Railfanning marries Nature!!

I am a crazy railfan. And a nature lover. When Railways and Nature meet; it is a deadly combo! πŸ˜€ Thus it was decided that I would do a day-trip to Igatpuri; in order to:

  1. Capture scenic vistas of the Thull Ghats just after the monsoons
  2. Visit Camel Valley (about 4-5 km from the town of Igatpuri) and capture even more breathtaking vistas!

The train chosen for the onward journey was 11061 LTT-DBG Pawan express. On the day of the journey (Tuesday 8th October – Dussehra), I left my home by around 10 45 and took an auto to Vikhroli. There I took a local to Kurla; whereon I changed over to the Harbour line and took another local to Tilak Nagar, from where LTT was just a 5-minute walk away. As always, there was some railfanning to be done πŸ˜‰ . 16345 LTT-TVC Netravati express was on Platform 2; behind the train rested KYN WDP4D 40361.

11075 LTT-Bidar express was on PF4 and a solitary KJM WDP4D 40431 stood at the end of PF5; from where Pawan exp would depart.

13201 RJPB-LTT express arrived on PF1 at 11 41, 11 mins late. I saw that the loco for 11075 was KYN WDP4D 40234.

Meanwhile, the LHB rake of Pawan express was finally brought onto PF5; it was somewhat mismatched – my coach B1 was a Humsafar coach and B3 was a Duronto coach! πŸ˜›

11075 departed at 12 07, 2 mins late. Our loco (TKD WAP7 30346) was then coupled to the rake.

We departed at 12 23 (8 mins late), with the LP blowing a long HT horn; followed by a short LT horn. I noticed that the power for 11071 LTT-BSB Kamayani express (on PF2) was a WAP7. Spotted the rake of 22885/86 LTT-TATA Antyodaya express on the left, as we accelerated after crossing over the points. In the Trip Shed, I saw MGS WAP4 25004 and an Ajni WAP7 among other locos. Before Ghatkopar, 17032 HYB-CSMT express blasted past behind a KYN WDG3A β€˜Shakti’; the rake had many Utkrisht coaches. Then we ripped through Vikhroli, accompanied by massive flat wheel sounds; before slowing down at Kanjurmarg home signal.

After Kanjurmarg, 12072 Jalna Dadar Jan Shatabdi crossed us with an ALCO having an EMD horn. We thundered through Bhandup at MPS and maintained that till Thane home; before slowing down to enter PF7 of the station at 12 45, 12 mins late. On PF8 was 12118 MMR-LTT Godavari express; hauled by KYN WCAM2 21863. We left after a halt of 2 mins; with a characteristic LHB jerk. By the way, I had an upper berth and thus could not see much out of the window. Moreover, the AC made me feel drowsy; thus I had a very brief nap before we pulled into PF4 of KYN at 13 08, 11 mins late. 11094 BSB-CSMT Mahanagari express arrived on PF5, led by a WAP4. We departed after a stop of 2 mins.

I dozed off for a brief while again; after I woke up, my ticket was finally checked. I observed that the Indian toilet at the front had a flush button that was very hard to use; moreover the toilet at the rear of B2 was not flushed! Additionally, there was very less water in the tap of the washbasin near the door! What’s the use of converting trains to LHB if the maintenance continues to be sub-par? 😦 Meanwhile, we crossed a light WAP7; there was a lot of post-monsoon greenery, enhanced by the sight of a herd of cattle in a pond. We made an unscheduled halt at Khardi home; amidst scenery.

After we departed, I saw that we were in parallel with the Highway – and passed Hotel Sahara; a letter had fallen from its board! πŸ˜›

Then there was a pond before we passed Khardi and soon accelerated to MPS, thundered through scenery and crossed 15063 GKP-LTT express (via Barhni) behind a JHS WAG7 27563 at Oombermalli; before slowing down at Kasara home.

By the way, I found the LHB jerks really strong and irritating; especially while accelerating! We pulled into Kasara for a technical halt; so that the bankers could be attached to our rear – for the climb up the Thull Ghats. In the distant right was a container freight towards Mumbai, headed by twin maroon brown WAG5s (leading – 23508 of ET). On our immediate left was another container rake with the markings β€œCaution High Container”. A double-stack container perhaps? Anyway, we left after a stop of 8 mins. As we climbed up the Ghats, we passed through a very long tunnel; where water was dripping from the walls towards the end. There was a PSR/TSR of 30 kmph at TGR3. We passed through 3 major viaducts; starting with the Ehgaon viaduct – and the view here was simply mind-blowing; especially the contrast between the two shades of green! πŸ™‚

Below the 2nd viaduct, a stream cut through the stunning depths of the valley; surrounded by green forests on towering mountains on either side! πŸ™‚

As we passed through the 3rd viaduct, there was a waterfall and a tiny stream; with some buildings at the top strategically placed! πŸ˜€

A tiny stream flowing through the valley, surrounded by green everywhere; separated us from the UP and MID lines.

The UP and MID lines soon joined us on the approach to Igatpuri.

We arrived at PF2 of Igatpuri at 14 46, 6 mins late. In the distant right was a BOXN freight towards Mumbai; hauled by KYN WCAG1s 21980 and 21973. I had tiffin at Anand Bhavan restaurant near the station. Then I returned and spent some time in the waiting room; sharing the photos I’d taken so far on social media and then taking a nap. Around 5 PM, when the heat had subsided to a certain extent; I decided to visit Camel Valley. Took an auto and reached the place within 15-20 mins. Here are the pictures; the views are really breathtaking:

After the wild beauty of Camel Valley (preceded by the Thull Ghats, of course! πŸ™‚ ), the rest of the trip seemed like an anti-climax. I killed some time in the waiting room again, by uploading photos of Camel Valley on social media and then reading a children’s book on snakes (yes, I am highly fascinated by these rather misunderstood reptiles! πŸ˜€ ). Had dinner at the Refreshment room at Igatpuri; before waiting for my return train to Mumbai (11072 BSB-LTT Kamayani express) on PF3. It arrived 20 mins before time; hauled by an offlink – LGD WAP7 30452.

I was soon seated in my coach S9; had a non-trackside side upper berth. Soon I spotted a rather unwelcome guest – a small cockroach crawling nearby. I hoped it was a one-off case. We departed on the dot at 20 10; after a long halt of 25 mins – since we had arrived quite early! I could hear the long steam-like HT toot blown by the LP; since the coach was close to the engine. A container freight led by a WDG4D and banked by tigerface a KYN WAG7 triplet (27265, 27221 and 27260) entered in the distant left. 15064 LTT-GKP express (via Barhni), headed by another offlink (LGD WAP7 30318); crossed us as we picked up speed, before slowing down and stopping inside a tunnel for our first brake-testing stop – during our climb down the Thull Ghats.

By now the cockroach menace was growing; there were more of these little devils scuttling around our side bay as well as the main bay. I sent an SMS to the COMS portal number and got a reply that my complaint was registered; a reference number was given as well. Meanwhile, we made an unscheduled halt at Kasara for a minute. Within half an hour, a member of the cleaning staff arrived. However, he told us that the situation was beyond his control; since using a spray like β€˜Hit’ would only bring more cockroaches out, thus making the situation worse! After he left, we saw a beetle crawling near our seat; but were obviously too helpless to do anything! To make matters worse, the Indian toilet at the rear was dirty and the bolt was not working; which meant anyone could get in! :O

I was thoroughly fed up and thus vented my feelings through this poem: https://hellopoetry.com/poem/3357044/poem-to-the-railway-minister-of-india/Β  It was not an enjoyable journey at all, since I was wary of any cockroaches that might crawl over me (or into my bag!) and thus not in a position to view the scenery outside; anyway it was quite dark outside. The seat cushions were tattered and the LHB jerks were extremely jarring as well. As I’ve said before, what’s the use of converting ICF rakes to LHB if the maintenance is not up to the mark? Meanwhile, the WAP7 seemed to be mocking my feelings with its frequent HT whining; as we sped along at MPS. Slowed down slightly before Vasind. Now it was raining, accompanied by flashes of lightning! We then crossed a river.

On the Khadavli loop was a stationary container rake headed by a WDG4; which was soon overtaken by 12289 CSMT-NGP Duronto (hauled by its customary WAP7) at MPS. This was followed by 12111 CSMT-AMI superfast; again ripping past us at MPS – the loco was the usual WCAM3. Then 12101 LTT-HWH Jnaneswari express crossed us slowly at Ambivli. There were more flashes of lightning, before the highway joined us on the right. The action in the DOWN direction continued, as 12809 CSMT-HWH Mail (via NGP) crossed us behind a WAP4; just before KYN. We pulled into PF5 of the junction at 21 55, 13 mins late. A lot of people got down here. It had started raining again (along with lightning, as always!), as we left after a stop of 3 mins. An EMD-led train with quite a few Utkrisht coaches crossed us. Another EMD-headed train thundered past us before Diva.

We eventually arrived at PF8 of Thane at 22 21, 11 mins late. I was relieved to get down from this sorry train and board a local to Vikhroli; from where I took an auto to reach home by around 23 05. To add insult to the injury; I had received a message from the COMS number stating that the issue had been resolved and asking me to give a rating out of 5! :O Well, I gave a rating of 0.9 – the issue was far from resolved! Next day I wrote a complaint email to the Public Grievances Cell of CR; describing the issue at length – but I haven’t received any reply so far! 😦 😦 Anyway, this brings a long blog post to an end. Thank you in advance for being with me till the end! πŸ˜‰

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)
  • LP – Loco Pilot
  • LT – Low Tone
  • HT – High Tone
  • ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and an old class of diesel engines of the 1960s)
  • EMD – Electro-motive Diesel (and a modern class of diesel engines)
  • MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed
  • PSR – Permanent Speed Restriction
  • TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction
  • COMS – Complaint Management System; an online portal in Indian Railways to resolve passenger complaints
  • ICF – Integral Coach Factory, Perambur (Chennai) [manufactures most of the coaches in Indian Railways]
  • CR – Central Railway

Station Codes

LTT – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla Terminus)

DBG – Darbhanga

TVC – Trivandrum Central

KYN – Kalyan

KJM – Krishnarajapuram (KR Puram)

RJPB – Rajendranagar

TKD – Tukhlaqabad

BSB – Varanasi Junction

TATA – Tatanagar

MGS – Mughalsarai

HYB – Hyderabad

CSMT – Mumbai CST

MMR – Manmad

GKP – Gorakhpur

JHS – Jhansi

ET – Itarsi

TGR – Thull Ghat Reversing Cabin (Serves as brake testing halt for downhill trains)

LGD – Lallaguda

NGP – Nagpur

AMI – Amravati

HWH – Howrah

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