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chasing trains

in the new millenium

by: S.SHANKAR

 

16 Apr.1853 - 16 Apr. 2002

Here is a look at the Indian Railways soon after its entry into the new millenium. I shot these pictures in July 2000, in Western and Southern India.

I shall keep the opening text short, and let the pictures do the talking. Pictures say more than a million words anyway. I will however supplement this with some additional information in the captions.

One disturbing feature that stares one in the face as the IR trundles into the new millenium is the almost total lack of steam on India's railways. This sad and tragic reminder makes one question the vision of those in power as to whether they have been too hasty in dispensing with this lovable mode of traction, especially in a country like India with abundant and cheap labor readily available. Of course, the poor quality of coal notwithstanding.

Be that as it may, there is no turning the clock back, and the demise of steam is irreversible. There is encouraging news from all corners of India however of old steam engines being pulled out of the scrap heap and steamed. Albeit a silver lining, these will no doubt be confined to tourist trains where the passenger will foot the bill covering the cost of upkeep of these resurrected monsters.

In the meantime, we might as well get used to and accept as a fact of life the powerful and no nonsense powerhouses on rails: the electrics and diesels. They too go about their duties undeterred by the goings on around them, unmindful of the sentiments of the older railfans who mourn the disappearance of the mode of traction the newer beasts are replacing: the glorious steam engines.

The show must go on. Enjoy!

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PUNE (Poona)/ MUMBAI (Bombay) AREA:

1-5: The WCAM/3 is now the staple for passenger operation on the CR's Bombay-Poona/Igatpuri lines. (2000). Almost all trains are hauled by these beasts now. Despite their decidedly superior power and haulage capabilites, and masculine lines, they have robbed the Bombay area of the variety: see one train and you've seen 'em all. All are identical  appearance-wise and and almost all of them bear the same color scheme.   Here then are five pics of the WCAM/3s   near Pune (Poona).

The elegant and lady-like WCM class of engines has disappeared for good, and I could not spot even one of these elegant beauties during my visit in July 2000.

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1. WCAM/3 # 21946 pulls out of Shivajinagar station in Poona with the morning Sahyadri Express to Bombay.
2. A few minutes ago, WCAM/3 # 21937 was captured running at speed out of Shivajinagar station in Poona with the superfast Deccan  Queen to Bombay.

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3. With 40% green coverage, Poona is one of the greenest cities in India. This is the scene between two of Poona's suburban stations: Shivajinagar and Khadki (Kirkee). WCAM/3 # 21887 is seen here in a positively rural setting as she runs past at speed with  the morning Pragati Express to Bombay. This spot is barely a couple of km from the city centre.
4. An unidentified WCAM/3 in navy/cream livery (for a change) just past Kirkee with a South bound express. I hoped to capture this train on the culvert which had been photographed by fellow irfca member Shantanu Sen, but the train beat me to it by barely a minute! The culvert itself is hardly 10 mtr. ahead of the locomotive.

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5. WCAM/3 # 21942 pulls out of Poona station with the Bangalore-Bombay  Udyan Express. In the background is the Le Meredien Hotel. Note the work in progress on extending the platforms at Poona. In the late afternoon, all platforms are full, add to that work on platform extension, total chaos reigns.

 

6. A topic discussed recently in our forum: here is a train of NMG cars at Poona. Converted from old passenger cars (you can see the windows and doors hastily/crudely patched up with sheet metal!) the NMG (New Maruti Goods as they are colloquially called) are deployed for loading 'Maruti' cars. Note the sign to that effect on the side of the car. This paticular car was once a sleeper coach. The word 'SLEEPER' was embossed under the paintwork and was clearly visible in the angular light. The car nearest camera (with the louvres) is a regular VP parcel car. Some sources hold that NMG actually stands for New Modified Goods.

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7. A WDG/2 pair # 14676 and 14676 running light between Kirkee and Shivajinagar in Poona. These diesels are slowly but steadily giving way to pairs of WCAG/1 electrics. (pictured later on in this page). The piece-de-resistance was a quadruple headed diesel freight (a WDG/2 pair and a WDM/2 pair), banked by three WCG/2s, which I spotted on the ghats, but unfortunately could not photograph. The WDG/2s were initially bald headed at the short hood. They are modified WDM/2s with a 3100 hp powerpak, and are left hand driven unlike the right hand drive of the WDM/2s.

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8. A departmental vehicle: cell charging van, class RM at Poona station yard. Either the car has not been overhauled lately, or the date has not yet been updated, for the return date on the car end shows 8/97! This pic was shot in July 2000, i.e. 7/00.

 

9. WCG/2 # 20143 departs Poona Jn. with the Koyna Express to Bombay. Almost all WCG/2s have been deployed on banking duties on the ghats, where they run as two or three coupled units. Its rare to see one on line hauling express trains. The original duties of the WCG/2s: heavy freights: have all been taken over by WDG/2 diesels and WCAG/1 electrics, both always running in pairs.

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10-11. A pair of WCAG/1 freight electrics # 21978 & 21980 run light through Poona station. The pair had just brought in a heavy freight and having left it at Poona, are returning to Kalyan. WCAG/1s are slowly taking over from twin WDG/2 pairs. These new electrics always run in pairs as well, and always return to Kalyan immediately after reaching their destination. On the right is the business end of one of these beasts.

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12. To take a break from trains: meet three railnuts from Poona: (from left to right): Apurva Bahadur, me (Shankar) and Dr. Yande. All three of us are in a soup, with our respective better halves yelling murder at our fanaticism towards trains!

 

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13-14. Another topic oft discussed in our fourm: the zebra stripes painted above the loo windows of certain IR cars. Despite various theories, the purpose of these stripes seems merely to denote general second class (GS) cars. The pic on the left shows two such cars coupled together (train not noted), the one on the right is from the Karjat-Poona Passenger.

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15. A dc e.m.u. from Lonavla to Poona approaches Shivajinagar station.

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16. WDM/2 # 17391 running SHF accelerates out of Poona with the double decker passenger train to Daund and Baramati. The dd cars themselves are pictured elsewhere on this page.

 

17. Double deck (bi-level) cars of the Poona-Daund/Baramati Passenger. Although the use of space is impressive when the cars are empty, when full, they are cramped, stuffy and claustrophobic, and very unpopular with passengers. Several short distance trains used dd cars in the 1980s, now they are being withdrawn. This must be the only fully vestibuled stopping passenger train on the IR network!

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18. An unidentified South bound express with a spanking new blue rake rushes past typically rural scenery near the Range Hills area between Kirkee and Shivajinagar in Poona.

 

19. A WDS/4 diesel shunter brings in the rake of the Poona-Bombay Indrayani Express for the 1820 departure from Poona. Note the double decker cars of the departing Baramati Passenger on the track alongside.

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20. An unidentified WCAM/2 at Wadala Road in Bombay with a colorful container train. The freshly repainted loco had both pantographs down, but I saw it again the next day ready to depart. To the right are the congested harbor line suburban tracks, to the left is the spacious sweep of what was once an extensive railway of the Bombay Port Trust, now almost totally in ruins. Watch out for a separate page about this railway.

The dual current electrics you see on this page merely mark time as the dc lines out of Mumbai (Bombay) are under conversion to ac. Work is scheduled to finish by 2005, after which the Mumbai area, the first electrified section in India, will see WAM/4s and WAP/4s etc. with these dual currents working as straight ac engines.

Mysore-Bangalore Photos >>>

Madras (Chennai) Photos >>>

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LAST UPDATED: 05-03-2001   Page spun by S.Shankar with Microsoft FrontPage98