A Duronto Way to Reach Igatpuri
by Anamitra Ghatak
This trip wasn’t meant for railfanning, but eventually made into one. So, here goes to trip report:
It was about 6:45 AM in the morning when I left my home at Salt Lake City, Kolkata and the destination was Howrah station. It was a Friday morning with the sun already gaining height and heat in the sky. By the time our yellow Ambassador cab dropped us at Howrah, it was 7:15. The reason to be there was obvious! To catch 2262 HWH CSTM Duronto, on which we were reserved.
In the early morning, when Kolkata doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wake up from its sleep, a lot of inbound Mail/Expresses keep the station bustling with crowd. Tens of thousands of heads; swiftly ejected from the metal carriages and swiftly dissolved into the demography of this 300 year old megapolis!! Quite an interesting thing to witness!!
An overcrowded inbound Jamalpur Howrah Express behind a rebuilt JMP WDM-3A should be quoted for example.
One thing is very unique in ER. They mark the coach serial number and zone (ER/Pu Re) with Yellow. This is done when a coach undergoes Overhauling at Liluah or Kanchrapara workshops. And if you keenly watch the body of these coaches, you can see a welding line through the width of the coach below the windows. But for the moment I shall subdue my inclination to write more about ER and walk to the New Complex of Howrah station where most of the SER trains are handled.
The LED display board showed the 2262 departure point as Platform # 22 (8:20 AM). I could see 2703 Falaknuma, readying to depart from Platform #21 and an empty CBC rake of Chennai Howrah Mail/Coromandal Express at Platform #18. Both the trains were attached with customary SRC WAP-4s with the shed name written under the windscreen proudly.
At 7:30, about 50 minutes before the scheduled departure time, an old blue WDS-6 from Kharagpur pulled in with the empty LHB rake of 2262. It looked more like an Army train from a distance and my dad showed his immense displeasure over this dirty looking train. To our surprise, most of the passengers boarded the train way before its departure. Perhaps there is no ignorance of a news paper report that claimed a trainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s before time departure from Bhopal a few weeks ago. One uniformed boy cleaned the windows and another sprayed some room fresheners on the curtains. The later was courteous enough to ask how much freshness we need. Many people might not like the fragrance and hence the caution!
Fortunately, the EOG was on and we enjoyed the AC effect since the train was on platform. To kill some time, I loitered around a Mother Dairy outlet at the same platform and even purchased a couple of news papers which eventually served my co-passengers.
The MPS of the coaches were marked to be 160 kph. There were real FIAT bogies to substantiate the markings. Surprisingly, an old friend of mine, an ER HWH WAP-4
- (a real performer) was in charge of this train. On inquiry, it was found that this loco is kept at SRC only. But as SRC locos usually haul trains at 110 kph, 22525 (a veteran Rajdhani/Shatabdi loco of ER) has been borrowed only for Duronto from HWH shed.
We could see the SCR rake of Faluknuma Express, moving out of Howrah station slowly. After getting sufficiently bored for more than another half an hour, our train finally got the starter. At 8:20 sharp, 2262 departed from Howrah. While sneaking out through the criss-crosses of the complex track network of Howrah, a few trains were spotted. They were crowded, inbound EMUs of ER and SER. HWH WAP-4 hauled Poorva Express took its heavy load towards NDLS.
We had to take a southeast bound huge curve to SER, crossing ERÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coaching yard, SERÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)car shed at Tikiapara and finally the Santragachi coaching yard and SRC electric loco shed. In the loco shed, a plethora of WAM-4 and WAP-4s were spotted. At the coaching yard it seemed that the shunters have been replaced by orange rebuilt WDM-3A and blue WDM-2 of Kharagpur. By the way, our train took the middle line straight from Howrah. And hence, the SRC yard and ELS were on our left.
Soon after SRC, the HWH beast showed its real class. The stations kept on flying past in flashes. Many WAM-4 hauled day expresses crossed us. In our left, a series of EMUs made futile attempts to race with us and quickly left behind.
The best entertainment was given by a White/Red BSNL Digha SRC DEMU. It was at a very high speed and crossed us like an ICE of Deutsche Bahn with its aerodynamic cab and large windows! An old co-passenger decided: Ã¢â‚¬Å“it must be a very fast express train, launched by MamataÃ¢â‚¬Â. Meanwhile, news papers, mineral water bottles, Tea/Coffee and breakfast were distributed. The breakfast tray included Soup, bread sticks, breads, amul butter, salad, small snack, ÃƒÂ©clairs toffees, biscuits, jam, egg omelet, French fries and ketchup. There was a yogurt, similar to that served in an airline; tasted OK.
Stations kept on zooming past.. Bagnan, Mecheda, Panskura and there we were at Kharagpur outer. Here, I found my watch to clock only 9:38. Goodness!! For me, who took pride in numerous journeys on Coromandal and Gitanjali, it was a record breaking journey!! 117 kms of HWH – KGP stretch in 80 minutes!! A good 20 minutes ahead of the superfasts of yesterday.
Duronto slowly took the mainline that goes parallel to the longest platform in the world (Pf#1 and #2) without touching any platform. Shalimar Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Adra Aranyak Express was overtaken, headed by a TATA WAM-4, parked at platform #2.
Soon after KGP, the train rushed thorough Nimpura. A whole lot of WAG locos were spotted with a handful of Shaktis. The yards were occupied with BOBRN, BOXN, BTPN, BCN and BCN HL rakes. We crossed a passenger rake behind a WAM-4 at Kalaikunda and rocketed through one more station. The GPS found the speed to be 122+. It was really my fastest run ever on SER.
Soon after, the train met with a Caution order and the mutilated coaches and locos were spotted aside. Even most disinterested co-passengers took a curious look through the windows. They were witnessing the remains of a colossal cold blooded carnage. On top of that, I went to a pensive mood for a while, looking at the BNDM WAG-5 locos, lying unattended. Death of two beautiful workhorses!!
Duronto again clocked 110+ and crossed Chakulia, Ghatsila, Galudih and Rakhamines at great speed. At about 11:15, just beside TATA ELS, it gave a brief halt and slowly entered TATA station. A lot of rakes, including that of Amritsar Tata Express and Tata Alleppy Expresses were spotted at the platform. The ELS was full with WAG-5 and WAG-7 locos, with a majority of presence from TATA, BNDM and BIA sheds.
In TATA, the LP/ALP is changed. So the train was stuck there for about 7 minutes. Soon after, we were on and four trains behind WAM-4 and WAP-4s crossed us. They included a few awfully late running ones. Just after TATA, the train started trailing a few freighters. Before CKP, a lot of them had been overtaken. In the picturesque TATA Ã¢â‚¬â€œ CKP Ã¢â‚¬â€œBNDM(Bondamunda) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ ROU section, the train did moderately well. Scenic landscapes and gradients of Sini and Manoharpur were torn apart at ease by the wappie. Here, the lunch was served. It had quite tasteful Parota, Rice, Dal, Chicken curry, salad, achaar, curd, ice cream and a juice in tetra pack.
Very slowly we skipped Rourkela station at about 13:40 and overtook 2871 Ispat Express. It looked like this train had arrived in Rourkela for a while but no sign of a loco change was visible. It had the customary TATA WAM-4 in charge.
It was time for an afternoon siesta! We went under the cozy comfort of blanket and had for quite a while till I heard the train coming to a screeching halt at Bilaspur. Here, for the first time I found people getting off the train and smoking on the platform. The door was guarded by a white uniformed Telugu speaking guy and it seemed, it was his job to make certain that no unauthorized person gets in. The water tanks were filled and the toilets were flushed here. We were at platform #2. From here the beautiful station building adjacent to platform #1 was visible.
The sun was at its extreme west when the train took off again from BSP, under the control of an SECR LP/ALP. We crossed numerous freighters, almost one between every two stations through this section. There were many diesel hauled freighters, with hard chugging noise and blaring horns. Many Raipur based MUed WDMx were heading loaded BOXN rakes. The other frequent spotting included MU-ed WAG-5 and WAG-7s, taking all sorts of loads at high speed.
It was time for an evening snack. Tomato Soup gave way to Sweet corn soup but the rest was almost a repetition of the breakfast. One more bottle of water was distributed. When we were munching the biscuits, Duronto took the Raipur bypass line and rumbled past the outskirts of Raipur. Bhilai Nagar was crossed slowly. Just before skipping Durg, a semi-empty MEMU, which was overtaken previously at Bhilai, overtook us back and settled in a platform of Durg.
At Durg, we overtook the horribly late Pune bound 2130 Azad Hind Express behind a raj liveried BSL WAP-4. It was almost dark. So I decided to take a stride through the train, instead of window fanning. I found curtains in AC 3 Tier coaches. Most of the 3A coaches had Indian style lavatories. Some of them were overflowing with water, which SER must rectify. The pantry guys wer busy boiling eggs for the running staff. To my biggest relief, the train was packed to capacity.
When I returned to my berth, the dinner was already in. Pretty much the same stuff, but Rumali Rotis replaced of Parotas this time. Not many people could swallow the complete meal. In fact, no physical exercise since the morning took away the hunger off people. Result was an enormous and miserable wastage of food at all coaches.
Post dinner, all I could do was to climb up my berth and sleep. My itinerary pegged my Duronto experience at Igatpuri only. I knew, if I miss the station, I would land up in CSTM. And I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know WHEN Duronto reaches Igatpuri. I safely deduced about three hours from its arrival time in Mumbai and aptly set an alarm before going to sleep.
At about 6:30 in the morning I woke up and found a lot of greenery everywhere. Duronto was crossing Odha. And soon after, Nasik was skipped. The GPS showed 110. We were cruising like any other Mail and Express under CR. Here, it was necessary for us to prepare for alighting at Igatpuri. When we crossed Ghoti, it was 7:15.
The landscape was beautiful, with a hint of cloud on top of every hillock out there. A light drizzle came and went away in seconds. A WAP-4 hauled express furiously honked and crossed us, throwing a lot of red and blue in the ocean of green, through the window panes. A couple of freighters behind a WAG-9 and a WAG-5 (NKJ) were preparing to head to BSL direction. And a very grumpy looking blue Kalyan WDM-2 was shunting near the tail of those long freight rakes.
ThenÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ the familiar horn of a long lost friend was heard; a WCAM-3!! She was reversing and moving to Kasara end of IGP after bringing a load from Mumbai. The humming blowers, the traditional horns and the hefty gait can never be mistaken for something else. It was so nostalgic! I went back to 2006-2008 when I had my base in Mumbai, and immediately felt at home again! For a railfan, Mumbai is for WCAM and WCAM is for Mumbai!
In seconds, at about 7:35, our train pulled into a shabby platform of Igatpuri. We smartly got down here in the middle of drizzles and took to the over bridge, attracting curious attention from our door keeper. On platform #3, 2101 Jnaneshwari Express was ready to leave behind an SRC WAP-4 to Howrah. It was the time to bid goodbye to the cool comfy colorful LHB rake and move out of the deserted station. Green, smoky mountains of Sahyadri was waiting for us outside.