Thoda Aur Wish Karo

by Akshay Marathe


Here is a trip report of our return journey to Mumbai from Goa by the 0104 Mandovi express. The report is jointly written by Karan Desai and me. The report is rather long, at around 3250 words.

After spending two wonderful days in Goa doing railfanning and sightseeing, it was now time for us to head back to our home sheds. The day was a normal day, with no signs of rain anywhere. We (Karan, me and Apoorva) woke up at 6 am, and went on a stroll on the beach near our hotel. The beach had hardly 2-3 people and a regiment of around 30-35 dogs. We decided to return to the hotel quickly on seeing the huge number of dogs. After we reached the hotel, we had tea and got ready to depart. The formalities like check out, etc were completed quickly and we were on our way to Madgaon station.

Reached Madgaon at around 8.00. A BOXN rake headed by twin diesels (cannot remember more details) was waiting on the line between platform 1 & platform 2. Soon, it was given the clear signal. As soon as the freighter cleared the line, The rake of Mandovi was shunted in by the WDP-4 #20044 which would also haul the train to Mumbai. This was at 8.22. Our coach, S-5 was the 16th coach in the train. We were a bit let down to find that the first 15 coaches were old ones. Our coach also was an old coach, owned by KR/SWR, number 97214. At first glance, the condition of the coach appeared scary. To add to our woes, all coaches from S-3 to S-8 were locked from inside from the yard and at the station nobody came to open the locks. For a minute or so, the passengers on the platform were confused about the next step of action. This is when we railfans decided to play the role of Knight in Shining Armor. One of us walked all the way to S2 which was not locked, boarded it and came up to S-5 through the vestibules, opening all the doors from inside in the process. Back to S-5, the coach was old but well maintained and extremely clean. The toilets were one of the cleanest I have ever seen in IR. The coach was quite empty, and we settled down at windows of our choice:)

The train started at 8.40, delayed by 10 minutes. The start of WDP-4 is similar to WAP-4. You never know that the train has started. We were put on the SWR line as there was a freight train on the KR line. We switched to the KR line before Majorda. The run was at sedate 75 kph due to the monsoon speed restriction. Other members will find it slow, but for us, it was normal as we are used to traveling on WR suburban section. The Zuari bridge was crossed at 9.00.

We reached karmali at 9.10, delayed by only 2 minutes. At karmali, there were announcements of the 6333 VRL - TVC express. So myself and karan got down from the train and partially climbed the 5 level FOB to take a good pic. The wait was rather long. the VRL - TVC express showed up at 9.30, headed by WDM-3A #14127 of Ernakulam. We were given the starter immediately. Departed karmali at 9.32, delayed by 22 minutes.

The ride was super smooth this time, much smoother than the Janshatabdi. The coach was rock steady, with no swaying whatsoever. The run upto Sawantwadi was eventless. We had breakfast in the meantime. We had heard a lot about the good food in Mandovi, so we had decided to buy a small amount of all the items to taste them. The first item was Kanda Bhaji. Then came Cheese Sandwich, bread cutlet, Bread omlette and Kanda Poha. The breakfast was delicious. Better than anything else I have eaten on board a train.

The train reached Sawantwadi at 10.31 (scheduled time 10.08). The landscape around us had changed now. Gone were the portugese style houses. Now there were typical Konkan villages all around us.

As per the TT, 0111 Konkan Kanya crosses the Mandovi at Sawantwadi, as both have departure timings of 10.10. Sure enough, the crossing took place here. We could see a WDP-4 LHF in the distance. The KK pulled into the station at 10.33, headed by WDP-4 #20055. Since Konkankanya and Mandovi have a rake-sharing arrangement, I was expecting the same coach ie S-5 of Konkankanya to come to a halt opposite our S-5 of Mandovi. But I was wrong-not just the same coach, exactly the same window of the same coach halted right opposite the window where I was sitting- S-5 Berth No. 40 of Konkankanya exactly opposite S-5 Berth No. 40 of Mandovi! Talk of precision on KR! Both the trains departed simultaneously at 10.36.

The coach was still pretty empty and we had a wide choice of windows. Each one of us occupied a window. The run through lush green landscape continued. At Kudal, a freight rake hauled by twin ED diesels was waiting for us. The lead loco was WDG-3A 14739. We departed Kudal at 11.00, delayed by 28 minutes. The WDP-4 was not having any problems while handling the 23 coach train. We were back at 75 kph pretty quickly. We ate one veg burger in the meantime, which was excellent in taste. By now we were convinced that the Pantry of Mandovi is certainly the best on IR but this was just the beginning. More surprises were in store for us. It started with a Pantry guy coming to the coach with a dozen-odd pillows in his hand and shouting "Dus Rupiya, Dus Rupiya". The passengers in the bay behind us immediately called him and announced "Give me three of them!" The pantry guy, sensing some confusion immediately clarified- "These are on rent, not for sale!" We were pleasantly surprised to see this service. All this years I had thought that pillows were provided only in AC Classes but after all this was Mandovi- something had to be different than the rest!

This was not the only surprise of the hour. As Karan found a vacant Side Lower berth and settled down with his comfortable rented pillow with two windows all to himself (Apoorva and myself had already made ourselves comfortable on two other Side Lowers similarly), Karan heard a pantry guy shout "Veg. Spring Roll… Chicken Lollipop!!" He almost fell off his berth in disbelief! Is this a train's Pantry Car or some wedding reception? Who ever thought of coming across Pantry selling such exotic Starters! Soon, we reached Sindhudurg. Departed from Sindhudurg at 11.13 and Kankavli at 11.34. The delay was still constant at 25 minutes. KR deserves a word of praise here. They have taken every precaution to prevent any untoward incident in the monsoons. More than 90% of rock cuttings had been netted. Where there is soil instead of rocks, they have reduced the slope and planted vetiver grass on it. More dangerous rock cuttings have SR of 50 kph. There is hardly any SR of less than 30 kph. All in all, a very good job.

We kept on changing windows quite frequently, with intermittent doorplating. Just before Rajapur, I found Apoorva sleeping nicely at the emergency window. It is his habit to sleep anywhere and everywhere, especially at emergency windows. He slept at the emergency window in the Janshatabdi too! This sleeping at emergency window (EW) meant that neither did he enjoy the benefits of the EW, nor did he let me and Karan enjoy them.

We reached Rajapur Road at 12.27 and depsrted at 12.29. The delay was of 21 minutes. At Vilvade, the 2051 JS was waiting on the loop for us to cross. It was headed by ED WDM-3D #11179. The same loco had hauled the 2052 JS on 1st July, when we were on board the 2051 JS. We reached Adavli at 13.06. A BOXN rake headed by GOC WDG-3A 14661 crossed our train here.

Lunch was served before Nivasar. We had ordered 2 Veg Thalis and a Veg Biryani. Lunch was served in nice blue plastic plates, and not in the normal aluminum foil containers found on other trains. The biryani was served in steel "dabbas" (tiffin boxes). Again, something I witnessed for the first time on IR! Both the items were very good. We had our fills hastily as the most interesting section starts from Nivasar. Later we also had Gulab Jamuns. They too were good.

As our train neared Nivasar, we started getting ready for the Panval Viaduct. In general, the stretch from Adavali to Khed is pretty interesting with lots of tunnels and bridges. Our train was put on the loop line at Nivasar at 13.29. On enquring with the flag-man, we came to know that a Ro-Ro rake was going to cross us. Karan announced this at the top of his voice and immediately quite a few people were out at the door or peeking out of the windows. It seems the Ro-Ro service is a worth-seeing event even for the non-railfans! Besides us, there were atleast two more digital cameras out from our coach itself, all ready to capture the trucks-on-train! The ro-ro service crossed at around 13.40, hauled by Kalyan WDM-2 #18059. We immediately got the starter and were on our way at 13.45.

After a couple of tunnels and viaducts, finally the Panval viaduct arrived. We three were ready at the doors with our cameras. All of us got the desired pics/videos. The train pulled into Ratnagiri at 14.07, now late by 42 minutes. We departed in 6 minutes. Just outside Ratnagiri, the derived-from-EMU (Electric Multiple Unit)accident relief vehicle was seen in a siding.

We were diverted to the loop again at Bhoke. The arrival time at Bhoke was at 14.27. It took one full hour for us to reach Bhoke from the time we arrived at Nivasar. Again we got down from the train and patiently waited for the opposite train to come. The starter towards MAO end was red, indicating that the crossing was probably with a passenger train. After waiting for some 10 minutes, we saw a headlamp in the Karbude tunnel. It was the KR5 passenger headed by an ERS WDM-2. A grand total of one passenger alighted from the passenger at Bhoke. Both trains started at the same time. Our LP was probably over-excited to enter the Karbude and he furiously notched upon the loop itself!

This time, we took 13 minutes to cross the Karbude. This tunnel has all sorts of imaginable light sources inside- CFL lamps, tubelights, Sodium Vapor Lamps and even incandescent bulbs, not to forget the LED-torches of the gangmen working inside the tunnel! At Ukshi, the Madgaon bound Mandovi was waiting on the loop. KJM WDP-4 #20034 was its power. This crossing fulfilled our wish of witnessing a crossing in the only double track tunnel on the Konkan Railway. Our next scheduled stop was Sangameshwar. We reached there at 15.18, delayed by 58 minutes.

On the other platform, the south bound Mangala Express was waiting with ERS WDM-3A #17894 at the helm. This time, the camera batteries decided that it was time to pack up. I was in a good position for the photo. I pressed the shutter half way, and the focusing was done. Instantly I depressed the shutter fully, and Bingo! The lens retracted, and the message "Change the batteries" was displayed on the screen.

After Sangameshwar, we had a good run. The speed limits were comparatively less in number, and we weren't put into the loop. As a result, we managed to recover about 8-10 minutes till Chiplun. After Chiplun, again we had a fantastic run. We reached Khed at 16.40, delayed by just 25 minutes. We sensed a crossing as the train did not start even after 5 minutes. It was raining, so we didn't go out with our cameras. At 16.52, the Netravati crossed us headed by ED 3D #11103, in traditional ED livery. I do not understand the thought process of the guys at ED- on one hand they paint all their WDM-2 in WDM-3D livery and on the other hand they paint their WDM-3D like this one in the older traditional ED livery! Soon we were on our way.

In the meantime, we had some Masala doodh from the pantry. It was very delicious. We eagerly awaited Veer as it meant the end of monsoon SR of 75 kph. Unfortunately the train made an unscheduled halt there for some official to alight from the train. The WDP-4 reached 80-85 kph quickly, but from there, it took time to reach the 100 kph mark. For a very short time, we also touched 110 kph.

At mangaon, we were put into the loop again. A plasser machine was standing on the main line. Soon there was an announcement that our train will wait at Mangaon for 15 minutes due to a crossing. Again, a first for me! I had never heard anywhere else this kind of announcement that the train will halt here for 15 minutes for crossing of XYZ Express!! The Plasser machine backed away towards MAO and positioned itself behind our train, on the same track. Is this system used in any other single line section? By now, we were out on the tracks and Karan told me "How I wish this train comes with the 'Bill-Counter' WDM-3D #11121!" By now, the motto of our trip had become "Thoda aur wish karo!" since everything we had wished for in the entire journey was coming true. And sure enough, the Matsyagandha express arrived, headed by ED 3D #11121, but working LHF. I managed to get just a glimpse of its WDP-4 like cab. We departed from Mangaon at 18.22, delayed by 40 minutes.

The run after Mangaon was done mostly at 90-95 kph. We were wondering whether the Pantry would provide dinner or not since the journey was about to end in a few hours. But, this is Mandovi- they will never leave you unsatisfied! Soon, we spotted a Pantry guy coming around to ask for dinner orders. Continuing the "Thoda Aur Wish Karo" policy, Karan wished- now what new are they going to serve? What about Chinese food now? And lo! Here we go! The Pantry guy announced that for dinner, we have a choice of Veg. Manchurian, Veg. Noodles, Veg. Fried Rice alongwith Aloo Paratha! We looked at each other in disbelief and almost burst out laughing on hearing this! We ordered Veg noodles and Veg manchurian for dinner. I went to the door at Roha to take a pic of the board indicating the end of KR. The board reads "Thank you for traveling on Konkan Railway". Actually, it us who should be thankful to KRCL for building such a marvellous route. If work started on KR right now instead of 1990s, I am sure that the project would have taken decades to be complete. What a wonderful section KR is. Truly an engineering marvel. It has everything that a railfan can ask for….tunnels, bridges, viaducts, well managed crossings, smooth tracks and superb natural beauty in the monsoons! What more can we ask for? I consider myself lucky that I am able to see this wonderful section.

At Roha, a freighter headed by twin KJM Shaktis in KJM lvery was waiting to proceed towards Madgaon. The ride became rougher as soon as we entered CR, but it was tolerable.

At Nagothane, KR3 passenger was waiting on the mainline which didn't have any platform and our train was diverted through the loop which had a platform, albeit a low level one. Thats CR for you!! The passenger was headed by KYN WDG-3A #13366. We crossed over the points at a painfully low speed of 10 kph (after being used to KR's 30-40 kph on points) and lost 5 minutes in the process.

Just before Pen, we saw Ispat's huge plant. It looked really beautiful in the twilight, with many lights glowing all over the plant and flames shooting into the air from one of the chimneys. Once again Karan came up with a new wish- "we should cross the KCVL GR at high speed with the Garib Rath making way for us rather than the other way round!" I immediately said that the wish will be granted, because anything can happen in CR. Our JS too was detained for crossing the Roha â€" Diva passenger. And, at Pen, we were given this VIP-like treatment. On one loop, the LTT - KCVL garib rath was waiting for us to cross it, hauled by ERS WDMx 18532. On another loop, the Madgaon - Diva passenger was waiting for us to overtake it. This was the only overtaking in the entire trip. Our train blasted through the station at 85-90 kph.

After that we retreated into our coach. The halt at Panvel was rather long. The run upto Dativali was normal. The Diva - Roha passenger crossed us just after PNVL. As we approached Dativali, it was time for "thoda aur wish karo"- this time the request was for not holding up our Mandovi at the Dativali triangle for the Main Line trains to cross. And how can our wish be turned down? We were given a non stop run through Diva. After clearing the points, we picked up speed again. We entered Parsik Tunnel at close to 80kmph and accelerated even more inside the tunnel. At almost three-fourth length inside the tunnel, there was a huge "waterfall" inside the tunnel and all of us peeking out of the windows were given a free shower! We arrived on platform 7 of TNA at 21.17, delayed by 24 minutes.

We immediately departed from TNA. Just as we cleared the points, it was time for "thoda aur wish karo" for one last time- this time it was for a non-stop high speed run through the suburbs! And the wish was granted almost immediately- the WDP-4 accelerated furiously and by Mulund we were doing 100kmph except Bhandup station where we slowed down to 75 but immediately picked up speed again to 100! The run from Kanjur Marg to Sion was nothing short of magical with the WDP-4 finally showing its true power- blasting through suburban stations one after the other at 100kmph, overtaking EMUs running at their MPS of 80kmph and leaving us railfans spellbound! We counted that we ran on fifteen consecutive greens- a stupendous feat (and luck) on a densely crowded suburban section like Mumbai! The TNA - DR run was The Ultimate Finale for a perfect trip. We pulled into Dadar 25 minutes late- not bad for a 14 hour journey through single line section! Wait- there was one more "wish" in the waiting- that our Mandovi be taken on PF-6 at Dadar and not its usual location on Pf-5 so that we would not have to climb the FOB. Needless to say- wish was granted! At Dadar, we could see an express train waiting behind the Mandovi. It was the Indrayani Express from Pune, which entered the platform at Dadar within one minute of Mandovi clearing the platform. We were amazed on seeing the Mandovi getting priority over a prestigious train like Indrayani.

At Dadar, Apoorva proceeded towards his home which is at Dadar itself, and me, Karan and his parents proceeded towards Malad/Borivali by Karan's car. Thus came to an end an excellent 4 day trip. I will never ever forget this trip in my life, and nor will Karan whose "Thoda Aur Wish Karo" formula had worked wonders on the trip!

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