by Sagar Tipnis
Posting the Goa trip report after a long time. Had undertaken the Goa trip on 1st Aug. while on a short trip to India. Trip was mainly to enjoy train travel.
Thane to Madgaon ... Jan Shatabdi Express.
My brother and I decided to go on a brief trip to Goa. Had booked tickets to Madgaon by Jan Shatabdi while return was by Mandovi Express.
Reached Thane at around 5:45 am to catch the Jan Shatabdi (scheduled time at TNA - 5:58 am). Went to pf. 5 just to see the 2165 LTT-BSB Express whiz by with a KYN WCAM3 at the head. Counted the no. of coaches and it came out to 24! Members in Mumbai area, please confirm. 1012 KOP-CSTM Mahalaxmi Exp was just departing from pf. 7. Hardly had a wait for 10 min. when the announcement for JS was heard.
Jan Shatabdi came in at 5:55 with WDP4 no. 20002 long hood forward. We were in coach SC1, which unfortunately was the 7th coach from the engine. JS had the following configuration:
MAO direction...Engine-Guard van-SC6-SC5-SC4-SC3-SC2-SC1-CC1-Guard van.
When the train entered Thane it was almost empty with very few passengers in only SC1, SC2 and CC coaches (Rest were totally empty). At Thane however, SC1 got filled completely plus about half of SC2 was filled.
The train left Thane at 6:00 am just when 2620 MAQ-LTT Matsyagandha Exp was entering pf. 6 hauled by an Erode (ED) WDM2. Then it was a decent run till Panvel right on schedule. Tea and biscuits were immediately served after leaving Thane. Strangely though, mineral water bottles were not given. When asked about it, the steward brought a 1 litre bottle to be sold for Rs 10. When asked about the complimenatry bottles given similar to Shatabdis, he said that they would be given with breakfast which would be served at 8 am. So apparently passengers are supposed to wait from 6:00 to 8:00 without water or else buy it!
At Panvel, very few people got on the train. Went for a walk down the length of the train. Was surprised to see the extremely low occupancy! Only SC1 was totally filled. Other than that, SC2 was half filled, SC3 and SC4 had 8-10 passengers each while SC5, SC6 and SLR(Guard vans) were totally empty. Even the ACCH had just 15-16 passengers. One thing I noticed was that all the seats in all coaches were facing towards Madgaon. So passengers going to Madgaon will have wind on their faces but for those travelling to Mumbai will have wind behind them!
The train didn't pick much speed while it was on CR territory. Just before Roha, breakfast (and water!!) was served. Breakfast was the normal bread and cutlets (or omelettes for non-veg). Roha passed at slow speed at around 8:15.
No sooner had Roha been passed and the train was in KR, there was noticeable improvement in speed. The first KR tunnel at Dasgaon was passed at 8:47. This is around 50 km from Roha and the distance had been traversed in just over 30 min. The WDP4 was definitely sprinting by now and it was glorious! My brother had a stop-watch on his wrist watch, and he decided to time the train through tunnels (I wanted him to calculate acc. to distance markers, but in the Jan Shatabdi coaches, the window bars are mounted inside, so it is difficult to note in advance the markers along the line at high speed). The avg. speed thru some of the major tunnels is given at the end of the report.
The train halted for a couple of minutes at Khed (not a halt!) at around 9:15. (98 km actual? from Roha in 1hr). The next commercial halt was at Chiplun where we reached at 9:37. We were diverted on pf. 2 since the NZM-bound Mangala Exp was on pf. 1 with an Ernakulam WDM2 at its head. Surprisingly, even with this fabulous speed the train was already late by 18 min.
After a quick 2 min halt, we were on our way. A non-stop run, albeit with plenty of slow-downs, brought us into pf. 1 at Ratnagiri at 10:35 (20 min late). 6346 TVC-LTT Netravati Exp was already on pf. 3 headed by a ED WDM2C (baldie) for its 21 coach load. Lunch was picked up at RN, since Jan Shatabdi doesn't have a separate pantry car; but pantry space is provided separately for each coach. (As a result all the JS coaches have only two toilets instead of 4 for regular coaches).
Then began another long run through tall bridges and long tunnels. The next halt was at Kankavli, which was a good 112 km (actual) away. Lunch was served at around 11 am. It was just routine fare with dal, rice, pickle, egg curry (or some vegetable) and chapatis rolled in an aluminium foil. Frankly I was disappointed to find nothing different from what is served on normal trains.
Crossed the ED WDM2 headed KR6 Sindhudurg passenger to Diwa at Vilawade. Kankavli arrived at 11:45 (now only 12 min late). A fine run of 112 km in about 70 odd minutes! Next halt was immediately the next one - Kudal. 6338 ERN-Okha Exp was already standing with a ERS WDM2 at Kudal.
Leaving Kudal at 12:06, we sped towards Goa. At Sawantwadi Rd, the Mumbai-bound Mandovi Exp was waiting with a KJM WDM2C (WDM3A) while we blasted by the main line. The next halt was supposed to be Madgaon, but to my surprise, the train slowed as we approached Thivim. We actually diverted from the main line to the station and halted. And a lot of passengers actually were standing with their luggage ready to alight, as if they knew the train was going to halt there! Seems that Thivim has been added as a halt (as Rajan had written in his trip report as well).
Karmali too passed at slow speed, making me fear as to whether the train was going to halt there as well, but thankfully it didn't. After it had crossed the Zuari bridge, the train really slowed down, making me wonder whether we'd make it to Madgaon on time. But to my surprise, by the time we'd passed Majorda, it was just 1 pm, and with less than 15 km to go, we were running ahead of schedule. The train finally entered Madgaon and came to a halt on pf. 1 at 1:20 pm, exactly 10 min before time.
Thus came to an end, the first portion of my trip. A few observations/musings :
- First of all, about the WDP4. This was the first time I'd seen or been in a train hauled by this beast. And acc. to me it is definitely no.1! The loco doesn't seem like a typical diesel lococ at all. There is a gentle whine, more like the electric locos. I know many WDM2 lovers out there may not be particularly impressed, but believe me, it is nice in its own way. Another thing that impressed me was the almost absence of black fumes. Definitely an environment-friendly diesel loco!
- There is a definite potential for further increase in speed. The tracks of KR are excellent with smooth rideability. Also, the coaches of jan Shatabdi were smooth as well (could be because of newness too). If only the CR tracks upto Roha are improved to match the KR ones! The train can hardly pick any speed till it passes Roha.
- With respect to the design of Jan Shatabdi coaches, they definitely look more appealing from the outside with the elongated windows. However, since the seats inside are oriented only in one direction, it would have been a better idea to have smaller windows for individual seats. With the current window design, chances are that you may be stuck in the middle or aisle seat of a row that is at the front end of the window edge, so you'll hardly be getting any wind. The seats though are good. For persons with avg. build, 3x3 is not a problem, but a fat person on either of them, and the whole journey might be a hell. Leg room though is excellent. Not much of luggage space; so travel light when travelling by these.
- One sore point that stuck out was the quality of food. Of course, there may be individual viewpoints on this, but according to me, I would have liked something better. If you are paying something extra for the food, you also expect the food to be at least slightly better than the normal fare. The food served in Jan Shatabdi was extremely ordinary and with no variety. Compared to that in my return journey by Mandovi, we were presented with a wide variety of choices.
- Though quality of food was not that great acc. to me, the service definitely was. All food items were served airline-style in trays, etc.
- I don't know how much the railways will be able to contain unauthorised entry into the II class coaches. I saw a couple who'd boarded the train at Panvel with platform tickets. Since the train was almost empty, the TTE could allott them seats, but imagine the same situation during vacations when the train is full!
- The Jan Shatabdi makes a good train for onward connections. Scheduled arrival time of JS at Madgaon is 13:30. For passengers towards Mangalore, the MAO-MAQ Passenger leaves at 13:50. For those wanting to go to Vasco, the Kulem-Vasco passenger is scheduled at 13:45 and if you've to go towards Kulem/Castle Rock/Londa, then Goa Express departing at 14:10 is an excellent choice. And since JS is mostly on time, no problem of missing any connections.
It was definitely one of the highlights of my Indian rail journeys till now. Given below are avg. speeds in kmph of the Jan Shatabdi through some of the tunnels. The tunnel no. while counting from Mumbai end is given in brackets. (Note that in the longer tunnels the train often slowed or picked speed midway, so it is impossible to pinpoint the exact speed. e.g. at the north entrance of Karbude tunnel (6506 m), there was a speed restriction of 20 kmph)
|Tunnel||Average Speed in Kmph|
Madgaon to Vasco by Kulem-Vasco Pass.
After arriving at Madgaon at 13:10 by Jan Shatabdi, my brother and I had to go to Panaji. Rather than go by bus, we decided to take the train to Vasco and from there, go by ferry to Dona Paula and thence to Panaji.
The passenger from Kulem to Vasco was scheduled at 13:35. We bought tickets and went to pf. 2 from where it was scheduled to leave. The rake of Jan Shatabdi was on pf. 1 and already the pantry was being loaded for its return journey at 14:10. The WDP4 20002 switched ends. A Pune WDM3A was parked in a siding to be attached to the Konkan Kanya Exp to Mumbai. Another WDM2 from Erode was shunting.
KR2 Mangalore-Madgaon passenger arrived on pf. 3 headed by an ED WDM2 (SHF). It had a pretty decent air-braked rake of about 10 II class and two SLRs. One of the SLR had a separate space for handicapped. I guess all the newer SLRs have this facility since I had also seen Mahalaxmi, Netravati and Mangala with similar coaches at one end. The ED WDM2 which had brought the train was detached and another ED WDM2 which had been shunting at MAO was immediately connected to the other end to take the train back to MAQ.
I guess the ED WDM2 loco link works as follows.. KR2 from MAQ to MAO, KR8/KR6 from MAO to DW, Pass from DW to PNVL, Pass from PNVL to DW, KR5/KR7 from DW to MAO and again KR1 from MAO to MAQ.
The Vasco passenger arrived about 10 min. late. Surprisingly, for a 7-coach rake (6 II class and 1 SLR at the end), it was being pulled by a Gooty WDG2A (WDG3A), equipped with Auto-Emergency brakes. Actually this train does not cross the Braganza Ghat, so why the need for this loco? My brother and I got into the 1st coach from the engine. The train pulled out of Madgaon in a couple of minutes and immediately picked up speed with the power of WDG2 making a short work of this puny rake. With brief halts at Suravali and Majorda Jn, we diverted from the KR line, and reached Cansulim. Here we halted for about 15 min. to allow the Vasco-NZM Goa Express to cross. It was being pulled at a fast pace by a Gooty WDM2C (WDM3A) baldie with SHF.
Soon we were on our way. The rail route from Madgaon to Vasco is also quite scenic, and it was a thrill to hear the train as it passed between tall rock formations with the typical Alco noise and a continuous horn from the driver to accompany it. Also the rail line passes quite near the sea and especially, the station 'Sankval' is almost located on a beach, i.e., it is at some height above, but you can easily see the beach running parallel to the station.
Without any further delay, the train reached Vasco-Da-Gama station on pf. 1.
Madgaon to Thane by Mandovi Express
The return journey was planned by Mandovi Express. When we reached Madgaon at about 9:30 am, we found that the Mandovi rake was already on pf. 1 along with KJM WDM3A (14083) at it's head. This rake is shared with the overnight Konkan Kanya Express. The rake composition was as follows: CSTM side..... ENG-SLR-GS-GS-GS-AS1-AS2-AS3-A1-HA1-PC-S1 to S5-SC1 to SC4-GS-SLR; i.e. total 21 coaches.
Now since this shares rakes with an overnight train, the SC1 to SC4 are actually sleeper class coaches (i.e. for Konkan Kanya, the coaches will be numbered from S1 to S9). SO in Mandovi, the same sleepers which accomodate 72 berths have numbers from 1 to 90 by allowing seating of 4+1 in a row. The day time seat nos are painted above the berth nos. as D1, D2, etc. upto D90. This is really difficult for first timers since if you've been allotted no.32 and you go and sit on berth no. 32, it will actually be seat no. 40 for Mandovi. Lots of arguments occur due to that.
Anyways, we were reserved in SC4 which was the 19th coach from the engine. The whole rake had air-braked standard IR livery with a matching loco at its front. The coaches though belonged to various divisions incl. CR, NR, NFR, NE, SC, SR and WR, with only one thing in common... all had the words 'To ply on KR' stencilled on them.
One thing I noticed in this trip was that most of the trains running on KR have S.C.K.R. written on the General coaches. Earlier this used to be only K.R. But now I noticed that General coaches on all the trains including Mandovi/Konkan Kanya, MAQ-MAO Pass, DR-RN Pass, DW-SWV-MAO Pass and Kulem-VSG Pass plus a lot of coaches in the sidings at MAO and RN had clearly S.C.K.R. written in Hindi and English. Can anybody clarify whether SC has taken over coach maintenance of KR and is that the reason of this new naming?
Getting back to the journey, while we were waiting for the train to start, 6336 Nagercoil-Gandhidham Exp arrived on pf. 2 behind an ED WDM2. This train was to run in front of us and was late at MAO by 10 min. It departed at 10:10 and soon after that we were off exactly at 10:30.
The track upto Majorda Jn is double (after that one line goes towards Vasco and the other towards Panvel, i.e. KR line). As a result there was no stoppage while we crossed the MAO-bound Konkan Kanya at Surawali headed by a navy-blue/light blue Pune WDM3A.
As a result of so many halts being added to the Mandovi over the past few months, it almost runs as a passenger upto Kankavli. It has halts at Verna, Karmali, Thivim, Pernem, Sawantwadi Rd, Kudal, Sindhudurg and kankavli (as opposed to Karmali, Thivim, Sawantwadi, Kudal and Kankavli when I travelled an year and a half ago). Also further there are additional halts at Vaibhavwadi Rd and Adavali as well, all added in the past year.
The train kept according to its schedule and reached Sawantwadi Rd sharp at 11:55. I knew that Jan Shatabdi would be crossing us over here. In about 10 min, heard a sharp horn from a distance and waited in anticipation of the WDP4 hauled super express. The WDP4 definitely did not disappoint as the Jan Shatabdi screamed through the main line at over 100 kmph. It was an amazing sight which can only be experienced. It was the same WDP4 20002 which had hauled our JS, and this time too it was running LHF towards Madgaon.
As soon as the JS had crossed, we were back on our way. It was almost 12:15 and the attendant came for the lunch order. When we just asked him what was for non-veg lunch, he surprised us by reciting a whole list of items incl. Chicken Curry, Chicken Biryani, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken Schezuan, Chicken Manchurian, Chicken Lollipop and some more items which was a bit too much for me to comprehend. My brother and I settled for a Chicken Fried Rice and Chicken manchurian. This was a much improved fare from the ordinary lunch that we had in the Jan Shatabdi. One thing that I liked about travelling in the Mandovi is the amount and variety of food-stuffs that are sold. Almost each and every type of snack items (South Indian, North Indian and Maharashtrian varieties) are sold. Another thing is that all these are sold by the Pantry staff in the train and not outside vendors. Only at Ratnagiri, where the train has a 10 min halt do outside vendors enter the train to sell their wares. Another good thing till now while travelling on KR is the relative absence of beggars and total absence of eunuchs (hijras). Hope this remains forever!!
By the time we had crossed Kankavli at around 13:00, we had finished with our lunch, and had some fruit salad for dessert. The total bill came out to Rs 110 which is pretty reasonable (Rs 40 for each Chicken dish and Rs 15 each for the fruit salad) considering the quality and taste of the food.
Then had a snooze and by the time I woke up we were almost at the 4km long Berdewadi tunnel. My brother, as before, had been timing the train thru the tunnels. We reached Adavali at 13:55. By now it was raining quite heavily and we had to sit with the window-panes shuttered down. The MAO-bound Mandovi was on the adjacent track with a KJM WDM3A (14053). I believe the KJM WDM3A which brings in the Udyan to Mumbai then works on CSTM-MAO-CSTM by Mandovi before going back by Udyan. Similarly, the PA WDM3A which hauls Mahalaxmi to Mumbai works the CSTM-MAO-CSTM route with Konkan Kanya before going back with the Mahalaxmi.
The train started from Adavali at 14:15. Due to a few speed restrictions, it kept on slowing and again picking speed. But since this was a 21-coach rake powered by a 3100 hp loco (and not a 9-coach rake powered by a 4000hp loco - Jan Shatabdi), the pick up was slower. This resulted in a half an hour delay by the time we reached Ratnagiri. Already the announcement for HNZM-bound Rajdhani was being made, so obviously, the Rajdhani was hot on our heels.
We departed from Ratnagiri at 14:50, and though we kept a decent speed, hardly an hour had passed before we were sidelined at Savarde to allow the Rajdhani to overtake. Announcements were being made at Savarde station to warn passengers to stay away from the main-line since Rajdhani was going to pass. It was raining a lot. Still went by the door just in time to see the vermillion and cream liveried GOC WDP2 roar past us with the Raj with its horns blaring. Unfortunately, as usual, the color-blind NR guys had put Shatabdi power cars at both ends of the 12-coach (or 14?) rake.
We left Savarde at about 16:00 and immediately on the next station crossed the RJT-ERN Express towards ERN (ERS WDM2B) which had been obviously waiting for both the Rajdhani and our train to cross. Chiplun was reached at 16:10 and we left only at 16:20, thus putting us almost 40 min behind schedule. Immediately on the next station after Chiplun, at Anjani, we crossed the ED WDM2C (WDM3A) hauled Netravati Express to TVC.
After a 5 min halt at Khed, we were literally flying and at the next station, Diwankhawati, overtook the equally late running 6336 NCJ-GIM express. At Kolad, which is the final station on KR towards Mumbai, we crossed KR3 DR-RN passenger with a navy blue and white Kalyan WDM2.
As usual, after Roha, the speed decreased and we trundled along with unofficial halts at Kasu and Rasayani. Probably, the MAO-DW passenger in front of us was the cause of the slow running. By this time we were thoroughly bored because it was dark outside, and unfortunately the coach we were in was a 1989 built S.C. rly coach with bulbs instaed of tube-lights. To add to the misery, only alternate bulbs were on, thus making the interiors dark and gloomy, and impossible to read or write anything.
Still due to the tremendous slack given between Khed and Panvel, we still managed to hit Panvel at right time. Then again, a slow run and an anticipated unofficial halt at Diwa where most of the passengers towards Dombivli and Kalyan got off. Why don't the authorities simply make Diwa an official passeneger halt for this train, at least in the UP direction? It would greatly benefit passengers going to Dombivli and beyond. The train has been saddled with a lot of halts anyways.
A quick run to Thane where we alighted on pf 7 exactly on schedule. Thus ended a short but satisfying Goa trip, which I'd primarily made for the train journeys.
Avg. speeds thru major tunnels which my brother so painstakingly compiled (Note that tunnel no. indicates from Mumbai end):Length in Meters
|Tunnel||Average Speed in Kmph|