The first month of the year had been rather hectic. Come February, I needed a change of routine; or rather a change of scene. For a railfan, the best way to achieve that is a train trip; especially one through Konkan Railway. But being KR, it is never easy to get tickets at short notice. Besides, I had exhausted my monthly quota of 6 tickets (per booking ID) through IRCTC long ago 😛 . Hence there was no option for me but to book a Tatkal ticket on Friday Feb 1; the plan being to take 10103 CSMT-MAO Mandovi express to Ratnagiri the next day and return by 12052 MAO-DR Jan Shatabdi express – with ample buffer of more than 4.5 hours in between; to absorb the regular delays of Mandovi.
To my pleasant surprise, the Tatkal booking went off very smoothly without a hitch. On the day of the journey, I got up at 05 15, brushed my teeth, had coffee and bathed; before leaving my home by 06 10. Took an auto to Vikhroli, where I was greeted by 22119 Mumbai Karmali Tejas express blasting away behind twin Pune ALCOs – WDM2 16012R and WDM3A 18926R – having a shrill but melodious HT horn. I took a local to Dadar, where I saw that Ajni WAP7 30315 had brought in 11022 Puducheri Dadar Chalukya express from Pune. 12127 Mumbai Pune Intercity pulled into Platform 4 with DLW-made Ajni WAP7 37022. As it departed at 06 59 (7 minutes late) with the P7’s characteristic HT whine, I noticed that both EOGs were silent 🙂 .
There was a lot of action in the morning hours, especially in the UP direction. 12112 Amravati Mumbai superfast then arrived on PF6 behind KYN WCAM3 21897 at 07 03, 1 hr 11 mins late. After it departed, 17412 Kolhapur Mumbai Mahalaxmi express pulled in with KYN WCAM2 21863 at 07 14, 17 mins late.
Hardly had Mahalaxmi departed after a 2-min halt, than 11007 Mumbai Pune Deccan express arrived on PF5 behind KYN WCAM2 21880 at 07 19; 8 mins late. As it left after a stop of 3 mins, 12106 Gondia Mumbai Vidarbha express arrived at the same time; with a delay of 50 mins. A middle-aged gentleman asked me if Deccan express had left; I had to give him the bad news that he had missed the train. He told me ruefully that he had got badly delayed in traffic and asked me which was the next train to Pune; I replied that it was 11301 CSMT-SBC Udyan express which would come in an hour’s time, and directed him to PF4. To my shock, there was a wrong announcement of Udyan arriving on PF4 soon after! Imagine the confusion it would have caused for the gentleman, as well as quite a few other people! :O
Anyway, Mandovi express then arrived on PF5 behind a surprise link – Pune WDM3A twins 16013R and 16750R (APU-fitted).
My SL coach was very old (manufactured in 1997), but still had mobile charging sockets in all bays, as well as biotoilets! :O We departed at 07 33, 8 mins late. 22108 Latur Mumbai superfast blasted past with an EMD at Kurla. Our WDM3A twins had a mellow LT horn and displayed superb acceleration with the 24-coach rake. We overtook a slow local to Thane while ripping through Ghatkopar. 12290 Nagpur Mumbai Duronto zipped past before Bhandup. We pulled into PF5 of Thane at 07 58, 12 mins late. I had a packet of Upma and the sweet Sheera for breakfast. We departed after a halt of 5 mins. The cross-over speed here was 30 kmph.
As we quickly accelerated to MPS after crossing over the points, an LHB train crossed us before the Parsik Tunnel. We stopped for about 40-odd seconds at Diva home signal for clearance; since we had to cross over to the lines heading for Panvel. Honked continuously while crawling through Diva; the horn could be heard more clearly now! 😀 I then dozed off; not having slept much in the night. When I woke up, we were on PF6 of Panvel. I heard an announcement that 11025 Bhusaval-Pune express was cancelled. A big crowd boarded our train. To my surprise, a container freight left before us! We finally departed at 08 59 (29 mins late) just as a tanker train left in the opposite direction.
As we accelerated after the usual crawl over the points, the chugging of our deemers could be heard more clearly now! 😉 We crossed a BOXN rake hauled by an EMD and then passed a pond full of stagnant water where women were bathing. Had another unscheduled halt at Somtane on the mainline for 40-odd secs. Then we crossed a lone WDG4, followed by many palm trees; before yet another unscheduled stop at Apta for 40-odd secs. We then crossed a murky river before the first tunnel of the section till Roha. Following this, we accelerated to MPS before slowing down and then picking up speed again with a lot of hard chugging and smoking. There was a TSR of 105 kmph before Jite; where we crossed a BOXN freight on the left and a RO-RO rake on the right.
I was enjoying the fast run accompanied by melodious LT honking (a shrill HT horn heard briefly) and clickety clack track sounds. We crossed a river (where women were washing clothes) before Pen; where twin ALCOs were stationed in the distant right. The freight action continued, as an EMD-led freight crossed us. Then there were 2 tanks; in the latter of which I again saw women washing clothes, pots and pans. This was followed by more scenery in the form of a lot of cottages, trees, dry mountains and boys playing cricket. After we crawled through Kasu, I saw a pond where children were washing clothes :O , followed by a partly dry stream.
The start-stop run continued, as we had another unscheduled halt at Nagothane for 3 mins on the mainline platform. There I spotted a stationary BOXN rake in the opposite direction; headed by NKJ WDG4D 70415 and KZJ WDG4 70054. The shrill HT horn was used for our departure; following which we crossed a river and another tunnel. After Nidi there was a TSR of 100 kmph. Then we passed over a very narrow Ashtami river where women were again washing clothes. Crawled and skipped Roha, crossing 50104 RN-DR passenger with KYN WDP4D 40276 on the right and overtaking 22656 NZM-TVC superfast with GOC WDP4D 40572 in the distant right! :O
It was a shock for me to experience a slow express overtaking a superfast. We also overtook a BCNA freight on the left hauled by KYN WDG4D 70380, before coming to a brief stop of a minute; after crossing the station limits. Then we entered KR with furious chugging and smoking. I will end Part 1 on this tantalizing note; please stay tuned for the rest of the journey in Part 2! 😀
- IRCTC – Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (subsidiary of Indian Railways that handles catering, tourism and online ticketing operations of IR)
- ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and an old class of diesel engines of the 1960s)
- HT – High Tone
- LT – Low Tone
- APU – Auxiliary Power Unit (specifically for charging the loco batteries when it is idle)
- DLW – Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi (largest diesel engine manufacturer in India; now manufactures electrics as well!)
- EMD – Electro-motive Diesel (and a modern class of diesel engines)
- MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed
- 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)
- EOG – End-On Generator (a diesel generator attached to both ends of the train to power the coaches)
- TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction
- RO-RO – Roll On-Roll Off (Freight service in KR; in which road trucks along with their drivers are loaded on to flat bed freights)
- CSMT – Mumbai CST
- MAO – Madgaon
- DR – Dadar (Central)
- KYN – Kalyan
- SBC – KSR Bengaluru (Bangalore City/Majestic)
- NKJ – New Katni Junction
- KZJ – Kazipet
- RN – Ratnagiri
- NZM – Hazrat Nizamuddin
- TVC – Trivandrum Central
- GOC – Golden Rock (Ponmalai)