Yes, I am a proud railfan, and have been fascinated by these magnificent carriages on rails since the age of two. So, what better way to end the year of 2016 than a trip to Manjari Budruk – a high speed railfanning spot near Pune. The station is completely old-school, with a low height platform and a tiny building serving as the station master’s office as well as a place to buy tickets. No drinking water even!
However, the station did have a charm of its own. It was surrounded by fields and trees, and the large open space around and the cold atmosphere ensured that one could hear trains from as far as the next station! (In case of diesels, one could also hear the chugging/humming of the engine) Anyway, all good things do come to an end. So, it was time to return to Pune, where I had the pleasure of having a tasty Paneer Bhuna rice at the IRCTC-outsourced Rail Dhaba.
My train to Mumbai was 11026 Pune Bhusawal express. My (AC Chair Car) coach C1 was, to my delight, 3rd from the engine, a Bhusawal WAM4 21399 with a nice name – ‘Anant’.
The seating was comfy, and the pushback facility was so effective that I dropped to sleep soon. When I woke up, we had already departed, and were cruising through Shivajinagar. We had a really fast run upto our first halt Chinchwad, accompanied by the melodious High Tone horns of the locomotive. I observed a hotel by the name of Vikram near Kasarwadi and the ongoing construction of a bridge across the rails (cranes busy at work!) near Pimpri.
We overtook the Pune Karjat passenger (powered by a Mirinda orange Pune WDM3D 11378) at Dehu Road. A lot of polluted stagnant streams and barren hills on the left were enough to put me off to sleep again. By the time I woke up next, we were treated to scenic vistas of the famous Bhor Ghats (Aathi Kya Khandala!). One can never get bored of the Sahyadri mountain range, the valley below or the 19 tunnels.
After Karjat, we headed away from the mainline to an offbeat single line route towards Panvel. Right away there was a tunnel longer than all the tunnels in the Bhor Ghats, followed by rock cuttings covered with wire mesh as a safety measure. After our first halt in this section (Chowk), I observed two separate parking lots for lorries and cars – which, along with the factories and pipelines; was indicative of an industrial belt. There was one more tunnel and some rock cuttings before the next halt Mohope (not to be confused with Mahape near Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai!).
There was some rural scenery with trees, fields and buffaloes grazing before we crossed the Mumbai-Pune expressway in style over a cantilever bridge, just before Chikhale. Here again there was a car parking lot. Then we overtook the AC express from Coimbatore to Bikaner (hauled by navy-blue Abu Road WDM3A 18798) while making a parallel entry to Panvel. There was a Western Railway MEMU(Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit) on the left. Quite a few people boarded our train here.
There were quite a few curves in the route towards Kopar. I observed a lot of residential complexes on the left, and we overtook an Adani Agri freight hauled by a blue WAG7 at Taloja Panchanand, after crossing a BCNA freight led by twin Gooty WDM3Ds (one in the beautiful “Kingfisher” livery, another in blue-white livery) near Navade Road. Then we slowed to a crawl at Dativali, in order to join the mainline towards Kalyan. The tracks towards Thane branched off towards our left.
The crawl continued as we joined the main line between Diva and Kopar.
We crossed 12142 Pataliputra LTT superfast with Itarsi WAP4 22759.
We also crossed Hatia LTT superfast hauled by Santragachchi WAP4 22593, before pulling into Kalyan at 15 27, 10 mins late. Here I deboarded. I planned to board a Fast local; however it was delayed (due to the Sunday mega block), so was forced to board a Slow local; losing 20 mins in the process. This local was so crowded (again because of the mega block!) that I decided to get down at Thane and board a local originating from there. I was lucky to get a seat in that local. I got down at Vikroli and took an auto to reach home by 17 15. Thus ended an eventful last train trip of 2016.