Yet another trip to the South, barely two weeks since that memorable trip to Trichy. This time it was to Chennai, for the end-of-one-year ritual function of my late paternal grandfather (who had passed away last year in March).It was Friday the 7th of April. My father had already flown to Chennai on Wednesday night from Delhi (where he had gone on an official trip). My mother and sister had taken an afternoon flight, and I was to take my favourite 12163 Dadar Chennai ‘Super’ express that night; thus ensuring that I did not have to take any leave – since I was to return to Mumbai with my parents by a late evening Sunday flight (my sister would stay behind in Chennai with my maternal grandparents – more like a mini-vacation for her). So it was indeed a short and sweet visit – just one day. When I had booked the ticket (AC 3 Tier) in the 3rd week of February, it was at RAC8. Eventually it got confirmed just a day before the journey – I was allotted seat 45 in coach B1 – through the very useful app ‘Rail Jankari’, I found out that it was a middle berth.
My office is in Regus Business Centre at Lower Parel. However, that day my manager had some work near Fort; so he choose to work at the business centre in Churchgate instead. My colleague (who stays near Charni Road) also came to the centre in Churchgate. My manager suggested that I work from the centre at Powai (which is very close to my home); however I also choose to come to the Churchgate centre, since that was closer to Dadar; where I had to catch 12163 after office. After office got over(by 6 pm), the three of us had a light dinner at Cafe Mondegar nearby. By 19 20, it was time for me to leave; and my colleague helped me get a share taxi to Churchgate (the regular taxis refused to ply). I then took an EMU to Dadar, crossed over from WR to CR and walked to Dadar Terminus. It was 20 10 by the time I reached my coach B1 – the rake was on the usual Platform 7, behind KYN WCAM2 21875 in the chocolate-brown livery. On PF 8, 22629 Dadar Tirunelveli superfast (via KR) was behind a mega offlink , Raipur WDP4D 40161. My coach was a 2013 manufactured one, so had bio-toilets and charger plug points in all bays. Also pleasing to the eye was the red carpet passage and the maroon brown rexine cushions.
Moreover, inside the coach, there were timetables of 12163 and 12164, as well as 11063 and 11064 (MS-SA express) – the train with which 12163/64 has RSA. It was also indicated that the coach had gone for POH on 29th Dec 2016.
We pulled out on the dot at 20 30, but then stopped after just 3 mins. We then finally started moving again after 5 mins, and then there was no further interruption till Kalyan. While speeding through Thane, we overtook a train on PF 7 (12101 LTT-HWH Jnaneswari express?) and crossed another train arriving on PF 6. We slowed down on crossing the Thane creek, and a transharbour EMU overtook us. However, we then picked up speed while passing through the Parsik Tunnel. Just before Dombivli, the TTE came to our bay and checked our tickets. Most unfortunately, a senior lady was asked to get down at Kalyan as her ticket was “not valid”. The TTE told her to get down at KYN and look for another train, since if she stayed she would have to pay a fine and also there was no chance of a berth being allotted to her. The lady then rang up her husband and sadly told him the news. We pulled into KYN at 21 18, 13 mins late. The pantry staff were taking orders for dinner even then!!
I then called it a day. I was preparing to clamber up to my MB, when a Maharashtrian lady; who was sitting with her children in the side berth, kindly asked me to move to the upper berth on the other side. I didn’t mind doing, so since I prefer UB to MB. As usual the train’s soothing to-and-fro motion rocked me to sleep, and it was a really sound one. I woke up a few times in between, but when I finally got down from my berth; it was 08 15. The sleepy spirit of the people in the coach seemed to have infected me too. I had tea as we pulled into Krishna station at 08 24. We had a halt of 15 mins for watering. Its interesting that the watering halt for 12163 is at Krishna, as the watering halt for 12164 is at Kondapuram. There were many tiny islands and rocks in the river, and on one side was a marshy area.
Soon the iconic cooling towers of the Raichur Thermal Power Station loomed into view.
Then we overtook lorries and buses on the highway on the left. Lot of construction work was going on – new lines to RTPS were being built. There were bushes and shrubs growing on the platform at Yermaras, and to complete the view; there was no shelter. Meanwhile, the coach was cleaned by a few boys. Buildings, temples, mosques, an English school and a tiny auditorium marked the arrival of Raichur at 09 04, 31 mins late. I had crisp dal vadas with ketchup for breakfast. We had an unscheduled stop for 4 mins just after passing Hanumapura. Since I had a middle seat, I could not occupy the window seat; so my view outside was limited. I sat on the side berth instead for a while, occupying limited space since there was already a couple who had seats there. We passed man made hillocks, bushes and shrubs and small forests before Kupgal. Huts, cottages, temples, a flyover across us and an LC signalled the arrival of Adoni at 10 20, 32 mins late.
Now the sleepy atmosphere of the coach had well and truly affected me. I had a nap while sitting on the aisle of the bay. When I woke up, we were pulling into Guntakal (PF 6) at 11 04, only 4 mins late; having made good use of the slack available to us. In the right was an SR train headed by GTL WDG3A 14821 (probably 16382 CAPE-CSTM Jayanthi Janata express – more than 45 mins late). I headed outside to the platform and made the long walk up to our now detached diesel beast – GTL WDG3A 13072 – in dire need of a bath, but having done a good job.
It had a shrill HT horn similar to Pune ALCOs, and a slightly sore throated LT horn. In the left, the GTL pair of WDM3D 11450 (in the shed’s standard vermillion-yellow ‘ICF Rajdhani livery) and WDM3A 16701R (APU-fitted and in blue-white livery) were roaming around.
11450 had the typical sharp 3D horn, while 16701R had an electric type LT horn. There was an SCR train (probably a passenger) with GY WDM3D 11386 in the distant right. Our e-loco to MS was an offlink BZA WAG7 28415 with melodious twin tones similar to P4.
We departed GTL at 11 33, 18 mins late, after a halt of 29 mins. Had a reasonably fast run till Gooty, except for a crawl through Nakkanadodi. The highway kept us company for a while on the right, and there was a beautiful lake at Nakkanadodi. There was a TSR on a girder bridge over some bushes and shrubs before the Kurnool line joined us on the left; and a flyover crosses across us. There was a welcome sign of a vendor selling icecream, and I had a dry fruits and vanilla cup.GTL WDG3A 14690 crossed us with the traditional ALCO HT horn, and so did a BOXN rake with twin WDG4s (Trailing – 12562 of GY). Pulled into Gooty at 12 02, 29 mins late. The acceleration of the WAG7 would have given WAP4s a run for their money. We had a fast run before crawling on the loop line (as is common in SCR) to overtake a BOXN freight led by twin blue WAG7s at Rayalacheruvu.
There were a lot of solar panels arranged neatly in a row, all slanting to reflect the sunlight. We encountered another TSR on a bridge(over the dry river Pinakini/Pennar) before passing Juturu, where part of the platform was covered in grass and weeds; and only half of the station had protection from the sun. The scenery improved with a lot of small trees, a few coconut trees, shrubs, thistles etc before Komali. We pulled into Tadipatri at 12 49, 36 mins late.I had a solid lunch of veg meals – the standard chapatis and rice with side dishes – dal, aloo subzi and panneer mutter; as well as a small cup of curd. The heavy lunch and the effect of the AC (plus the lack of window seat) made me doze off again. When I woke up, we were departing Kadapa; half an hour late. We were surrounded by mountains in the distant right, and the highway in the distant left. Initially we were at a higher level as compared to the other line, before both the lines levelled out. We had an unscheduled stop at Ontimitta for a minute. Nearby was a lake full of thorns and thickets.
As far as the sleepiness induced by AC was concerned, I was not alone. Quite a few people seemed to be content to sleep for hours together in their berths. The aforementioned Maharashtrian lady was sleeping in the LB; while her children (a girl who seemed to be in her late teens, and her naughty kid brother) were cooped up in the UB most of the time. However, some time later; the boy came down to sleep at his mother’s feet. Meanwhile, after Razampeta; there was more greenery in the form of plantains, shrubs, green fields and coconut trees in the distant right. There were quite a few stations which were not fully developed, with shrubs, grass and weeds growing on the platform; and lacking cover from the sun as well. There were huge mounds of waste near Anantarajupet. Reached Koduru at 15 52, 24 mins late. The highway again joined us on the left, and we had a race with a car for a while till it slowed down; apparently for a signal. There were mountains in the distant left (which would later merge with the Sapthagiri range), and small forests.
We made good use of the slack to pull into RU(PF 5) at 16 34, 6 mins early. Here there was a BCNA rake led by ED WAG7 27559. The coach was slowly getting vacated, as many of its occupants seemed headed to Tirupati.
The side berth adjacent to my bay was now vacant, so I decided to take advantage and moved there with my luggage. The pantry guy who had brought lunch was now selling cutlets with ketchup. I wasn’t that keen to eat, but he politely insisted; saying that they are hot and fresh; and kept a plate on the berth! Ok all right , no harm in having, I thought; and they did taste good – better than the dal vadas in fact. I then headed out to the platform, to see 17479 Puri TPTY supercrawler departing from PF 4 with the classic melodious twin tones of the BZA WAP4 22746 hauling it. After this train departed, I heard a similar horn(HT); and looked around to see my train starting to move!. I quickly boarded my coach. I was surprised that the train departed at 16 51, when the departure time given in the time table printed inside the coach was 17 00. But just yesterday I saw in erail.in (which is usually 100% accurate) that the departure time has changed to 16 50. Looks like the time table has not been updated!
On the left was Barbie doll WAG5A 23778 of BZA. In the distant left was a Humsafar rake. As we headed out, there was a JHS WAG7 27564 in a siding on the left. We were soon racing through the typical Indian countryside scenery. The Maharashtrian family was now active, with the children enjoying the view outside. There was a huge curve to the left near Pudi, and I could see the coaches and the blue brute that was hauling us. There was a TSR of 90 kmph, and there were two ponds with goats grazing on the banks. Our WAG7 was in full form; and we blasted through Puttur at MPS. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOS8NaYBUYQ. There were forests with tall eucalyptus trees, in the background of the gorgeous Sapthagiri Hills.
A huge board of KAG Shipping Company can be seen in the left amidst the scenery.
There was a beautiful lake near Nagari.
There was a mountain which we railfans (well, quite a few of us!) call ‘Dadar express’ because the peak resembles a diesel loco (ALCO) hauling 12163/64, a favourite of many RFs.
Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta, the station with the longest name in IR, and also the border between A.P and TN; resembled a ghost station. We were racing SUVs, buses, lorries and bikes. Passed the pure Veg. Hotel Kasi before Ponpadi, another ghost station. We then crossed Shakthi Public School before another MPS skip of Tiruttani, and then passed Sudandira Matriculation Higher Secondary School. After these MPS skips of two important stations, it was somewhat ironic that we stopped for a minute at Ichiputtur, a station which even the EMUs skip. We then passed another school (where students were doing exercises – apparently a P.E class), and Sri Krishna Polytechnic College before a huge curve to the left; after which the AJJ substation made its presence. There was a Liebherr lorry on the left near a siding as we pulled into AJJ at 17 58, 5 mins late.
The spottings here were TNP WDM3A 16084 and RPM WAP7 30320. There was one more lake near Tiruvallur, which we again skipped at MPS.
It was a different experience, skipping important stations in a superfast train hauled by a freight loco. There was a group of 5-6 Tamilians, out of which one(a guy who was probably younger than me) got down at AJJ on his way to Kanchipuram, and another (an elderly gentleman) would get down at MS. The others joined me as I came to the door after Avadi (as we would get down at Perambur). We crawled through Korattur (probably a TSR) and then ripped through Villivakkam before slowing down to reach Perambur at 18 57, 14 mins late. I was soon seated in a 29C Deluxe bus, and we didn’t encounter a lot of traffic except in the Purasawalkam area. Got down at Luz Corner bus stop and walked for 10 mins to reach my home at 20 10, tired and sweating because of the humidity even at that hour.
Thanks in advance for reading through this looong report!
WR – Western Railway
CR – Central Railway
KR – Konkan Railway
SCR – South Central Railway
EMU – Electrical Multiple Unit (local train)
RSA – Rake Sharing Arrangement
POH – Periodic overhaul (maintenance)
LC – Level Crossing
HT – High Tone
LT – Low Tone
ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and a class of diesel locos of the 1960s)
ICF – Integral Coach Factory, Perambur (where most of the coaches are manufactured)
APU – Auxiliary Power Unit
TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction
MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed
KYN – Kalyan
LTT – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus
HWH – Howrah
GTL – Guntakal
CAPE – Kanniyakumari
CSTM – Mumbai CST
GY – Gooty
RU – Renigunta
MS – Chennai Egmore
BZA – Vijaywada
ED – Erode
JHS – Jhansi
TPTY – Tirupati
AJJ – Arakkonam
TNP – Tondiarpet
RPM – Royapuram
SA – Salem