by Ajit Rao
This report consists of three parts. The first is the journey to Mangalore by 6517 Exp. Second is the rail fanning at Mangalore Central Station and third is the trip report back to Mumbai by 2620 Exp.
Journey to Mangalore by 6517 Exp.
After the BNC-2009 convention got over, I rushed to my relativesâ€™ place. After collecting my luggage my cousin dropped me at Yashwantpur (YPR) station. We entered from the NH-4 side entrance. I planned to take 6517 Exp. to Mangalore (MAQ) and onward by 2620 Matsyagandha Exp. to Mumbai. This decision of mine had confounded my relatives and my family. From outside YPR stn., I could see the 2864 Exp. departing to Howrah at about 19:50 hrs. Mr. Biswarup Basu was in this train. One of the main entrances on south side was closed and I proceeded to other north side entrance on the same side. This was my first visit to YPR stn. and it presented itself as a very neat and tidy station. Garib Rath to Kochuveli was expected on pf no. 5, KSK was expected on pf no. 4, 689 Hubli Spl. was brought in at pf no. 2 and my train was expected on pf no. 1. My train had not arrived on platform yet. At the platform I asked a railway official who looked like some kind of a â€˜dispatcherâ€™ with a walkie talkie in hand, which direction my train would arrive from. I asked him so that I could go to that end and see the entire rake being brought in. He said it would arrive at this very platform. I said I know but from which direction it would come from. He looked amused, and then I asked him where the yard is and he pointed to north direction. My questions would have had surprised him as he would not have been used to such kind of questions. So I walked in that direction and sure enough my train arrived hauled by KJM WDM3A 18904 in LHF mode. Coach composition was SLR-4 GS-7 SL-1AC3T-1AC2T-2GS-1SLR(Second-class Luggage/parcel van+guard van). AC3T and sleeper class had SMBs. My coach was S-4 â€" a BEML coach numbered 05275. There were 11 vacancies in my coach as per the charts. I rested myself on berth no. 16, an SLB. Berths were allotted with considering SMB specification of coach at the time of booking itself and hence there was no confusion. My coach had its SMB and SUB retrofitted. The coach was very neat and clean both from outside and inside. Shortly Rajdhani towards NZM arrived and stopped at pf no.4. We left at 20:35 sharp. Another WDM2 loco departed on the track parallel to us in the same direction towards SBC.
In about 10 min. we reached SBC. 20009 WDP4 hauled 6589 Rani Chennamma was waiting at pf 8 in which some of the Mumbai and Pune gang were leaving. Dilip Setlur was waiting with his friend on pf 9. At 20:55 sharp my train left. On the outer there was 6732 Mysore Tuticorin Exp waiting to enter SBC. Track was double lined electrified. Electrification was till Kengeri. Few vendors in uniform were selling food. So one could consider having food in the train if the need arose. On offer was tea, coffee, Maddur Vada and Veg Pulav. Luckily for me my co-passenger of SMB and SUB did not turn up and had both seats to myself. There was silence in the entire coach. There was no commotion, shouting or confusion between passengers anywhere; the track condition complemented perfectly with the silence inside. The sound of the wheels against the rails made me feel it as an improvement over KR tracks. Our train would constantly pick up speed and after a distance would slow down and then picked speed again. This rhythmic motion continued all the way till Mysore and hence we were reaching MPS in bursts. The TTE was a nice young chap with who I had a friendly discussion for sometime. I requested him to keep the door open at Sakleshpur as I planned to go to the front of the train. He said he would not close the door. Just after Bidadi we crossed 233 Bangalore pass. Our train crossed Ramnagaram from where the track became a single line. This town became famous for the shooting of Sholay that took place here. I looked out to see if I could cite the place where there was the train chase from the same movie. I could not figure out. Does anybody know the exact location?
At Chennapatna our train and Kaveri Exp. to Chennai entered simultaneously. It was led by WDP4. Rake consisted of 18 coaches:11SL,1AC3T,1AC2T,3GS,2SLR(Second-class Luggage/parcel van+guard van). Does any addition of coaches take place at SBC? We arrived Mandya at 22:28. The platform was on the mainline itself and hence entered it at good speed. There is a factory also close by. We crossed Kaveri river and I could see a bridge on the other side. Was it a road bridge or the old MG bridge? After a 10 minute halt at Naganhalli we made our way to Mysore. The track from Hassan joins us and then goes towards the other side of freight yard. We reached Mysore at 23:25. Overnight passenger to SBC was on the adjacent platform. Hardly any passenger boarded and I wondered the merit for this train to travel via Mysore. There is a reversal as well as loco change which I realized later at Hassan. We were now hauled by KJM WDM2 17560 SHF. The LP later told me at Mangalore that there is a loco link with 6215/6216 Chamundi Exp. A passenger in the SUB could not sleep due to the roof being very close to the berth and requested the TT for a change of berth.
We left Mysore at 23:45 sharp. After we left Mysore I could see a big reservoir on the left side and also a bridge. Probably during day time the sight would have had been spectacular. I had some sleep till Hassan. We were stopped at Hassan outer. I could see at a distance our pairing train traveling on the track from Sakleshpur to Hassan. Shortly we arrived at Hassan at 1:55 on pf 1 and 6518 was at pf 2. The loco reversal of that train took place on the other side of 6518. Our engine reversed on the line between the two platform lines and it was then I realized the loco had changed at Mysore. We left at 2:15 sharp. The train crawled slowly to Sakleshpur at 3:05. Sakleshpur stn. is on a curve and one can get a good view of the train on the right side. I got down to go to the front of the train. The platform was deserted. All the doors of reserved coaches were closed. The platform being on a curve, one could see no further beyond a coach. After I crossed about 4 coaches I thought it was not a good idea, and also as I was recovering from a fracture, I returned to my coach to see the action from there as I could clearly see from the right side of our train twins being mued with our loco. The weather was cold and misty.
We left at 3:30, a delay of 15 minutes. I sat glued at the window with shutters open. The train crawled out slowly. At 3:55 we reached Donnigal for the first brake testing halt. The ghat section actually starts from here. I was asked by many about the merit of making a night journey on this train. Of course day journey would have had been preferable, but traveling at night also has its own charms. The eerie feeling that the train is all alone in the dense forest with total darkness outside and traveling at a creeping speed adds to the excitement. With all the fearful question looming: what if something untoward happens??.. and then the excitement of the unexpected grows. This section is not new to me. I had traveled by Mangalore to Sakleshpur in the Metre Gauge Mangalore- Mysore fast passenger, reached Sakleshpur at about 13:00 hrs. and returned by its pairing train the same day. Jouney is breathtaking no doubt. BBC cited this route as the best scenic rail journey in Asia (personally could not verify this could have been a hearsay) compelling me to make that journey at that point of time. Then again in 1997 I trekked with friends the entire stretch from Sakleshpur to Subramanya in 2 days. Thanks to a small roller coaster ride on a disused motor less railway carriage. The MG trains had stopped by then. Eight of us on this carriage with hardly any brake, traveling more than the present mps crossed tunnels in darkness and deep via ducts. Then suddenly we saw a track fracture ahead, application of brakes didnâ€™t help and thought we would derail. But luckily the carriage didnâ€™t derail and went over the fracture. We abandoned the carriage there itself and trekked on further after taking images of the life threatening event. We halted for the night in a deserted gang manâ€™s. These memories were coming back as I was traveling in the thick of darkness with the forest literally enveloping our train.
Reached Kadigavalli- a new station - where a BTPN freighter was waiting for us led by WDP4 which I could not see. It was banked by twin WDP4 one of which was 12034. They make exceptional sound when moving from standstill position. Seems like an aircraft is about to take off. There was some forest fire at a distance and it could be seen for quite a while. Shortly after wards reached Yedekumari. The brake testing halt was done at the outer and I didnâ€™t see any reason for the train to stop again at the platform. Is this a regular feature. The slow moving train was getting me and after we crossed Shrivagilu I dozed off. Yet for those having second thoughts about making night journey on this stretch, I would strongly recommend it as the thrill is totally different while traveling in the dense ghat section. Reached Subramanya Rd. at 6:05 am. Quite a good number of people got down here. The station though was full of litter. Here I saw our breakers which were 14639 and 14657. A BOXN freighter led by WDP4 twins was waiting to move towards Mangalore side. One of the loco was 12047
We left at 6:25 delayed by 40 minutes and I readied myself for the journey ahead. The vendors with traditional buns along with coffee tea were roaming around. The air was cool and foggy. We maintained a decent speed. The landscape was full of greenery and lot of vegetation around. There were trees of coconut and arecnut. Paddy fields could be seen. This entire coastal belt of Karnataka below the ghat section is known as Karavalli. The route has good number of curves and was a nice sight to see the train snaking around. Those who would miss the ghats at night can take some comfort from the enchanting landscape outside in the morning. We reached Kabakaputtur at 7:03 and left at 7:05. A good number of people got down here. It looked like this train caters mainly to the towns of Subramanya Rd., Kabakaputtur and Mangalore. Kabakaputtur is a common station for the towns of Kabaka and Puttur.
As we approached Bantwala, I went to the door to see the magnificent Netravathi river. We crossed the river which was in full flow. We crossed the bridge at the speed of 20 kmph. A Kerala bound train would have had crossed this river again at Mangalore.
Just after the river is Bantwala stn. 635 Kabakaputtur passenger led by WDM3D 11206 of ED having just 3 coaches with SLR in the middle was waiting for us on the mainline. Reached Bantwala at 07:35 and left at 7:38. The marker stone indicated 164.400 km. probably from Hassan. Just after leaving the station there is a sharp curve to the left. After sometime the track is parallel to the NH-48 the road connecting Bangalore. For some distance the Netravathi river, NH-48 and the tracks are almost parallel.
Watch the train accelerating from one of the curves:
Many halt stations between Kabakaputtur and Mangalore Central which used to exist in MG days are no longer in the timetable. So just after the now non existent Firangipet we come across a new cabin called Padil. Here two line branch out and join the New Mangalore Port / KR bound line. Thus the freighters bound for the port can avoid Mangalore Junction altogether. A Bangalore Madgaon / Karwar train if introduced can also bye pass Mangalore Junction and can be provided a halt at Padil and Surathkal. This is the second triangle of Mangalore. My video of this location went horribly wrong. But I have got the triangle right in 2620 Exp. We reached MAJN at 8:10 on pf 1 and halted for 8 minutes. MAJN has three platform with a single line between pf 1 and pf 2 and and three additional lines beyond pf 3. Two BCNA rakes were stationed. One of them had twin ED WDG3A 13229 and 14741 locos in the front but not mued. After we left MAJN, I could see the construction of additional line on the left side. As we approached the first triangle our line branches out to the right towards MAQ, and the existing line goes and joins the MAQ- Shornur line. Inside the triangle there are a good number of residential houses. Our line then runs parallel to the Shornur-MAQ line. Provision for crossing between the lines exists. Almost at the same time 629 Charvattur- MAQ passenger was arriving on the other track hauled by GOC loco which was made to halt. Just before MAQ, a line branches out to Old Manglore Port to the left. At Mangalore Central we were admitted to pf no. 1. Pf2 and 3 were vacant.After a brief discussion with the LP, I looked for accommodation in the station. To be continued.
Rail fanning at Mangalore Central Station
I freshened up at the AC dormitory. The dormitory was empty and I was the sole person. After wards another person joined in. Later I left the luggage at the cloak room. Got to know that 2619 Matsyagandha Exp reached at about 9:00 a.m. and 6604 Mavelli Express had arrived and the rake had already been taken to the yard. 6517 Exp was still on pf 1. I went to the only restaurant on pf 1 at 9:30. There was nothing much on offer and the quality a lot to be desired. It was unfortunate that the land of Karavalli which is reputed for delicious food, the same was not available at its gateway.
636 Kabakaputtur had already arrived at the pit line platform adjacent to the platform no.1. Mangalore Station has undergone lot of changes since I last visited here in the year 2001. The station is cleaner. Flooring's of all the platforms have been changed. Pf 1 has mosaic flooring. Ample chairs are provided on all the platforms. There used to exist 2 lines between pf 1 and 2, now there is only one line. Pf 2 and 3 had been broadened. A sea change when I last saw it.I went over the foot over bridge and saw the yard. The yard also seemed to have been expanded. Matsyagandha Exp that had arrived in the morning was still on pf 3 and the destination boards had been changed to TVC-MAQ as this train would run as 6348 TVC Exp.
Announcement was made about the arrival of 6629 Malabar Exp. on pf 2. Sure enough it arrived on right time led by ED WDM3D 11108. This loco later hauled my train 2620 Matsyagandha Exp. So it seems the 6627 West coast Exp link with 2620 has been changed. The composition of 6629 was SLR-2GS-1AC3T-1AC2T-1FC-8SL-3GS-SLR. Mavelli Exp would have had the same composition as they had a RSA. I had heard that since 1977 FC coach production has stopped and the coach which 6629 had was a 1990 made 90897 coach. It seems the railways would not phase out FC anytime soon as few trains in South India have FC coach.
Then I went to the pit line platform where 651 Subramanya Rd passenger was ready to depart. It was the same rake of Kabakaputtur passenger. This time the loco was WDM2A 18699 of GOC. Wondered which train brings GOC loco. Is it 6107/6108? The pit line had ED WDM 3D11206, GOC WDM2 18694, and KJM WDM2 17560. Yeshwanthpur Exp was shunted to the middle line between pf 1 and 2. ERS WDM2A 16668 did the shunting work. Sad to see a WDM2 doing the shunting that to of a recent make. It also pulled out the Malbar Exp. Shortly 623 passenger from Kannur arrived with GOC WDM2 17676 on pf 1.
I went to pf 2 to wait for the arrival of 6347 Exp. I saw a marker stone reading 885 kms. This should be from Chennai if I am correct. 6347 Exp from TVC arrived shortly before time at 11:00. It was led by ED WDM3D 11193. Its composition was SLR-2GS-10SL-3AC3T-1AC2T-3GS-SLR. The same composition would be that of Matsyagandha Exp. Shortly the destination boards were reversed. Boards which showed TVC-MAQ became MAQ-LTT. Now we have a situation where 2619 that came in the morning on pf 3 has now become 6348 and 6347 that arrived on pf 2 became 2620. But shortly the pf 2 rake or would be Matsyagandha was pulled out.
In came before time 2601 MAQ mail at about 12:10 led ED WDM3D 11208 on pf 2. Composition was PV-SLR-2GS-10SL-2 AC3T-1AC2T-FC-3GS-SLR. It looked like most of the express trains were getting WDM3Ds. Later on I went to pf 1 and from an IRCTC stall purchased Veg Biryani again not much to the liking. 2602 Chennai mail was shunted into pf 1. The 6627 West Coast which arrived in the morning became Chennai mail now. Chennai Mail was led by ED WDM3D 11206 LHF. The same loco hauled the Kabakaputtur pass. in the morning. Train left right on time at 13:15. The rake of 6348 Exp. which was on pf 3 all the while since morning got ED WDM3D 11199. My train was expected to depart from pf 1. Then I went to the cloak room and took my bag. To be continued.
Back to Mumbai by 2620 Exp.
My train 2620 Matsyagandha Exp. was shunted to Platform No. 1 of Mangalore Central Station at 13:30. I slowly made my way to my coach at S-4 praying that I should not have a hatrick of getting BEML coach. I had a BEML coach in 1013 Exp and 6517Exp. And lo! It was a hat-trick. My coach was the only BEML coach in the entire rake. 2620 Exp. had an old rake and my coach in particular was awful and it looked as though the interiors were peeling off. The white colour interior had become blackish-grey. 6347/6348 Exp is not maintained the way Vidharbha or Rani Chennamma rakes are maintained. I put my luggage under my seat no. 31 and slowly walked the entire train to the front. The train was full and passengers were seen heckling the TTE for allotment. This train gets KR crew from MAQ itself. On an average the coaches of this train were more than 10 years old and AC2 tier was of the 84 make. It took sometime for the engine to join in. It was ED WDM-3D #11108 SHF mode. The same loco had hauled 6629 Malabar Exp to MAQ in the morning.
My train left on time. My co passenger on berth 32 did not turn up; who was supposed to board from MAQ. I had traveled in this very train from MAQ in 2000 and I wanted to check out what causes the delay for this train before it reaches Surathkal as I had been noticing from the Dynamic Train Position of KR that this train is always late by few minutes at Suratkal. Moreover see any new developments in the MAQ- Udupi stretch when I last traveled in 2001.
I did not mention it earlier; basically MAQ is a dead end Station, though unlike terminus's in Mumbai. The north end has a refueling station which is about 200-300 meters from the end of the platform and all the trains first travel first in the Southerly direction before branching off. As my train left the stn., the lovely ERS WDM-2A #16668 was shunting Kannur passenger on the left side. There seems to be a complex passenger train link here as the board read Mangalore-Kannur-Coimbatore. We soon turned left towards the MAJN side and parted ways with Shornur bound track and then joined again the track from Shornur towards Mangalore Junction (MAJN) side. Residential houses can be seen in this triangle in the video.
The train slowed down at the points. After sometime we reached MAJN and our train slowed down to about 20 and passed through pf 2 without stopping. There were two BCNA rakes one of which was hauled by WDG-4 twins #12106 and #12136. Shortly we parted ways with Hassan bound track which diverted to the right only to join the MAJN bye pass line from Hassan again.
We picked up good speed and passed through thick vegetation and were cruising in the 80s. The track condition had improved. Much before Thokur the take off point for KR, I saw a sign Welcome to KR. After a distance a line diverts to the left to the New Mangalore Port and immediately another line goes to the right towards MRPL. The refinery can be seen on the right. After Thokur we hit a SR and crawled to Suratkal, with a delay of 6 minutes. The turnout to platform was very slow. Mr. Sampatkumar had mentioned of the absence of double distance signal till Udupi, but I did not understand the lower turn out speed till Udupi. Udupi- Thokur stretch was completed in 1993 itself and I was one of the earliest passengers on this stretch at that time. Could higher turn out speed been taken up later on the newly laid tracks of KR?. The marker stone at Suratkal read 734 km. On the other side of the loop Ro-Ro was stationed and loading was not taking place. Trucks were seen waiting on the road above. I could get the snap of the exact loading point. Dead ERS WDMx #18413 was leading the formation. Slightly ahead was a Ratlam WDM-3A #16199. Is this a spare engine? The appointed vendors with Food and Beverages boarded at Surathkal. Of all the trains I have travelled, this train offers the highest variety in eatables. Unfortunately I have not yet traveled in Mandovi, On offer was Samosa, Vada Pav, Sandwiches, Golli Bajji, Onion Bajji, Variety of Packaged Foods and Bevarages like Tea, Coffe and Cold Drinks. My ticket was checked by TTE and he seemed to get on with his work religiously high spirits but seemed to be a big mouth and did little to detrain WL passengers. My co passenger had not yet arrived.
Later on we started doing good speed. Mulki had a marker stone of 725. Between Mulki and Padubidri to the right - on which side I was - work on laying additional line was going on. It was due to the construction work of a new Thermal Power Plant coming up near Padubidri. We reached Udupi at 16:11 and our coach almost became full here. Udupi had a marker stone of 692.We waited further for TVC Rajdhani to arrive. It did at 16:25 led by the first WDP-3A of IR #15501 of GOC. It was a 17 coach affair in assorted livery. Majority of the coaches had Airtel livery. Railways PLEASE spare the windows. Earlier the same loco used to haul 12 coaches. How is the performance now if anybody has traveled? Composition was EOG-8AC3T-PC-5AC2T-1ACFirst-EOG. We left Udupi at 16:28 a delay of 28 minutes.
A wait listed passenger sat at seat no.32 probably not expecting the passenger to turn up. Journey later on was uneventful except for the beautiful countryside. This region of KR is quite different when compared to between Madgaon and Roha. There we get long tunnels with deep via ducts and few streams and the country side looks dry. The stretch south of Madgaon has fewer tunnels â€" though the ones near Karwar and Byndoor are pretty big â€" plenty of river crossing, paddy fields and vegetation. NH17 runs very close to the track at some places. At Senapura we crossed twin WDG4 led BOXN freight. Till Madgaon we were running 5-10 minutes late consistently at all stations. At Murdeshwar there was a rake of BOBYN with no loco on the mainline. At Honnavar we waited for WDG-4 #12144 and #12013 hauled BOXN freight. As the battery got drained I could not take more videos after Sharavathi river or photographs after Honnavar.
The marker stones for the following stn. are as follows: Barkur 676, Kundapura 660, Bhatkal 611, Murdeshwar 596, Honnavar 570. There was no sign of KR2 Verna- MAQ passenger. When I inquired with a passenger waiting for that train at Kumta he said there was a loco failure and he said a relief loco has gone. At Gokarna Road KR2 was waiting for us with Kalyan WDG-3A and the dead ERS WDMx behind. So was the KYN loco of BOBYN at Murdeshwar was sent as a relief loco to KR2? Unanswered question. Ankola has a marker stone of 529.
We reached Karwar at 19:45. A flat bed rake hauled by ERS WDM-3A #14049 was waiting for us on the mainline. The loco had a cab at one end. Karwar has a marker stone of 501. Our dinner got loaded here. The train left at 19:49 with a delay of 11 minutes. Shortly an RAC passenger turned up and claimed that he had been allotted berth no. 32 and he would return at Madgaon after being with his friends. Dinner was being served. Tomato soup was on offer. Menu was Veg Thali, Veg Biryani, Veg Fried Rice, Veg Noodles and I guess another dish. Sorry I did not ask for non veg offering and must be similar to veg offering with Chicken Lollypop thrown in. Cold Badam Milk, Masala Curd and Ice Cream was available for dessert. I would be interested to know if any other train apart from Mandovi and Konkan Kanya has this many offerings. I had a Veg Thali.
We crossed KAM2 to Karwar at Asnoti. At Cancona 2618 Mangala Exp was waiting for us on the mainline. We reached Madgaon outer at 20:43 and were made to wait for 10 minutes for shunting work going on. One wonders at the timing of shunting work!!!. We were admitted on pf 1. I guess a Parcel Van is added to our train here. At Madgaon saw a mued WDG-4. One of which was 12150. Many people entered our coach. Our coach was now filled with more people than its capacity. The condition was same in the entire train. It looked like due to a long weekend people had come to Goa and are now returning.
Our train left at 21:10 delayed by 15 minutes. As my berth was already unfolded I told the gentleman with the WL ticket that I would like to sleep. He just budged a bit and I had to make it clear to him to move somewhere else. He sat in the inner bay where the person had already gone to sleep in the lower berth. Shortly, he slept on the floor between the two berths of inner bay. The RAC passenger arrived and while he was about to climb up, the original passenger of berth 32 arrived and claimed the berth. He said he changed the boarding point from MAQ to MAO but it was counter alleged that it was scribbled by him. Both brought in their supporters as the same the same thing happened to the entire group and a fight ensued. They went in search of TTE and somehow he managed to provide berths to all. I wondered how he did he manage that? The original ticket holder took possession of 32. In the meanwhile water that was filled up at MAO was leaking from the tank above the toilet and entire area had become a cesspool. TTE was constantly heckled by WL passengers. At night people slept on the passage from one end of the coach to the other on the floor literally buffer to buffer. People found it difficult to go to the toilets.
I have traveled by this train so often; no journey has been like this. This train gets very decent crowd with no overcrowding. I had a sound sleep. I do not know where we lost time as we reached Panvel at 6:00 finally reached Thane at 7:00 where I got down. We were halted at pf 6 and my coach was the last on the platform. A second halt was also provided.
This marked the end of a journey from BNC-2009. Thanks for the patient reading. Hope you have like it. Any comments, suggestions or correction most welcome.