Chennai-Howrah Part 2
by Arnab Acharya
This trip-report is a tribute to all the ace photographers we have here -- Appu, Dubaiwala Shanks, Saurabh Jha (your Jnaneswari adorned my desktop for 2 months), Raghu, Ranganath and many others whose photos I've on my PC to savour. They have made me realise how tough it is to get good railfanning photos!
As I was waiting at Madras Central on the 24th December 2003, the clock was 0750. I managed a quick meal, while listening to announcements of 2842 Coro from Pf9. 7054 came in at Pf10 at 0815. TN was expected at 1015, GT at 1000, Charminar at 1140. The 18-coach 6033 (or 4) Dehradun-Chandigarh Exp had arrived, behind a WAM/4 (at Pf3). An ED P/4 had hauled in the 20coach Cheran (including 5 AC coaches) at Pf6. I was down at Pf9 at 0835, when 2842 was being put in. A neat AB SER rake, with `110' and `SRC' on them. Composition was: 3 General, Composite 1A-cum-2A, 2 2A, 3 3A(middle one tatkal), Pantry, sleepers (T10, S12, 11, 13, S9 counting down to S1), 1 General = 24 coaches. I was in the composite coach. My ticket said HA1, but no berth number - just `Confirmed'. As I just put in my luggage and settled down, the coach-attendant came in and sprayed something. Soon enough, I spotted a ticketless cockroach, on the maroon carpet! A twin-beamed Raj-livery Lallaguda WAP/4 22516 glided in and attached to 2842 at 0855. There were lots of blue parcel vans all over Central. Navjivan was also being put in at Pf7(?) for its departure at 0935. It had a `Bombay-Chennai' sleeper on it. As we left at 0910, Yelagiri came in at Pf1 or somewhere there. I stood at the door, as 2842 breezed through the rains into Basin Bridge at 0920, at 30-40 km/h. There were some 15-20 pit lines. `Noticed the 2657/8 rake at one end, which I'd taken the previous night. The run was not quite expected of 2842, pretty intermittent and at 60-70 km/h. It turned out a bridge near Ulavpadu (Km 267 or so) had collapsed. Work was going on, with a goods wagon lying on the river-bed, one end on the bridge. Two stretches of the bridge was gone. This had resulted in 1-way (MAS-bound track open) for a stretch and traffic was hit. A BZA elec loco had the 6-7 coched 7479 in tow. At ~1442, the 2841 zipped by. Ongole was at 1447-55, where the Millennium Exp was waiting. The loco was a Tughlakabad one (23320, WCR), very dirty. Composition was 3 maroon coaches, 7 SLs, 1 2AC. `Slept off in my berth, as the other 3, of the same family, were sleeping (These folks slept and slept!). Tenali was crossed at 1650. trains were zipping by. For a change, we were running fast, maybe 80-90 km/h or so. A BZA loco zipped by with a 16-8 coach AB load around 1705. BZA was at 1730- 40, 1hr 50 mins late. I had wandered off, looking for a TT. As usual, no TTs or Bradshaws available! This time I could not wander to the main station, due to the short halt. When 2842 pulled off, I hopped into a SL. The pantry staff were selling snacks here, yet none came to 1A! Not only that, there was no mug in the half-clean toilet! After BZA, it grew dark and I retired to my berth, among the sleeping beauties - for a change, they were awake and engaging in silly conversation amongst themselves. Rajahmundry was at 2020, 1hr 55mins late. At 2225 or so, there was a blast of a horn and some long train passed in the opposite direction. `Slept off well, with the run being fast and respectable through the night, as expected from Coro.
Between my door-standing sessions, I chatted up the coach-attendant. He was an amiable guy. It turned out that he has to go from HWH by 2841, return by the same rake as 2842, gets to go on 3 days' leave. Next, he maybe on 8007/8, which means he gets a day's leave there. The scheduling is done for 6 months at one go, for all SER-based trains. While he leaves by 2841, he gets to take 2 sets of linen (for 1A), one for 2841, the other for 2842, i.e., no washing at MAS. OGL (Ongole) was for loading lunch, he told me. Surprisingly, OGL had a quota of 2 berths on 1A on 2842! He could not explain why.
I was half-awake around 0600. `Sensed we halted somewhere around 0605, then 0610-27, again 0645. Bhadrak was at 0925 (late by 1h 43 mins), Balasore was at 1036-41(late by 2h 07 mins). At Balasore, I got off and clicked a couple of snaps. We were being headed by 2 VSKP diesels, as is the norm. As I carried on my fanning from the door, I noticed those boards in the fields - `SER' with `BNR' written below. Around Rupsa at 1100, a fast train zipped by, with 18 coaches - including 2 AC coaches, probably the 2703. `Passed a couple of other trains, too. They passed so fast that it's very hard to read the boards!
We reached KGP at 1240 (late by 2h 05 mins) behind VSKP (ECo) DM/2's 16723 and 16468, left at 1300 (late by 2h 10 min) behind a dirty Raj- livery CNB WAP/4 (22228). The 8029 (VB rake) came in at 1250. Announcement for the incoming 7046 was being made.The P/4 was crawling till Jakpur, just some 3-4 stations away. At 1335 or so, we halted there. Somebody mentioned that the loco was not working. Sure enough, 8029 passed by at 1350, followed by the 2859 (which slowed down and some general coach folks jumped in)! I was getting pretty irritated. It was Xmas and instead of eating cakes at home, I was in the train! I went to the loco and found them talking to KGP, in an effort to start the loco. Another co-passenger and I blasted the guard on the coach nest to the loco. He bluntly told, KGP was being informed and, if this loco couldn't be started, a fresh one will come! As a last resort, I approached the fat railway officer in 1A, suited-tied. I asked him if he was a Railway officer. He asked why. I said, if he would use his influence to get this train moving. He droned me the rules. I curtly stopped him midway by thanking him. To think of it, as a passenger, I was paying for this bugger's 1A fare! At 1410, even 7046 passed by! At about 1440 or so, a Tata WAM/4 came in and attached itself to the dead loco and pulled. The M/4 pulled fast, trying to make up. It was short of ecstasy to watch it fly. At 1453, a 8-9 coach parcel van train went towards KGP. At 1518, an SRC P/4 zipped by with the 18-coach 2860. At 1533, a DM/2 zapped by with the 7-coach BBSR JanShat. At 1539, another SRC P/4 flew by with a 24- coach rake (2841).
In the 1A, there is a small wardrobe-kind of a compartment, where I noticed a hanger! In the passage outside, there is even a pair of indicators (toilet occupied/not occupied). Also, there was a painting by Chanchal Mukherjee of a chugging steam loco, named `Last Journey', on the wall next to the toilet.
At Kansai (Km 72-3), we had a 20 km/h limit, so slowed. It was HWH at 1722, after a 10 min halt outside. Purulia Exp was crossed just before that. At last, home was close!