Bikaner-Jodhpur-Ajmer Fast Track Trip
by Vaibhav Sarin
Recently my friend and me carried out a fast track trip to 3 locations in Rajasthan namely Bikaner, Jodhpur and Ajmer. I am calling it a fast track trip as all these destinations were covered in very short span of 2 days. It was purely a railway-based trip with no time for local tourist spotting. I have made a video of the journey also. Would be getting in touch with Vikas Chander to help me on that so that CDs can be made after proper editing. The journey started from Delhi Sarai Rohilla station, which is the MG terminus for Delhi. We boarded the Bikaner express which departs at 8:50 am and arrives at Bikaner on 7:20pm same day. The train has got a 16- coach load, which includes 2 SLR's second-class coaches and one first class non-AC Chair Car coach. The locomotive was a YDM-4 from Sabarmati shed. All mail express trains on the MG section get locomotives frm the Sabarmati shed while passengers are hauled by the Phulera locos. As we reached the station we boarded the front SLR and decided to travel in that only as it was spacious. Sharp at 8:50 the starter turned amber and we were off to Bikaner. The driver seemed to be the brother of the WDP-3A drivers which drive trains on Jullunder-Jammu section as he was constantly honking like them with hand permanently on the horns. The train passes through one of the dirtiest part of Delhi with slums and people shitting on the tracks being a common sight. In fact there were some places were blast was less and there was more of night soil. Anyways coming back to the point once Patel Nagar station was crossed the YDM-4 notched up and we soon arrived Delhi Cantt on time. We saw the new RCF built MG DMU in its awesome blue livery and Fairy queen being steamed up. I tried to take a 24-carat shot of the Fairy Queen but was unable to do so. Soon the semaphore turned blue and we were off again. Delhi-Rewari run was awesome as we saw plenty of crossovers with passenger trains waiting for the express train to pass. It gave us a sense of superiority complex, as ours was a priority train. By the train we reached Rewari me and Sandeep were hungry. So we bought some pakodas and ditto had our breakfast. One advice when traveling in SLR or non-pantry trains please load yourself with plenty of snacks and food items.
Since refueling of the locomotive was being carried out at Rewari so there was a 15 minute halt. The train departed 10 minutes late, as we had to wait for the Delhi bound Chetak Express coming from Udaipur. Chetak express had a First AC / AC 2-tier composite coach along with an AC 2-tier and a First Class while the rest were sleeper coaches. As soon as Chetak Express arrived we were off again. Suddenly the terrain and track conditions changed. There was too much of rumbling as if the track hasn't been cushioned properly by the blast. It started getting hotter and hotter. And there were plenty of speed restrictions due to maintenance work since we had departed late also and thanks to the speed restrictions we arrived Mahendergarh late by 1/2 hour. Surprisingly there is no freight action on the line and I firmly assume is one of the loss making entities for the NWR. By this time due to the heavy breakfast of pakodas and paranthas which Sandeep had brought yours truly started feeling sleepy and since there was no action on the line I guess that was also a contributing factor so I retired for a nap which just lasted for an hour. At Loharu Jn I requested driver to footplate which was politely accepted with only condition being that I won't shoot in the cab. So off I was in the locomotive it was too noisy with train accelerating to 75kmph in just few minutes. Since the stations are situated out far away from town it was like as if we were traveling in desert with very meager human settlement. Soon I got bored from the cab and I came outside on the locomotive gangway that was one of the awesome experiences. I would advice that it is dangerous bt then by the time we reached Sadulpur Jn. I was full of dust. So the first thing, which I did at the station, was wash my face at the station thoroughly. Now we were in dead desert it was total sand with plenty of cactus and wild growth. At Sadulpur we bought a horrible chaney and alloo but then paranthas made by bhabhijee came in handy and somehow we managed to gulp down our lunch. We crossed Delhi bound Bikaner express at this station. In terms of train action I would term them as dead stations as there was hardly any action and no crowd at the stations at all. Finally we departed for churu and we arrived Churu on time. There was a crew change at Churu Jn. One interesting object, which we saw here, was a cart, which had tyres of the aircraft. It was later we realized that airplane tyres can easily move in sand so probably that's why you find many carts all having airplane tyres. Departure from Churu was 15min late but it was the slack time, which helped us to reach Ratangarh on time. It was at Ratangarh that we firstly realized that it was a proper town with a good amount of human population. There was a reversal here hence we had to shift go towards the other SLR. Soon our YDM-4 came back coupled with another YDM-4 with both being alive. They were attached to our train and we were off from Ratangarh also. This was really an awesome moment, as I had never seen twin YDM-4 operation in my life. The train had to make unscheduled stop at Sudsar station as there had been run over by the passenger train which was running ahead of us and a lady had died in that process. Since these are remote places all stations don't have a GRP picket. Hence till the body was not taken over by the GRP it was not allowed to remove the dead body from the track. We crossed that point at a speed restriction of 10kmph I managed to see to the chopped legs of that lady and it was a gruesome sight. When asked by the gangman standing there as to what has happened he simply said lugayee rail key neechey agayee. It was a clear case of suicide and one thing which really makes me think was why didn't the driver brake in spite of the fact when the line was dead straight with easy visibility. But the shock of the day was yet to come. We were taken on a loop at Bikaner east stn, which is at outskirts of Bikaner city and told that there was a derailment in the yard and all operations had been suspended. So here we were stuck up at a station with no road connectivity thanks to the wild bush growth and a big sewer open drain. Finally we reached Bikaner one hour late and we were dead tired.
First thing we did once out of the station was to look for a Rajasthan dhaba serving buffet. We located one near the station itself and pounded on the food like hungry dogs. The good thing about these road side eateries when compared to the Punjabi ones is that they give you tawa rotis which are light the ones which we normally eat in home while the other dhabas provide you tandoori roti which have a white flour and are bit heavy. Anyways once the food was over we went to the bus stop, which was again bang opposite the railway station and booked 2 seats for Jodhpur by a deluxe bus which is actually a semi-deluxe one. The buses are run by private operators and are cheaper than the Rajasthan Roadways buses. The agent proudly mentioned that his buses were much more popular than trains and they would be launching there Volvo buses soon like the ones running between Delhi and Jaipur. These fellows even had the sleeper buses going as far as to Haridwar, Kota, Mumbai. We also managed to see a barat of Rajasthani bridegroom off to the bride's place. Instead of the usual band party there was a DJ on the trolley who was belting out music and various numbers. The groom was on a horse drawn buggy or cart instead of on a ghodee as we normally see in north Indian weddings. We slept like hell due to exertion in the bus journey. But later Sandeep told me in the morning when we were Jodhpur that the driver drove the bus ferociously. We had started from Bikaner at 10pm and we were in Jodhpur sharp at 4am right in front of the railway station. We headed straight for the first class waiting room. The place was empty barring a few people who were dead asleep.
We refreshed ourselves and completed our daily chores after which we were ready for action again. Had our breakfast of jodhpuri kachoree, which were being made fresh along with tea. We bought 2 tickets for Ajmer for AC Chair Car for the JA passenger. Jodhpur-Ajmer passenger train is one of the few passenger trains which have an AC Chair Car coach. The attendant told us that the occupancy of the AC Chair Car coach is very bad but since the train shares its rake with another train it's not a big deal. Departure from Jodhpur was right on time. The locomotive was the usual maroon colored WDM-2 from LDH. We crossed BGKT shed at a very high speed hence were unable to see at things properly. The ac chair coach was of NR with CDO being ASR. The aircon was really effective and again we slept like hell in the train. But still we managed to eat some rasgullas at Luni Jn. I would like to add that Luni has the best rasgullas which might surpass those of Calcutta. A local person had told us about this that's why we decided that we must not miss on them. We pulled at Ajmer right on time on platform No. 2 while the Ajmer Shatabdi was pulling in at platform No. 1 late by 45 minutes. Being Sunday the Ajmer workshop was closed though we managed to have a view of the plenty of WR and NWR coaches waiting for repairs of POH. Finally we bought our tickets for the Ajmer Shatabdi for going back to Delhi.
The Shatabdi leg of our journey was also fantastic. In Ajmer Shatabdi there is more quota for Jaipur bound passengers rather than for the ones who are going to Pushkar. There was the mighty WDM-2 from Tughlakabad doing the honors. The train departed on time picked up speed around 110km/h in no time. Its normally pretty difficult to carry out railway spotting in Shatabdis as a person gets preoccupied in food and snacks which is served. But this didn't deter us from our activities. Now officially Ajmer Shatabdi stops at Suratgarh also from where stone can be bought for your house at reasonable rates. So if anyone planning to buy stone for constructing his palatial mansion do come to Suratgarh and check things out. The running was impressive like hell with least braking that too on a single line section. Phulera was crossed at full throttle. We had overtaken a container rake coming from Kandla at Phulera. Arrival at Jaipur was on time. after which the real party began. The train accelerated very fast and the snacks served were really tasty and good. I would like to add that the base kitchen of Jaipur is really good when it comes to meals. Each time I travel in this Shatabdi the food gets better and better. This time we got butter chicken along with lentil curry and the good old little sweet yogurt in the earthen clay pot or khullar as we Indians call it. I would rate the catering of Ajmer Shatabdi at par with the Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi. Surprisingly the arrival at New Delhi was 5 minutes before time on platform No. 11 with which our fast track trip came to an end.