A Two Night Sojourn to Chennai – Part 1

I was hugely lucky to benefit from the 15-day leave policy of my company; which I made full use of – to plan a week-long trip to Chennai in order to meet my maternal grandparents, relatives and friends. As the title suggests, I took the legendary 09 Down Mail (now 11027 Mumbai Chennai Mail); a supercrawler which takes nearly 28 hours to cover the 1284 km from Mumbai, with a whopping 50 stops along the way. Since it departs Mumbai CSMT as late as 23 45, I had enough time for a full day of work; after which I could return home and have dinner as well.

On the day of the journey (17th Nov), I was in a festive mood – obviously because of a long train journey ahead; and also because it was the last working day of the week. After dinner, I left my home at 21 45 and took an auto to Vikhroli; wherein I boarded a local to CSMT, reaching by 22 55. After walking up to Platform 14 (where my train would be berthed), I had to wait for half an hour for the rake to arrive from the yard. My coach B1 was 5th from the engine, and was a 2013 make with plug points (for charging mobile phones and laptops) in all bays; and bio-toilets at one end. I had a trackside emergency window seat LB. From the adjacent PF 15, 11057 Mumbai Amritsar express departed. My ticket was checked (I was just asked to show my photo ID) before we departed at 23 53 (8 mins late). BTW: For all technical terms, abbreviations and station codes; refer the legend at the bottom – I haven’t covered ALL though!

As we slowly cleared the points, I observed KYN WDP4D 40277 adjacent to the rake of Tejas express. There was also UBL WDP4B 40015 on a siding and a train with a WCAM loco was pulling in – probably an almost 4 hours late running 11302 SBC CSMT Udyan express (as announcements had been made for it to arrive at 23 15!) .  Nearby was Ajni WAP7 30296. We crossed a daytime CR train with an ALCO. A lot of people got in our (till then) almost empty coach at Dadar. Here I saw GOC WDP4B 40067 – probably the loco of 12052 Madgaon Dadar Jan Shatabdi. I soon went to sleep. I woke up a few times in between. The customary loco change (from electric to diesel) would have happened at Pune, and I guessed that we were now being hauled by an EMD; going by the pull, absence of the transition jerk (that happens at around 40 kmph in ALCOs) and LT horn. When I finally got out of my berth, it was  07 55; and we were stationary at a small station.

From the Side bay window, I observed a CR daytime train (probably 12158 Solapur Pune Hutatma express) come and make its stop. Then a CR train hauled by an EMD overtook us; after which Hutatma left. I brushed my teeth and then got out to have a look at our surroundings – we were at Kem, a scheduled stop but in a remote location with a thoroughly nondescript platform on the other side(where Hutatma was halted)!

The signal on the main line (in the middle) then turned green – our 2nd overtake! It was 12025 Pune Secunderabad Shatabdi with continuous and pure EMD honking from its GY WDP4D 40314 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PBWrlgPwqw . The MPS at this station is 80 kmph, hence even the Shatabdi had to be a bit restrained here. So two overtakes at a ghost town which is a scheduled stop – see the fate a 100+ years old train has to endure! As expected, our loco was an EMD (to note: it has a unique LT horn, that only an EMD loco can have – this was used mostly while running. Also, it has two HT horns – the one which was most frequently used for departures sounded rather like a traditional ALCO horn (baaam) ! ). We finally departed at 08 36, after a more than 40 mins long stop!

On the right, I observed doubling work in progress  – there was a line next to us for a while. I could also see sleepers and ballast till Kurduwadi. There was a TSR of 80 kmph on the line to Pandharpur. We pulled into Kurduwadi at 08 55, 55 mins late. Here another train hauled by an EMD crossed us. We departed after 5 mins with a jerk. The EMD which was hauling us didn’t give a very smooth feel, in spite of the absence of transition jerk of the ALCO as mentioned earlier. Whenever we accelerated, decelerated, started or stopped; there was always a jerk. There was again a line next to us (indicating the doubling progress) till Wadsinge, where we crossed a WDG4D with a tanker train. At Madha, a train crossed us as we started leaving – a rare occurrence in a single line section.

I was hungry; so finished off the pack of Nachos (with Salsa) that I had purchased the previous night. I also had Bread cutlet from the pantry, as well as a cup of tea. There was more freight action, as we crossed a BCNA rake headed by an odd combination of an EMD and an ALCO at Vakav; and a triple ALCO headed tanker train at Angar. There was the usual scenery in the form of maize fields, few corn fields, meadows, bushes and shrubs; as well as cows grazing. We crossed the mostly dry (except for a few patches of stagnant water) Seena river. Then there was a pond and few coconut trees. The UP track was on a higher level before Bale, where we crossed a DEMU marked Pune-Baramati. What was it doing there? :O

A lot of residential buildings as well as slums marked the arrival of Solapur. We were stopped at the home signal for 8 mins, as 11014 CBE-LTT express (with 6 AC coaches) crossed us led by KJM WDP4D 40237. We finally pulled into the station at 10 25, 55 mins late. Here I saw Pune WDM3D 11357 and GOC WDG4 12784 with a BCNA freight. On the adjacent platform, 57659 Solapur Falaknuma passenger was headed by Pune WDM3D 11368 (this one interestingly has a horn similar to the ones found on most GTL ALCOs). Meanwhile, I managed to have a look at our power – to my surprise, it was a KYN WDP4D 40312. There was a huge crowd at the station, especially for the passenger.

Also, there was a lot of activity going on around our RMS coach. There was a moss-covered lake (where some people were bathing – looks like they didn’t have a choice! :O) and a lot of residential buildings till Tikekarwadi. We also crossed 57650 Wadi Solapur passenger with Pune WDM3A 18951R. Then there was some rural scenery till Hotgi, where I observed GTL WDM3D 11120 coupled to it’s shed-mate WDM3A 16701R – both were in the standard shed livery of orange and yellow. Then there was a factory in the distant right.

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I also saw an old shepherd leading goats and an another leading cows. At Tilati, there was a man driving a Suzuki Access125 on the platform! :O I also observed IR markers instead of the usual CR ones. Then there was an unmetalled road parallel to us. I saw a salt pan somewhere in the distant right, along with usual scenery in the form of bushes and shrubs, and neem trees. At Akkalkot Road, there was a Plasser machine with a camping coach on which clothes were hung out to dry! :O On the other platform, there were a lot of schoolchildren loaded with their bags, On our platform, there was a lot of crowd; and many people deboarded.

There was a lot of construction work (probably doubling) going on at Nagansur – I saw L&T Tomatsu machines, excavators and bulldozers scooping up ballast. Then there was a lot of stone waste. Some slums, cottages and goats grazing signalled the arrival of Dudhani, where there was a BCNA rake led by twin GY WDM3Ds (rear 11123) – both were in the standard blue-white 3D livery. Just as we departed, the freight also departed at the same time in the opposite direction. I then dozed off for a while; the AC making me drowsy. At Gulbarga, I saw 57660 Falaknuma Gulbarga passenger with new Pune WDP4D 40447. The station has an MPS of 70 kmph.

The section between Gulbarga and Wadi is wired, which is a sad news for us diesel fans. Electrics are rapidly invading predominantly diesel bastions all over IR. Anyway, the UP and DOWN tracks in this section are separated by a huge distance and the UP track is on a higher level . There were a lot of eucalyptus trees, and I saw gangmen with characteristic orange shirts on the UP track. We pulled into Wadi at 13 15, now only 25 mins late thanks to the slack; which is present for all trains as they move over from CR to SCR territory and vice-versa here. Our EMD beast was detached; having put in a sterling effort. Time for the electric to assume the reins till Chennai.

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By now, I have made a habit of splitting my blog posts into two parts – this one will be no different. Though it may result in you all having to wait for the second part, I am sure that the blog on the whole will be less boring thanks to my partition! 😀 Happy reading so far 😉

Technical Terms and Abbreviations

ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and a class of diesel engines of the 1960s)

EMD – Electromotive Diesel (and a modern class of diesel engines)

LT – Low Tone

HT – High Tone

MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed

DEMU – Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (or just diesel local train :P)

RMS – Railway Mail Service

TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction

Station Codes

CSMT – Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (Earlier without the ‘Maharaj’ :P)

KYN – Kalyan

UBL – Hubli

SBC – Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Bengaluru (or just Bangalore City :P)

GOC – Golden Rock (Ponmalai)

GY – Gooty

CBE – Coimbatore

LTT – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla Terminus)

KJM – Krishnarajapuram (KR Puram)

GTL – Guntakal

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