My friend in Trichy was going to get married, and the reception was to take place on the evening of March 25. I was lucky to get a direct connection (and that too in AC 3 Tier) in the form of 11043 LTT Madurai express, a train that has inexplicably remained a weekly since its inception more than 15 years back. The train departs LTT at a very convenient time of 00 15, and I decided to board it from Thane. I left my home at 23 10, well after dinner; and took an auto to Vikhroli, whereupon I took an EMU to Thane. Spotted 12141 LTT PPTA superfast with ET WAP4 22984 on Platform 7. Much to my amusement, after the LP of 10111 CSTM MAO Konkan Kanya express blew the horn and the train started moving; then only came the announcement that the train “is shortly leaving”. Pity the last minute passengers. 11027 CSTM MAS Mail swiftly skipped the station with its usual WCAM loco; as ever identifiable by its red RMS coach.
The arrival of my train was blocked by that of 11003 Dadar Savantwadi Rajyarani express on PF 7 instead of the usual PF 5. The HT horn of its loco – KYN WDG3A ‘Shakti’ 13578 – was the melodious, traditional ALCO horn (‘baaam’); but the LT horn was surprisingly a unique, pure EMD type horn. 11043 finally arrived some 20 mins late on PF 7; behind its regular link KYN WDP4D 40347. My coach B1 was manufactured in 2013; so had bio-toilets and plug points for charging in all bays. I had my ticket checked by the TTE; and quickly climbed up to my middle berth. After a while, the soft to-and-fro motion of the train(as ever) and the cooling of the AC soon rocked me to sleep, after we had left KYN. I was then woken up at (probably) Pune by the sound (and light) of passengers who had boarded the train at that unearthly hour. After going back to sleep, I then remember opening my eyes at around 6-6 30 am, but was too groggy and quickly went back to sleep.
Finally when I woke up, it was around 8 am and we had crossed Mohol. I shifted to the empty Side Lower, and then brushed my teeth. We reached Solapur at 08 53, 18 mins late; when sleep overcame me again and I had a nap while sitting on the SL itself. After I woke up (about an hour later) and had some tea, we had an unscheduled stop at Tilati (probably due to the non-interlocking work in progress between Tilati and Akkalkot Road). At Akkalkot Road, we crossed a passenger (probably 57650 Wadi SUR passenger) with Pune WDM3D 11363. Then at Nagansur we crossed Pune WDG4 12564 and a freight which had rusted brown coaches on the same track. We were passing through largely arid land with huge open spaces, with a few meadows and neat rows of plants here and there. There was a bridge over a dry river after Boroti and there were typical village sights – tractors and bullock carts.
At Dudhani, a train with EMD was waiting for us to cross- probably 11302 SBC – CSTM Udyan express. At Gaudgaon, we crawled past GOC WDP4D 40114 16352 NCJ – CSTM Balaji express. The scenery improved near Ganagapur Road, with a lot of coconut trees. At Hunsil Hadgil, much to my pleasure; we had a scissor crossing with 19419 MAS-ADI bi-weekly express, which was reversing behind Pune WDM3D 11400, and had 5 AC coaches. The name boards indicated its RSA with 12947/48 ADI-PNBE Azimabad express. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV5Oa1oxeJc
At Babalad, we had yet another scissor crossing – this time with Pune WDM3D 11378 hauled 57134 Raichur Bijapur passenger, also on the receiving end. So we had the priority as far as crossings in this section were concerned, in spite of being a weekly non-superfast train. Reached Gulbarga at 11 16, 23 mins late. Here I got down and purchased Haldiram’s Bhujjia Sev to eat; since I had missed breakfast in the train due to my sleepiness. Note my coach and the neat and clean station.
There were 2 temples and then huge mounds of stone waste before Shahabad. Then we crossed the perennial Kagini river, which was truly a sight for sore eyes .
Reached Wadi at 11 57, 3 mins early; thanks to the predictable built-in slack. Here there were a lot of sightings: WDG4D 70656 (which shed does it belong to?), GY WDM3D twins 11115 (in the famous Kingfisher livery) and 11385 (in standard blue-white livery) with a BCNA rake, KYN WDG3A twins 13426 and 13370, and a short BCNA rake with Pune WDM2 18605. After the snacks (Bhujjia Sev), here I had proper (albeit very late) breakfast -2 Vada Pavs. Departed after a halt of 9 mins, and then again stopped. The LP blew three blasts of the LT horn, which was very sharp but very satisfying to me ; and we finally pulled out after 2 mins. The line to HYB/SC branched to our left, with a TSR of 30 kmph.
Then came the Wadi bypass.
Our loco 40347 was a hard smoker, not unlike an ALCO! I then again drifted off to sleep. After I woke up, we had entered Telangana, and stopped for clearance before Krishna station. 11028 MAS CSTM Mail crossed us with APU fitted GTL WDG3A 14588R.
I had curd rice as lunch, which was tasty thanks to the pickle. We had a stop of 16 mins at Krishna for watering. I was surprised to see a man wearing a jacket in that hot and dry weather. There was a TSR of 30 kmph before the river, which was at least 60 % full.
There was a PSR of 50 kmph on the river. The iconic cooling towers of the Raichur Thermal Power Station were as usual a treat to the eyes.
Reached Raichur at 13 57, 29 mins late. 16382 CAPE-CSTM Jayanthi Janata express departed with GTL WDG3A 13075. We had an unscheduled halt at Matmari for 2 mins, before crossing the Tungabhadra river – which was conspicuous by its lack of water.
Reached Manthralayam Road at 14 39, 31 mins late. Had a stop for only 3 mins, since it no longer seems to be a watering halt. The lunch and the AC made me feel sleepy, so I dozed off again for a while; still sitting on the SLB. After I woke up, we made another unscheduled halt at Aspari for 8 mins. There were a lot of giant wind turbines in the distant background on the left, but curiously not all of them were rotating at the same speed.
There was also a gathering of goats in the middle of the field. Meanwhile, a mouse(or maybe there were more) had made its home inside our coach. Using the SCR-made app Omitra, I made a complaint to the concerned number (in this case 9717630982) and also made a ‘Clean my coach’ request. Also, I posted the issue to the Twitter handles of the Ministry of Railways and the RM himself, Shri Suresh Prabhu; though it took ages to do that because of the poor mobile data connectivity. Meanwhile, we made yet another unscheduled halt just after Nemmakallu for 3 mins. I soon got a call from the concerned person (regarding my complaint) and explained him the situation, and that we were nearing Guntakal. He said that he would immediately send his junior to my seat. We pulled into GTL at 16 17, just 2 mins late; thanks to oodles of slack yet again.
Here, as expected, during the 19 min halt; the coach was cleaned thoroughly and sprayed with disinfectant. I again got a call from the same person and he co-ordinated well to ensure that his junior was sent to my seat. I explained to him that the mouse(or mice) had first come to my side bay, and then settled under a lower berth of the adjacent bay – where there was a Maharashtrian family with two young girls, and the parents were sleeping on the lower berths. He asked for the 4-letter complaint code (that I had got in my SMS) which I gave him, and he assured me that they would get a rat trap and place it under that bay. Meanwhile, there were quite a few sightings at GTL – GY WDM3D 11114 (in the Kingfisher livery), ED WAP4 22725, BZA WAP4 25007, and KYN WDM3D 11358 (Loco for 11042 MAS-CSTM express? ).
True to his word, this young man (and a few helpers) came with a sticky rat trap and placed it under the adjacent lower berth. He explained to me that the trap would catch the mouse if it wandered there looking for food, and also warned me that the trap would catch items like shoes, bags etc kept under the berth (if people were not careful). He then told me to inform the Coach attendant if the mouse(or mice) was caught, and the attendant would send the helpers to remove the mice carefully from the coach. There was a beautiful lake after Nakkanadoddi. We made another (in a long list) unscheduled halt at Pattakottacheruvu for 2 mins. Here there was an incredible trio of GY WDM3D 11116(again in the Kingfisher livery), a rare GTL WDG4D 70673 and an ED WAG7 28737 on the left. On the right, I got a first glimpse of 56503 BNC BZA passenger with its new electric link – AJJ WAM4 21320 . I informed the father of the young girls (when he woke up) about the mice and the trap, so that they would be careful and ensure that none of their items got caught in the trap accidentally.
Reached Gooty at 17 14, 14 mins late; where there was a BOXN rake with maroon-brown WAG5 twins. Nearby was the BPCL plant. We were surrounded by mountains in the distant left. The scenery close to us mainly comprised coconut and plantain trees, maize fields, tall bushes and shrubs and meadows. There was also a herd of goats. We skipped Tadipatri at MPS, which was satisfying; since quite a few trains stop here, including 12163/64 ‘Super’. However, that effect was ruined with yet another unscheduled halt somewhere for 5 mins. Spotted a few small temples and mosques, and factories in the distant left before Vanganur. There was alternating red and black soil. After a while, we hit MPS again; passing goats and sheep grazing, and a lot of bridges over dry rivers. Kondapuram, the watering halt for 12163/64, was also skipped at MPS. By now it was dark, and there was nothing much to see outside the window.
The fun of being in trains; especially in Indian trains, is that you hardly ever feel bored, as the coaches are alive, except for AC First Class. There is a lot of activity going on, especially in the Sleeper and AC 3 Tier coaches. Here I had the pleasure to see the two young sisters from the aforementioned Maharashtrian family, playing with another young Telugu girl; and the father occasionally admonishing the sisters whenever they got too naughty. We reached Kadapa at 19 53, half an hour late. Yet again, we started and stopped, before pulling out of the station finally. A few bays apart, a group of Tamilians were discussing about our train; saying that it has so much slack that it can reach Trichy by 04 30 (instead of the scheduled 06 15), but is often held up at VM for a very long time, and thus reaches at 08 30 instead; thus it seems to need the gargantuan slack of 3 hours between DG and MDU; in order to reach MDU on time.
I had a tasty dinner of Egg Biryani. Unfortunately, the mice never got caught in the trap. My grandfather joked (through SMS) that they would have got down at some station fearing the TTE. Meanwhile, the kids were having a pillow fight. I politely asked them to give me one of the pillows so I could sleep; and they obliged. I then climbed into the UB (as the sisters were occupying the middle berths) and slept. When I woke up, it was around 04 30, and we were at VRI. I then took the bedding, bedsheet and pillow; and moved to the now vacant SLB. The Maharashtrian family with the kids had got down long ago. I slept again (but setting an alarm), and when I woke up; we were speeding through the typical TN rural scenery. Crossed a bridge over a partially filled river (whose name I forgot) before SRGM, and then crossed the 90% dry Kaveri river (there were a few deep stagnant ponds). Had an unscheduled halt at GOC before pulling into TPJ at 06 26 on PF 2, 11 mins late. The Tamilian group got down along with me. Apparently, some of them had booked till MDU but got down here (preferring to take a bus to MDU instead) because of this train’s monumental slack.
Thanks in advance for patiently reading through this loooong report!
EMU – Electrical Multiple Unit (Local train)
RMS – Railway Mail Service
LT – Low Tone
HT – High Tone
ALCO – Americal Locomotive Company (and a class of diesel engines of the 1960s)
EMD – Electromotive Diesel (a modern class of diesel engines)
RSA – Rake Sharing Arrangement
LP – Loco Pilot
APU – Auxiliary Power Unit
TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction
PSR – Permanent Speed Restriction
SCR – South Central Railway
MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed
LTT – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus
PPTA – Pataliputra
ET – Itarsi
CSTM – Mumbai CST
MAO – Madgaon
MAS – Chennai Central
KYN – Kalyan
SUR – Solapur
GOC – Golden Rock (Ponmalai)
SBC – KSR Bengaluru
NCJ – Nagercoil
ADI – Ahmedabad
PNBE – Patna
GY – Gooty
HYB – Hyderabad
SC – Secunderabad
GTL – Guntakal
CAPE – Kanniyakumari
ED – Erode
BZA – Vijaywada
BNC – Bengaluru Cantt.
AJJ – Arakkonam
VM – Villupuram
DG – Dindigul
MDU – Madurai
VRI – Vriddhachalam
SRGM – Srirangam
TPJ – Trichy