A memorable family outing down South – Part 1

Cometh Deepavali, cometh a family trip to Tirunelveli; chiefly to visit the village Kodaganallur (a 45-minute drive from Tirunelveli) for our annual family function. This always involved a train trip – this time by 12631 MS-TEN Nellai express; newly turned LHB πŸ™‚ . On the day of the journey (6th November), the 4 of us (my parents, sister and I) left our home by 17 45 (almost 2.5 hours in advance); in order to ensure that we had enough time to purchase food parcels for dinner to be consumed in the train. After reaching MS by car, we stationed our luggage in the prepaid AC waiting room on Platform 4 (beside the entrance). After settling down, my mother, sister and I went to Adyar Anand Bhavan (located just outside) to purchase the food parcels. After depositing the parcels safely amongst our luggage, my sister and I purchased water bottles from the vending machine at the south end of PF3/4. Then the 4 of us rested for a while in the waiting room.

The arrivals and departures were displayed in an LCD TV in the waiting room. Our train Nellai was to depart from PF7. 16851 MS-RMM ‘Boat Mail’ was to depart from PF9, 16723 Chennai Kollam Ananthapuri express from PF8, 12642 NZM-CAPE Thirukkural express from PF6 and 12693 MS-TN Pearlcity express from PF5. My father and I went to check if the rake of Nellai had been brought to PF7; indeed it had. Meanwhile, I observed GOC WDM3A 16632R on a siding to the left of PF1. RPM WAP7i 37018 moved towards the south end of PF6. 12163 DR-MS ‘Super’ express was to arrive on PF9. We then slowly moved our luggage to our coach A1 (4th from the rear), using the escalator on PF4.

nellai 6 11 18

I will discuss the pluses and minuses of the LHB experience towards the end. Meanwhile, 12665 HWH-CAPE superfast arrived on PF6 at 19 53, 2 mins early (Loco was ED WAP4 22568).

12665 6 11 18

The train had a WR HCPV. Also, it was scheduled to depart at 20 20, 10 mins later than us. That meant we were to overtake the train right at the start of our journey! Sad fate for a superfast to be regularly overtaken in such a fashion! :O Meanwhile, TNP WDM3A 16861R moved towards the south end of PF8. Our tickets were checked well before our departure – which was on the dot, at 20 10; after quite a few whistles. We started with a mild jerk, by the way. I noticed that 37018 (observed earlier on PF6) was to be the power for 12637 MS-MDU Pandian express (to depart from PF4). Also, the loco for 12661 MS-SCT Podhigai express (to depart from PF5) was RPM WAP7 30342. As we picked up speed after crossing over the points, I noticed that our coach had a flat wheel (seems to be typical of LHB rakes πŸ˜› ). We skipped MBM at a decent pace, accompanied by the sound of firecrackers; being the occasion of Deepavali.

Also, we were on the “wrong” line – the MS-TBM line is bi-directional; let’s call the twin single lines ‘A’ (the left line) and ‘B’ (the right line). This is necessitated by the uneven traffic – too many departures from MS in the evening and night, and a similar influx of arrivals in the morning. So, we were on the ‘B’ line for a while; and crossed 16128 GUV-MS express behind a WAP1/4 after Guindy. Here is the video of us blasting through Palavanthangal and Minambakkam, before slowing down at Tirusulam home signal:

After a crawl through Pallavaram, we switched to the ‘A’ line. A local train overtook us after TBMS. We pulled into TBM at 20 42, 4 mins late. Once we departed after a halt of 2 mins, we had our dinner – I had sambar rice, ‘thattai’ idlis packed by my aunt, a bit of rava kichadi, a dahi vada, vanilla yoghurt and some sweets. It was a heavy but satisfying dinner. We reached CGL at 21 17, 9 mins late; on PF6. We departed after a stop of only 1 minute; since we were on the mainline, we accelerated quickly and had a fast run through a dry river (before Ottivakkam), settlements, trees and LCs. A town with many buildings, water tanks and a temple announced the arrival of MLMR at 21 43, 10 mins late. It was an impressive run – 36 km in 25 mins at 86.4 kmph πŸ™‚ . My mother noticed that MLMR had a very neat and clean granite platform.

Since this platform was also on the mainline, we again accelerated very quickly (after a halt of 2 mins) and had a blazing run, before slowing to a crawl; as the presence of many huts and shanties indicated the arrival of Tindivanam at 22 09, 11 mins late. We had covered the last 30 km in 22 mins at 81.82 kmph πŸ™‚ . My father noticed that Tindivanam had a very long platform (which, by the way, was on the loopline). I retired to my side upper berth, but couldn’t sleep immediately. We had an unscheduled stop before a long halt at VM; after which I soon fell asleep. Had a solid sleep before I was woken up by my father around 6 am. After I washed my face and brushed my teeth, we skipped MEJ at 06 17 at a good pace. Then we blasted through lots of greenery with coconut and palm trees, bushes, watered paddy fields and settlements; crossing Gangai Kondan station in the process.

After Talaiyuthu, I observed Sivakumar Spinning Mills, plantains, coconut and palm trees; and a stream. Saw the rake of 16191/92 TBM-TEN Antyodaya express in the left at TEN yard. Arrived at TEN (PF1) at 06 42, a whopping 23 mins early! πŸ™‚ There were some mild showers as we got down. As per the announcements, 56742 TEN-TN passenger was to depart from PF4 andΒ 22630 TEN-DR superfast from PF2. An ambassador car arrived to take us to Hotel Aryaas near the Junction. Please wait for Part 2 for the return to Chennai by the same train! πŸ˜‰

PROS AND CONS OF THE LHB EXPERIENCE

PROS

  1. Very smooth ride especially at higher speeds.
  2. Neat and clean rake.
  3. Huge glass windows with wide, clear views (even in the night) thanks to the lack of tint.
  4. Easy to use push-button flush in the toilets.
  5. Four bottle holders in each main bay.
  6. Simple push-button reading lights, one for each berth in the main bay.

CONS

  1. No fans – this came as a shock to us; my father remarked that it was typically like a “five-star hotel” πŸ˜›
  2. No bottle-holder or pouch in the side bay.
  3. The spanner type bottle holders in the main bay were rather inconvenient and complicated to use; one of them was broken.
  4. Tray-table in main bay not foldable – this restricted the leg room for the people occupying the window seats.
  5. No tray-table in the side bay – seems like step motherly treatment for people with side berths.
  6. The characteristic LHB jerks while accelerating, decelerating or braking (more felt at lower speeds) – can be really irritating at times, especially when you are eating.

LEGEND

Technical Abbreviations

LHB – Linke-Hofmann-Busch (a modern Swiss company which manufactures coaches with high speed capability and anti-climb safety features; used in Rajdhanis, Shatabdis , and many Durontos and AC expresses)

WR – Western Railway

HCPV – High Capacity Parcel Van

LC – Level Crossing

Station Codes

MS – Chennai Egmore

TEN – Tirunelveli

RMM – Rameshwaram

NZM – Nizamuddin

CAPE – Kanniyakumari

TN – Thoothukodi

GOC – Golden Rock (Ponmalai)

DR – Dadar (Central Railway)

RPM – Royapuram

ED – Erode

TNP – Tondiarpet

MDU – Madurai

SCT – Sengottai

MBM – Mambalam

TBM – Tambaram

GUV – Guruvayur

TBMS – Tambaram Sanatorium

CGL – Chengalpattu

MLMR – Melmaruvathur

MEJ – Vanchi Maniyachchi

VM – Villupuram

HWH – Howrah

 

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