All in a Day's Work: Mini-Convention at Bangalore
6 December is a date best remembered in our country for the infamous events associated with it. This year, though, it happened to fall on a Sunday - and a rather memorable one at that, at least for IRFCA. An incredible combination of circumstances brought 23 railfans from six cities - one of whom was getting married - together for a mini-convention of sorts, coincidentally at Bangalore, the same city that had played host to the previous convention.
The day happened to be the date of the marriage of Dilip Setlur (formerly Bangalore, then Hyderabad, now Mumbai). Accordingly, a few members from Hyderabad were coming down to Bangalore, led by who else but the indomitable VSP. This was communicated to us well in advance, and accordingly some of us made plans to receive them at SBC and then have breakfast with them. The day, however, began on a disastrous note - the 2785 was running horrendously late and all plans for breakfast had to be abandoned. At 0830, I received a call from S. Srinivas informing me that the 2785 was stranded at CSDR, and the Hyderabad group would be proceeding from there to SBC by road. I had a hasty breakfast, gulped down some coffee and proceeded to the station, where I was joined by Aamod Nerurkar from Mumbai, who was in town for a conference and would be returning home that day. Just as I entered the station through PF-7, the Sangamitra was hauled out of PF-1 by an unknown WAP-4. We moved upstairs to the retiring rooms, where we found Santosh and Tejender, who had arrived earlier in the morning by a late-running 2292 from Chennai, and reported sighting Erode's WAP-4 #22222 at Hebbal fully bedecked and heading an inaugural special. Murli Dhar from Coimbatore was also with them.
6 December 2009 was also a day of non-interlocked working at SBC, thanks to work in progress for the commissioning of a new RRI cabin as well as some miscellaneous maintenance being carried out by the S&T department of SWR. The result was a spate of delays - so much so that even the venerable Rani Chennamma arrived only at 0930, a full two and a half hours behind schedule - despite having the GM's saloon attached at the rear. In the meantime, Colin Peter and Jayshankar from Chennai, as well as our local ally Pawan Koppa, joined us at the retiring rooms. A few minutes later, VSP, attired in a striking blue cardigan arrived along with Chandu and HP Reddy. The arrival of the Kochuveli Express was also announced and it pulled into PF-5 at 0940, over an hour late, behind LGD WAP-4 #22559. Immediately after this, a light loco shunted the GM's saloon from PF-9 to the DRM's siding off PF-1 - a process that involves two reversals but also gives the GM a 'darshan' of the entire SBC yard. The Kochuveli was followed by the Udyan, also running late, which came in behind KJM WDP-4 20059(?) and was admitted on PF-4. Shortly after this, Bharath Moro, in his trademark Google T-shirt, arrived at the retiring rooms along with Kamesh, and was followed by Srini who had come by car. The gents from Hyderabad proceeded to freshen up and change, and around 1015 we were ready to depart for the wedding. The venue was half a dozen kilometres away, and we organised ourselves into groups of four to five each, dividing up between the three cars available. As we drove out of the SBC compound by, a very forlorn KJM WDP-4 #20031 hauled in the 2785 onto PF-2, nearly four hours late. Surprisingly, nearly half the train was still occupied - apparently people aren't too familiar with CSDR and preferred to wait for the train to reach SBC than to venture out on their own. Half an hour later, we were at the wedding hall, and were greeted by Shishir Jairam and Kunal Doddanavar, who had arrived at the venue independently. After seeing the proud and very excited bridegroom (he started talking to all of us and had to be gently reminded by the elders present to pay more attention to the bride), Srini and I, who had other commitments, left the venue, with a plan of meeting up at SBC in the afternoon.
The rest of the morning passed quickly and soon it was time to reassemble at SBC. Since Aamod had to leave that afternoon, we decided to meet at YPR instead. A few of the Hyderabad members also had others to meet in the city, and we decided to proceed to SBC in the evening to see them off. I reached YPR by 1400, and was greeted by a long line of electrics - a sight I had not previously seen, having last visited YPR during the days of its diesel virginity. Among them was #22222, which Tejender had mentioned seeing in the morning. The decorations had survived, and a poster on its side revealed it to have been the power for the inaugural run of the 2777 from KCVL, with the MoSR's name prominently mentioned. A late-running 2726 was waiting on PF-3 for clearance behind UBL WDP-4 #20008. Interestingly, the boards still displayed "Mysore-Bangalore-Hubli". The rake of the Pondicherry Garib Rath, surprisingly with two additional coaches attached, was stabled on PF-5, and the rake of the evening passenger to Salem was on PF-6. A departmental rake of SR, carrying equipment for electrification, was stabled on the siding adjacent to PF-6. The 2726 left a few minutes later, and in the meantime I purchased a platform ticket, noting with interest that facilities at YPR were slowly but steadily being improved. The station, which did not have even a light refreshment stall a couple of years back, now boasts of one such at each end, with one under construction on PF-4/5, and a departmental catering stall on PF-6 that was serving full-fledged lunch, albeit in aluminium foil. Tenders for the construction of a food plaza were awarded sometime back, but I was unable to figure out where exactly it would come up. Retiring rooms are also under construction at the PF-6 end, and in a few years the station will also be connected by the Bangalore Metro, which will have a station of its own just opposite.
I got in touch with the members who were coming from SBC, and on finding out that they were still on their way, decided to explore the station. The arrival of 2725 was announced as I climbed the FOB, and a few minutes later I was witness to a beautiful sight. PF-3 at YPR is on a curve, and bears the up line from SBC-TK. The section between SBC and YPR, however, operates as a twin single line, and the 2725 had been put on the 'down' line that day. The 23-coach train, headed by UBL WDP-4 #20009, running SHF, negotiated the points at the entrance and curved into the platform like a long graceful snake. Despite the obstruction posed by the catenary, it was quite a sight to watch 2725 gliding into the station. A heavy crowd boarded the already jam-packed train, and it left a couple of minutes later. Just after this, announcements were made that the 1014 CBE-LTT Express would arrive on PF-4, and a horde of confused souls who were stranded on PF-6 made a beeline for the FOB. The rakes of the 7309 Express to Vasco and the 7604 to KCG were on PF-1 and 2 respectively, the former slowly filling up as its departure approached.
As the rake of the Garib Rath was shunted to the yard, I made my way back to the entrance, and in a few minutes, Srini's car appeared, bearing within Aamod and a few of his friends who were leaving by 1014. Closely following them was Bharath Narayan's car, and to my pleasant surprise I saw the familiar form of Binai Sankar emerge from it - he was here on a different trip and decided to join in the fun that day. Kiran from Chennai, Santosh from Hyderabad and Murli Dhar from Coimbatore completed the line-up. We saw off Aamod's friends on the FOB and then proceeded to PF-1, where Aamod boarded his train - conveniently for him, he had been allotted an SLB. After a ritual distribution of sweets among all present, courtesy Srini, we bade Aamod goodbye and proceeded to the head of PF-2/3 to watch the 7309's departure. Full to the brim (barring the GS coaches), it pulled out behind KJM WDM-3A #18904 exactly at 15.15, beneath the freshly laid copper catenary that glinted in the sun.
The 1014 was expected to arrive at any moment, and the loco that would take it onward, KJM WDP-4 #20036, was idling between PF-3 and 4. It arrived around 1530 behind ED WDM-3D #11107, and the WDP-4 immediately proceeded to attach itself to the other end. The entire process was carried out by a shunting LP, and the regular LP, a wizened old man wearing spectacles and oozing experience, boarded the loco just as the brake hoses were being connected. During this process, the pressure was suddenly released and the gauge in the cab dropped to zero. This infuriated the LP, and what followed was a scene unprecedented as the LP soundly abused the TXR in some choice Tamil vocabulary. The latter made some attempts to explain, but this only infuriated the LP further and after that, the poor man decided to give up and withered under the onslaught, taking to his heels as soon as the LP had finished his diatribe. We made a rapid exit from there and moved on to the other end of the station, where we examined the resting electrics. The WDM-3D arrived there, reversed and was coupled to the very dead WAP-4 #22222. In the meantime, Srini received a call from Ravi Sundararajan informing us of his arrival at YPR, and a few minutes later, he joined us resplendent in a green shirt that seemed to exude authority - a passing gent mistook him for a railway official and proceeded to pour out his cup of woe regarding the cleanliness of the area (which compared to SBC was quite clean). This distraction aside, Srini decided to leave to catch up on a much-delayed afternoon siesta, and the rest of us split ourselves up - Bharath, Binai and Santosh proceeded to SBC in Bharath's car while Ravi, Murli, Kiran and I left in Ravi's car. Meanwhile, the 1014 had left and the afternoon passenger to Shimoga pulled into PF-3.
We arrived at the PF-7 entrance of SBC around 1700, just as the evening Shatabdi was leaving, and proceeded to the retiring rooms, where we met the remaining members of the Hyderabad gang as well as Pavan Kumar from Bangalore, who had arrived earlier. The group in Bharath's car left YPR by a different exit, took a different route, and arrived around 1715, just before the departure of the Kochuveli Express, which left from the same platform that it had arrived on. A few minutes later, we were joined by Mr. V. Anand, who had come down from Yelahanka by bus to be a part of the meet. We spent the next forty-five minutes in animated discussion, overlooking the vast expanse of SBC station. From general introductions and pleasantries to hardcore technical discussions, including a minor D v. E debate, it was a truly memorable evening of conversation. As the sun set, we posed for a group photograph on the terrace of the retiring rooms, and then proceeded downstairs to PF-2, where 2786 led by WDP-4 #20034, was waiting to take the Hyderabad members back home. More surprises were in store - most of the RAC tickets were confirmed, while HP got upgraded to 3A! A nearby teastall was put to good use, and we had a quick cuppa around 1815. The loco sounded a short blast, and we said our goodbyes to the Hyderabad gang while they boarded the train just as it began to pull out of the station.
And thus it was that a fantastic day came to an end. The rest of us proceeded to PF-7 (Mr. Anand left by the 2786, along with the Hyderabad gang) where we parted ways - Ravi dropped Murli, who was to take 2257 later that night, to YPR, while Pavan, Binai & Bharath and I went our separate ways. This is probably the largest gathering of IRFCAns we have had in Bangalore on a single day, barring the convention - and hence the title of this report. While the meetings were in discrete places, and the actual railfanning was limited, the sheer experience of meeting and conversing with so many fellow railfans from different locations more than made my day. And I'm sure that's a sentiment which will be reiterated by all those who were part of the gathering in Bangalore on 6 December 2009.