Digha Trip Report
by Saurab Basu
Yes! That's right.
This was the dream that Bengal had for decades. Now it stands in front of all of us as a wonderful reality. Inaugurated on the 31st of December 2004, this was one of the longest Outstanding Projects pending to be finally executed by the Indian Railways. A cheerful event indeed for every rail fans like us. So without delay, we planned to experience it all by ourselves. Samit and Myself, we had made our mind to take it Early January, and we did accordingly.
Early in the morning at 05:45 AM, I gave Samit the Wake Up Call, like earlier. By then, I was already starting to feel the enthusiasm. Had a warm cup of Tea, and headed for a fine start. Took a cab to Samit's house. He was all set and we finally started for Shalimar Station at 07:00 AM from Ballygunge (that's where Samit Stays). The morning seemed bright and prosperous for the day to come. We reached Shalimar Station via Vidyasagar Setu (2nd Hoogly Bridge) at 07:20 AM. Hurried towards the Booking Office towards the platform, and came to know that Tickets are sold from the Booking Office near the Level Crossing No.-2 of the station. We almost took a long turn across the station, in way of buying two tickets for ourselves! The train was already parked on the Platform, ready to be hauled by a re-build WDM2 - from KGP. It was a Loco Plus 7 Coach Combo, to be hauled. Two Reserved Coaches (II S), Three General (II) and Two Luggage cum Brake Van and Disabled Coaches, was the composition of this beauty! The Distance from Shalimar to Digha is 186 K.M. and Fares per person are:
- M/E II General Rs.57.00 / per person
- M/E II Sleeper Rs.72.00 / per person
- DMU II ORDY Rs.31.00 / per person
The Train has been named 8027 UP / 8028 DN SHALIMAR-DIGHA EXPRESS. We had ourselves, well placed inside the GNL Coach, adjoining the door, with two Window Seats at our service. The white coloration on the wooden seats was something unique to notice!
The train departed dot on its scheduled time at 07:55 AM. The historical ride began!!
Shalimar, one of the oldest Freight Yards of the zone, has recently been incorporated as a Passenger Traffic Terminal. Only two Express trains run from this station (Shalimar-Haldia AZAD Express has been withdrawn!). The other one goes from here to Adra (Shalimar - Adra Aaranyak Express-Except Sunday). The line starts from here and meets the central South Eastern Railway Track, starting from Howrah, at Santragachi JN. Only one station is there between Shalimar and Santragachi JN - Padmapukur. Just as we approached Santragachi JN, we found the other track converging towards us, and soon we amalgamated to form a single unit altogether. At Santragachi JN, quite a handful people boarded the train and soon the entire atmosphere changed, as if the soul isolation disappeared and we were back to the usual Cosmo polis of Indian Railways. And as usual these bunch of people also had the same kind of an Indian Motto-Eating, Screaming and Littering Around is Our Birth Right!!
The train moved on and soon we passed by the Santragachi Electric Loco Shed. Four WAP-4 were waiting for service. It was wonderful to see the Electric Loco Family. Time went on, as we moved across stations like Maurigram, Andul, Sankrail, Abada, Nalpur, Bauria, Chengail, Phuleswar, Uluberia, Birshibpur, Kulagachia, Bagnan, Ghoraghata, and Deulti. Within this span of time, we had some cool snaps of the reverse traffic, including a WDM2 Loco (KGP), and the DN Mumbai Mail, via Nagpur, and a count worthy number of EMU's from Panskura, Kharagpur and Mecheda, Midnapore etc. A peculiarity that came to our notice was the pattern of these EMU rakes combination. Some were 9 coach rakes, while others were either 8-coach or 10-coach. The EMU's in this zone share a similarity, with their counterparts running in the Central and Western lines of Mumbai Suburbs.
The maximum traffic in this region from Howrah to Kharagpur is constituted by the regular EMU's, because Express / Mail trains do not stop at most of the stations en-route. Meanwhile, our Express was making good acceleration, and we timed the speed, which reached the 110 KM/Hr mark at a point of time! Soon we approached one of the best bridges in our track, The Rupranayan Bridge was waiting for us to approach and feel it. The Rupnarayan Bridge is preceded by another bridge on the river Damodar, and after these two comes the Haldi Bridge. Samit, and I had a cup of tea, and then shared a cool smoke break, just as we approached Mecheda Station at around 8:38 AM. The train was quite on schedule, and after having a quick stop we started towards Nandai Gajan Station, followed by Bhogpur. Bhogpur is one of the most important stations in this track, because from here the line starts to deviate left towards the Tamluk- Digha corridor. Just within 2-3 km's from Bhogpur, near the Narayan Pakuria Murail Station, is the E/Outer Cabin, also known as Panskura Outer. This cabin is the Junction Cabin from where the Main track towards Kharagpur, and the Tamluk line separates. The cabin falls outside the loop. We were now on the single-line track towards Digha via Tamluk.
This train has only two stations between Mecheda & Digha, the first one being Tamluk and the other one- Kanthi. But this is not all. Like the E/Outer Cabin, we were on our way to be greeted by yet another Junction Cabin. This one being the Junction Cabin between Tamluk-Digha and Tamluk-Haldia line. We reached Tamluk at around 9:30 AM and left soon at 9:35 AM. Within five minutes, we approached the Tamluk Junction Cabin, and we could clearly identify the two lines deviating towards two different destinations. The line, straight moving in the western direction, was the Haldia Line, and the one our train took, was running eastwards, from where we stood.
An Interesting Fact
The MPS for the different Sections of the Shalimar - Digha Track, as mentioned in the Caution Orders, can be found in the following table:
|STRETCH||MPS (in KM/hr)|
|Shalimar - E/Outer||105|
|E/Outer - Tamluk||75|
|Tamluk - Kanthi||80|
|Kanthi - Digha||60|
In the mean time, as we passed by the Tamluk Junction Cabin, we found that there was no Automated Signaling System in operation. One thing that drew our attention, was the number of curves, the track had taken, once we left Tamluk. Each of them gave us a picturesque panorama on offer. The contrast created by the smoking loco and the curving rakes, was a unique spectacle to cherish, and capture in our delighted minds! Samit took quite a number of snaps, as we seemed to approach Kanthi station. The Haldi Bridge added another height to the attraction altogether, and the glittering Sun, over the flowing waters, manifested a true sparkle. We could clearly see the Highway Bridge over the river Haldi, running parallel to our track.
At around 11:16 AM, we reached Kanthi station. Got to know that the next stop would be our destination, i.e. Digha. The stretch between Kanthi and Digha is a comparatively new track in operation. Something that we found quite funny was the movement of the cows, once the train passed by the paddy fields. They were found to be hurrying and running here and there, out for a safe shelter. It shows how new they are to such an atmosphere, with loco sounds and the rattling rakes moving of and on. In general, while we move out on the Railways, it is generally noticed that the cattle groups never bother, once a train passes by. They have just got used to it! Interesting.isn't it?
The curves and turns continued so did our rattling beauty, moving towards the dream- shore destination of Bengal. Children from far off places were found gathered at every station, cheering the running train, even though it didn't stop. This was what they had dreamt of. Innocence and Satisfaction, was what they mutually expressed. People had an eager interest, towards the Rail movement, and the train in itself.
Between Kanthi and Digha, we discovered something very peculiar. The Level Crossings were un-manned. Thus every time, the train approached a level crossing, the driver had to stop the train, well in advance, and then a helper was to move down from the engine. He had to move to the level crossing gate and block it from operational road traffic, in way enabling the train to move further. Again, the driver had to stop the engine, at a considerable distance away from the Level crossing, so as to take that helper back on board, ready to serve the next level crossing encountered.
All this went on, as we shared yet another smoke. Quickly after this, it was time to reach our destination. We were well on schedule, to reach Digha Station at 12:05 PM.
We got off the train, and I was enchanted to see the Digha Station right in front of me, in Action! I had first seen this station in mid 1990, when the station building was completed, but tracks were yet to be placed! Today, it is complete, in the sense the station building is in operation, serving tourists and villagers, who desperately needed this to happen. Good for us Rail Fans also, because once a line is in a brand new look, like this one, you can always expect good photographs and a value add to the entire atmosphere in and around!
We had some quick snaps of the platforms and the newly painted station buildings, with Passenger Sheds. The inaugural display board was right there at the front end of the platform. Had a quick round of snap shots in front of the loco. We then rushed towards the ticket counter, expecting a fair bit of crowd later, waiting to buy their return journey tickets. This time, we decided to go to Howrah, instead of Shalimar.
The distance from Digha to Howrah is 189 km, while the fare chart remains pretty much the same. Our fare was as earlier - Rs.57 / per person.
We moved out of the station, and went for a slight walk across the beach of New Digha. Basically, Digha is split into two parts. The developed part and major tourist attraction is Old Digha and the developing counterpart is New Digha. New Digha being the railhead for this town, we moved towards the beach side of New Digha itself. Comparatively isolated, this beach is famous for its sand, because unlike the other ones in Old Digha where the beaches have been concretized using boulders, this stretch of the coast has a bit of sand drive left in it, to enjoy a walk alongside. Samit and Myself, we had a few shots on the beach, and had ourselves bathed by the cold Sun! Had an eye on the watch, which said that it was time to have lunch, and prepare to return as quickly to the station as possible, because we had plans for foot plating this time!
Accordingly, we had a quick supper at the Purbasha Restaurant, near the shore line. Samit, opted for a lobster specialty, while I had a Fish Meal ordered for me. After having a packed stomach, we started back towards the station. It's just a 2 minutes walk from where we were. So, we reached the station, and surveyed the station region more minutely, the fare charts, the retiring rooms and the other establishments. A considerable rush was noticed, for the DN train. The coaches were already packed, and seating was not expected. Instead, as planned earlier, we moved towards the Engine, and waited for the Driver's arrival. In the mean time, as we were attending the Engine, the Assistant Driver came up, and Samit asked him for foot plating. He readily denied, and thus we had to board the first coach in queue, instead. The train left on time at 14:30 PM. We had ourselves placed right in front of the door. The cool breeze was an appreciable factor amidst the crowded compartment!
Enjoyed the countryside scenes, while the train moved at a considerable pace! We started feeling bad about the entire situation, and felt a bit restless as well. By this time, it was 15:18 PM already, and we entered Kanthi Station. I opted to toss on my luck this time, and with a positive attitude, approached the Driver. To the fullest of surprise, the Driver readily approved my request, and asked us to move in. This was the moment I was waiting for! A beautiful WDM2 ready for me to come aboard! Sounds nice..haa?
This was the first time in my life, to have boarded a WDM2. So it was definitely special. The Assistant this time got his hands forward with great enthusiasm. Samit shared his wonderful creation, in the form of The Great Indian Railway Atlas, with both the Driver and his deputy. They seemed pleased. This time also, we found that the Driver was more pleasant, while his assistant didn't like unwanted people inside his area. Once they got to know about our interests and passion for the Railways, it transformed into a completely different scenario. We turned out to be their guests (as they made us to be!) for the day.
The Assistant told us that there is no Inter Locking Facility till date on this track between Digha & Tamluk Junction Cabin. He added to the point, that the Indian Railways has planned for a Dual Track Electrified Corridor for this Project, and possibly the inter Locking would be implemented soon. This job is one of the most tedious jobs, one could ever expect, because, the Loco Men have to encounter adverse situations every now and then. Might they be Climatic Encounters or Technical Failures, it is always a high alert job profile that they carry on, to provide a dedicated service to the country. Hats Off!
The Driver shared his experiences, about how he had once saved the life of a person, just by the nick of time. These people truly deserve a standing ovation, for their service to mankind. In the mean time we noticed the Speed Meter touch the115 Km/hr mark, and we were speeding high! The Driver told me that we were very near the Haldi Bridge, and I moved out of the Cab interior, to enjoy the 'open' view of the beautiful bridge. As the loco moved up on the viaduct, it seemed as if I was flying, no barriers between dream and reality. I thanked the Driver for giving me this unique opportunity.
Samit, in the mean time, was concentrating into an in-depth conversation with the Deputy, and assembling as much of the tidbits he could gather on the Railways. While, on the other side, I was enjoying the rattles, throttles, and hustles of the Loco in swift motion. Gradually, we reached the Tamluk Junction Cabin. We had a quick glimpse of the first Signal in this line, from Digha to E/Outer range. Basically, as I had mentioned earlier, this Signaling system starts from Tamluk Junction Cabin, in this way. Approaching Tamluk Railway Station at around 16:55 PM, Samit requested the Assistant Driver, for a Loco Smoking shoot out, and he agreed. We got down at Tamluk, and the Assistant started to make the Engine Smoke at its best. It was a nice round of captures. I was feeling romanticized about the entire thing. The smoking loco, dusk to contrast this scene, was a perfect snap shot that Tamluk had on offer for us. We did the same as the Loco and started towards Santragachi JN. I flagged the front end of the train this time. It felt nice, because every time you have a synchronized flag off from both ends of a train, both feel the same that they are not alone. It's winter and the time span between dusk and dark, is quite diminutive. It went dim soon, and now torches with a green glower replaced the signaling flags. While the driver and his assistant concentrated on their duties, I was busy enjoying the scenes. Nighttime is the best for enjoying traffic scenes on the Rail tracks. The signals glow bright and clear, making it a complete networked set up. The driver was conscious about the Caution Orders implemented in this stretch. Had a stop at Mecheda Station at 17:40 PM. Started once again. Soon we passed by the Rupnarayan Bridge near Kolaghat, and I whistled the Loco as we passed the stations in Motion.
As we approached the Andul station, we were told that there would be stop over for 1 minute. We asked, about why does the train stop at Andul, this time, while it didn't while we were moving towards the other direction? Our Driver told that we would be taking the flyover above the main track, so he would be getting Caution Orders for the flyover route. This leap over forms an 'O' loop, as it starts after Andul, where after it meets the Dankuni - Bally line, and flies over the South Eastern UP track from Howrah to Kharagpur. After a certain distance, both of them separate, and we once again join the central track, while the loop continues back to Andul.
As we were running parallel to the main track, we were told that the train was nearing Santragachi JN. The time for separation was on the cards, now! And I felt like why doesn't this time stop forever, so that I can ride the loco and experience this adventure, all through my life!
Soon we entered Santragachi JN Station, at 18:48 PM, and we bid farewell to the very friendly people, with whom we shared some of the most precious moments of our life! Thanked the, Shook Hands, and with a promise to meet once again, we parted!
At Santragachi, Samit took some snaps of this fairy beauty, before we got off to the other side of the station, to the Platform No. -5/6, where our return EMU was to arrive. Before that, we flew hands to the Loco friends, of the 8028 DN. The Assistant told us that we would surely meet again.
As we were waiting on the platform, identified a 2C VSKP, standing in the back yard of the station. Soon an overcrowded EMU arrived, and we boarded it in a hurry. Got to Howrah by 19:35 PM. Both of us, were then cherishing the wonderful moments of the thrill, we experienced!
We moved in to the Food Plaza for a bit of Evening snacks. While Samit enjoyed a plate of Chicken Biriyani, I had a soft drink for me. I felt my heart full to its brim, with satisfaction and happiness, that I would be delightfully cherishing during the next part of my lifetime!
That was it, then. We took a Cab, and Samit dropped me to the Park Street Metro Station, from where I took the Subway at 20:57 PM, to reach home at 21:45 PM. It was quite a hectic day out, full of surprises, enthusiasm and a real zeal to preserve. Expecting More shiny days ahead..!!!
Sincerely Thankful to:
Samit Roy Chowdhury, for his wonderful company. The Driver & Asst. Deputy Driver- 8027/8028 Shalimar-Digha Express. For making this story an accomplishment!