Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

India February 2014

Prologue

My second solo trip to India, hot on the heels of my first one two months previous! I’d had this trip planned in my head for a few years now but it was a trip that didn’t need to be forced as the area it was covering wasn’t either being electrified or having a major issue with the WDP4 infiltration that was going on in most places; mainly probably thanks to SBI only homing WDG4s and no passenger examples. The trip was to cover most of Gujarat, which was a largely untouched state for me, other than anything it had to offer MG wise. The plan being to start in Delhi, work my way north to Ambala then head down the western side of the country, through Rajasthan, to Gujarat, and fly home from Ahmedabad; picking off all the new lines I needed in the process.

As with any best laid plan there’s always some hitch to contend with and I found two the week before I flew out, one being the fact that 15631/2 Barmer – Guwahati & return had transferred into the hands of BGKT WDP4s for the Agra – Barmer section, which just so happened to be where I was booked on the damn train. The second issue being fog; which resulted in quite a few trains being cancelled for a period and others being regularly re-scheduled due to late running. My main concern there being the 0605 Tundla – Etah & return passenger trains; while showing cancelled until mid February I was so glad I’d found them to be so before I went as to have arrived at Tundla at 0200 to find your 0605 passenger down the Etah branch cancelled would have not made for a good day at all. In the end my reworked plan to avoid having a WDP4 from Barmer to Agra resulted in me not being at Tundla for the 0605 departure anyway as I couldn’t get there for the amount of WDP4 hauled trains that ply the Jodhpur – Jaipur – Agra sections! My plans would have me attempting to do Agra to Etah by road for the afternoon return trip back to Tundla.

Other than to expect the obvious delays caused by fog I was optimistic when I set off from the UK; knowing that for the next three days Delhi would be shrouded in fog for most of the day!

Flights

Booked through Opodo (British Airways & Air India)

It was actually cheaper doing it through Opodo than booking the tickets separately with the individual carriers.

BA143 1140 Heathrow T5 – Delhi IGI T3

AI191 2140 Ahmedabad – MumbaiT2

BA138 0240 Mumbai T2 – Heathrow T5

Hotels

Jodhpur – Hotel Govind – RS650 per night for a twin room. A two minute walk down the road from Jodhpur station; out of the entrance, turn right and its on the left adjacent to the first tree you come across growing out of the pavement. My room was on the top floor and was actually a higher priced room but discounted as it was all they had left for me. Facilities included TV, fan, AC (although I don’t know if it was switched on) and piping hot water; the latter being 24/7 from an electric heater. The staff are very friendly and fluent in English and the food at the roof-top restaurant was quick and tasty; unfortunately the view of Jodhpur’s Fort is now obscured slightly by a massive advertising hoarding!

Barmer – Hotel Kalinga Palace – RS1600 (excluding tax) for a twin room with AC, fan, TV and 24/7 hot water. The room was very well kept, clean and the staff were attentive throughout the whole hotel. Food in the 3rd floor restaurant was quick, plentiful and very tasty; if not slightly overpriced. The hotel is on the main road, opposite Barmer station, about 2 minutes walk on the right hand side; yellow fronted building.

Jaipur – Hotel Karni Niwas – 5 minutes in an auto-rickshaw; which should cost no more than RS40 from the pre-paid auto stand at Jaipur Jct Railway station. I paid RS850 for a large room with a large double bed, fan, 24/7 hot water and balcony outside the room to eat food. I’ve used this place many times, and it is the only place I’ve ever used when in Jaipur; the owner is still the same friendly person as when I first stayed back in 2005. There is no restaurant but room service is provided and I was rustled up a very tasty egg curry in no time at all.

Gandhidam – Hotel Aarti International – 5 minute walk from Gandhidam Railway station; its neon sign visible from the station exit. It cost RS1499 for a standard room (excl tax) with AC, fan, TV and hot water (seemingly only in the evenings?). The standard rooms back onto a walkway that leads from the staff service entrance to the restaurant and my room was immediately adjacent to the restaurant. It was quite noisy but as soon as the restaurant closed, around 2230, the noise died down and my earplugs kept any residual noise out. The hotel’s restaurant was busy and the food was good and reasonably priced; the staff beng plentiful, attentive and efficient.

Ahmedabad – Hotel Ritz Inn – 5 minute walk from Ahmedabad Railway station; the Ritz offers excellent accommodation with pristine large rooms, all with AC, hot water and spotless bathrooms. The pure veg restaurant produces quick and cracking food. The lowest rate for a single room was RS2821 (including tax).

Bhavnagar – Hotel Mausam – the closest hotel to Bhavnagar Terminus station, out of the station, turn right and along the main road. The room was big with two single beds. It was a bit rough round the edges and the bedding wasn’t the cleanest I’d seen; there was a fan, AC and TV included. The bathroom was much of the same but it had 24/7 hot water. It cost RS988 for an AC room (including tax); non-AC started at RS650. The hotel’s restaurant doesn’t open until 1900 in the evening but the food I had was good and fresh.

Rajkot – Hotel Aditya – 10 minutes from Rajkot Jct Railway station by auto; costing RS50. The Deluxe room costing RS1100 excluding tax. It was a large room with a massive double bed, TV, fan and AC. The water wasn’t red hot that night when I returned but it was suitable for a “warm” shower. While the room was clean enough the bathroom could have done to be a bit cleaner but all in all it was a decent choice. There’s no restaurant on site but there is 24 hour room service and the food only took 10 minutes to arrive.

Train Tickets

Indrail Pass 21 Days – £172

Booked in the UK through SD Enterprises Limited

Thursday 30th January 2014

After a long, and busy, night at work I slummed it in first class aboard London Midland’s 0557 Coventry – Euston with plenty of morning commuters on their way to the capital. London Underground soon had me at Heathrow and as I’d already checked in through the British Airways App, all I had to do was show my passport and visa at the counter for long distance, hand luggage only, passport checks and I was through security in a breeze and sat eating the customary Wetherspoon’s breakfast before heading into the sky.

G-BNLF British Airways Heathrow Terminal 5 Delhi IGI Terminal 3 1140 Heathrow – Delhi BA143

 

Friday 31st January 2014

The flight wasn’t full at all and the seat between me and the woman at the window remained empty; thankfully. Despite a 35 minute delay in Heathrow, thanks to two people not turning up for the flight and their bags having to be got off the plane, we still managed to land into Delhi only 5 minutes late; unfortunately though into thick fog, which the pilot assured everyone the plane was more than equipped to deal with; and a soft landing it was.

After the 10 minute taxi to our stand the formalities were a breeze, immigration was empty, money changing was done, at anywhere that wasn’t Thomas Cook the rate was 97 Rupees to the pound and commission was only 31 Rupees, and a pre-paid taxi to Delhi Cantt station cost me RS350; I was standing on the platform before 3am, having touched down at 0130, and I wasn’t rushing about by any means. Most of my time was spent trying to get a sim card; which is becoming very difficult in India nowadays  for a tourist. Airtel wouldn’t sell me one as it wouldn’t be registered until the following day if I bought it before 10am, yet after it was registered within 1 hour; the problem being I’d have left Delhi by then! I ended up at Vodaphone; theirs are registered after 2 hours. All you have to do is ring their customer services and give them the same details you gave when purchasing the sim card and that’s it. I have to say I was a little skeptical myself but all was fine.

It was foggy, but by no means the worst I’d seen it in India; it was quite chilly with it though. Thankfully some guy had his stall up and running by 0330 and was serving chai to some white man on his platform; along with his railway staff regulars. Much needed it was too; the first chai  of the trip is always something worth looking forward to, unless it’s crap of course; this was excellent though and had me asking for a second.

The first train of the morning emerged through the fog to reveal GD WDM3A 16187 at the helm of 54413 0320 Delhi Jct – Rewari and what a monster it was too. The fog was thicker near to Gurgaon and it was almost like it was raining. With wet rails and load 20 the driver certainly had a job getting his train away from stations but it was cracking to listen to! The fun was all over quite quickly though and I was drinking more chai at Gurgaon in an attempt to warm up on what was turning out to be a very miserable morning indeed.

While stood at Gurgaon I didn’t actually realise that my move could have been completely down the pan had some northbound trains not been late. Firstly both 19105 Ahmedabad – Haridwar & 12982 Udaipur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla were both late which meant a bonus move back towards Delhi Sarai Rohilla; the former, now being booked a BGKT WDP4, didn’t disappoint with 20091 but the latter was Alco with ABR WDM3A 16563 which I did back to Delhi Cantt, stood in the very wet vestibule of a sleeper class coach.

This was where I could well have made mistake number 2 but it seemed someone was looking out for my mistakes! 12464 Jodhpur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla was hot on the tail of 12982 and with another ABR WDM3A 16770; it took no decision to do it forward to Sarai Rohilla. It turned out that the 0420 Farukh Nagar – Delhi passenger had been cancelled that week and I’d not even realised; it had been the train I was originally going for at Gurgaon and had then got off for at Delhi Cantt! It wasn’t until I got my phone activated and checked the cancelled trains for the day that I even knew. While I had an 0645 train to catch from Delhi Sarai Rohilla it wouldn’t have actually mattered if I had messed up as my train had been re-scheduled to 0915; this due to the rake sharing the link with 14009/10 Sarai Rohilla – Chindwara, which had obviously been suffering with the fog all week as it had been late every day but one.

As it turned out my morning came to nothing more than a train spotting trip to Delhi Sarai Rohilla, although I did get a little frustrated with not being able to do anything anywhere and ended up doing TKD WDP3A 15513 all the way to Delhi Kishanganj for an auto-rickshaw back. Despite the short distance the driver gave it what for from the standing start at Vivekanand Puri Halt and the load 20 made it work!

There were some interesting sights on Delhi commuter trains that morning; firstly 74xxx Rohtak – Delhi Jct was dragged by an SSB WDMx, which seems to be normal practice these days, and secondly there were two different TKD WDP4s out, 40014 on an inbound off the Rohtak line and a newly painted into an interesting orange livery 40079 arrived into Sarai Rohilla with 54422 0530 Rewari – Sarai Rohilla; which then ran round and shunted its stock into the middle road in readiness for the return working that afternoon. Everything else I saw was as to be expected although had I not just done an overnight flight from London I may well have realised that it might have been sensible to get an auto-rickshaw to Delhi Kishanganj and done 14723 Kanpur – Bhiwani to Rohtak for the Delhi – Firozpur passenger, which I later flagged on the grounds of wedgeness at Sarai Rohilla, forward to Jind to guarantee making my next train. It only dawned on me as I watched JHS WDM3D 11158 hammer through Vivekanand Puri with the train.

My lack of hindsight only made the morning worse as my 14625 0625 Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Firozpur wasn’t even in sight when it would have been 2h30m late and a trip back to the information window at the booking office revealed it had lost a further hour and would be departing 3h30m late; when 14010 arrived from Chindwara it was gone 1000 but things seemed to be hurried along a little as TKD WDP1 15021 was backed straight onto the opposite end of the stock. That’s all that was hurried though and the 2AC coach didn’t have its bedding cleared until an hour into the journey; the only good thing about the train when it departed 4h10m late, at 1055, was the fact that it was empty and I had a bay of 4 to myself to at least get some rest.

My plus at Narwana Jct onto 54042 1305 Jind – Kurukshetra passenger was exactly 4 hours yet right from the off there was hope as the India Railways Live Trains system was showing that 14625 would be 3h45m late by the time it arrived at Kurukshetra; it wasn’t though and while it was a good run it just wasn’t good enough to pull the time back; I still made it though! I’d thought at the time that the passenger might be held somewhere between Jind and Narwana for us to overtake it but it turned out that there was a freight stabled in the middle road of the only station this could happen so my Kurukshetra passenger was held at Jind and was sat in the opposite platform with LDH WDM3A 16636, waiting to depart.

I went forward to Narwana anyway as the passenger looked quite empty and I had no need to vacate a nice empty 2AC compartment an hour earlier than I needed to. Narwana did have a platform full of folk waiting for the Kurukshetra passenger but I managed to get into a coach before most and easily got a seat for the 2 hour journey. During which the Indian Railways Live Train system gave more bad news, in that 14731 Delhi – Sri Ganganagar was re-scheduled and would be 4 hours late; thankfully there were a raft of trains that were well down the pan coming from the northern states which at least meant there was a train forward to Ambala Cantt. One such well down the pan train, 15707 Katihar – Amritsar was already in when we arrived but I couldn’t be bothered wedging into the unreserved at the last minute when another train would be along right behind it.

12057 New Delhi – Una Shatabdi was almost to time when it arrived with GZB WAP5 30022; it was wedged though and I was in the doorway to Ambala, like a lot of other folk. During the journey I managed to figure out some sort of late afternoon recovery bash as 14731 would have taken me through to Rajpura Jct for 54758 Sri Ganganagar – Ambala passenger back. Thanks to late running trains though there was at least an electric I could do to Rajpura for the passenger back.

The day hadn’t warmed up at all and I’d hardly had my coat off at all since getting off the plane that morning! Even chai at Ambala didn’t have much of a warming effect but when I realised that a portion fro 12053 Haridwar – Amritsar Shatabdi was about to be shunted from the rear of its train to the rear of 12057 New Delhi – Una Shatabdi, the train I’d just got off, I was soon getting warm while running over the footbridge to check-out what I suspected might be occurring.

I’d seen SSB WDM2S 017518 run through the station while drinking chai but hadn’t thought anything of it at the time; it was only when I’d noticed the shunter split the pipes between the coaches of the Amritsar Shatabdi that the light bulb came on in my head. There wasn’t any messing about when I got over the bridge, 017518 was bolted on, the couplings between the coaches undone and the shunt move in motion; with me on board! We had to stop momentarily for some folk who were going to Amritsar to get off and into the right portion of the train but then the movement was in constant motion but for the few seconds it took to change directions; I was back having a celebratory chai a few minutes later, quite pleased with getting a shunt loco in for the day.

12715 Nanded – Amritsar was my train to Rajpura and while it was 3 hours late it was a mere snippet compared to the 9 & 10 hours some of the longer distance stuff was; all behind it of course. GZB WAP4 22724 had the honours and I wasn’t at Rajpura for long at all when TKD WDP1 15041 arrived with 54758 passenger. I’d contemplated getting off the passenger at Ambala City to wait for the Sri Ganganagar – Ambala Intercity behind it but truthfully it was just too cold and I didn’t fancy the hour fester without so much as a cupof chai so I stayed on 15041 and headed straight for the Hotel Batra Palace, visible from the station footbridge, when back at Ambala, for some food.

Outside the station I found ZDM3 #152 plinthed; this being an ex Kalka machine for the Shimla line. It hadn’t been there on my last visit to Ambala yet what had been there, a restaurant at the Batra Palace, now wasn’t so my walk had been wasted; as was the walk round most of the other hotels near the station as none had restaurants. I settled for one of the many roadside restaurant types and was surprised at how good the food was. Unfortunately though it wasn’t a place I wanted to hang around long so I was back at the station before 2200 just festering around, pacing up and down to try and keep warm. I was quite cold and there were locals walking around with sandals and thin clothes so I can only imagine how they felt!

Having had 017518 earlier I was thinking that there might be another opportunity to get one of the Ambala shunt locos in when the portions of my 14887 Kalka – Barmer & 24887 Haridward – Barmer were shunted together; and I wasn’t wrong. 017292 was the lucky engine this time, which had been painted in full orange livery with the only markings on it being its number. LDH WDM2 17772 had arrived into platform 4 with 24887 and was immediately detached and run to the other end of the station; 017292 was then attached to the same end of the stock. 14887 Kalka portion arrived onto platform 4, platform 3 & 4 being staggered down the same platform; the electric was then detached and 017292 shunted the Haridwar portion onto the Kalka portion in the middle of the platform. Meanwhile LDH WDM2 17772 was attached to the opposite end of the Kalka portion for the forward journey. The shunt move was 6-7 coach lengths I’d say; not a great deal but there all the same. Discovering what went on that night also meant that I’d missed out on a loco at Ambala when I’d done 24887 from Haridwar to Bathinda the previous year; ooops!

As there is no 2AC on the train I was in 3AC, my berth being an upper one in a compartment which already had 4 of the 6 occupied and the lights out. Rather than disturb everyone, which actually never seems to bother the locals, I managed to get my bed made in the darkness and was so glad of its entrance into my life; it had been a very long day, and a very cold day, but it was bedtime and the AC was actually warm for a change, a complete climate change to outside in the real world. When trying to drop off to sleep I couldn’t hep but wonder if the fog would prevent me making my plus 1h05m connection at Suratgarh in the morning; when I’d resigned myself to missing the Kurukshetra move I was actually contemplating going to Suratgarh and staying there the night so as not to miss the Anupgarh branch the following morning……

The Moves

16187 GD WDM3A Delhi Cantt Gurgaon 0320 Delhi Jct – Rewari Jct 54413
16563 ABR WDM3A Gurgaon Delhi Cantt 1715 (30/01) Udaipur City – Delhi Sarai Rohilla 12982
16770 ABR WDM3A Delhi Cantt Delhi Sarai Rohilla 1900 (30/01) Jodhpur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla 12464
15513 TKD WDP3A Delhi Sarai Rohilla Delhi Kishanganj 0605 Rewari Jct – Tilak Bridge 54012
Auto Auto-rickshaw Delhi Kishanganj Delhi Sarai Rohilla RS50, 2km, 5 mins
15021 TKD WDP1 Delhi Sarai Rohilla Narwana Jct 0645 Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Firozpur Cantt 14625
16636 LDH WDM3A Narwana Jct Kurukshetra Jct 1305 Jind Jct – Kurukshetra Jct 54042
30022 GZB WAP5 Kurukshetra Jct Ambala Cantt 1435 New Delhi Jct – Una 12057
017518 SSB WDM2S Ambala Cantt Platform 5 Ambala Cantt Platform 4 Shunt portion from 12063 to 12057 at Ambala
22724 GZB WAP4 Ambala Cantt Rajpura Jct 0930 (30/01) Nanded – Amritsar Jct 12715
15041 TKD WDP1 Rajpura Jct Ambala Cantt 1045 Sri Ganganagar Jct – Ambala Cantt 54758
017292 SSB WDM2S Ambala Cantt Platform 3 Ambala Cantt Platform 4 Shunt 24887 & 14887 portions at Ambala
17772 LDH WDM2 Ambala Cantt Suratgarh Jct 2130 Kalka – Barmer 14887

 

Gen for Friday 31st January 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

16826 (ABR WDM2) 19611 Ajmer – Haridwar

20091 (BGKT WDP4) 19105 Ahmedabad – Haridwar

40149 (IZN WDP4D) 15013 Kathgodam – Bhagat Ki Khoti

40095 (BGKT WDP4D) 12462 Jodhpur – Delhi Jct

16563 (ABR WDM3A) 22472 Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Bikaner

40069 (TKD WDP4) 12413 Jammu Tawi – Ajmer

11158 (JHS WDM3D) 14723 Kanpur Central – Bhiwani

14095 (ABR WDM3A) 12458 Bikaner – Delhi Sarai Rohilla, 14705 Delhi SR – Sadulpur

15046 (TKD WDP1) 54641 0710 Delhi Jct – Firozpur

40079 (TKD WDP4) 54422 0530 Rewari – Delhi Sarai Rohilla

40014 (TKD WDP4D) ????? Rohtak Line passenger

11212 (VTA WDM3D) 12957 Ahmedabad – New Delhi Rajdhani

18528 (SSB WDM2) ????? Rohtak Line after 40014

15544 (TKD WDP3A) 22401 2240 (P) Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Udhampur (12 hours late)

17932 (LDH WDM3A) ????? ???? Kurukshetra – Jind

11459 (LKO WDM3D) 15012 Chandigarh – Lucknow

16320 (LDH WDM3A) 12053 Haridwar – Amritsar Shatabdi

16665 (LDH WDM3A) 12238 Jammu Tawi – Varanasi

24632 (CNB WAG7) ????? FTR Special

18991 (LDH WDM3A) ????? New Delhi – Jammu Tawi Rajdhani

Saturday 1st February 2014

I’d been aware overnight of the train’s slow running and lengthy station stops; all of which I assumed was due to fog, which I couldn’t confirm through the train windows during the dark hours. Imagine how surprised I was when I checked what time we’d be arriving into Suratgarh on my phone and it said we were running 53 minutes late and would be arriving at the next station at 0627; it was 0626 and while I was reading the breaks came on and we were brought to an abrupt stop at said station. My move to Anupgarh seemed to be still on but the 53 minutes late soon turned into 1h07m late by the last station before Suratgarh and we were further delayed between the two to cross a very late running Avadh Assam Express with it’s customary WDP4. I was prepared at Suratgarh though and noticed, as we rounded the corner into the station, that the semaphore signals on the Anupgarh line remained on; which was a good sign as it was 0805 and the train should be departing Suratgarh. Sure enough as the station came into sight I spotted LDH WDG3A 13321 sitting on the far side of the station with a set of stock and wasted no time running over the bridge to confirm that it was the Anupgarh train. Pleased with proceedings, other than the fact I’d just had to run over the bridge, I got myself a seat, shouted the chai wallah through the window and by the time my two chai’s were on the window ledge we were off and there were still people coming over the footbridge for the train; we only stopped twice before making it out of the platform and then the LDH Shakti got to grips with its train as it made its was through the misty countryside on the cold morning that it was.

13321 was good to listen to, even though it was through closed doors and windows and did what was required of it to get the train to Anupgarh; the branch being nothing spectacular and the section to where the Sri Ganganagar line branches off now being one track, vice the parallel running since the MG was closed and re-gauged. Anupgarh station itself is sizeable but offered nothing in the way of refreshments unfortunately and despite the late start from Suratgarh our train was right time into Anupgarh; giving me enough time to get some photos, the first of the trip…..

On the return journey I had the company of a local for part of the journey; he was travelling to a school where he taught Hindi to 14-16 year olds, prior to them going to college and university. I was slightly surprised that he didn’t want to try and teach me some; instead he, and everyone he was travelling with, were content with having their photos taken with me.

At Suratgarh I found ABR WDM2 18523 waiting with 54760 1235 Suratgarh – Sri Ganganagar, 13321 ran round its train and the platform full of people engulfed 54702 Lalgarh – Abohar passenger when ABR WDM3A 18797 brought it to a stand. I’d decided I was going to do this train to Rangmahal, the first station north of Suratgarh, which would allow me to get a seat on my southbound Bathinda – Lalgarh passenger; that was of course assuming I could get on the train at Suratgarh first!

While scouting the platform for some form of snacks I came across a Sleeper coach, which even had an attendant, and wasted no time at all in getting myself aboard instead of having to fight my way on in the unreserved coaches. The TTE was friendly enough and allowed me to sit wherever I wanted for the short 9km journey to Rangmahal; where for the second time that day I became the focal point of conversation and the subject of many a phone photograph. This lot even wanted to pose with me below the station sign; regular David Bailey’s they were, although I’m not so sure about the quality of the shots they got on their phones!

ABR WDM2 16781 rolled into Rangmahal 40 minutes late with 54701 1005 Bathinda – Lalgarh passenger; a link once in the hand of TKD WDP1s. I was watching the stock as it came in and soon spotted what I was looking for; another Sleeper class coach. The attendant seemed a little unsure when I boarded and demanded my reservation, which of course I didn’t have; all was well once the Indrail Pass was produced and I spent the entire 5 hour journey on an upper side berth relaxing and trying to catch up on some sleep.

Arrival into Lalgarh was approximately 25 late and I wasted no time in clambering into one of the waiting share auto-rickshaws, which delivered me to Bikaner Jct station 10 minutes later for RS100. My plan had been to go and get something to eat and then just mill around all evening as since the MG had been re-gauged at Bikaner there were no evening moves available at all. My plans were soon changed when I found ABR WDM2 17702 at the head of 22308 Bikaner – Howrah link; which would join the main train 12308 Jodhpur – Howrah at Merta Road. I’d expected it to be a BGKT WDP4 for some reason and was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t and it offered me an evening move to Deshnok where I had about 35 minutes to wait for the slightly late running 54704 Jodhpur – Bathinda passenger back to Bikaner with ABR WDM3A 16492; then it became time for food.

Having walked up the road outside Bikaner station the Ganesh AC Restaurant looked like the best option and definitely turned out to be a good option; the potato/onion, plain rice and naan made for an excellent meal and coupled with two cold drinks it all only came to RS283; the waiting and service staff were all very friendly too.

I was back on the station just after ABBR WDM2 16767 had arrived with 12468 Jaipur – Bikaner; which then forms 14701 2255 Bikaner – Jaisalmer Express. Both trains are fully unreserved but the forum on the India Rail Info site showed that the Bikaner – Jaisalmer ran quite empty. I managed to find myself an empty bay at the back of the train, away from the loco and its horn at the front, and was joined by a local before departure. Unfortunately the gen on the forum hadn’t quite been correct as the coach I was in wedged out at Lalgarh and that was the end of the full bench I had; getting on the luggage rack from the start would have been a better option but they were all full by that point. I ended up sharing my bench with a young girl, who’s father sat in a side seat by himself, which at least let me stretch out a little bit; ultimately though I ended up on the luggage rack by about 0130 and remained there until Jaisalmer.

The Moves

13321 LDH WDG3A Suratgarh Jct Anupgarh 0805 Suratgarh Jct – Anupgarh 59708
13321 LDH WDG3A Anupgarh Suratgarh Jct 1020 Anupgarh – Suratgarh Jct 59707
18797 ABR WDM3A Suratgarh Jct Rangmahal 0850 Lalgarh Jct – Abohar 54702
16871 ABR WDM2 Rangmahal Lalgarh Jct 1005 Bathinda Jct – Lalgarh Jct 54701
Auto Auto-rickshaw Lalgarh Jct Bikaner Jct RS100, 4km, 10 mins
17702 ABR WDM2 Bikaner Jct Deshnok 1845 Bikaner Jct – Howrah 22308
16492 ABR WDM3A Deshnok Bikaner Jct 1345 Jodhpur – Bathinda Jct 54704
16767 ABR WDM2 Bikaner Jct Jaisalmer 2255 Bikaner Jct – Jaisalmer 14702

 

Gen for Saturday 1st February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

18523 (ABR WDM2) 54760 1235 Suratgarh Jct – Sri Ganganagar

17648 (ABR WDM2) 14810 2345 Jodhpur – Jaisalmer

16767 (ABR WDM2) 12468 1500 Jaipur Jct – Bikaner Jct

Sunday 2nd February 2014

We’d been in the station at Jaisalmer for some time by the time I’d woken up and realised; along with many others by the looks of how many people remained on the train. We were due in at 0500 and it was 0440 by my watch so we’d been about 30 early arriving. I was soon accosted by some young lad on the platform who wanted to take me on a sightseeing tour of Jaisalmer for RS500 and would have me back at the station by 0730 for my 0830 train to Jodhpur; of course I declined but only as it was dark and would remain so until about 0730, otherwise I might have taken him up on his offer of a whirlwind tour of Jaisalmer.

There was nothing open on the station and the only place I found selling anything was some guy by the main round, outside the station, who made an excellent cup of chai; his special ingredient being crushed pepper, which added a nice tang to the crushed ginger. 3 chais later I headed back to the station to wait it out for my 0830 passenger to Jodhpur; the stock for which arrived at 0530 with ABR WDM2 17648 on 14810 Jodhpur – Jaisalmer.

There is only so much admiring of Jaisalmer Fort you can do from the station footbridge and only so much charge you can put into electrical devices while one of the station boy’s glides round you as he cleans the platform and an amble back out to the main road found more shacks open but unfortunately all were only selling tea & biscuits so breakfast, for the second morning in a row, was provided from the confines of my bag; the remainder of the previous day’s Maltloaf!

17648 shunted its stock from platform 1 to 3 to then run round and form 54816 0830 Jaisalmer – Jodhpur passenger. I had the front coach to myself on departure from Jaisalmer, which was 15 minutes late thanks to us having to wait for TKD WDM3A 14015 to arrive with the Palace on Wheels tourist train. Thankfully the sun was breaking through as we departed and took a bit of the chill out of the air; it didn’t stop it leaking through every gap the coach had as 17648 hammered towards Jodhpur at speed though.

The emptiness in the front coach was bliss; especially as my threshold for rancidity wasn’t at its strongest due to my lack of sleep. The storm after the calm soon arrived though and the train was filled from almost empty to brimming at Pokran. I wasn’t even aware that trains on the Jaisalmer line actually ran into Pokran, where the loco runs round, and was pleasantly surprised when I realised what was going on. Obviously the wedge factor soon took the sting out of that pleasantry; and it made perfect sense why the woman who’d wanted to sit opposite me at the station before Pokran, on an empty train, insisted that she sit there when the bay opposite was completely devoid of people! Train completely devoid of space we proceeded towards Jodhpur; the single seats down the sides of the Indian stock are worth their weight in gold when travelling by local trains, for local people. While they may not protect you from everything they do prevent you having to share your seat with rafts of other folk; although some will try and perch on the edge if you give them anything so much as an inch to try!

Though now devoid of space the train wasn’t devoid of entertainment! All I saw as we halted at Marwar Lohawat was a drunk guy, who’d not been on the train long, clinging to the handrails at the door while punches emanated from the doorway; a good few of which made good connection with the guys head. Ultimately he lost his grip as the punches took their toll and both he, and the woman desperately clinging to him, fell out of the train and to the ground below; which is a good 5 feet when there’s no platform. It looked like the guy took most of the force of the fall as the woman was up and protesting shortly afterwards. The rest of the family were forced from the train by everyone else in the doorway; consisting of the guy’s wife, an older woman and their two young children.

I’d noticed the guy open a bottle of beer on the platform where he got on; its actually against the law to consume alcohol on Indian Railways premises! I was guessing that the family’s antics in the doorway where they were holed up had pissed off a local or two and the resulting punches were their frustration being show; in his direction. The antics didn’t stop there and the wife of the drunk guy, who clearly seemed either drunk or high herself, was having none of being chucked off the train and went running, or more like staggering, down the platform as we departed to try and get on a different door. The station master soon caught up with her and literally threw her away from the train and into a ditch; the same treatment had already been dished out to the other younger woman and the guy himself and the older woman just watched on as the events unfolded; pleading with the station master to let them back on the train. As we departed the father was gathering both of the children, who were both in tears, and wondering what the hell had just happened; ultimately the whole family was now in for a long night as wherever they were going they wouldn’t be doing it by train from Marwar Lohawat; I was quite sure of that. Either way the next train to anywhere was 8 hours later and the one after that another 12 hours later; the following morning!

As we’d lot a bit of time en-route I got off at Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct for 54824 Hisar – Jodhpur passenger into Jodhpur behind it. My evening’s plan had gone out of the window when the passenger from Jaisalmer was more than 10 minutes late and missed the 1510 Jodhpur – Barmer passenger; the fact that 14887 Kalka – Barmer was 3 hours late put pay to any move towards Luni Jct that evening at all. It seemed that me actually making the Anupgarh train at Suratgarh the previous morning was a bit of a bonus, based on 14887’s performance on this day?

ABR WDM2 17640 wasn’t far behind sister 17648 at Rai Ka Bagh Palace and I didn’t have to wait long. At Jodhpur I wasted no time in walking down the road to the Govindh Hotel, out of the station turn right down the main road and the entrance is immediately adjacent to the first tree growing out of the pavement on the opposite side of the road. It was a good job I’d rang the previous day to make a reservation as the Govindh was fully booked that night. I was given a room on the top of the building, the door to which led straight off the open-top restaurant. It was small and had two single beds but was clean and did what it needed to; provide me with a bed for the night. Facilities included TV, fan, AC (although I don’t know if it was switched on) and piping hot water; the latter being 24/7 from an electric heater. The staff are very friendly and fluent in English and the food at the roof-top restaurant was quick and tasty; unfortunately the view of Jodhpur’s Fort is now obscured slightly by a massive advertising hoarding!

Once I’d checked in I left a few things on charge in the room while I nipped back out to do the only bash available that didn’t include any GM’s; this was the 1820 Jodhpur – Bilara passenger to Rai Ka Bagh Palace for the previous day’s 1610 Bhopal – Jodhpur back. Live Train Times on my phone confirmed that I wouldn’t have a long fester at Rai Ka Bagh Palace and that there were no late running trains that would allow me to string a different move together.

While milling about the station at Jodhpur I noticed a large amount of teenage lads hanging about the place; I found out the following day that their had been a mass exam in Jodhpur for Indian Government electrical jobs, and the hoards had descended! Well that evening the hoards were trying to get themselves home again and the train of the moment was the newly introduced 22477 Jodhpur – Jaipur Superfast with it’s LHB rake and ABR WDM2 17648 at it’s helm; fresh off arrival from Jaisalmer on my passenger!

It wasn’t the fact that guys were already hanging out of the doorways, the generator van and any other space available, clinging for space, that got my attention; it was the fact that a brave few had managed to get themselves onto the roof of the second coach and many others were beginning to follow suit that did! With the train likely to be travelling at 120kph and above even I wasn’t stupid enough to even contemplate getting onto the roof of a BG train. The guys had the attention of most of the station and thus it wasn’t long before the RPF turned up, mob handed. Even just their striding figures in the distance commanded rafts of respect from the guys on the roof as bags were thrown off in all directions and not one clambered down onto the platform where the RPF were; likely fearing a licking with the big sticks that they all carry.

As the train eventually rolled out of Jodhpur station, at the third time of trying, the group of youths that had gathered by the engine, obviously with only one thing in mind, were ushered away by the RPF as the train rolled out. It seemed like the driver knew that if he gave anyone so much as an inch there could well have been trouble, as he didn’t trickle out of the platform like trains usually do and by the time the last coach had passed it was doing a speed at which you didn’t want to be falling out. Every doorway was at least three deep, other than the AC, and yet all the guys taking their lives into their own hands seemed oblivious to the dangers; although I did notice some scrambling over others to try and get inside the coaches when they probably realised what a wrong move they’d played……

My newly introduced 54825 1820 Jodhpur – Bilara passenger was far more sociable; it actually being the only train of the day to do the newly opened Bilara branch and returned the following morning. Initially I thought that ABR WDM3A 14016 was going to work it but it only shunted the stock in and eventually ABR WDM2 16797 was bolted on for the journey; at one point there were 7 ABR Alcos in the station area at Jodhpur that evening; not a BGKT one in sight; in fact it left me wondering if indeed BGKT had become an Alco free shed and had given its allocation up to ABR?

We departed Jodhpur about 20 late but I was safe in the mind that I knew that the booked minus 2 at Rai Ka Bagh Palace was going to make and I wasn’t there long before RTM WDM2 18570 broke the ABR monopoly and whisked me back to Jodhpur for an early meal and very early night; I was sock on the moment my head hit the pillow!

Someone once joked about every ABR Alco having a number 7 in it’s number; that was certainly true of the three I’d had on this day and even RTM’s 18570 hadn’t wanted to break that rule…….

The Moves

17648 ABR WDM2 Jaisalmer Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct 0830 Jaisalmer – Jodhpur 54819
17640 ABR WDM2 Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct Jodhpur 0515 Hisar Jct – Jodhpur 54824
16797 ABR WDM2 Jodhpur Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct 1820 Jodhpur – Bilara 54825
18570 RTM WDM2 Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct Jodhpur 1610 (01/02) Bhopal Jct – Jodhpur 54811

 

Gen for Sunday 2nd February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

18672 (PA WDM3A) 09045 Bandra Terminus – Jaisalmer Special

18947 (ABR WDM3A) 54820 0745 Jodhpur – Jaisalmer

17648 (ABR WDM2) 22477 1815 Jodhpur – Jaipur Superfast

16770 (ABR WDM3A) 1/24887 Kalka/Haridwar – Barmer

At approx 1800 the following ABR locos were all at Jodhpur:

17648, 17640, 18841, 14016, 16797, 16788 & 16770!

Monday 3rd February 2014

An early-ish start to proceedings which involved my big bag being left at the Govind to save lugging it about all morning. It was a good start to the morning’s bash as well when ABR WDM3A 14117 backed down onto the stock to form 54801 0715 Jodhpur – Ajmer passenger and just as that was arriving into Bhagat Ki Kothi another ABR machine, WDM2 16869, was just coming to a stand with 22476 1520 (P) Coimbatore – Bikaner; this train wasn’t booked to stop at Bhagat Ki Kothi but the fact it had was very welcome and saved a rickshaw ride back to Jodhpur. As we ran into Jodhpur TKD WDM3A 14136 was just leaving with the “Royal Rajasthan on Wheels” tourist train; I later found it parked in platform 1 at Bhagat Ki Kothi.

I’d already noted that ex BGKT, the lettering visible beneath the new paint job, WDM3A 18695, now of ABR, was bolted to the stock to form 54820 0745 Jodhpur – Jaisalmer and also sat in was RTM WDM2 18570, returning to whence it came from the previous night, with 54812 0805 Jodhpur – Bhopal passenger. This time the move did involve an auto-rickshaw back from Rai Ka Bagh Palace; which only cost RS50 for the 3km and only took 5 minutes.

As the out and back was so quick I managed time to shoe-horn in a quick breakfast in the refreshment room on the station; the masala omelette and toast arriving in no time at all and it took me about the same amount of time to devour the lot and rush off back down to the platform to do the 0845 Jodhpur – Ahmedabad passenger down towards Luni; rushing was something I needn’t have bothered doing as nobody was in a rush to get the train away and it left about 25 late. This meant I couldn’t get beyond Bhagat Ki Kothi for the last train of the morning back into Jodhpur for a good few hours.

I had time to admire the “Royal Rajasthan on Wheels” set while I was at Bhagat Ki Kothi though; all the occupants of which had deserted it and the only people around were the staff who seemed to be replacing linen. My train was obviously in section somewhere as BGKT WDP4 20089 was brought to a stand in the platform with 15632 Guwahati – Barmer. This confirmed for me once and for all that I definitely would not be needing my berth on 15631 Barmer – Guwahati the following night and had already resulted in me spending a good few hours trying to figure out how to not have to do a WDP4 from Barmer to Agra, or anywhere in between for that matter. The alternatives weren’t great but they were way better than doing a GM for 755km!

ABR WDM3A 16354 eventually revealed itself with 54814 0500 Barmer – Jodhpur passenger and upon arrival into Jodhpur it remained bolted to its train as the set off the inbound Bilara passenger had been dumped in the platform ahead of it. ABR WDM3A 18987 was shunting about over the back of the station and once I’d collected my big bag from the hotel it became the focus of my attention as the sun was right on the fort, which overlooks the city and can be seen almost clearly from the footbridge at the Rai Ka Bagh end of the station. I had to wait a while to get the shot I wanted but it was worth it in the end. It was also worth the banter with the rickshaw wallahs; who just wouldn’t accept the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere outside of the station limits by anything other than a train; it was like I had five heads with the way they reacted to the fact that I was catching a train but they all understood clearly the word no by the time I’d finished on the footbridge!

The late morning bash took me a bi further out of town to the deserted station of Banar with the 6th ABR engine of the day, WDM2 16797. While I didn’t have a long wait it was very peaceful with just me and the station staff on the station premises; a tranquillity that was eventually broken when WDG3A 14952 (with KTE WDM2 17794 dit) arrived with a container train and a few moments later ABR WDM3A 16659 came bowling in with 54703 1905 (P) Abohar – Jodhpur.

I got talking to a lad on board, who’d turned up at Banar just as the train was rolling in. His father worked for Indian Railways at Jodhpur Cantt; a passing loop between Banar & Rai Ka Bagh. The lad himself wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and work for the railway’s but due to pressures put on him by his father he had to first finish his education, the subject of which he was studying he’d also been steered into by his family. He seemed determined though and was keen to understand the UK railway system; it was nice to see someone who doesn’t have an interest hobby wise, as interested as he was in working for Indian Railways.

Back at Jodhpur ABR WDM3A 18897 had been marshalled with the stock for the 1510 passenger to Barmer, which was the only loco now in the station area that I needed so a plan was hatched to nip out to Rai Ka Bagh and with a choice of two trains back in I would make sure I was back in time for it; unfortunately the choice ended up being WDP4 20101 on 14707 Bikaner – Bandra as it overtook ABR WDM3A 14016 at Rai Ka Bagh and there was no telling how long it would sit there waiting so I opted for the safer bet; even if it was a GM, it was only 3km after all. The safer bet also allowed me to get into the refreshment room before last orders and get a very good egg curry down me before the 1510 Barmer passenger departed; again though I needn’t have rushed as there wasn’t a rush to get 54815 away at all. It eventually left about 15 late and even though I was booked on 14887 to Barmer at 1615 the live train status on my phone confirmed I had plenty of time as it was running 45 late.

This time there was no bonus rickshaw avoidance train rolling in to return me straight back to Jodhpur but there was an auto-rickshaw just dropping someone off outside the station entrance for the train I’d just got off apparently; which I did find strange as it was 15 late! Either way I was back in Jodhpur within 10 minutes having paid RS50 for my auto back.

Having had no less than 8 different ABR WDM’s during the day I was surprised to find what I’d expect to be a 9th on my 14887 Kalka – Barmer roll in with a freshly painted JHS WDM3A 16362. Every time I’d seen this train on the trip thus far it had been an ABR loco but every time I’d travelled with it it had been an off-link, firstly LDH and then JHS.

The 3AC on board was empty when the train arrived, let alone when it departed. I did have one other person sharing my compartment area though, who at first seemed a little shady; until I actually realised he was pouring himself some whisky under the seats, where nobody could see him. Of course the consumption of alcohol on Indian Railways premises is prohibited…

Arrival into Barmer was nearly an hour late; the train not having much make-up time at all at the end of its run. Thankfully my hotel of choice was only a short 2 minute walk up the main street, leading away from the station. I struggled to actually find the sign of the Hotel Kalinga Palace at first but I got there eventually. I’d rang ahead the previous day and made a reservation, the room costing RS1600 (excluding tax) for a quite large room with two decent sized beds, AC, fan, TV and hot water 24/7. It was a clean and tidy room and one that I didn’t mind paying the RS1600 for. Food in the restaurant was good quality, piping hot and plentiful, if not slightly overpriced. The staff were attentive and happy to help with anything.

With yet another semi-early start I wasn’t late out of bed and was quite looking forward to my trip to Munabao the following morning.

The Moves

14117 ABR WDM3A Jodhpur Bhagat Ki Kothi 0715 Jodhpur – Ajmer Jct 54801
16869 ABR WDM2 Bhagat Ki Kothi Jodhpur 1520 (01/02) Coimbatore Jct – Bikaner Jct 22476
18695 ABR WDM3A Jodhpur Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct 0745 Jodhpur – Jaisalmer 54820
Auto Auto-rickshaw Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct Jodhpur RS50, 3km, 5 mins
16871 ABR WDM2 Jodhpur Bhagat Ki Kothi 0845 Jodhpur – Ahmedabad Jct 54803
16354 ABR WDM3A Bhagat Ki Kothi Jodhpur 0500 Barmer – Jodhpur 54814
16797 ABR WDM2 Jodhpur Banar 1110 Jodhpur – Hisar Jct 54823
16659 ABR WDM3A Banar Jodhpur 1905 (02/02) Abohar – Jodhpur 54703
16659 ABR WDM3A Jodhpur Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct 1345 Jodhpur – Bathinda Jct 54704
20101 BGKT WDP4 Rai Ka Bagh Palace Jct Jodhpur 0930 Bikaner Jct – Bandra Terminus 14707
18987 ABR WDM3A Jodhpur Bhagat Ki Kothi 1510 Jodhpur – Barmer 54815
Auto Auto-rickshaw Bhagat Ki Kothi Jodhpur RS50, 3km, 5 mins
16362 JHS WDM3A Jodhpur Barmer 2130 (02/02) Kalka – Barmer 14887

 

Gen for Monday 3rd February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

14136 (TKD WDM3A) Royal Rajasthan on Wheels tourist train to Bhagat Ki Kothi

20089 (BGKT WDP4) 15632 Guwahati – Barmer

16810 (ABR WDM2) 54813 0800 Jodhpur – Barmer

18570 (RTM WDM2) 54812 0805 Jodhpur – Bhopal

40034 (BGKT WDP4B) 12307 Howrah – Jodhpur

16770 (ABR WDM3A) 1/24888 Barmer – Haridwar/Kalka

11132 (VTA WDM3D) 16125 Chennai – Jodhpur

14016 (ABR WDM3A) 54819 0830 Jaisalmer – Jodhpur

14048 (ERS WDM3A) 16312 Kochuveli – Bikaner

Tuesday 4th February 2014 (That’s not what you’ll do sir!)

The shower in the Kalinga Palace was piping hot and certainly woke me up that morning; I was in the restaurant by 0630 and while waiting for my breakfast to be cooked I went down to pay my bill. What I didn’t realise was that the breakfast bill wasn’t paid for separately and was added to the bill; hence the boy from the restaurant following me downstairs to give the guy at reception the gen. While eating breakfast I had absolutely no clue that it would be my last meal until 1700 that evening so it was a bloody good job I managed breakfast in the first place!

The streets outside the hotel and by the railway station were busy with people and quite a lot seemed to be heading in the direction of the station; the queue at the booking  office being quite a long one. I assumed that they would all be travelling by the same train as me, the 0730 departure to Munabao on the Pakistan border, as the next train to depart Barmer after that would be the 1400 passenger to Jodhpur, which would be my train to Jodhpur that afternoon.

It wasn’t hard to find the only train in the station being prepared for departure as I’d already noted the stock for the train in platform 3 as I arrived the previous night. There were quite a few people about but the train wasn’t wedged when I turned up just before 0700. ABR WDM2 16810 was being prepared on the front by the train crew, the guards lodging box was in his compartment and I managed to find a nice side seat to myself and sat minding my own business as the train filled up the closer it got to departure time. There were no lights on board so I’d had to find my way by torchlight but by the time the chai wallah came round, just before departure, there was enough light filtering through to see what I was doing. The chai wallah was the only person who said anything to me that morning and all he had to say was “panch rupees” which is the price of the chai. I’d expected a little more inquisition from the locals with being on a local train for local people to somewhere that tourists probably never go; but no, there was nothing at all and I was just left to my own devices to enjoy the ride. At 0730 16810 got the show on the road, bang on time; and little did I realise what kind of show I was in for.

The line wasn’t slow, like I’d half expected for a line that saw one passenger train a day, except on Mondays, with the only other train using the line being the weekly cross border “Thar Express”. 16810 certainly wasn’t spared from hard work; even if it was only on load 4. After about 45 minutes a guy dressed in what looked like an RPF uniform walked by and on his return asked where I was going. Of course I told him I was going to Munabao and then he wanted to see my passport & visa; which I promptly produced. Once he was satisfied that all was in order he left me to my own devices again. I didn’t really think much of the passport check and just assumed it was more curiosity on his part than anything else; that was until we arrived into Gadra Road; over two hours into the journey and 89km from Barmer.

The RPF guy returned, this time with a couple of other guys, one in a police uniform, the others all in plain clothes; it turned out the guys were all from different security agencies but the one from the Border Security Force (BSF) did all the talking. I was again asked where I was going and on receipt of my answer I was then told that the whole area west of Barmer is a restricted area and not just for tourists, also for non-residents of the villages along the line. At that point I was asked to leave the train and was soon on the platform surrounded by various official types and of course a raft of locals who wanted to know what was going on. What really concerned me the most about the situation was that not once local on board the train, where I sat for 30 minutes before departure, had even bothered to mention that I wasn’t allowed to travel on the train; and of course neither had the RPF guy on the train when he’d checked my passport a good hour previous.

I was instantly told that I could return to Barmer by the same train, after it had returned from Munabao, and then off 16810 went; meanwhile I was shown into a waiting room to wait it out. This waiting room was ultimately turned into an interview room as each and every one of the security guys needed to extract all the details from me that they could. Everyone know the same things so to make their lives easier I just handed them a copy of my passport and visa, which I use for hotels, and allowed them to photocopy my travel itinerary. This seemed to appease them all and one guy came back with a raft of copies and handed them out to all that needed them. The only thing I really had to add was my address in the UK.

It seemed that whatever was going on had got to a senior level as each and every one of the security guys had been on the phone to their superiors and one even made me speak to his over the phone; the guy being a pleasant chap and I actually think he just wanted to put me at ease as all he really did was congratulate me for following in my grandfather’s footsteps in becoming a railway employee. From that point on the conversation with the security guys was just general pleasantries more than anything else; two guys in particular stayed with me most of the time, them being the ones that spoke the best English. I was looked after well and had chai brought for me as well as some sort of local delicacy, made only in Gadra Road, which I can’t remember the name of but it was very nice and sweet to the taste.

About 30 minutes before the train back to Barmer turned up I was told that I would be escorted back to Barmer by the local police officer; who’d been present for most of the time. I would then have to visit the police station with him just to go through some formalities. At that point the whole complexion of the day changed and one of the friendly guys could see it in my face I think as he tried to tell me there was nothing to worry about; which of course was easy for him to say as he didn’t have an hour’s connection at Barmer to get to Jodhpur that evening for a train forward to Jaipur; which of course I pointed out to him. His response being for me to tell the guys in Barmer that I needed to catch the 1400 train to Jodhpur and they would get things sorted in time for me to do so. Deep down at that point I knew I wasn’t going to be on the 1400 to Jodhpur but while it hadn’t yet departed there was of course always that small glimmer of hope inside.

16810 arrived back into Gadra Road early and its train was a lot fuller than it had been on the way out; however I was sat in a compartment area, usually the disabled area on most trains, with the police officer and the RPF guy who’d checked my passport on the way out. It seemed that they were all joking about my being there initially but then it turned out that the RPF guy was getting a bit of a telling off for allowing me onto the train in the first place; and quite rightly so as my day wasn’t particularly planning out how I’d liked it to have done; having been given the choice of not doing Munabao and enjoying my day freely, or whatever was now going to pan out in the afternoon, I’d have gladly accepted the former!

The journey back to Barmer was a little mundane and I tried to get some rest before whatever unfolded upon arrival into Barmer. Thankfully we were 15 minutes early, which gave that glimmer of hope for the 1400 to Jodhpur a little more time. I was quick to usher the police officer to get me to wherever we were going and he marched us down to the east end of the station, off the platform end and into the first auto-rickshaw he could stop; this then took us to Barmer police station.

It became very apparent when we got there that nobody was in a rush to see me, or was going to be in a rush to get me out for my train. I was seated in an office with other police officers, which seemed to be a processing office. Here I waited for 10 minutes before being taken to another part of the police station and then led up some stairs to a large, initially empty, room. We were followed in by a guy who got some paperwork out of a cupboard behind the desk I was sat at and then shortly afterwards at least 4 other people walked in.

It was made immediately clear that I would not catch the 1400 train to Jodhpur but there was another train at 1800, which would take me direct to Jaipur, arriving the following morning. No matter how hard I tried to explain that I was meeting a friend from the UK in Jaipur, or how hard I pleaded with them to allow me to travel on the 1400 train my words just simply fell on deaf ears. Then the interrogation began, and I say interrogation because whatever I went through was far from an interview and certainly wasn’t formalities! Not as far as I was concerned anyway…..

For three hours I was questioned about why I was in India, why I was travelling to Munabao, why I had an interest in railways; I was even questioned as to whether I was surveying the railways with a view to export some locomotives back to the UK! The one thing I was thankful of at that point though was the fact that they guys doing the questioning seemed to understand my hobby and when they checked through the photos on my camera they were content and didn’t ask me to delete any. Once the hobby part of the questioning was over the real questions started to come……

I’m not going to go into detail but lets just say some of the questions were uncomfortable to say the least. One thing I will say is that their questioning would go off on a tangent and they would lead me back to somewhere we’d already visited and get me to answer the same question again; for example listing the remaining itinerary of my trip, I must have done this at least three times! It was probably at this point though that I started to feel a little better about the situation as they were clearly just trying to see if my answers differed in any way; which of course they were never going to as I had nothing to hide at all.

It was made very clear to me at the start of the interrogation that my ignorance did not mean that a crime had not been committed and that I was actually in violation of my visa; whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty eh? One guy seemed dead set on proving that I’d know that the area I’d travelled in was a restricted area and that I’d deliberately gone there knowing I shouldn’t. My response to this was why would Indian Railways advertise a train in their national timetable which can only be used by local residents; and further to that why would they advertise it without showing any restrictions against it? He was also persistent about the fact that I should have checked online to make sure the area wasn’t restricted; again my response was partially as stated above but also that I’d visited Anupgarh, Sri Ganganagar, Fazilka, to name but a few places, all of which were also on the Pakistan border and none of them were restricted so why should I even have reason to believe that Munabao would be any different. Further to that I told him that I’d been sat on the train for 30 minutes prior to departure and not one person had chosen to say anything to me, other than the chai wallah! Surely everyone on the train was aware of the restriction and if so you’d have thought they’d have spared me the day I was having just to say but a few words?

After the grueling three hours I was physically & mentally drained and very thankful for the breakfast I’d eaten that morning. While in the custody of whoever I’d had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with I was looked after and they were willing to get me some food to eat but I declined in the end as I preferred to eat outside the police station, on my own once the matter was over. When I was finally told I could leave the guy who’d been hand writing my statement and making a list of everything electronic I had then had to get each member present to proof read it to make sure they were happy. Only then was I allowed to leave the room and was escorted back downstairs to the building and processing office I’d been shown to when we first arrived. The words “you are free to go” had never had so much meaning in my life as they did at that moment!

While waiting to be processed out I made a decision on what to do that night; I’d heard the 1400 train to Jodhpur depart during the interrogation and the guys there had commented on it too. I rang the Govind Hotel in Jodhpur, which thankfully had a room for the night. As the next Alco to depart Barmer would be at 0645 the following morning I’d simply do 14662 1800 Barmer – Delhi to Jodhpur and just suffer the GM. At 1700 I was free to go and was escorted back to the railway station by the same police officer that had escorted me from Gadra Road; I thought he was going to end up staying with me until the train departed but once I’d got to the Kalinga Palace Hotel he left me to my own devices. Food was very much needed at that point, as was something cold and refreshing to drink!

The whole situation still playing over in my head didn’t help the banging headache I now had and thankfully BGKT WDP4 40027 was just backing the stock into platform 1 as I got back to the station. The TTE confirmed there was a berth available to Jodhpur and I just holed myself up and rested for the whole journey back to Jodhpur; so relieved that there was somewhere to relax. Back in Jodhpur I was straight down the road to the Govind, where the night porter was expecting me, and after completing all the relevant paperwork I was straight to bed and literally out like a light; there ending what was unfortunately going to be probably one of the most memorable days of my life and for all the wrong reasons…….

The Moves

16810 ABR WDM2 Barmer Gadra Road 0730 Barmer – Munabao 54881
16810 ABR WDM2 Gadra Road Barmer 1040 Munabao – Barmer 54882
40027 BGKT WDP4 Barmer Jodhpur 1800 Barmer – Delhi Jct 14662

 

Wednesday 5th February 2014 (The recovery from the day before)

An early start was required but only because the Alco hauled trains between Jodhpur and Jaipur were few and far between. Had the 1400 Barmer – Jodhpur missed the plus 10 onto 12464 1900 to Jaipur the previous evening my back-up had been doing 19223 Ahmedabad – Jammu Tawi to Bikaner for 12467 Bikaner – Japiur unreserved express throughout. I would still end up on 12467 but would now do 12466 0610 Jodhpur – Indore to Makrana Jct for it forward behind; even through there was room for me in AC through to Jaipur on 12466 I opted to do the step-off move anyway as I’d gain nothing by getting to Jaipur any earlier; and what a good move it turned out to be.

The day started with a dud ABR WDM2 in 17657 on 12466 but things drastically improved when ABR WDM3A 14014 made a very smoky entrance into Makrana Jct with 12467 Bikaner – Jaipur Express; unfortunately it didn’t sound that good but it blackened the skies when opened up which was enough to make up for its lack in the noise department. Despite being unreserved the train wasn’t full and I had plenty of room at a doorway to Phulera Jct.

One thing that caught my eye as we approached Phulera was the narrow gauge railway that ran the length of Sambhar Lake, which looked quite well maintained and even had a track car making its way across as we passed by. There were plenty of wagons at the Sambhar Laske railway station end of the line but no sign of anything that would pull them. The other thing that caught me eye was the fact that Phulera Diesel Loco Shed was cut off from the main railway system and completely devoid of locos and life in general; it seemed like it wasn’t just the MG tracks and locos that would become part of history as Indian Railways modernised; RIP Phulera MG DLS!?

The live train times on my phone had confirmed that both 19263 Porbander – Delhi & 12991 Udaipur – Jaipur were running to time so I had a choice forward to Jaipur; it wasn’t a choice I had to make as VTA WDG3A 13484 arrived with 19263! Unfortunately the unreserved was wedged at the front of the train so I stood in sleeper class half way down the train and didn’t get to hear the shakti really.

I was dropped on platform 1 right outside the cloak room, where my big bag was deposited for the afternoon; costing RS16. I thought I had time for food in one of the food courts on the station before the 1400 MG departure from Jaipur; I was wrong! It was only because 19735 Jaipur – Skiar Intercity departed 5 minutes late that I actually made it; it had been retimed to 1330 since theb timetable had been issued in July and thankfully had to wait for the late running 19736 inbound Sikar – Jaipur to arrive, with light blue liveried (depicting it had been on the Mavli system recently) FL YDM4 6694, before it could depart. It was the sound of the guard blowing his whistle for departure that alerted me to the fact that the train was departing and had I still been drinking chai on the main platforms I’d have been non-the-wiser! the train was already on the move when I got to the back coach but I was able to clamber aboard without any problems.

At Dahar Ka Balaji I walked to the front to find FL YDM4 6656 which was given a bit of a hammering as far as Chomun Samod, where I got off. Unfortunately it wasn’t anywhere near the standards of 6426 or 6654; both also on the Jaipur system. The hulk of classmate 6729 was already visible in the distance and as the train was wedged towards the front I chose to sit at the rear for the run into Jaipur and walk down towards the front again at Dahar Ka Balaji, for the last 3kms into Jaipur.

As we were early back into Jaipur I was presented with a bonus move to fill the 1h35m I had until the next MG departure and found JHS WDM3A 18642 at the head of 12404 1520 Jaipur – Allahabad. I could only do it to Gandhinagar Jaipur but it was better than festering around. The extent of the Jaipur Metro development can be seen during the run to Gandhinagar Jaipur; the concrete foundations now taking shape above the city and also crossing the railway just north of the station.

It cost me RS120 for an auto-rickshaw back to Jaipur Jct and the drive down the main road was quite pleasant of an afternoon. My keen eye spotted a pile of eggs on a stall as we approached the entrance gate to the station area and an omelette soon followed! I’d been hoping for 6694, in its blue livery, to be sat waiting with 02085 1655 Jaipur – Churu but 6729 had run round the set of stock it had arrived with and was already bolted to the stock. 6694 and 6650 were both in the yard attached to sets of stock. The sun has always been good at Jaipur and offered great photos of the 1655 prior to departure with the signal box and station sign in full sunshine. I’d said this a couple of times in the last couple of years but this really could well be the last time I’d depart Jaipur on a YDM4; or could it…..?

As the 1655 ex Jaipur ends up wedged from Dahar Ka Balaji I chose to get off and do the next one back into Jaipur and call it a day; relaxing of an evening was definitely on the agenda. In true form the train departed wedged and with people on the roof and 6729 didn’t disappoint in the noise and clag stakes as it got to grips with its train, once clear of the points at the end of the platform. once it had disappeared into the distance I was left to enjoy the tranquility of Dahar Ka Balaji, spoiled only by three young kids who wouldn’t leave me alone.

6651 arrived about 25 late with 52086 1220 Churu – Jaipur but was on time into Jaipur. Having collected my bag from the cloak room I noticed RTM WDM3A 18654 waiting with 54833 1825 Jaipur – Hisar passenger on platform 5; which I opted to do to Gandhinagar Jaipur and got a rickshaw direct from there to the Hotel Karni Niwas; again costing RS120, which is nothing else avoided the usual rickshaw wallah fiasco in getting a decent price to the hotel you wanted!

I’d reserved my room at the Karni Niwas a couple of days earlier and was expected when I arrived. I was shown two rooms and opted for the larger of the two, costing RS850 as opposed to RS650 for the smaller. Neither room had AC but the larger had fan, large double bed, constant hot water and TV. An excellent, sweet, egg curry was provided from the hotel’s kitchen and a very relaxing evening was had indeed; just what I needed.

The Moves

17657 ABR WDM2 Jodhpur Makrana Jct 0610 Jodhpur – Indore Jct 12466
14014 ABR WDM3A Makrana Jct Phulera Jct 0600 Bikaner Jct – Jaipur Jct 12467
13484 VTA WDG3A Phulera Jct Jaipur Jct 1510 (04/02) Porbandar – Delhi Sarai Rohilla 19263
6656 FL YDM4 Jaipur Jct Chomun Samod 1330 Jaipur Jct – Sikar Jct 19735
6729 FL YDM4 Chomun Samod Jaipur Jct 1210 Sikar Jct – Jaipur Jct 52084
18642 JHS WDM3A Jaipur Jct Gandhinagar Jaipur 1520 Jaipur Jct – Allahabad Jct 12404
Auto Auto-rickshaw Gandhinagar Jaipur Jaipur Jct RS120, 5km, 10 mins
6729 FL YDM4 Jaipur Jct Dahar Ka Balaji 1655 Jaipur Jct – Churu Jct 02085
6651 FL YDM4 Dahar Ka Balaji Jaipur Jct 1220 Churu Jct – Jaipur Jct 52086
18654 RTM WDM3A Jaipur Jct Gandhinagar Jaipur 1825 Jaipur Jct – Hisar Jct 54833

 

Gen for Wednesday 5th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

16837 (RTM WDM3A) 54811 1610 (P) Bhopal – Ahmedabad

40151 (IZN WDP4D) 15014 Kathgodam – Bhagat Ki Kothi

11345 (IZN WDM3D) 14321 Bareilly – Bhuj

6694 (Sikar YDM4) 19736 1030 Sikar – Jaipur

6656 (Sikar YDM4) 19735 1330 Jaipur – Sikar

6729 (Sikar YDM4) 52084 1210 Sikar – Jaipur, 02085 1655 Jaipur – Churu

6650 (Sikar YDM4) 02081 1825 Jaipur – Sikar

6651 (Sikar YDM4) 52086 1220 Churu – Jaipur

Thursday 6th February 2014 (A day of wrong decisions)

Having not slept too great after about 0300 I was inconveniently woken by my alarm at 0505! A hot shower soon woke me and I was downstairs and out of the hotel premises by 0530. I checked 19666 Udaipur – Khajuraho on the way to the station in an auto-rickshaw, which cost RS50, to thankfully find it on time. What I was even more thankful of when I found the TTE on the platform was the fact that there was plenty of room in 2AC, all the way to Agra Cantt. As is always the case I ended up in a compartment with two women and a small child so sleep wasn’t very forthcoming at all and I eventually moved to a quieter haven further up the coach; it too being eventually infiltrated by a load of railway workers who were far from quiet. ABR WDM2 16871 had the honours with 19666; which I’d already had twice on the trip as it was, into Lalgarh & out of Jodhpur. Maybe it was going to sheep me round Gujarat as well?

After an efficient run round at Idgah Agra 16871 deposited me into Agra Cantt early. My plans were quite simple; I had until 1600 to get to Etah for the 1600 Etah – Tundla passenger back to Tundla. The outbound was off Tundla at 1045 and the set sat there for 4 hours; I couldn’t get for it from Jaipur without doing an overnight. As it was only just after 1100 I opted to get some food in the Comesum on the station; my order of veg biriyani seemed to cause the chef to have a bit of a fit in the kitchen and I got the idea he was less than impressed at having to make a biriyani, while doing all sorts of other stuff at the same time. It probably explains why it took 15 minutes to be produced from the kitchen.

There’s a pre-paid taxi rank right outside the station exit at Agra Cantt but I was accosted before I got there; the guy was fair though and directed me to the pre-paid booth anyway, where I arranged a taxi to take me to Etah at the cost of RS1510. For 80+ km I thought this was a more than reasonable rate and the guy that had accosted me ultimately took me. The journey took 2 hours exactly and on the way out of Agra took me right by Agra Fort and for the first time in the 10 years I’ve been travelling in India I saw the Taj Mahal; at some point in the future I must make some time to visit both the Taj Mahal and the Fort, both looked very impressive in the afternoon sunshine.

As we rolled into town at Etah the taxi driver had to ask for directions to the station at least three times; it’s not signposted at all and is tucked away at the back end of town. Despite there being no road to the station building the driver was determined to deliver me to the front door; what concerned me a little bit was that there was no train in the station at all and it should have been there 2 hours previous! As a result I made the taxi wait until I’d confirmed with the station staff that the train was actually running as the morning return trip at 0600 from Tundla was cancelled at the moment and there was always the chance the later trip could be if the stock had gone somewhere else; as it turned out though the train was approaching and would return to Tundla right time at 1600. At that point the taxi was allowed to depart; the irony being that when we’d passed through Tundla, not far from the station at all, the train had probably still been sat there waiting to depart, just the 2 hours late!

LKO WDM3D 11173 was promptly run round the 9 coach set when it arrived and the crew then went for their break. Despite the train not being due away for 2 hours people boarded the moment it arrived; once I’d took my photos I joined them and just sat and watched Etah go about its thing from the relative comfort of the train. Come 1600 the horn of 11173 was promptly blow and for a few seconds people ran around the platform in a hurry but as the train rolled out there were plenty of empty seats and it stayed that way all the way to Tundla. As per the Munabao line, for a line that only has two trains a day it was fast line and well maintained; although the stations looked derelict and the platforms were nothing but mud and ballast in various states of being washed away.

11173 wasn’t up to much unfortunately but it delivered me to Tundla before time and eventually shunted its stock out into the sidings. The refreshment room at Tundla didn’t do egg curry so I gave it a miss and just opted for some snacks instead; meanwhile the noise around the station area was tremendously loud as a very large flock of orange beaked birds made the train-shed area their own, the noise they were shrieking out only emphasised more under the canopy; it was that loud that the station announcer couldn’t be heard over them, even when standing right beneath the speakers! Of course with so many birds being about and being so boisterous the other problem was to avoid being literally shit on from a great height! I managed it but I don’t see how the rest of the people on the platform managed with so many birds about, all wedged in the rafters above their heads……

My plan to do 12003 Lucknow – New Delhi Shatabdi to Ghaziabad took an unexpected change when 12487 Jogbani – Anand Vihar Superfast rolled in just before it, some 2 hours late with WAP4 22208; next stop Ghaziabad. The TTE gave me berth 23 in HA1 and I got myself settled for the non-stop bonus run to Ghaziabad in 2AC as opposed to AC chair Car on the Shatabdi, assuming of course there would have been room for me! The bonus didn’t last for long as we were held at Barhan for the Shatabdi to overtake us and when we rolled to a stand at Aligarh it made perfect sense to get off and not even contemplate risking going through to Ghaziabad; my decision to do the not so superfast, Superfast Express, had just cost me a 4 hour fester at Aligarh for my booked 14724 Bhiwani – Kanpur Kalindi Express; which was actually where I was booked from.

At least the refreshment room at Aligarh had some decent food to eat, although there was no egg curry but some other egg dish which turned out to be fried eggs mixed with onions and was very good indeed. I was sat eating my food before the train I’d bailed on actually left Aligarh, some 20 minutes after coming to a stand; with only 1h20m to have got me to Ghaziabad was asking a bit much and I’d checked 14724 on my phone and it was showing right time, and it struck me a little strange that it was announced as being 30 late about 30 minutes later, by the automated announcer at Aligarh; which literally announced trains constantly the whole time I was there.

With not a great deal to do at Aligarh I spent most of the time waiting in the upper class waiting room; where there were more people asleep on the floor than actually sitting on the seats provided. As is generally the case too, I made a new friend while waiting for my train; which had managed to depart Ghaziabad over 2 hours late! The gy was a manager at the Punjab National Bank in Chandigarh and was waiting for 14218 back to Chandigarh; his train was over 3 hours late and wouldn’t turn up until after mine did. One thing I did manage to get from the guy was confirmation that foreigners could open a bank account with the Punjab National Bank and use it as though it was an account back in the native country; which included card facilities but the balance would show in the currency of your native country.

A walk round the station premises after 0200 revealed it to be nothing more than a doss house. There’d been plenty of trains pass through but anywhere that could become a bed for the night seemed to be used o bed down. I was thankful when my train eventually turned up just before 0300 and had to hammer on the doors of the 3AC coach to wake the coach attendants to let me in. They knew I was boarding as they announced my berth number as I stepped on; bedding was instantly provided and it wasn’t long before I was in the land of nod!

The Moves

16871 ABR WDM2 Jaipur Jct Agra Cantt 2200 (05/02) Udaipur City – Khajuraho 19666
Taxi Agra Cantt Etah Pre-paid RS1510, 80km, 2 hours
11173 LKO WDM3D Etah Tundla Jct 1600 Etah – Tundla Jct 54470
22208 MGS WAP4 Tundla Jct Aligarh Jct 2015 (05/02) Jogbani – Anand Vihar Terminus 12487

Gen for Thursday 6th February

(Other than in the moves above)

11435 (SPJ WDM3D) 12985 0615 Jaipur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla Double Decker

11173 (LKO WDM3D) 54469 1045 Tundla Jct – Etah (2 hours late)

Friday 7th February 2014

I was vaguely aware of us being in Farrukhabad Jct station during the morning and a quick check of the timetable revealed that we were still over 2 hours late; despite there being at least 2 hours of make-up time to Farrukhabad. A few stations beyond Farrukhgarh the 3AC became virtually empty as people reached their destinations; anyone travelling to Kanpur from Aligarh would have gone down the main line and done the journey in a few hours and not just over 10 as the Kalindi Express did via Farrukhabad.

En-route into Kanpur we crossed 55325 Lucknow – Kasganj passenger and more importantly, which would inadvertently become very relevant later in the day, off-link NGC WDG3A 14517 with 18191 Chhapra Jct – Farrukhabad Jct; this link usually worked by KGP engines. Whilst the run wasn’t great into Kanpur we did claw back a little time and arrived just under 2 hours late, allowing me time to nip to the Hotel Rajaseth, a short walk from the station on the city side, for lunch. I’d used their restaurant once before and there was an element of de ja vu when my Aloo Do Pyaza turned up as Paneer Do Pyaza; exactly the same happened the last time I was there! The mistake was rectified in no time though and the food was very good; just too much of it!

In the station WDM2S 17500 was busy shunting the odd coach about and it seemed quite busy. My 54212 1430 Kanpur – Rae Bareli passenger was showing to depart from platform 7 but there was not stock in, yet in the adjacent platform 6 was a set with the correct boards on it and people sat on board confirmed it to be the Rae Bareli train. No sooner had I sat down though did the station announcer advise that 54212 would depart from platform 3; so over I went, only to find no stock there. I wasn’t the only person looking a bit confused by the matter but LKO WDM3D 11147 was poised at the end of the platform as if being prepared to back onto something so when it ended up being backed onto a set in platform 5 I went to investigate; the loco pilot of which confirmed that the set would form 54212 to Rae Bareli. First platform 7, then 6, then 3, then finally 5; or so I thought…

I was only on a plus 1h08m at Rae Bareli for the last train I could do back into Lucknow for my Sabarmati Express to Guna, so didn’t want to miss it. I allowed myself a 30 minute late start margin and as we departed 13 late I was quite content with proceedings; however what I thought was a 13 minute late departure turned out to be a shunt move from platform 5 to 3 to attach another coach to the rear of the train; which 17500 had deposited into the platform for us to collect. The announcer had been right all along in the train departing from platform 3; it wouldn’t be departing with me on it though and it eventually departed 55 late. I played the right move in flagging it as well as it was 1h10m late into Rae Bareli according to Live Train Times. Not doing the move meant two things; I still needed to do Dalmau Jct – Rae Bareli Jct and that I could now do NGC WDG3A 14517 to Lucknow of an evening on 18192.

There wasn’t much on offer move wise, namely because everything was late and I’d have to make do with moves round the corner to Kanpur Anwarganj on 54823 Allahabad – Farrukhabad passenger, which was almost 4 hours late. CNB WAP4 22220 gave way to KTE WDG3A 13181 which I did to Anwarganj and was immediately in an auto-rickshaw back to Kanpur Central; where I just made the late running 15107 Chhapra – Mathura with GD WDM3B 14151, which I flagged in favour of new LKO WDM3D 11268 on 14723 1705 Kanpur – Bhiwani Kalindi Express, almost immediately behind. 11268 crossed GD WDM3A 16207 at Anwarganj with 15038 Kasganj – Kanpur Central, which I did back into town to wait patiently for the scoop of the day. NGC WDG3A 14517, as it returned east. There had been a bonus move on offer as 14724 Kanpur Central – Pratapgarh hadn’t departed but as it was dud LDH WDM3A 18563 I didn’t bother.

There was plenty of room in 2AC to Lucknow which allowed for my phones to be recharged en-route. I’d actually been looking at a move to do 18192 forward to Lucknow City, where I could potentially do an MG train back into Aishbagh for a BG stopper back to Lucknow Jct but all that went out of the window upon arrival into Lucknow Jct as NGC WDG3A 14759 shunted a coach onto the train, which of course only delayed things further and in the end the move was too late to consider so I just walked over to Lucknow Charbagh station and got myself some food at the Comesum plaza.

I had two hours at Charbagh to watch the world go by before my Sabarmati Express would pick me up. Charbagh is a busy station with trains constantly in and out, the vendors are non-stop constantly feeding and watering the steady conveyor-belt of people that flow though the place; all the while co-existing with the stations very own residents; rats! It was fascinating to watch as the rats scurried sheepishly amongst people, seemingly unaware they were even there. If only people knew what was ferreting around their heads as they slept on the platform; they may soon think twice about doing so if they’d watched what I watched that evening! And the rats were all of it, cows were also meandering around the place, sniffing at people as they slept and eating anything that resembled food; including empty tea cups and food wrappers. Whilst it might sound strange to watch all this going on it isn’t isolated and occurs almost everywhere on Indian Railways; the passengers of which just take it for granted and treat it as part of everyday life.

19168 Varanasi – Ahmedabad Sabarmati Express wasn’t on time but it wasn’t too late either, arriving just before midnight. I had a lower side berth, which already had bedding in it, all I had to do was make it up and get horizontal; then hopefully get a good night’s sleep!

The Moves

16043 JHS WDM3A Aligarh Jct Kanpur Central 1825 (06/02) Bhiwani Jct – Kanpur Central 14724
11147 LKO WDM3D Kanpur Central Platform 5 Kanpur Central Platform 3 1430 Kanpur Central – Rae Bareli Jct 54212
13181 JHS WDG3A Kanpur Central Kanpur Anwarganj 0700 Allahabad Jct – Farrukhabad Jct 54823
Auto Auto-rickshaw Kanpur Anwarganj Kanpur Central RS50, 2km, 5 mins
11268 LKO WDM3D Kanpur Central Kanpur Anwarganj 1705 Kanpur Central – Bhiwani Jct 14723
16207 GD WDM3A Kanpur Anwarganj Kanpur Central 1200 Kasganj Jct – Kanpur Central 15038
14517 NGC WDG3A Kanpur Central Lucknow Jct 1335 Farrukhabad Jct – Chhapra Jct 18192
18730 RTM WDM3A Lucknow Charbagh Pagara 1355 Varanasi Jct – Ahmedabad Jct 19168

 

Gen for Friday 7th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

27439 (TATA WAG7) 15484

22708 (CNB WAP4) 14056 Delhi – Dibrugarh

14155 (GD WDM3B) 14723 1705 (P) Kanpur Central – Bhiwani

22932 (???? WAP4) 15707 Katihar – Amritsar

17841 (GD WDM3A) 55325 Lucknow Jct – Kasganj

14517 (NGC WDG3A) 18191 Chhapra Jct – Farrukhabad

14156 (JHS WDM3D) 12511 Gorakhpur – Trivandrum Central

16604 (MGS WDM3A) 51824 Farrukhabad – Allahabad

11148 (LKO WDM3D) 54336 1520 Kanpur Central – Balamau

16043 (JHS WDM3A) 51802 1620 Kanpur Central – Khajuraho

22220 (CNB WAP4) 51823 0700 Allahabad Jct – Farrukhabad (replaced by KTE WDG3A 13181)

14151 (GD WDM3B) 15107 Chhapra Jct – Mathura Jct

18563 (LDH WDM3A) 14124 17xx Kanpur Central – Pratapgarh Jct

11226 (LKO WDM3D) 14207 Pratapgarh Jct – Delhi Jct (LDH WDG3A 14848 dit)

40071 (BGKT WDP4B) 14258 New Delhi – Varanasi

14092 (RTM WDM3A) 19314 Rajendranagar – Indore Jct

20101 (BGKT WDP4) 12558 Anand Vihar – Muzaffarpur

Saturday 8th February 2014

A good night’s sleep was certainly had after the lack of it the previous night and 19168 remained 40 minutes late as it arrived into Bina Jct, where RTM WDM3 18730 ran round its train. This allowed time for breakfast from one of the many vendors on the station before heading off towards Guna. I’d been hoping to make the opposing working of 19165 Ahmedabad – Muzaffarpur at Guna but at 40 late it wasn’t going to make and when we crossed 19165 at Pagara, a few shacks north of Guna, I thought that was the end of that. Until for some reason the loco pilot of 18730 brought our train to a stand, despite being on green signals! I was off in a shot, to the sound of “this is not Guna sir” from behind as I scurried across the ballast and boarded 19165 in the AC coaches opposite; to as must confusion there as I’d left behind on 19168. All was eventually well after I’d given the good old time-pass explanation and I was heading back towards Ashok Nagar behind RTM WDM3A 18740 in no time at all.

When I got to Ashok Nagar there were a lot of folk waiting over the other side of the station for what I assumed to be 51883 Bina – Gwalior passenger train but it turned out most were waiting for 51612 Bina – Kota passenger which hadn’t gone yet. I was told by one guy on the platform, who spoke decent English, that I was in a very remote part of Madhya Pradesh and I would have trouble communicating in these parts; all I was concerned about was getting some food and drinks and the trains would speak for themselves, as long as I had my timetable. As it turned out the fact that the area was very remote made for a rather peaceful and relaxing day and as 51612 Bina – Kota rolled in with ET WAM4 20686, WAM4s now a dying breed of course, I opted to do it southbound; just for the hell of it and the fact that there were plenty of seats on the train.

My intention had been to get off at the next station, Ratikhera, and wait for the Bina – Gwalior passenger there but while I was on the ballast getting a photo the road came off so I leapt back on; having expected the northbound 51611 Kota – Bina passenger to pass at Ratikhera. ET WAG5 23557 was already sat in waiting with 51611 at Shadhoragaon and the road was off by the time I’d clambered aboard. By the time I’d gathered my thoughts we were arriving back into Ratikhera where KTE WDG3A 14568 was sat waiting to go with 51883 Bina – Gwalior passenger; I’d suspected it might have been 14568 as it was sat at Bina when we ran round there with 19168 that morning.

14568 was a cracking engine and driven well by the loco-pilot. There were a lot of freights in the area and thus there was quite a bit of waiting about due to the fact the whole area was single line. I’d been checking on Live Trains and the northbound 51884 Gwalior – Bina was over 90 late and rather than risk Guna and the potential to miss I decided to get off at Banar, the shack before; where I became the only person to grace the platform with my presence once the few that had got off vacated the station premises. I was certainly the talk of the morning when a passing track gang noticed me standing minding my own but the wait in relative tranquility wasn’t long as yet another Shakti arrived with 51884; VTA WDG3A 13485, which I remembered having only a few months after it was built on the Mandore Express from Delhi Jct, a train now worked of course by BGKT WDP4s! 13485 wasn’t a patch on 14568, unfortunately. In fact it was pretty average for a Shakti and the run back to Ashok Nagar was mundane to say the least. At least the train wasn’t wedged though.

My train for the night, 18009 Santaragachi – Ajmer weekly express, was booked from Ashok Nagar at 1706. I’d already checked its running status that morning to find it 3 hours late and throughout the day it had gradually lost time to a maximum of 5h20m late; clawing some back to stay around 4h30m late once it had got past Katni. What this meant was that my move on the Mavli – Marwar MG line was down the pan the following morning but it would mean that I’d probably get a decent night’s sleep on the train rather than having to get off at 0145 at Chittaurgarh. It also meant that I’d be able to do 12197 Bhopal – Gwalior Intercity back south from Ashok Nagar to Guna.

With time to kill, as 12197 was itself over an hour late, I was very surprised to find what looked like a decent hotel, right outside the station. The Hotel Mangal Residency had a restaurant and they rustled me up a very tasty Dum Aloo in literally 5 minutes; I couldn’t have spent more than 20 minutes in the place from walking in to walking out.

I chose to flag 12197 when it rolled in with dud KTE WDM3A 18745, in favour of getting on board 18009 90 minutes earlier; this actually resulted in me spending just the 4 hours at Ashok Nagar. I watched the station fill and empty three times while I waited; each time everyone was waiting for the passenger train that arrived. SGUJ WDG4 12159 passed through with a northbound freight which I’d passed twice between Ashok Nagar & Guna; it had taken 4 hours to do the section due to the amount of freight in the area. It seemed to be the lower priority of the lot being a goods train as even coal trains had overtaken it.

The last surprise of the evening, VTA WDG3A 13543, arrived just before my train, with 59341 Nagda – Bina passenger; in theory I could have done the last southbound passenger to Ratikhera for it back but it would have been one of those suicide moves had it actually gone wrong! Just after 2200 and a little over 5 hours late, PTRU WDM3A 18611 rolled down the platform with 18009 Santaragachi – Ajmer. The 2AC was empty but as luck didn’t have it someone was in my berth until Guna! The TTE eventually turned up and couldn’t actually tell me if I could have another berth or not; probably due to the fact that he was absolutely hammered and stank of booze. He even tried to extract some money from me for boarding at a different stop but was denied in no uncertain terms. Ultimately I asked the guy who was occupying my berth if he minded moving so I could make my bed and get to sleep and he had no problem with it at all; I didn’t even see Guna that evening and was out solid the moment my head hit the pillow!

The Moves

18740 RTM WDM3A Pagara Ashok Nagar 2050 (07/02) Ahmedabad Jct – Darbhanga Jct 19165
20686 ET WAM4 Ashok Nagar Shadhoragaon 1040 Bina Jct – Kota Jct 51612
23557 ET WAG5 Shadhoragaon Ratikhera 0805 Kota Jct – Bina Jct 51611
14568 KTE WDG3A Ratikhera Maban 1155 Bina Jct – Gwalior Jct 51883
13485 VTA WDG3A Maban Ashok Nagar 0830 Gwalior – Bina Jct 51884
18611 PTRU WDM3A Ashok Nagar Chittaurgarh Jct 1300 (07/02) Santaragachi Jct – Ajmer Jct 18009

 

Gen for Saturday 8th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

20629 (ET WAM4) 51609 1510 Bina – Guna

18745 (KTE WDM3A) 12197 Bhopal – Gwalior

21342 (ET WAM4) 54811 1610 Bhopal – Jodhpur

13543 (VTA WDG3A) 59341 Nagda – Bina

Sunday 9th February 2014

I woke at 0315 to find us just rolling into Kota, 6 hours late. That warranted a change of the alarm time from 0400 to 0545 and actually resulted in a decent night’s sleep after all. The only complaint I had was that the train was freezing and it wasn’t any better when I stepped off at Chittaurgarh, 5 hours late! having missed all the express trains towards Udaipur I had plenty of time to kill before the 0830 passenger; which I’d be doing to Mavli Jct.

I remembered from a previous visit to Chittaurgarh that there were hotels outside the station, unfortunately my scout round revealed that the only one with a restaurant didn’t open it until 0800 so breakfast ended up being fried bits on the station. ABR WDM3A 17918 arrived and ran round with 12991 Udaipur – Delhi and shortly afterwards RTM WDM3A 16159 arrived with 59835 Neemach – Udaipur passenger. Once the hoards got off there was plenty of room for those waiting on the platform to find a seat; including me.

The journey to Mavli was a cold one, with all the windows and doors shut. I was wrapped up in my jacket and had my hat on, some of the locals were in sandals, shorts and t-shirts so god only knows how cold they were. Strangely the sunshine was very warm but there was a massive temperature difference in the shade, even once I’d got off at Mavli.

The MG shed at Mavli Jct, which serves the Mavli – Marwar & Bari Sadri lines, is at the Udaipur end of the station and on shed that morning were 6472, 6629 & 6732; all in Phulera brown livery. 6629 was undergoing some maintenance while I walked round and photted everything, freely. ABR WDM3A 18659 arrived with 59604 0940 Udaipur – Ajmer passenger and although I needed it I decided to wait for 09721 Jaipur – Udaipur special which would also allow me to get some photos of the morning MG arrival from Marwar; which of course I had planned to be on before being dropped at Chittaurgarh 5 hours late! A 10 minute walk round the corner on the Marwar line reveals a straight bit as the trains head into town, the sun is also perfect on the train and there is conveniently an electrical cabinet to climb onto, which comes with its own shade courtesy of the surrounding trees. When 6674, in Mavli’s adopted blue livery, passed by it was right time and the train was virtually empty. By the time I made it back to the station 6674 was running round to shunt its stock onto shed for maintenance; the latter I was informed by the loco pilot, who’d spotted me on the platform and made me his new best friend.

Time passed by quickly and ABR WDM2 17702 was arriving with 09721 Jaipur – Udaipur only 15 minutes late. It was quickly run round and fuelled upon arrival at Udaipur as there is only a 30 minute turn-round before it works  back to Jaipur with 09722 1415 Udaipur – Jaipur. Meanwhile I went for a quick egg curry in the refreshment room before heading back out to Ranapratapnagar on 59836 1455 Udaipur – Neemach passenger with RTM WDM3A 16173, not 16159 as I’d anticipated, it was shunting in the station area.

Ranapratapnagar has lots of its old MG guise still visible if you look hard enough. The station building is the old MG one and the station canopy for the old platform remains and even has a station sign at the Mavli end. One of the large concrete station signs also remains at the Udaipur end of the station, now behind a walled off area, where there are also some old buildings with bits of railway debris strewn about. Over the other side of the tracks are some derelict buildings that don’t look as though they’ll b standing for much longer and on a completely different note, while I was there a JCB was digging up the opposite BG platform; for what I have no idea but it looked in perfectly good order to me.

RTM WDM3A 16098 was prompt with 22901 Bandra Terminus – Udaipur and was also very empty. Unfortunately it was a crap run back to Udaipur and 16098 didn’t get to show its worth at all. There was another fill-in move back to Ranapratapnagar in the offering thanks to 09608 1605 Udaipur – Nathdwara special, which was basically an ecs to Nathdwara to form the Nathdwara – Okha, but I opted to find food instead; very poorly. The only thing I did find outside the station was a very impressive and violent dust devil, whch extended quite a way into the sky. Unfortunately by the time I’d got my camera out it had dissipated. The local kids were fearless though and were running and jumping about in it; probably inhaling quite a lot of sand/dust in the process. Still it was the most impressive one I’d ever seen and I was slightly disappointed that I’d not managed to photograph it! Food ultimately came from the station, but not the refreshment room as it was closed. Train food had to suffice; crisps, samosas & chocolate, all washed down with plenty of tea.

SBI YDM4 6386 had been sat with the stock for 19943 1745 Udaipur City – Ahmedabad the whole time I’d been in Udaipur and was started up about 60 minutes prior to departure. Stabled alongside it was ex FL YDM4 6628, now painted in SBI lilac colours, sat with the breakdown train. The 2AC reservation sheet, once stuck to the coach, revealed 10 empty berths and my berth had one of the empty ones. I was haring with a couple returning home to Mumbai, who’d been in Udaipur to attend a wedding. The male had actually been to the UK on business many times, although all his trips involved Aberdeen and he’d be there again at the end of the month; no doubt during some nice Scottish winter weather?

We had a prompt enough departure from Udaipur but ended up waiting for the northbound Ahmedabad – Udaipur day train at the first station, Umra, which made us late before we’d really gone anywhere! I failed miserably to see what had worked the northbound day train, namely due to the fact that I couldn’t get the door open quick enough and by the time I had the loco had already gone by! With no more spotting left to be done, and the fact it was also getting dark, there was only one thing left to be done; relax for a bit and then get some sleep…..

The Moves

16159 RTM WDM3A Chittaurgarh Jct Mavli Jct 0715 Neemach – Udaipur City 59835
17702 ABR WDM2 Mavli Jct Udaipur City 0645 Jaipur Jct – Udaipur City 09721
16173 RTM WDM3A Udaipur City Ranapratapnagar 1455 Udaipur City – Neemach 59836
16098 RTM WDM3A Ranapratapnagar Udaipur City 2325 (08/02) Bandra Terminus – Udaipur City 22901
6386 SBI YDM4 Udaipur City Ahmedabad Jct 1745 Udaipur City – Ahmedabad Jct 19943

 

Gen for Sunday 9th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

12276 (KJM WDG4) 06530 Jaipur – Yesvantpur Special

17918 (ABR WDM3A) 12991 Udaipur – Jaipur

16818 (ABR WDM2) 09608 1605 Udaipur – Nathdwara

16839 (ABR WDM2) 12982 1715 Udaipur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla

16840 (ABR WDM2) 59603 0800 Ajmer – Udaipur

18659 (ABR WDM3A) 59604 0940 Udaipur – Ajmer

6674 (Mavli YDM4) 52073 0500 Marwar – Mavli

6472, 6629 & 6732 on shed at Mavli (two others would also be based at Mavli – out working the morning Mavli – Marwar &  Mavli – Bari Sadri services)

6628 (SBI YDM4) with breakdown train at Udaipur City

Monday 10th February 2014

As always seems to be the case with trains that arrive at stupid o’clock in the morning, 19943 Udaipur – Ahmedabad was early at its destination; the banging on the door by the coach attendant making sure everyone was rudely awakened to brave the fresh Ahmedabad air moments later; still half asleep!

My original plan had me festering about at Ahmedabad for almost four hours, until 0810, but I soon managed to figure out I could have a run to Sabarmati and back in the meantime and still have time for breakfast. Rather grubby SBI YDM4 6306 was sat in platform 12 with the 0455 passenger to Mahesana; while crossing the footbridge to get from platform 11 I noticed that Ahmedabad now only has two MG platforms. No’s 11 &12, with the others having been converted to BG. The train wasn’t full and I stood at the door in the front coach all the way to Sabarmati; the 5km journey taking 25 minutes! There wasn’t really any issue in standing by the door as most of the locals were well wrapped up and hiding away out of the cold draft that was coming in courtesy of the fresh morning air.

Sabarmati Jct was almost devoid of people yet there were a few rickshaw wallah’s about who all wanted to take me somewhere. Once 6306 had departed 6295 arrived light engine from the SBI DLS direction, and stopped in the platform for the loco pilot to fill in the book handed to him by the station staff; by the time the loco departed, a few minutes later, there were at least 3 additional people in the cab, all of whom just clambered aboard without asking; whether they were all railway staff I couldn’t actually tell by the clothes they were wearing.

I was waiting for 19216 Saurashtra Express and thought it was arriving right time as IZN WDM3D 11301 rolled into the platform; I soon realised that it was actually 14311 Bareilly – Bhuj stopping out of course; it would have been a bit strange for an IZN loco to be working the Saurashtra Express anyway. Loads of people got off at Sabarmati; the stop seemingly being a bonus for them, or maybe it was a regular thing? While I was using the charging facilities on the platform another train ran into the middle road and stopped; all I managed to see through one of the open doors of the Ala Hazrat Express was the fact that the loco was a Shakti. The boards on the side revealed the train to be 17038 Bikaner – Secunderabad and by the time I got to the front of the train KTE WDG3A 14792 had just got the road; I only had time to scoot down the ballast and get into the front unreserved coach as the train set off.

It was a faster run back into Delhi than the way out but 14792 wasn’t given a hammering at all. I had to share the doorway with a guy who was coughing his guts up the whole way, smoking and just generally being a pain. There wasn’t anywhere to go in the coach for all the covered bodies scattered about the floor, still sleeping. I was glad to be off at Ahmedabad, despite the journey being a short one. I noticed that there were at least 3 VTA WDS6s shunting in the station area; unfortunately I couldn’t see any of their numbers across the station due to the darkness.

As I was staying in Ahmedabad the following day I went to book a hotel for peace of mind. My first choice was the Hotel Ritz Inn but the prices for a single room are not that cheap at all, even though the hotel is very good, and at RS2900 I had to ponder whether it was worth paying that price for the one night and not the longest of nights either. The fact that the Hotel Moti Mahal, virtually next door, was full made my mind up and I made my reservation at the Ritz Inn then used the Moti Mahal’s restaurant for breakfast before returning to the station to do 19916 0810 Ahmedabad – Mahesana to its destination; en-route to Gandhidam via Palanpur and the old MG route.

SBI YDM4 6560 departed slightly late with 52914 0655 Ahmedabad – Ranuj passenger, closely followed by SBI YDM4 6295, which I’d seen at Sabarmati, departing with 52928 0710 Ahemedabad – Udaipur. Platform 12 was quite busy and when SBI YDM4 6557 (an ex FL YDM4) came into platform 11 from the carriage sidings I ended up asking the station master which platform the 0810 Mahesana would depart from; as nobody was making their way to platform 11 at all. It was confirmed it would depart platform 12 and was actually formed from the stock off 52903 0520 Mahesana – Ahmedabad, which SBI YDM4 6318 brought in; it didn’t run round though and 6386, which I’d had down from Udaipur the previous night, was instantly backed on the opposite end of the set.

There was a bit of a mad scrum t board the train and like many others I’d walked across the track to get into the off-side of the train. There were plenty of seats for all though and the train was quite comfortable throughout the journey. At Sabarmati Jct we were held to allow SBI YDM4 6416 arrive with 52905 0615 Mahesana – Ahmedabad; which ultimately made us 25 late away. At that point I was thinking that getting off and onto 11090 Pune – Jodhpur, while it stopped at Sabarmati, might have been the better option as I was only on a plus 28 at Mahesana for my train forward to Palanpur. The fact that it was dud VTA WDG3A 13272 had made the decision for me at the time; having been 25 minutes late at the time may well have resulted in a different decision being made?

19916 0810 Ahmedabad – Mahesana was an Intercity and as a result only stopped at Sabarmati, Kalol & Ambliyasan and with nothing else to pass beyond Kalol 6386 got to grips with its train and arrived into Mahesana at 1026. The BG stopper to Patan was waiting in the adjacent platform, with what looked to me like WGG3A 13492 from the station footbridge; but I wasn’t so sure of the number afterwards as 13492 is shown as a BNDM loco in the database! My 19411 Ahmedabad – Ajmer Intercity was nowhere in sight and eventually turned up 15 minutes late with ABR WDM2 16817. There was room in the AC Chair Car to Palanpur and waiting at Palanpur as we arrived were two trains; 16532 Ajmer – Bangalore with BGKT WDP4B 40046, which departed first and realy made the decision for me as to what to do next; the other train was 19224 Jammu Tawi – Ahmedabad with ABR WDM3A 14122. I’d been going to do 19224 south for the opposing northbound train back to Palanpur for the afternoon 19151 Palanpur – Gandhidam Express to its destination but as 14122 would be departing Palanpur late I didn’t want to risk missing the northbound 19223or indeed 19151 to Palanpur so I opted to find lunch and do 59426 1330 Palanpur – Bhuj passenger to Gandhidam instead; which would actually get me there almost 2 hours earlier, in theory…….

I was surprised to find a hotel in Palanpur at all let alone one that had a restaurant; the Hotel Bolim was only a two minute walk from the station and its restaurant was in full swing when I arrived. While the menus are all in Hindi the staff understood enough of my pigeon Hindi to make me a very fresh and tasty ander biriyani, rice and chapatti’s. Cold pop and chocolate back at the station finished off the meal just nicely.

VTA WDM3D 11415 had arrived with 19452 Gandhidam – Palanpur while I’d been away from the station and was just shunting a flat wagon, loaded with coach wheels, onto the rear of the train when I got back. There was plenty of room on the stock and I took up residence in the front coach; fortunately it didn’t get wedged at all, throughout the journey. Unfortunately VTA’s 11415 wasn’t up to much at all and made for a pretty mundane run; which ultimately ended up with me having my ipod on for 5 hours of the 7h30m I was on board! this was more to drown out the background noise from inside the coach than anything else. Many people, mostly young children seemed to be intrigued by me presence on board but nobody at all asked where I was travelling to; all seemed quite content just to stare and pass comments between themselves. I was equally as good at staring back until those staring felt equally as uncomfortable as I did though……

The Palanpur – Gandhidam line had been re-gauged back in 2006 and quite hastily so; partly financed by outside companies to allow for the running of container trains from Kandla Port to the north via a quicker route than having to go via Ahmedabad. I actually had a trip planned to cover the both the Palanpur – Gandhidam & Bhildi – Samdari MG lines in early 2006 but the Palanpur- Gandhidam section was closed 2 weeks before my trip commenced and that put pay to that; I have since done the Bhildi – Samdari section. From my observations it was evident why the conversion had been done as we passed no less that 11 freight trains en route to Gandhidam; most of which were container trains and some even completely empty flats returning to somewhere else to be loaded. A few stations before Samakhiali Jct we were held for 30 minutes to cross a freight train, which when it turned up it became evident why we’d been held as it was actually two trains coupled together. The leading train was a fully loaded coal train led by a BGKT WDG4 and attached to the rear, with another BGKT WDG4 leading its train (in between both sets) was an empty container flat train. As it was obviously too long to hold the train anywhere we’d had to be held for it to be given a clear path through; we’d already been about 30 late and this didn’t help my earlier finish at Gandhidam at all, neither did being held closer to Samakhiali for 14322 Bhuj – Bareilly Ala Hazrat Express to cross. IZN WDM3D 11301 had gone Sabarmati – Bhuj, sat for over 2 hours, and returned to beyond Samakhiali since I’d seen it that morning; meanwhile I’d gone nowhere in comparison!

The run forward from Samakhiali to Gandhidam was a lot quicker as it was double track all the way; we arrived into Gandhidam just over an hour late, a little after 2100. I wasted no time in spotting the bright lights of the neon signs that the nearby hotels had. The first one I tried was unfortunately full! I actually tried to ring ahead from Udaipur the previous day but one was already full, one hadn’t answered and the other didn’t have anyone that spoke English. Thankfully the staff at the first hotel directed me to another hotel further down the road and not the one immediately adjacent; which they confirmed was also full. Luckily the Hotel Aarti International had room; their tariff starting at RS1499 for a standard room, which is what I opted for as I wasn’t staying that long.

At one point the staff at the front desk seemed to be discussing between themselves whether they could accept foreigners or not and wanted to see my local ID, which of course I didn’t have; thankfully my passport and visa sufficed and I was checked in. As my room wasn’t actually prepared I used the hotel restaurant while I waited. It was full with only one table left free, the staff were plentiful, helpful and efficient. The chicken tikka massala I had was nice, if not a little too spicy for my liking. The staff couldn’t apologise enough for the dish being too hot and wanted to make me another; which would have been all well and good had I not already finished it! It really wasn’t a problem though and fully fed and watered I was shown to my room.

Room 101 was immediately adjacent to the restaurant and it had opening windows that backed onto a walkway that led out of the kitchen. While it wasn’t too noisy there was a constant chatter and the odd clattering of kitchen utensils so rather than go straight to bed and get frustrated with not being able to get to sleep I set my stall out for the morning, put everything on charge and had a nice refreshing hot shower; which I’d been planning to do the following morning. I was so glad I ended up having the shower that night as there was no hot water at all the following morning! The clattering and chatter had almost completely stopped by the time I got into bed and sleep wasn’t hard to come by at all.

The Moves

6306 SBI YDM4 Ahmedabad Jct Sabarmati Jct 0455 Ahmedabad Jct – Mahesana Jct 52910
14792 KTE WDG3A Sabarmati Jct Ahmedabad Jct 1540 (09/02) Bikaner Jct – Secunderabad 17038
6386 SBI YDM4 Ahmedabad Jct Mahesana Jct 0810 Ahmedabad Jct – Mahesana Jct 19916
16817 ABR WDM2 Mahesana Jct Palanpur Jct 0910 Ahmedabad Jct – Ajmer Jct 19411
11415 VTA WDM3D Palanpur Jct Gandhidam Jct 1330 Palanpur Jct – Bhuj 59426

 

Gen for Monday 10th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

11301 (IZN WDM3D) 14311 Bareilly – Bhuj, 14322 Bhuj – Bareilly

16153 (LDH WDM3A) 12916 1505 (P) Delhi – Jct – Ahmedabad Jct (offlink vice WDP4!)

13272 (VTA WDG3A) 11090 Pune – Jodhpur

40046 (BGKT WDP4B) 16532 Ajmer – Bangalore City

14122 (ABR WDM3A) 19224 Jammu Tawi – Ahmedabad

18616 (ABR WDM3A) 19412 Ajmer – Ahmedabad

20090 (BGKT WDP4) 19106 Haridwar – Ahmeadbad Mail

11415 (VTA WDM3D) 19152 Gandhidam – Palanpur Exp

11126 (VTA WDM3D) 59425 0625 Bhuj – Palanpur

Tuesday 11th February 2014

Check-out from the hotel took 20 minutes! I ended up having to complete a C form on the hotel’s computer before he would issue my bill; why the hell this was needed when I’d done one manually the previous night was anyone’s guess. My bill came to just over RS2000 with my food from the previous night and tax included; I was allowed to pay by card which was a bit of a bonus and very straightforward, for a change.

RTM WDM3A 18864 was just arriving with 19131 Bandra Terminus – Bhuj when I got to the station. There was plenty of room in 2AC for the run to Bhuj and I got chatting to a guy who was very knowledgeable about British history, especially relating to the British rule of India, and the rest of the world for that matter. His conversation made for a pleasant journey and we were in Bhuj before I’d even realised; just the 40 minutes early!

VTA WDM3A 14074 was sat in the adjacent carriage sidings and RTM WDM3A 16834 was shunting some coaches in the station area. Outside the station entrance there is a steam loco plinthed, #2211, this apparently moved there in 2010 by one of the local government ministers; according to the font of al knowledge I’d been speaking with on the train. It was done up very nicely but could have done with a clean, just to get the sand off it more than anything else.

There were a couple of small places to get snacks outside the station but I went in search of breakfast instead and I ended up in an auto heading towards town. I was dropped at a busy junction, which had plenty of eateries around it but none did omelettes or even looked like they had any food prepared at all so I ended up in the same auto back to the Hotel Dollar, which was near to the station, where I was dropped at no further cost. As it was a pure veg restaurant toasted cheese sandwiches had to suffice, which were almost cold when they were presented! Complaining seemed to get me nowhere so I ate them before they ended up stone cold. Its a real issue in Indian restaurants sometimes where the whole order is held back until complete; by which time some of the food is cold. Still, I’d managed some food and was grateful for it.

I didn’t have to look far to find something to occupy my time for the next two hours as immediately adjacent to the Hotel Dollar was a disused railway crossing which had been where the Bhuj – Naliya MG line had run out of town. There were no tracks in situ over the road but they tracks were still pretty much intact in the station area and then again about 100m beyond the level crossing in the Naliya direction the tracks remained in place. The semaphore signal, probably to confirm the crossing barriers were down, was visible in the distance. All the chairs on the track still in situ had the years 1985/6 on them and the ones in the station area had 1988/9 on them. I found that some of the rails were of British origin with BSC Workington clearly visible on their sides; the year 1987 was the manufacture date. It was as though the whole MG section at Bhuj had literally been abandoned after closure in 2010 and just left to decay; other than the rails being removed over the level crossing there seemed to be no reason why trains couldn’t have run on the section and the rails looked to be in very good condition.

IZN WDM3D 11251 had arrived early with the inbound Ala Hazrat Express and wasn’t run round until I’d finished my exploration of the Bhuj MG tracks. It collected a friend while running round, RTM WDM3A 16834, both were attached to the opposite end of the train; 16834 shut down dead. The reservation sheets on the side of the trains didn’t have a great deal of places taken to Ahmedabad and the 2AC had plenty of room to allow me to at least have a compartment to myself until Viramgam Jct; an hour before Ahmedabad, as opposed to my lower side berth.

It was a very relaxing journey indeed; one on which I did absolutely nothing. Having downloaded the first season of Falling Skies to my tablet I was 7 episodes in by the time we reached Viramgam; where my battery was almost dead! 11251 delivered us to Ahmedabad a little late but I was checked into the Hotel Ritz Inn and sat in the restaurant waiting for a much needed dinner by 2030.

The Ritz Inn is one of those places where the relative luxury allows you to shy away from what’s going on in the real world outside. It is just like walking into a hotel anywhere in Europe, clean, well run and with professional staff. The rooms are spotless and spacious, have extra large beds, 24/7 hot water, AC and a fridge. Room service is available but the restaurant on the ground floor is a nice place to unwind of an evening; and its not one of those dimly lit restaurants either. My room was RS2821 (including tax) and was the lowest category on the listing. It was worth paying for though and I enjoyed the comfy bed that night.

The Moves

18864 RTM WDM3A Gandhidam Jct Bhuj 1710 (10/02) Bandra Terminus – Bhuj 19131
11251 IZN WDM3D Bhuj Ahmedabad Jct 1225 Bhuj – Bareilly Jct 14312

Gen for Tuesday 11th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

14074 (VTA WDM3A) 22829 1340 Bhuj – Shalimar

Wednesday 12th February 2014

I’d not done the Mahesana – Viramgam line before and as there were only two sets of passengers a day it either meant an early start or late finish; the late finish not really fitting with my plans resulted in me opting for the early start, which was 19413 0605 Ahmedabad – Kolkata to Mahesana for the 0825 Mahesana – Viramgam passenger over the branch. The Ritz had allowed me to leave my big bag at the hotel for a couple of days so I was travelling light for a change. ABR WDM3A 18665 was already sat in with 19413 when I got onto the station and there was plenty of room in 2AC to Mahesana; which allowed for an hour of semi-relaxing at the start of what would be a very long day for me.

We managed to lose 30 minutes to Mahesana and upon arrival the set for 59509 to Viramgam was already in and RTM WDM3A 14098 had already been detached and was in the process of running round. There was plenty of room on board; for some reason I’d expected the train to be a wedge out. Just before we departed at 0825 RTM WDM3A 18892 arrived with the morning 59482 0730 Patan – Mahesana local.

The run across the branch was quite pleasant, the train never filling up at all. It was a bit of a breezy morning though and most of the windows were kept closed for the majority of the journey but once the sun warmed the air it was warm enough to stand at the door and appreciate that 14098 was quite a good engine.

On certain days of the week there would be trains straight back into Ahmedabad from Viramgam but Wednesday wasn’t one of those days. As a result I was looking at a 2 hour fester or going out to Surendranagar and getting back into Ahmedabad later than planned; as it happened I was handed a get out of jail free card as we rolled into the platform at Viramgam. I could hear something powering up but couldn’t see it. A check out of the opposite side of the train revealed VTA WDG3A 13475 just departing with 12475 Hapa – Jammu Tawi; I was at the door in a flash, stumbling over the guy sat by it on the floor as I got there. My train was moving slow enough for me to get off while it was moving and 12475 hadn’t picked up and speed at all so I was able to adjust my direction and run alongside the nearest door 12475 had to offer. Thankfully it had been a cross platform leap as otherwise it wouldn’t have made. I was also quite grateful that the train was load 25 and that 13475 didn’t seem up to the job on its own; hence the slow getaway! 12474/5/6/7 used to be booked twin VTA WDM3As and I understood why once we got going.

Whether it was because 13475 really was just a poor specimen of a WDG3A,  as it didn’t sound the part, or whether it was that the train was too heavy for one loco; either way it made hard going for one loco on this particular day, especially with all the speed restrictions to slow down for. It was probably the reason I’d made it in the first place as it was already 30 late at Viramgam Jct. The hard going being felt more towards Ahmedabad where the speed restrictions were plentiful.

Having re-worked a plan for the afternoon, in light of my good fortune, I figured that we may make 19223 1120 Ahmedabad – Jammu Tawi; as we came though Sabarmati Town though it was evident that it wasn’t going to happen yet for some reason it was still sat waiting at Ahmedabad when we arrived in the adjacent platform at 1130! As it was ABR WDM3A 14016, which I’d had into Jaipur earlier in the trip, I decided not to do it and found an alternative waiting in another platform. LDH WDM3A 16533 was sat waiting to go with a very empty 18421 Puri – Ajmer weekly express; which was hot on the heels of 19223 towards Sabarmati Jct. Unfortunately it got held on the Sabarmati River Bridge, probably waiting for 19223 to depart Sabarmati Jct, which cut the time I had to get from Sabarmati Jct to Sabarmati Town down to virtually no time at all by the time the train was on the move. I saw an opportunity and I took it! As the train was going very slow off the bridge and round the corner onto the Sabarmati Jct line I got off by the 781km post and walked across the tracks to Sabarmati Town station; only about 500 yards from that point yet about 1km by rail from Sabarmati Jct.

My bailing out early stunt achieved what it needed to and i was on the platform in time for 59547 1200 Ahmedabad – Okha passenger; which I’d do out of town for the opposing 59548 back into town; which was the train I’d originally planned to be on from Viramgam anyway. While nosing at the departures listed at Sabarmati Town it was at this point I realised that I’d been sat at the wrong Sabarmati station when waiting for 19216 Saurashtra Mail back into Ahmedabad the other morning and a quick check of the Rail Time app I’d been using for the offline timetable revealed that there were numerous errors with regards to which Sabarmati station trains stopped at. For example it had MG trains stopping at SBT vice SBI. Lesson learned though, I made sure I used listings for both SBI & SBT for all future moves to/from Sabarmati; just to make sure.

RTM WDM3A 18730, which I’d had from Lucknow to Pagara on the Sabarmati Express 5 days earlier, arrived about 15 late with 59547 Ahmedabad – Okha passenger. The train was empty and had a second jan chair car coach at the front of its formation. For no apparent reason the train lost more time as it headed away from town so I ended up getting off at the deserted station of Ambli Road to wait for the opposing working coming into town; which Live Trains showed as being on time. As the very good 18730 hammered off into the distance ET WDM3A 18723 hammered through towards Ahmedabad with a container train.

There was nothing at all at Ambli Road, no chai, no food; just nothing other than the station and what looked to be well protected flats, all of which had restricted entrance and security guards on duty at their entrance. I was treated to another passing container train during my short stay at Ambli Road as RTM WDM3A 18705 passed through slowly. I actually thought at one point it was going to stop and I’d end up having to crawl underneath to get to the opposite platform, as there was no footbridge, but it didn’t and as it cleared the station the inbound 59548 Okha – Ahmedabad passenger could be seen in the distance.

RTM WDM3D 11419 was a vast improvement on 11415 two days previous and made for a very spirited journey back towards Ahmedabad;it even departed Ambli Road 3 minutes early; by my watch anyway, no two clocks seemed to show the same time on Indian Railways. I chose to get off at Sabarmati Town again and walk over the tracks/yard area to Sabarmati Jct. The clearest route seemed to be to follow the footbridge at the Ahmedabad end of the station to the tracks on the Sabarmati Jct line; where I then followed the MG track all the way to the station. It took about 10 minutes at a steady pace.

I hadn’t actually planned to do either of the MG trains that were due at Sabarmati Jct but really just wanted to photograph them arriving; there were two BG trains due back into Ahmedabad and I was going to use one of those and go and find some food before an evening MG bash. SBI YDM4s 6295, with 52907 1210 Mahesana – Ahmedabad, and 6386, with 52906 1355 Ahmedabad – Mahesana, both arrived simultaneously and made for ok photos in the afternoon sunshine. What I’d really wanted to do though was get a photo of a BG train arriving into platform 1 as I’d got a photo of an MG train doing so some 9 years previous and wanted the then & now kind of shot just to show the difference. The sun was perfect on freshly painted ABR WDM2 16789 as it ambled into platform 1; just what the doctor ordered!

Feeling a little refreshed after snacks at both Sabarmati Jct and Ahmedabad I chose to do a run out on the Udaipur line as the 1550 Ahmedabad – Khed Brahma was about the only train to do in the next 2 hours. SBI YDM4 6325 was already sat waiting with the train in platform 12 as I got to the MG platforms; there was plenty of room on board though. The run out towards Nandol is through some of the most untidy suburbs you’ll find in India the whole railway is lined with shanti-towns and litter covers the floor; certainly the whole way to Naroda where I got off. As is always the case with these types of place, the locals all seemed content with life and were going about their daily business as if nothing was amiss.

Ex FL YDM4 6557 was already sat in waiting at Naroda and it gave spirited run back towards Ahmedabad; although it wasn’t as good as 6325 on the way out. Back at Ahmedabad SBI YDM4s 6416 & 6313 were in the station area and I managed to get told off by a police officer for photographing them; of course arguing the toss with him was fruitless and I knew when to give up and walk away. It seemed that there was plenty of police presence in the platform immediately adjacent to the MG ones; where 12957 1745 Ahmedabad – New Delhi Rajdhani was standing! Ultimately I ended up doing this train to Sabarmati Jct with VTA WDM3D 11212, for SBI YDM4 6295 forward to Kalol on 52912 1745 Ahmedabad – Mahesana passenger.

There wasn’t much room on board 6295’s train when it arrived Sabarmati but I managed to get some standing room at a door in the front coach. 6295 proved its worth and sounded really good; there were other events to speak of en-route though. Initially I felt a bit of a scuffle going on behind me and was more concerned about my bag ending up out of the door at first. When all was confirmed safe I turned to find that the woman sat on the floor behind me was punching the guy sat beside her in the face, repeatedly! Not content with just punching him she stood up, whipped off her sandal, and started beating him around the head with that too! She was screaming at him to get away from her and beckoning that he move round the corner out of the way; which he ultimately did. The guy stood in the doorway with me spoke enough English to tell me that the commotion had been due to the guy “flirting” with the woman. While we slowed down at Khodiyar the guy ended up getting out of the front coach and attempted to get into another as the train rolled by him; ultimately the whole train rolled by him and he ended up looking on as it accelerated away into the distance. I got the impression he was either high or drunk; or both!

Kalol Jct has only one MG platform, which is like Cambridge in the UK, with northbound trains stopping at the north end and southbound at the south end; there being a crossover in the middle to get trains round each other if need be. I opted to not walk the whole length of the station and was off the moving train at the first opportunity and drinking chai before it had even come to a stand. I didn’t have to wait long before SBI YDM4 6386 was arriving with the on time 19915 1825 Mahesana – Ahmedabad Intercity; which was booked to be right away Sabarmati but ultimately got held for 10 minutes at Khodiyar to wait the arrival of 52904 1900 Ahmedabad – Mahesana passenger. It was too dark to spot the loco as it rolled by and there were also too many bodies in the way as the train was full and standing down the aisles!

As my overnight wasn’t off Ahmedabad until 2359 I got off at Sabarmati to pass the time and do 54803 Jodhpur – Ahmedabad passenger into Ahmedabad; it was another one of those realisation moments once the MG train had departed; in that 54803 would be departing from Sabarmati Town and not Junction as the Railtime App suggested. Both the departure board at Sabarmati Jct and the timetable confirmed it and for the third time that day I found myself walking between the two stations; this time I walked down the trackside to where the footbridge was directly opposite, my torch lighting the way, and took a direct line across the yard, via a pathway, to the Ahmedabad end of Sabarmati Town platforms.

There were quite a few people waiting on the outbound platform and soon after I arrived so did RTM WDM3A 16833 with 19215 Mumbai Central – Porbander Saurashtra Express; a train I’d be doing to Porbander myself 5 nights later. Once that had gone there were hardly any people about but there were a few waiting for the inbound passenger, and with loads of bags in tow I could only assume they were using it as a means to get to Ahmedabad for a train on to elsewhere. Dud ABR WDM3A 18657 eventually turned up with 54803, running 20 minutes late; with the slack time in the schedule though it was only a few minutes late into Ahmedabad. As with most trains I’d done during the day’s bash I was off at the platform end, as the train arrived, to save the long walk back down the platform to exit the station. I was in the Ritz Inn having a very good and much needed meal 5 minutes later; their toilet facilities also came in very handy to have a quick was and get all the dust out of my hair and face!

As I got back to the station 19115 Bandra Terminus – Bhuj was being announced as departing from platform No. 1. Before it arrived though 19577 Tirunelveli – Hapa occupied the platform, which arrived and departed with VTA WDM3A 18728. As it departed RTM WDM3A 18740 followed it through the platform and into the head-shunt just off the platform; where it stayed until 19115 arrived and then replaced WAP5 30066 at the head of the train after it was removed.

My lower side berth, No. 11, was empty when I got on but had clearly been used before Ahmedabad. Before I even got chance to make my bed up I was asked to swap berths by two different people, one for the upper berth right by the door, which was never going to happen, and one for an upper berth in a compartment; I politely declined both requests as I really needed my sleep and the lower side berths were good for just hiding yourself away in and doing just that! Unfortunately I had to wait until fresh bedding had been loaded on board to make my bed up but I was still tucked away and laid out before the train departed; alarm set for 0515 to get me up in time for Gandhidam the following morning.

The Moves

18665 ABR WDM3A Ahmedabad Jct Mahesana Jct 0605 Ahmedabad Jct – Kolkata Chitpur 19413
14098 VTA WDM3A Mahesana Jct Viramgam Jct 0825 Mahesana Jct – Viramgam Jct 59509
13475 VTA WDG3A Viramgam Jct Ahmedabad Jct 0530 Hapa – Jammu Tawi 12475
16533 LDH WDM3A Ahmedabad Jct Sabarmati Km 781.0 2125 (10/02) Puri – Ajmer Jct 18421
18730 RTM WDM3A Sabarmati Town Ambli Road 1200 Ahmedabad Jct – Okha 59547
11419 RTM WDM3D Ambli Road Sabarmati Town 2210 (11/02) Okha – Ahmedabad Jct 59548
16789 ABR WDM2 Sabarmati Jct Ahmedabad Jct 0740 (11/02) Jammu Tawi – Ahmedabad Jct 19224
6325 SBI YDM4 Ahmedabad Jct Naroda 1550 Ahmedabad Jct – Khed Brahma 52926
6557 SBI YDM4 Naroda Ahmedabad Jct 1350 Himmatnagar – Ahmedabad Jct 52919
11212 VTA WDM3D Ahmedabad Jct Sabarmati Jct 1745 Ahmedabad Jct – New Delhi Jct 12957
6295 SBI YDM4 Sabarmati Jct Kalol Jct 1745 Ahmedabad Jct – Mahesana Jct 52912
6386 SBI YDM4 Kalol Jct Sabarmati Jct 1825 Mahesana Jct – Ahmedabad Jct 19915
18657 ABR WDM3A Sabarmati Town Ahmedabad Jct 0845 Jodhpur – Ahmedabad Jct 54803
18740 RTM WDM3A Ahmedabad Jct Gandhidam Jct 1450 Bandra Terminus – Bhuj 19115

 

Gen for Wednesday 12th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

11229 (VTA WDM3D) 12958 New Delhi – Ahmedabad Rajdhani

18892 (VTA WDM3A) 59482 0730 Patan – Mahesana

14016 (ABR WDM3A) 19223 1120 Ahmedabad – Jammu Tawi

16171 (RTM WDM3A) 19119 Ahmedabad – Somnath

13xxx/14967 (KZJ WDM3A’s) 17018 Secunderabad – Rajkot

14096 (ABR WDM3A) 12548 Ahmedabad – Agra Fort

16563 (ABR WDM3A) 19412 Ajmer – Ahmedabad

16833 (RTM WDM3A) 19215 Mumbai Central – Porbandar

18728 (VTA WDM3A) 19577 Tirunelveli – Hapa

30066 (BRC WAP5) 19115 1430 Bandra Terminus – Bhuj (to ADI – RTM WDM3A 18740 fwd)

6666 (SBI YDM4) 52908 1120 Ahmedabad – Mahesana

6416 (SBI YDM4) 52909 1430 Mahesana – Ahmedabad

6261 (SBI YDM4) 52913 1235 Ranuj – Ahmedabad

6295 (SBI YDM4) 52907 1210 Mahesana – Ahmedabad

6386 (SBI YDM4) 52906 1355 Ahmedabad – Mahesana

6400 (SBI YDM4) 19944 2300 Ahmedabad – Udaipur City

Thursday 13th February 2014

I was asleep when the alarm woke me at 0515 and it soon became clear we were late; when 0530 came and went and we hadn’t arrived into Gandhidam. Thankfully we were only 25 late upon arrival, firstly because I was only on a plus 60 for my return train to Ahmedabad and secondly to allow time for chai before boarding my train back.

There wasn’t much need for rushing anyway as I found 19452 0630 Gandhidam – Bandra Terminus on platform 3 with VTA WDG3A 13515 still shunting the stock together. The reason for doing this train in the first place, and retracing my steps back to Gandhidam, was as it was one of only two trains a week that ran via Mobri & Wankaner to/from Ahmedabad; all the passenger trains between the two being DMU’s. To be treated to a VTA Shakti on the train was a bit of a bonus really. Unfortunately though, I found out later in the morning, it was another Shakti that wasn’t up to much; it seeming that VTA Shakti’s weren’t anywhere near as good as either they should be, or as any other shed’s!

As I’d had a short night’s sleep I was very grateful of the 7 hour journey back to Ahmedabad; during which I found a completely empty compartment, closed the curtains, turned out the lights, got my eye-mask and earplugs out and spent the first 4 hours horizontal; catching up on some much needed sleep and relaxation time!

Fully refreshed I was dropped into Ahmedabad just in time to watch SBI YDM4 6325 departing from the MG platforms, with 52906 1355 Ahmedabad – Mahesana, as we literally crawled into platform 10. Had I actually got off my train just outside the station I could have boarded 52906 as it came to a stand just outside the station! With no other move available I used the time to get lunch at the Moti Mahal restaurant; which is a few doors nearer to the station than the Ritz Inn. While there it seemed like there had been a bit of pick-pocketing going on as someone had clearly had something taken and it seemed that their accusations were towards the staff as the owner of the place went round checking all their pockets. One young lad was getting a bit of a telling, whether he’d been responsible for serving the guys in the first place I don’t know but I never saw him again after the incident……

I’d arranged to meet up with Vic Lines during the afternoon and had originally planned to do so on 52906 at Sabarmati; until of course I missed it. I was bemused to then find him on the station footbridge; both of us as it turns out were waiting to photograph what turned out to be ABR WDM3A 16354 arriving with 19224 Jammu Tawi – Ahmedabad. We then spent the remainer of the day together doing an evening bash on the MG; just for old time’s sake…..

Having done 52926 1550 Ahmedabad – Khed Brahma to Naroda the previous day; both of us were doing the same move we’d done already on the trip and the kids playing cricket by the side of Naroda station were completely finished when we both turned up; having seen both of us at different times during the previous week. Unlike my previous trip, the day before, the return train was already waiting but this time was on the loop line and not the platform line; which actually made for better photos during the time the token took to go through the machine and get to the loco pilot of SBI YDM4 6261; meanwhile SBI YDM4 6416 was away into the distance with 52926.

The stock for 52912 1745 Ahmedabad – Mahesana was already in when we got back and ex FL machine 6628 was just shunting out ot back onto it. There wasn’t much room on board and it ended up being standing room only. We’d toyed with doing VTA WDM3D 11229 to Sabarmati on 12957 1645 Ahmedabad – New Delhi Rajdhani but couldn’t actually confirm if the train was actually booked to stop at Sabarmati or not and came to the conclusion that when I’d done it the previous day I may well have been quite lucky when it did; there were no reservations on the sheets pasted to the train at all from Sabarmati so that would be one to figure out when I got home. Either way it departed slightly late anyway and we were more concerned about holding on to our standing space; which unfortunately we ended up sharing with a load of youths and really it was the first myther either of us had been subjected to on the whole trip. By the time we got to Kalol though they’d calmed down a bit but I was still glad to be off the train and walking down the platform away from them.

SBI YDM4 6325 was our conveyance back to Ahmedabad, with 19115 1825 Mahesana – Ahmedabad Intercity, the very same set and loco I’d watched leave when I missed it on the outward working earlier. As per the previous night it was full and standing in the aisles but it was a quicker run back into Ahmedabad with only a couple of minutes waiting at Khodiyar this time.

As Vic was staying in the Ritz Inn it would have been rude not to accompany him for a meal that evening; this being my third night there in a row. Still the food was good and plentiful and I left feeling full and ready to go but wasn’t quite envying my own overnight move at all and having bode farewell to Vic, who only had two days left of his trip, I waited it out on platform 1 again for 19115 Bandra Terminus – Bhuj; this time though I would be getting off at Dhrangadhra at 0206 in the morning for the only train of the day, that wasn’t a DMU, via Surendranagar to Bhavnagar Terminus.

RTM WDM3A 16813 ran through platform 1 about 10 minutes before 19115 arrived. Again the loco sat in the head-shunt until the WAP5 that brought the train in from Bandra was removed and then replaced it for the run forward. On this night there was already fresh bedding available when I got on and I was asleep before the train even departed Ahmedabad; everything strategically placed for a quick exit at 0206 in the morning……

The Moves

13515 VTA WDG3A Gandhidam Jct Ahmedabad Jct 0630 Gandhidam Jct – Bandra Terminus 19452
6416 SBI YDM4 Ahmedabad Jct Naroda 1550 Ahmedabad Jct – Khed Brahma 52926
6261 SBI YDM4 Naroda Ahmedabad Jct 1350 Himmatnagar – Ahmedabad Jct 52919
6628 SBI YDM4 Ahmedabad Jct Kalol Jct 1745 Ahmedabad Jct – Mahesana Jct 52912
6325 SBI YDM4 Kalol Jct Ahmedabad Jct 1825 Mahesana Jct – Ahmedabad Jct 19915
16813 RTM WDM3A Ahmedabad Jct Dhrangadhra Jct 1450 Bandra Terminus – Bhuj 19115

 

Gen for Thursday 13th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

18669 (RTM WDM3A) 19201 Secunderabad – Porbandar

16820 (RTM WDM3A) 59548 2210 (P) Okha – Ahmedabad

16354 (ABR WDM3A) 19223 Jammu Tawi – Ahmedabad

20101 (BGKT WDP4) 19106 Haridwar – Ahmedabad

6325 (SBI YDM4) 52906 1355 Ahmedabad – Mahesana

6416 (SBI YDM4) 52915 1350 Nandol Dahegam – Ahmedabad

6402 (SBI YDM4) 52909 1430 Mahesana – Ahmedabad

Friday 14th February 2014

My alarm woke me at 0200 and we were rolling into Dhrangadhra Jct 10 minutes later. There weren’t many people about but there were still stalls open selling chai. The stock for 59221 0400 Dhrangadhra – Bhavnagar was already in; having arrived at 2345 with the inbound from Bhavnagar. There was the odd person on board already and I joined the empty train at about 0215, finding myself a nice empty coach, with wooden luggage racks, towards the rear of the train away from the noise that the engine would make during its morning run; my main concern being the constant blowing of the horn, not the noise the Alco would make. Using my bag as a pillow, coat on and hat pulled down over my eyes, I was sock on in no time on my chosen luggage rack.

I was woken briefly as RTM WDM3A 16828 got the train underway at 0400 and the next time I woke the seating below was rammed with people and they were standing in the aisles; it was about 0830! Eventually I was asked to sit up so more people could get onto the luggage rack and at least sit down. From my vantage point, or not as the case was, it was hard to tell where we actually were; one of the passengers below eventually telling me we were at Sihor, which would have made us only a few minutes late; had he actually been correct in what he was telling me!

Having counted down the stations to what I worked out should have been Vartej, I got down off the rack to find that we were just rolling in to Sihor; which actually made us 30 minutes late. As there was no standing or seating space I gathered my stuff and barged my way towards the door; where I stood for the rest of my short lived journey as we crossed 59272 0835 Bhavnagar – Surendranagar at Vartej, two stations later. I couldn’t actually see the number of the loco on the train and had to just board at the rear of the train as I didn’t have enough time to get to the front. When we got to Sihor RTM WDM3A 16834 was already in and waiting to depart with 59267 0825 Palitana – Bhavnagar; which meant I had a mad dash towards the front of the train I’d just got off, on the ballast, to spot RTM WDM3A 16841, before running back across the ballast to board 16834’s train. With the sections being controlled by colour light signals and no tokens there was potential for crossings not to make; or at least be very tight on the legs! This time I was ok and the road towards Bhavnagar didn’t come off until I was safely in the vicinity of the train. Taking this into consideration though I chose to get off at Vartej rather than go through to Bhavnagar Para; where 59267 would cross 59225 0930 Bhavnagar Terminus – Mahuva.

Vartej is just a local station for local people and there weren’t many people waiting for the train and my wait was quite a peaceful 25 minutes; until RTM WDM3A 16811 broke the tranquillity of the place as it arrived with 59225. 16811 was by far the best of the 4 RTM WDM3A’s I’d had that morning, it was a shame I wasn’t doing it further; little did I realise at the time that it’d be conveying me around Gujarat the following day, for most of it! Having been dropped at Sihor I inadvertently ended up being there for almost 2 hours thanks to 12971 Bandra Terminus – Bhavnagar Terminus being an hour late; which I ultimately flagged as it was RTM WDM3A 18740, sheeping me around Gujarat it seemed. This train also being an hour late made 59202 1005 Bhavnagar – Palitana 45 minutes late as RTM WDM3A 16828 and train were held at Sihor to wait connections from 12971. I ended up on 59204 1110 Bhavnagar – Surendranagar forward to Sanosara, the stop before Dhola Jct, with RTM WDM3A 16834, where I waited in the shade of a waiting shelter on the platform for RTM WDM3A 16391 to emerge in the distance with 59233 0930 Surendranagar – Bhavnagar. 16391 was another very good engine and the noise it produced certainly made the journey to Bhavnagar Terminus enjoyable enough.

At Bhavnagar Terminus I had about 45 minutes to spare and used the time to walk down the road to the Hotel Mausam, out of the station and turn right and its about 300 yards up the road, where I’d already made a reservation a couple of days previous. The hotel staff were expecting me and were pleasant and spoke decent English. For the first time I saw a C form completed on the computer during check-in, which also had sections within to upload a scan of the passport, visa and also a photo taken by the hotel staff. This saved a lot of the usual messing about and I was shown to room 102 moments after arriving. The room was big with two single beds. It was a bit rough round the edges and the bedding wasn’t the cleanest I’d seen; there was a fan, AC and TV included. The bathroom was much of the same but it had 24/7 hot water, which would be much needed after a day on the bash in dusty Gujarat. Rooms started at RS650, without AC, mine cost RS950, RS988 including tax, with AC; which I ended up not even turning on!

Big bag left at the hotel my afternoon bash was a simple trip down the Palitana branch and return and it couldn’t have been with a better engine; RTM WDM3A 18740 was already sat on the train when I got to the station. It was a cracking engine, loud, crisp and its transition didn’t behave like micro-processor fitted locos should and came straight back in on full power; none of this building up slowly rubbish! The train was empty too, making for a very enjoyable afternoon trip out.

While I was photographing at Palitana the loco pilot spotted me and beckoned me up into the cab; bringing his loco to a stand to let me on. The cab of 18740 was basic, not like the recent re-builds with computerised dials and gauges, everything that 18740 possessed, other than the ammeter, was mechanical. The control standing in the cab were also different, with the main desk for driving short hood leading having brake handles that moved side to side, as usual, but the desk for driving long hood leading had upright brake controllers; a bit like joysticks. On the cab wall were contact numbers for Senior Mechanical Engineers at Ratlam DLS; different numbers in case of mechanical or electrical faults; 18740 was working just fine though and didn’t need any assistance on this day in its life.

Having been treated to chai by the shunter, who rode with the loco during the run round, I sat and enjoyed the return journey to Bhavnagar Terminus as the sun sank from the sky allowing darkness to get a grip of Bhavnagar as it did so; which in turn brought with it the nocturnal buzzing of mosquitoes. I’d done well not to get bitten many times during the trip thus far and wasn’t going to allow them to get the better of me on this evening either; my hat protecting my head from any that tried to get a piece of me!

Back at the Hotel Mausam I settled my bill as I didn’t want to be messing about at 0430 the following morning. As the hotel restaurant didn’t open until 1900 I used the hour I had free to sort my life out, which even included a shave; which always makes a man feel human again. Unfortunately the chef hadn’t turned up by 1900 so the restaurant couldn’t open; this led me to investigate outside by 1910. I was back at the hotel 10 minutes later having decided that Bhavnagar has very little to offer food wise, other than fast food at huts scattered along the roads; all of which are constantly plied by road traffic, kicking up dust, and covering any food in god only knows what! Thankfully the chef had turned up by the time I got back and the Kashmiri Dum Aloo he produced was well worth the wait. The guy at the hotel’s reception had said the food was good at the hotel and he wasn’t wrong at all.

I was in bed by 2015, my earplugs just about drowning out the noise from the road below; thankfully I was tired enough for that not to bother me at all……

The Moves

16828 RTM WDM3A Dhrangadhra Jct Vartej 0400 Dhrangadhra Jct – Bhavnagar Terminus 59229
16841 RTM WDM3A Vartej Sihor Jct 0835 Bhavnagar Terminus – Surendranagar Jct 59272
16834 RTM WDM3A Sihor Jct Vartej 0825 Palitana – Bhavnagar Terminus 59267
16811 RTM WDM3A Vartej Sihor Jct 0930 Bhavnagar Terminus – Mahuva 59225
16834 RTM WDM3A Sihor Jct Sanosara 1110 Bhavnagar Terminus – Surendranagar Jct 59204
16391 RTM WDM3A Sanosara Bhavnagar Terminus 0930 Surendranagar Jct – Bhavnagar Terminus 59233
18740 RTM WDM3A Bhavnagar Terminus Palitana 1455 Bhavnagar Terminus – Palitana 59296
18740 RTM WDM3A Palitana Bhavnagar Terminus 1630 Palitana – Bhavnagar Terminus 59295

 

Gen for Friday 14th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

16828 (RTM WDM3A) 59202 1005 Bhavnagar – Palitana, 59201 1230 Palitana – Bhavnagar, 59234 1425 Bhavnagar – Surendranagar

18740 (RTM WDM3A) 12971 (P) Bandra Terminus – Bhavnagar, 59270 1810 Bhavnagar – Palitana, 59269 2015 Palitana – Bhavnagar

16841 (RTM WDM3A) 59230 1840 Bhavnagar – Dhrangadhra

Saturday 15th February 2014

Needless to say I was woken by my alarm at 0415 yet I was thoroughly refreshed after a very good, solid, sleep during the night. I had to wake hotel staff to open the locked gate to let me out of the hotel but all was well once they’d decided who was actually going to let me out. The streets outside were deserted, with only the odd person heading in the direction of the railway station; there was nothing on the roads at all.

RTM WDM3A 18740 was being prepared by  its crew, as I got to the station, to work 59228 0500 Bhavnagar – Botad; and for the 4th day during the trip I was conveyed by 18740! The train wasn’t too full but did arrive into Dhola  about 20 minutes late, where RTM WDM3A 16811 was waiting to head in the opposite direction with 59235 0630 Dhola – Mahuva. There was a mass cross platform movement of people from my train to the Mahuva passenger so I got a bit of a spurt on to make sure I got a seat; my plight not helped by the fact that I was at the front of the Botad passenger and had quite a lot of ground to cover to get to the Mahuva passenger in the first place. In the end all was well and there were plenty of seats and more importantly plenty of luggage racks empty. As I positioned my bag at one end of the luggage rack and began to hoist myself up I heard a voice behind me ask “are you Indian?”. The response was of course a polite “No” but I did tell the guy that I’d travelled on enough Indian passenger trains to know that if you wanted some peace and quiet then the luggage rack was the place to be; he seemed to fully understand and then left me to my own devices, where I stayed for over two hours. The train filled up en-route but then emptied out at Savarkundla, leaving plenty of room for me to get down from the luggage rack and enjoy the rest of the journey towards Mahuva in relative comfort.

Arrival into Mahuva was prompt and by the time I’d dodged the people on the platform to get to the front end of the train for a photo the loco had already been detached to run round. I beat it back to the other end and even managed chai, from the only stall on the station, before 16811 was bolted back to the stock for its run to Rajula City; which was the only train of the day to Rajula City. It turned out that 16811 was a very good engine; which I was quite pleased about as it would be conveying me around Gujarat for the majority of the day. It was so good that I changed ends at Rajaula Junction, where it ran round, and even managed some fried bits from again, the only stall on the platform, before I got into the opposite end. Not only had the front coaches at either end of the train been empty but the whole load 9 rake was pretty much empty throughout; making the journey all the more relaxing.

It turns out that the Bhavnagar/Mahuva areas are cotton producing areas, very evident by the little white buds clinging to the bushes in the endless fields surrounding the whole area; as far as the eye can see. Some were being harvested by swarms of cotton pickers, meticulously stripping every bush of every useable piece of cotton as they went through each field with military precision; leaving a clear and distinct line where they’d worked up to. Those fields that had been stripped completely of cotton were having their bushes removed and bundled up, probably to be used for burning.

Rajula City is on the Rajula Junction to Pipav Port line; a line obviously used heavily by freight to/from the port. The station is a one platform affair with a loop and a fair sized station building; including a ticket office. There were several unmanned stations between Rajula Junction and Mahuva where the guard would sell tickets from the rear of the train to all those waiting; the train not being allowed to depart until all had parted with their fare. The tickets were all in separate boxes for each station concerned and all of the Edmondson type. The boxes for which were added/removed from the train at Rajula Junction as I saw them being put back on during our return journey.

It was a hot day and I wasn’t into festering about in the sun so much so got my photos at Rajula City and hid away from it inside the front coach. As we curved back round into Rajula Junction station SBI WDG4 12909 was sat waiting to head down to Pipav with a container train. It was actually sat on what was effectively an avoiding line at Rajula Junction; as the loop it was on didn’t link with the station at all and only headed down onto the Pipav Port line, there was no getting towards Mahuva from where it was sat. I changed ends again at Rajula Junction for the run back into Mahuva. The crew on 16811 being the same crew that had kicked off from Dhola with it at 0630 and by Mahuva at 1320, by my reckoning they’d been on duty for 7h20m and had basically worked non-stop with a maximum changing end time of 25 minutes and having done 5 run rounds in the duration of their shift. I’m betting that this turn wasn’t one that everyone wanted to be doing on a regular basis; working to the maximum turn length, no rest and 5 run rounds in a shift, I know it wouldn’t be my cup of tea if I was a loco pilot! Still the crew had shown what 16811 was capable of and had provided me with some decent thrash through their shift; it was now up to the afternoon crew to do the same. I have to say that without a good engine like 16811 on the turn it would have been a lot wosre a day than it was; and unfortunately the day was about to take a turn for the worse…

I had a feeling we’d be slightly late away from Mahuva with 59226 1420 Mahuva – Bhavnagar as there was an inbound due into Mahuva at 1415 and RTM WDM3A 16834 didn’t arrive with 59225 0930 Bhavnagar – Mahuva until 1445; which resulted in a 28 minute late start for us. I wasn’t too concerned at that point as I had 46 minutes to play with before my connection onto my MG train from Dhasa to Jetalsar went down the pan. At Rajula Junction though the realisation sunk in that there was ea very high possibility that I would miss my connection at Dhasa; just as we came to a stand a goods train was set off, from the loop beside us, in the same direction we were travelling in! This little stunt, while probably the correct regulating decision, resulted in us being 60 late away from Rajula Junction and resigned me to having no choice but to work out an alternative plan to be prepared in the event that I did miss my train at Dhasa. I was supposed to be going to Porbandar that night, from Rajkot, but the chances of making that were zero so the only alternative I could come up with was doing the Mahuva – Bhavnagar all the way back to Bhavnagar and hoping that there was some room in AC on 12972 Bhavnagar – Bandra Terminus, which I could do to Ahmedabad for ultimately 12906 Howrah – Porbandar to its destination the following morning and get back into Rajkot that night to be back on track and check in to the hotel I’d booked a few days previous. Not ideal at all but it was a plan; and all worked out before we arrived into Savarkundla, where the train wedged out completely; making my miserable afternoon a little more unpleasant, and it didn’t stop there…

I had a single side seat, the one by the emergency window, which was of course open so I could listen to 16811, despite my obvious dissatisfaction at the afternoon’s proceedings. While minding my own business, and trying to not get kicked by the child sat on the seat in front of me, a young girl burst through the crowd, leant over me and threw up straight out of the window; narrowly avoiding my lap as she did so! There she stayed for a few minutes until I let her share my seat so she could use the window to do what she needed at anytime; and she needed it alright, at least three more times. Bless her she looked absolutely awful; rather selfishly though I was thinking rather her than me at that point as there would be nothing worse than travelling alone and feeling like she did. Luckily she had her family around to look after her.

The moment of truth approached and as we arrived into Dhasa I could see a lot of people getting ready to get off; of course for most it could actually be their destination. I was out of the window, making sure I avoided any chunks that the poor girl had deposited on the coach side while I was, and then came a glimmer of hope; the familiar lilac colour of an SBI YDM4, which was attached to a set of stock. As we entered the station it was evident that SBI YDM4 6394 was heading my train, 52932 1730 Dhasa – Jetalsar, as it was loaded with people; it seemed as though luck was on my side on this day. As I boarded the train, in sleeper class, I got chatting to a guy who was travelling down the line who told me that once the Mahuva – Bhavnagar passenger gets to 2 hours late then the MG to Jetalsar is let go until that point it will be held for the connection; which is always good to know.

Since my last journey on the Jetalsar area MG network it seemed like things had actually gone up in the world; which was a novelty for the MG anywhere in India. Firstly the train was load 7, which included a sleeper class coach, and the last time I’d done it, it was no more than load 4. Secondly the run was probably one of the best I’ve had on the MG anywhere in India, at any time! It was fast, covering the 107km from Dhasa to Jetalsar in 2h10m, which is an average speed of about 50kmph throughout and with 9 intermediate station stops this is better than a lot of BG trains. What’s more the station stops were brief, the token exchanges being done efficiently, as the train arrived, and not after it had come to a stand with someone halfheartedly walking towards the engine as if they had all the time in the world. If anything the stops were a little longer than needed as the time between the loco pilot blowing up and him being given permission to proceed from the guard was sometimes a good 30 seconds. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable journey, in a sleeper class coach, with a cracking YDM4 in 6394 on the front and I was even treated to chai en-route by my fellow passengers. All the worry and heartache caused by the Mahuva – Bhavnagar passenger was taken away in on fell swoop; its truly amazing how such a good experience can change the mood of the day and by Jetalsar I was feeling loads better about proceedings than I had been 4 hours earlier.

As it was dark I could only spot the number of one of the two YDM4s on Jetalsar shed, this being 6220. The only other one I saw was 6326, waiting to depart as we arrived, with 52947 2015 Jetalsar – Dhasa; which it did so spot on time. I’d been hoping to make a dead level onto 59424 Somnath – Rajkot passenger but was relieved to even be at Jetalsar, let alone have made that train; there was another behind to Rajkot so I wasn’t too bothered. Yet it hadn’t actually gone and both it and the opposing working of 59423 Rajkot – Somnath both crossed at Jetalsar; RTM WDM3A 16835 heading to Somnath and RTM WDM3A 16829 heading to Rajkot. As I didn’t need either I ended up festering at Jetalsar for 19222 Veraval – Ahmedabad Express anyway.

As I’d not eaten very well during the day, fresh fried bits being pulled out of thr fat were a very welcome sight as I walked down the platform and a bag full went down a treat. Once both the passenger trains had departed though the vendors seemed to disappear into thin air; leaving the platforms at Jetalsar devoid of almost any life at all. This actually suited me and allowed me to gather my thoughts and just chill, hidden by the depths of darkness that shrouded certain areas of the station but also fending off mosquitoes the whole time I was there!

19222 Veraval – Ahmedabad is due into Jetalsar at 2150  and just after that time I heard a train coming in the distance; unfortunately I didn’t like the noise I heard. Try as I might to make out some sort of Alco chug from the sound in the distance it was fruitless and ultimately the familiar drone of a GM just got louder and louder as it approached the station. I was already thinking ahead as I was booked on 19222 all the way from Veraval to Ahmedabad the day before I went home and didn’t want to be having to contend with a GM on the final long distance train of the trip; still I was surprised to see SBI WDG4 12413 emerge from the darkness and began scanning the stock for the AC to see if there was any room to Rajkot. I had no choice at this point and had to do 19222 to Rajkot regardless of what it was. I couldn’t find any AC on the train and strangely the set was only load 7, all of which were sleeper coaches; the relief as 12413 accelerated with the train and went straight through the platform was quite great. I can only assume that the train was some sort of special private train. Still to actually see an SBI WDG4 on a passenger train of any kind is very rare and this was the first I’d seen; private train or not.

The actual 19222 Veraval – Ahmedabad followed the SBI machine quite closely behind and was headed by the correct traction in RTM WDM3A 16172. There was even room for me to relax for the short journey to Rajkot in 3AC; where one long day ended and the next began immediately after arrival!

The Moves

18740 RTM WDM3A Bhavnagar Terminus Dhola Jct 0500 Bhavnagar Terminus – Botad Jct 59228
16811 RTM WDM3A Dhola Jct Mahuva 0630 Dhola Jct – Mahuva 59235
16811 RTM WDM3A Mahuva Rajula City 1025 Mahuva – Rajula City 59244
16811 RTM WDM3A Rajula City Mahuva 1205 Rajula City – Mahuva 59243
16811 RTM WDM3A Mahuva Dhasa Jct 1420 Mahuva – Bhavnagar City 59226
6394 SBI YDM4 Dhasa Jct Jetalsar Jct 1730 Dhasa Jct – Jetalsar Jct 52932
16172 RTM WDM3A Jetalsar Jct Rajkot Jct 1935 Veraval – Ahmedabad Jct 19222

 

Gen for Saturday 15th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

16834 (RTM WDM3A) 59225 0930 Bhavnagar – Mahuva

16835 (RTM WDM3A) 59423 1820 Rajkot – Somnath

16829 (RTM WDM3A) 59424 0420 Somnath – Rajkot

12413 (SBI WDG4) Special headed north through Jetalsar (non-stop) at approx 2200

6326 (SBI YDM4) 52947 2015 Jetalsar – Dhasa Jct

Sunday 16th February 2014

Having spent the first 2 hours of  the day train spotting at Rajkot I didn’t have much to show for it  but did see RTM WDM3A 14071 head south with 19252 Okha – Somnath; a train I was booked on in two days time. My train, 19215 Mumbai Central – Porbandar, for the short overnight journey to Porbandar arrived with classmate RTM WDM3A 14078. My lower berth in 3AC was already partially made up and it took no time at all to get to bed; strangely I wasn’t as tired as I thought I might be but sleep soon came.

I was woken by the systematic turning on of lights throughout the coach as we approached Porbandar. Originally I’d had a plan to do 59297 0605 Porbandar – Somnath passenger to Jetalsar and starting the day from there, however my lack of sleep for the previous two days had me back to my very original plan of doing 12905 0700 Porbandar – Howrah instead; on board which I had a reservation in 2AC to Ahmedabad; one of those just in case reservations, which was going to get used to Rajkot in this instance.

Even though we arrived into Porbandar after 0605 I would have still made the 0605 Somnath passenger, had I scurried across the ballast for it; it departed about 15 minutes late with RTM WDM3A 18864. The set for my 12905 was sat in platform 1 and when I got to the front to check the loco VTA WDM3A 18830 was just being attached; it was in a turquoise livery with shakti stripes on the side. It seemed a few DLS’s are adopting this shakti type design on their WDM3D’s; I’ve seen BNDM ones also like it.

The 4h30m journey to Rajkot was just what I needed; a compartment to myself, no noise, a bit of sleep and an omelette for breakfast to boot. Feeling about as refreshed as I could be I headed straight for the Hotel Aditya when I got to Rajkot; I had over an hour to kill and there wasn’t any need to cart the big bag around when it wasn’t necessary! The auto to the hotel took about 10 minutes and cost RS50; there are no visible hotels within walking distance of the station. The hotel staff were expecting me when I arrived and check-in was seamless. The room I chose was a middle of the bunch one; the Deluxe room costing RS1100 excluding tax. It was a large room with a massive double bed, TV, fan and AC. The water wasn’t red hot that night when I returned but it was suitable for a “warm” shower. While the room was clean enough the bathroom could have done to be a bit cleaner but all in all it was a decent choice.

I didn’t hang about the hotel too long as I had an idea in my head; courtesy of what appeared to be a load of demic steam locos I saw at Rajkot workshops as we came by. Having paid my RS50 to get back to Rajkot station that was where the fun began. Eventually though I found an auto driver who knew what I was talking about and understood the fact I wanted to photograph steam locos at the workshop; and off we set. We picked up a mate of his round the corner, who turned out to be a retired railway worker; his knowledge of the railway colony that we’d have to go through to get to the workshops would prove invaluable.

Initially I thought I was being taken on a ride to somewhere completely different to where I’d asked to go but it turns out that the only access to the workshops, other than by foot, is through the railway colony and to get to that we had to head a short distance out of town, to then turn back on ourselves. I could see where we needed to be and after about 10 minutes we turned in the right direction and entered the railway colony; which was where the guy we’d picked up came into his element and guided the driver to where we needed to be. Sure enough we eventually pulled up alongside where the steam locos were dumped; at the back of the workshop only 20 yards from the footpath we’d driven down, and they weren’t fenced off at all. Once I’d confirmed that the auto driver would wait I was off exploring. I found the following, all stabled on one line: (furthest from Rajkot) YG3474, YG3334, YG3261, YG3318 (all coupled together) then YG3437 (stabled about 50 yards nearer Rajkot than the others). It appeared that the road they were all stabled on could well have been the old ash road as the whole of the surrounding underfoot was ash; and nothing but. Whether these locos had all been just left where they currently rotted I don’t know but some kind person had clearly marked the numbers of each loco on the cab side in white paint; this looked quite recent too. There were no visible marking anywhere else as the their identities. The sun was good in the early afternoon on the side away from the workshops so I didn’t have to venture too far into potentially forbidden territory but just as I finished getting the photos I wanted a token police office turned up on his motorbike; whether just passing by or having seen me snooping about I don’t know. Of course he wanted to know “why I was snapping these loco’s” and fortunately took my explanation, understood that to me they were part of history and let me go about my business and I wasted no time in clambering back into my waiting auto to get out of there before he changed his mind; as with most Indian police he didn’t look the friendliest type!

Back at the station I took the opportunity to photograph the plinthed steam loco just outside the station entrance, numbered 91 ZB. Something that I forgot to photograph though was the model of WDG4 12664, which was quite sizeable, mounted above the station building; I realised that night when I returned that it actually had working twin beam headlamps.

The afternoon move got off to a flying start when RTM WDM3A 16849 arrived with 11466 Jabalpur – Somnath and then crossed the opposing working of 11463 Somnath – Jabalpur at Bhaktinagar with RTM WDM3A 16815, a short run out of town; I was back in Rajkot within 35 minutes and walking down the tracks to get a very good shot of 16815 as it departed round the curve towards Wankaner. The afternoon move to get more engines in would have been to head back south again on 19119 Ahmedabad – Somnath but I’d toyed with the idea of heading north to Wankaner to do 17018 Secunderabad – Rajkot back in as I’d spotted it heading through Sabarmati Town, from the footbridge at Sabarmati Junction, with twin KZJ WDG3A’s the previous week; and while booked for twin WDM3A’s as they say you have to speculate to accumulate.

I pondered the move while I walked round the curve to photograph what could have been my back-up move to Porbandar arrive, had my plans gone awry at Jetalsar the previous evening. VTA WDG3A headed 12906 Howrah – Porbandar as it rounded the curve into the station; my concentration being slightly hindered during photographing it by the two girls tapping at my knees, begging for money. I managed to shake them off as I headed back towards the station but the whole while they were being ushered on by their mother in the distance; which is quite usual for begging, using the children in attempt to pull on the heart strings. I was having none of it though and just wanted some shade from the afternoon heat!

I didn’t make my mind up what to do until RTM WDM3A 16196 was arriving with 19119 Ahmedabad – Somnath, at which point I realised it was unreserved and wedged. It was also running late and the booked crossings with northbound trains would end up being out of sync so when RTM WDM3A 16820 blew up in the adjacent platform I leapt across the tracks and into the offside of the train as it departed with 19018 Jamnagar – Bandra Terminus; and what an excellent choice of an afternoon’s bash it turned out to be.

Having photographed 16820 departing Wankaner Junction I was ambling back down the tracks when bI spotted what looked to be an old loco shed and then in the distance a steam loco, all on its own. While I knew that Wankaner Junction had been the last shed to home working steam locos on Indian Railways I hadn’t expected to find the very loco shed still standing, derelict, as though folks had just moved out and the pigeons had just moved in; and what was more, inside the derelict shed were three more steam locos. I don’t really now how to describe the scene but it was just like discovering a hidden gem of history, yet it was on full view of anyone and everyone who walked by the place. Access isn’t restricted and nobody batted an eyelid while I spent 45 minutes exploring the murky depths of the two road MG shed that was once the mighty Wankaner Junction Steam Loco Shed.

The pit roads, not completely under cover, were a little eerie in some respects in that the closed doors to the various rooms, all with titles still above the doors, looked as though anyone could walk in or out at any moment and the place was just so peaceful; the only sound being the distant cooing of pigeons coming from inside the main shed. YP2825 sits with its smoke box end sticking out from inside the shed towards the pit roads, parked immediately behind, inside the shed is YG4129 and beside that on the adjacent road is YP2150. Both the locos inside the shed don’t have their tenders attached but there are 4 locos at Wankaner and 4 tenders, 4129’s was found attached to the rear of YP2813, which is the only loco fully outside in the open, 2825 & 2813 both have tenders attached so this would likely mean that the tender outside the front of the shed would belong to 2150?

Inside the shed was just like a museum, unfortunately one covered in pigeon crap, feathers and cobwebs. Both 2150 & 4129 were covered from cab roof to wheelbase in cobwebs and various pigeon related bits; this was the same for the parts of 2825 that were inside the shed. I was in my element while taking photos, most of those inside having to be taken with a flash but the atmosphere around the place more than made up for it. I was like a lost kid discovering a whole new world, just one that had been left for a few decades to decay. The state of the locos was beyond any form of salvage at all; all had collapsed springs and the cab floors had rotted through, pipe work had come loose and various bits of the wheel arrangements were not connected to each other any more. It was a real shame as somewhere such as Wankaner, that had a real connection to the Indian steam scene, could have done well to preserve the little bit of history it had left laying around; while it had the chance. As it stands now the loco parked outside, YP2813, is part of the local volleyball court, and the three inside the shed will probably never see daylight again; until of course the shed roof collapses and covers them in a somewhat unwanted makeshift grave! Until then long may these relics of Indian Railways survive as they do so currently.

Having been to the likes of Machu Picchu recently the walk round Wankaner Shed was almost as awe inspiring as staring out over the ruins in Peru! It was a bit of a come down when I had to leave and head back over to the station and back into Rajkot; still there was another bonus to come. I hadn’t realised that there was a passenger train due back into Rajkot; 59503 1240 Viramgam – Okha. This as it hadn’t shown up on the Rail Time app at all! Sure enough it was o table 4(P) of the Western Timetable and was sat in the platform in front of me before I realised what was going off. Once I’d gathered my thoughts and figured  out what was occurring, the guy who I’d been stood talking to or more being talked at became very useful.

The loco pilot of VTA WDM3D 14166 confirmed that the passenger would leave before 17018 Secnderabad – Rajkot arrived and thus the guy I’d been talking to, who just so happened to be an auto driver, was dispatched to Wankaner City the moment the train got the road; I boarded 14166’s train and turned up at Wankaner City a few minutes later; my auto driver was already sat there waiting. The short trip back to Wankaner Junction took the direct route over the old MG bridge and I was back, standing in the same spot, 15 minutes after departing Wankaner Junction in the first place.

17018 Secunderabad – Rajkot crept into Wankaner Junction unannounced and it was evident from the moment the locos came into sight that my speculation had paid off as KZJ WDG3A’s 14890/13407 brought the strain to a stand in the platform. Surprisingly there was room to sit in the front unreserved coach; unfortunately the loco pilot wasn’t very good at punishing his locos and quite unlike VTA WDG3A 13475 the previous week, this pair seemed to be able to handle their train, and too well. The 21 coaches not taxing them at all and thus resulting in not a great deal of thrash; and some pretty crap driving from a crank’s point of view.

17018 was 35 late into Rajkot but the KZJ twins topped of a very good day out. I had a bit more of a hunt on my hands to find an auto to get me to the Hotel Aditya that evening, some wanted RS80 and one cheeky bugger wanted RS100; I soon found one that would take me for RS50 though and was back at the hotel ordering food 15 minutes later. While the Aditya doesn’t have a restaurant it does have 24 hour room service, which was quick and the food very good, as well as being piping hot.

As this was the last night I’d spend in a hotel I made the most of the facilities and made sure everything was fully charged overnight before getting a semi-early night in the first non-moving bed for three nights…..

The Moves

14078 RTM WDM3A Rajkot Jct Porbandar 0820 (15/02) Mumbai Central – Porbandar 19215
18830 VTA WDM3A Porbandar Rajkot Jct 0700 Porbandar – Howrah 12905
16849 RTM WDM3A Rajkot Jct Bhaktinagar 1000 (15/02) Jabalpur Jct – Somnath 11466
16815 RTM WDM3A Bhaktinagar Rajkot Jct 0930 Somnath – Jabalpur Jct 11463
16820 RTM WDM3A Rajkot Jct Wankaner Jct 1340 (15/02) Jamnagar – Bandra Terminus 19018
14166 VTA WDM3D Wankaner Jct Wankaner City 1240 Viramgam Jct – Okha 59503
Auto Auto-rickshaw Wankaner City Wankaner Jct RS50, 2km, 10 mins
14890 MLY WDG3A’s Wankaner Jct Rajkot Jct 1500 (15/02) Secunderabad – Rajkot Jct 17018
13407

 

Gen for Sunday 16th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

14071 (RTM WDM3A) 19252 (P) Okha – Somnath

18608 (RTM WDM3A) 19216 (P) Porbandar – Mumbai Central

18864 (RTM WDM3A) 59297 0605 Porbandar – Somnath

16811 (RTM WDM3A) 59207 2125 (P) Bhavnagar Terminus – Okha (VTA WDG3A 13486 dead in tow)

13515 (VTA WDG3A) 12906 (PP) Howrah – Porbandar

16196 (RTM WDM3A) 19119 1030 Ahmedabad – Somnath Intercity

11418 (RTM WDM3D) 19006 Okha – Mumbai Central

Rajkot Workshops:

YG’s 3474, 3334, 3261, 3318 & 3437

Wankaner Junction Derelict Loco Shed:

YP’s 2813, 2825, 2150 & YG 4129

Monday 17th February 2014

I’d wanted to pay my bill at the Hotel Aditya the previous night to save on the hassle factor when checking out at stupid o’clock in a morning; to give the staff their due though, and to say they were all asleep when I got down to reception at 0545, they were quite efficient in getting me out of the door. Unfortunately the night watchman wasn’t too efficient in finding me an auto, to take me to the station, in the deserted streets of Rajkot! Eventually one came round the corner but he had occupants; I got the impression that he would return for me once he’d disposed of his occupants so waited outside the hotel doors for him to return. As with buses, auto’s are the same, none for ages then loads at once. I wasn’t wasting the opportunity though and in I got and off to the station we set; to the sound of a constant horn pipping behind us and then some idiot cutting us up and ranting at my driver. It turned out to be the guy who’d said he’d return for me, which he obviously had, and I was getting the impression that he wasn’t too pleased that his fare had gone with someone else. I waved the driver on and off we set again, only for the idiot behind to come racing up alongside again; this time I told him where to go with his stupid driving and to get out of the way so we could crack on; my driver then cut the treat off as he set off to avoid any more stupidity. The losing driver was last seen heading in the opposite direction pipping his horn at anyone stood still; trying to create a fare. In the end I was quite glad I hadn’t gone with him anyway!

It soon became very clear that getting up at 0515 was a complete and utter waste of time as my 0640 departure to Okha, 19570 Varanasi – Okha, was down the pan. When I first checked it was only 35 late; the damn thing ended up being over 2h30m late by the time I got on board. I departed Rajkot at 0845 on 19017 Bandra – Jamnagar instead, as it was in front of 19570, and it would have been rude to turn down RTM WDM3D 11418. In the meantime I’d done nothing but pace the platforms and drink chai; Rajkot hadn’t opened up very early at all and the breakfast bits were only just becoming available as I departed. Thankfully I managed to get some pakoras before I left as this would be my last meal (if you can call it that) of the day!!

I only did 11418 to Hapa where I waited for 19570 behind, which turned up with VTA WDM3D 11244 in the turquoise livery with “shakti” markings on the side. It was a bit of a machine as well and with the AC being at the front of the 21 coach train I was able to stand at the door and soak up the noise. I spent most of the trip to Dwarka realxing in the empty compartment I had; figuring out what to do with the day as my first move would have been a plus 45 at Okha. While slackly timed 19570 was never going to recover enough time for me to go through and the only option became getting off at Dwarka and waiting for 16733 Ramsewaram – Okha behind; which I would have done back into Okha had I made the plus 45 onto 19006 Okha – Mumbai Central in the first place. As it happens RTM WDM3A 18608 arriving with it, under the semaphores at Dwarka, made for a nice photo; as did the one of VTA WDM3D 11244 departing with the train I’d just got off.

It was a bit of a faff when the trains crossed at Dwarka, the crossing keeper having to walk from his hut, all the way to the platform where 11244 and train were stood, to operate the points and set the road manually. He then had to walk back to his hut and put the road crossing barriers down before the loco pilot could be given the tip to proceed; it took about 10 minutes in all.

As I walked down the platform there was a horrible screeching sound from down on the tracks; it was coming from a small dog. I actually thought the bigger dog, that had got it by the back of the neck, in it’s mouth, was just playing with it until the shrills got louder and more painful as the bigger dog began shaking it about violently. I hadn’t seen what had provoked the attack but if it hadn’t been for a local throwing a piece of ballast towards the noise then I was positive that the smaller dog would have certainly been the victim of some savage attack and succumbed to its injuries. As it was it was still shrieking as it hobbled off down the ballast, more because it needed to get its breath I think. It eventually stopped and wondered off into the depths of the tracks somewhere; looking a little worse for wear the poor thing. Unfortunately that little episode took my mind of the matter at hand, which had been to go and get photos of the steam loco that was right outside the station door; I never did get any and namely because I didn’t make it back to Dwarka as planned that afternoon thanks to some very poor regulating outside Okha station.

ED WDM3D 11222 turned up with a very empty 16733 Rameswaram – Okha; which was quite fitting really as the last time I’d had it was out of Kanniyakumari, the furthest south station on the IR network, and I was about to have it to Okha, the furthest west. It sounded very good indeed, from the empty confines of the front coach and it was a good run all the way to Okha’s home signal, where we then sat for 25 minutes; the road in coming off at 1444, 1 minute before 59208 1445 Okha – Bhavnagar was due away.

There was never going to be an issue with missing the train due to the token exchange that had to occur but when RTM WDM3A 16834, which I’d had in the Bhavnagar area a couple of days previous, depart 10 late with the train there was a decision to be made and as usual I made completely the wrong one; but for all the right reasons.

59208 was a plus 20 at Mithapur for 19005 Mumbai Central – Okha back. I’d already figured out on the way in that Mithapur wasn’t a passing loop but merely a single line platform; the loop being at the next station towards Dwarka so the decision had to be based on nothing more than a judgement call and my judgement call was to get off. The alternative option was originally to go through to Dwarka where it was a dead level onto 19566 Dehradun – Okha. Live Trains had confirmed that 19566 was running to time and also that 19005 was about 10 minutes late. The pitfall of ending up being held en-route and missing 19566 at Dwarka was a 4 hour fester with no trains back to Okha at all that evening; so you can understand my reasoning for playing the safe card. Of course I needn’t have bothered as while stood at Mithapur RTM WDM3D 11479 came highballing through light engine; it had been sat at Okha when we left. Whatever crossing scenarios then went on between me at Dwarka resulted in RTM WDM3A 16820 rolling in with 19005 just the 50 minutes late; despite showing as arriving into Dwarka right time!

I soon discovered Okha to be a sleepy town, other than immediately outside the station and there was nothing other than the odd shack selling snacks to get anything to eat so I had to make do with crisps and biscuits as an afternoon meal; nowhere near ideal but unfortunately the only option available. Food wasn’t the only thing I didn’t get at Okha; a photo of RTM WDM3A 16820 at the most easterly end of the IR metals was also not doable due to some RPF guy telling me it was prohibited to take photos as it was a coastal area; what a crap excuse! I ended up walking down the deserted roads to the sea, where I actually wasn’t going to bother taking any photos, but I got some anyway; just because it was a coastal area and to give a big up yours to the RPF guy really.

I started the day veging about Rajkot station and I finished it veging about Okha station; neither really ideal but as the only bit of track I now needed in Gujarat for Alco was Veraval – Somnath I couldn’t complain; but wouldn’t be rushing back to Okha any time soon….

As it so happened there was a silver lining to my wrong decision earlier in the day as VTA WDM3A 18609, which had worked into Okha on 19566 Dehradun – Okha, ended up working back out with 19573 Okha – Jaipur. I did think it was going to end up departing after my 19252 Okha – Somnath at one point but it ended up 10 minutes ahead; instead of the booked 45! There was just enough time at Dwarka to spot the steam loco outside the station; which turned out to be YG 3360 and judging by the sign in front of it, it had only been there since 5th February 2014. Unfortunately it was way too dark to get a photo, even with the flash on my camera; which was a massive shame as the sun had been perfect on the smoke box end when I’d been there earlier!

I had a bit of a bonus when on board 19252 to Somnath; and it wasn’t the engine, that was RTM WDM3A 16849; which I’d had the previous day southbound ex Rajkot on the Jabalpur – Somnath. It must have turned straight round at Somnath and worked 19251 Somnath – Jabalpur that night. The bonus was that I swapped my lower 3AC compartment berth for a lower side berth; which meant my bed was made up immediately, the curtains were closed and I was horizontal a lot sooner than I would have been in the compartment; especially as it was feeding time for the family that had three of the berths.

The Moves

11418 RTM WDM3D Rajkot Jct Hapa 1735 (16/02) Bandra Terminus – Jamnagar 19017
11244 VTA WDM3D Hapa Dwarka 2200 (15/02) Varanasi Jct – Okha 19570
11222 ED WDM3D Dwarka Okha 2045 (14/02) Rameswaram – Okha 16733
16834 RTM WDM3A Okha Mithapur 1445 Okha – Bhavnagar Terminus 59208
16820 RTM WDM3A Mithapur Okha 2025 (16/07) Mumbai Central – Okha 19005
18609 VTA WDM3A Okha Dwarka 1920 Okha – Jaipur Jct 19573
16849 RTM WDM3A Dwarka Somnath 2005 Okha – Somnath 19252

 

Gen for Monday 17th February 2014

(Other than in the moves above)

18729 (RTM WDM3A) 19060 Jamnagar – Bandra Terminus

14055 (ERS WDM3A) 16337 Okha – Ernakulam

16834 (RTM WDM3A) 59207 2125 (P) Bhavnagar Terminus – Okha

11422 (RTM WDM3D) 59421 0750 Rajkot – Veraval

18608 (RTM WDM3A) 19006 1225 Okha – Mumbai Central

18609 (VTA WDM3A) 19566 Dehradun – Okha

Tuesday 18th February 2014

16849 delivered me to a very dark Somnath right time. I had expected more from Somnath station but it was only a two platform affair; strangely with a middle road for running locos round. It was on a curve too and there were signs up on the station alerting the public of this fact and to take extra care when boarding trains due to the larger than usual gap. It was a cold morning and there was no chai in sight. The stock for 19120 0620 Somnath – Ahmedabad was in the opposite platform; the engine for which came light from Veraval behind us. It ran all the way down to the blocks first, 16849 then ran light back to Veraval and only then way RTM WDM3D 11422 attached to the stock for 19120.

While only 5km, the run to Veraval was quite good and the track was fast and in decent condition; and so it should be for newly constructed line. Having failed miserably at Okha the previous day to get a decent meal I was looking forward to some form of breakfast in Veraval. First I dropped my bag off in the cloak room, at the south end of platform 1, and then I was free to move around a bit more easily. My hopes of breakfast were soon dashed though. The only hotels near the station had rooms only and the only places selling anything edible were huts with crisps and biscuits. I walked the streets of Veraval in search of anything at all food wise; there were plenty of restaurants on the main road, left out of the station then turn right, but all were closed. Having walked to the main road and back three times during my fester at Veraval I had to accept defeat and resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be getting any breakfast at all! Thankfully I did find a roadside vendor selling piping hot samosas, which had to suffice; the surroundings in which he was serving his food left a little to be desired though as right behind him was the local rubbish tip, which was being sifted through by cows and dogs alike; the smell wasn’t at all refreshing either but needs must!

The surroundings in which I drank chai, outside the station entrance, weren’t any better that where the samosa selling wallah had been as I had to mind the dead dog in the pathway while standing around drinking it. It had clearly been there for a while judging by the holes created in it’s torso by whatever had been feasting on it. Strangely enough it was cleared away as I stood there, by a guy who came along with his barrow collecting rubbish from the street. I couldn’t help but cringe as he bashed its head against the side of his barrow, while trying to swing it in; dead or not it still probably deserved a bit of dignity while being loaded into the rubbish bin!

Jetalsar based SBI YDM4 6371 had been bolted to the set of stock in the platform since I’d arrived at Veraval; the only other YDM4 there being 6394, which I’d had to Jetalsar 3 days earlier. 6371 erupted into life at about 0915 for 52929 0945 Veraval – Dhasa. It was a dirty looking thing and the clag emitted as it set off from Veraval explained the dark exhaust stains all over the thing. I didn’t realise it at the time but 6371 would be the best engine of the day, by far. It was loud and clagged very well and even had a divert; that only the mid to late 63xx series YDM4s seem to have. The run out to Talala Jct was a good one, a couple of slacks for crossings and a road bridge being constructed but other than that it was a fast run all the way; not quite the same at the Dhasa – Jetalsar run of three days previous but decent all the same. It had been another load 7 set and empty; until it arrived into Talala and loaded up.

Talala has its busy periods during the day, where everything happens at once; my arrival being one of those busy periods. SBI YDM4 6220 was already sat in waiting to leave with 52950 0805 Delvada – Veraval, my train back to Veraval, and SBI YDM4 6720 arrived about 5 minutes later with 52952 0715 Junagadh – Delvada; all three trains connecting into each other.

The journey back into Veraval was the fullest journey I had all day and I had to stand at the front of the train as there were no seats at all. 6220 wasn’t up to much be did the job and was promptly run round its set at Veraval to form 52954 1155 Veraval – Kodinar; the only train of the day to run to Kodinar. This train was virtually empty from Veraval and there were only 3 other people in the front coach with me; making for a nice relaxing journey and allowing me space to devour my “train food” snacks!

52946 0730 Dhasa – Veraval arrived 10 minutes late with SBI YDM4 6247 and a load 10 set. Unfortunately this late arrival, coupled with the 10 minutes trains seemed to be losing between Veraval & Talala, in both directions, put pay to any hopes I’d had of making the plus 5 onto 59460 1320 Veraval – Rajkot BG passenger; and of course there was no sign of it when we arrived. The silver lining with that was that lunch was on the cards during the three hours I had to kill; all the restaurants being open on the main road. The one I used was called Paradise Restaurant and the food served was quick and tasty and reasonably priced; strangely the menu was in English only!

Feeling fighting fit and quite nicely stuffed after my meal, I spent the afternoon relaxing on one of the station benches using the charging facilities; and generally just watching the world go by. The only train movements, for the majority, were made by 16849, which had been down to Somnath to get the stock off my 19252 Okha – Somnath from the morning arrival. Once serviced it was then shunted into the carriage sidings for a cleaning session. I’d actually missed a trick that morning as RTM WDM3A 18827 had been in the carriage sidings with a set of stock and ultimately went ecs to Somnath at about 0800 to work 11463 0930 Somnath – Jabalpur; this could have been my answer to breakfast had I realised what it was doing, and it was new……

Once 59298 1545 Somnath – Porbandar was announced it was my cue to get moving as the platform came alive and everyone was at sixes and sevens as they had to cross from platform 1 to 2 to board their train; platform karma being well and truly spoiled with the announcement of their train. Of course most did the crossing via the tracks and hardly any used the footbridge. The gap from tracks to platform was quite high too; it does make you wonder, while watching, why they put themselves through it sometimes. There were families with young children, others with loads of luggage and some with old people that could barely walk, let alone clamber around the tracks getting on and off platforms; but ultimately everyone got to where they needed to be before RTM WDM3A 14078 arrived with their train; unfortunately for all those at the Somnath end of the platform they were a good three coaches too far south and there was a mad rush towards the rear of the train as it ran by them!

Meanwhile SBI YDM4 6394 had shunted a load 5 set into the MG platforms and run round it ready to depart with 52949 1620 Veraval – Delvada. It was already quite well loaded when I boarded; and it was standing room only then. Our train was held for an inbound BG passenger from the north; or so I assumed. While I thought those crossing the platforms from one side to the other by the tracks were crazy the folks coming off the BG and wanting to get onto our train on the MG appeared to be going one better. There were people leaking out of sets of stock in the carriage sidings, clambering over rails in between the BG & MG and negotiating the carriage cleaning roads that stood between them and the 1620 departure to Delvada. Again there were folks with families, baggage and people quite clearly not capable of completing the obstacle course that was thrown before them; yet we left nobody behind and everyone helped each other in their plight to make their train; it was actually quite interesting to watch.

I’d expected more from 6394, having been a way back on the run from Dhasa to Jetalsar with it three nights previous, but it let me down; and as I’ve already mentioned the engine of the day has to be 6371; none of the others were a patch on it; even 6323, which I had back to Veraval from Talala on 52930 1205 Dhasa – Veraval. It wasn’t in when we arrived, during another of Talala’s busy periods, but 6720 had already run round and was waiting for it to arrive so it could depart with 529xx 1430 Delvada – Junagadh. This evening period at Talala is that busy that the fourth train of the equation, the returning Kodinar passenger, has to connect into the Delvada – Junagadh at Prachi Road for passengers to make onward connections at Talala; as Talala can’t take four trains at once and the Kodinar has to wait outside until one of the trains has gone and then follows the Dhasa – Veraval into Veraval.

My day was almost over at Veraval and I collected my bag from the cloak room before heading back to the Paradise Restaurant for a second meal of the day. The cloak room closes at 2000, after the last train, but my bag was the only one left when I collected it at 1815 and I wasn’t taking any chances. As I’d suspected might happen; I found RTM WDM3A 16849 at the head of my overnight 19222 1935 Veraval – Ahmedabad, it seemingly sheeping me round Gujarat. Unfortunately the AC on 19222 is only a few in from the loco and as 16849 is a new rebuild the horn on it was a pain in the asre; even more so as it was long hood leading meaning all the horn noise came backwards from the loco! Even my top notch earplugs couldn’t keep the noise out but somehow I managed to get off to sleep and not let it bother me.