The Eight Mad Men of Manmad

by Dave Craik


Phil Wormald's trip report can be found here: pwormald-200101-india.html

India: The final frontier? Hmmmm, maybe!! But with 44216 kms of broad gauge (1676 mm), 15178 kms of metre gauge, 3415 kms of narrow gauge (610/762 mm), 4586 diesel locos, 2785 electric locos and 58 steam locos all of which is largely unexplored by the modern traction enthusiast, it was hard to refuse. At least a hardy few were willing to bite the bullet and venture to the Indian Sub-continent; Rob Fraser and his wife Peta Caine, Phil Wormald, Craig Ryan, Alastair Tillotson, Mark Bristow, Vic Lines, Richard Morrison and myself. The visit had been planned over a period of about a year with all travel reservations being done through an Indian Railways Agent in Wembley, London and Rob and Peta fighting with the Indian telecommunications network arranging the hotels. My time off work was authorised months in advance although at the last minute I was called to India on business which meant I had to fly out with Lufthansa from D�sseldorf to Delhi (via Frankfurt) on 6th November, then on to Calcutta with Indian Airlines on 7th November. I was keeping my fingers crossed that my work would finish in time.

The arrival/departure times shown are the scheduled times as shown in the relevant timetable and do not necessarily represent the actual arrival/departure times (deviations greater than 1 hour are mentioned in the text). Due to the confusing numbering scheme used by Indian railways, the class of loco is also shown ahead of the loco number.

Monday 6th November 2000

I was lucky enough to have to go to India on a business trip thus saving me the cost of the flight and I got to fly business class as well. Only difference with Lufthansa is that you have more legroom, the unfriendly service is the same! Not impressed at dud 747-400 to Delhi.

Tuesday 7th November 2000

Landed at Delhi in the small hours and managed to get through Customs and Immigration pretty quickly as I was one of the first off the plane. Jumped in a Bajaj and went to Radisson Hotel just outside the Airport to have shower and a couple of hours doss. New Delhi airport is the last place I wanted to spend the night. Managed just over 2 hours doss before using the courtesy bus to get me to the domestic terminal which is on the opposite side of the runway to the International terminal. Comfortable flight in Indian Airlines A300 although the state of the interior decor leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully they maintain their aeroplanes better than they do the interiors!

Met at Calcutta's Dum Dum Airport by a local representative of the company I was working with who had already arranged transport to Tatanagar. As usual when travelling large distances, the Indians resort to Indian Railways. 2nd Class (Sleeper Class) with open but barred windows and enough space to stretch out on the Gitanjali Express through the Bihar countryside to Jamshedpur (also known as Tatanagar).

Departure Arrival Aircraft/Loco type Tail Number/Loco number Flight Id/Train No. Flight/Train
New Delhi 01.10 07.00 A300 VT-EPV IC401 New Delhi - Calcutta
Calcutta 09.00
Howrah 12.40 WAP4 22318 2860 Howrah - Mumbai CST (L20)
Tatanagar 16.35

Day 1: Monday 20th November 2000

Despite some last minute protests from my Client, who only allowed me to leave after I promised to return after my holiday, I was released from my duties at Jamshedpur in the eastern Indian state of Bihar and driven 3 hours to the nearest airport at Ranchi for the only flight of the day out of there. Indian Airlines provided an A320 for the flight via Patna to Delhi. I am usually not a nervous flyer but the Indian pilots' approaches to runways are "wobbly" to say the least and the landings were very rough and take some getting used to. But they got me to Delhi in one piece. A pre-booked taxi was waiting to take me to the hotel for a shower and dump my rucksack before returning me to the airport to meet the rest of the group arriving from the UK with Austrian Airlines. As with anywhere in India there are crowds and Delhi International Airport is definitely no exception. The outside area of the airport is eerie at night with a veil of smog covering the yellow and black taxis, rickety buses and air-conditioned coaches for western tour groups and of course the omnipresent Indian "auto-rickshaw" (referred to here as "Bajaj's" after the major manufacturer of these vehicles). A far cry from Heathrow or Frankfurt, but then this IS India and not Western Europe. The group appeared from Customs more or less on time and we split up and crammed into the two taxis I had arranged. Predictably the taxis quickly managed to lose each other but both took about thirty minutes to reach the hotel via numerous potholes and side streets. The hotel was located near Connaught Place which is one of the nicest areas of Delhi and also happens to be only 15 minutes walk from New Delhi railway station. Beers were taken on the "veranda" to the accompanying sounds of Alco horns echoing in the distance before retiring for the night.

Departure Arrival Aircraft Tail Number Flight Id Train
Ranchi 15.25 A320 VT-EPG IC810 15.25 Ranchi - Mumbai
Delhi 18.25

Day 2: Tuesday 21st November 2000

Up at 06.30 for breakfast consisting of Cornflakes, hot milk, tea and toast again served on the "veranda" overlooking a busy Delhi road. It was about a 15 minute walk to New Delhi station to try to get confirmation of all the long-distance reservations sorted out. Phil had pre-booked these through an Indian Railways agent in Wembley, London. The Tourist Reservation Office on the first floor of the station building opens at 08.00 but we had to wait until 09:30 for the relevant member of staff to arrive. There is a special desk for Indrail passes issued in UK which means avoiding the long queues of "alternative" Western tourists waiting to make normal reservations. To while away the time we went for a wander around the station. Within 30 minutes we had seen examples of a WDM2 (Co-Co Hood Unit, 2600 hp, 16-cylinder Alco/DLW power unit), 16834 in smart orange/yellow Western Railway livery, a WDP1 (Bo-Bo Hood Unit, 2300 hp, 12-cylinder Alco/DLW power unit), 15004 in orange/cream livery and a fairly new WDP2 (Co-Co full-width twin-cabbed bodyshell, 3100 hp, 16-cylinder Alco/DLW power unit), 15507 in blue/white livery. Upon return to the reservations office all the formalities were completed in about thirty minutes.

With our reservations in our pockets (or at least in Rob's folder) it was time to let the serious search for Alco's finally begin, although strictly speaking there are very few genuine Alco's running on Indian Railways, since nearly all have been licence-built locally by the Diesel Locomotive Works in Varanasi. For the sake of simplicity I have referred to the locos as Alco's. As there are no diesel-hauled trains out of New Delhi station at this time of day, we jumped on an e.m.u. which a member of staff reckoned was heading for Delhi Junction.

Jumping into the coach was like being transported into another world, wooden seats, rubbish all over the floor and a sea of metal handles which were at a very low level for the average European adult. The e.m.u. crept along for what seemed like ages and we were even on the point of getting off because we had convinced ourselves that we were going in the wrong direction. However, after some 25 minutes we had completed the 4 kms round the corner to Delhi Jn. Station. By rights we should have just missed the northbound 10:20 departure to Ambala, but as luck would have it the train was still in the adjacent platform and we scrambled between platforms and through the stock. On the front of the 15 coaches we found WDP1 15054 (12-251B power unit) "snoring" contentedly to itself. It soon became apparent that there was some sort of delay, which according to the driver was due to single-line working. We need not have hurried after all, we eventually left 150 minutes down! However the wait was certainly worth it, the fifteen month old Alco sounded fantastic although at full power it sounded much more like a 12FDL-engined GE than an Alco! Phil managed to make some excellent sound recordings from the front coach as we went along much to the amusement of the curious locals obviously not local to Westerners wielding microphones and minidisk players. Due to the considerable late-running we decided to bail at the fly-infested Meerut City. The next train north was packed upon arrival so there was only one alternative; do as the locals do and stand on the running plate around the loco! Hellfire! The local population was somewhat amused to see Westerners travelling like this with lots of chattering, pointing and staring. The departure from Meerut Cantt. was the first of many really classical smoky departures we were to witness. Our return back to Delhi was split between a local "Passenger" and a following Express. The first was powered by a recently rebuilt WDM2 (rebuilt at Patiala works) which was making a lovely noise with a nice turbo "scream" to boot. We went as far as Ghaziabad Jn. With 17874 dropping back onto the following express with 16535 on the front.

Once back at Delhi Jn. we decided to call it a day. To get back to the hotel quickly we hired three Bajaj's. The ride was thrilling with the three yellow and black two-stroke three-wheelers haring down narrow back streets past hundreds of small shops and traders with 8 of us crammed into the three machines. It was the nearest I have ever come to being in a scene from a "James Bond" film. I was expecting us to collide with an ox, fly through crates full of chickens or be mown down by an oncoming bus but the drivers although erratic appear to know how to negotiate the amazingly chaotic Delhi road system. This makes the M25 look like child's play and certainly gets the adrenaline rushing! Pizza Express just around the corner from the hotel provided a gentle introduction to cuisine in India. Although not Indian in flavour the food served was excellent and after over two weeks of Indian cuisine I was ready for some more familiar food.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
New Delhi 09.54 EMU GDP1 08.30 Palwal - Ghaziabad Jn. 4 km
Delhi Jn. 10.10 10.20 WDP1 15054 305 10.20 Delhi Jn. - Ambala Cantt (L15) 66 km
Meerut City 12.55 16.00 WDM2 16493 1DS 13.30 Delhi Jn. - Saharanpur Jn. (L14) 6 km
Meerut Cantt. 16.07 17.00 WDM2 17874 304 09.15 Ambala Cantt. - Delhi Jn. (L14) 51 km
Ghaziabad Jn. 19.00 19.50 WDM2 16535 9020 10.35 Dehra Dun - Bandra (L16) 20 km
Delhi Jn. 20.30

Lesson of the Day: Extract from South Eastern Railway Timetable no. 77, July 2000, Section 3, Page 24, Part A; Rail Travel Concessions Available to various categories of passengers: Non-infectious leprosy patients being eligible for a 75% concession". Note: Certificate must be issued by officer in charge of a recognised leprosy hospital in prescribed proforma.

Day 3: Wednesday 22nd November 2000

Rob, Peta, Mark and myself decided to visit the railway museum this morning with the "Desperate Gang" going in search of more "local" moves!! The railway museum provided some good pics especially of the rusting hulk of pioneer WDM1 "World Series" Alco 17000 which had recently been moved to the museum from Gonda Jn. (I believe). No real useful diesel info or maps were acquired but it was worth the visit all the same. The taxi had waited for us (normal in India) and returned to the hotel by way of India Gate (India's answer to the Arc de triomphe and dedicated to the 11,000 Indians who fell fighting for the British before 1918) and the Parliament buildings. The snake charmer and his pet cobra were duly bypassed! Freshened up in hotel before making our way to New Delhi station to meet up with the others who had succeeded in having a sole WDP1 for 6 kms ending up in the carriage sidings at Hazrat Nizzamudin for a WAP4 electric back.

Adjacent platforms with navy blue/cream liveried WDM2s, both heading towards Varanasi was a fine sight. We were booked on 4258 with the uprated version (3100 hp) of a WDM2 on the front in the shape of WDM2c 14002. Oh yes, the load? A mere twenty-one coaches! Luckily we were in the fourth coach from the front so noise sampling wasn't a problem. Accommodation was in 2-tier A/C class which has 46 berths arranged 4+2 across the coach (bay of 4 transverse and 2 longitudinal berths). Plastic covered seats but one or two sheets, a pillow and a wool blanket are provided. Not a bad introduction to long-distance rail travel on the sub-continent.

14002 didn't disappoint with some excellent 16-251 "dumping" accompanied by some loud howling at high power (traction motor blowers?). We also quickly left the MAS of Delhi behind and were running under lower-quadrant semaphores complete with lattice posts and finials. Time-keeping started off well (arrived 20 early at the extensive station of Moradabad). Huge long platforms, a sea of semaphore signals and a selection of cows, pigs, dogs and monkey's wandering around the station made it a fascinating stop. As darkness descended dinner was served (choice of veg or non-veg airline-style meals) with Mark and Vic receiving the freshest possible chicken straight from the Pantry Car! Having seen the poor creature being slaughtered a few minutes earlier they weren't exactly feeling hungry. As the evening continued thick mist descended and slowed down the passage of the train, Mark and Vic went hungry and we started to run later and later. My first overnight journey in India.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
New Delhi 13.30 WDM2c 14002 4258 13.30 New Delhi - Varanasi Jn. (L21) 794 km

Day 4: Thursday 23rd November 2000

Awoke after a broken night's sleep with a stiff back to find that we had lost much more time during the night and were now over three hours late. The fog was a real pea souper that was causing the driver to run at much reduced speed (still running under semaphore signals). No problem, after all we had been due to arrive at Varanasi at 05.25. The 2-tier A/C sleepers had been reasonably comfortable during the night but the transverse bunks appeared to be more comfortable than the longitudinal one which I had.

We were met on arrival at Varanasi by a contact from the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) and he had two vehicles waiting for us. We were driven straight to the "Hotel Ashok Varanasi" which DLW had kindly arranged for us. After a shower and breakfast the effects of an Indian overnight became more distant. DLW is located on the other side of the city approx. six kilometres away. We were met there by Mr Shubhranshu who had made all the arrangements for our visit. He ushered us into a meeting room and we couldn't fail to notice the sign on the wall saying "Operation Crankcase". Was this DLW's way of briefing their staff about the arrival of these cranks from the UK? I did wonder. Our factory tour ranged from the welding of underframes through machining of cylinder blocks right up to the final assembly and the paint shop. As enjoyable as it was I couldn't but help think that I had been expecting a busier production line. There were probably only parts for 15-20 locos in the whole workshop area. Somehow I had expected a whole line of locos. However, it was the end of the year and DLW still appear to receive their annual "quota" of locos to be built from the nationalised Indian Railways. I guess it was another successful year with all quotas being met!! Construction was primarily of WDM2c and WDP2a models, both being fitted with a 16-251B ALCO engine (3100 hp). Unfortunately we were not allowed to take our own photos, however, DLW kindly provided us with an official photographer who was more than willing to take photos of virtually anything we wanted. Outside the paint shop we found two more WDM2c's (14063/14065) in beige primer, two in ex-works orange/cream livery (14062/14064), also a WDP2a in a new blue and white livery with "Diesel Power" painted on one side in English and on the other side in Hindi (15536). One of each class was started up for our benefit and we even had a short "demonstration" run in the WDP2A (even the paint was still wet!). A lengthy discussion ensued amongst various members of the group as to whether or not this loco could be counted for haulage!!

Upon leaving the works we were driven to the impressive Buddhist temples at Sarnath just to the north of Varanasi. This is recognised as the birthplace of Buddhism in the sixth century BC and we unfortunately only had time to have brief visits to a museum and several temples. The temples were incredibly atmospheric, especially the huge "Dhamek Stupa" which was complete with chanting monks and accompanying chanting Japanese tourists! After the fall of darkness we returned to the hotel and dined in the hotel restaurant. Back in the room and trying to get to sleep Phil resorted to counting how many Alco's (instead of sheep) he had travelled behind in various countries around the world. It had the desired effect as he dozed off in mid-sentence leaving me pouring over the local timetables trying to decide what was to be done the following day!

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Varanasi Jn. 05.25

Day 5: Friday 24th November 2000

The Indians are renowned as an incredibly hospitable people and this morning was no exception. Our contacts had arranged an (very) early morning boat trip down the Ganges river so we could view the assembled pilgrims bathing in the sacred river from the array of Ghats (translation: "steps leading to water") and temples which line the waterfront. And all this during sunrise whilst being rowed in a leaky wooden boat! Again it was incredibly atmospheric and made the 04.00 wake-up call worthwhile. Sacred river or not, I have to question the practice of washing, bathing and brushing teeth in a river which contains numerous dead carcasses mere metres away from the local sewage effluent point! But maybe I am just an ignorant tourist? Like I said; "atmospheric!" After the boat tour everyone politely declined the freshly-brewed cup of chai which we all assumed was made with sacred water!

We returned to the hotel, breakfasted and then split up into various groups for the rest of the morning and afternoon. Mark, Alastair and Phil returned to the works, Vic and Peta went off to visit the local University and do some shopping and Richard, Craig and myself were dropped at the entrance to DLW so we could photograph the replica short hood and cab of 18233 embedded in the Works wall. The significance of 18233 is that it was the first loco to be assembled by DLW (albeit from an Alco-built knock-down kit). That was back in 1962 and 38 years later the same factory is still producing basically the same loco. Richard, Craig and myself then walked the kilometre or so to the nearby station of Manduwadi to await the arrival of train 559.

Train 559 duly arrived behind 16033 with Rob leaning out of the front door. The run along the secondary line (single line with passing loops and semaphore signals) towards Allahabad proved to be much quicker than I was expecting with speeds as high as 90-100 km/h. When 16033 was held at Katka we leapt off to the amusement of the locals and returned towards Varanasi leaping short at Bhulanpur which is also only a few minutes walk from the DLW factory. From here there is a rather nice photo of a plinthed metre gauge YDM3 (GM 12-567, Co-Co) which stands in the DLW grounds. Also photted our first low-nosed ("Jumbo") WDM2 which passed through on a freight. We had been intending to continue on a following Express but with time running out we decided to flag down a passing Bajaj and head down the line to Manduwadi. Rob duly succeeded in flagging down a rickshaw wallah who stopped even though he already had a family of 3 in the back of his Bajaj. He reckoned it would not be a problem to squeeze in the three of us too. So we somehow crammed 6 passengers and the driver into a (by now) very listing Bajaj for the short journey. Unfortunately he decided to take a short cut because we were soon negotiating dirt tracks and huge puddles instead of the tarmac roads I was expecting. Craig couldn't fit in and had the luxury of a relief Bajaj to himself, running some 30 seconds behind ours. His rickshaw failed within sight of the station and the driver refused any payment!

18468 was waiting at the head of train 5001 and looked quite smart in a light blue livery. Just prior to departure time there was a blast on a horn from the direction of the DLW works just across the yard and 14062 appeared, running light engine out of the Works. Dreadful!! Here we were behind a 35 year-old member of a class with a brand new loco of basically the same class on delivery to Indian Railways. Both locos were sounding their horns for the road crossing at the east end of Manduwadi station providing an almost unique spectacle in the fading light. We leapt off 18468 at Varanasi City and having watched it depart we stood around waiting for the next train back across Varanasi to Manduwadi. Just as Craig was trying to rescue the contents of his bag from a leaky water bottle, an Indian gentlemen dressed in a military uniform (police?) wandered across to us and asked us what we were doing. "Waiting for a train to Manduwadi" was our answer pointing at the relevant train in the timetable. At this he just smiled and shook his head, telling us the next train was in a couple of hours and we ought to take a taxi. We checked the timetable again. He was right, we had found a misprint!! Nothing for it but to accost the nearest Bajaj on the station forecourt, cram four of us into his rickshaw and crank it up for a run back across town to Manduwadi. Arrived with about two minutes prior to the booked departure time but then had to hang around as 17531R (R indicates Rebuild) rolled in some 40 minutes late. It was hardly worth it but we took it for the 2 kms round the corner to Bhulanpur where we set about trying to hunt down yet another Bajaj. This time it took us nearly 45 minutes to find an empty one and he set off towards our hotel. Unfortunately he pulled up outside another "Ashok Hotel" and told us we were where we wanted to be. We tried explaining that this was the wrong hotel but he couldn't understand us. In the end we got him to take us to Varanasi Jn station where we left him very bemused as we headed off across the footbridge to pick up another Bajaj from the north side of the station. From here it was just over 5 minutes back to the hotel for a shower and some food before being returned to the station to await our overnight to Howrah. Regional timetables had been located at the bookstalls on the station so we each bought Northern Railway and North Eastern Railway volumes. The rucksacks were beginning to get heavier and this was only the start!! Our train was late and I wandered across the footbridge to the station concourse to have a look at the blackboard that many Indian stations appear to have where the staff chalk up any delays or cancellations. Our train was shown as only 20 minutes late so I began to wander back along the platform towards the others. As I was doing so I noticed a white cow on the platform wandering amongst the public. This wasn't particularly strange as I had seen numerous cows on previous stations. They roam everywhere; along roads, across railways, along platforms but this one now proceeded to follow me up the steps and across the footbridge! The overnight eventually arrived over one hour late and Venkat who had been looking after us during our stay in Varanasi said his farewells. The main reason for choosing this train towards Calcutta was that we had been told that the diesel runs along the so-called Main Line via Mughal Sarai, Patna and Kiul Jn. into Howrah. This route is in the process of being electrified and I had already seen wires at Patna during my flight across to Delhi on Monday. Incidentally the shorter and quicker "Main" electrified route from Mughal Sarai into Howrah via Dehri-on-Sone is referred to as the "Grand Chord".

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Manduwadi 11.55 WDM2 16033 559 11.45 Varanasi Jn. - Allahabad Jn. (L10) 35 km
Katka 12.43 12.59 WDM2 17342 560 10.30 Allahabad City - Varanasi Jn. (L10) 33 km
Bhulanpur 13.35 xx.xx Bajaj
Manduwadi xx.xx 16.00 WDM2 18468 5001 16.00 Manduwadi - Gorakpur (L15) 6 km
Varanasi City 16.37 17.10 Bajaj
Manduwadi 17.34 17.38 WDM2 17531R 561 17.30 Varanasi Jn. - Allahabad City (L?) 2 km
Bhulanpur 17.44 18.45 Bajaj's
Varanasi Jn. 19.23 21.08 WDM2 18996 3074 22.05 Jammu Tawi - Howrah (L17) 774 km

Day 6: Saturday 25th November

Woke around Asanol Jn. relieved to still find the same WDM2 on the front. Phew! One possible Electric loco avoided. The overhead wires are up from Patna to Asanol but apparently not yet energised. Arrival at the dramatic red and white brick Howrah station on the west bank of the great, brown Hooghly River was more or less on time. Our hotel was across the river in Calcutta so we took a couple of taxis via the impressive Vivekananda Setu suspension bridge and past the white, marble-domed Victoria Memorial and some of India's only trams to our hotel. Left bags in the rooms, fast taxi to Calcutta Sealdah station (designed by I.K. Brunel) which possesses a very impressive overall roof with the brickwork in an attractive red and white paint scheme. We were looking for the 13.40 departure but with time ticking away and only a "Jumbo" in the middle of a push-pull rake to be seen we jumped on as the engine revved up (despite locals protestations) and thought we'd scored. (Note: Indian Railways refer to this type of train as d.m.u. which leads to confusion for anyone used to the European style of self-propelled d.m.u.!). Our joy was short-lived as we noticed that a) the train was virtually empty and b) we were slowly but surely snaking across the pointwork in the direction of the carriage sidings! Sure enough the loco came to rest at a fuelling point and there we sat for nearly one hour before trundling back to Sealdah! Here the train was invaded by hundreds of locals the instant it arrived in the platform leaving us with very little room. Very unpleasant so we decided to get off and find an alternative. During the wander round the station trying to decide what to do we were hassled by groups of filthy kids who ended up trying to push each other into us and grabbing us appearing to try and steal Richard's camera. Richard's protestations echoed around Sealdah which caused even more stares than we were already receiving. We guessed that the next loco-hauled train would be at 16.30 but I didn't fancy waiting in these surroundings so I retired to the hotel for a freshen up and planned to hunt for an internet cafe. After my shower I studied the local suburban timetable (ridiculous price of 5 Rupees) in an attempt to see how a service known as the "Circular Line" works.

I met up with Mark and Craig at 16.30 intending to look for an internet cafe but I suggested that we at least attempt to rescue something from the day by taking a taxi to the nearby Prinseps Ghat station in the shadow of the suspension bridge we had crossed earlier in order to investigate the Circular Line which runs along the eastern bank of the River Hooghly. They agreed and we were all surprised to find a WDS4 (0-6-0 shunter) at the head of 9 empty and decrepit coaches complete with a generator in the middle coach. Loco sounded a bit like a CD 751 (it is after all a 6 cylinder!) but with addition of clanking connecting rods. There are several small stations dotted along the route which runs along the banks of the River Hooghly for several kilometres with the WDS4 having to pick it's way between market stalls, run down buildings, warehouses and makeshift housing for the poorest of Calcutta's residents. A real display of life at it's most desperate (not a reference to the bashing moves!). Crossing WDM2 on another diagram we continued in this mad frenzy of passenger trains on a dock branch until we crossed another WDS4 trundling from the wonderfully-named Dum Dum Junction (near Calcutta airport) to Prinseps Ghat. We doubled back to the equally ridiculously-named B.B.D. Bag station (previously known as Dalhousie Square) where we crossed the WDM2 returning northwards. This was taken up through the yards at Tala, where the line becomes electrified and we saw a couple of WDS6s shunting. Dum Dum Junction was simply a heaving mass of people and we were glad to be alighting here. When 17298 departed for Gede there didn't appear to be a single space left anywhere inside the coaches. We returned to the hotel by means of India's only underground Metro which is conveniently located in the station concourse. Alighted at downtown Calcutta Park Street just around the corner from the hotel. Cost RS 5!!! Excellent Indian meal in hotel restaurant (Gaylords!) followed by half an hour in an Internet cafe just down the road. Returned to hotel for much needed sleep and respite from the outside world.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Howrah 11.35
Prinseps Ghat 16.53 WDS4 19619 C-7 16.53 Prinseps Ghat - Hasnabad (L9) 9 km
Tata 17.30 17.27 WDS4 19577 C-10 17.10 Dum Dum Jn. - Prinseps Ghat (L9) 5 km
B.B.D. Bag 17.54 17.50 WDM2 17298 P389 17.38 Prinseps Ghat - Gede (L8) 10 km
Dum Dum Jn 18.55 19.15 Metro TD104 19.15 Dum Dum - Tollyganj
Park Street 19.36

Day 7: Sunday 26th November

Room service breakfast at 06.45 consisting of orange juice, tea and toast. Not a huge breakfast but enough at that time of the morning. A fast, decrepit taxi to Howrah via the World's largest cantilever bridge (705 m long) which is also said to be the World's busiest bridge. For years this was the only link for vehicles between Howrah and Calcutta. Predictably it is in a terrible state and the tramlines across it have recently been lifted because the weight if the trams is said to be too much for the structure! Invested in a publication claiming to be an "Indian Rail Atlas" on sale at Wheeler's bookstall on the concourse of Howrah "new" station. Not exactly the detail of the Quail maps but a useful start with lots of dubious facts and figures, including the claim that the Indians have the longest railway tunnel in the World. At 6 km is appears to be somewhat shorter than the Channel Tunnel. Maybe news of this tunnel has yet to reach the publishers of this atlas? Howrah station is split into the "old" part which appears to be on the mainline (North Eastern Railway) to Asanol, Mughal Sarai and Delhi and the "new" part (South Eastern Railway) which is for services to Nagpur and Vishakapatnam. The stock of our "Falaknuma Express" duly arrived and was hauled by a WDM2C of Kazipet depot which gave us hope that despite the route being electrified between Howrah and Kharagpur and again between Vishakapatnam and Guntur that we would indeed have the suspected through diesel. Unfortunately we were in the 2AC coach was the 17th out of 20 so we couldn't hear much from the opened doors as the train snaked it's way out of Howrah. We stopped briefly at Kharagpur (118 kms from Howrah) to view the World's longest platform (833 m) before leaving the overhead wires and turning south to head down through the state of Orissa. Pleased to see that this line is still mechanically signalled for mile after mile and with long sections of single track we were halted several times to pass northbound workings including a couple of huge coal trains headed by pairs of grubby, smoking WDM2s.

Just before Cuttack Road the railway crosses the huge River Mahanandi by means of a girder bridge which is easily a mile long. The equally-impressive road bridge with sluice gates for water control is a few hundred yards inland. Arrival at Cuttack Road was about 30 minutes ahead of schedule so we had the opportunity to stretch our legs and photographing a couple of WDM2s and a WDS6 that were stabled under the lovely selection of semaphore signals. Again extended stops at Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road Jn allowed a wander down to the front of the train for some photos and a word with the crew. Allowed in the Guard's compartment of the front coach between Bhubaneswar and Khurda Road for a listen to the WDM2c hard at work. Saw the remains of a very twisted WDM2 16597 on a flatbed, parked on shed at Khurda Road. Power unit and underframe visible but very little of the bodywork and cab remaining. Must have been nasty! Lots of glares from depot staff as we photographed the wreck but no-one said anything.

As the darkness and the monotony associated with a 28 hour journey at the back of a long train set in we resorted to playing cards!! Drifted off to sleep ready to view the reversal at Viashakapatnam where we hoped that an electric would not drop on the back of our train.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Howrah 08.25 WDM2c 14057 2703 08.25 Howrah - Secunderabad (L21) 897 km

Day 8: Monday 27th November

Awoke in the middle of the night by the sound of a horn which sounded particularly squeaky. Made my way to the door and opened it and peered out bleary-eyed. The familiar sound of a 16-251 Alco power unit thrashing away instantly woke me up and I stayed at the doorway of what was now the fifth coach from the front for 15 minutes before retiring to my berth again and some sound sleep. Awoke again in the platform at Vijaywada around 06.00 and wandered out of the train to find Phil with a cheesy grin on his face. Yes I did know that we did still have a WDM2c on the front but what I didn't know was that it was a different one! Shortly after Vijaywada we crossed over the Krishna Canal by means of a huge girder bridge which must be about one mile long. The Vijaywada Driver and Driver's Assistant spoke broken English but were definitely game for a laugh and were able to answer many questions. Passed a couple of WDP1s on local passengers and our first WDM2 shedded at Gooty Jn. which carried a very attractive orange and light blue livery. Once again to our surprise after such a long journey we arrived virtually on-time (10 minutes late) at the busy junction station of Secunderabad. Although the line towards Kazipet is electrified there are still three major diesel routes out of the twin cities of Hyderabad/Secunderabad as well as a metre gauge route north out of Secunderabad. Usual routine of taxis to the hotel, which on this occasion was the very well-appointed Viceroy Hotel overlooking the lake between the two cities known as Husain Sagar Lake. Thankfully, the somewhat strange address of Tankbund Road did not live up to our expectations (had visions of the hotel being situated next to an oil refinery!).

Returned to Secunderabad station in a fleet of Bajaj's and split into two parties; one heading north on our first encounter with YDM4s and others heading south on a WDP1. It would appear that the fleet of 69 WDP1s are based only at Delhi Tughlakabad and Kazipet shed. Since we would encounter metre gauge later on I chose to sample another WDP1. The line towards Kurnool turns due south after leaving Secunderabad station and climbs up quite a sharp hill before dropping down through Kacheguda. The stations are very close together which some platforms visible from the end of the previous station and indeed it would be possible on a long train to have the front coach in the platform of one station with the rear coach still in the platform of the previous station. Having misread the timetable Phil, Mark and Vic leapt off early mumbling something about not going to the crossing point. I stayed on for one more stop. It should make easily. Got an excellent photo of 15068 powering away from Huppuguda station and indeed need not have worried about the train back, it was late. I settled down on a bench and changed the film in my camera which attracted many stares from the locals. Obviously not yet used to diesel cranks sampling the local power. The stares which had been un-nerving initially had by now begun to simply be part of the scenery along with the ubiquitous "Where are you from?", "What is your name?", "Where are you going?", "What are you doing?" Questions which were asked numerous times each day. The first three questions were easy enough to answer and the answers were understood. The fourth question when answered with the truth (chasing trains) caused a look of confusion and much muttering in a local dialect. Understandable I suppose.

Train 572 appeared about 20 minutes late and I was not amused to see a self-propelled d.m.u. (as opposed to the d.m.u. we had encountered in Calcutta with a mid-train WDM2 sandwiched between coaches and driving trailers). With no other train back for a couple of hours I reluctantly boarded and was immediately subjected to the usual "Indian Inquisition" by a group of students. It turned out that they were all studying Mechanical Engineering at the local University and they were amused that I had studied the same and I was now telling them to change while they still had the chance! I told them that I was meeting friends at the next station so they all looked out for the group of three "foreigners" on the platform and took great joy in pointing them out to me. The three "foreigners" were definitely not full of joy when they too boarded the crowded d.m.u. Luckily we were offered a way out when we rolled into Kacheguda. 17142 was sat in another platform and a quick consultation of the timetable revealed a departure less than an hour later. Bade farewell to my fellow Engineers-to-be and we all alighted, crossed the tracks and sat drinking soft drinks in the setting sun watching baskets of chickens being loaded into the Guards compartment. Whilst quietly enjoying this tranquil scene the soft drinks vendor suddenly said that he recognised me and that he was a big fan of mine (I didn't realise that the reputation of the "Legendary Dave Craik" of Dan Cross' trip down the Duoro Valley in Portugal had travelled so far). I was impressed. So was my biggest fan!! At least until he started telling me about all the films I had appeared in. By this time we were all in stitches and having difficulty following his ramblings. All I could make out was something about "First Blood" (Rambo? Sylvester Stallone? I hope not!!), then something about Jackie Chan!! Heah? Me Chinese? Er.....take a closer look, pal!! I never did find out who he thought I was. Good for the ego though. OK, back to the matter in hand. We boarded the front coach of the train (labelled "Ladies Only"!) for the short journey with 17142 of Guntakal shed "over the hill" to Secunderabad. It was a short but excellent storm up the hill out of Kacheguda with cautionary signals clearing to green as we approached the end of stations resulting in "Notch 8" being liberally used to deafen the local commuters.

Met up with the rest of the group at Secunderabad. They were already installed aboard train 593 which left from the metre gauge platforms on the south side of Secunderabad station. The sound of 6604's 6-cylinder Alco/DLW power unit ticking over was lovely and reminded me very much of a Scottish Class 26 although when powering away this resemblance disappears. The metre gauge single line winds it's way out of Secunderabad station, crossing the broad gauge line to Kacheguda by means of a rail-rail crossing before climbing steeply and swinging to the north over the electrified line towards Kazipet and the north east. From here a broad gauge line parallels the metre gauge line and is also used by a suburban d.m.u. service. This leads to the strange sight of dual-platformed stations with a broad gauge line for one platform and a metre gauge line for the opposite one. Train 593 is booked to stop at several intermediate stations which lead to impressive departures on the climb out of Secunderabad. At Cavalry Barracks we made an unscheduled stop to await the passing of train 609. I decided to double back to the hotel on this train and make use of the hotel restaurant and internet facilities. Even though the return run was largely downhill 6558 was driven very hard away from stations leading to a lovely foot long flame being emitted from the stack when on full power.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Vishakapatnam 00.25 00.45 WDM2c 14041 2703 08.25 Howrah - Secunderabad (L22) 661 km
Secunderabad 12.35 15.30 WDP1 15068 535 15.30 Secunderabad - Kurnool Town (L7) 14 km
Huppuguda 15.59 16.05 DMU 572 14.00 Mahbubnagar - Secunderabad 6 km
Kacheguda 16.18 17.30 WDM2 17142 7664 17.30 Kacheguda - Manmad Jn. (L18) 8 km
Secunderabad 17.50 18.05 YDM4 6604 593 18.05 Secunderabad - Nizamabad (L9) 10 km
Cavalry Barracks 18.35 18.36 YDM4 6558 609 17.45 Medchal - Secunderabad (L6) 10 km
Secunderabad 19.05

Day 9: Tuesday 28th November

Woke at 05.30 without the aid of an alarm clock feeling slightly queasy, I decided a lie-in was required this morning and I returned to my slumbers. Phil was equally impressed by the idea of some more sleep. Finally got up around 08.30 and had a leisurely breakfast followed by Bajaj to Secunderabad station for another metre gauge leap. 6370 was producing huge clouds of acrid black clag when powering away from stations. Jumped off the train at Ammagudu to get a phot of this machine in action as it departed. The driver didn't disappoint as 6370 was wound up and disappeared around the corner leaving a trail of black Alco smoke. You could follow it's progress for about 5 minutes by means of the black trail! The same YDM4 as last night (6558) again hauled us back down the hill into Secunderabad, unfortunately running 35 minutes late which meant we missed the 12.00 departure back up the m-g line which had an MLW-built YDM4 at the head. This set off before our driver had even thought about applying our brakes. "Plan B" meant going around the shore of Husain Sagar lake to Hyderabad Nampally terminus before hailing yet another Bajaj back to the hotel for lunch. The hotel had allowed us the use of one of the rooms up until 16.00 so we were able to have a freshen up before returning with rucksack to Secunderabad for another WDP1 "over the hill" to Kacheguda. Alas my sole "fan" wasn't here today and had obviously not spread the word. No recognition as a film star, just the usual glances at an eccentric who likes to lean out of the front coach of trains pulled by loud diesels. 17585 provided a repeat performance of 17142's aural exploits the previous day. Upon arrival at Secunderabad there were WDM2s everywhere and I managed one photo of 4 different liveried ones lined up in the evening sunshine. Train 7085 was rumoured to be booked a WDM2c and indeed it was with another orange and cream Kazipet example providing the power. Once again stuck down the back of the train in our 2AC coach. This train proved to be the longest we had loading to 23 carriages.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Secunderabad 10.35 YDM4 6370 604 10.35 Secunderabad - Ammagudu (L7) 9 km
Ammagudu 11.02 11.11 YDM4 6558 605 10.25 Medchal - Secunderabad 9 km
Secunderabad 11.35 12.25 WDM2 17505 7029 09.35 Cochin Harbour - Hyderabad (L18) 10 km
Hyderabad 13.00
Secunderabad 15.30 WDP1 15064 535 15.30 Secunderabad - Kurnool Town (L7) 8 km
Kacheguda 15.45 16.25 WDM2 17585 7616 16.25 Kacheguda - Palasa (L18) 8 km
Secunderabad 16.40 17.40 WDM2c 14045 7085 17.40 Secunderabad - Bangalore (L23) 739 km

Day 10: Wednesday 29th November

Woken sometime in the middle of the night by the familiar screaming of a WDM2c to discover that we had reversed at Guntakal around Midnight. Arrived at Bangalore on time and bailed one station before Bangalore City station as Bangalore Cantt station is nearer to hotel. The usual procession of taxis to hotel and we were able to check in, shower and have breakfast before meeting one of the local IRFCA members who had arranged a shed visit for us for the following day. Returned to Bangalore Cantt to head back north to Hindupur in the hope of picking up the booked pair of WDM2s on the southbound "Karnataka Express" which runs all the way from Delhi to Bangalore. Not sure how late this train was going to be, after all it had been on the move for nearly 2 days by the time it reached Hindupur. Our fears were unfounded as the booked pair of Itarsi WDM2s howled in on full dynamics running a mere TWO minutes late. Mark managed to talk his way into the Guards compartment right behind the locos and when the Guard indicated that I join him, I did so. Spent most of the next two hours window-hanging and enjoying the scenery which became rather rugged and hilly. I had somehow failed to spot this on the way north, probably due to excessive chatting and not enough window-hanging. The climb was good but even on Load 22 the pair of WDM2s managed to maintain speeds of around 30 mph but spectacular departures from a couple of speed restrictions with the rear WDM2 of the pair clagging particularly badly and several of the hood doors on both locos swinging wildly as they rocked and rolled their way up hill and down dale. Temperatures in the mid 20's (Celsius) and a good amount of cloud cover coupled with the high altitude (xxx m?) made travelling very pleasant indeed today.

Upon leaving Bangalore Cantt. station it became very evident that there is a steep drop down to Bangalore City (about 4 kms of 1 in 70). This gradient continues after Bangalore City station down the Mysore line for another 10 kms or so meaning that Bangalore City station is in a strange location on the side of a hill. By this time we were travelling in the parcels van which had caused some distress to one of the station staff at Bangalore but Srinivas managed to convince him that we knew what we were doing. The Mysore line is electrified for several kilometres beyond Bangalore although no electrics appear to work down this line. According to Srinivas there are plans to use e.m.u's on short-haul commuter services at some point in the future but no real plans to electrify the line all the way to Mysore as I had been lead to believe previously. The Mysore line is again a single line with passing loops at virtually every station but the line speed is high with lots of 90-100 km/h running along the twisty line. The route also follows the remains of the old metre gauge alignment which criss-crossed the newer broad gauge route numerous times. Late running meant we had to get off somewhat earlier than planned but I was very pleased when a smart green and white Southern Railway WDM2 rolled in on train 6232, both Driver and Assistant Driver wearing bandanas and looking more like film extras than a railway crew. What I wasn't prepared for was the sound when the loco pulled away.....even at low power a distinct turbo scream was audible, becoming more and more intense as the driver notched the loco up until the turbo sound was reminiscent of a DR Kolomna-powered 132/232 back in the early 1990s before they were silenced. Even with the loud turbo scream it was still possible to hear the characteristic 16-cylinder noise underneath. The next two hours were absolutely deafening and the ascent of the bank back up into Bangalore City station in the dark was inspired. In fact it was so good we just had to return to the bottom and do it all over again! Upon returning to Bangalore City we discovered a pair of Bangalore-based (KJM) WDM2s on train 6526 which proved to be a fitting end to the noisiest day so far. Dinner was taken in the hotel restaurant but the service was terrible with waiters dropping things and tripping over table legs. It took ages to serve the food and was more akin to "Faulty Towers" but we weren't really in a hurry.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Bangalore Cantt. 06.45 08.42 WDM2 18503 433 08.30 Bangalore City - Guntur (L9) 132 km
Hindupur 11.18 11.45 WDM2 16213 + 18771 (locos in multiple) 2628 xx.xx New Delhi - Bangalore City (L22) 136 km
Bangalore City 13.55 14.15 WDM2 17502 6206 14.15 Bangalore City - Mysore Jn. (L14) 94 km
Mandya 15.45 16.03 WDM2 16875 6232 15.30 Mysore Jn. - Thanjavur Jn. (L15) 94 km
Bangalore City 18.15 18.45 WDM2 16677 238 18.45 Bangalore City - Mysore (L4+5) 13 km
Kengeri 19.05 19.10 WDM2 18406 213 16.50 Mysore Jn. - Tirupati (L13) 13 km
Bangalore City 20.00 21.00 WDM2 18462 + 18704 (locos in multiple) 6526 21.00 Bangalore City - Kanniyakumari (L21) 4 km

Day 11: Thursday 30th November

With Srinivas offer to accompany us today and having arranged so much for us we couldn't refuse his plans. He collected us from the hotel at 09.30 and drove us out to KJM depot for a guided tour. We were even given the current diagrams (loco links) for the WDM2s from this shed as well as receiving a fax for the WDP2 diagrams from Golden Rock shed in Tiruchchirappali which would help us tomorrow! Highlights included seeing stripped down turbos and a WDM2 on test on the load bank. A completely deafening experience. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy today and we even experienced our first rain of the holiday.

Photographed today's Itarsi pair (16412+17604) thrashing through on the southbound "Karnataka Express" (load 23 today thanks to additional "Green Parcels" van attached to rear for the transport of perishable goods). Lunched at Pizza Hut in downtown Bangalore which was located amongst exclusive boutiques, furniture shops and clothing emporiums. It almost made you forget you were in India. Suitably refreshed returned to hotel to retrieve luggage and head to Bangalore City for the overnight to Thanjavur. Surprised to see WDP2a 15534 brand new ex-DLW Varanasi stabled in between the platforms in a smart blue and white livery. This had apparently been released from DLW, Varanasi about two weeks previously and had taken that long to reach Bangalore under it's own power. No-one seemed to know exactly what it was doing there or even if it was going to be allocated to KJM shed. The only other WDP2s currently in the south of India are based at Golden Rock shed and appear to work the Chennai - Tiruchchirappali - Kanniyakumari line so the appearance of a WDP2 at Bangalore is breaking new territory for the class (I suspect).

We still had to make some reservations for the last day of our trip and we were still wanting to try and get from Agra to Delhi using diesel traction. There were two alternatives; Plan A was to go via Jaipur as we had been informed that a WDM2 works out of Agra towards Jodphur, Plan B was to head straight up the main line on a train rumoured to be a WDP1. In the end we decided to keep our options open and try to book both variants! Our attempts were invaluably supported by Srinivas, who whisked us between counters and floors of the two-storey reservation centre. In the end we didn't succeed due to "system difficulties" with the computers. However, Srinivas promised he would follow up the bookings, inform us and even courier the tickets to Pune

Making a seat reservation in India is a long and complicated process even for an Indian involving a chain of random events including the correct phase of the moon and alignment of several heavenly bodies:

  • 1. Find assisting Indian with intimate knowledge of IR
  • 2. Even through assistance of above a process of iteration ascertain which window in the booking office is responsible for foreign tourists and Indrail passes is unavoidable. This involves visiting virtually every window on both floors of the reservation centre.
  • 3. Having located the relevant window, locate relevant supply reservation application forms.
  • 4. Fill in reservation forms giving details of all passengers; name, age, ticket no., sex, departure station, arrival station, passport number, train number and train name.
  • 5. Form must then be checked, approved and signed by Chief Reservation Supervisor
  • 6. Locate Chief Reservation Supervisor. This was adeptly done by Srinivas, who simply went into the Manager's office and demanded to see the relevant Officer immediately.
  • 7. Queue up at relevant window (marked "Foreign Tourists" by means of a very small, almost invisible sticker in the window).
  • 8. Discover that reservation computer system has crashed and is unable to connect to the relevant reservation centre in Delhi. Reservations cannot be processed until the following morning.
  • 9. Assisting Indian offers to follow up reservation and courier tickets to convenient stop off point.
  • 10. Admit defeat, retreat and hope for the best.

Having singularly failed to reserve our seats for the journey from Agra to Delhi we trooped back to the station to collect our luggage and wait for our overnight. Several of the more desperate members of the party opted for the pair of WDM2s for 4 kms up the bank to Bangalore Cantt. on the northbound "Karnataka Express". Rubble, Mark, Peta and myself remained on Bangalore City station to meet the local Divisional Manager who wanted to meet us before we left. 18555 of Golden Rock provided the power for the overnight to Thanjavur. Yet again the 2AC coach was towards the rear of the rake. Somewhat apprehensive about the weather situation in the state of Tamil Nadu. Over the last few days there had been a flash monsoon which had apparently washed out several of the metre gauge lines in the State.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Bangalore City 18.40 WDM2 18555 6232 15.30 Mysore Jn. - Thanjavur Jn (L15) 277 km

Day 12: Friday 1st December

Opened my eyes this morning and looked out of the window to see a metre gauge line running parallel to our broad gauge line. We had reversed at Tiruchchirappali Jn. (known locally for obvious simplicity as Trichy) and between Trichy and the end of the broad gauge "branch" at Thanjavur metre gauge and broad gauge run parallel to each other. Arrival in Thanjavur was only 10 minutes late and Rob immediately jumped in the cab of the loco to find out where the loco change had taken place during the night. The weather still cloudy but much more humid and became quite unpleasant when the sun broke through mid-morning.

The Hotel Oriental Towers was only 5 minutes walk from station and appeared very empty when we checked into the somewhat dark reception just before 07.00. Shower, Breakfast then back to business. Due to the recent flooding we were presented with choice of a YDM4 or WDM2 towards Trichy. The YDM4 running some 6 hours late on load 16 on an Express to the port of Rameswaram. Chose WDM2 hoping it would catch the YDM4 which had been let out just ahead of us. 16860 raced 6149 on the parallel broad gauge/metre gauge tracks but the WDM2 on load 7 was unable to catch the YDM4 on load 16 over a 50 km stretch. Passed Southern Railway's Golden Rock works at Ponmalai with an ex-works Guntakal YDM4 on a transporter wagon ready for shipping back to South Central Railway after overhaul. Doubled back to Ponmalai with 6283 intending to continue back to Thanjavur but when an original Alco-built 6032 hauling a huge rake coaches crossed our train we just had to sample it. By now the direct sun was fierce and we retreated to shade wherever possible. Quick out and back to Trichy Fort where "Jumbo" 17835 absolutely howled into the station on full dynamics catching Mark and his microphone unawares.

The main idea for today had been to sample a decent run behind a WDP2 which are currently only based around Delhi and at Golden Rock. So when 15518 backed on to the 14.40 stopper up the main line towards Chennai to Villapuram Jn it was an easy decision. Passed Trichy's main landmark (and Golden Rock's depot symbol) the Rock Fort on the outskirts of town. This is a huge sandstone rock with a fort perched on the top and the rock gives it's name to the local diesel shed. Unfortunately the train absolutely tottered to Srirgangam where we opted to bail for the express behind hoping for another WDP2 but this time with a better driver. We had 50 minutes to kill so Rob, Vic, Richard and myself leapt in a Bajaj for a whirlwind tour (even by our standards) to the nearby Ranganathaswamy temple, which is southern India's largest and can be seen rising out of the trees for miles around. The decor is absolutely stunning and it was a shame to have to leave so quickly. It would have been easy to spend hours here.

Another green and white Golden Rock-based WDM2 rolled in on train 6804, which although not the hoped-for WDP2 provided us with an absolutely storming run to Vriddhachalam Jn which I sampled sitting on the step of the front door watching the world go by and 18362 leave a trail of Alco clag over the Tamil Nadu paddy fields and temples strewn along the trackside. It proved to be one of the runs (if not THE run) of the holiday. Arrived at Vriddhachalam Jn to a cacophony of birds, monkeys, insects and other wildlife in the trees at the south end of the platforms. In fact the scene was so impressive that Mark was witnessed standing next to a tree pointing his microphone at it! This looked very strange from a distance but proved immensely amusing both with the locals and with the four cranks observing him. But I have to admit the recordings are excellent.

Train 2605 rolled in only 10 minutes late but the expected WDP2 was missing. 16878 was a more than adequate stand-in as the chugging 16-251 powered up it became evident that we had another monster with a turbo scream. It was deafening inside the front coach and very difficult to converse with the locals. Another storming run through the darkness back to Trichy Jn. Again the locals amazed to see a group of western tourists travelling in the unreserved second class accommodation. Once back at Trichy Jn. Rob tried to interview the Driver about the turbo fitted to this loco. The Driver said it was an ABB turbo (WDM2's are apparently fitted with GE, ABB or Napier turbos. This being one of only two components that actually still have to be imported by DLW for the manufacture of their "Alco's". The other component is the crankshaft).

Settled down for a doze on the run back to Thanjavur behind an Erode-allocated 16668 which was dumping very nicely. Mark was very agitated and hanging right out of the door examining the behaviour of the stack! Upon doing the same it was easy to see why; with the loco on full power a 2 foot flame was illuminating the surroundings and was especially impressive when the transition kicked in.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Erode 00.35 00.50 WDM2 16860 6232 15.30 Mysore Jn - Thanjavur Jn. (L15) 194 km
Thanjavur Jn. 06.20 09.35 WDM2 16861 697 09.35 Thanjavur Jn. - Tiruchchirappali Jn (L7) 50 km
Tiruchchirappali Jn 11.15 11.25 YDM4 6283 6762 23.00 Quilon Jn. - Nagore (L9) 3 km
Ponmalai 11.38 12.02 YDM4 6032 635 08.05 Mayiladuturai Jn. - Trichy Jn. (L16) 3 km
Tiruchch'appali Jn 12.30 13.00 WDM2 16860 517 13.00 Tiruchchirappali Jn - Palghat Town (L10) 4 km
Tiruchch'appali Fort 13.10 13.08 WDM2 17835 518 06.30 Palghat Town - Tiruchchirappali Jn (L10) 4 km
Tiruchch'appali Jn 13.40 14.40 WDP2 15518 606 14.40 Tiruchchirappali Jn - Villupuram Jn 11 km
Srirgangam 15.10 15.52 WDM2 18362 6804 15.30 Tiruchchirappali Jn - Howrah (L15) 112 km
Vriddhachalam Jn. 17.52 18.50 WDM2 16878 2605 15.30 Chennai Egmore - Trichy Jn (L?) 123 km
Tiruchchirappali Jn 20.50 21.45 WDM2 16668 698 21.45 Tiruchchirappali Jn - Thanjavur Jn. (L7) 50 km
Thanjavur Jn. 23.25

Day 13: Saturday 2nd December

Very lazy morning after yesterday's late finish. No desire to do any trains this morning. Used internet facilities in hotel to catch up with my e-mails. Light lunch in hotel restaurant prior to boarding train 6761 for our only non-AC long distance run (no AC on this train). Not disappointed by the spacious 1st Class (non AC) 4 berth compartments complete with locking doors and metal drop-down shutters to turn the whole compartment into an impregnable prison cell! Our party of 8 were allocated 2 complete compartments with myself drawing the short straw and sharing the rear compartment of the coach. Real Alco-built 6034 was a bonus on the front but we were somewhat disappointed when it was replaced by 6229 at Trichy. The quality of the metre gauge track left a lot to be desired with some very fierce rocking and long sections of track with "roaring" from the wheels. We even saw 3 upturned coaches adjacent to the line about an hour south of Trichy. Not exactly comforting!! Actually these were the only derailed coaches we saw during the whole trip. Is that a good sign? Hmmmmm, not sure. I'm just not used to travelling around countries where you see train wrecks left next to the track. South of Trichy the line also becomes semaphore-signalled changing from 3 aspect upper quadrant ("LMS-style" arms) to lower quadrant ("LSWR-style" arms) at Karaikuddi Jn and then back to upper quadrant somewhere in the night.

The night was lit by the stack of the loco which was glowing nicely when on full power (YDM4s seem to be very good at this!). We were looped for a train to pass and were able to witness the dreadful practice of token exchange first hand. The Station Master stands on a small podium between the two tracks and holds the token and wicker holder aloft in his right hand and as the train approaches at speeds of around 40 mph he lights some oil-soaked rags and holds this torch up in his left hand so that the Assistant Driver can sight the token holder. The Driver didn't ease off the power as the YDM4 screamed through, the Drivers Assistant throwing the old token on the ballast and picking up the new token as the loco passed the Station Master at around 40 mph. And this scene lit only by the flaming rags and some weak coach lights!! Awesome to see still being practised in 2000!!

The order for dinner was taken around 19.00 and was waiting for us on the platform at Manamadurai Jn when we rolled in. It took the form of Japatis or rice wrapped in newspaper and banana leaves served with a plastic bag of brown liquid and the mandatory chilli sauce. Most people seemed to retire early due to the very early arrival time in Quilon. I continued to watch the world go by from an open door before retiring to my compartment which was occupied by two sleeping Indians, who had luckily not locked themselves inside. I clambered up one of the top bunks and used my sleeping bag as a pillow being rocked to sleep by the motion of the train.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Thanjavur Jn. 14.00 YDM4 6034 6761 10.50 Nagore - Quilon Jn. (L9) 50 km
Tiruchchirappali Jn 16.05 16.24 YDM4 6229 6761 10.50 Nagore - Quilon Jn. (L9) 375 km

Day 14: Sunday 3rd December

YDM4 wake up call at about 03.30 as we were staggering up through the Cardamom Hills at about 15 mph with the YDM4 on full bore. Lay in my berth and stared up at the unbelievably clear stars through the window and enjoyed the scenery and the sound. Arrival in Quilon Jn. was 19 minutes early and meant that we just missed one of the small class of only fifteen 12-cylinder Ernakulam-based WDM7's on the 04.30 departure to the North. As a result 9 bleary-eyed souls were forced to spend another 2 hours on the platform. Paid a visit to the Tea Room for an early-morning cup of Chai (another 3 Rupees down the drain!!) and marvelled at the rake of around 75 4-wheel, vacuum-braked kerosene/petrol tanks that were heading north behind a pair of Golden Rock WDM2s. We were to see numerous trains of this sort over the next few days as there is a large refinery just to the south of Ernakulam on the line to Kottayam. WDM2c unexpectedly appeared on the train to Ernakulam which arrived more or less on time. Occupied the front door of the second coach (front coach locked out of service) for the whole of the 3 hour run to Ernakulam. There was a complete change in scenery now that we were in Kerala with the line running across small palm-lined inlets and rivers, many with fishing boats. At Kayankulam Jn the line splits with one route following the coast via Alleppey and the busier inland route which we took heading inland and via Kottayam. Both lines meet up again at Ernakulam. 14052 was on excellent form on L21 and produced impressive departures from a couple of stations, notably from Kottayam where there is a short but stiff climb through a cutting.

I hadn't understood properly why some trains called at Ernakluam Jn, station, some at Ernakulam Town station and some at both. When we rolled round a curve into Ernakulam Jn station and reversed things became a little clearer. Ernakulam Jn station is at the southern tip of a triangular junction, Ernakulam Town station is at the northern tip of the triangular junction and the route we had just come off from Kayankulam Jn (via Kottayam) forms the eastern tip of the triangular junction. The other route from Kayankulam Jn (via Alleppey) arrives at Ernakulam Jn from the South. The train we had just got off re-engined with an Electric loco for the continued journey northwards.

The usual procession of Taxi's and Bajaj's conveyed us to the splendid Taj Residency Hotel which was to be our base for the next two nights. Minor problems with the bookings which were luckily sorted out quickly. Excellent buffet lunch in the hotel restaurant then to Ernakulam Town station just managing to catch train 6350 by 1 minute because it was hidden behind a freight train meaning I had to run across 4 tracks and clamber up onto the platform. Cold drinks at Kottayam from one of the Auxiliary Vegetarian Tea Stalls on the platform. Photted two more WDM7s on stabled passenger trains before taking an Erode WDM2 back to Ernakulam Jn. The booked +20 onto my first WDM7 was ruined by local signalman who managed to hold us three times on the approach to Ernakulam Jn. Rolled into the platform to see Phil sat in the front coach of train with WDM7 11009 at the head. Unfortunately our train rolled all the way to the south end of the station and came to a stand next to some empty stock with closed doors. Seeing this I leapt onto the platform and was immediately swamped by the hordes of passengers getting off. By the time I got to the end of our coaches 11009 was already on it's way. Alastair had made it by leaping down onto ballast, up through the empty stock and running down platform jumping into rear vestibule of the moving train.

I decided to retire to hotel, showered and went for a walk to search of internet facilities. After about 30 minutes I found a small internet cafe and spent an hour clearing out my mailbox and sending a couple of e-mails to people back home. Returned to hotel to find several of the group already eating in one of the hotel restaurants. Food was good but again extremely slow service. Having not had a WDM7 I was eager to know what they sounded like. My queries were met with long faces and a general disapproval of the sound which was said to be very un Alco-like. Rob and Craig even compared 11008 to a Greek or Turkish Alsthom - Urgh!! Surely not? Exhausted by a very good but hot and sticky day and disappointed by the prospect of unratable WDM7s I retired to bed. I was asleep the moment my head hit the pillow!

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Quilon Jn. 04.50 06.25 WDM2c 14052 6302 05.00 Trivandrum Central - Shoranur Jn. (L21) 156 km
Ernakulam Jn. 09.55
Ernakulam Town 13.55 WDM2 16480 6350 03.15 Mangalore - Trivandrum Central (L17) 60 km
Kottayam 15.08 16.35 WDM2 18491 344 16.35 Kottayam - Ernakulam Jn. (L10) 60 km
Ernakulam Jn. 18.05

Day 15: Monday 4th December

Breakfast in bed at 06.45 for fast Bajaj to Ernakulam Jn station to find a choice of 3 WDM7s all going in different directions. I chose 11015 on train 312 and went "all the way to Alwaye" for another WDM7 (the infamous ill-sounding 11008) back in on an absolutely heaving local with only standing room in the luggage compartment of the front coach. That was enough for me. The others stayed at Alwaye for a following train as they had sampled 11008 last night. I must admit that it certainly didn't sound overly rateable but I couldn't personally make the connection to the power units of the Greek Alsthoms. Again numerous signal checks on the short run to Ernakulam Town station. As far as signalling is concerned Ernakulam seems to be a real shambles with every train so far crawling into the stations and suffering several signal checks. Nice photo of 11008 leaving before retiring to the shade and waiting for the Bangalore - Kanniyakumari Express which produced twin KJM based WDM2s instead of the booked WDM2c. An uninspiring run followed despite L21 mainly due to problems with out of course crossing points. Had to stand due to wedge factor but passed the time at the crossing loops by managing a couple of excellent phots and watching Mark recording the various vendors going about their business on the train. The familiar gruff sales pitch of "chai chai" and "coffee coffee" were supplemented on this occasion by a fruit juice vendor who had us in stitches when he approached Mark and asked "You Fruity?" Hot and sweaty by Kottayam so leapt for cold drinks and the balancing northbound working which also produced a pair of KJM locos!! Much better run back to Ernakulam Town but again the unreserved second class coaches at the front of the train were wedged with passengers and we had to stand in 3rd coach. Nice departure from Ernakulam Town station with both locos belching out black clag and darkening the sky.

18491 provided a useful (if dud) means of getting between the two Ernakulam stations allowing us to avoid yet another Bajaj. A grubby orange and cream liveried Ernakulam-based 16857 was sitting at the head of train 337. Initially got in first coach but we were quickly ejected due to it being Ladies Only!! Had to retire to 2nd coach but still managed to find seats. As this WDM2 powered up a strange metallic screeching sound started emanating from turbo when on full power.....very unusual and not very pleasant. Train back provided a good chance to sample another run with a WDM7. This time it was 11005 and it was in fine fettle. This was more or less what I had hoped these locos would sound like; very like a Greek A-451 but with an interesting "dumping" noise to boot. THIS I could listen to for hours on end!! On load 10 and stopping at all stations 11005 provided me with another contender for the "Thrash of the Holiday" award. Once out of stations the Driver only knew two positions for the power control; ON and off!! His braking style also used the same binary principle!! Driver was full of smiles and many head wobbles when Rob went up to him to shake his hand and congratulate him on his style of driving. Having written the whole class off last night as useless, Rob had now done one of the fastest U-turns in the history of crank-kind and was completely impressed!!

Nice little move to finish the day off by doing the branch to Cochin Harbour Terminus. This is a very slow branch but with huge rickety bridge with a 10 km/h speed restriction, a wooden gated level crossing complete with small signal box and a terminus station which could have been Heysham in the 1960s lit by individual light bulbs at about 50 yard intervals leant a very strange atmosphere to the whole line. A quick inspection of the station buildings including the framed cabinet containing the "Rogues Gallery" detailing local criminals. Straight back up to Ernakulam Jn behind 18491 (YET again!) for a fast Bajaj back to the hotel and another excellent meal (with much better service). Again I was asleep as soon as my head touched pillow with 11005 still ringing in my ears!!

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Ernakulam Jn. 07.30 WDM7 11015 312 07.00 Cochin Harbour - Shoranur Jn. (L7) 19 km
Alwaye 08.03 08.45 WDM7 11008 301 07.00 Guruvayur - Ernakulam Jn. (L7) 17 km
Ernakulam Town 09.10 09.55 WDM2 17601 + 17482 (locos in multiple) 6526 21.00 Bangalore City - Kanniyakumari (L21) 60 km
Kottayam 11.05 13.15 WDM2 18404 + 17751 (locos in multiple) 6525 06.35 Kanniyakumari - Bangalore City (L21) 60 km
Ernakulam Town 14.35 15.15 WDM2 18491 305 13.05 Guruvayur - Ernakulam Jn. (L10) 2 km
Ernakulam Jn. 15.30 16.30 WDM2 16857 337 16.30 Ernakulam Jn. - Alleppy (L10) 45 km
Mararikulam 17.32 17.48 WDM7 11005 338 17.30 Alleppy - Ernakulam Jn. (L10) 45 km
Ernakulam Jn. 19.05 19.50 WDM7 11012 313 16.45 Shoranur Jn. - Cochin Harbour (L8) 8 km
Cochin Harbour 20.45 20.55 WDM2 18491 6866 20.55 Cochin Harbour - Tiruchchirappali Jn (L?) 8 km
Ernakulam Jn. 21.15

Day 16: Tuesday 5th December

Needed a lazy start after yesterday's desperation. Rang Apurva in Pune to confirm that we would still be arriving on Friday morning as arranged as he'd agreed to meet us and be our guide for the duration of our stay. He also said that he had arranged a surprise for us. Having checked out of the hotel and agreed the use of a room this evening to freshen up before the overnight, I wandered out onto the road to flag down a Bajaj and go to Ernakulam Jn. station and join the others. Decided to concentrate on WDM7s today after yesterday's riotous run with 11005. 11009 was on 10.30 to Kayankulam Jn which was almost empty for a change making it a pleasure to travel even though we were travelling on wooden seats. Very fast run from the WDM7 which was even more like a Greek A-451 than 11005 had been and with more pronounced "dump" to it. There was no way I was going to get off this before Kayankulam Jn., it was too much fun! Lost a little time during the run then sat outside the station for a what seemed like ages before being allocated a platform. Eventually arrived about 30 minutes late. During the quick run-round in the baking midday sun we were just able to obtain some ice cold drinks before 11009 headed back north around 30 minutes late. Again the front coach was largely empty and we were treated to another excellent run as far as Alleppey where we alighted. As only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun I decided to run off the end of the platform and up the track to get an excellent photo of 11009 powering away past the laundry drying on the ballast.

An Erode-based low-nose "Jumbo" was on train 6042 for the second day running and took us forward to Ernakulam Jn. It was then a repeat of last night's move train 337 for train 338 in the hope of another storming WDM7 run. Train 337 rolled into the heaving platform about 2 minutes before departure time and we had to resort to travelling in the luggage compartment of the second coach. One of the locals appeared to be under the influence of something dubious and kept insisting that he was our friend. He constantly annoyed us by insisting on us having to "help" him and wanting to touch us!! This started to become more than a joke and being in the luggage van with open doors made us all feel a bit wary. At the second stop Phil had had enough of this and leapt off, promptly followed by our new found friend. Alastair and I assumed that Phil had just moved down into one of the coaches. On departure we could see our "friend" was now annoying a local in the next coach. Due to late running we decided not to risk going as far as the crossing point so we leapt off in the middle of nowhere at Thiruvizha. No sign of Phil! 11004 provided almost as good a run as 11005 last night thrashing through the Keralan dusk past local kids' cricket matches and racing across numerous Keralan canals. Phil reboarded on the return so our assumption that he had moved further down the previous train proved to be wrong, he had actually got off.

Transported back to hotel by a Bajaj who's driver initially wanted 75 Rupees for the 5 minute journey (previous max was 30 Rps) so we just laughed and walked away. 2 minutes later he was beside us again wanting only 30 Rps so we got in. On arrival at the hotel he claimed we had caused a tear in the back seat of his dilapidated Bajaj and demanded an extra 50 Rps. We laughed even louder this time and left him ranting at us. The Taj Residency had kindly agreed to allow us the use of a room for a few hours this evening so we could freshen up before the overnight for which they didn't charge us!! Room turned out to be a suite which was more than adequate for our needs. Shower was much needed as a day's travelling in Kerala tends to leave you covered from head to foot in red-brown dust. Dinner in the hotel before requesting the hotel to arrange two taxis to take us to the hotel. Despite having numerous vehicles on the hotel forecourt, the somewhat aloof woman at the Travel Desk started to ring around what I took to be taxi companies. After 15 minutes she said that we "may" be able to have a vehicle around 22.30. We gave up and I told her it wasn't the sort of service I expect from a hotel such as the Taj. Headed out onto the road and managed to quickly flag down enough Bajaj's to get us to the station in plenty of time. The onward journey from Ernakulam Jn was by means of the twice-weekly "Rajdhani Express" ("Capital Express") service which connects Trivandrum in the south of Kerala with Hazrat Nizzamuddin station in Delhi. We were booked on this as far as Madgaon on the Konkan Railway in the small state of Goa.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Ernakulam Jn. 10.30 WDM7 11009 335 10.30 Ernakulam Jn. - Kayankulam Jn. (L10) 100 km
Kayankulam Jn. 12.45 13.15 WDM7 11009 336 13.15 Kayankulam Jn. - Ernakulam Jn. (L10) 43 km
Alleppey 14.10 15.00 WDM2 17803 6042 15.00 Alleppey - Chennai Central (L18) 57 km
Ernakulam Jn. 16.05 16.30 WDM2 17677 337 16.30 Ernakulam Jn. - Alleppey (L12) 39 km
Thiruvizha 17.52 18.00 WDM7 11004 338 17.30 Alleppey - Ernakulam Jn. (L10) 39 km
Ernakulam Jn. 19.05 22.55 WDM2 18697R 243 19.15 Trivandrum Cen. - Hazrat Nizzamudin (L11) 729 km

Day 17: Wednesday 6th December

Woken at 06.15 by Carriage Attendant serving tea and biscuits. Rajdhani service was not particularly well patronised with only a few western tourists and even fewer locals. The run up the coast beyond Mangalore to Madgaon (referred to in some guide books by the old Portuguese name, Margao) along the recently built Konkan Railway was very scenic and quite fast in sections with frequent glimpses of the Arabian Sea and palm-lined beaches. The Konkan Railway has been built over the past few years to provide the missing link between Mumbai (Bombay), Mangalore and the existing Indian Railways network of southern India, cutting up to a day off travel times between the two areas. Surprisingly it is a single line with passes loops and none of it is electrified. It has also been built with private money, but since it appears to own no locos I assume Indian Railways pays for the use of the line (which might account for the sparse service). We did notice a few coaches which were labelled "To ply the Konkan Railway only" in a couple of rakes but we had also seen a coach at Ernakulam which had obviously escaped!

Arrival was slightly late. Rob, Peta and Richard decided to hire a taxi to take them to Vasco da Gama in order to check into the hotel and dump the bags. The rest of us passed the time in the buffet at Madgaon having a spicy omelette in the process and being entertained by a WDS6 storming up and down the station. Whilst wandering back onto the platform we noticed 18697R in the centre road. Huh? That number seems familiar!! It was the loco we had had on the Rajdhani and no-one had realised that the loco was being changed during the stop at Madgaon. The reason for heading up to Kulem was to photograph the bankers being attached to the rear of train 2779 for the ascent of the Braganza Ghat. This line was re-gauged in 1997 but passenger traffic has only been re-introduced in early 2000 due to safety concerns associated with working the 1 in 37 gradient. The solution has been to fit about 25 Gooty-based WDM2's with an emergency braking system that operates automatically at speeds above 25 km/h during the descent. The locos fitted with this system have a big yellow sign under the cab windows.

Train 2779 duly arrived with Richard and Rob hanging out of the front coach. They had easily made the journey to Vasco da Gama and checked into the hotel. While clamouring in the scrum to board the express Phil noticed that someone had just picked his pocket. He immediately gestured to a couple of Police Officers who strangely enough just happened to be hanging around the front coach. One of them disappeared into the coach and within a couple of minutes re-appeared with the wallet in his hand having allegedly found it on the floor of the coach. Phil checked and to his relief nothing was missing. However, after the initial relief of having retrieved the wallet, the efficiency of the local constabulary started to make us somewhat suspicious. After all, what better than to have someone's credit card details and for the someone to think that everything is fine and not to bother reporting the card as stolen! To be on the safe side Phil reported the card as stolen anyway when we reached Kulem.

As the wallet incident was going on and we were waiting to depart, a train arrived from the Kulem direction labelled as "Goa Express". It was this morning's inbound service running a mere 7 hours late. The line actually starts to climb almost immediately from Madgaon but with grades only around 1 in 70/80. We passed a couple of yards and noticed bankers waiting to work freights up the Ghat. At Kalem (one station before Kulem) we even saw a pair of orange/white Gooty WDG2s fitted with the emergency braking system. As far as we were aware there were NO WDG2s fitted with this system. At Kulem no less than THREE Gooty WDM2s were attached to the rear of the train. After a lengthy brake test the whole cavalcade departed for Castle Rock, just over one hour and 27 kilometres distant with a significant amount of 1 in 37 en route!! We returned back down the hill towards Madgaon and on to Vasco da Gama with 17695 on a local passenger train. Apparently there are self-propelled d.m.u's on these local services but they are often out of service. During our stay in the area we didn't see any of these with both local turns being Gooty WDM2s.

The hotel was conveniently less than 5 minutes walk from the station. During the confusing check-in Phil was checked in as Mr Prucao Wormark which must be the Portuguese equivalent of Phillip Wormald!! Shower, change and ate in the hotel's Chinese restaurant which provided us with excellent food.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Madgaon Jn. 12.05 14.31 WDM2 17960 2779 14.00 Vasco da gama - Hazrat Nizzamudin (L16) 34 km
Kulem 15.20 17.10 WDM2 17695 363 17.10 Kulem - Vasco da gama (L6) 58 km
Vasco da gama 19.00

Day 18: Thursday 7th December

Lazy morning with sociable (but slow) breakfast followed by tour of Velha Goa (Old Goa) the erstwhile state capital and Panjim, the present state capital having negotiated the hire of the hotel minibus and driver. Velha Goa was virtually abandoned following malaria and cholera epidemics in 17th Century but what remains is nevertheless very impressive; a collection of grandiose churches and convents that have been granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO. I wasn't quite expecting the area to have such a Portuguese feel about it. Silly really since Goa was a Portuguese colony until 1961 but I just wasn't expecting such an non-Indian feeling.

Our return route was via an impressive road bridge (adjacent to an even more impressive Konkan Railway bridge) across the Mandovi River and Panjim (Panaji). The Rough Guide describes Panjim in the following terms: "Take any mid-sized Portuguese town, add a sprinkling of banana trees and auto-rickshaws, drench annually with torrential tropical rain, and leave to simmer in fierce humid sunshine for at least 150 years!" Stopped off for a quick wander down to the Mandovi River before heading back to Vasco da gama and the hotel.

After checking out of the hotel we wandered across to the station to covered the local passenger running ahead of the "Goa Express". Very surprised to find a pair of WDM2s at the head and we joked how funny it would be if these two locos were to bank the "Goa Express" in a couple of hours. These were taken as far as Madgaon for the Express forward to Kulem which rolled in with the same single WDM2 at the head as yesterday. Our reserved 2AC coach was 4th from the back with the rear two vehicles not being in use. However at Kulem Richard discovered that one door was unlocked so several chose to stand at the rear and listen to the bankers. Only two bankers were attached to train 2779 today and yes, it was the same two locos which had worked out of Vasco da gama a couple of hours previously! Typically we saw at least 3 sets of triple bankers in the area. This train can get anything from 3 to 5 WDM2 on it so we were a little disappointed! The locos powered the 18 coach train effortlessly away from Kulem and chugged their way up the first 3 or 4 kms with far too little power being required. However the 1 in 100 increased to 1 in 75 then 1 in 50 then 1 in 40 and finally 1 in 37 and the noise increased accordingly maintaining the speed between 35 and 40 km/h for most of the ascent. We stopped in 3 passing loops to allow bankers to descend (one single and two triples) and each time the locos had no problem restarting the train. Spectacular views were to be had the higher we got, including the incredible 600 m high Dudhsagar Falls which the railway passes by on a stone viaduct. There wasn't much water to be seen but this must be absolutely awesome after the monsoon season. Not so awesome was the sight of a runaway WDM2 in a sand drag at one of the passing loops which had come to rest against a rock face!! Apparently there is a freight train at the bottom of an embankment somewhere on the ascent which only ran away a year or so ago. Ummmmm, maybe the safety concerns are justified?

The end of the 27 km climb from Kulem is marked by a sign "Thank You, Braganza Ghat" on the approach to Castle Rock station. Here the bankers were detached and we continued downhill to Londa with the single WDM2 on the front. At Londa Jn the train was re-marshalled with 3 coaches being detached and a 3 coach portion from Hubli Jn being attached. Londa Jn resembles the old Carstairs Jn in many respects being a single island platform with very Scottish-looking station buildings. Resurfacing work was in progress on the platform with a gang of women wandering seemingly aimlessly around with bowls full of concrete balanced on their heads. The diesel-powered concrete mixer standing right next to one of the local food vendors made his variety of fresh (?) food delicately flavoured by the exhaust of the mixer seem even more enticing! And this whole scene was lit by a single light bulb. Scenes such as this are virtually impossible to catch on film. The rest of the journey in darkness north towards Miraj Jn and Pune was quite uneventful. Everyone turned in very early due to the ridiculously early booked arrival time in Pune.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Vasco da gama 13.10 WDM2 16715 + 17774 (locos in multiple) 366 13.10 Vasco da gama - Kulem (L7) 24 km
Madgaon Jn 13.53 14.34 WDM2 17960 2779 14.00 Vasco da gama - Hazrat Nizzamudin(L18) 86 km
WDM2 16715+17774 bank 2779 between Kulem and Castle Rock. 27 km
Kulem dep. 15.53; Castle Rock arr. 17.06
Londa 17.45 18.17 WDM2 18649R 2779 14.00 Vasco da gama - Hazrat Nizzamudin(L18) 469 km

Day 19: Friday 8th December

Typically with such an early arrival time our train just had to arrive at Pune 38 minutes early at 03.22 depriving us of even more sleep than we had anticipated. We decided that we had nothing to lose by wandering across to the hotel anyway which was visible from the platform about ten minutes trudge away past sleeping bodies and avoiding the inevitable Bajaj's and other vehicles on the road. Surprisingly the hotel was more than happy to allow us into our most expensive rooms of the tour at 04.00 AND not charge us for the privilege. Back down to reception at 05.30 to find a sole Indian waiting for us. The legendary Apurva Bahadur, who Phil, Mark and I know from the IRFCA mailing list. He had made many arrangements for our stay in Pune and had very kindly offered his services as a guide for the area. We walked back across to station to board the "Maharashtra Express" which Apurva had strongly recommended as a day out from Pune. So we duly headed back up into the hills to the south of the city from whence we had just come unaware of quite what a rateable line we had just travelled over during our slumbers. I was awake enough to watch the first section from Ghorpuri up to Jejuri and actually enjoyed the cool breeze, finally feeling refreshingly cold after so long in a hot climate. The sunrise was spectacular over the barren almost mountainous landscape which was totally different to anything we had seen so far during our travels. It reminded me more of South Africa than anywhere else. Again this line is semaphore signalled (3 aspect upper quadrant) with tokens which are exchanged manually at anything up to line speed (100 km/h) which adds an immense amount to the atmosphere of the line. The sight of the assistant driver wearing his gauntlet, glove and goggles and then leaning out of the cab to collect the token for the next section which is contained in a leather pouch on a wicker hoop is absolutely fascinating and a joy to watch. The locos are fitted with a primitive token catching arrangement but this is not used as it is too unreliable and the token bounces off too frequently. So it is up to the men riding their Steel Stallions to literally risk their limbs to run the railway.

The further the line twisted up into the hills the more and more we were forced to think about Greece and the northbound climb out of Lianokladi. Although not as stiff, this climb is much longer and in many respects more scenic, running through an area hardly served by roads - a cross between Rannoch Moor and Lianokladi with rugged rocky hills and the odd horseshoe curve thrown in for good measure. As Apurva says, this is the best place to hear the voice of the king WDM 2 climbing the high Sahyadri mountains and making it's way through an almost unreal and desolate landscape. The line was realigned during the re-gauging (broad gauge opened in 1971) but much of the old metre gauge infrastructure is still visible including a few viaducts. The summit at Wathar (799.99 m above MSL) is also the highest point on the South Central Railway. Having now seen this section of the line in daylight we scoured the timetable for an excuse to do another run across this section. Perfectly timed local trains were available for a nice double back to Adarki so we leapt off at Jarandeswar. Ran about 200 m up the ballast for a lovely shot of 18976 doing it's best to eclipse the sun departing for Kolhapur.

During the wait for the local passenger train we were shown the workings of a token machine by the Stationmaster (in India the Stationmaster has responsibility for the operation of the sections each side of him. The signalmen are merely there to operate signals and points). After the sky-darkening departure of 18976 from Jarandeswar the crew of 18925 were primed to give us an equally impressive departure from Adarki. Unfortunately not too impressive but after departing the station the line sweeps round in a right-hand horseshoe curve and runs down the opposite side of the valley. When the loco was opposite the station the driver obliged by providing some black smoke to add to the already impressive backdrop! Instructions were then issued by walkie-talkie to the crew of the incoming train who then also obliged, again providing is with some lovely side-on phots.

At Wathar an omelette and chips was consumed in true Greek style in the buffet before an excellent fast run back towards Pune with 17477 of Bangalore shed subbing for a Guntakal loco. Excellent and prolonged use of the dynamic brakes! Leapt off at the last station before Pune, Ghorpuri which is adjacent to Pune shed. Apurva had kindly arranged for an official shed visit as well as springing his surprise on us; an interview and photo session with a Reporter from the "Times of India" who was a friend of Apurva's. The depot tour was conducted by the shed manager and was followed by a photo shoot with the members of the group lining the running plates of 14818 (WDG2). We returned to the hotel for a further group chat with the reporter before adjourning to the hotel brasserie for an excellent meal. A superb day, possibly the best of the holiday for me.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Pune 04.00 06.20 WDM2 18976 7384 08.00 Gondia - Kolhapur (L14) 138 km
Jarandeswar 09.10 09.17 WDM2 18925 316 06.05 Miraj Jn. - Sasvad Road (L9) 28 km
Adarki 09.42 11.20 WDM2 17451 315 07.15 Pune - Kolhapur (L9) 10 km
Wathar 11.50 12.30 WDM2 17477 7308 07.50 Kolhapur - Mumbai (L?) 117 km
Ghorpuri 15.30

Day 20: Saturday 9th December

I was very reluctant to leave the comfort of Le Meridien hotel this morning. A very comfortable hotel indeed. Apurva turned out to bid us farewell after our very short visit to Pune and surroundings. I think it is safe to say that I will be back to Pune in the future. The local passenger to Daund was quite fast with good Notch 8 acceleration and equally good use of dynamics (although not matching yesterdays spectacular efforts!). Passed a rake of Indian double-deck stock heading westbound to Pune. Even the double-deck stock has bars on the windows! Whiled away the wait at Daund by wandering off the end of the platform and into the yard to photograph a narrow gauge ZDM4/A and two coaches on transporter wagons. The 22 coach "Karnataka Express" and it's pair of Itarsi WDM2s duly appeared half an hour late for the long run up to Itarsi where the locos are scheduled to be replaced by electric traction. Again unfortunately our coach was virtually at the rear of the train but we were able to take many photos of the train curving through the desolate countryside towards Manmad. This again reminded me very strongly of South Africa. Yet more semaphore signals in evidence (lower quadrant) at every station along the line to Manmad. The sight of the local vendors attending train at every opportunity when the train stopped made the whole scene very colourful and diverse and I used the opportunity to take a few atmospheric photographs. A 45 minute early arrival at Manmad Jn allowed time for Peta to take a seminar phot of the 8 "mad" men under the Manman station sign before a prolonged stroll around the station for some diesel phots (camera beginning to go into motor-wind mode now). From here it was a long and mostly fast run "under the wires" to Itarsi. En route we passed two southbound workings also running with diesel power. The WDM2s were removed at Itarsi (as booked) and Rob did the honours of walking up 19 coaches and back during the 15 minute stop to find out which exciting electric (yawn) had replaced them while the rest of us slept. Just for the record the WAP4 broke a run of 58 consecutive runs behind Alco's over a period of 13 days.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Pune 07.30 WDM2 17910 1551 07.30 Pune - Daund (L7) 76 km
Daund Jn. 09.10 10.35 WDM2 18737 + 18544 (locos in multiple) 2627 18.25 Bangalore City - New Delhi (L22) 723 km
Itarsi 23.10 23.20 WAP4 22306 2627 18.25 Bangalore City - New Delhi (L22) 597 km

Day 21: Sunday 10th December

Today proved to be full of "Agra-vation"! We were hassled by touts the moment we set foot on Agra Cantt Jn platform with the usual "taxi, taxi mister? hotel mister? rickshaw, rickshaw mister?" We agreed a price with one of them and he told us to follow him off the platform as he knew a "short cut" which started to make us somewhat suspicious. Within seconds baton-wielding Police were chasing the him off the station making us even more suspicious. Why were the police being so forceful here? We were aware that Agra is "scam-city" but this just made us think that absolutely everyone was out to fleece you. We wondered if we just been saved from some scam? Once the commotion had died down and we had fought our way across the station and out onto the station forecourt into the sea of jabbering taxi and Bajaj wallahs we saw that the touts are simply not allowed on the platform. Here outside on the forecourt the Police just weren't interested and leave the tourists at the mercy of the melee of touts. Eventually we managed to sort out two taxis to hotel ending up with the first guy who approached us on the platform anyway! He seemed pretty insistent to his colleagues that we were "his" and whenever anyone lowered the price he lowered his price too!

Clark's Shiraz Hotel was set in nice gardens in a quiet road although it was situated just down from a Barracks! Quick shower and breakfast before hiring two of the hotel's cars for a few hours to take us not only to the infamous Taj Mahal ("the zenith of Moghul architecture") but also the equally infamous Agra Fort station. OK maybe Agra Fort station is not quite in the same league. The cars dropped us at one of the car parks and we were immediately surrounded by touts selling everything from Taj Mahal lighters and Taj Mahal T-shirts through to tacky looking Taj Mahal wooden elephants. No, no, thrice no! We don't want any of this rubbish!! But these gentlemen have been to the "Phillip Wormald School Of No Is Not An Answer" and followed us to one of the environmentally-friendly battery-driven shuttle buses which shuttle tourists from the car parks to the gates of the Taj in a laughable attempt to reduce air pollution. Of course the buses also charge a nominal fee of a few Rupees. The somewhat more extortionate entry fee to the Taj itself is a joke. Locals are charged 10 Rupees (except on Friday when it is free but the crowds immense), Non-Indians are charged a mere 96 TIMES that - 960 Rupees. Well actually, $10 + RS 500 to be more precise. But then one is consoled by the fact that this "special" ticket is supposedly valid for a number of tourist attractions in the Agra area including Agra Fort. Anyway this was definitely a case of we've come this far so we're not going back now. Not even the tightest Scotsman can come all the way to the Taj and refuse to go in because of a few quid although Richard almost did (just kidding).

Quick history lesson: The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan to enshrine the body of his favourite wife who died after giving birth to her 14th child in 1631 (What did they do before the invention of TV?). It took 21 years to build and material was brought from all over Asia. History then tells of the Shah being ousted from power (by his Son) and imprisoned just along the river in Agra Fort and the Romantics would have us believe that he spent the rest of his days "gazing wistfully at the Taj Mahal". However, history appears to be somewhat less romantic and states that he actually died in 1666 from an overdose of Opium and Aphrodisiacs during an orgy at the ripe old age of 74!! But I digress.

Getting the tickets was not a problem, actually getting into the Taj is more akin to boarding a plane after a major security alert. No mobile phones, No food, No lighters, No tripods (?) etc etc. My small rucksack was searched and declared fit to enter with the guard missing mobile phone, a penknife, food, very dubious looking SIGG water bottle which could easily be a small bomb AND small tripod because he didn't bother to search the two side pockets! Several others weren't quite so lucky having to deposit phones, packets of crisps, batteries and tripods with the Left Luggage Office. Once inside we were followed by a "Guide" who introduced himself to us and offered his services for 50 Rupees/person. We said "no thank you", very politely but he still persisted in following us around, telling us how symmetrical the layout of the Taj is and annoyingly where the "best" photos could be taken from. We did our best to avoid him with little success. He too had visited the "Phillip Wormald School Of No Is Not An Answer". The Taj Mahal is indeed a very beautiful (and symmetrical) building in very beautiful (and symmetrical) gardens but a very thorough (and symmetrical?) knowledge of the Koran and Muslim Faith is required to appreciate the "Perfection" of the design. The classic (and symmetrical) photographic image of the Taj surrounded by (symmetrical) water-filled ornamental "rivers" (depicting water, milk, wine and honey) allowing even more symmetry were not available as the ponds were dry. Apparently they are only filled on special occasions. We left the (non-symmetrical) hordes of Japanese tourists queueing to have their photos taken on "that" marble bench that Princess Diana made even more famous a few years ago. The items were recovered from the (definitely non-symmetrical) Left Luggage Office and we finally managed to lose our "Guide" who was last heard saying something about symmetry.

We returned to the cars and made our way to the huge red sandstone Agra Fort which is just along the river Yamuna from the Taj Mahal. Here we discovered that we would have to pay another $10 to enter the Fort as our "special" ticket only covered the 500 Rupee part of the two-tier entry price. We wandered around the outside of the Fort which does actually look quite impressive before deciding we were really bored of being Tourists and it was time to return to the railways.

Agra Fort station nestles between the sandstone Fort and the Jami Masjid mosque and boasts an overall roof which reminded me of Huddersfield for some reason. It consists of a single broad gauge electrified platform and three metre gauge platforms. 6442 was spluttering away at the head of 14.10 departure for Gonda Jn. Very nice backdrop in the shape of the 17th Century Mosque making the YDM4 look ancient. 6442 spluttered out of the station with 9 absolutely heaving coaches and headed off slowly through the absolutely rancid slums of Agra. Once clear of the city the journey became much more rural and pleasant with several locals travelling on the roof as we spluttered our way through the flat countryside.

The unlikely location of Achnera Jn must boast one of the finest collections of lower quadrant semaphores I have ever seen including two outrageous gantries at the west end of the station. We positioned ourselves at the west end of the station to photograph the YDM4 leaving but within minutes a crowd of the local kids had swamped us, excited at the sight of camera-wielding strangers off the beaten tourist track. Once the novelty had worn off (for us) we tried in vain to persuade the assembled masses to refrain from wandering into our viewfinders. It wouldn't have been so bad had they stayed in one place but when we moved they followed us and insisted on surrounding us. In the end I had to resort to using a zoom lens to get them out of the picture. The departure of 6442 was to be followed by 6334 on a local passenger so we wandered further down the track to phot this departure passing the splendid gantries. Naturally our new found friends followed. The scene must have been reminiscent of the days of the "Pied Piper of Hamlin" as we led about 70 jabbering kids and juveniles down the ballast and attempted to find a suitable location. Rob did his best to organise the kids under one of the gantries for a phot but no sooner would he turn his back and retreat to take the phot than the kids would follow him. Communication was pointless! One of the kids then appeared with a cricket bat and ball and invited us to join in an impromptu cricket match. Rob and I accepted, the others decided to view from the sidelines. And so Rob and myself found ourselves opening the batting for the "British Metre Gauge XI" against "Achnera Junction Boys XI". For the Cricket-Lovers it should definitely be noted that this game was probably the first in cricketing history which had to be abandoned due to good light (and associated photting conditions!). The photo of 6334 on the "local" would have been an absolute classic had it not been for the dozens of kids wandering around in front of the cameras. Oh well, can't win them all. It was a wonderful experience all the same.

Mark and Alastair arrived at Achnera on 6346 and got off in disgust because it was staggering badly. We bailed on and went as far as we could to Chikasana which is a former loop in the middle of some fields. Many photos of 6346 receding into the distance with groups of passengers on the roof. Station became a temporarily staffed halt as a local appeared to sell tickets to intending travellers. Even though we had Indrail Passes I bought 4 singles to Agra Fort as souvenirs at the outrageous price of 8 Rupees each. The run back to Agra Fort with 6528 was nothing special. We were all keen to get back now, especially as we had discovered that it really can get cold in India once the sun disappears. A light sweater or sweatshirt was definitely required.

The Bajaj ride back to hotel produced the most clapped-out vehicle of the whole holiday. It was a real stagger with Richard, Rob, Mark and myself crammed inside. It had to be pushed out of the dirt up onto the road before we could set off, almost shooting straight out in front of an oncoming bus in the process! It spluttered and staggered it's way back to the hotel and almost gave up the ghost completely within sight of the hotel grounds. The scene would have been perfect had it fallen to pieces after we stepped out. Dined in excellent hotel restaurant eating an Indian meal with accompanying traditional music overlooking an Indian wedding 5 floors below us in the hotel gardens.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Agra Cantt. 08.05
Agra Fort 14.10 YDM4 6442 5316 14.10 Agra Fort - Gonda Jn. (L9) 27 km
Achnera Jn. 15.08 16.25 YDM4 6346 101 15.25 Agra Fort - Bandikui Jn. (L10) 9 km
Chikasana 16.45 17.14 YDM4 6528 208 14.00 Bandikui Jn. - Agra Fort (L10) 36 km
Agra Fort 19.10

Day 22: Monday 11th December

The last day! Up before the dawn today and rather glad to leave the hassle of Agra behind. The only available taxi had to do two runs to the station. Rather pleased to find that our suspected WDP1 under the wires to Delhi had actually produced a diesel, although it was a WDM2. The intended move via Jaipur was forgotten in favour of a run up the main line to New Delhi which meant the rest of the party were closer to Delhi airport just in case any riots occurred with the railways. The run started off well but it seemed that the nearer we got to Delhi the slower the train became. We were looped at Ballabgarh running around 30 minutes early for a Rajdhani to pass enabling me to get a photo of the Tughlakabad WDM2. The remaining 36 kms into New Delhi were covered at speeds that a horse and cart could have improved upon. Passing the suburban station of Tilak Bridge meant that we had finally completed our circle around India. We eventually arrived on time and wandered out of the station into the Paharganj area of the city directly to the west of the station and headed for a hotel that Phil and some others had seen on our previous visit to Delhi. The hotel staff were somewhat taken aback when confronted by 9 people wanting one room. But we explained it was only for the bags and we wouldn't be staying overnight they agreed charging us the rate for a double room for one night. Mark and I spent an hour or so on one of the 90+ internet terminals available in this hotel whilst the others dined in the hotel restaurant.

Just after 13.00 Mark and I left the hotel and headed back for New Delhi station leaving the rest still waiting for their lunch to arrive! We had hoped for another WDM2c on train 4258 which was the train we headed out of New Delhi on nearly three weeks previously. Strangely today it was a standard WDM2. The others arrived just before departure and we all squeezed into one of the front two or three coaches. In situations like this we always have an advantage because we don't necessarily want a seat and are more than happy to stand at the doors. Mark, Rob and myself were heading out to Hapur Jn to cover a WDS4 turn which runs cross country for about 80 kms but due to track and re-signalling work between Ghaziabad Jn and Hapur Jn we were over 40 minutes late by the time we arrived and we had long since missed our intended train. Fortunately there was a late-running Express from Guwahati heading back towards Delhi which we scrambled aboard as it started to move. 17113 was an absolute Beast kicking out a screen of brown clag when it opened up, on one occasion literally producing a wall of clag which the train then had to pass through.

Train 4645 was full and standing when it arrived at Ghaziabad Jn and there were hordes of people waiting to get on. We approached the Guard to see if a combination of Mark's microphone and Rob's Driver ID Card would convince him to let us join him in his compartment. After staring at both for several minutes he seemed to agree so we clambered aboard relieved to not be clinging to the outside of the train. We had expected to meet up with the others at some point behind 15509 but they were spotted heading in the other direction towards Delhi having had enough for today and wanting food. 15509 suffered from the same "screech" as 16857 out of Ernakulam Jn., again only when near full power but this time slightly more subdued. 15509 had a nice crisp exhaust note. Off with most of the rest of the Delhi commuters at Modi Nagar. The return train was running late and we as the sun set and the temperature dropped boredom set in and we found ourselves for the first time in the holiday wishing we were back in the hotel. We eventually wandered off the end of the platform and into the narrow alleyways of Modi Nagar. It was like being transported into a different world, dozens of little shops selling numerous items or people at work with wood or cloth all lit by simple light bulbs. Water running in open sewers down each side of the alley. Not many tourists come down these alleyways judging by the looks that we got. It would have been easy to get lost in the maze of alleyways so we retraced our steps to the platform and continued our wait in the increasing cold of the evening. Be warned temperatures in this area can drop as low as 6 or 7 degrees Celsius during the night at this time of year. I was beginning to wish I hadn't left my sweatshirt in my rucksack at the hotel. Fortunately just as we were contemplating searching for a taxi back to Delhi 16502 appeared running about one hour late. We climbed into the dark coach and stood in the vestibule. It was strange, all the windows were shut and it was pitch black inside. Only when we started moving did the lights come on and we could see the mass of Indians huddled in blankets trying to keep warm. Space was very quickly and politely made for us to sit down and so we travelled in relative silence back to Delhi Jn with very little noise coming from the inside of the coach and just the subdued thrash from the WDM2 to entertain us.

Back at Delhi it was time to find a final Bajaj for the run back across the city to the hotel. This time we had the tuned version and a driver who was India's answer to Michael Schumacher. Met up with the rest of the group at the hotel and after a quick freshen up we were ready to head for the Airport and back to "Civilisation". I had asked the taxi driver to drop me off at another hotel as I was staying the night in Delhi before heading back to Jamshedpur the following morning. Despite repeating the request three times and showing him the address and seeing him nod he still insisted on taking me to the Airport with the others and was most confused when I asked him to take me back to a hotel in Delhi City! A brief but heated discussion with him via the Receptionist after arrival at the hotel quickly cleared the situation up and he actually apologised. I settled down for a decent night's sleep but was quickly woken by the cold!!....and Delhi's hotels are NOT fitted with heating.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Agra Cantt. 07.00 WDM2 16385 4317 15.00 Indore - Dehra Dun (L12) 195 km
New Delhi 11.30 13.30 WDM2 17518 4258 13.30 New Delhi - Varanasi (L22) 57 km
Hapur Jn. 14.45 13.25 WDM2 17113 5609 20.00 Guwahati - Delhi Jn. (L18) 37 km
Ghaziabad Jn. 15.20 16.48 WDP2 15509 4645 16.05 New Delhi - Jammu Tawi (L19) 28 km
Modi Nagar 17.26 18.02 WDM2 16502 304 07.05 Kalka - Delhi Jn. (L14) 48 km
Delhi Jn. 19.40

Tuesday 12th December 2000

The rest of the party had headed back to the UK courtesy of Austrian Airlines. I headed back to work for a couple of days. Indian Airlines A320 to Ranchi which is in the middle of nowhere and still a 3 hour drive from site along Indian roads!

Departure Arrival Aircraft Tail Number Flight id Flight
New Delhi 11.00 A320 VT-ESC IC809 08.00 Mumbai - Ranchi
Ranchi 13.35

Friday 15th December 2000

Finally time for me to go home!! Managed to get away from work quickly and back to Calcutta airport via Howrah and a night in a hotel in Calcutta which gave me time to pay another visit to the Circle Line and Sealdah to chase a few WDM2s. Taxi from hotel to Prinsep Ghat station to find 16409 was in the middle of a push/pull rake heading to Hasnabad on the Bangladesh border. "Dumped" nicely along the riverfront through the crowded bazaars, between parked lorries and buses. Train was absolutely heaving by the time it rolled into Dum Dum Jn. where I squeezed off and made a minus onto a similar push/pull working into Calcutta Sealdah terminus which was mobbed as usual. Out again on the first possible departure which just happened to be on load 18. Storming run which included thrashing non-stop through Dum Dum Jn. with the driver on the horn for at least two minutes. North of Dum Dum Jn. the fast lines parallel the slow lines which are used by the hopelessly overcrowded suburban e.m.u.'s. Lots of exchanging of horn blasts between drivers as we stormed past several e.m.u's. Leapt off at Naihati Jn for the following WDM2 which was taken to Ranaghat Jn. where I managed to squeeze on an unidentified working back to Dum Dum Jn. The service north of Ranaghat Jn. towards Lalgonda was disrupted due to flood damage caused during the monsoon season a few months earlier. No-one seemed to know how long the disruption would last. Back onto the Circular Line at Dum Dum Jn. with another 0-6-0 WDS4D which spluttered along nicely. For some reason train was terminated at the outrageously named station of B.B.D.Bag from where I caught a Bajaj back to the hotel for the night.

Departure Arrival Loco Loco No. Train No. Train Distance
Tatanagar 05.55 WAP4 22262 8014 05.55 Tatanagar - Howrah (L16) 251 km
Howrah 10.20
Prinsep Ghat 12.20 WDM2 16409 SH60 12.20 Prinsep Ghat - Hasnabad (L5+5) 14 km
Dum Dum Jn. 13.17 12.59 WDM2 17288 SH610 10.48 Hasnabad - Sealdah (L5+5) 7 km
Sealdah 13.17 13.40 WDM2 17638 3141 13.40 Sealdah - New Alipurduar (L18) 38 km
Naihati Jn. 14.34 15.05 WDM2 17365 107 14.10 Sealdah - Lalgonda (L9) 34 km
Ranaghat Jn. 15.46 15.50 WDM2 16450 ???? xx.xx Lalgonda - Sealdah (L9) 67 km
Dum Dum Jn. 17.46 18.03 WDS4D 19569 C-12 18.03 Dum Dum Jn. - B.B.D.Bag (L9) 10 km
B.B.D.Bag 18.41

Saturday 16th December 2000

Tourist day in Calcutta. Went for long walk amongst the markets, bazaars and fumes and got through over two films in the space of as many hours. Taxi to the Airport for another Indian Airlines A300 back across to Delhi.

Departure Arrival Aircraft Tail Number Flight id Flight
Calcutta 17.30 A300 VT-EDY IC402 17.30 Calcutta - New Delhi
New Delhi 19.40

Sunday 17th December 2000

Glad to finally get on board a Lufthansa 747-400 and head back home. Asleep as soon as the plane was airborne and slept for most of the flight to Frankfurt which is hardly surprising considering the anti-social departure time of most flights from India heading back to Europe. Yet again a dud 747-400 AND a dud A321 on the connecting flight on to D�sseldorf.

Departure Arrival Aircraft Tail Number Flight id Flight
New Delhi 03.15 B747 D-ABTC LH761 03.15 New Delhi - Frankfurt
Frankfurt 06.50 09.10 A321 D-AISC LH270 09.10 Frankfurt - D�sseldorf
D�sseldorf 09.50

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