A racy trip down South – Part 1

I’m not great at titles, so I hope you will bear with me and move on to the actual blog. There was a function in Devakottai – the 1st birthday function of the baby of my best friend – on Friday March 8th; incidentally International Women’s Day as well 🙂 . The tricky part was getting there from Mumbai and returning without taking more than 2 leaves, which led to this itinerary; making for a rather racy trip (and hence the title! 😀 ):

  1. On Thursday March 7th morning, take the 09 40 Indigo flight to Chennai; reaching there by 11 40 am. Reach home (i.e. my grandparents’ place, where my sister and uncle also stay) by around 1 pm. After lunch and a bit of rest, proceed to MS and board 16851 MS-RMM ‘Boat Mail’ at 19 15.
  2. Reach Karaikkudi the next day at 04 44 in the early morning. Check into a hotel near the New Bus Stand. Some R&R along with breakfast and lunch; then proceed to Devakottai by bus for the function. On returning to Karaikkudi, have dinner and check out. Board 22662 RMM-MS Sethu express at 23 30.
  3. Reach MS the next day at 07 05. Some rest at home along with visiting relatives and packing. Stay for the night.
  4. On Sunday 10th morning, board 12164 MS-DR superfast at 06 45. Arrive at KYN at 04 57 in the early morning the next day. Reach home by around 06 15. Then back to the grind of work as usual! 😛

I must give out a disclaimer that there won’t be any photos (except for one) or videos in this blog; owing to the fact that I lost my memory card at the end of the return journey by 12164 – I had to open my Samsung Galaxy J2, since the Whatsapp caused the phone to hang after I switched on the mobile data (after a gap of a day); in the process the memory card fell somewhere in the passage between the main door and the AC door of my coach – I didn’t notice it until I checked my phone at home. This was probably a blessing in disguise, as I then decided to upgrade to a Samsung J6 Infinity. It is interesting how setbacks like these force us to make decisions that we can otherwise afford to put off! 😛

Anyway, coming back to the trip, Phase 1 went off smoothly; I was at MS more than an hour before the departure of 16851 Boat Mail. As per the digital display and announcements, my train (Boat Mail) was to depart from Platform 9, 12631 MS-TEN Nellai express from PF7, 16115 MSB-PDY ‘Auroville express’ (extended to MSB on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday since last September! 🙂 ) from PF6; and 12667 MS-NCJ weekly superfast from PF5. I also saw the rake of the newly introduced 22671/72 MS-MDU Tejas express lying idle on PF2 (it runs on all days except Thursdays!). Meanwhile, I took a seat in the AC waiting room; since there was plenty of time left.

However, a call from RailYatri arrived with impeccable timing, thus disrupting my peace. I had earlier ordered (online) a Combo of 3 Rotis with a Paneer side dish; to be delivered at TBM during the journey. The person asked me if the order could be delivered at MS itself instead, and I reluctantly agreed; without a clue of how things would unfold in the next 1 hour or so. I made my way for PF9, where my train was berthed. My coach S10 was of a 2003 make, and had mobile charging sockets in all bays; as well as biotoilets.

I had a trackside lower berth 🙂 , though opposite to the direction of travel. However, my joy was short-lived. I had to make many calls to the RailYatri guy and each time my blood pressure shot up; as either my Hindi wasn’t good or I couldn’t follow his Bihari/U.P accent well. The wait grew longer and longer, and the departure time drew closer and closer. Meanwhile, the TTE came and checked our tickets; it seems the process is more rigorous in SR, as he asked us to show our IDs as well. After my ticket was checked, I rushed to the door. Finally the delivery guy came; the poor chap had had a fall on the way, which resulted in delaying him – though thankfully there was not much damage apart from torn trousers. It was 19 15 – the time for departure – by the time I collected the parcel and returned to my seat, the train departed; a minute late. Imagine what would have happened if we had left right on the dot! :O

Instead of 3 Rotis with a Paneer side dish; the parcel consisted of a Paneer Biryani (thanks to the change of the delivery station!). It was quite tasty, but to my shock there was no spoon; thus I had to somehow eat it with my bare hands! Meanwhile, I spotted an EMU to MSB standing at the outer; it looked like someone had fallen! 😦 We crossed a stationary freight hauled by twin maroon-brown WAG5s at Chetpet. Our ALCO beast was a fierce chugger, with a strong transition kick to boot. The LT horn was used while on the run; the HT horn being used while departing and at lower speeds. We pulled into PF8 of TBM at 19 48, 5 mins late. As we left after a halt of 3 mins, I noticed that the water from the tap (in the toilets) was rather brackish 😦 .

We crossed an empty rake at Vandalur. After Urapakkam, an LHB rake crossed us with a WAP7 – probably a close to 1 hour late running 22631 MDU-BKN Anuvrat AC express. There was a beautiful lake at Guduvancheri, after which the turbocharger kicked in with a bang. However, we dropped our pace and crawled till Potheri home signal; followed by some terrific chugging as we accelerated through the station with the HT horn in full flow. The transition kick came soon after, followed by slow acceleration (being a 22-coach rake) with rhythmic clickety clack track sounds. We crossed a train led by a WAP7 after Singaperumalkoil – probably 16128 GUV-MS ‘Kudal’ express. Then we crawled once more, followed by massive chugging. Passed a Royal Enfield Showroom before entering CGL at a good speed at 20 26, 13 mins late. A KZJ WAG7 27767 came from VM side; in the distant right.

We departed after a stop of 3 mins with a long HT blast followed by a short one. Came to an abrupt halt, followed by more horn blowing; as we started moving again after half a minute. Since we were on the mainline, we accelerated right away with typically fierce chugging; followed by the transition jerk and steady acceleration with melodious clickety clack track sounds. The turbocharger was on song, as we started ripping after 6 mins. Many settlements and coconut and palm trees flew past us, and a road gave us company on the right; before we blasted through Ottivakkam. There was a change in scenery, in the form of vast open spaces and mountains in the distant right. Padalam and Karunguzhi whizzed past us (as well as a few factories 😀 ). Then I could make out our diesel beast (it was a WDM/Gx) for the first time as we blazed through Madurantakam 🙂 ; the station being on a big curve. 

We had a race with a bus on the highway; finally overtaking it after some time. Then we similarly overtook a Toyota Innova as well. There were quite a few bridges on the route. After more coconut and palm trees flew past us, we entered MLMR at a good speed (accompanied by LT honking) at 20 57, 19 mins late. We had covered the last 36 km in 28 mins (including the start-stop-start departure from CGL!) at 77.14 kmph 🙂 . Left after a stop of 2 mins; again with the LP blowing a long HT blast followed by a short one. Since we were on the mainline (again!), we soon accelerated to MPS; overtaking a lot of vehicles on the way and thundering through Acharapakkam (there was an Aasife Biriyani restaurant nearby).

The ALCO in charge seemed determined to prove that it was no less than an EMD or electric; as long as it had an aggressive LP at the helm and green signals all along the route 😉 . Unfortunately, I could not enjoy the run for long; for the middle berth had to be raised, so that my co-passenger could sleep. So, I decided to call it a day and lie down on my LB. I had a more or less sound sleep, before my alarm woke me up at 04 30. We entered Karaikkudi at a decent speed (since we were on the mainline, yet again! :O) and came to a halt on PF3, at 04 42; 2 mins before time 🙂 . 12606 Pallavan express to Chennai was waiting to depart from PF1; with a WDG4 in charge. There was a DEMU in yellow-green livery (with yellow stripes) on PF2. I took an auto to reach my hotel.

Phase 2 of the trip went well, well…almost; there were a few hiccups! I slept for a few hours in my room, before having free breakfast delivered; as a part of the room service. Then, just as I was getting ready to shave and take a bath; all hell broke loose. My grandmother had given me a (loosely tied) box of sweets that I was to give my best friend; whose baby’s function I was to attend that day. I had put the sweets in my suitcase along with the rest of my things. During the train journey, while sleeping; I had kept the bag under my LB. This seemed to have attracted a lot of ants (being non-AC, what to expect! 😦 ), who had taken up their residence inside the sweet box; and thus followed me all the way to the hotel room! :O Thus, I had to spend the next few hours first arranging for Housekeeping staff to clean the room twice (during which I had to keep all my luggage on the terrace to dry in the hot and dry weather – the room being on the 3rd floor) and then thoroughly swinging around all my clothes and carry bags – to ensure they were ants-free!!

Because of this ant infestation incident, I ended up shaving and taking bath well after 1 pm. Henceforth I decided to avoid carrying food items (especially sweets) while travelling in a non-AC coach; unless they were thoroughly tied up in a preferably airtight box. The function in Devakottai (which was anyway in the evening!) went off pretty well; except that I could not give my friend the sweets – since I had no choice but to dump them in the hotel room dustbin! 😦  After returning to Karaikkudi, I had dinner and then checked out of my hotel. Arranged for a hotel-owned car to take me to the Junction; reaching more than 1.5 hours prior to the departure of my train to Chennai – 22662 RMM-MS Sethu express. Thus there was a lot of time left for railfanning; I won’t bore you with all those spottings now 😛

The diesel loco for Sethu exp (till TPJ) was GOC WDP3A 15501. I didn’t give two hoots about the electric loco from TPJ onwards, as my only concern was to have a solid sleep on my upper berth (I was in AC 3 Tier) 😛 . This wasn’t all that easy, since for some reason the AC effect was so less that without the fan I didn’t need any bedsheet or blanket to sleep! :O It was made worse by one of my co-passengers switching on the light for a while; at the same time turning the fan off as well! 🙂 Eventually I managed to fall asleep after a while, after the light was switched off again and the fan turned back on! Phew! I woke up a few times during the night, including at TPJ; but otherwise it was a fairly deep sleep.

Before I finally climbed down from my berth, I could make out that we had a long unscheduled halt somewhere after MBM. All in all, it was far from a superfast run; despite our e-loco probably being a WAP7, going by the HT horn. We finally reached MS at 08 21, 1 hr 16 mins late! :O There was a massive crowd as we alighted; it looked like the train on the adjacent platform (12634 CAPE-MS superfast) was also badly delayed! There was also an announcement made for 12694 TN-MS Pearlcity to arrive shortly; meaning it was also quite late – though not as bad as Sethu or 12634! Wonder what was going on, with all these delays? :O Anyway, I then took an Ola auto to reach home by around 9 am.

Time to take a break for now and then return with the final phase of the trip – the return journey to Mumbai by 12164 MS-DR superfast. Happy reading till then! 😀

LEGEND

Technical Abbreviations

  • SR – Southern Railway
  • EMU – Electrical Multiple Unit (electric local/suburban train)
  • ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and an old class of diesel engines of the 1960s)
  • HT – High Tone
  • LT – Low Tone
  • 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)
  • LP – Loco Pilot
  • DEMU – Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (or self-propelled diesel trainset)

Station Codes

MS – Chennai Egmore

RMM – Rameshwaram

DR – Dadar (Central)

KYN – Kalyan

TPJ – Trichy Junction

TEN – Tirunelveli

MSB – Chennai Beach

PDY – Puducheri

NCJ – Nagercoil Junction

MDU – Madurai

TBM – Tambaram

BKN – Bikaner

KZJ – Kazipet

CGL – Chengalpattu

MLMR – Melmaruvathur

GOC – Golden Rock (Ponmalai)

MBM – Mambalam

TN – Thoothukodi

CAPE – Kanniyakumari

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