Joyful Rail Journeys: A Report
by Karthik M.V.
Last week I had been on a memorable visit to Mumbai (through KR and briganza ghats). As I wanted to cover KR in day time, I split my trip in two parts.
Mangalore-Madgaon while going.......
Mumbai-Madgaon on the return.....
Here is my report:
I started of with a comfortable journey by an overnight luxury bus to Mangalore from SBC. There are no trains between MAQ and SBC due to on going gauge conversion. By the time we reached the half way mark, we became a part of a convoy of several (beautiful) buses. As 9pm-11pm is a peak hour slot with about a 100 services departing SBC in this interval. Over a period of time this leads to convoy formations on NH 48!
Arrived at Hampankatta at 5:30am. 2 mins walk to the beautiful Mangalore Railway Station. After some freshning up I boarded the KR passenger to madgaon. This one is hauled by a ERODE 2c and has about 8 coaches, all in KR livery. All are second class Chair Car, except the guard vans. Train left at sharp 6:50 am and smoked away to Kankanadi. At Surathkal, my friend from KREC joined me. KR starts from here and I got the first glimpse of the disciplined KR staff in full uniform. Quite surprising and impressive that even gatemen and gang men wear a uniform.
From MAQ upto Kundapur the train travels mostly through the trenches!, hence I could not see much of scenery. The train bursted through the various tunnels and bridges at high speed (100??). The same on the scenic Sharavati river bridge too. Some how I managed to take a few snaps.
I should say the KR pass is a real "Super Fast"! It covers a distance of 430km in 6 hours and 30mins!! Average speed of 67 kmph!! That too with many stops and crossings!! We had a crossing with Gandhidam-Nagercoil Exp at Bhatkal and TVC bound Rajdhani at Balli. We were 10 mins early at Balli, but had to halt for 30mins for Rajdhani crossing. It was a thrill to see and click the WDP2 hauled high speed rajdhani. We reached Madgaon bang on time 1:30pm.
At Madgaon, we thought of trying the Dormitory but the keeper himself warned us that "there is lot of mosquitoes at night and several previous customers have complained about this and have spent the nights on platforms! " So he sent us to "Hill View Hotel". It is just 100m from the station. Nice 2 bed room with attached bath for just Rs.250/-. (musquito coil is provided free of cost at nights!!) Good enough for a short stay. Also a mini balcony from where you get a scenic view of the station and also you can hear the public addressing system. What more could I ask for?!!
Evening, went to Colva beach and wallked south to Benaulim beach. Had to walk back to colva, for transportation back to Madgaon:-(It seems bus service ends at 7pm, but we reached colva only at 7:30pm. So, being new to this place, we had to fall prey to a greedy autorickshaw! For Rs.70, he dropped us at MAO just 7km away!! After a nice meal at Benjoe'S can'teen in the stn, we went back to hotel and had a good sleep.
DAY TWO: (Goa Exp......)
Took the small Kulem pass to Vasco from MAO scheduled at 7:30 am. The train left MAO at 8am only but the gooty baldie (WDM2c) traversed and smoked the 30km to Vasco in just 20mins!! This had Adv Emerg Brakes. The route is really scenic. As the train goes along the side of a hill and to the left is the scenic velsao beach.
I put my suitcase in to the cloak room and took a 5mins bus ride to Mormugao port. This is really a scenic place with the road curving on a hill side and deep down on the other side is the arabian sea and the port. Plenty of ships and boat action can be seen from special "view points" along the road. My idea was to take a return ferry ride to Dona Paula 5kms across the bay. It seems and to our disappointment the ferry services have been completely banned since last year:-(So after some roaming around (nothing much to see!!), I saw off my friend to MAO by bus. He was to take the MAQ pass at 1:50pm.
I spent the rest of the time dreaming about Briganza ghats at the Vasco Station. The Guntakal baldie did some shunting duty and brought the prestigious Goa Exp. 2779 to platform 1. The train left VSG on time at 2pm. My coach was half empty. It seems most of the people taking this train are not NDLS commuters. Many were bound to Itarsi and Jhansi for further connections to Bengal, Bihar and UP. Also several board at Miraj, Belgaum, Pune and Manmad stations.
2779 reached kulem stn on time. There the two freshly painted Gooty baldie bankers were ready. Affectionately refered as "RED ANTS" by Appu ji! But on this day we had the "Red Ants" WDM2c and not the WDG2. But still both have the same power, so no problemo! Within 5mins train left Kulem and it was start of the duet song being played by the horns of the lead loco and banker loco. The train slowly curved its way through thick forests, up the western ghats.Lot of sharp curves and a climb from sea level to 800m MSL to Castle Rock!!. The train halted at Scenic doodhsagar falls (Only a trickel in the falls, probably summer?) and caranzol stations for 2 mins. I guess for some kind of brake testing and axle inspection? There was a triple WDG2 (light) crossing at Caranzol.
At CLR the bankers were removed and immediately the VSG bound amravati exp arrived on time. Then at Londa jn., few coaches were shunted around as neatly explained by Apurva, from the Hubli pass. Here 2779 reverses and a KJM 2c was put incharge!! After this,2779 zoomed through thick forests but was stopped for crossings at various stations for SBC bound Rani Chennama Exp and two other unknown exp. Quite surprising that 2779 being SF was not given preference, but it still made it to Pune at 4am next morning. (Huge Slack time?) Meanwhile the Pantry car kept my stomach happy:) but burnt a hole in my pocket ;-)
DAY THREE: (by DQ exp.....)
Arrived at 4am at Pune. After some freshing up, I slept for about an hour at the waiting hall! At 6:05am I saw the WCAM3 hauled Sinhagad exp, power its way out to Mumbai. A little later it was a real joy to see the majestic and beautiful Deccan Queen exp for the first time in MY life! It was shunted into platform one. Immediately I took a stroll along the rake to enjoy its beauty. I feel it has got the Best livery on IR. Dark blue below, a red line and an ivory white above the windows. Truly magnificent! Also it has got 5 AC chair cars!! One of them has a board saying " For Season Ticket Holders Only ". I never knew, there was season tickets for AC chair car too! The seats and internal looks are also truly magnificient, very clean and well maintained. 100 times better than the MAS-MYS shatabdi!! My coach SC7 was also well maintained. Soft seats, Clean toilets and smooth window shutters. Our loco was a proud(!) WCAM3 with its front panto up. It also had a board saying in hindi " Deccan Ki Rani ". The train has got a pantry car cum Dinning Car. The DC has about 8 tables, with each table having 4 plastic chairs.
The train left at sharp 7:15am. It powered away to Lonavala at a decent speed. Some season ticket holders were occupying the Door space, so I could not take any snaps. The train reached Dadar stn 5mins early at 10:15am. 180kms in 3 hrs, not bad! BUT As it is being given full priority and all signals "CLEAR", I feel the train can be speeded up even more. Karjat - Kalyan - Dadar was quite slow. Being such a Top Priority train, there must be some technology were, technical halts (brake testing,etc) can be skipped? Also, for Dn train bankers can be provided from CSTM and removed later at Pune? Atleast 20 mins can be saved by all this!
Keep in mind, for Pune - Mumbai commuters, every second is precious!!
DAY 4 to DAY 8
Railfanning at Mumbai and a visit to ISA house. Report later!
DAY EIGHT: (103 Mandavi Exp.......)
Travelled from Wadala to CSTM by fast local. Took the MAO bound 0103 Mandavi Exp at 7:05 am from plfrm 15. I got a half empty sleeper coach. And my 'cabin' for all myself! Good for "no Janjat" photography! This 21 coach train was hauled by a KJM 2c (not a baldie). It was a delight to see our train overtake a lot of locals of the CR and WR.
The 2c did a good smoky job upto Panvel. From here, to my delight I got a co-passenger who was a KR junior Sec Engr (Signal and telecom). He was Kannada speaking too! So, We quickly got to know each other. But he was there only for about 30mins with me, before he went of to an AC coach (?).
Meanwhile, He told me that, KR were giving full 110kmph for all trains, so our train could easily make up the 35 mins delay. CR was giving only 80kmph upto Roha! Also told me that multi aspect signaling of theirs actually increases speed of trains. The driver comes to know in advance, the next signal 3km away, hence he can easily judge and adjust his speeds suitably. KR have "blasted away" through the western ghats, by tunnels and viaducts. So, the gradient is almost level, and hence no need of bankers anywhere and a single 2c can easily manage a 21 coach train. In future KR will look to double a few intermediate sections if there is high traffic.
As he had said, the Mandavi bursted through various tunnels and scenic viaducts at about 100kmph. The journey was truly exciting and enjoyable. But at Ratnagiri, my ecstasy was disturbed ;-) A very cute and Fat, about a year old Marathi Kid, from neighbouring berth, innocently pissed on to my luggage. So, I had some cleaning to do!! Later evening,after a slow crawl through the scenic Zuari bridge, the 103 arrived at MAO at 6:05pm (10mins early). Thank god, there was no Rajdhani on that day!! But still we had a few crosinngs with Netravati Exp., etc.
After night meals at Benjoe'S can'teen at MAO, I took the biweekly VSG-YPR exp at 9pm.This one is a guntakal 2c hauled 14 coach train. The journey through Briganza ghats in the Dark night was a thrill As I was on the SLB, I could actually sense the steep gradient! It was a pleasure to see the "tube - light" lit train curve through the ghats. A few gangmen(?) had distributed themselves along the train and were waving powerful torches at each other and scanning the track sides. After CLR I went to sleep and got up next morning somewhere near Birur Jn.
The train arrived at "sharp" 11am at YPR (SBC). This after being 30 mins early to Tumkur!! 65km in 1hr 45mins. We purposely had some crossing with passengers, so that we should arrive at YPR "punctually" at 11am!! Also, thank god that there was no pantry on this train:-) I saved a few currency notes ;-)
So Friends, This was the succesful completion of one of the most rail fanning filled rail journeys that I have undertaken till date!
If any one wants High speed diesel action, I think KR is the mecca for railfans.