by Anand Krishnan
I went on fast track trip to Pune-Shirdi-Mumbai-Chennai in the first week of April. I had my parents travelling a week ahead and so it was I, me, myself and IR offcourse. Travelling alone on a short vacation always lifts one's energy levels, especially when one is travelling by IR.
As any IR fan would do I was quite eager to get to MAS (Madras Central) early on the night of April 7, 2004, early by a couple of hours. My luck, as I entered through the main entrance of MAS I noticed a shunter friend of ours waiting to take out the ED WAP4, 22341 which came in with the Brindavan Exp. The customary "Vanakkams" happened and he immediately asked if we could have something to sip. So putting my slightly over weight travel bag into the motor compartment of the ED(Erode) WAP4 we were off, after securing the luggage. After a cup of hot milk we were back to find the rake had been shunted and the WAP4 was to follow suit. The same loco was to go out with the Yercaud Express. Loco of Kovai Exp was to go out with the Kaveri Exp. This was the link for the night. Bidding good bye to the shunter, I went to check the departures.
- TN was powered by an ED WAP4 22367
- HWH mail was with a LGD(Lallaguda) WAP4 22323
- Cheran was also ready with an AJJ(Arakkonam) WAM4 6PD 21274
- Mumbai mail had an ET(Itarsi) WAM4 6PE, 20619
By now it was 9:30pm and I decided to go to my coach. I looked up the chart and just a glance gave me quite a surprise, rather shock. S3 had only 33 berths booked out of 72 that day. The grin on the TTE's face very clearly indicated how easy his job was going to be that night. Got a couple of magazines as contingency for boredom, or catalyst for sleep if I may call it. Our coach was next to the pantry and so getting food anytime was not going to be a problem, I thought. Alas food was not to my satisfaction as you will later read in this report. There was already a guy with some quick eats the moment we pulled out. We pulled out on dot. As we passed BBQ(Basin Bridge Junction) I was curious to check how many locos were stabled that night. At the outer of the shed ED WAP 22217 was ready with our shunter friend waiting for calling ON. I suppose that was for the 2657 SBC(Bangalore) Mail. 22341 was just behind it but manned by another shunting staff. Other than this there was a sole AJJ WAM4 20602 which had come in with the MYS(Mysore) Shatabdi. No other locos at the shed. No wonder the guys here complain of loco shortage as MS(Chennai Egmore) also had started eating into their share. Was wondering what would happen in an event of loco failure. Ofcourse AJJ shed is not far off. But I have to mention that I have seen on a number of occasions when some of the WAPs and WAMs go upto the TNP (Tondiarpet) A/C freight loco shed if there is no berthing space at BBQ. This was before the trip shed was expanded. We were now on the slow line upto Pattabiram and the run wasn't too fast. With everyone in a mood to hit the sack I was forced to go to the next bay and took the side lower for some fresh air. AJJ was reached at 11:25pm after some real brisk running from Pattabiram till Tiruvalangadu. We were off after a minute's halt. I decided to hit the sack as well.
When RU(Renigunta) was reached at 1:10am I was half asleep. Popped my head out of the window to check if I could spot some locos there. ED WAP4 22244 was on the stabling lines possibly for the 1081/82. A deep whine of a WDG4 could be heard but not to be seen. A GTL(Guntakal) WDM2A 17304 took charge. The chief was pretty impressive and his notching was aggressive. The silence of the night allowed all those notching to be heard unhindered. I later found out at GTL that the chief was a veteran from the Anglo Indian community. He was class written all over. Amazing runs after RU. After a point it was time to get some sleep. HX(Cudappah) was on time and then a couple of crossings. Got up at Kondapuram at 5:45am. An empty freight with a WDG4 12023 crossed us. After that we were there for almost 30 min for no reason with the starter ON. Anyways, ample time for a wash and a masala chai with cool morning winds. A perfect start for a day with DG4 Darshan. Reached Rayalacheruvu at 7:02am and let a WD4 12044 headed BOXN freight to cross. Crossed the 6012 with GTL WDM2 18906 and the 2627 KK with ET WDM2 17712 leading between Tadipatri and Gooty. Reached GTL at 7:55am. Breakfast time and also time to change locos and the crew. So our 17304 was out and 17540 also from GTL was in. Sadly our Anglo Indian speedster gave way to a more subdued Reddy-garu. Want to know how you get this info on names of crew, keep an eye on their boxes.
We were out of GTL at 8:25 am and there was double track until Nancherla where we stopped for the Cape Express to cross. This was our first day light, express crossing. Cape express thundered past with 17624 GTL WDM2A. Kupgal was reached at 9:50am. Kosigi at 10:10am. After Kosigi we again stopped for the MAS bound 1064 to cross us. All these crossing were quite swift. We never had to wait for more than 5 min. Soon 1064 thundered down with a GTL WDM2A 17464. Beyond RU till Wadi, GTL shed locos rule that territory manning most of the trains and the freight too. Only beyond Wadi a few PA(Pune) and KZJ(Kazipet) locos appeared. Mantralayam road was reached at 10:35am and all coaches got their water tanks refilled. Lunch was served at 12:00pm. Wont rate the pantry too high but they weren't bad either. 2 slightly elastic chapathis, ladies finger curry to go with, Dal, Jeera rice, pickle, and curd were on the menu. After lunch I preferred a small nap for an hour instead of hanging out at the door. The heat was on us and it started becoming a little unbearable. I kept soaking my hand towel and covering my head and neck with it. I had to keep doing this every hour because the towel dried up in the heat. Nalwar was reached at 1:30pm where the Chennai bound mail crossed us. We were soon arriving at Wadi and the time on my watch read 14:05pm. Ahead of time!!. An Mu-ed GTL pair (18405- 17413) was heading a BCNA rake. It was real hot now. My attempts to roam around the platform was short lived as the heat would just not allow me stand out. I had another weird problem sitting inside as a whole gang of hijras were on their rounds. With no offense intended to the transvestite community, something definitely has to be done about their conduct, especially on IR. I am sure the Mumbai gang is going to brush this aside as it was common in Mumbai. They resort to extortion and very often seem a tad too touchy. I did not like it.Believe it or not, apart from my food bill at the pantry the next highest expenditure was on giving these people a rupee every time they came. They would not leave you if you did not. I will narrate a funny incident later in this report about a very "reasonable" hijra.
We soon left wadi and our next halt was at Gulbarga at 15:15pm. Saw the Bijapur-WADI-HYD(Hyderabad) passenger with a green PA WDM 18933. Guess it was a 3A. After a brief 5 min halt we pulled out and after a decent run of 90+kmph we were at Hotgi and the time read 5:05pm. We crossed the Udyan with a KJM(Krishnarajapuram) power at Hotgi. Men in their Netaji caps were seen in increased numbers on roads and at the wayside stations and this seemed to signal entering the Maratha territory. Our halt was not more than a couple of minutes and we hurriedly pulled out of Hotgi. Our Reddy chief suddenly seemd to have got the urge to get relieved of his duties at Solapur and hence we were going at brisk pace and there were'nt any cautions either to aid his cause.
We reached SUR(Solapur) at 5:35pm. Time for some Pet-Pooja (hunger for others ;-) ). The pav-bhaji stall seemed more attractive me more than that of the mobile vada-pav wallahs. Good piping hot stuff. Perfect treat for my wailing stomach. Washed it down with a cup of masala chai.Interestingly after Hotgi, I did ask the pantry guy if he could give me something hot to eat. He asked me if I wanted masala-dosa and I said I was ok with his idea. He directed me to another guy and that guy to another and this process carried on until we finally spotted the guy who actually did have a tray with masala dosas and a jug of chutney spilt over it's sides. But I never did want to believe it was hot as I saw the same guy hawking masala dosas from 3:00pm that afternoon. I said I would accept it if and only if it was hot. As expected it was dead stale and seemed right from the refrigerator and he had the guts to say it was still hot. I asked him if it could be made fresh, he refused almost instantaneously. Too boorish for me to tolerate I decided that was the end to buy anything from the pantry. IR should take note of the indifferent attitude on the part of catering staff just because there was no big crowd on the train.On the positive side they did keep coming often with some stuff or the other. But the flip side of this was it was too obvious that it was a cook once and sell forever practice. Moral of this story is that if you find the pantry guys hawking something new, it is the right time to buy the first time he comes hawking because they are going to sell the same thing until you reach your destination or it gets sold out whichever is earlier.
There were a good number of WDM2s from PA shed at Solapur. The Siddeshwar rakes were stabled at the yard. 16021 from PA was shunting a saloon onto pf 2. We were on pf 3. The Mumbai slip coaches were attached at the rear. We got our amber at 6:00pm and were now out of Solapur with a new crew relieving our Moody "Reddy".I really wished I could meet him and thank for his I-will-take-my-own-time attitude. The new crew seemed the text book lot. 2nd notch till points are cleared, 4th notch till outer and notch upto till MPS after clearing that section. Decent run continued till Kurduwadi. By this time the warm air gave way to some cool breeze. Lots of Netaji caps, Bajaj M80s, Tempo Traxs and Mahindra jeeps, ah! all so very typical of the Maratha country side.
Now a funny incident involving another "Royal" hijra. This person was different from her sisters who were on the rampage in the afternoon in the Andhra territory. Clad in chudidhar, this person comes right upto me, with a very sheepish grin and their customary claps, says "DenaÃ¢Â€Â¦.. Zyada nahin mangtha, sirf ek rupaya, par, pyar se dhena padega". (translates to "Please give money, I am not asking for more, even a rupee will do, but, you should give it with affection) Very straight forward and simple request. I gave her a rupee. I got complimented for my generosity ;-). The guy next to me who saw what was happening still refused to heed to her request. And the result, he got a real bad mouthful to the extent that he was wriggling uneasily. The best part comes now, she looks at me again and I get complimented once more for my generosity and an advice I should not follow people like the guy who refused her money and should always give money with affection. This prompted another guy sitting opposite to me give her a rupee voluntarily and he got a compliment too. We were men with a big heart!!!!
We were now doing a brisk clip and arrived at Kurduwadi at 19:05pm. A quick 5 min halt and we were again notching hard. We stop at Jeur and let the CSTM(Mumbai CST)-NCJ(Nagercoil Jn) express headed by a PA WDM3A 18792R pass. Then we arrive at the much awaited scissors crossing at Pophlaj. We cross over to the loop and start reversing while the SUR side started shows green. My heart jumps with joy at the very thought of a crossing. By now the security guys are behind us asking us to keep our windows closed. I was itching to go to the door but there were 2 RPF guys with their search lamps probing the bushes besides the tracks. But I am bent on seeing the action outside. Twice I was warned but then how could I miss this opportunity. So I pull down the glass window and stick my face to it to check what train crosses. The SUR bound Hutatma hurried past us. Could not observe the loco number as it was dark and I was seeing thru the glass window. It was a PA WDM definitely. 5 minutes pass and we are still waiting. Something tells me there is more action and I try to peep out. There it is again!!!! another starter green, a double crossing!! Soon horns blarring the HYB express thunders past with a GY baldie. We got the amber now and we pulled out of Pophlaj. Crossing seemed to act like boosters. It enlivened my otherwise quiet evening. We go on to the loop again but to cross a freight headed by a PA WDG3D, 13051. Our next halt was Bigwan where the Konark Exp crossed us. We reached Daund at 21:40. Our text book crew get off and a new set take charge till PA. These guys will bring the 1063 the next day from PA till SUR according to an assistant who was traveling pilot from Kurduwadi to Daund. Some locos observed at Daund were
- 17805 WDM2 PA
- 17162 WDM2 GTL
- 16219 WDM2 PA
We pulled out of Daund at 21:50. Had some sandwiches for dinner. I will recommended this for those who want to take a bite at Daund. The new crew were the F1 kind. 76 kms was done in 50 min, an average of 90kmph which I though was the best clocked speed for the run from MAS till Pune. We were bang on time. Offcourse I always had the confidence that 6010 with it's enormous running time will not let me down, but the delay in arriving at Daund did tend to disappoint me a little but the new crew more than made up for it.
My people were there to receive me and after some cold coffee at comesum restaurant we left for home. While we were going under the Khadki bridge the 6010 now headed by a KYN WCAM3 19897 was giving our sumo good competition before slowing down at Khadki station while we took a left near the station to head for home. I had the satisfaction of being with 6010 almost until home. A truly enjoyable experience as always on IR excepting for the fact the sun GOD had very little mercy on us.
Long live IR!! Long live 6010!!