Nilambur Road Trip Report

by Jimmy Jose


Photos from this trip can be found here: Trip to Nilambur

Myself and Sandeep Mohan did a railfanning trip to Nilambur on 25 October. Here is the trip report.

We had originally planned to do the Palght Pollachi MG route. But since I had some pressing appointments on the morning of 25 October, we cut short the trip to a smaller one. Luckily we had very good weather with slight drizzles.

Our plan was like this:

Ernakulam Town - Shoranaur: 7230 Sabari Exp, dep 11.35 Shoranaur - Nilambur: 643 Palghat - Nilambur Road Pass, dep 14.40 Nilambur Road - Shoranaur: 644 Nilambur - Palghat Pass, dep 17.00 Shoranaur - Ernakulam Jn: 6306 Canannore - Ernakulam Exp, dep 19.10

Sandeep Mohan arrived well in advance at Ernakulam Town with my camera. Infact, this trip was the initiation of my camera to Rail Photography. Within a short time, Sandeep spooted and shot many trains. The list and loco numbers are given at the end of this report.

Finally I arrived at 11.10. By this time, Canannore-Alleppey Exp was pulling to Pf no. 2. Soon the arrival of Sabari Exp was announced. An Erode WAP 4, 22256 soon arrived and the driver collected the caution orders from the SM's office to wait at sidings to await arrival of Sabari from Trivandrum.

Sabari Exp finally pulled in, behind Ernakulam WDM 2 16885. Infact, this is the last WDM 2 assigned to SR. And the loco has very nice beats. The train has a 2S coach (unreserved) and we asked some passengers to adjust since we both desperately needed a window seat. The WAP 4 was coupled and soon we were on the way.

I should say that Sabari has very good rake. Our coach was 99xxx but was very futuristic with mobile chargers. The next reserved coach was 05xxx and most of the rest too were. The waiters on the train were all from Andhra, and in IRCTC uniform.

We started our journey in style with WAP 4 22256 accelerating very nicely. The 18 coach load was peanuts for this brute. Soon, we were treated with Chicken Biriyani. The biriyani was typical Andhra type but had big pieces. I should say that this is the best Biriyani I had tasted for years.

We had very nice train spotting at Ernakulam Town andenroute, the following were they:

  1. Mangla Exp (NZM bound) behind ERS WDM 2 16674 at Ernakulam Town
  2. Parasuram Exp (Maq bound) behind ED WDM 2 18484 at ERN
  3. CAN-ALLP Exp behind ERS WDM 2 16668 at ERN
  4. NMG freight behind GOC WDG 2 14662 at Kalamassery
  5. Island Exp,delayed by 3 hours behind ED WAP 4 22370 at Kalamassery
  6. Mangla Exp (ERS bound) behind ERS WDM 2 18420 at Alwaye
  7. BCNA freight behind ED WAG 7 27498 at Angamaly
  8. Sabari Exp (TVC bound) behind ED WAP 4 22380 at Chalakudy
  9. Parasuram Exp (MAQ bound) behind ED WDM 2 18209 at Irinjalakuda
  10. Raptisagar Exp behind ED WAP 4 22390 at Trichur

I need not write much on this route. I think many others have written a lot. But I would like to add one thing: Why there are so much curves in the sector? Beacuse, this line, built by Maharajah of Cochin in 1901, was originally a metre gauge line. It was converted by SIR to Broad gauge in the 1930's. SIR did not do any straightening of the curves. So, these curves remain even today, much to the delight of railfans and commonman alike.

Finally we reached Shoranaur on atime at 13.50. We had enough time to explore Shoranur. For a small town the station is really big. The station has lost it's importance gradually.

We spotted the following there:

  1. Venad behind ED WAP 4 22381. The chair car of this train was brand new. These are based on shells meant for Shatabdi Exps.
  2. WAP 4 22295, 22550, ED WDM 2 17141
  3. A stylish blue EMU, bound for Coimbatore
  4. Steam Crane Cowand Sheldon
  5. LWR rake
  6. Netravati behind Erode WDm 2C 14081

We arrived at the train after the exploration. The 643 Passenger had 7 coaches, including the two SLR's, and was headed by ED WDM 2 18598. The loco though badly needing a coat of paint was a real performer. Her beats were so nice. We took our places in the second last coach. We were lucky indeed to get a single seat on the emergency window

Two RPF cops, along with two handcuffed youths soon took thier seats next to us. I wanted to change the seat, since I did not want to lose my camera. But we finally decided not to. We discussed among ourselves why these youths, looking very smart and seems to come from a good family, were arrested. Were they arrested for taking photographs? Will we follow the same suit? I flashed around my camera to see whether they cared, they did not.

Soon we were on the way. We passed the site of the old steam shed. Some parts of it has been converted into a coach care facility. A steam shed that held more than 80 locos of dignified classes like WP, WG, WL etc. Now a man made forest. Will the great sheds of today, like Erode face similar fate? Who knows? Workers at the steam shed were sent to diesel sheds and these men of might were comic figures there. They are made fun of, everyone called them "Steam Surpluss". They were assigned meager jobs like loco cleaning etc.

Work is going on in full swing to double the Mangalore-Shoranaur line. Our train was going really fast by now. We soon took a right turn from the Calicut line to depart on the Nilambur line.

The Shoranaur-Nilambur Road line was built as a Metre Gauge line by South Indian Railway, to carry teak from the forests neighbouring Nilambur. This line was abandoned after the teak wealth was fully utilised, and also during the World War time, when SIR discarded some branch lines. Later, Southern Railway relaid this line, converted it into Broad Gauge. And the line is well patronized, especially after the settlers from central Kerala cleared the forests around Nilambur and planted cash crops.

While British used the line to tap the teak wealth, Indians have planted teak on both sides of the line!! Trying to get back the lost wealth!! But what a tragedy to the nature lover, why was this location chosen? The grand scenery is hardly visible through the thick fence like plantations.

Stations are small, but beautifull. Platforms are dotted with old Banyan Trees. It seems this line is a favourite for film producers. There is sparse traffic, and the locations are perfect for romantic get togethers or tearfull seperations of the hero and his heroine. Most of the stations had only a handfull of passengers, but at Angadippuram, there was a huge crowd and our train was instantly full. Angadippuram is the station for the big town of the area, Perinthalmanna. There is a big FCI godown too here. In this sector, trains have an MPS of around 60 kmph (not sure of the exact speed). This is a semapore signal area. We noticed that many semaphores are blacked out and a yellow and black board placed in it's position.

While I was at the door, Sandeep soon made friends. While I returned, the young boy asked me in flawless english whether he should move. I was surprised with his accent. His name is Nabel. He, along with his family was returning from Perinthalmanna aftr Ramzan shopping. His father, Mohammed is a famous business man of the area. His mother's brother, Aryadan Mohammed, is the Electricity Minister of Kerala. Nabel was born and bought up in Saudi Arabia and came to Kerala after his father returned. Like most of the people around the area, Nabel's father is originally from Palai in Central Kerala and settled in Nilambur during the settling boom of 1950's, where, people sold thier small estates in thier hometowns of Central Kerala and bought large estates in the largely un cultivated north.

Nabel syas that most of the people in the area use trains to go from Nilambur to rst of Kerala. They park thier vehicles at the station and take the train. Likewise, Nabel and his family had parked thier car at the station.

After Angadipuram, the train drastically slows down. MPS is restricted to 30 kmph. The land is filled with rubber estates. And the occassional aracanut and cocunut plantations. The train continues like a plantation railway. There are many bridges enroute, and some are situated on curves.

Our train arrived Nilambur at 16.40. Nilambur Road station, with the strange code "NIL" is very small indeed. There is a covered pathway connecting the station to the platform. The platform is full of old Banyan trees. The line goes even further, to the forests. But the tracks disappear under soil. Our loco backed up and soon attached to the other end. The loop line has old inverted circle type fish plates. Sandeep and me took our time photographing the station. And here too, we found our dreaded enemies, the RPF.

The loco attatched, the guard and drivers, who had gone to the nearby tea stall to have a tea and smoke, returned and asked "Shall we start". The guard picked up some packets from the station master, maybe official letters or so.

Finally, we were off. Being in the first coach, we were treated to a very nice musical extravaganza from 18598. The driver was notching up the loco vigourously. Moideen Kaka and his soon Abdu are the catering service in the train, supplying everything from peanuts to bread. And boy, Moideen kaka has such a large number of customers. Seems he has been doing this from the days of steam. His son now sells tea in the train.

The rains soon started. Thank god, they started after we finished major portion of our trip. So, we all downed our window glass. Me and Sandeep had some time to talk now.

We arrived Shoranaur at 18.55. The arrival of Canannore-Ernakulam Exp was being blared out. So, we soon rushed to the platform where it was coming too. We had a good tiffin of dosa and vada from the plaform.

Loco spotting:

  • ED WAP 4 22570 with CBE-TCR pass
  • ERS WDm 2 16668 with ALLP-CAN Exp

When the train was pulling, the loco seemed to have waist level headlights. From the distance, it looked like a WAP 4. As it approached, to our delight, it was a beautifull ERS Jumbo 17805. The train was really crowded. We took our position at the door of the first coach to hear the music. This loco was even more louder than the one on Nilambur road stretch. But the beats were not as sharp as the previous one. Sandeep stayed at the door but I got a seat at Trichur. Soon, I was fast asleep.

So, we arrived at Ernakulam and 21.15, 10 minute ahead of schedule, and parted. What a nice trip we had!

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