Kamshet Revisited

by Apurva Bahadur


Some of the Pune gang did one more 'working day' visit to Kamshet on the 15th Jan 2005. The aim of the visit was to get some information on the Tata owned railway to the Valvan/Shirawata dam and to go to the 'other' bank of the Indrayani river - to observe how the trains looked from there, of course.

To recap - Kamshet lies on the Pune - Lonavala section, just two stations (and 16 Kms) from Lonavala. The meandering Indrayani river comes closest to the railway line at the Kamshet station. The perennially serene and deep look to the river is due to a bund across at the Pune end - this is not visible from the train.

Kamshet station has two platform on the main line with the deep river on one side and the town on the rising hillside on the other. There are no loop lines between the platforms - however to compensate, there are two full sized loops before the station from the Pune end where the river curves away and the hillside that contains the village makes more space. A crossover in between platforms allows Pune bound trains (mainly freight) to use part of the Up line and use the loop parallel to the Up line - if the loop parallel to the down line is already occupied.

To post a correction - in my last report, I had mentioned that the loop parallel to the Up line is terminated in a dead end - that is not correct - both the holding loops have entries and exits on both sides. Thus Kamshet has full freight rake sized loop lines although there is no place between the actual platforms!

There is a separate office that deals with the freight operations in the yard - a hut by the side of river is meant for the khalasi who exchanges flags with every passing train as the yard has apparently now got a separate authority.

There are plans to build new platforms along the loops and create a much bigger station.

The outing was planned to take fellow IRFCA member Shirish Paranjape (Ex Mumbai, now in New Zealand - visiting Pune), but Saturday dawn outing was a not convenient for him, so the dependable group of regulars went ahead anyway - John Mani, Ashish Kuvelkar, Hrishikesh Moghe and me.

Although John, Ashish and I stay quite far from each other, we all heard a WDS 4 honking away in the thick winter air, before we left the respective homes in the morning. John, being nearest to the station could give us an explanation of that the WDS 4 was honking away to protest a blocking signal.

Hrishkesh was first on the 0540 hrs EMU from Pune station while John, Ashish and I joined this train from Khadki. It was cold and drafty - standing in the door was uncomfortable due to the freezing slipstream, reminding me that we are all getting old....

The window near lacked a glass shutter - which meant that the sheet metal shutter was in the closed position to keep the cold out. Without visual clues, we resorted to count the stations to understand our location - we did open the shutter at stops to ascertain our location, but not for long due to the cold blast outside.

John bought a 'kanpatti' from an vendor on the EMU. This is a sort of desi elastic band muff that covers the ears against cold and looked quite at home wearing it - many of the regular commuters on this train, were also wearing a 'kanpatti'!

The only crossing was an EMU from Lonavala.

As we alighted at Kamshet we could see the powerful dual headlamp of the EMU illuminating the line ahead.

We walked along the line towards Lonavala to reach the Valvan track. By this time, the Sinhagad Express that was following our EMU sped by towards Mumbai. In the opposite direction, a BLC container rake hauled by a WCAG 1 thundered by. A similar rake had been spotted at a slightly later time during the last trip to Kamshet on the 30th Dec 2004. The busy Pune - Mumbai track seem to have slots in which freight train run - which is why we probably see a BLC at this time and a BCCN at that time.

Millions of travelers on the Pune - Mumbai line since the last 40 - 50 years must have seen the track on the right of the train (facing Mumbai) curving into the horizon and wondered about its function. The Valvan track is less than a km from the Lonavala end of Kamshet station on the right of the Pune - Mumbai route. We are not aware of the history of this line, its function etc. The only information we could gather was by quizzing the janata that was walking along the track to reach Kamshet - no two people gave the same answer!

The Valvan track is located some 200 meters off the main line, unconnected with the main track and in the middle of lush farmland harvesting sunflowers.

While the straight track terminates in a dead end, a non working point (without the operating lever) leads into a shack that would house the diesel railcar that works this railway.

We were informed that the railcar comes to this site sometimes every morning. The most authentic answer was was that the railcar connects to a particular EMU which would bring the Tata sahebs to this location. However that particular EMU came and went, but the railcar did not arrive. This calls for another visit to the place with lots of patience (and a flask of tea perhaps), where the faithful would just have to wait till the railcar arrives sometimes in the morning.

If we can work our patented Pune style of 'persuasion', we would surely get a ride - if we are lucky all the way to Valvan/Shirawata and back by the afternoon railcar. At the minimum we should be able to get a ride for a few kms and then trek back to Kamshet. If nothing works, we would talk to Tata power officials and get permission to sample their railcar. Either way, you would get to see the pictures of the elusive railcar soon.

The tracks are of meter gauge. That is not so surprising as in the past, the Tatas themselves made the rails, the pressed sheet metal ties etc and indeed locomotives for the MG railways. One side of the rails has a ramp on which a road truck (that could come to this location from the old Mumbai - Pune highway) could unload/load. The tracks bore hardly any wear marks, so the railcar must be quite light in weight.

After promising to return soon, we took leave of the Valvan railway and walked back to the main line - we had an Indian railfan breakfast (sandwiches prepared at site with a load of bread, a slab of butter and a bottle of jam) while watching the morning traffic of Deccan Queen, Pragati, Indrayani, Intercity etc.

While we were walking back from Valvan, we saw a pack of dogs running down the hillside. Within a few seconds they were actually on the tracks trying to cow down another dog. We are all aware the ferocious nature of a pack of dogs and were slightly alarmed to be so close to them in a very short time. I almost jumped out of my skin when a dog barked loudly just behind me. When did the creature get here? I thought and turned. However that was no dog, but our own John who did a very realistic impression of a dog - he then treated the dogs to the imitations of dogs in various moods including in anger barking its head off - the situation turned increasing comic for us and confusing for the dogs who decided to go elsewhere.

We walked through the Kamshet pf 1 towards the yard at Pune end. The pf 1 is surprisingly the minor platform, the station master's office is on the longer pf 2. The Kamshet station PA system, prior to any annoucement plays the "Start Windows" chime!

We spent some time in the yard and understood the working of these lines from the people who work here. Just then the 7032 HYB-CSTM and 1014 CBE-CLA sped past.

The second part of the trip was to find the path to get to the other side of the river. As mentioned before, the river is held by a bund - a pathway on the top surface of this bund is the easiest path to go across the river, however that meant dipping one's feet ankle deep in water. There are two other bridges, some 500 meters down the river towards Pune. The older of the two is quite low while the approach roads on either side are yet to be constructed for the newer, more taller bridge. There are remains of a yet another third broken bridge that remains in river stream.

We need to know how to reach the other side so that we can take pics of trains with the foreground view of the river - this has to be done in the late afternoon and the evening when the light would be behind us - but this exercise had to be done now.

By this time, we had to be back at the station to catch our 1020 hrs EMU and reach Pune - the remaining part of the day was to be spent working in the office!

The EMU ride back was uneventful - some of us had to stand at the door as the EMU was packed from Lonavala itself.

John, Ashish and I got off at Khadki, while Hrishikesh carried on till Pune station. Saw the 6529 Udyan express moving towards Pune with the famous KJM WDM 3A baldie # 14047 - the loco is very much with KJM thus laying to rest rumours that this loco has been transferred to Erode.

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