Flattering to deceive, yet again – Part 1

12125/26 Pragati express is one of the 6 intercities (including 4 superfasts) that ply on the ever busy Mumbai-Pune corridor. It is a superfast (covering the distance of 189 km in 3 hours 25 minutes, at an average speed of 55.32 kmph) and an important train for the office-goers; especially from Navi Mumbai – being the only intercity that serves Panvel, since it traverses through the Panvel-Karjat route. However, the train has rarely been punctual; ever since it was diverted from its original path (via Kalyan-Karjat) 7 years ago – thanks to a number of factors: a very tight schedule with quite a few stops, freight traffic on the Diva-Panvel line and generally the sheer congestion within the suburban limits of both Mumbai and Pune.

The average delay for Pragati (which used to be around 10-15 mins in the initial years, on the new route) has gone up in the last 2-3 years; owing to a number of speed restrictions introduced in the Bhor Ghats – thanks to a spate of derailments and boulder-falling incidents. I had undertaken a trip by this train (towards Mumbai) for the first time last June; it had reached Panvel half an hour late – refer https://ashwinkumar1989.online/2018/06/24/my-first-journey-by-pragati-express/ for my account of this journey. This month I decided to travel towards Pune (by the same train) for a change.

On the day of the journey (Saturday May 18th), I left my home by around 14 35 and took an auto to Vikhroli; whereon I boarded a local train heading to CSMT. A DOWN Harbour line local was waiting for clearance after Kurla; at the point where the main line veered off towards Sion, and was separated from the Harbour line by a wall. An interesting sight followed soon after, in the form of a WDS6 heading a long rake consisting of regular coaches (AC as well as non-AC; including a few Utkrisht coaches) as well as HCPVs; which overtook us on the UP fast line after Matunga. As we neared CSMT, I noticed that the speed limit for cross-over was 30 kmph. Pulled into the terminus at 15 40.

As per the digital display there; 16381 CSMT-CAPE ‘Jayanthi Janata’ express was expected to depart from Platform 9, 12125 Pragati from PF11, 22221 CSMT-NZM Rajdhani express from PF18 and 11401 CSMT-NGP Nandigram express from PF8. 02108 LKO-CSMT special was expected at 23 15, 6.5 hrs late. I headed to PF11, where Pragati was berthed. The spotless Utkrisht rake sparkled in the dull late afternoon atmosphere.

There were a variety of electric locos as well as a few ALCOs outside the Trip Shed; including LDH WAP4 22721, SRC WAP4 25043, Ajni WAP7s 30543 and 30542, newly POHed KYN WCAM3 21885 and KYN WDG3A 14727; among others.

The loco of Pragati was KYN WCAM2 21868. To my shock, it was protruding out of the platform; along with a quarter of the SLR! Is PF11 of CSMT so short that it struggles to hold even a puny 15-16 coach rake like Pragati? :O Meanwhile, I had a look inside my coach D6; it was colourful and had a digital display (which would show the next halting station along with destination), but there were no mobile charging sockets; despite being a 2014-made coach! :O

Meanwhile, at 16 21, after the departure of 22221 Rajdhani from PF18; there was an announcement for 11094 BSB-CSMT Mahanagari express to arrive shortly on the same platform – more than 2 hrs late. We departed at 16 26, a minute late; with the LP blowing a weird HT whine, followed by a short but melodious HT horn. I saw the rake of 11139 Mumbai Gadag express on the left; the SLR belonged to NCR. The rake of 12809 Mumbai Howrah Mail was berthed on PF13. I spotted KYN WDM3D 11359 on the right, as well as the rake of 17411 CSMT-KOP Mahalaxmi express; there was an NR coach in the consist. I also saw KYN WCAM2 21871 on a siding to the right.

As we crawled out of the terminus, I saw a local waiting for clearance on the left. At Masjid, another local was stuck on the same track! As we picked up speed at Sandhurst Road home, the congestion continued; as there was yet another local waiting for clearance! :O We pulled into PF4 of Dadar at 16 41, 4 mins late. A lot of people boarded here during the 1-minute halt. As we accelerated out of the station, I noticed that the LP seemed to love playing with the horns; there were totally 3 horns – 2 HT (a weird whine as well as a melodious horn) and 1 LT. The melodious HT horn was used most often. We had a fast run from Ghatkopar home signal onwards, overtaking 2 locals before Vikhroli and Kanjurmarg; as well as 11205 LTT-KRMR express (headed by KYN WDP4D 40346) at Nahur.

The traffic on the slow line (as mentioned earlier) continued, as I saw a local to CSMT stuck at Thane home; while another local (on PF4 of Thane) was waiting for the one ahead to clear its path. We came to a stop on PF5 at 17 07, 13 mins late. As expected, many people boarded here; the surprise being that a few people got down! We left after a halt of a minute; with the LP blowing a long HT melody; followed by a short one. A slow local overtook us, as we took our own sweet time to accelerate out of the station; despite being on the mainline. However, we managed to have the last laugh sooner than I expected; the local somehow got stuck after Thane Creek! Wonder what was going on, with all this congestion on the UP as well as DOWN slow lines? :O

After the Parsik Tunnel, I saw poles and tracks laid (the latter in patches) on the left of the slow lines – probably, after the completion of these lines, the slow locals would switch to these lines and the fast locals would switch to the existing slow lines; since (in the future) the Parsik Tunnel line is meant to be exclusively for long-distance trains and freights. We passed Diva with continuous honking (mainly the melody HT horn, plus a hort LT blast). Later, 11086 MAO-LTT Double Decker (IMHO the biggest flop of all time! πŸ˜› ) crossed us with a KYN WDG3A ‘Shakti’. As we slowly took the huge curve to Dativli, the LP seemed to have his/her finger on all the 3 horn buttons! πŸ˜› Passed through ponds, marshes and tall bushes. We started blasting from Nilaje home, but the run was only brief; this would become a pattern throughout this freight corridor.

There was some arid land followed by lots of trees; also, next to the tracks was some land being levelled for laying extra lines – a welcome move given the freight traffic in this section.

I observed a freshly POHed KYN WDG3A Shakti 13550 at Taloja Panchnand. It was heartening to note that a metro was being constructed in these parts; given that you have the residential hub of Lodha Palava nearby.

This was followed by a river, as well as more levelled land for laying tracks. Then there was a highway across us. After Navade Road, we passed through some scenery in the form of another river as well as many trees; with mountains in the distant left. We overtook a BCNHL freight hauled by twin maroon brown WAG5As (trailing – 23030 of BL) at Kalamboli – this was probably the culprit for our lukewarm run in this route! πŸ˜› I saw a shed being contructed on the left.

More land levelled as well as a few stacks of sleepers; with a lot of trees and mountains in the distant left – as always!

We crossed a container rake. The sight of a huge D-Mart store on the left marked the approach to Panvel. As we slowed down, I noticed many neat piles of ballast; there were 3 goats on top of one of them! :O Then there was a TSR of 75 kmph, followed by a highway across us and a big curve. As we crossed the yard, I spotted BRC WAP5 30088 on a siding to the right. In the distant right was a stationary BOXN freight (in the opposite direction) led by APU-fitted KZJ WDG3As 14572R and 13602 ‘Shakti’. To the left of this train was a tanker rake. We pulled into PF7 of Panvel at 17 50, 21 mins late. Again a truckload of people boarded here and the coach was soon packed to the hilt! πŸ˜›

I shall wind up here for now and wrap up the blog in Part 2. You have seen 12125 Pragati delayed by more than 20 mins already; and we are not even halfway through the journey! Thus the superfast intercity has flattered to deceive (hence the title of the blog! πŸ˜› ) so far; will we make up time before reaching Pune? Or will we maintain the delay? Or will the run get even worse? Stay tuned to Part 2 to find out!

Technical Abbreviations

  • HCPV – High Capacity Parcel Van
  • ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and an old class of diesel engines of the 1960s)
  • POH – Periodic Overhaul
  • SLR – Seating Cum Luggage Rake (attached at the front and rear of every ICF self-generating rake)
  • ICF – Integral Coach Factory, Perambur (Chennai) [manufactures most of the coaches in Indian Railways]
  • HT – High Tone
  • LT – Low Tone
  • NCR – North Central Railway
  • NR – Northern Railway
  • LP – Loco Pilot
  • TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction
  • APU – Auxiliary Power Unit (specifically for charging the loco batteries when it is idle)

Station Codes

  • CSMT – Mumbai CST
  • CAPE – Kanniyakumari
  • NZM – Hazrat Nizamuddin
  • NGP – Nagpur
  • LKO – Lucknow Charbagh
  • LDH – Ludhiana
  • SRC – Santragachchi
  • KYN – Kalyan
  • KOP – Kolhapur
  • LTT – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla Terminus)
  • KRMR – Karimnagar
  • BSB – Varanasi Junction
  • MAO – Madgaon
  • BL – Valsad
  • BRC – Vadodara
  • KZJ – Kazipet
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