Visit To Puttaparthi by SSPN Exp
by Karthik M.V.
Last Tuesday I had been on a day trip to Puttaparthi by 6503/4 'Sathya Sai Prashanthi Nilayam Express'. You will find it mesmerising that this train is not in SR TT, but is still running!
Here is my report:
I reached Bangalore Cant. at 6:30am. After purchasing my ticket, I went to the plfrm 2 and purchased a newspaper and water bottle. A little later I saw the totally packed Lalbagh Exp depart behind a WAP-4 (22222) of Erode shed. At sharp 6:55am the SSPN exp arrived behind a KJM WDM2A. This was previously a 3 coach train, but now a days it has become 5 coaches.
Here is the composition: Engine - IICC - GS - SLR - IICC - IICC.
The last 2 coaches are reserved and vestibuled. I boarded the first IICC as I wanted to be near the loco. The reserved coaches only had about 30 people + TTE. The GS coaches had about 120 people. As my coach was relatively empty, I settled down into a comfortable window seat.
At sharp 6:58am the loco blew its loud horn and chugged out steadily. Just after crossing over some points, the train picked up to abt 70kmph almost instantaneously. It was a great feeling to burst through a packed Bangalore East station! From there on the drivers did a commendable job. We were always early by 10mins at all stations. On various sections the train touched 100kmph mark. The drivers literally toyed with the train, as they increased and decreased speed as they liked!! My feeling is, travelling by this train is as good as travelling by a 'light' loco.
This train has only 6 stops in 212kms over 4 hrs. Cantt, Yelahanka, Dodballapur(DBU), Gowribidanur(GBD), Hindupur, SSPN.
It was a great feeling to zoom on the main line while crossing with the Udyan Exp and TVC exp. But we had to wait at DBU for 10mins to cross with the lowly HUP-SBC DMU. On Maklidurga-GBD section there is a fall in gradient from 846MSL to 679MSL. So the landscape is quite scenic and rocky with plenty of sharp curves. Here, the loco simply went to (silent)neutral mode and let the gravity take over. I was amazed that the dynamic brakes were not used either in MKL or Penukonda ghats. We arrived at SSPN 15mins early at 10:30am.
The puttaparthi town is actually abt 8kms from the SSPN rly stn. To protect passengers from greedy autorickshaws, some noble souls have provided a bus connection for this train. So,with a feeling of thanks, I boarded the APSRTC bus waiting just outside the plfrm 1. This bus drops you at puttaparathi bus terminus which is bang opposite to Sai Baba Nilayam. Tkt cost is only Rs.5 and journey time is abt 20mins. On the way, it was nice to see the airport runway and main road go side by side. There is only a gap of around 80mts.
At Prashanthi Nilayam, The 'darshan' was to be only at 2pm. So, I visited the museum on the Prashanthi hill and roamed abt the complex. The entire complex has excellent architecture, A good mix of palace style and modern design.
Later I had lunch at the 'Dining Hall'. One food coupon costs Rs.2 only. For about 4 coupons I had a wholesome lunch. The food given here is pure and a type of social service. Also there is a respectable variety of items. Hence, for visitors the 'dining hall' is the best place to eat.
At 2pm I had darshan of Sai Baba (10mins only), there was a crowd of abt 2000 devotees!!. Around 3pm I caught a bus and arrived at SSPN by 3:20pm.
Though the train was to depart only at 4:30pm, I arrived early so that I could admire the rly stn. I think SSPN is the most beautiful railway station on IR. Apart from its architectural splendour, both the internal and external layouts are geometric and pleasing to eyes. Also, as the stn is brand new, it was very neat and sparkling. Also, the location is such that it is surrounded by barren rocky hills and green fields. Giving a touch of contrasts and beauty.
At 4:45pm the train departed from SSPN. I boarded the reserved coach as, I wanted to be behind the loco. But, the TTE (female) insisted on paying Rs.15 as reservation charges. Later, I found out from the TTE that this train will be sacked shortly, after Minister officially inaugurates the SSPN line and other trains begin to take that route. As my coach was literally empty with only 10 people, I enjoyed the privacy! So, I did some sound recordings peacefully! The climb up the penukonda and MKL ghats was enjoyable with the typical WDM2 sounds. We had to stop for several crossings with the VSKP bound prashanthi exp, WDP-4 exp, awesome-twosome KK and DMU and a goods train. But still we reached YNK 10mins early.
At around 8pm the train stopped at CSDR for signal. So, I got down joyfully and walked off to my house just 2mins away!! After reaching my house, I was totally disappointed to find that all my recordings went for a toss due to low battery power:-( Anyway still this was an unforgettable trip. I feel lucky that I got to enjoy this train before it is sacked for ever:-) So friends, if anyone wants to enjoy WDM2 power take this train ASAP!