|THE INAUGURAL RUN
16 August 2003.
The Eastern Railways commemorated their 150 years by running a special Heritage run from Howrah to Bandel and back.
It was a special train, for invitees only, and I had made by way to Howrah station early in the morning to see
if I could wrangle myself a pasage, but that was unfortunately not to be.
The special train consisted of:
1. WP 7015 Steam Locomotive
2. WP/P 7200 Steam Locomotive
3. coach 1853-8, II class
4. coach 1853-7, II class
5. coach 1853-3, II class
6. coach 1853-2, II class
7. coach 1853-1, II class
8. coach 1853-4, 1st AC
9. coach 1853-5, AC 2T
10. coach 1853-6, Pantry Car
11. coach 1853-9, AC Chair Car
12. coach 02161/A - LHB/IRY AC Chair Car
13. coach 02901/A - LHB/IRY Executive Chair Car
14. coach 02851/A - LHB/IRY Luggage/Generator/Guard
15. WDM3A 14128 Diesel Locomotive, HWH shed.
Coach series 1853 were all either old or newer ones all painted in blue. The LHB/IRY cars had light blue/dark blue
livery too. I think they were IRY. Simply because one could see huge weld marks right along the side of the coach
that was painted over. The regular coaches weren't looking too great. Decoration was as usual... flowers etc. The
locos looked great though, as they were done up nicely and shining.
The train was parked on platform 21 (last platform, next to car bay) in Howrah station new complex. they weren't
allowing anyone without a pass into that so had to go to the next platform (#20) to view. I managed to take some
snaps. The railway minister, the governor and the CM were supposed to be part of the passenger list. The train
departed late… scheduled for 10.30, it left at about 11.30.
Quite a crowd had gathered. Mostly curious onlookers. The press was there in strength.
Its unfortunate that the railways organise such dos for the benefit for people who do not care or do not appreciate
what they are getting.... when people who would almost kill for the chance to ride get left behind. I met a British
lady who had come to take pictures on the platform, who didn't manage a seat herself.
THE COMMERCIAL RUN
21 September 2003
Eastern Railway decided to make the Heritage run a tourist attraction. The organised a number of commercial runs,
every Sunday morning, in collaboration with certain tour operators. To attract passengers, they added in some of
the regular tourist attractions around Bandel.
I managed to get a ticket for the commercial run on 21 Sept 2003. Tickets were for Rs 325 per person. I reached
the station just after 8 am. The train was scheduled to depart at 9.00 am from platform 21; it subsequently left
from platform 8.
The consist was 4 heritage coaches and one regular coach, powered by WP 7200 of 1962 vintage, and a Howrah shed
WDM3A at the back. The usual complement of flower garlands decorated the rake. A number of white uniformed railway
attendants & staff as well as a large number of the tour operators' staff were present. Passengers and press
were accommodated in the 4 heritage coaches. I had asked the assistant driver for a footplating but he said not
right then, but to go over to the loco when it stopped at Chuchura. Anyway I boarded my designated coach. It had
one compartment of regular sleeper class like berths, which were occupied by railway staff, and then a locked compartment,
then another compartment with a double bed and about 4 chairs, then the bathroom (pretty large) and finally some
open space where sofas had been put. Pretty neat and clean. There were probably about 100 passengers. The driver
had earlier told me that even though the WP had been tested at 100 kph, the train was not to travel at more than
30 since the coaches were old.
We started at 9.00 am. Pulled out smoothly out of Howrah and soon we were served breakfast... a box from the Comesum
at Howrah with a vegetable puff, a vegetable roll, potato chips, slice of cake, a sweet and tea. We were also given
mineral water, and the train staff gave us a face towel. Trouble was the towel was brand new, and because of it
it didn't soak, and it was leaving lint all over :-(
The train chugged on. I chatted with people off an on. We made a couple of stops, with nothing really remarkable
happening. We did not get the feel of steam much, except when the shrill whistle sounded, which was such a pleasure.
Unfortunately the train did not stop at Chuchura or Hooghly so I missed my chance to footplate
I spotted at least one wap5 and 3 wap7s at Howrah shed on the way out.
We reached Bandel at 10.30. There were 2 buses there to take us further, the buses being rather cramped but usable.
It was a very humid day and even a moment of sitting still in a stationery bus was suffocating. Anyway we started
on our sightseeing trip. The first stop was the Imambara (near Mogra), from where we were taken to the Bandel Church,
and then to a temple. The next stop was a small and pleasant government run resort and science park for kids where
we were served lunch, a pretty decent meal, there was fish batter fry, green salad, fried rice, chilli paneer,
chicken curry, sweet chutney and gulab jamun. A wholesome well cooked meal and the hosts served us well.
I made acquaintance with a young man who writes railway articles for the Bengali media. He also loves taking NG
train rides and has a wealth of stories.
It had rained by then and the plan to visit Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's birthplace was cancelled, as it was all
muddy. We headed back to the station, where there was knee-deep water at the underpass so we had to make a detour
and walk the tracks. We got to the platform and found the WP had been removed. We later learnt that they did it
to prevent any damage since it wasn't to be used at all. We were being hauled by the WDM3A diesel loco. I remember
the crowds coming to look at the florally decked coaches. One curious bystander even asked me if it was a 'wedding'
train, leaving me heartily amused.
We set off... another uneventful and slow journey. This time evening tea (coffee rather) was served, with biscuits.
I chatted some more with the tour operators and railway staff, complimenting them on the good arrangements. I suggested
they run railfan specials only... I wasn't interested in the sightseeing at all.
We reached Howrah in due course. The return journey took just as long as the outward one. I tried taking some pics
of the loco shed but it was dark already. The was actually a golden opportunity to click away as everyone was doing
the same and RPF/GRP/railway staff didn't seem to mind at all :-)
All in all a well organised trip. It would be much more pleasant in the winter though. The operators were saying
there was a huge demand and they had to refuse many people as they were booked up. It was nice to meet the railway
staff, who were all pleasantly turned out in crisp white uniform and were extremely helpful and friendly, and happy
to engage in conversation.
The heritage runs did not last very long. Maybe four or five trips were organised after this article was written,
before they were withdrawn completely.
WP 7015 and WP/P 7200 wait with the inaugural
run of the Eastern Railway Heritage Train
WDM3A 14128, Howrah shed, suitably bedecked,
makes the tail end of the train.
Looking down the leading WP as it departs Howrah
The decorated cab of the WP
WP/P 7200 which headed the coimmercial run of
the Heritage Train.
The assistant driver poses with his loco!
Inside the driving cab of the WP. Spick and span.
The coupling between adjacent coaches. Note
the clean look
The heritage train at a wayside station
The double bed inside of of the compartments in the saloon
The corridor of our saloon coach. Well appointed
A view towards the circulating area near the
foor of the saloon. Here the organisers are putting up picture
The rather spartan looking bathroom
Homeward bound - lookng out the window on the
The waterlogged subway at Bandel station. Forced
to to take a detour to get to our train.
Whizzing past through the late evening, as we