HYB-CSTM-HYB by Volvo & 7001!
by Shashanka Nanda
Just came back from CSTM after a weekend trip there.. I was supposed to leave Friday afternoon by the 7002 Hussain Sagar Express and even had confirmed reservation, but last moment work in office meant that I had to drop the idea. Since I had to be in CSTM next day, I had 3 options... take 7032 Express at night, take the Volvo in the evening or catch a flight.... and I chose the option I was least likely to choose... the Volvo!!!
I had never been on a Volvo before, but have done quite a few overnighters on Paulo's Sleeper buses between SBC and HYB. This journey was daunting... I hate buses... and 700km in one was did not sound very appetising, but nevertheless I decided to brave it! I reached Nampally at 1900 and my bus arrived 25 mins late, after which it took me on a unsolicited Twin Cities darshan in rush hour trafiic ostensibly to pick up other passengers, and the last one was picked up at 2035 right outside my residence!!!
All seats full, the driver finally set off on the highway to Mumbai and I got a chance to observe the 'famed' Volvos in detail. Apurva in his recent trip report has already described them in detail, but i'd like to add some of my own observations. First was the excessive body roll, it was alarming on certain occasions!! I guess I could blame it on the high centre of gravity of the body on chassis construction of the unit. The engine noise was unobtrusive in the cabin, but the AC compressor (whenever it cut in) was irritating and drowned out the sound of the hindi remixes being played on the in cab TV. I couldn't decide which one was more irritating so I let it be!!
After dinner... a 'Bollywood tripe' (if I can borrow the term) took over while the driver engaged in mortal combat with oncoming trucks & buses while using the enormous power advantage of the Volvo to overtake even the fastest Qualis on the highway.... His driving style sure was scarier than any Ramsay Bros. creation I ever came across and the movie (Masti) was crass & unbereable.... so I just pulled on the sleeping mask on my eyes, tried to shut off the noise and dozed off uncomfortably (the words 'comfortable bus seats' are alien to me). He stopped somewhere beyond Solapur to pick up diesel and a cuppa chai... the petrol station and the surrounding Dhaba's were exactly bright & dhinchal as Apu's but one thing I did notice.... there is always a Shere-e-Punjab Dhaba on every highway halt in this country!!
Morning at 0600 saw us at Pune.... a half hour halt and we laid off a few passengers and took on a few new ones, and entered the Express via Aundh, thankfully bypassing the congested Pimpri-Chinchwad route that the Asiad buses take!! I was really expecting the Volvo to fly on the Expressway and after the fireworks shown by the driver last night (there were 2, but the same driver drove Pune onwards) I was expecting the green missile to top 100kmph, but none of that happened!! The bugger didn't cross 80!! The expressway was littered with crashes and most of them looked fatal.... a damn Sumo had climbed 2/3rds up the back of a truck and was stick there almost in mid air... I still haven't been able to figure out, how the driver managed that one!!! On that count, IR wins hands down from the Expressway, the safety record of the CST-PA section is exemplary.... I guess the number of lives lost on the Expressway in a month exceeds the number of lives lost on the same route by train in 5 years!! Anyways, I got off with a sore back at Chembur RCF circle at 0915, which compared to the train is 2 hrs less but far more painful...
So I was really looking forward to my return trip by the 7001 Hussain Sagar Express. I reached CST via a harbor line local, and was impressed with the speed at which they run compared to a few years back... It took me all of 35 mins to cover the distance!! At CST, a KJM baldie (#14053) running LHF had brought in the Udyan from SBC. A CLA WDS4 had been attached at the other end to take the rake out, but it took some stern announcements to the driver to get his posterior moving... the baldie followed the rake out about 50m behind it. With not much action happening around I just sat and listened to the announcements. For some reason, all trains coming from the North (IGP) line were running late between 1 and 3 hours!! No such problem on the South (KJT) line... We started within 15 seconds of the starter coming on, which itself was 4 mins late, standing on the door I could see 2 WCAM3s in the trip shed, a WCG2 and a bunch of WDM2s in the yard including what looked like the Deccan Odessey WDM2 from Pune. I spotted the the DO rake earlier from Sandhurst Road as it lay forlornly in the Wadi Bunder yard. Also spotted was WDM2 #18218 transferred to CLA wearing a yellow paint of coat doing shunting duties. This I guess is the only WDM2 at CLA shed, rest are all WDS4s and WDS6s.
We were made to wait for a few minutes at Masjid outer before the driver decided enough was enough, and by the time we reached Parel, we were past 80 and thundered through Dadar sending dust and passengers on the platform flying..... this was the first time I had been non-stop through Dadar and too see the sea of humanity go by a in a blur in haze of sodium vapor lamps was a real treat... we continued at a fast clip thru the suburbs but slowed down to 40kmph through CLA. All this while close to a dozen WCAM3 hauled express went by heading towards CSTM/LTT with the exception being the MAO-LTT Jan Shatabdi which crossed us in the Parsik tunnel. I still can't figure out why is this train given a loco from a shed which hundreds of miles away from any of the two terminii??? Can't Kalyan shed proivde a competent enough power for this train? Can't they allot a few WDM3As to KYN and make things easy... already we hear of ED staff being sent to WR and CR sheds to track down locos sent there weeks back!!
KYN was reached in exactly and hour and after a 9 min halt we set off again albeit very slowly and I presumed we were stuck behind a local. My suspicion was cofirmed as things picked up only after Ambarnath where a the motorman was changing the destination boards of a local from A to CST. We maintained a steady 90 odd till KJT, where three screaming WCG2s were waiting to help us climb the Bhor Ghats!! Has anyone done a comparitive study of hearing abilities of drivers of various classes of locos on IR? I am sure WCG2 drivers will be the deafest, followed by WDG/WDP4 drivers!! According to me, a WAP4 is the most silent loco on IR currently!! The ghats negotiated without incident and the three screamers joined 5 others already waiting at LNL... what a racket all those would have made together?? I dozed off till PA, where I bought some water and some vada-pav... wolfing them down, I was asleep within minutes and only woke up in the morning near Solapur!! A slightly late Karnataka hauled by ET twins (WDM2 plus WDM3A) waited to let us by at one of the wayside stations while a pair of a GTL WDM2 and a PA WDG3A hauled a looooooong rake of LPG tankers at the same station. I also saw a scissors crossing somewhere on the way, but I am sure it wasn't Pophlaj, are there more scissors on this route? And does any other route on IR feature these crossings?
There was less than expected traffic on this route today, and the landscape was pretty unexciting in the early summers, so I dozed off while reading a cricket magazine. Got up just in time to see our train eneter Wadi, where the lone power in action was a Pune WDS6 shunting in the yard. SCR drivers took over the KZJ WDM2 hauling our train. I was in the 5th coach, and could clearly hear the exhaust note of the beast, which was crisp and clear... the loco didn't smoke too much even under heavy acceleration.... there was an extra SL coach attached at the between the AC coaches and rear GS coaches, but the rake length still was 18!! SCR had exchanged a GS for an SL!! The loco showed uninspiring accerlation at low speeds, transtitioning at about 25 kmph... the slow progress continued till 40kmph, from where it used to reach 90kmph like a fiend!!! Due to less traffic there weer long periods of 100kmph running all along, which is a rarity even in the Karnataka.
From Wadi, we took a sharp left towards the SCR line to KZJ via SC, and waiting to let us through on the Wadi bypass was a WDG4 in the silver-blue livery headed towards SNF with a rake of emppty BOXN wagons. Just after that a blue-cream WDG3B (yes I read it properly WDG3B) from GY (#14796) crossed us with a loaded BCN/A rake. Now should I read this locoi as a 3200hp loco according to the prevelant notation? has anyone else seen a WDG3B. At Chittapur WDG3A pair of 14788 & 14789 belonging to KZJ had just detached from a loaded BOXN coal rake and were shunting back in the SNF direction, I was wondering what loco would take the rake further??
There was no further traffic for almost 45 mins, untill I came across the HYB-PA passenger with a PA WDM2 incharge. The logo of the shed seems to have changed,. It still has a black cricle with the words Pune written in Devanagari inside, but instead of a plain white border - it had white gear wheel shaped outline!! Is this a recent change? After Sedam, a WDG4 (#12036) running LHF was hauling another BOXN coal rake... and I dozed off again missing Vikarabad & Lingampalli... woke up just near Hafizpeta to catch a turquoise - cream WDG4 (#12044) running SHF with yet another BOXN rake. A GZB WAG5, twin LGD WAG5s and a single LGD WAG7 made up the electric strength at SNF yard, while a MMTS local crossed us. Entering BMT, I saw the BBSR-CSTM Konark Express get ready to leave, just as I got off..... a short walk and a shower later, I am in office and with not much to do today.... I am writing this trip report, which if you haven't realized has ended....