standing on the door, for a snap, and the relative velocity at which I took the snap was close to 250kmph !!! Damn.. what a rush it was :o) the AP driver was gunning for glory in the high speed streches of MTJ-NDLS, and on occasions topped 110kmph and did a good 118-120 on a 3km stretch (30-31 secs per km). The train was still late by 30 mins so I guess the driver could have gotten away with a bit of over speeding. But soon after entering into Haryana, it was the familiar tale of riding the yellows behind the morning Delhi bound EMUs. We coasted through New Town Faridabad at 40kmph and we got a green..... the driver aggressively accelerated and by the time we crossed Faridabad station (2km ahead) we were past 100kmph, only for the brakes to be slammed on again !!! But boy, what a ride it was....
Approaching TKD, believe it or not, there were 5.... yes 5 freight parked literally bumper to bumper.. There was hardly 100m between the caboose of the first and the loco of the next. 3 were WAG5 hauled and 2 were WAG7 hauled, all headed towards MTJ on the 3rd line. At HNZM I caught an ultra long (61 car) BOXN HA/HS (the markings said extended capacity of 62.1 t for such wagons ) being hauled by a GZB WAG9. We entered NDLS, a good 40 mins late. Not to mention the Sampoorna Kranti exp. coming in behind a LDH WAG5HA, with its CNB WAP4 given up the ghost, and trailing dead !!!!