Monday, January 31, 2011

Raipur Trip- A Report

Yeppiee!!!! Got another opportunity to travel a long distance and this time to Raipur, the capital city of Chattisgarh state in central India. I traveled on 12/17/2010 and returned to Mumbai on 12/21/2010. I have always been an ardent train traveler and getting an opportunity to travel by train and in steerage class makes me feel very felicitous and on tenterhooks to figure out the loco links of trains in which I’m traveling makes me even more excited. Anyway, coming to the point…..I didn’t have enough time to book my tickets and was little discerning that I would have to clamber to get confirm tickets albeit it was not a peak season to travel. I made my choice to travel by Pune-Bilaspur express (rather weird choice if you’re not a train enthusiast) instead of traveling by train that would take me to Raipur from Mumbai in less time. Anyway, it was my choice and I always prefer to take a longer route. I looked at the availability of berths on 12/10/2010 but I wan’t surprised to see wait list and I knew it wouldn’t make a gumption to book my ticket and I, as a consequence, decided to wait until 12/15/2010 and why?????…well..to book the ticket in Tatkal (urgent) quota and hoped to get a confirm ticket.

         On 12/15/2010 I was prepared to book my ticket to Raipur in Pune-Bilaspur express and at 7:55am I was setup with my laptop and internet connection and at exactly 8am I hop-skipped to http://www.irctc.co.in and repleted my details but regrettably, and even after having high speed internet, the website didn’t process my reservation request….. and when I logged in again I blew out of the water to see wait list number 21 in mere 2 minutes but I had a kinda déjà vu that I will face this state of affair. However, I did have an alternate plan to travel by Pune-Howrah (Calcutta) Azad Hind express but I was not particularly interested in traveling by this train and….the reason??? Well…this and other Howrah (Calcutta) bound trains, due to increased onrush by Maoists, were and are still rescheduled and departs from respective stations to Howrah at around 4am ,…………but at the end of the day I didn’t have any option left and with rather hebetudinous mood booked my ticket in the least preferent train i.e. Azad Hind express..At the same time I also booked my ticket to Pune by Hyderabad bound Hussain Sagar express but I barely managed to get confirm ticket. 

        On the day of departure i.e. 12/17/2010 I was manifestly excited but also spooky about meeting my cousins because I didn’t see them for over 7 years and to see them at such short notice made me feel timorousness. ….I packed my bags and left my house around 2000 hours to Victoria Terminus(VT) station to embark the train to Pune, schedule to depart at 2150 hours. At VT station there was a Brobdingnagian herd of people ready to board Hussian Sagar express to Hyderabad and it was not unusual. The train was shunted by a WDS-6 class loco and thanks to the digital coach indicators, I didn’t have to hunt for my coach. The carriage was quite new, manufactured in the year 2007 by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML),  Bangalore but one thing I don't like about BEML carriages is that the window bars  of  non-AC class are pretty 2-dimensional as compared with window bars of carriages made by Integrated Coach Factory or Rail Coach  Factory which gives a clear view of the loco and the train while on curve. Anyway, as I ensconced at my berth, I felt dog-tired and wanted to sleep but the thought of seeing the train skip Dadar at good speed kept my energy level middlingly high…….. and this is the only reason I booked my ticket in this train.(This is one of the trains which skips Dadar). Well…..I knew the loco link even before the corresponding train arrived to Mumbai from Hyderabad (This is the train that shares its rake with 17031/32 Hyderabad Mumbai express). The loco link was, undoubtedly, Kazipeth WDM-3A (didn’t see the road number but I guess it was 18893) and exactly at 2150 hours, the loco engineer sounded both the low and high pitch hooters and we took off…..The train took around 7 minutes to join main line..well…quite surprising!!!! After it linked with the main down fast line, for some reason, the train stopped abruptly just before Sandhurst Road station and I couldn’t figure out the reason, maybe a train was being shunted ahead of us. After a 3-minute unscheduled halt, we picked up the speed and skittered Byculla station at 60kmph due to speed restriction. The loco engineers didn’t waste any time and floored immediately after Byculla and in no time we touched 90kmph approximately. My excitation reinvigorated me and the feeling of being dog-tired died out as Dadar approached, well….. we were still doing around 90kmph but I had no doubt that we will touch 100kmph at Dadar and ……..finally….. there it was!!!……skipping Dadar at good speed but not exactly 100kmph , a sight which is still very fresh in my mind. In fact, I still remember the day in the year 1992, 12/24/1992 to be precise, when I traveled to Hyderabad in the same train (this train at that time was known as Minar express) and I can still sense the taste of skipping Dadar then. As we skipped Dadar, the train started to floor even more and we skittered Kurla at over 100kmph, (I guess Arzan must have gotten excited on reading this as this (Kurla) is his best-loved place to take videos and yes!!!…Kurla is a nirvana for train enthusiasts like Arzan and me) however as we approached Vidyavihar we came to stand still and this time I knew the reason…. 18029 LTT(Mumbai)- Shalimar (Calcutta) ‘bullock cart’ express was given penchant to move ahead of us….. but after an abbreviated halt, we accelerated and touched 100kmph in no time, it was quite a sight to skip suburban stations at high speed. At Thane, we slowed down and thanks to ‘bullock cart’ express, we stopped again just before Thane station. We were already delayed by 15 minutes but I was not worried about it. We had a reduced speed run until we came out of Parksik tunnel but once we skipped Diva Junction, the loco engineers again showed that they are not here to perambulate. We entered Kalyan junction, the first commercial halt, at 2255 hrs, delayed by about 10 minutes. I started to feel a lot tired and decided to jump on the berth to catch some Z’s. After we left Kalyan Junction, I had no clue about the speed of the train or which station we skipped but the only thing I remember is hearing blowers of WAG-7 class locos ready to bank my train at Karjat, a territory once ruled by mighty WCG-2 class locos…(hey WCG-2s!!!, you guys will always be in my heart). Pune was schedule to arrive at 0120 hrs and by the time we left Karjat we were running on time…… but even if we were further delayed I was not in hurry because my connecting train to Raipur was not schedule to depart until 0225 hrs. The run was good after Lonavala and I was fully awake by the time we entered the suburbs of Pune with Kazipeth WDM-3A going strong with its melodious hoots still bombinating in my ears. After a long spell of high speed, we came to stand still just outside Pune station, now…this is a kinda modus operandi I guess, every time I travel to Pune I have always experienced the abominable wait due to non-availability of platforms, it’s so-close-yet-so-far kinda feeling. Finally we entered Pune station platform number 4 at 0125 hours, delayed by 5 minutes but that’s reasonable. I appreciate the efforts of loco engineers and thanks to the slack time given to this train I didn’t worry about getting big time delay. It was chilling in Pune with minimum temperature of around 47 degrees F and I didn’t even have warm cloths on but I enjoyed it. Well…talking about the city of Pune, I have always enjoyed traveling and this is one of the cities I like the most.

END OF PART I

PART II:

         It was 0140 hrs of 12/18/2010 and at platform number 3 of Pune Junction the crowd was getting denser and I almost horripilated but I tried convincing myself that this crowd wouldn’t board Azad Hind express and I guess it kinda worked for me because I heard the announcement that before Azad Hind express departs, LTT(Mumbai)-Coimbatore express is schedule to arrive on platform number 3. The train arrived, behind a WDP-4 class loco, on time at 0150 hrs and I was hoping to see, if not most, some of the crowd board Coimbatore express….but..to my horror! only about fistful of people boarded the train, leaving behind a massive growth of crowd to board Azad Hind express…NOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At sharp 0200hrs, the loco enginner of Coimbatore express sounded high pitch hoot (ohh!! What melodious sound EMD locos make, makes you feel you are in the Americas!!!) and off it go on its way to Coimbatore via Bangalore. I was hoping my train will be shunted soon but it was 0220 hrs and still no sign of my train..wow!!! where is Azad Hind express????? and no promulgation whatsoever. I started to feel a lot tired without proper sleep and especially a hell lot of crowd around. It was around 0310 hrs when finally my train was announced…but hold on a second!!! …….it said the train is again rescheduled and will depart at 0345hours…well…okay….look at the brighter side of this..at least now I know the train will depart albeit further delayed. In a meantime, I spotted an IRCTC Bharat Darsan train hauled by a WDM-3D from Itarsi depot, a rather strange loco to spot at Pune but I was happy. 

        After a while, finally I spotted a beam of red light flashing on the rear SLR coach and I knew this is it, my train is being shunted. The crowd started to get ready to board the train and I, too, got ready. Before the train came to a complete stop, the unreserved carriages got wadded completely. Again, thanks to the digital indicators, I didn’t hunt for my coach number but to my horror again, a massive crowd was to embark on my coach and they were already restless and started to bang the door to open and some over enthusiastic guys (not train enthusiastic) :) tried to enter the coach through the emergency window but unfortunately it didn’t open..well I guess if they participate in Olympics…they have a fair chance to raise the bars for India …:) . I knew the doors were locked from inside and will have to wait until the coach attendant arrives. The moment the door opened, people entered the coach like cervids trying to take to the woods from Osteolaemus species in some African country. I, too, was a part of the cervids and after I barely managed to enter my coach, due to total darkness (no lights), I found it very unmanageable to find my berth but eventually I did and momentarily the lights and fans were turned on and I felt a lot meliorate… It was already 0340 hrs and the only thing I wanted to do was catch some serious Z’s. The train was hauled by a WDM 3A class loco of Pune depot and later (from Manmad station) the train was suppose to get a WAM-4/WAP-4 class loco of Bhusaval depot. …At around 0350 hrs, the WDM-3A sounded its hooters and we took off from Pune and I felt a lot better yet at the same time knew that the train wouldn’t reach Raipur until 0100hrs the next day.I enjoyed the acceleration of WDM-3A and in no time we touched 105kmph and I enjoying the Alco sounds. We arrived at Daund junction, our first commercial stop, the loco transposed and attached at the other end of the train. We started after a 15-minute halt and I was absolutely exhausted and didn’t think twice before sleeping. 

      I was awakened by the sound of a WAP-4 class loco at round 9am and there I was….at Manmad. I was really hoping to get a WAP-4 class loco attach to my train but…as my ‘luck’ would have it, it (my train) got a WAM-4 class loco and I was totally disappointed…well..not that the WAM-4 locos are bad but the joy of traveling in a WAP-4 hauled train is something very different…the smooth acceleration of a WAP-4 locos cannot be compared with a WAM-4 locos. After a rather long wait at Manmad station, we took off with WAM-4 apparently struggling to accelerate a 19-coach train but finally we touched 110kmph and it was a top-drawer to see some quasi–major stations skip at top speed, especially on curves. I was as usual at the door, door plating for most of the time, I didn’t even care to have my lunch and even though I was very hungry I forgotten all about it while door plating. We reached Bhusaval Junction, a major sation. Here, New Delhi bound Goa express overtook us with twin WDM-3As of Pune depot and both locos were live. I wonder why this train didn’t get a WAP-4 loco from Manmad??? Also, Howrah bound Geetanjali express from Mumbai arrived at Bhusaval right beind Goa express. I was skeptical that Geetanjali express will leave before us however, it didn’t happen but I was sure Geetanjali express will overtake us somehwere. Unfortunately, after Bhusaval we didn’t run at top speed and rarely touched 90kmph until Badnera (According to Arzan, this section got lot of gradients and sharp curves) After a brief spell of consistent run, we were taken on a loop of a small roadside station (I don’t remember the name) and I knew the reason and my worst fear became true…The home signal of that station turned proceed on the main line and I saw a WAP-4 hauled Geetanjali express overtook us though at not so good speed. At this time we were running late by over 2 hours but I was hoping that the train will cover up the lost time due to slack time given to this train, as well. Meanwhile I felt the hunger strike my stomach real hard and without giving a second thought, I ordered a veg-meal. The food was reasonably scrumptious but I was not worried about the gustatory sensation as much as I was worried about obliterating my hunger. It was getting warmer outside and after a heavy meal with lot of rice, I felt dopey and took a catnap while door plating (well…good that I didn’t fall off from moving train). We entered Badnera around 4:30pm another major stop, still running late by over 2 hours. The food vendors didn’t waste any time to sell their preparations and the vox of ‘chai-cahi’ by tea vendors made me feel very nostalgic. We left Badnera in about 10 minutes and the loco engineers showed WAM-4′s real performance. We were at 110kmph in no time and I, still at the door (and alive:) ) started to enjoy the high speed run again. Nagpur, the Orange City, was not too far away and I was hoping to reach around 7:30pm while keeping a close look at the km marking on OHE poles. The train abruptly slowed down, temporary speed restriction I guess, as we entered the suburbs of Nagpur and crossed Ajni station, I experienced the so-close-yet-so-far kinda feeling again. The train stopped at Nagpur outer for over 20 minutes due to non-availability of platforms (FYI, Nagpur is a major and extremely busy junction connecting trains from North to South and East to West)We finally entered Nagpur around 8:30pm, now delayed by almost 150 minutes and we halted for over 30 minutes, one of the reasons being crew change. I was assuaged after we departed Nagpur and even more excited as the WAM-4 loco showed its real class and maintained 110kmph speed, for a moment I cerebrated that a WAP-4 loco took charge of my train but I was wrong. I was very tired and wanted to sleep but I knew if I sleep, I might miss my stop so I decided to enjoy the high speed run. At this time, we were running late by 3 hours and I demurred to reach Raipur around 0100hrs. Soon we entered the state of Chattisgarh and I was feeling happy and excited to meet my cousins. The run in the state of Chattisgarh was middlingly good with, I guess, lot of speed restrictions and of course, this section is dominated by freight trains….kinda henpecked the ardor of the loco engineers to run at top notch….It was getting colder outside and..I started to feel a little uncomfortable by now and regretted that I didn’t carry warm cloths…I thought I was cashing in one’s chips..

      We soon entered Durg station around 0000hrs and again we have had a long halt for some unknown reason, maybe a freight train was ahead of us. After we left Durg, the run was not too good, yet the loco engineer tried best to maintain top notch but I guess due a to freight train ahead, we struggled to reach 110kmph speed. I was again door plating but it was not that easy this time as it was chilling with temperature as low as 43 degrees F. Finally around 0100 hrs my train entered Raipur station and I was ready to disembark. My cousin had arrived at the station at 10pm to receive me and I regret that he had to wait for 3 hours at the station……but I guess this is how we become rail enthusiasts!!!!!
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