MAS-TVC Trip Report
by Jagadheep D
This is a long overdue trip report of my trip from Chennai to Trivandrum in early December (2002).
In the morning, I took a short trip to Mambalam along with my Dad. At that time, work was in full swing on the laying of new BG tracks between Park station and Chennai Egmore. On the way, spotted GOC WDM7 11008 doing shunting in MS yard.
In the evening, I managed to convince Dad the need to be early at the station using the pretext of keeping the heavy luggage before the crowd gets into the train. Reached MAS at around 6:15 pm. The rake of TVC mail was in platform 7. Our coach was S10 (chosen to be relatively close to the loco), and so it was a long walk at the station. After keeping the luggage, I started to roam about the station to do railfanning.
MAQ mail was in platform 6; it had 20 coaches (rake composition from rear: SLR, 4 2S, T11 (tatkal), A1, AS1, S1-S10, 2 2S). Interestingly, in the front, one 2S coach had "reserved" written on it, and the reservation chart for S10 was stuck on the door. Pity the poor passengers travelling in that coach. The rake was quite good with three signboards per coach. The loco for that train was AJJ WAM4-6PD 21307. The train left exactly at 19:00 hrs.
The rake of Alleppey express was in platform 1 or 2. I was shocked to see that it had a vacuum braked rake. It was most unexpected, as I had imagined that most rakes are air-braked. Its power was AJJ WAM4 21300. In platform 9 was Coromandel express, which had come with LGD WAP4 22214. On another platform was WAP4 22261; could not read its shed as it was dark. It probably came with the Navajivan exp.
Our own rake had 22 coaches that day: composition from rear: SLR, 2S, T12 (tatkal), S1-S11, S13, AS1, H1, A1, AS2, 2 2S, PC (which was locked). The loco that was to haul us was ED WAP4 22256. At 19:25, the weekly VSKP exp left with an AJJ WAM4 as its power. Just as I suspected, we did not get the starter at 19:30, because the VSKP exp was leaving at a snail's pace. Soon, the driver of our train started honking several short bursts probably asking for the signal. Finally at 19:35, we got the starter and we were off. Our driver turned out to be type III (ISA style): going at high speeds in between stations, but entering station platforms quite slowly.
We went slowly till Basin Bridge Jn., which we passed at 19:44, and then went by the sharp curve towards the mainline towards AJJ. Soon, we were off at a moderate pace (speeds surely less than or around 80 km/hr). Just before Avadi (time 20:04), Brindavan exp hauled by WAP4 crossed us. We passed Avadi at 20:07 which was already quite late. After Avadi (time 20:08), Sapthagiri exp crossed us. At 20:15, after we passed Pattabiram, a late Dadar exp being hauled by a WDM2 crossed us. There was no smoke and it was the horn and the cab windows by the side that gave it away in the dark.
After a few episodes of going slow (which is common in the section), we passed Tiruvallur at 20:27 hrs (about 20 minutes late). After that, the WAP4 really showed its stuff and we were flying past; I think that the speed would have been greater than 100 km/hr. At 20:32, Kovai exp hauled by WAP4 crossed us, followed by the Shatabdi which was also hauled by WAP4. It is a real delight to cross trains when both trains are doing close to 100
We finally slowed down when we neared AJJ which we passed at 20:50. Just before we entered AJJ, we passed by the ALLP-Bokaro Steel city exp hauled by a WAM4. This train also seemed to have a vacuum braked rake. After passing AJJ, we again picked up speed and were flying through all the way to KPD, which is very rare usually. As a testimony to the speed, we did the AJJ-KPD section in 42 minutes and were at KPD at 21:32 hrs. Unfortunately, after passing AJJ, my Dad called me from my place near the door, and even though I had a window seat, as the window was on the left side of the train, I could no longer see trains passing us. Anyway, as we were entering KPD, I spotted the departing TVC-GKP exp.
After we departed from KPD at 21:37, everyone went to sleep. I lay down in the lower berth and kept my head near the window so that I could still look out when I wanted to. Outside the station of KPD stood (in one of the side tracks) a WDS4B. The WAP4 was again charging ahead at full speed, so that all the windows in our coach (a relatively old one manufactured in 1990) were rattling. We overtook a freight train at Ambur and passed JTJ (did not stop at the station) at 22:40 hrs (63 minutes between KPD and JTJ is a really excellent run). Thus, even though we were 20 minutes behind schedule at AJJ, we managed to catch up on time by JTJ.
Went to sleep finally at this point. When I woke up again, we were passing through Magnesite Jn., and pretty soon, we arrived at SA at 0:10 hrs (5 minutes behind schedule). The MAQ mail was waiting in an adjacent platform and I knew that we were to overtake it here. In a few minutes, there was an announcement that NDLS bound Kerala exp was in the other platform, which meant that it was almost an hour late. We left SA at 0:17 hrs and I went back to sleep.
When I woke up again, the time was 1:15, and we were crawling outside the station limits of Cauvery. This is surprising as SA-ED is covered within 1 hr most of the time. Finally, we halted outside Cauvery station for some time, and then got the signal only to stop again at Cauvery station. After halting for some more time, we left, crossed the river and then finally halted again outside ED. This clearly meant that there were no platforms available at ED, which was why we were put to all these hardships.
Does anyone know how many platforms ED has? I suspect that it has only 4, which is PATHETIC for a station which handles almost 30 trains a day. Several times (through the SR spot your train website), I have observed trains getting delayed due to lack of platform availability at ED. Wonder why SR does not do something about this. This is a real shame
After halting in the outer station limits of ED for sometime, I saw a train (which I suspect to be the TVC mail bound for MAS) go towards SA. After that we were let through and finally reached ED at 1:30 (20 minutes late). In an adjacent platform, the Mysore-Thanjavur exp was standing with a GOC WDM2 (towards TPJ). On the other end of the train was an ED WDM2 which was decoupled from the train. This must have been the loco that hauled the train from MYS. On another platform was a vacuum braked rake (maroon colored coaches manufactured in 70s and 80s), which I suspected to be TN-SBC exp. After that train left, Cheran exp arrived hauled by WAP4 222xx. It too must have waited outside the station limits for a long time due to lack of platform availability.
We finally bid goodbye to ED at 1:36. Usually, the train makes up lost time in the ED-PGT section since TVC mail has no halts in this section. Up to a point, it looked as if we would make up for lost time. Unfortunately, there was the acrid smell of the air-brake just before Irugur and we were halted at Irugur at 2:43. Note that Irugur to Podanur is single line (whether going through CBE or going through the bypass).
After some time, there was the sound of diesel loco, and soon a diesel hauled freight train crossed us. By the time we left Irugur, we had lost 10 minutes (in fact more time, if you take into account the time for braking and reaccelerating). Further, there were caution orders near Walayar. Hence, we finally reached PGT only at 3:57. I could have sworn that we would have reached at 3:40 were it not for that crossing at Irugur.
After we left PGT at 4:05, we went at full speed till SRR east cabin (actually we did slow down a bit before Ottapalam) which we passed at 4:42. After that, we were met with several signals at caution, and so we were alternately taking up speed and then applying brakes (very annoying indeed), till we reached Trichur at 5:22 (22 minutes late). I had gotten up out of bed when we crossed SRR, and soon was enjoying myself at the door after brushing my teeth (and stood by the door till TVC except for breakfast break: a total of 7.25 hrs).
Left Trichur at 5:27. By this time, a most of the Ayyappa devotees had woken up and were taking turns to have a bath. At Ollur (first station towards ERS), a freight train hauled by twin WDM2 crossed us. Spotted a lone WAG7 at Pudukkad (next station after Ollur). We were doing good on speed all the way till Angamali (note that speeds do not reach 100 km/hr in this section; most of the curves have speed limits of 80), which we reached at 6:07. Here, an empty tanker hauled by a WDM2 (or WDG2) of ED shed crossed us. At Alwaye (which we reached at 6:22), we crossed with a passenger train hauled by ERS WDM2 (I could not note down any of the numbers of the locos because it was too dark).
We finally reached ERN (Ernakulam Town) at 6:47 (12 minutes late), where I got off and hurriedly went to the front to watch the loco change. Our coach was the 10th from the loco and so it took some time to get to the front. By the time I reached there, the WAP4 which had done a magnificent job was ready to leave. A few locals got into the trailing cab to hitch a ride from ERN to ERS. On an adjacent track stood ED WDM2C 14081 with Raj livery, which was to be our power till TVC. After the WAP4 left, it soon came to take charge of the train. As usual there were a few onlookers to watch the loco coupling. On another track stood a visitor from the north: a CNB WAG7 27095; wonder how it got so far south.
Even though the loco change was done, we were halted at ERN for some time because a passenger train was in the single line between Tripunittura and ERS. If our train were on time, we would have crossed with that train at Tripunittura. We finally left ERN at 7:12, and then crawled our way through the bypass line between ERN and the mainline between ERS and TVC, as most of the curves and points have speed limits of 15 km/hr.
At Tripunittura, we crossed a pair of ERS WDM2s (sorry guys, could not note down the numbers). There were a couple of caution orders in the line along with occasional speed limit restrictions of 50 km/hr over curves and 20 km/hr over a few bridges (this was something that I noticed all the way till QLN; maybe these are the bridges that are identified as old and fatigued). Otherwise, we were doing a max speed of about 80 km/hr. The WDM2C did not give out as much smoke as WDM2s used to do in olden times. Maybe they have made some modifications with the governor after all. At Ettumanur, we crossed a passenger train hauled by ERS WDM2B 16674.
We reached Kottayam at 8:22. Although I have mentioned this in a previous mail, electrification has not really taken off between ERS and KTYM. Even though catenary masts have been erected all the way between ERS and KTYM, catenary wire has not been laid ANYWHERE. I hope that the ALLP line has better luck with respect to electrification.
We were halted at KTYM for quite some time due to impending crossing with Venad exp. Finally at 8:35, Venad came with WDM2C baldie 14030 of ED shed. After the coming of Venad, we left KTYM at 8:37. Most of the trains in Kerala run almost like passenger trains between KTYM and Kayankulam, and TVC mail was no exception. We left Changanacheri at 8:59 and Tiruvalla at 9:14. At Tiruvalla, Parasuram exp was waiting for us to come. It was hauled by ED WDM2 16479. Interestingly, it had one FC coach in its rake! Also, at Tiruvalla, I spotted an unlikely visitor: WDS4B 19298. I haven't seen a WDS4 in south Kerala before this.
Reached Chengannur at 9:28 where we crossed with a passenger train hauled by ERS WDM2B 16804. At Chengannur, the remainder of the Ayyappa devotees (who had not gotten down at KTYM) detrained. Left Chengannur at 9:32 and reached Mavelikara at 9:45. We waited here for sometime for the CAPE-CSTM exp to come. It came with ED WDM2 18332 and the traditionally clean CR rake. CR rakes do indeed look a class apart from most SR rakes. BTW, this train has only about 16 or 17 coaches and in addition has a rather slow schedule. Giving this train a WAP4 (at ERN) is a real colossal waste of resources indeed.
From Mavelikara, catenary masts came up again by the side of the track. I guess that this was work done by people from Kayankulam side. Left Kayankulam at 10:04, and mercifully left single line section from this point. Just outside Kayankulam, we passed by a BOXN rake hauled by ERS WDM2B 18576. We took more time that I would have wished between Kayankulam and Quilon, probably because of caution orders on some bridges. We reached QLN at 10:47; there have been times when the stretch between Kayankulam and QLN was done in 35 minutes. After some time, CAPE-SBC exp came in adjacent platform hauled by ED WDM2C 14124 with Raj livery. This train also had a pretty clean rake. Other locos spotted in QLN were GOC WDM2A 16872 (which probably came with MDU-QLN passr) and ED WDM2C 18558, which was with NCJ-KTYM passenger.
Left QLN at 10:56, and hoped to catch some scenic views of backwaters and some speeding action till TVC. This stretch is probably the fastest section between TVC and SRR and the only place in this section where I have spotted speed limits of 90 km/hr over curves (usually it is less than 80). Indeed, this section did not disappoint and we reached Varkala at 11:20. In the meantime, we had passed by Netravathi exp, which was hauled by ED WDM2C 14126, again of Raj livery.
For those who have never travelled through Kerala, I would highly recommend TVC-ERS via ALLP. Between VAK and QLN, there are a lot of backwaters (called kayal in Malayalam), and at some places one can catch a view of the Arabian sea. A wind from west is usually cool and very refreshing, but let me not digress too much here.
We left VAK at 11:20 and till Kadakavur, the loco had very little to do due to the downward gradient. Unfortunately there were no gradient markers on the track and so I have no idea as to the severity of the gradient. But I am sure that it will be more severe than 1 in 100 at several places. There seems to be a permanent restriction outside Kadakavur station on both tracks, as I have observed them to be there for more than 2 years now. After this, we were doing a speed of around 90 km/hr or more. Ah! A thirst of some speed after several hours. Between Chirayinkil and Murukkampuzha, we crossed Kerala exp hauled by ED WDM2C baldie 14048, which was also doing about 90.
We reached Trivandrum Pettah at 11:58 (approx 60 minutes between TVC and QLN is pretty good), and finally reached TVC at 12:05 (15 minutes late). At TVC there were three locos parked one behind other. They were WDM2A 18420, WDM2 16084 and WDM2A 17583, all of ERS shed. I am almost sure that they are the locos that haul the evening trains (TVC-ERS Intercity exp, TVC-ERS Vanchinad exp, TVC-MAQ Malabar exp, etc).
My thanks for all those who patiently read through this long trip report. Coming up shortly: railfanning at TVC (2 or 3 reports) and equally long trip report of return journey.