by Jagan Mohan


I'd been home to Salem on vacation last month, between Aug 16 - 25. Naturally, I travelled by IR. Here is the trip report:

Left NDLS by the 2621 Tamil Nadu Express. I had a tatkal ticket, as 3A was unavailable. TN had a 24-coach rake 1A x 1, 2A x 2, 3A x 3, SL x 13, PC x 1, II/GS x 4

I was in the third coach from the end of the train. The tatkal coach (T-13) was a brand new WGSCN coach, serial number 03227. It had been commissioned on 04-08-2003. It had a number of interesting features. First, every coupe had the berth numbers on the night lamps itself. This was to allow passengers boarding the train at night (when others are asleep) to find their berths without switching on the main lights and waking others.

Second, seats 37 and 53 (both side lower berths) had cradles fitted. The cradles were folded behind a large velcro flap. Remove the flap and the cradle swings out to let you safely keep a child there. It seems a very good feature and I commend IR for it.

Outside, the coach bore the following markings:




The first marking was obvious. The second apparently is the maximum load of the couplers. But does anyone know what the "DRAWGEAR COMPONENTS FITTED" refers to?

Also, the coach had "NEI" stencilled on its wheels; what is this?

Power for the TN was an old and tired-looking ED WAP-4, road number 22289. It had twin beam lights, not in the cute recessed style of newer WAP-4s, but retrofitted in an ugly WAP-1 style snout. But appearences were deceptive, the loco was really quick!

Just after Delhi we crossed almost a dozen freight trains all parked on the other track. They were parked with barely a signal length between them. Funny.

Around 40 minutes before reaching Agra, the brakes on the II class coach just behind T-13 parted and the train came to a halt. I heard the tell-tale hissing sound and got up to investigate. The brake was quickly repaired but I guess the guard wrote out a caution order, because the train travelled quite slowly till Agra. At AGC, some more technicians clustered around the train and I guess the caution order was revoked, because we went back to high speed after that.

After ET I headed for the door again as the Vindhya crossing is one of the most scenic routes on IR. At Darakoh we stopped to take on a banker. A single ET WAG-5A, road number 23812, was attached to the rear of the train. No MUed WAG-5s this time. The banker stayed with us till Maramjhira, where it was detached.

Reached Nagpur exactly on time and found a Kazipet WDM-2, road number 16889, dead on the adjacent track. This loco had been rettrofitted with twin beam headlights. It had "FOCUS ADJUSTED" stencilled near the lights. Road number 16889 seems to be one of the original ALCOs, is that right?

Just after BPQ is a station called Manikgarh, and immediately after this station is a single line curving away to the right. I tried to find this on the map, it seems to be a spur going to a place called Chanda Fort. Can someone please confirm this?

We reached MAS exactly on time, on platform 11. After making a few telephone calls I went to the nearby reservation office to buy a ticket for SA on the 6627 West Coast Express. What a delightful place it was! Cool environment, spotlessly clean, plenty of chairs in each queue for people to wait in comfort, soothing classical Carnatic music playing over the announcement system, aaah... heaven. The lady reservation clerk was very polite and efficient and I got my ticket with the minimum fuss.

Then I went to the Dishnet DSL office and checked my e-mail over a high-bandwidth link (20Rs/30 mins), before going over to Saravana Bhavan for breakfast. Another clean and neat place with a nice view of the platforms.

IR ought to send all its GMs to MAS to see how a real station should be run. I have not seen a better maintained station on IR than MAS.

West Coast was on platform 1. The train was mostly empty, as a number of its sleeper coaches were reserved for quotas. One coach was empty and every berth on the chart was marked PNBE quota (for through passengers, according to the TTE). Another entire coach (also empty) was SA quota, and so on. I got into S-7, serial number 88220/AB. A really old WGSCN coach.

Power was the West Coast was an AJJ WAM-4-6P-E loco in Rajdhani livery, road number 21240. It had "6P/AB/HS" stencilled on its side, under the road number. Now, the 6P is for six-parallel, AB is air-brake, and HS is high-speed. What does the "E" stand for?

On an unrelated front, what is the big idea of painting WAM-4s in Rajdhani livery? I don't believe any Rajdhani in IR gets a WAM-4 except maybe in an emergency. The old maroon and blue combo for WAM-4s looks much better than the silly orange/red livery. AJJ, ET, and GZB sheds seem to be especially fond of painting their WAM-4s in Rajdhani livery.

Reached SA on time as well, and took a bus home. While at home, I went to Salem Town station to see the Salem - Vridhachalam passenger. This train has a bit sentimental value as it gave me my first ever train ride (just after I was born, so I don't remember anything about it, but still...) This line is going to be converted to BG, and the train will be discontinued soon. So I went to get some photos while I could.

Got some nice pics of YDM-4s, especially number 6004. There are three YDM-4s here, one for the each of the two passenger trains and a spare.

Returned to Delhi by the 2625 Kerala Express. My father and I reached the station at 2300 only to find that Kerala was running 50 minutes late. So there was nothing to do but sit and wait, and watch the trains.

The first train to come along was the 6525, the old Island Express. It came in behind an ED WDM-2, number 14125. This loco would take 6525 to SBC and immediately return to SA with the SBC - SA passenger, then go back to SBC with the SA - SBC passenger, and then finally take the 6526 back to CAPE. Now thats one busy loco! I think its a record for the number of different trains hauled by one loco in a single day - 4.

Then came the Mysore - Thanjavur Express behind GOC WDM-2 18317. This is the same loco that was on Showcase recently. The train itself was a dingy maroon rake, quite a contrast to bright green/yellow locomotive.

Anyway, a 22-coach Kerala (2A x 2, 3A x 3, SL x 12, PC x 1, II x 4) finally pulled in at 0055, behind a sparkling new ED WAP-4, road number 22536. My 3A coach, serial number 02127/A, was quite new and clean. I had an upper berth and since was so late, there was nothing to do but go to sleep.

Got up in the morning to find us running on time and almost at BZA. Noticed that the AC unit on our coach was stencilled "Netravathi." What does this mean? Does the Kerala Express share its rake with the Netravathi?

Sometime afterwards, the train came to an abrupt halt in the middle of some paddy fields. I could see seven men carrying luggage walking away through the fields. Four of them were wearing khaki - cops. They had pulled the chain in the unreserved coach ahead and got off the train. The coach attendant told me chain pulling was common around Warangal. This happened just before Kadavakuduru station.

We reached Warangal on time and then halted there for almost 30 minutes. I could see lots of people clustered around towards the rear of the train. The TTE told me "something has fallen off the train and they are repairing it." I never found out what had fallen off, but it was very intriguing.

While we were effecting repairs at WL, a BZA WAM-4, road number 21267, came up with the East Coast Express. It was a really dirty maroon coloured rake, with a most unique formation. The very first coach after the engine was a 2A. Then the fourth coach from the end was also 2A. Some coaches were II class, but marked S-3, S-4, etc. Then there were also regular SL coaches. One of them carried a unique serial number: 91238-X. I've never seen this "X" on any other coach - what does it indicate?

After the East Coast overtook us, the MAS - NZM Rajdhani came in behind an unbelievably dirtly GZB WAP-1, road number 22040. It had a leading Shatabdi EOG car (1981-A) but a trailing Rajdhani EOG.

After the Rajdhani had overtaken us we finally pulled out of WL.

Just after BPQ, I saw a WAM-4 hauling a freight train for the first time in my life. Until now I've only seen WAM-4s with passenger trains. This was ET WAM-4P 20595 with a rake of empty flat cars. This WAM-4 was also in Rajdhani livery. So that made for a doubly incongruous sight: a WAM-4 in Rajdhani livery AND hauling freight.

Saw two interesting diesels at ET. Road numbers 17786-R and 17870-R. Apparently rebuilt WDM-2s. Also at ET was GMO WAG-9 31005. It was dead (both pantographs down and both cabs shuttered) behind CNB WAG-7 27535. This WAG-7 had "STC FITTED" stencilled on it - what does this mean?

Later I saw a beautiful dark blue/light blue BRC WAM-4, road number 20556, hauling a passenger train. The road number was stencilled on the side of the loco in the style of an electric calculator. Very nice.

Just after MTJ, we stopped at a station called Rundhi for around 20 minutes. While waiting, GZB WAM-4P 20679 pulled up alongside with an AGC - NDLS passenger. This loco (again in Rajdhani livery) was leading a beautiful new blue/cream Ludhiana WAG-7, road number 27657. The WAM-4P had "ABC + 6P" stencilled on the side. Any idea what the ABC stands for?

Reached NZM only slightly late, at 15:50, and after making a few calls, took an auto to Noida.

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