Trip Report to Udupi by 2123 DQ and 1097
by Ajit Rao
It was the 17th of May 08 and I had planned to leave from Mumbai to Udupi. I planned to travel by 2123 Deccan Queen from CSTM to Pune Jn and from there onwards by 1097 Purna Exp. to Udupi. The purpose of this detoured route was to view the Braganza Ghats. I had been contemplating this route for a long time; and today was the day. I had booked my ticket 90 days in advance for 1097, just to ensure I get SLB in sleeper class. I booked my ticket in DQ a month in advance in AC Chair Car.
I left my house at 14:40 to Mulund station. I had a Ist class pass till Byculla and I took an extension to CSTM in the same class. Computerised suburban tickets ensured that I could take an extension ticket from the booking counter itself and I did not have to go all the way on the other side looking out for extension counter. I got an AC/DC local to CSTM at 14:55. Somewhere between Bhandup and Kanjurmarg 1009 Sinhagad Exp passed us led by a WCG-2. At Vidhyavihar, 2117 Godavari Exp was joining the mainline from LTT. I saw the WDG-4 12149 at Kurla Shed. At Sion we were overtaken by Varanasi - Dadar holiday special. At Dadar, 1019 Konark Exp. arrived probably behind KZJ, as my view was blocked by staircase to FOB. At CST outer I could see plethora of WCAM-3, few WCG-2 and a lonely WDP-4. Guessed what WDP-4 was doing at this hour here! 6381 Kanniyakumari Exp was at pf 8 ready to depart.
Our EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)reached CST at 15:45. I slowly moved out from the suburban train terminus area to the long distance train terminus area. The former has 7 platforms: 1&2 catering to harbour line EMUs and #140213 to 7 catering to mainline EMUs; the latter has platforms from 8 to 18. Pf 8, 9, 12, & 13 can accommodate 18-coach trains, 10 & 11 can accommodate 12 coach trains, 14 & 15 can accommodate 21 coaches and 16, 17 & 18 can accommodate 26-coach trains. I am not sure of any plan to covert all the platforms to 26 coaches one, but surely there has to be one, and needless to say, this would require a major restructure of the entire yard, sidings, permanent structures etc. If IR reasons that addition of SMBs have been due to capacity constraints, then that logic falls flat when you have so many platforms across India not capable of handling 26 coach trains, and hence so many trains that still need to convert to 26 coaches. But as we all know the ulterior motive of introducing SMB was not to increase the fares, but still keep the coffers flowing and keep the aam admi fooling.
1401 Nandigram was on pf 10. 2125 Pragati was on pf 11, it had a AB liveried pantry car. Some holiday special on pf 13. After having a cup of tea I waited for announcement regarding DQ. At 16:20 it was displayed that DQ would arrive on pf 8. I walked to the head of the platform. Shortly a KYN WDS-6 shunted DQ to the pf. It had 16 coaches, with 4 ACs and one dining car. Coach Numbering was rather peculiar with all the coaches displaying nos. staring with D. This led to confusion among the passengers on the look out for General Compartments. I believe all reserved seating compartment should display the initial 'Dâ€™ and the unreserved as 'GENâ€™ or 'URâ€™, season ticket holders as 'MSTâ€™. Even the AC chair car that had MST allotted coaches read C1 and C2. For ticket holders it was C3 and C4. Our loco which followed was WCAM-3 #21952
I had a peep inside the general compartments and they surely were very clean and neat. This train has a dining car - though being the oldest coach in the entire rake, 88801. I went inside my coach C3 in excitement. The coach no. was 96159. It was indeed a very well maintained, clean AC coach. There was a coir mattress across the length of the aisle. Window curtains were clean and of nice shade. My seat no. was 45. I was under the impression that my seat would be a window seat on the three seater side, but the seat numbering was different here. Seat no. 1 starts from the three seat side instead of two seat side as in ICE, Indrayani, Deccan, Koyna and other coaches of the same train, and so I had a window seat on the 2 seat side which was to my liking and that too on the track side. The flip side being, I would miss the sight overtaking the local trains. The glass window had a foggy type of coating on it and hence the outside view was not great. This is a major bane of AC coaches. I wonder how this could be eliminated? I could not but help compare DQ and ICE; which I shall do at the end of this trip. 1023 Sahyadri joined us at pf 9 - and though we would be overtaking this but eventually it would reach Miraj earlier than my connecting train Purna would. Nobody sat next to me at seat no. 44. We left at sharp at 17:10.
We passed the points and joined the mainline. We accelerated from Byculla onwards started cruising at 85-90 thereabouts - this is an approximation - till Bhandup; except for PSR of 65 at Vidhyavihar and Vikhroli. TE checked my tickets. He was one odd person in the coach: unshaven, uncombed and tobacco chewing. One of the reasons for going by AC was to enjoy the food at my leisure and convenience, and I definitely wanted to try out two dishes. I ordered for baked beans. I had a tomato soup which costed Rs. 11 unlike Rs. 10 which was in ICE. At Vidhyavihar I saw WDP-4 light, entering the Kurla yard. It had the light green and white livery just like #12149. We hit a SR at Bhandup at 17:32. We crossed the incoming Netravati just before Mulund at 17:37. Just ahead of this train is an EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)which departs from CST at 17:00 to Ambarnath. This EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)has a stoppage at Dadar only and then stops at all stations from Thane onwards. It is diverted on the slow line at the Mulund crossover which is just after Mulund stn. The crossover happens at about 17:32. We crossed Mulund at 17:38. There was a marginal slow down just before Thane which was even lesser than 80, the normal PSR. Crossed Thane at 17:40. I saw the Diva - Vasai shuttle stationed at the platform at Diva. Again, a marginal slow down at Dombivilli, and later at Kalyan outer before coming to a complete halt at 17:52. After about three minutes we departed and were put on the loop and passed through pf 5. Pf4 had Pune - Manmad Exp hauled by WCAM-3 #21955. I missed the loco of Pune Indore Exp which entered pf 7. I passed on this info to Shantanu Kulkarni. We crossed Kalyan at 17:57.After Vithalwadi 21952 stretched its legs and was cruising at mps of 105. Near Badlapur we crossed the Deccan with WCG-2 in the lead. My baked beans was served and it was yummy. It had lighter colour to it than the darker ones that used to be served in Indrayani / Deccan. But neverthless the taste was pure bliss. We crossed Udyan just before Neral at 18:22. I could not really figure out whether it had two WDP-4's, but only after the messages posted to that effect at the forum.
I ventured into the dining car. It was not crowded and it was a nice place to hang out. I passed through all AC chair car coaches. C1 and C3 had large windows like AC3tier. The passengers sitting between these two large windows do not get a view outside. I was lucky though. They did not have AC vents which are lower from the roof, and thus resemble AC 3 tier. Whereas C2 and C4 numbered 99xxx series, had smaller windows and the AC vents are lower down thus resembling AC2 tier. They are also similar to 92xxx coaches which we see on ICE. The technician said that the 96xxx were delivered exclusively for DQ from RCF and were not liked by passengers. Could any body throw more light on this issue? The MST reserved coaches were rather empty, probably being a Saturday. Crossed Koyna just before Karjat, hauled by WDP-4 at 18:32. We were made to wait at Karjat outer for 3-4 minutes, and that was rather suprising. After we were allowed to enter I saw that the bankers had not positioned at its place and were still stationed on the tracks bang opposite the station. They (#20137 + #20125 + #20146) departed after we touched down at the platform at 18:41. Left Karjat at 18:46, a delay of 11 minutes. Only 2123 halts at Karjat which is a technical cum commercial halt and not 2124. I ordered a plate of veg cutlet which was also tasty. We crossed ICE at Monkey Hill at 19:07. We reached Lonaval at 19:19 and left at 19:22, a delay of 2 minutes. Shortly Indrayani passed us with WCAM3 at 19:24. The train halted at Malvali for sometime and then onwards crawled for about 5-10 minutes. I was told some maintenance work was going on, but further probing did not yield any satisfactory result. We reached Shivajinagar at 20:16 and left at 20:19 delay of nine minutes. We were made to wait outside Pune Stn for some unknown train to pass. Finally we were allowed to enter pf 3 and reached at 20:30. Pragati was on pf 2, Sinhagad on pf 4 and Patna superfast was on pf1. DQ has a good amount of slack time, and I believe with little bit of more discipline from CR, atleast 10 minutes can easily be knocked off from the running time.
I have travelled on numerous occasion on ICE and this was my first journey by DQ. Allow me to compare the two fast and prestigious train on Mumbai-Pune route:
- In terms of cleanliness DQ is better. General compartments are not cleaned in ICE. AC window glasses and curtains are dirty in ICE.
- Ambience wise DQ scores. The curtains in ICE are pretty drab. Lightings of the coach is also poor. ICE has a plastic cover provide on the aisle which stinks when one enters the coach. In DQ it is made of coir or a similar material.
- Food is where DQ wins hands down. In cutlet to cutlet comparison as well DQ scores. I would advice people to skip meal to savour the food on DQ. I feel pantry is sorely missed in ICE. After paying Rs.270, certainly passengers would expect choices in food as well.
- MST passengers are not a pain in DQ as they are in ICE. In ICE MSTs hang about at the entrance of the coach as well as inside the entrance of AC compartment. Of course, MSTs are not provided exclusive coach in ICE.
- In terms of sectional clearance and priority, ICE scores and it is a pleasure to see the train zip across.
- Coach indications are better in ICE unlike DQ where everything is numbered with 'Dâ€™ or 'Câ€™.
After alighting from the train I made my way to pf 1 and to main entrance of the station. My onward connection was by 1097 Purna Exp departing at 23:10. No indications about the departure of this train was made. I went to the rail tel internet and spent half an hour. Then went to comsum to have a light dinner. At about 21:30 I waited at pf 1 for any indication. Shortly a yatra special arrived which had a mix of AC-2T, sleeper and general coaches. The sleeper coaches were of BEML 08 make but without the tapering of the coach at the ends. The roof and the window corners are as they were earlier. It had SMBs and a capcity of 81. It did not have any space at the entrance of the coach which we see in some coaches where earlier berth nos. 73, 74 and 75 used to exist. Announcement was being made of the arrival of 1023 Sahyadri Exp at pf2. It came in hauled by WCG-2. Huge TV screens showed the departure of Purna from pf2. I made my way there. Sahyadri now had Gooty WDM-3A #18906R in the lead. The general compartments were packed to the brim. Shortly 7203 Bhavnagar Kakinada Exp. arrived with Maula Ali WDM-2A #17445. Sahyadri pulled out at 22:20. I was wondered whether we would be crawling behind this train till Miraj.
At 22:30, Purna Exp with dirty looking rake pulled in by a shunter. The rake composition was: SLR-Gen.-2Bs-1A-S11-PC-S10toS1-Gen-SLR. My coach was S7 and a SLB 23. Shirdi-Mumbai fast pass arrived on pf3. I made my way to the front of our train.At 22:55 our loco arrived: Pune WDM-3A #18578R SHF. I returned to my coach. The coach no. was 89214. I saw that there was a commotion at my bay. I was worried about any imminent exchange of berths. It seemed two set of passengers in my inner bay were scattered and lot of adjustments were going on. Thankfully I was not offered anything. I was lucky to get emergency exit window as well. The train left on dot. At Pune outer 1028 Chennai-Mumbai mail was waiting. Shortly RPF instructed everyone to shut the windows. On enquiry, I was told about the stone throwing incidents happen in this area. In that case is the practice followed during day time also? RPF kept roaming a couple of times and every time I pretended to shut the windows without actually doing so. There were two guys who were alighting at Miraj, wanting to play cards offered me any of their berths in exchange to which of course I politely declined. But their zeal for the game did not decline and they managed to play somehow in the dim light.
Meanwhile our train was chugging along nicely and without much fuss the WDM-3A climbed the small ghat which lies just after Pune. Thereafter we were cruising at about 90 and thereabouts. The first crossing came at Nira where 1018 Chalukya passed us at 00:40. Then at 1:10 we made way to 1012 Mahalaxmi at Salpa. 2779 Goa Exp crossed us at 1:40 at Wathar. We reached Satara at 2:08 before time. One passenger train was parked on the adjacent platform. We left at 2:28 now 3 min. late. Then later I went to sleep. I do not know when 1024 Sahyadri crossed us, nor when we left Karad. I woke up at Sangli when we reached there at 4:26 before time and left at 4:30 on time. We were made to wait briefly at Miraj outer and we entered the platform at 4:50 before time by 35 minutes. For every zonal change IR provides sufficient slack time and here we had a slack time of at least 30-40 minutes. 1023 Sahyadri Exp which was ahead of us did not bother us much in slowing us down. Many people alighted at Miraj from our coach and many boarded as well. The two guys I mentioned about were replaced by three, and they found a berth short due to rampant exchange of berths that took place the previous night. We left Miraj at sharp 5:30 on dot. We entered the SWR territory. I finished my morning chores and settled to enjoy the view. We crossed the Krishna river. I struck a converasation with gentleman who joined us at Miraj. He and his family were traveling to Mangalore. He was a railway employee and working in the operations dept at Miraj. He mentioned that the PSR of 20 on the Krishna bridge was due to the bridge not reconstructed during gauge convertion, and hence due to the lesser margin for oscillation of coach the PSR has been set. We discussed on various railway issues, and I considered myself fortunate to get him as my co-passenger. We reached Ghatprabha at 6:45 and left at 6:50 late by 10 minutes. We passed the Ghataprabha river. We were consistently passing through the sugarcane fields. There were many SRs on the way and lot maintenance work going on as well. We entered Belgaum on pf2 at 7:55 before time. There was a passenger train to Miraj of pf1. A goods train was stationed on one of the sidings. I had finished my high schooling at Belgaum and had stayed here for 6 yrs. The station has undergone lot of changes. Platforms were very clean. In fact I found all the platforms remarkably clean on the SWR stretch. The railway gentleman also cited the transformation that has taken place in the area after gauge convertion and all the more after SWR creation. We left Belgaum on dot at 8:05. Watching Belgaum through the train made me nostalgic. At Desur saw a lonely WDP-4. We were halted at Khanapur for 6589 Rani Chennamma Exp. This train arrived behind 20005 LHF. The train composition was SLR-2Gen-1H-1A-2B-9S-2Gen-SLR. We reached Londa at 9:20. On the other platform 6506 Gandhidham Exp was waiting with Gooty twins. I thought of making a dash towards the front of this train. But this train left and I could not make it. I was amazed at the acceleration of the train. Amazed because of two reasons: the points that it had to navigate through and secondly there is a gradient where the train branches out towards Belgaum; inspite the train being double headed. Any reason for this train to be double headed as it has only 21 coaches and once when I traveled on the same train it had a single loco and did a good job as we reached Pune on time.
Our train reversed here. We left Londa at 9:37 delayed by 2 min. We then passed through a thick forest area. We passed through Tinaighat where a double headed WDG-4 goods rake was stationed. We spewed a lot of dust when we passed. We reached Castlerock on dot at 10:15. WDG-4 twins was stationed with engine turned on condition on one of the sidings. Two additional Gooty locos were attached to the front our Pune loco (Gooty WDG-3A #14702 in the lead and #14625 trailing). Shortly 2848 Howrah bound Amaravati Exp arrived at 10:23 with Gooty WDM-3A #14021 in the lead. The rake was in an utterly dilapidated condition. It was dirty as well. This train has few bogies going to Kacheguda as well. Its bankers Gooty WDG-3A #14714 and #14627 got removed. We left Castlerock at 10:30 now late by 5 min. Near the old shed a departmental coach was headed by Maula Ali twins #16714 and #17310 both in LHF formation was stationed.
I was all excited as we entered the ghat section; the primary reason for taking this route was to view the Braganza ghat. We slowly made our way on the down gradient. The ghat section is full of vegetation and it was very green at this time of year. Wondered how it would be during rainy season? It was a nice sight to see the train snaking along the ghat section with thick forest around. This area is more densely forested than the Bhor and Thull ghats. One does not get to see a drop in the valley due to the vegetation sprouting across everywhere. Caranzol was the first brake halt, followed by another one and Dudhsagar being the third one. The signal lightings here are slightly different than elsewhere I have seen. Anything significant about this? Also I did not see any catch sidings here. Is there any? Or did I miss it? From a distance I could see a goods train below that had halted. Shortly Dudhsagar falls arrived. Ashish had told me the which side to sit to enjoy the Braganza Ghat and the Dudhsagar falls. Luckily my SLB turned out exactly that way. For the valley view one has to be on the right side while going down but for the Dudhsagar falls one has to come to the left to see it. The train slowed down a bit. I moved to the left to take snap, but unfortunately could not get a clear shot. There was water and had not entirely dried up. There were tourists in abundance at falls site. It is quite a sight. What is the mps at the ghats? I think it should be 40+ as I saw a SR of 40. We crossed the goods train that I mentioned earlier headed by twin WDG-4 (#12124 + #12040) and banked by triple WDG-4 (? + #12099 + #12053).
Near Kulem a river flows beside the track which seems to be a picnic spot for enthusiasts. We reached Kulem 11:47 before time. There was a lone WDG-4 twin (#12030 + #12085) in the siding. There was a 7 coach Kulem Vasco passenger at Kulem with Gooty WDG-3A #14571. Weather was humid. We left Kulem on dot at 12:00. We passed through the Goa country side. At Sanverdam Church there were WDG-4 twins (#12139 + #12088). We reached at 12:29 and left at 12:38 delayed by 13 min. Shortly we touched Madgaon at 12:56 early by 9 mins on pf2.
What followed was inefficiency of KR at its worst. Our engine got attached to the other end. Madgaon being a water filling station, the pipes were fitted to the coaches. Kulem Vasco passenger arrived on pf3 and left. It was 13:25 the schedule departure and our train had not yet left. On pf3 Karwar Special arrived led by Kalyan WDG-3A. At 13:38 MAQ-Verna pass arrived with ERS WDM-3A #17968 in the lead on pf1. We received the starter and we did not move. The pipes were still attached and from some coaches the water started overflowing. Our proceed signal was cancelled and Karwar special was allowed to proceed at 13:50. On pf 3 the same Vasco-Kulem pass arrived at 14:00 and left. At 14:15 2051 JS arrived on pf1 with ED WDM-3D #11208. The same loco that had hauled my 2620 Matsyagandha on May 04th trip to Mumbai. Interestingly the front SLR had the normal AB liveried coach and not JS coach. This would be a chink in its armour and the train probably would not exceed 110 kmph. At 14:17 or so we received the starter and still the pipes were not removed from 1 or 2 coaches. Finally we left at 14:22, a good delay of 57 min. and halt time of 86 minutes. The train which was before time is now late by almost an hour.
We were put on loop at Balli. There was RORO on the mainline going towards Madgaon side led by KYN WDG-3A #14567. We waited for some more time; probably the karwar special had not reached Cancona. At Cancona we were on the loop again as a BCNA freight was on the mainline. We reached Karwar on pf 2 at 15:42. Karwar spl was on pf1 with engine already reversed. A BOXN freight train was on the main line. Both the Exp train left simultaneously at 15:45 and we being late by 87 minutes. At Harwda we passed the Chennai - Vasco holiday spl. We were constantly running at mps of 110 kmph but for the occasional SR. The countryside was beautiful with paddy fields, coconut trees and rivers. Western Ghats is continuously visible on the eastern side. On few occasions like in Cancona sea is very close to the tracks. At Murdeshwar one can see the huge statue of Lord Shiva on the west side. The statue is at the temple on the seashore. 2620 Matsyagandha was waiting for us to cross at Shiroor at 17:40. It was led by ED WDM-3D #11121 cab at one end and leading. Finally we reached Udupi at 18:38, delayed by 72 minutes. A dual WDG-4 led freight was waiting to pull out.
My journey to Udupi took 25 hrs and 28 minutes. The journey was like a dream come true and took years to fulfill it. Thanks for your patient reading. Hope that you liked this long and elaborate report. Any feedback is most welcome.
Photos can be seen at: