Route Diverted in Gujarat

by Karan Desai


Part 1

Posted to IRFCA on Nov. 28, 2010

Photos from this trip can be seen here

This trip was conceptualized months in advance, an initial idea of Mumbai railfans Aamod Nerurkar and some others to cover the Ahmedabad-Udaipur MG section involving a journey in the nearly-extinct MG 2AC coach. Slowly several railfans showed their interest, tickets were booked and we were suddenly that the Ahmedabad-Udaipur overnight express has been cancelled indefinitely, starting just a week before our scheduled trip! This was a big jolt to the plans and at one point we thought of cancelling the trip altogether, but then myself and Aamod sat with timetables and maps and figured out some alternatives, with suggestions pouring in from all railfans eager to experience the MG lines of Gujarat. Unfortunately one day before departure, Aamod fell sick and had to drop out of the trip he had so enthusiastically planned for all of us, but the rest of us did embark on a trip that would take us into the hinterlands of Gujarat, MG style.

On the morning of 16th July 2010, Abhishek Risbud, Pushkar Joshi, Dhawal Poladia, Kaushik Dharwadkar and Apoorva Karlekar boarded the 2009 Ahmedabad Shatabdi from Mumbai Central, with myself and Akshay Marathe joining in from Borivali. All of us except Akshay had reservations in C4 so the moment I boarded, I found the bunch of enthusiastic railfans roaming around the coach. My seat was a trackside window facing the direction of travel while the others had between them two windows facing opposite direction, so my seat was seen with envy! Valsad's ever dependable workhorse WCAM-2P #21880 was giving a clinically perfect high speed run when the morning tea and biscuits were served. Soon thereafter, a brief shower of rain washed the windows as we blasted through Dahanu Rd at around 120 km/hr crossing the Mumbai bound AK Rajdhani, also running at its MPS. Earlier in the day Dr. Jitendra Mulky had mentioned that he was travelling by Gujarat Express, which has a customary overtake by Shatabdi at Umargaon Rd, so he was waiting at the platform to wave at us. As our LHB rake sped past the station at full blast, I could catch a brief glimpse of Dr Mulky on the platform for a split second and the huge LHB windows and incredibly good eyesight of Dr. Mulky allowed him to find me inside the coach at that high speed too!

By now breakfast was served and the Veg option had cutlets with a few French fries while the non veg option had omelet along with the usual bread and butter. Both were good, though not great. We reached Vapi five minutes before time and as the businessmen got off, few seats remained vacant in our coach. We quickly called Akshay Marathe from C9 to join us in C4. Not happy with the quality of videos from the windows, I decided to try the door now to capture the high speed skip of Valsad, specially for our video master- Mr. Mani Vijay! The Shatabdi did not disappoint and we crossed Valsad at 100 km/hr, slowed down a bit but picked up speed again to run through Bilimora Jn and Navsari at flat 120 km/hr, and reached Surat around 10 minutes before time. Our technical expert Mr Khalid Kagzi had come to greet us at Surat station and we, especially Kaushik, nicknamed Electric Man for his love of the topic, had some enlightening conversation on technical topics before it was time to resume the high speed run.

After Surat there were quite a few empty seats so we spread out on windows of our choices and enjoyed the smooth run until we slowed down to cross the mighty Narmada bridge, and enter Bharuch, again before time. The run from Bharuch to Vadodara was once again well executed and we entered Vadodara Jn at 11.15am, bang on time. Immediately after departure from Vadodara, all of us were eagerly peeping out to check out the ELS and spot some white beasts, drawing curious glance from co-passengers. Soup was served soon after with bread sticks and lunch followed soon. It consisted of a very forgettable dal, rice, rotis and a paneer vegetable in which number of paneer pieces varied from zero to five between all of us. Anand and Nadiad were passed in quick succession and as we approached Vatva, the alignment of tracks caused quite a fair amount of excitement and heated discussions among the railfans, confusing the remaining passengers no end! A brief halt at the outer and we pulled into Ahmedabad Jn at 12.55pm, full 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

At Ahmedabad station, Abhishek Nair from Vadodara who had travelled by bus, joined us and we headed up the main building to look for a retiring room. The reception area for the retiring rooms was manned by an extremely hot tempered rude lady who flatly refused to allocate us a room, suggesting we go to a hotel nearby outside the station. A few phone calls to some our contacts at WR worked wonders and the lady mellowed down and allocated us one room. The nine of us took turns to have a quick POH and in an hour we were out on the station. We met the Station Manager, showed him our photography permit and when he came to know we are from IRFCA, he was extremely happy since he had been a regular viewer of IRFCA photos but had never met any IRFCAns in person. Since Ahmedabad station was too crowded and filthy, we decided to move base to Sabarmati. An Abu Road bound DMU was ready for departure and after quickly purchasing tickets worth Rs 2 each, we occupied all available doors of the DMU for the short run to Sabarmati which ended up being an annoying slow crawl taking forever.

As we entered Sabarmati Jn, the Jammu-Ahmedabad Express waited for us and soon started for the last leg of its journey. We went to the Station Master to show him our photography permit and he insisted on getting a photocopy of it. So, Akshay, Dhawal and myself went out in search of a photocopy shop, but it being afternoon and Ahmedabad, all shops were closed for noon siesta! A rickshaw driver offered us to take to a photocopy shop some distance away, and so here we were- instead of railfanning, going around bylanes of Sabarmati in search of a photocopy shop! Finally we found a photo studio whose owner agreed to make photocopies, which was actually done by scanning and printing copies, taking an eternity. Once back to the station, the Station Master insisted we talk to the RPF chief, who refused to look at the photography permit. A long argument, with liberal use of Gujarati by Dhawal eventually made him grant us conditional access to photograph but outside platform limits! In this long procedure, we missed seeing a couple of MG passengers going to and from Mahesana. Meanwhile local boy Vrundan Shah also joined us.

The evening was spent outside Sabarmati Jn, waiting for the two big arrivals of the evening- the Swarna Jayanti Rajdhani, which arrived behind a funky dark green colored VTA WDM-3A named Velociti followed by the Delhi bound Ashram, stripped of its legendary ABR twin Alcos, now came behind a BGKT WDP-4. Since this was the first trip of several among us to Ahmedabad, we decided to now explore the non-IR contents in the city! Guided by Vrundan, we took the famed Janmarg BRTS and half hour later were in complete awe of the smooth, efficient and technologically advanced mass transit system put up by the city. We visited Kankaria lake in the old city which was beautifully lit up at night and houses a narrow gauge toy train hauled by a diesel loco that looks and sounds like a steam loco! Needless to say, all of us grown-up kids took a joyride in it and enjoyed it totally. Dinner in the open air cafeteria at the lake taught me one thing- never ever order a pizza on the roadside in Ahmedabad! Soon we were huddled into three autorickshaws racing our way back to Ahmedabad station. Sagar Tipnis arrived by Karnavati and joined us as we walked across from the bustling BG side to the absolutely quiet MG side of the station.

The overnight MG express to Udaipur was cancelled between Himmatnagar and Udaipur for the fear of landslides in monsoon, so this train was now running, just for the sake of it, upto Himmatnagar departing from Ahmedabad at 11.00pm, reaching Himmatnagar in the dead of the night at 01.35am, immediately reversing at 01.55am and coming back to Ahmedabad at 04.25am. Obviously it saw no passengers- after all who would want to spend two and half hours to go to Himmatnagar at this hour when it was possible to reach much faster by road at any given time of the day! It turned out that the coach attendants of the 2A coach would shoo away any passengers who unknowingly turned up to go to Udaipur, lock the coach and let the train go, themselves staying put comfortable at Ahmedabad. Looking at us, they tried to do the same, but we had not turned up unknowingly. We knew perfectly well the train ran only upto Himmatnagar, and wanted to ride the MG 2A anyhow. We showed them our reservation, at first the two coach attendants tried convincing us to cancel the bookings and take the bus, but we did not relent nor did they. Finally, in the land of Sabarmati Ashram, it was time to turn to Bapu for help. A few Gandhis exchanged hands and the attendants opened the 2A coach for us!

The MG 2A coach resembles 1A coach of BG trains, with individual cabins for each bay with lockable doors. The coach was old but immaculately maintained and we enjoyed the privilege of having the entire coach to ourselves, checking and exploring everything in the coach. Electric Man Kaushik spent some time chatting with the coach attendants about the technicalities of air conditioning equipment as the remaining of us spent hours talking train stuff in the comfortable environs of the AC as we slowly chugged our way towards Himmatnagar. Later we decided to do justice to the clean inviting bedrolls and blankets provided to us and caught some sleep, until we pulled into a completely deserted and dark Himmatnagar station, devoid of any human presence at 01.30am. The YDM-4 that had pulled us quickly reversed and attached at the other end and within 30 minutes we were back on track, making the journey back to Ahmedabad. The return leg was spent mostly sleeping, preparing ourselves for more MG exploration that lay ahead of us.

Part 2

Posted to IRFCA on Dec. 1, 2010

Here is an account of the journey after BL:

We left BL and quickly accelerated to mps. The Surat bound intercity crossed us soon. Apart from this, the run to Vapi was clinical (& uneventful). Departure from Vapi was delayed by 10 minutes. Thereafter, what followed was a truely spectacular run. As we entered Maharashtra, the weather had changed. There were dark rain clouds in the sky now. It started raining soon. All this while, the LP had let loose the beast in 21871. We were galloping at mps. Dahanu road passed by in a flash. Click here for a video. The amazing mps run continued. We showed no signs of slowing down. Saphale & Kelve Road - one of the favourite spots of Mumbai gang to enjoy high speed runs - were crossed in a trademark style of those spots, at MPS!

We were now running ahead of schedule, thanks to the excellent run, coupled with slack. The first sign of slowdown was after Vaitarna. But that was a minor one. We picked up speed again and crossed Virar at a decent speed. From Nalasopara we again started slowing down and came to a halt at BSR home signal. A WCAG-1 hauled freight was crossing over to the down mainline from one of the platforms. After it cleared the line, we started. The run upto Naigaon was very sedate. On one of the creek bridges we picked up speed again.

After Mira road, we started slowing down for the entry into platform at BVI which is a very scarce resource! We overtook an MRVC rake between Mira road & Dahisar. At Dahisar, I looked at the indicator on the up slow line. It showed that the train which we had just overtaken was an Andheri slow. I heaved a sigh of relief. Andheri slow locals are received on platform 3 (which is the platform for the up slow line) at BVI, which meant platform 5 (up fast line) would be vacant for our train. We crawled through the NZ & switched to DC. Finally we reached BVI at 11.50, delayed by an insignificant 4 minutes.

Me, Abhishek, Kaushik & Dhawal got down at BVI. I spotted the WR suburban TT available at the Wheeler stall on the platform and quickly grabbed two copies. Apoorva Karlekar wanted to go to BCT as he stays at Dadar. But we forced him to alight at BVI! The reason being, we had only one copy of our ticket! So, had Apoorva proceeded to BCT & we encountered a TC, we would be conisdered ticketless. Apoorva accompanied us till the exit and then went to platforms again to take an EMU to DDR. I accompanied the others upto the bus stop for AC bus to Mulund at BVI (W) and then proceeded to BVI east to take another bus bound for my home.

Thus ended an awesome trip.

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