Yes, I was starting off the new year(to be precise, the 5th day of the new year) with a trip by the famous 12123 Mumbai Pune Deccan Queen. I made my way out of my home by 15 20, and took an auto to Vikhroli; where 11019 Mumbai Bhubaneswar Konark express made its presence behind Kalyan’s WDP4D 40234, crossing another train hauled by an EMD – the Tirunelveli Dadar superfast that runs on Konkan Railway. I took an EMU headed to CSTM, and along the way; at Vidyavihar, I spotted twin KYN WDG3As (trailing one being 13370) heading 11079 LTT-Gorakhpur express via Bhopal. It’s strange that this train is diesel-hauled all the way; when it traverses more than 1400 km under wires till Lucknow.
At Dadar, I saw that the passenger to Ratnagiri (hauled by KYN’s WDM3D 11455) had still not left at 16 10; when it should have left half an hour earlier. Anyway, I had enough time at CSTM to indulge myself with a bread cutlet at the food outlet there. DQ was parked on Platform 9 behind KYN WCAM3 21936 (Hurrah, a WCAM3 for a change after so many rides behind WCAM2P!). We left on the dot at 17 10, with a long note of the High Tone horn. At the Electric Trip Shed, I spotted Ajni WAP7s 30263 and 30315. Later on, KYN WDG3A 13637 was parked on a siding. Just as we made our way towards Masjid, 12321 Howrah Mumbai Mail (via Cheokki) pulled in close to 6 hours late behind Itarsi’s WAP4 22789. Fog or not, this train always manages to run inexplicably late!
By the time we hit Byculla, our pace had quickened to a sprint and we soon belted past Parel before the famous skip of Dadar at MPS, blowing the low tone horn all along- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST2p6tKZCso . We slowed down after Kurla, but then again picked up speed after Ghatkopar and had a sedate run till Bhandup starter; from whence we began to go all guns blazing, ripping past Nahur, Mulund and Thane (our 2nd major skip) – where we crossed Varanasi Mumbai Mahanagari express with another WCAM3 on PF 6, and Godaan express was making a parallel entry on PF8! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UePpCZ9TUUA.
After the skip of Thane we slowed down before speeding up to cross the Parsik Tunnel at a decent pace, which was surprising as in many of my earlier trips the trains would crawl inside most of the tunnel. We however then crawled through Diva thanks to the PSR of 50 kmph for the Level Crossing. There was a DEMU on the right, and an LHB train on the distant right. We crossed a MEMU before Kopar, and a train crossed perpendicularly above us on a bridge. Quite a sight, that! Then we overtook a triplet of KYN’s two WCAM3s and a WCAM2P – 21956, 21891 and 21865. We were held up at KYN home for a minute, and then accelerated towards our 3rd major skip, except, it wasn’t! Seemingly at the last minute, we stopped – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chTMHf5LkHk . I don’t think it was chain pulling, because we stopped for a full 3 mins.
The PSR on turns out at KYN was 25 kmph. As we took the line to Karjat, there was a BCNA rake on a bridge over us. Also, an unused line then joined us on the right. I would love to know which two lines are these! Anyway, we had an ordinary run till Badlapur home; after which we had a fast run till Neral home. The highway kept us company on the right, with rocky mountains in the distant right. It was mostly barren land littered with huts, settlements, a country fair and a mosque. We crossed the Pune Indore superfast, Deccan, Udyan and Koyna expresses before pulling into KJT at 18 44, 11 mins late. After a halt of 5 mins, we departed for the climb up the Bhor Ghats; with a melodious double tone horn (both HT and LT horns sounded together) from the lead loco and a corresponding toot from the bankers at the rear.
By then, darkness had set in; so I could not really admire the beauty of the Sahyadri mountains. We crossed the Pune Mumbai Intercity express at Monkey Hill, where it had stopped for the customary brake testing halt; and 16340 Nagercoil Mumbai express inside a tunnel. Out of the 19 tunnels; the 18th, just before Khandala, was the longest. There was a Hotel by the name of Ritz and Sunil’s Celebrity Wax Museum before we pulled into Lonavala at 19 26, 8 mins late. We then had a fast run till Kamshet, racing vehicles on the highway; and I could see the Sinhagad Institute in the distant right. We also crossed the Indrayani express to Mumbai and a freight hauled by an EMD.
My coach D3 was next to the famous Dining Car, so I headed there in hope of a light dinner. Most unfortunately, by then the seats were reserved for staff; so I had to be content with ordering a parcel to consume back in D3. To add insult to the injury; nothing was available except for a Veg. Cutlet. I had really been looking forward to the unique Cheese Toast of the DQ! As if to compensate, the coach had bio-toilets and mobile charging sockets in every bay; despite being a really old coach. We had two unscheduled halts, and at the 2nd of these halts at Talegaon; we overtook a BCNA freight headed by twin Gooty WDM3Ds 11436 (Auxiliary Power Unit-fitted) and 11136.
We then had a speedy run past the fast developing Akurdi and Chinchwad, and there was an army platoon at Khadki. Arrived at Shivajinagar at 20 25, by which time we should have reached Pune itself! Most of the coach emptied here. There was a BCC freight to our right led by Guntakal WDG3As 14984 and 13216. We then crossed a train powered by an EMD on the Harris Bridge, and passed olive-green military AC coaches parked in the right (on some of them ‘INDIAN ARMY’ was clearly marked!) before pulling into PF 5, Pune at 20 37; 12 mins late. The platform on the immediate right was occupied by the rake of Pragati express