Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

India February/March 2013

This trip was largely a recovery trip based around us missing out on a load of track in Bihar 12 months previous due to Patna Junction’s interlocking system being renewed creating havoc in the area, resulting in very late and cancelled trains making it impossible to plan anything so we’d got out of there.

With a decent trip planned, pulled apart, re-planned and then changed a bit more we were pretty much in the lap of the gods when we set off, not knowing whether it would go to plan, if electrics would start working passenger trains from Varanasi (the wires having been energised in early February) or even if we’d get reservations on the additional trains we needed to get round that issue should they start working.

Friday 22nd February 

For the first time we flew out to India with Austrian Airlines, mainly because it was over £100 cheaper than any direct flight and with only a 40 minute layover in both directions it didn’t take much more time either. Having breezed through immigration in Delhi, our bags were already going round on the carousel when we got out to it and once outside the airport I used the open Airtel kiosk to top up a sim I’d still got from November 2012; I was soon activated and topped up ready to go with plenty of credit and RS255 paid for 1GB data that lasts for 28 days.

Our original plan had us going to Kotdwara on 14044 0720 Delhi Jct – Kotdrwara but thankfully I’d spotted on the IR website that it was cancelled throughout until 15th March. I say thankfully because it was better finding it cancelled beforehand as opposed to turning up at Delhi and being presented with the cancellation. Even though it had only been the day before we flew out it at least allowed me a few hours to come up with an alternative plan, which strangely looked a little better on paper than the original plan; we could still do Kotdwara but it would have to wait until the penultimate day of the trip.

We opted for the trusted pre-paid taxi to Palam Station, which cost RS250. However as we were well ahead of the game we asked the driver to take us to Delhi Cantt instead, which he did for an extra RS50, where we thought there would be more to do; or at least some chai on offer. We were so wrong, the place was deserted but for the odd dosser asleep under their blanket on the platform. It was only 0220 and the first train wasn’t until 0355!

Things got off to a predicted start with TKD WDP3A 15514 on the 0320 Delhi Jct – Rewari. At least it delivered us to a place that had plenty of chai on offer; Gurgaon. In fact it was probably the best chai in India, always had been. The ginger was tasty and spicy at the same time and the tea was always piping hot. 3 cups later we were ambling over the footbridge to the other platform for 51916 0420 Farukh Nagar – Delhi Jct passenger back to Delhi Cantt with TKD WDP1 15005.

While we were stood at the signal outside Delhi Cantt, expecting our next train to go trundling by at any time, we began to wish we’d got off at Palam for it. In true form though the signal came off with just enough time to spare to make the whole thing touch and go; which is exactly what it was.

TKD WDP1 15036 was already running into platform 1 as we arrived into platform 4 for some random reason. By the time we’d got up onto platform 3 and down onto the ballast to run across it had stopped, the problem being it was only on load 5 and a good 3 coaches up the platform from where we were too. We made it, just. The driver had blown up to go, with the signal already off, the moment he’d come to a stand. The moment we stepped foot into the train, having run up the platform, it set off.

Back to Gurgaon for more chai it was, same stall, different waller serving but same excellent chai. With not so long to waste the second time we were soon heading back towards Delhi with TKD WDP3A 15507 on 54422 0530 Rewari  – Delhi Sarai Rohilla. There was clearly an issue at Delhi Cantt as we were held outside again, this time though time wasn’t as much of the essence, although if we had have been going for WDP3A 15544 on 54085 0715 Delhi Jct – Rewari we would have made it. However we weren’t as we had a plan to run through to New Delhi on the morning Rewari – Tilak Bridge for the morning Meerut – Rewari back. That plan came unstuck by a bit of lateness really. The result being us hatching a move to get 15544 in on its return from Rewari before heading into Farukh Nagar.

Back at Gurgaon for a third time that morning, this time off 14705 0840 Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Sadulpur with ABR WDM3A 18657, there wasn’t any time for chai. We’d no sooner got ourselves onto the footbridge to photograph the novelty train, 12985 Jaipur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla “Double Decker” did it come round the corner, bang on time. TKD WDM3A 18931 looked dwarfed at the front of its train with a rake of double deck AC coaches behind it. The stock itself looked the part on the outside in its red/yellow colour scheme. It even looked ok inside as well, no different to your average double deck commuter carriage throughout the world.

Having returned to Delhi Cantt for a third time we used the time a bit ore productively and after trying the ticket windows first I was soon pointed over the road to the computerised reservation office; inside which there were three long queues. I opted for an empty one which was for ladies, the elderly & pass holders. I assumed the pass holders were railway employees but it seemed my good looks got me by that issue and my reservations were issued within 2 minutes. One for 14523 Lucknow to Ambala on the 7th March should we need a get out of jail if electrics start working passengers from Varanasi and the other on 24887 Haridwar – Barmer “Link Express” from Haridwar to Bathinda on the 11th March. This being to allow us to change the back end of the bash to get the Gajraula – Najibabad – Kotdwara route in; no thinks to Indian Railways cancelling 14044/43 Delhi – Kotdwara until 16th March of course.

14546 0605 Saharanpur – Farukh Nagar offered up our third TKD WDP1 of the morning, 15045. Even though it sits at Delhi Junction for a while it was still 35 late into Delhi Cantt and even though it had a train number that would suggest it to be express, it wasn’t and stopped all shacks to Farukh Nagar.

Way back in 2005 Myself & a companion had attempted to do a taxi from the old Delhi T2 as it was then, to Farukh Nagar to do the MG commuter train out into Delhi. We never got there and ended up at Gurgaon instead. The taxi driver had no clue where he was going at all and kept stopping in deserted streets to ask directions and that was before we’d even got to Gurgaon. Upon arrival I understood why he’d not a clue. There was nothing there, at all. A road did run at right angles to the station though, over a crossing just off the platform end, and that was it. I was actually quite surprised the railway had re-gauged it in the end. It had opened a good 4 years after it had closed and the service was poor, one hauled turn a day and one DMU, which I wasn’t convinced was running as we hadn’t seen it that morning on its way out.

Running round the loco was a bit of a nightmare too, all manual point setting, taking plenty of time, resulting in us departing at 1341, 31 late. Which basically put the nail in the move, confining us to a GM from Delhi Jct to Meerut as we needed the train to be on time at Sarai Rohilla to get across to New Delhi for 12055 1525 New Delhi – Dehradun Shatabdi.

We almost missed 14645 Delhi Jct – Jammu Tawi at Delhi Junction thanks to a standard stagger in from Sarai Rohilla, having been held adjacent to Delhi Kishanganj and then again in the cutting outside the station; for no less than an ecs to go by us, round to New Delhi. Thankfully the road came off the moment it had crossed over our path and cleared the overlap and we arrived into Delhi Jct at 1540 with 10 minutes to spare. I’d been considering getting off and walking in if it hadn’t got the road. Just as well I hadn’t as it was a longer walk than I’d anticipated and we’d have definitely missed it. At least there was some room in the AC for us to relax in to Meerut while TKD WDP4B 40011 took us there; my first WDP4B in the book, not a proud moment but a trip wasn’t a trip nowadays without having had a GM!

We were deposited us at Meerut City just as a battered SSB WDM2 was departing with the 1745 passenger to Khurja Jct. TKD WDP3A 15527 had just shunted the stock in for the second of the two trains to Allahabad that night, 14512 via Moradabad, and then ran round to be bolted to the other set, 14164 1900 Meerut – Allahabad via Khurja/Kanpur, which we’d be doing to Tundla to get back on track with the bash after the last minute change to the days proceedings.

We had no reservation on 14164 and the best the TTE could do in AC was two side berths in 3AC to Aligarh only; the rest of the AC was full. I’d already had a scan at the SL reservation charts and there was nothing much to go at there either so we took them, knowing we’d have to stand in SL class from Aligarh to Tundla but it was only just over an hour so no hassle really. And we knew we had a bed waiting at Tundla when 14113 rolled in, as opposed to waiting at Aligarh until 0300.

15527 gave way to CNB WAP4 22228 at Khurja Jct for the run south, departing 30 late in the process. Despite us only having 4 hours in the berths it had been much needed and very relaxing to Aligarh, where we vacated and stood in SL forward to Tundla.

While at Aligarh a GD WDM3A 14xxx hammered through with 12556 Hisar – Gorakhpur “Gorakhdam Express”, sounding the part as it did so. We were 40 late way from Aligarh and we didn’t think much of it on plus 1h25m. Eventually, for the second time that day, we found ourselves wishing we’d got off at the previous shack. In this instance it being Hathras Jct.

Now after midnight, we were stopped at Barhan Jct for quite a while. Eventually for no less than 5 trains to overtake us. Even when we did get going again for the 16km run to Tundla we were then stopped outside the station, probably waiting a platform. Even though we knew 14113 was 59 late coming towards us, courtesy of my phone internet, it had plenty of slack time. We arrived Tundla at 0201, it was due off at 0140 and was in the distance and being announced as we stepped off our train! Talk about a close shave. There was a get-out but it wasn’t a great prospect; the next train to Aligarh for the 0420 Aligarh – Moradabad throughout!

After a short confab with the AC TTE he allowed us to our berths. They’d been amended from Tundla to Moradabad to Aligarh to Moradabad two days previous via SDEL in reaction to 14044 being caped to Kotdwara. We’d originally planned to do 14724 Bhiwani – Kanpur “Kalindi Express” to Aligarh for it but I’d come up with a better plan, by which time it had been too late to get the change postponed with it being night time in India.

Saturday 23rd February 2012

I awoke a few shacks out of Moradabad; we were only about 20 late. By the time we pulled into Moradabad we were 9 late. Our plus 10 move down the Ramnagar line was out of the window though as we pulled all the way to the Delhi end of the station and LDH WDM3A 16844 was sat ready to go in the east end bay platform as we arrived. We were greeted by a very strong wind as we got off onto the platform to check our engine number, dust was blowing everywhere. LKO WDM3D 14159 had graced us with its pulling power from Aligarh, one of the very first WDM3D’s built which was a bonus. By the time we’d spotted it though the inevitable rain, following the wind, had started; what a miserable morning it was!

With only one other move option to do we did 54312 0800 Moradabad – Bareilly out to Kundarki. We’d been going to go to the next shack where the trains cross but decided on the easy factor to save messing about with crossing leaps. It was no less miserable at Kundarki than it was at Moradabad, and cold as well. The locals were all wrapped up well, although it always amazes me that they still wear flip flops in crappy weather.

While stood minding our own, a youth asked where we were going. When told Moradabad he told us we should take a bus. When questioned why he told us that the train would have many hundreds of people on board. Not thinking a great deal about it, other than the fact it was probably just going to be a bit of a wedge, we stood beneath the shelter of the station canopy to wait its arrival.

SSB WDM2 16782 had the honours and the kid hadn’t been wrong, it was absolutely heaving. The first door I attempted to shove my big bag in had absolutely no affect at all. Some guy then shouted us to another door where we just managed to get inside the train, well I did anyway. My big bag was perched on top of a milk churn at the doorway, my companions big and little bag were on the floor by the side of it and he himself just managed to get onto the top footstep and cling on for dear life. In normal circumstances this wouldn’t be much of an issue, with the rain however it was a different matter; bless him, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his position.

It was a rancid journey back into Moradabad, cold and wet. We left people behind at every station we stopped at on the way too. Some just looked at the train in disgust and walked away. Others braved the elements and the door ahead of us was three deep, hanging out in the rain. Rather them than me!

What a welcome relief it was when we arrived back at Moradabad, the refreshment room on platform 1 was open and despite it’s time for serving breakfast having passed by they still served us two omelettes, each, a couple of veg puffs and plenty of chai/coffee between us. A very welcome meal indeed, the first sit down one we’d had in the country thus far; even if it was in a railway refreshment room.

After food I took the opportunity to find the reservation centre, where I found an empty booking window and was in possession of my tickets within minutes of arriving in the place. They were for 25631 Bikaner – Agra on 11th March and 14723 Shikohabad – Rohtak the same night, all as a back up just in case 18632 the previous day was electric forward from Sawai Madhopur (if electrics started working from Varanasi this train could be electric throughout Sawai Madhopur to Ranchi!). The former was WL1/2 & the latter had plenty of room, so all was good.

Before our departure to Sambhal Hatim Sarai at 1220 we’d noted the following at Moradabad Jct:

MLDT WDM3A 16518 with 15715 Kishanganj – Ajmer

KTE WDG3A 14570 with 15005 Gorakhpur – Dehradun

LDH WDM3A 16472 with 13152 Jammu Tawi – Kolkata

LKO WDM3A 16303 with 25036 Ramnagar – Delhi link Express (SSB WDM2 17740 shunted the stock onto 15036, which arrived with TKD WDM3A 16002)

KTE WDG3A 13625 arr with 15209 Saharsa – Amritsar (which we saw return with 15210 later that evening)

Yet another TKD WDP1 15050 was in charge for the journey, which was nothing short of a stagger once on the branch itself. It was one of those branches that time seemed to have forgotten with not much in the way of machinery in sight. Our arrival at Sambhal Hatim was prompt though and the moment we were off the train we had the whole village of local kids following us about, some standing by the engine to get in the photos, some just plain old getting in the way, full stop! There were plenty of buffalo getting in on the act as well, being marched by the front of the loco while we tried to get photos. Having had enough once the loco had been removed from the train we made our way back onto the platform, our entourage in tow…… The waving of a big stick from an RPF type soon dispersed the crowd and we took sanction in the train rather than trying to get photos at the other end once 15050 had run round. The crowds did all come for a look at once but some returned for a second glance. Every now and again though, in the 55 minutes we had there, the big stick was waved as the RPF guy came to make sure we were ok.

The return journey was pretty much the same as the outward to Raja Ka Sahaspur at least, where we were booked to sit for a while to cross a Chandausi bound train, a Sambhal bound DMU and 14555 Bareilly – Delhi Express. We saw none of the aforementioned at all and departed RT having waited for nothing. The Station Master had told me that 14555 was running approx 40 late and that our passenger would be the first train for Moradabad. He was right in the sense that it departed first however we were looped en-route for it to go by us with TKD WDP3A 15509, delaying us of course. We never saw the DMU for the Sambhal Hatim branch or the Chandausi passenger either on the way in. I’m pretty sure that none of the DMU turns to Sambhal Hatim were running, thus meaning we’d been on the only train of the day!

As appeared to be the case with this trip already we were regulated all the way into Moradabad, even at the signal outside for more than enough time to go by to make our connection onto 14322 Bhuj – Bareilly pretty dodgy; especially as the phone internet had confirmed it was on time! With only 60 seconds to spare we made it onto the train, IZN WDM3D 11301 was already in the platform with 14322 and our 2AC was right at the opposite end of the damn train. Of course it left late in the end but we were grateful of the relaxation time we had in an empty 2AC to Bareilly Jct.

Its worth mentioning that we had an absolutely cracking, piping hot, egg curry with freshly made hot rice and chapattis in the refreshment room at Bareilly upon arrival. We were just late enough to not really allow us the time to nip out to the Hotel Swarn Towers for a proper meal.

Our overnight for that  night was 15307 2150 Bareilly – Aishbagh Express which we found at the Kasganj end of the MG platforms being marshalled together by IZN YDM4 6571, which then ran round and bolted itself to the stock. 6519 was sat in the yard with a rake of stock.

We confirmed with the TTE our berths in 2AC, the reservation sheet for which looked pretty empty when we got a glimpse so I asked where the other two people in our compartment were boarding, to be told Pilibhit. With that being 2 hours into the journey I asked if we could be moved, to which the TTE said no, my persistence paid off though and despite the coach being quite empty we were put in the end compartment with another guy, which wasn’t an issue as at least we wouldn’t be woken at Pilibhit. He obviously wasn’t happy though as by the time I’d returned with chai he’d moved to another compartment; which would explain why I’d seen him arguing with the TTE outside the train.

There was a massive storm brewing with wind, rain, thunder and lightening to boot. The thunder being like nothing I’ve heard before; very loud and very crisp, and immediately following the lightening bolt! We drew down the platform ready for departure, which allowed for more chai before we did leave and we were both tucked up in bed shortly after departure, door locked, lights out, listening to the rain pound the roof and the thunder outside. I never actually saw Bareilly City but I know we sat somewhere between Junction & City for a long time, probably something to do with the storm……

Sunday 24th February 2013

We were over an hour late by the time we were woken by the alarm clocks, which wasn’t good as we were only on a plus 45 at Aishbagh and despite the fact that we could get off at Daliganj Town it still didn’t look very good. We were dealt a stroke of luck at Itaunja though where IZN YDM4 6603 was sat waiting to depart with 52250 0520 Aishbagh – Sitapur and when we stopped we didn’t need any persuasion to get off and cut our losses; in fact we actually gained out of the move as when we got to Sidhauli 15319 0305 Palia Kalan – Aishbagh was on its way in with a new 6441, which we did back to Ataria for our train which also turned up with a second new one of the day, 6528.

At Sitapur, where we arrived 50 late, GD WDM3A 14134 was sat in at Cantt station, on the BG, with 15211 Darbhanga – Amritsar, IZN YDM4 6612 was sat in at Junction station on the MG with 52237 0450 Pilibhit – Aishbagh. We found KTE WDM2 17727 in the middle road with a load 5 set, which the driver confirmed was our 54325 1045 Sitapur Cantt – Kanpur Central passenger. No sooner had we boarded in the front coach did GD WDM3A 18706 arrive with 15212 Amritsar – Darbhanga making all three roads occupied!

Thankfully we decided to walk to the back of our train where the coaches were almost empty and got ourselves strapped in to a couple of side seats for the day, we’d be on the train for 9 hours via the Balamau route. And by the time we were at Sitapur City we were so glad we’d got seats; and it never got any better from there onward.

Bidding farewell to LKO WDG3A 13415 (in LKO livery – the first Shakti I’d seen like it) with 54321 0710 Balamau – Sitapur Cantt, we headed off into the unknown, picking up rafts of folk in the process. The train was wedged from that point on literally until we got to Kanpur. I managed to get out of my seat at Balamau, where 17727 ran round and people milled about on the platform, to go for a piss on the ballast outside the train; I couldn’t actually get to the toilets on board! Thankfully there were also some samosa selling guys at Balamau, although I had to nip round the other side of the train, onto the ballast, to hand them to my companion through the window as there was no way I’d have made it back through the train with them intact; it was a fight to get back to my seat as it was with people not wanting to move out of the way.

Further into the journey a couple of young lads started talking to us, they were on their way to Allahabad to bathe in the Ganga. Kumbh Mela, the biggest gathering of people on the planet, had its remaining big bathing day the following day and that would probably explain why there were more than the usual amount of folk on the train. We had seats though, which made it that whole bit better. Those on the floor seemed quite content with themselves though……

Despite being late all the way to Unnao Junction, over an hour at times, we arrived there 12 minutes early; slackly timed much? Of course we departed late, having waited for a couple of freights and expresses to come in/out, one of which we overtook again just outside Kanpur with RTM WDM3D 11422 in charge; the highest numbered WDM3D I’d seen.

Only 30 late into Kanpur Central wasn’t bad, all we had to do was find a hotel, my Google Map print-out showed the way. En-route we were offered about 10 auto’s and yet the hotel was visible from the car park; we chose the Hotel Raja Seth, which stumped us RS2248 (including tax) for a twin Deluxe Room with AC, the latter not being required as it was cold mind. Even though the price is double that of a Superior Room it’s worth it as the Superior only have squat bogs and double beds. Despite being told that there was hot water 24 hours we ended up having a cold bucket shower each, which wasn’t so good.

Food in the hotel restaurant was quick, fresh and tasty, even if they did bring me Paneer Dopyaza first, instead of the Aloo I’d asked for and then had the cheek to charge me for the Paneer over the Aloo as well. This was soon rectified though and the food was excellent.

Monday 25th February 2013

I was up at 0200 with the shivers. It was cold, even with a blanket, and a not very think one at that. It took me a couple of minutes to get fully dressed and back under the blanket, which obviously worked as I was back to sleep in no time, and more importantly warm!

Check-out was painless and we were given the change we were owed at the 24 hour manned front desk when doing so. Bizarrely, outside it was warmer than in the hotel and my jumper & jacket were not both needed, neither was the hat and I ended up with a bit of a sweat on by the time we’d walked the few minutes to the station.

12541 Gorakhpur – LTT was being announced as we walked over the footbridge as “arriving shortly on platform number 4”, which is where we found chai to kick-start the day, while JHS WDM3D 11341 arrived with our train; it was actually early!

We stood in the vestibule all the way to Orai, it had been quite empty when we joined the train but as folk awoke the queue to use the sink to brush teeth grew and became a constant movement of people for 20 minutes or so. As was the queue for the bog, although they wouldn’t use one as it was messed up good and proper, which for Indians to turn their nose up at it, it must have been pretty rancid!

The journey went reasonably quickly, although we did lose about 25 minutes en-route, mainly due to waiting for 51813 0250 Jhansi – Lucknow passenger to cross us with JHS WDM3A 18880. We got to watch the sun rise through the mist covered land; quite atmospheric it was too. By Orai though we were ready to get off and quite a big place it was too so breakfast would have been on offer had our move not taken a bizarre turn while trying to figure out if 54158 0610 Kanpur – Jhansi was on time.

Stood in the station foyer we were offered a rickshaw, which switched a light on in my head. 54158 passenger, according to India Rail Info, had a average lateness of 90 minutes arriving into Ait Jct, which with only a plus 57 onto our train down the Konch branch wasn’t a particularly good ratio. I’d been contemplating doing road transport from Ait to Konch if we’d missed the train but not knowing if there was anything there made the decision we made all the more wise.

A young guy who spoke English well helped us out with the translation to the riskshaw driver and in the end he ended up taking us to a place where we could get a taxi to Ait Junction. He did offer to take us to Ait himself on the way for RS400 but the way he was driving we’d have been lucky to get there on the same day; the journey being 30km.

The first taxi wanted RS1000 and dropped to RS800 eventually. When I offered RS600 he just shook his head and walked away, another one on the other hand basically bit my hand off for the fare and ran to bring his car to us. A very clean car it was as well, in pristine condition inside and out. The journey in it to Ait took 20 leisurely minutes along dual carriageway most of the way. We never went above 90kmph, unlike previous taxi journeys in India where the driver had to drive as fast as the thing would take him. All in all the most pleasant taxi journey I’d done in the country and we were delivered to Ait Junction station front before 12541, which we’d left in the platform at Orai, had got there; 11341 hammering through just as we walked onto the platform!

I’d spotted a glimpse of a yellow engine as we’d pulled in towards the station and my mind was thinking we were in with a WDM2S on the Konch branch; which would have been a bonus if it was. When 12541 had cleared the station, all was revealed; we were in for an absolute treat. The yellow I’d spotted actually belonged to JHS WDS6AD 36272, which was sat on three coaches facing towards the Konch branch. A driver was inside it and he confirmed it was indeed the Konch train and that it departed at 1030; what a result! After all the branches I’d done in the country one had finally offered up a WDS6.

We had over two hours to kill, which we did so with a malt loaf breakfast and a bit of relaxing on the load three train, the coaches of which were all ex DMU coaches. Had we arrived off the passenger and the branch train had gone we’d have struggled to get transport to anywhere, the station at Ait was well out of town, in the middle of nowhere and we wouldn’t have even realised there was a town about 1.5 miles away, or in which direction it was so we’d played the right move, as far as we were concerned.

Of course 54158 arrived before the Konch train departed, but it only made it by 4 minutes. KTE WDM2 “Jumbo” 17812 had the honours, meanwhile 54157 0755 Jhansi – Kanpur arrived going the other way shortly afterwards with JHS WDM3A 18742. Both trains had plenty of people on board for the branch train but we’d still played the right move in doing what we’d done as I wasn’t convinced it would be held every day; of course depending on their lateness.

We departed 18 late in the end and unfortunately the run to Konch is an absolute totter, 36272 never getting above half power, which was a real shame. The line is almost straight for the whole 14km once it’s curved out of Ait and it is strung up with OHL throughout, although probably not energised yet. Won’t be long before it’s an EMU and the turn pales into insignificance.

Konch was a decent sized place and after plenty of photographs of the WDS6 I left my companion with the bags and went for a walk to see what was on offer; returning 10 minutes later with two cold Pepsi, which turned out to be flat, from a shack near the level crossing and 8 samosas from a stall at the bus station, just over the way from the station.

With 3 hours to kill in Konch all we could really do was fester on the station after food was consumed, in fact what we ended up doing was veging on the stock trying to catch 40 winks or so………

A glaring, gormless young idiot put pay to any relaxing about 45 minutes before departure, insisting we buy some of his food, which looked pretty crap, constantly talking at us but paying no attention to the fact that we didn’t speak or understand his language. Thankfully he eventually got the message and did one but just couldn’t help himself from returning for a quick glare through the window every now and again……

By departure time at 1415 the train was pretty full, with spare seats though, and it took us 5 minutes to get out of the station confines with folk turning up 2 minutes after it should have gone, with bikes to get on no less. It didn’t hinder our progress though and the journey took less than the 35 minutes it was timetabled; 36272 delivering us to Ait Junction at 1448, 2 minutes early.

Bidding farewell to 36272, having already run round to return with the 1705 to Konch, our conveyance back to Kanpur Central was LKO WDM3D 11138 with the on time 11124 Gwalior – Barauni “Mail”. The AC coaches stopped at the side of us and the TTE was quick to give us berths, although he initially wanted RS600 extra for 2AC; until we produced the Indrail Passes. In fact we ended up in side berths in 3AC as both the available berths in 2AC were upper ones.

Our next move forward to Chitrakoot was on board 15009 1730 Lucknow Jct – Jabalpur, which arrived early with KTE WDM3A 16778. As there was a TTE change on arrival I initially picked the wrong TTE to hassle about berths in AC to Chitrakoot. Having found the right man I was so relieved when he said yes; and in 2AC as well. It gave us room to relax for the 5 hours we’d be on board, rather than stand and get stressed, or eventual leg ache.

Having lost a bit of time en-route we were about 60 late at the height of our lateness which was a little risky for our plus 67 at Chitrakoot. Thankfully we pulled back quite a bit and by the last stop before Chitrakoot we were only 35 late so went for it; arriving with more than enough time to get chai and relax a little while waiting for our 11108 Varanasi – Gwalior. I’d been keeping an eye on it on the internet en-route to Chitrakoot and it had been over an hour late itself but arrived into Allahabad only 17 late; which meant it shouldn’t be too late. Wrong!

Tuesday 26th February 2013

With every arrival into Chitrakoot the platform area got fuller and fuller with virtually nobody boarding the trains yet rafts alighting, assumingly going towards Kanpur, as all the trains were Jhansi bound. By the time the last one had departed there was no room on the floor on platform 1 and some people had even moved across to platform 2 to doss out. The whole floor was literally a sea of sleeping bodies beneath their respective blankets.

The whole night long chai wallers were plying the platform, constantly topping their tea-pots up from the full vat beneath the serving window where the chai was being made. The owner of which kept it constantly fresh; and I have to say it was good ginger tea too.

The first time I went to the Station Master to ask what time our 11108 Varanasi – Gwalior would arrive he told me “2 hours”, which I thought might actually mean 0200; but it didn’t. At 0300 the train was being announced by the automated announcer as “running late by 2 hours & 30 minutes, inconvenience is deeply regretted”, yet just as the announcing stopped the electronic display board showed it being 3 hours late, which meant an 0400 departure vice 0101. It seemed our 11108 had got lost; literally.

My next trip to the Station Master, at 0430, revealed that the train was at Manikpur some 30km away but it would arrive into Chitrakoot at 0530. What could we do other than sigh and deal with it!

Dealing with it went rather well really, we’d had not a great deal to eat, it was quite cold and we’d spent most of the night sat on a concrete bench, or rather perched on it, surrounded by hundreds of Indians picking an available inch of space on the platform to get dossed out on. Who’s the idiot eh?

JHS WDM3A 18760 rolled in at 0530 as we’d been told, it didn’t depart until 0541, just the 4h41m late, our early afternoon bash at Gwalior already being out of the window, despite a plus 3h15m onto the 1210 Gwalior – Bhind stopper!

We had to fight our way into 2AC before we even got to our berths. There were people dosed out in the vestibule ends; who at least let us into the train. Once in the coach we found folk dosed in our berths too, which to be honest I’d expected with the wedge factor out of Allahabad. Luckily the TTE was right behind us as we walked down the coach and did the honours in moving the two squatters on. At least they went peacefully allowing us to make our berths up again and get dosed out, at last. Below in the two bottom berths one guy hadn’t even woken up during the whole scenario and just snored constantly the whole way through it. As luck would have it I was tired enough to get dosed out straight away!

I’d been dozing for a while and when I finally decided to look at my watch it was 1325! We were due into Gwalior at 0855! We’d worked out an alternative move while at Chitrakoot to still do the Bhind branch on the 1430 passenger, arriving back into Gwalior at 2040; only a plus 5 onto 11107 back to Jhansi but there were two other trains behind that would still make our overnight from Jhansi to Kanpur Central. My companion immediately told me we were about 55 minutes from Gwalior and that during the morning we’d lost a raft more time and were 6h23m late at one point; a raft of which was picked up due to slack timing into Jhansi.

Arrival into Gwalior was at 1414, 5h19m late and we were on a plus 5h35m for our “alternative” bash. JHS WDM3A 16082 was sat in the adjacent platform with the 1430 Bhind passenger, which was already wedged out, right to the front. We had enough time to get chai, pop, bananas and a couple of nice hot veg puffs before boarding the train in the guards compartment at the front. Sometimes the staff will throw folk out, including “white folk” but thankfully on this occasion we were allowed to remain and even made to sit down by a police guy who was travelling. He just wouldn’t take no for an answer and made everyone move off the seats to let us sit down.

16082 was quite a good engine, decent transition and clagged a bit too. However we’d have rather had what we passed at Soni with 59826 1525 Bhind – Gwalior, the return working of the 1210 Gwalior – Bhind, as WDG3A 13636 rolled in with the train about 30 late.

We were prompt enough into Bhind despite our delay at Soni waiting for 13636 and train, although a further hold up occurred as we went through the turnout into the platform road when the chain was pulled. Why they just couldn’t wait until the train got into the platform and walk the extra 300 yards or so I can never understand. It’s annoying though!

There’s not much to Bhind but it did have a waller serving squashed samosas with veg sauce poured over, which was very nice indeed for the RS10 it cost. While walking down the platform to buy said food I was accosted by the Station Master, who introduced himself to me and then set about giving me a load of gen; that I hadn’t asked for. It was very useful to know though.

Apparently within 3-4 months the line between Bhind & Etawah, on the main Delhi – Kanpur line, would be completed. One of the three bridges required was already finished. This would then allow through trains from Gwalior to Kanpur via Bhind cutting the journey time quite a lot from the alternative of via Jhansi. He went on to tell me that the station currently closes after the last passenger train departs at 1810 but from September it would be open 24/7 and would also see goods trains using the route. Unfortunately the electrification of the route had already been sanctioned so that would put pay to any interesting loco links that would result in diesels popping out at both Gwalior & Etawah; not initially of course and there was no sign of any electrification works along the whole line to Gwalior so it would be a while. Finally he told me that the Gwalior to Sheopur NG line had been passed to be re-gauged, although he thought it would take about 10 years to get it done with various parties against who would object, just prolonging the inevitable.

We departed bang on time at 1810 from Bhind. It always amazes me that no matter what time a train departs and no matter how late it is there is always someone running from the surrounding township beckoning to the driver to slow down for them. I’d give it run 8 and teach them a lesson; there were at least 3 in this case, only two of whom made the train in the end. We were going too fast for the third person, and truthfully we were going too fast for the first and second but Indians don’t seem to value life as much as others seem to.

All was going well until Malanpur, where we were only about 4 late approaching, but thanks to a freightliner train shunting its set into place to be dealt with we were 20 late away. We at least maintained that all the way to the junction with the main Delhi – Agra – Jhansi line, where we then got held coming off the branch for two expresses to run into Gwalior. We eventually arrived in ourselves at 2100, 20 late and the two expresses that had passed us may well have done us a favour as in the adjacent platform was 11107 2045 Gwalior – Varanasi; which must have had to wait for the other two to go in front of it? We clambered out onto the track and up the platform in front of the loco, JHS WDM3A 18760 returning from whence it came. The loco pilot confirmed he was just waiting for the signal before departing. The 2AC at the front had plenty of room so we camped out straight away before I courteously asked the TTE if he had room.

At Jhansi we immediately made a bee line for the Comesum on platform 1 and were served up a very good egg chow mein, one of the best I’ve had from a Comesum. It was fresh, and red hot too. When the place got a little busy we got out. The enquiry window is on the station forecourt and a list of trains with the lateness confirmed our 12183 Bhopal – Pratapgarh was 1h10m late. We were on a plus 1h20m at Allahabad Jct but at that point weren’t too concerned as the train was given plenty of recovery time into Allahabad; so over to the booked platform 4 we went and drank chai while we waited.

Wednesday 27th February 2013

If we’d missed 11107 at Gwalior we’d have been in a right flap as 12190 Hazrat Nizamuddin – Jabalpur was 90 late into Jhansi at 0030, we wouldn’t have been expecting 12183 to be as late as it was and couldn’t get on the internet to check it either so wouldn’t have realised that we’d made it until we’d arrived. Thankfully we did make 11107 though and took a couple of stressful hours out of our day. 12190 did however arrive into Jhansi with JHS WDM3D 11285, which we’d watched depart Chitrakoot the previous night and seen at Gwalior that morning. If we’d actually realised that the Alco went through to Gwalior the previous night we could have done ourselves a big favour and tried to get onto the train; we’d have been at Gwalior at about the time we eventually left Chitrakoot!

Trains came and went but our 12183 didn’t. It hadn’t even made it onto the screen by 0130! And 2h35m late is exactly what it was when it eventually rolled down the platform with KTE WDG3A 13029. We had proper tickets for 12183 in SL class, which had bought for us by someone in Goa a few weeks earlier after we’d changed our plan to avoid the crowds at Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. In the end it turned out we didn’t need them as the reservation sheets posted on the platform for the train had shown 2 empty berths in 2AC, these becoming ours when the TTE was confronted as the train rolled in.

We departed for the second night running in the early hours of the morning, over 3 hours late! Alarms were set for 0500, a mere 2 hours later, at which point I got up to find us just departing Ata, the station after Orai towards Kanpur, from which point we had a decent run into Kanpur. My phone internet had told me that 14218, which we had a plus 1h20m on to was 41 late at the last shack out of Kanpur so we’d expected it to be long gone and had come up with an alternative move in the vestibule on the approach to Kanpur. This involved getting back into the same berths and going through to Pratapgarh and into Allahabad that way; which if the train was less that 2 hours late at destination was achievable.

We arrived into Kanpur Central at 0646, 2h46m late. As we ran into one of the middle platforms I caught sight of 14218 being displayed in the electronic board indicators on one of the other platforms; which had a set of stock in it. It took no encouragement to get off while the train was still moving, about turn, leg it over the footbridge as fast as our legs could carry us, and our bags, and down the steps onto the platform that did indeed still have 14218 gracing it with its presence. It was a relief as the alternative bash would have meant missing out on a big chunk of track from Kanpur to Phaphamau Jct via Unchahar; which is in the process of being electrified.

We found the 2AC coach we had side berths reserved in almost empty and chose ourselves an empty 4 berth compartment to get dossed out in and that was me until the approach to Phaphamau Jct; for the second day in a row getting to bed after 0530 and dossing out until after 1300 in the afternoon!

As we departed Phaphamau Jct ET WDM3A 16737 was sat in an adjacent platform with a short passenger train; and an empty one at that. We could have actually got off for it at Prayag Jct if we’d realised where it was going but instead we ended up seeing it at Allahabad Jct shortly after its arrival.

Allahabad Jct was nowhere near as busy as I’d expected it to be with folk returning home after Kumbh Mela but there were still plenty of people about and the whole station area outside was fenced off with very strict crowd control seemingly in operation to gain access to the station.

We ended up on the same set of stock back to Prayag Jct which returned to Chandigarh as 14217 at 1405. It had also had an engine swap, JHS WDM3A 18745, which had worked it in, was nowhere to be seen and KTE WDM3A 18962 was sat waiting to depart. The fact that the chain was pulled three times as the train tried to get out of the platform, on time, wasn’t much of a bonus at all and was just downright annoying. We were only on board to Prayag though where we got off to do 14209 Vindayachal – Lucknow forward to Phaphamau or 54253 Prayag Ghat – Lucknow passenger, for a choice of trains back into Allahabad Jct; or so we thought we were doing anyway…..

The enquiry board at Prayag showed 14209 as being 90 late but 15018, our choice of train back into Allahabad as only 35 late. However the one thing that stood out on the board was 54253 Prayag Ghat – Lucknow passenger, which was already showing 1h50m late yet it only started a few km’s away. A quick glance at trains in the opposite direction reveal the inbound from Lucknow to be 3h30m late; this opening up a whole bonus move on a piece of track I hadn’t even realised was open until I’d come across the train that morning while frantically trying to find a way to get from Kanpur – Allahabad. It is the only train of the day in/out of Prayag Ghat and as the opportunity had just smacked us in the face it would have been rude not to indulge.

LKO WDM3D 11250 did the honours as 54254 arrived at 1527, as “SpoturTrain” said it would. There was plenty of room on board the only train of the day to Prayag Ghat as it departed and staggered down the hill towards the Ghat. The loco pilot had the dynamic brakes on all the way down and we never got above 10kmph; which was understandable when the embankment was only an inch from the footsteps of the coaches and there was debris strewn all over and cows  roaming about wherever they saw fit.

For only one train a day though Prayag Ghat has 5 platforms and had plenty of trains in it, LKO WDG3A 13348 & LKO WDM3D 11254 were both there with sets of stock. It seemed the place was used as a carriage siding as well. Judging by the stations proximity to the Ganga & Yamuna Rivers it had probably seen plenty of action in the last month with trains in/out for Kumbh goers, plenty of which were waiting for the train as it arrived, to start them on their journey towards home; somewhere in India.

I’ll bet we never got above 5kmph on the way back up the hill to Prayag Jct; the approx 2km taking a good half an hour! Sat in Prayag Jct as we arrived was 15018 Gorakhpur – LTT, a train we never thought we’d see waiting for us to arrive. ET WDM3D 11174 was on its own on a train, which until recently, had been worked by ET twins. The train wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere and even when it did set off, after about 30 minutes, it sat outside Allahabad for another 20 minutes.

We arrived into platform 8 and in the adjacent platform 7 was LKO WDM3A 16319 with a passenger train. We assumed that it would be held for one of the expresses to go towards Prayag before it and when we found LKO WDM3D 11261 on platform 10 with 14511, which should have departed 40 minutes previous we opted for that instead; which turned out to be the wrong move. 16319 had blown up to go not long after we’d got to platform 10 and we were never going to get back for it. It had obviously made 11056 Gorakhpur – LTT at Prayag Jct, which in turn had ran into platform 9 at the side of 14511 with ET WDM3A 18769. No sooner had it stopped did 14511 get the road and away it went. So in the time we’d been stood at Allahabad we could have done a bonus move to Prayag by the looks of it…….

As it happened we got to Prayag and then got robbed for an auto-rickshaw back to Allahabad City; they wouldn’t take less than RS200 for the journey and in the end delivered us unwittingly back to Allahabad Jct and not City as we’d asked for. The whole station exit was blocked off and had army guys in attendance, who ended up sorting us a pedal rickshaw to “Rambagh” as Allahabad City is known locally for RS40. It was a decent cycle for the guy who ended up with RS50 off me in a sly move to change a RS50 note at the start of the journey and the cheeky so-and-so wanted more when we got there; all he got was plenty of abuse and told where to go!

The stock for 15103 Allahabad City – Gorakhpur was backed in with plenty of time for all to board. The train usually starts at Kanpur Anwarganj and our reservation was from Allahabad Jct; hence the reason for messing about trying to get to Allahabad City. I have no idea why 15103 was starting at Allahabad City for a period but guessed it was Kumbh Mela related and was glad I’d found out before getting to India as we could well have been waiting obliviously at Allahabad Jct until it was too late……

JHS WDM3D 11341 was the train engine, which we’d already had on this trip from Kanpur to Orai a few days previous. Our berths in 2AC we both upper ones and with them made prior to departure I was miles away when the TTE came round for tickets shortly after departure.

Thursday 28th February 2013

Our alarms woke us both at 0400 and by the time we’d turned it off another alarm was going off in the coach; clearly someone else was getting off at Bhatni as well. A quick run to the door as we slowed down revealed that it didn’t look like would be going to Bhatni after all. We were just running into Indara Junction, where the MG for the Dorighat branch remained in situ. There were even some MG coaches there, which I found a bit strange as the line had used MG DMU’s not YDM4’s and stock. We were 90 late and only on a plus 1h27m at Salempur, let alone the plus 40 we had at Bhatni; so it was Salempur or bust.

Although this was yet another train cutting it fine for our morning bash we did actually arrive before it should have departed Salempur and there was no sign of it in the distance either…..

Our 15003 was held to wait a late running 12537 Muzaffarpur – Mandaundih run through with a GD WDM3D which we couldn’t see the number of in the dark. The time 15003 was held though it could have actually made it to Bhatni, and had time to spare! It departed straight away after 12537 had gone though which meant our 0520 departure to Barhaj Bazar would be at least an hour late even though it only started at Bhatni, which then brought another problem with it in that we only had a plus 63 back at Salempur after returning down the branch; if we missed that we were screwed and something would be being missed out of the plan.

Salempur was just waking up when we arrived and by the time the shenanigans with 12537 & 15003 had sorted itself chai was freely flowing on the platform and flowing into a cup held by me, shame it was nothing more than hot milk/water with sugar in it. There was no hint of tea at all!

There were announcements in Hindi over the PA, one of which I could make out was about a train to Barhaj Bazar and platform 1 but as there was also a train due to Varanasi I went to check with the Station Master; as had many other it seemed and confirmation was forthcoming. 55101 0500 Bhatni – Barhaj Bazar would be the next train into platform 1. Meanwhile into platform 2 arrived GD WDM3D 11264 with 51150 2250 Mandaundih – Gorakhpur, running 3 hours late.

GD WDM2 16887 rolled in with our train about 60 late and it wasn’t wedged either. A few people challenged us about getting on the Barhaj Bazar train, assuming we were going to Varanasi, but their concern was soon averted when we confirmed every time that we were indeed going to Barhaj Bazar.

The line runs out of Salampur parallel to the main line to Varanasi so trains can run in/out at the same time as trains on/off the main line and it then curves immediately right, from which point it’s a bit of a stagger. The train was never wedged but we did have a bit of a fan club en-route. The train being late though did at least give the sun time to get out and allow for better photographs when we arrived into Barhaj Bazar.

While photting at that end of the station we had to move our fan club out of the way of the station sign and were then bizarrely greeted by an English voice with a southern accent! It turned out the voice that greeted us belonged to a guy who lived in Bournemouth, he’d been told by locals that there were two white folk on the station and had come to investigate. He was originally from Barhaj Bazar but had left in 1979 and been living in the UK since the early 1980’s. He’d just come back to visit friends for a few days while he was on a trip to India.

It was a shame the train crew weren’t as keen as us to get the train away. They were very efficient in running 16887 round but even keener to get off it, walk down the platform and stand drinking chai for almost 10 minutes! Not what we needed on a tight plus but we made it by 4 minutes in the end; knowing it was 11 minutes late courtesy of the phone internet. It didn’t help the nerves though when we got stopped at the signal outside the station but by the time I’d fought my way through the crowd to stand glaring at the signal the driver had blown up and we were on the move with half the amount of people on board than when we stopped.

We didn’t have long to wait for our 15104 Mandaundih – Gorakhpur but the wait was prolonged while 16887 ran round to work back to Barhaj Bazxar with a slightly late running 0900 departure; 15104 was sat outside waiting to get in for at least 5 minutes. The timetable showed it to only have 2nd unreserved as well but there was a nice clean AC chair car in the middle of the rake which had plenty of room for us after confirming with the TTE we could use it. The bonus being it had loads of charging sockets and the run to Gorakhpur was a very relaxing one behind UDL WDG3A 13379, which could be heard through the windows of the AC chair car 10 coaches back!

Two shacks outside Gorakhpur, at Kusmhi, we overtook 11264 with 51150 2250 Mandaundih – Gorakhpur, which we’d already seen at Salempur running 3 hours late. At the second time of spotting it was 4h30m late. We did actually see it arrive into Gorakhpur later, a whopping 7 hours late at 1415. We also passed GD WDM2 16687 at Gorakhpur Cantt, just few km’s outside Junction. Baring in mind it was at just after 11am, this train did not make it into Gorakhpur Jct until just before 1330! Bloody good job we hadn’t bothered to get off for it otherwise we’d have ourselves another flap on as the train we were going for, 19040 Muzaffarpur – Bandra Terminus was due away at 1320.

We festered around on the footbridge in the afternoon sun to await our train forward to Mankapur Jct arriving, admiring what used to be the MG platforms over the back of the station. These now had BG tracks down but weren’t used. Maybe if they were, random passenger trains wouldn’t have to stand outside for hours waiting a slot in eh?

Having spent more than enough time on the footbridge we were pleased when 19040 was announced as arriving. It had been 45 minutes late, then an hour and was a little over 1h20m late when it departed. We managed to get seats in 2AC and the surprise was the loco being IZN WDM3D 11354 as opposed to the expected GD link.

At one point during the journey we were 1h18m late on a plus of the same but it seemed our luck was all out and when we rolled into Mankapur Junction at 1715 the 1700 stopper to Ayodhya was nowhere to be seen; resigning us to a 3 hour fester while it went to Ayodhya and back!

There’s nothing on Mankapur station at all but just outside there were plenty of stalls, all of which seemed to be just pulling fresh samosas out of their fryers; and good ones too.

As with all trains you only just miss the inevitable lengthy fester always gets prolonged by the next train being late; this case was no different. We’d almost suspected it would be the case when WDG3A 13275 and its goods train departed at about 1900 towards Ayodhya and it obviously had some part to play in LKO WDM3B 14157 not arriving until 2025 with the stock for our 2015 passenger to Faizabad. We’d got a little concerned and I’d been over to the Station Master to see where it was. It sounded like he’d just been offered it as I walked in and he told me it wouldn’t depart until approx 2045.

It was only a plus 28 at Faizabad, which went out of the window the moment the train was 60 seconds late, but a bigger plus at Ayodhya which was where we ended up at. 14157 wasn’t up to much, unfortunately, but the train was empty and we had most of the front coach to ourselves for the short journey in the dark. We’d had plenty of time to spot the following at Mankapur during our fester, with the darkness it was quite hard to identify most trains as they were travelling at speed:

VTA WDG3A 13275 with a westbound freight in sidings

SPJ WDM2 16655 with a westbound express

GD WDM3A 16062 with 55028 1715 Gonda – Gorakhpur passenger

UDL WDG3A 13380 light engine off branch, reversed and departed towards Gonda

GD WDM3A 14033 with an eastbound electrification materials train (mainly electrification masts)

TKD WDM3A 16004 with 15273 0850 Raxaul – Delhi (held in platform for trains to pass)

GD WDM3A 16624 with a westbound non-stop express

TKD WDM3A 16028 + SGUJ WDP4 20076 dit with a 15652 Jammu Tawi – Guwahati (WDP4 obviously a failure as is the regular link)

SGUJ WDP4 20014 with a non-stop westbound express

LDH WDM3A 16301 with 14213 1415 Varanasi – Gonda InterCity Express (arrived off Ayodhya branch, ran round and dep towards Gonda)

Newly out-shopped KGP WDM3A 16627, in the new blue livery that Patiala seemed to be applying to the rebuilds, arrived only a couple of minutes late into Ayodhya with our 18192 Kanpur Anwarganj – Chhapra. We were reserved in 3AC but the train had 2AC on it as well. The TTE told me that it was a trial up to 28th February only and that there was no room on this occasion; which would lead you to believe the 2AC trial was a success?

Friday 1st March 2013

Our alarms were set for 0600 but I was up slightly beforehand, just in time to witness us run through Phephna Junction; which meant we were bang on time, if not early. We were off the train less than 15 minutes later at Ballia, having arrived 10 minutes early!

The sun came up nicely at Ballia, allowing us to photograph the morning scene at the station. GD WDM3A 16019 was shunting about, as was WDG3A 14980. SPJ WDM3A 16334 was sat on the stock waiting it’s 0900 departure time with 13106 Ballia – Sealdah and GD WDM3A 14065 passed through with 55018 0500 Mau – Chhapra passenger.

The next train out after that was our 14017 Muzaffarpur – Delhi which arrived with its custom TKD WDM3A, 16305 on this occasion in a slight variation of TKD’s livery with a random blue band round the lower half of its body. We had berths in 2AC which got us away from the crowds of people that were waiting for it and avoided a likely stand in SL class to Aunrihar Junction.

At Aunrihar 14017 waited to cross its opposing working for the day, this being 14008 New Delhi – Muzaffarpur with TKD WDM3A 14015, in the meantime we went to investigate the old MG platform that used to serve the Aunrihar Jct – Jaunpur Jct line. The island platform remained, as did remnants of the toilets at one end. There were no tracks through them though, the only MG tracks remaining in the whole place being the ones that had an MG tank wagons parked on them, the rest had all been removed completely and weren’t even lying around anywhere. The station looked as though it would eventually succumb to the wilderness; the tank wagon being the only thing that will shed any clue on the MG ever existing there in the first place.

Our plan had been to get off 14017 at Aunrihar for 15159 Chhapra – Durg behind it to Varanasi, to then return to Aunrihar later top do the line to Jaunpur, which had only opened as BG some 18 months previous. When ET WDM3D 11276 arrived with a late running 15018 Gorakhpur – LTT our plans changed and we were Varanasi City bound on it, stood in SL class.

Having witnessed some very indifferent passenger train running over the previous few days we were very wary of leaving our move back to Aunrihar until the last minute and risking not doing the branch to Jaunpur in the process.

We had four bites at the cherry, so to speak, to get back from Varanasi City to Aunrihar. They were 55120 at 1120, 55132 at 1218, 55124 at 1400 and last but not least 15017 at 1310. The last stopper at 1400 should have put us into Jaunpur for 1440 and on to a plus 40 for our 1520 train over the branch. The electronic departure board at VaranasiCity was already showing the 1120 departure as 1 hour late and the 1218 as 1h30m late. A 139 sms enquiry showed 15017 as being on time at Varanasi and the stock for the 1400 passenger was already at Varanasi City.

When KTE WDM3A 18738 arrived with 15159 Chhapra – Durg we ended up taking the plunge towards Varanasi Jct; with plenty of time to find 55120 that should depart at 1100, but with its hour late start we’d still see it.

As we arrived Varanasi Jct an LDH WDM3A was shunting a brand new WDP4B, 40104. There appeared to be another WDP4B in the sidings at the other end of the station where the new locos are delivered to from DLW. The previous week people had spotted three new M10 Class for Sri Lanka and three new BED30 for Bangladesh; no such luck for us!

There was only one other train in Varanasi Junction when we arrived, and it wasn’t 55120 passenger, it was 12237 Varanasi – Jammu Tawi with its regular LDH WDM3A link. Thankfully there were no electrics to be seen anywhere and with 12237 being Alco it was probably a good sign as it was probably a candidate to transfer to electric from Varanasi through to Ambala at least, the moment it could.

Our time at Varanasi was spent festering on the footbridge waiting for something to happen, an announcement, anything. The vendor at the bottom of the steps on platform 8 was bit of a treat when he tried to charge me 5 RS per bottle of pop more than he should. The promotional price was written on the bottles in big letters, RS25, yet he insisted this was an outside price and that they were RS30 each. Its amazing that they back down without a fight when you’re persistent; which of course means they’re wrong and you’re right.

Even though 15017 LTT – Gorakhpur had been announced as right time once, it was then announced at 15 late, then 30 late a few minutes later. Then out of the blue came an announcement for 55120 passenger, which was apparently starting from Mandaundih despite the timetable showing it as a Varanasi starter.

GD WDM3A 16022 departed Varanasi before 15017 had arrived so we went out to City with it, umming and arring as to whether to risk staying on and it being looped or to get off and wait for 15017 behind. In the end we got off at VaranasiCity to wait. 16022 departed, leaving us behind to await our destiny. GD WDM3A 14060, which we’d assumed would work 55124 1400 Varanasi City – Bhatni passenger was now sandwiched between two sets of stock, one having GD WDM2 16887 on it, which would work 55124 instead; it having sheeped us from Barhaj Bazar.

It wasn’t long after 16022 had departed that 15017 was being announced as “arriving shortly”, shortly meant 10 minutes though. LKO WDM3D 11219 arrived with the train, a train that was a solid ET turn so surely an off-link? It made good time all the way to Aunrihar, although not overtaking 16022 with 55120 passenger but we did have to wait for it to clear section at the last station before Aunrihar. In the end we had a good 45 minutes to play with before our 55159 1520 Aunrihar – Jaunpur passenger which had KTE WDG3A 14959 coupled to it but shut down.

The run to Jaunpur was straight forward enough, fast track, smooth and some decent thrash from 14959, even if I was dozing for half the journey. Upon arrival we found a set of stock in the adjacent platform. It took a while but we eventually got there; the loco pilot confirmed, via translation with a young lad, that it was 54376 1700 passenger to Prayag, which should have already departed. The loco was another KTE WDG3A, this time a “baldie” 14557. We’d been planning on doing 13308 Firozpur – Dhanbad to Zafarabad but the Shakti was a far better option; if only for the Shakti value as the thrash was complete and utter rubbish. It never got above half power all the way and yet it sounded like it had so much potential!

With a little time to kill at Zafarabad we sat at one of the little kiosks outside the station and drank a few chai’s before returning to fester on the station. 54109 Mughalsarai – Faizabad passenger was our train back towards Goshaiganj, where we’d board 18192 Kanpur Anwarganj – Chhapra for the second night in a row, this time to do it all the way through to Chhapra. As the announcements at the station were not automated I couldn’t understand much of them so went to check what platform 54109 would depart from. The answer I was given is this “54109 is cancelled sir”! Followed by a stunned silence. Not really the answer I’d been looking for nor anything near what I expected to come back as an answer in the first place. That certainly chucked more than a spanner in the works!

I eventually got across to the station staff that we needed to get to Shahganj at the very least to board our 18192 to Chhapra. I’ll give them their due, they had their own timetables out but couldn’t come up with anything better than 14235 Varanasi – Bareilly which departed Zafarabad at 0034; just 6 hours later! There weren’t even any goods trains we could hitch a ride on. The good news though was that 14235 arrived Shahganj at 0119 and our 18192 departed at 0215; the question being was 56 minutes enough leeway to not miss it?

No matter how hard we tried to come up with an alternative move to get us on track by Chhapra the following afternoon, there was nothing. All it needed was an early morning express from Varanasi to Ballia and we could have stayed in Varanasi the night and gone forward to Chhapra the following morning, but no, there was nothing! The only safer move that night would have been to do the 2315 passenger from Varanasi to Mau but that would have meant festering there until gone 0440 the following morning, which was just crap. So we ended up going into Varanasi on 13050 Amritsar – Howrah with LKO WDM3D 11160 to pass the rest of the day away; still frantically trying to come up with alternatives the whole way in while we stood in the vestibule of the 3AC.

The Hotel City Inn over the road from Varanasi Junction was our choice for food and a good one too. It was fresh, tasty and the place was clean. All we could do after that was hang around on the station, platform 9 where the electronic departure screen showed 14235 departing from. Our bags made for a good seat as we began to flag for the evening; tiredness setting in.

The stock for 14235 came in just after 2300 with KTE WDG3A 14883, unfortunately it didn’t run round and was the shunt engine for the evening. The TTE for 14235 didn’t show up immediately but the reservation sheet for 3AC already showed it was full, although there were three people getting on at Faizabad. Despite that he wouldn’t let us take the berths to Faizabad as the people with RAC tickets would be using them until then so we were resigned to SL Class, which was just as full! It turned out that there was some political rally going on in Lucknow the following day so the train was full as a result. The flags tied to the sides of the front coach when I went to get the engine number confirmed this. Surprise of the evening was NGC WDM3A 16494 backing onto our train. I’d been expecting a LKO or maybe even IZN link but not NGC. It was late though and didn’t back on until 2 minutes before departure time; the result being us departing 7 minutes late and being 20 late by Zafarabad after staggering out of Varanasi.

Saturday 2nd March 2013

We were doing ok with our run to Shahganj, until just before Khetasarai, the last station before Shahganj, only 8km away. The chain had been pulled on the approach to the station but it appeared that nobody could reset the pipe work and the air kept pissing out. I got out with a torch myself to attempt to sort it but couldn’t get far enough forward towards the front of the train due to a small bridge. By the time I clambered back onto the train and out of the other side someone had managed to sort it, although it did go again immediately. By the time it was reset for a second time the train guard was almost level with the coach but thankfully for us he let the loco pilot draw forward to pick him up rather than walking back.

The station stop at Khatasarai was brief and the run forward from there to Shahganj fast. We arrived at 0150, 31 late. Our 18192 was just approaching in the distance. The relief was fantastic. Had we actually missed 18192 our next few days would have been down the pan completely and we’d have never caught ourselves up.

The TTE on 18192 was surprised to see us but knew who we were when we told him we had reservations from Goshaiganj. He’d written something in his local language at the side of our names, which was probably something to do with a no show, but scribbled it out and ticked us off on his list. His assistant showed us to our berths and it was lights out!

GD WDM2B 16725 delivered us to Chhapra Junction about 30 late. Our attempts to find something to eat outside the station were fruitless, not only were the roads filthy, dusty and wet all at the same time, there were flies everywhere, covering everything, including standing food. The refreshment room on the station was closed so it was a platform vendor for breakfast. What we hadn’t banked on was one platform vendor making fresh bread omelette’s on platform 3, ready to be sold to the masses on board arriving trains. The ones we had were straight from fryer to our hands basically and worth the RS20 they cost.

The rest of the morning was spent on the footbridge waiting to see if the 1000 arrival off the Thawe MG branch arrived before our 1213 departure on the BG. Of course, it didn’t and at 1150 we gave it up and wondered back over to platform 1 to find our 15280 Adarsh Nagar – Saharsa already in with LDH WDM3A 16129. We had reservations in 2AC but we needn’t have as the coach was almost empty, with only about 10 people in it total; this meant we could spread out and relax for the afternoon while our train took us deeper into Bihar, and the world of chain pulling……..

The only thing I remember of note was GD WDM2 16887 arriving just before we departed with a passenger train, seemingly still following us around the Northern areas after we left it behind at Varanasi City the previous evening. Also a WAG7 being stabled at the east end of the station as we departed.

Being 11 late arriving into Saharsa would have been a bit of a relief, if the 1900 Saharsa – Raghopur MG train wasn’t still in the platform. Our early shower going by the wayside in favour of wedging ourselves onto an already wedged MG train for the short run to Saharsa Kacheri Halt. NKE YDM4 6510 was in charge and we both needed it so it wasn’t going to get flagged. The line didn’t have long left before it succumbed to the GC that was rife in the area; and we may never see 6510 again, let alone have it.

We were wedged in at a doorway, on the opposite side of the train as we arrived into Saharsa Kacheri in darkness, and had to fight our way across the train to get off. I’d already spotted a cycle rickshaw in the roadway just outside the station and just managed to shout him before he was out of earshot. The rider didn’t understand English at all, not even the hotel name I showed him from the Google Maps print out I had. It wasn’t long before a helping hand gathered round and they explained where we wanted to go, even giving him the directions and telling him to make sure he went right up to the gate.

We were told before we set off that the fare was RS13, we gave him RS30 though. It was a long run, even though it was only a few kilometres, back down the pitch black road that followed the railway to the level crossing just outside Saharsa Junction.

The Hotel Vijieya billed itself as the only business class hotel in Saharsa. Whether that was true or not remains to be seen; but they did have room for us. We were shown a nice little room which had two beds a bathroom (including bog roll & soap), with geyser to keep the water hot and a TV. It cost just RS700 and we were checked in within 10 minutes; after all the form filling. The guys in reception didn’t speak much English but we got by. The waller that showed us to the room seemed to speak a little more.

When towels arrived, almost immediately after asking for them, our food order was handed over; 2 x Egg Dopyaza, 1 x Veg Pullao & 2 x Onion Paratha and while that was being rustled together we both had time to get a very hot shower and a complete change of clothes.

By 2115 we were ready for a bit of late night NKE YDM4 action; this kind of move wouldn’t normally be entertained but as it was very likely the last chance we’d have at getting any new NKE YDM4s in it just had to be done. We explained to the hotel guys in reception that we’d be going out and returning at around midnight. They had no problem with it but did get the night watchman to show us how to get in after hours; which was simply by pushing the locked gates forward until a big enough gap appeared for us to slip through.

The station booking office area hardly had a piece of floor free. The last train towards Mansi had departed before we’d even arrived and we would be doing the next one at 0515 the following morning. The only trains to depart before then were two MG trains to Raghopur, one of which was sat in so they couldn’t be doing that, and a passenger to Dauram Madhepura on the recently converted BG line towards Purnia Junction.

Unfortunately for me NKE YDM4 6513 was running round ready to work 52332 2215 Saharsa Jct – Raghopur, which I’d had a few years previous when it was a SGUJ based loco in the Katihar area. The train was quite empty and with no other train due to arrive before its departure there wasn’t much of a rush for seats so we had a few chai’s before departure and I even managed to get my gorillapod out and take a night photo of 6513 off the station footbridge; once the RPF that had taken an interest in us was out of site, just in case.

A guy that joined us just before departure enlightened us to the fact that the 2215 departure to Raghopur was actually a link train for 15282 Patna – Saharsa, which wasn’t actually booked to arrive into Saharsa until 2230; yet he told me it waited for it every day! Why the hell didn’t Indian Railways just re-time the damn train as opposed to making it wait?

MGS WDM3A 18844 arrived just after 2230 but we didn’t depart until 2245, 30 late. A few late comers had the unfortunate displeasure of stepping straight into a pile of sick a drunk guy had left at the front door, as they boarded when the train was on the move! Despite 15282’s arrival 52332 had plenty of room when it departed.

Our run out to Panchgachia was only 11km but took 30 minutes to do it with two intermediate stops; it was a bit of a stagger to say the least and 6513 wasn’t really tested at all. Upon arrival into the blackened silhouette that was Panchgachia we could see the headlight of our return train in the distance. It took a bloody age to actually reach us though; in the meantime we admired the sights of Panchgachia, in the dark.

It was that dark in the station area that when out train arrived we couldn’t actually see the number of the YDM4 as it ran past us and had to wait until we got back into Saharsa to spot it. It was a fuller train, with people asleep on the floor in the vestibule, but it didn’t seem to take too long too get back into Saharsa; it was after midnight when we did arrive though, the Dauram Madhepura passenger being announced just as we arrived.

We discovered 6684, another ex SGUJ YDM4, had delivered us back to Saharsa, after midnight. It appeared that my late night quest for NKE YDM4s hadn’t gone according to how I’d hoped. There were 8 “working” YDM4’s based there, of which I’d only had 3; including the two we’d just had…… The 8 there are (courtesy of someone esle’s venture two weeks prior to ours) 6389, 6463, 6471, 6510, 6513, 6597, 6684 & 6754. The latter one having been based at Sakri Jct 18 months previous. Further to the good ones both 6253 & 6378 were used as spares locos, both in various states of disrepair! Due to it being dark we didn’t get to see any of the aforementioned, other than the three we had.

The streets on the way back to the hotel were completely deserted but for the folk leaving the theatre next door to the hotel. The gates to the hotel were locked as we’d been told but there was a big enough gap to squeeze through them. We’d already set our stall out for bed and it was piss, earplugs in and lights out; the whole rigmarole taking less than 5 minutes. Our alarms were set for 0425, only four hours later; the perils of seeking new YDM4s……….

Sunday 3rd March 2013

Needless to say the alarm woke us both at 0425 and our checking out at 0445 woke the hotel owner. The night watchman had to get him up to give us our receipt and change from the previous night’s deposit.

The streets on the way back to the station weren’t quite as deserted as they had been less than 5 hours pervious but there were very few people about which made it all the more strange that a couple of guys were shouting in the street near the railway crossing for passengers to join their bus to Purnia!

15281 0510 Saharsa – Patna Jct only had AC Chair Car however it was quite a decent coach, with upholstered seats instead of the usual plastic covered rubbish. After a quick chai prior to departure I needed no introduction to the inside of my eyelids, which was pretty much the story until the approach to Fatuha Jct where we bode MGS WDM3A 18844 farewell and got off; the train being virtually on time. NKE YDM4 6754 was just coming off shed to work the first train of the morning to Raghopur as we departed Saharsa.

Surprise of the morning came when not only did 53208 0455 Buxar – Islampur arrive on time but it also had MGS WDG3A 13389 at its helm. I’d not even realised that MGS had any Shakti’s based there until that point. It must have been a recent enough transfer as the engine had “transferred to E C Railway” painted on the cab sides and the old shed emblem on the front, along with the shed code on the cab side, were painted over with MGS. The train was full but there was plenty of standing room towards the front so that’s where we headed. 13389 was ok, but nothing special even though it was on load 15. It was quite slackly timed to Islampur and our lengthy wait at Hilsa to cross MGS WDM3A 16443 with 13251 Islampur – Rajendranagar didn’t hinder our early arrival into Islampur at all.

We were almost out of water and despite there being plenty for sale at Islampur station, all were just old bottles filled with tap water; the seals well and truly broken on every bottle. There was nothing surrounding the station area at all other than the odd vendor and biscuits were the only thing we could buy. Despite a walk towards the nearest buildings to the station there was still no water on offer at all so we just had to do without! Our 2 hour fester at Islampur was on the stock out of the afternoon sunshine.

We had seats all the way back to Patna Sahib where we got off, from Fatuha onwards though the train was well and truly wedged. We’d arrived a good 15 minutes early into Fatuha to find another MGS WDG3A, 13411, sat waiting to head to Islampur with 12402 New Delhi Islampur “Magadh Express” which is renowned for being late and this occasion was no exception as it departed Fatuha 3h30m late; 15 minutes after we’d actually arrived.

The main line to Patna was quite busy and we were held for quite a while after our booked departure time and ended up 30 late, thankfully though we were let out in front of 13233 Rajgir – Danapur Intercity, which we discovered was also late by the time it had arrived into Patna Sahib. The fight to board that at Sahib was less of an endurance than trying to get off 53207 Islampur – Buxar passenger, which had people hanging out of the door when it departed.

Our plan to get off at Rajendranagar for 18183 Tata – Danapur into Patna was cut short when BWN WDM3A 16505 arrived right behind us with 13133 Sealdah – Varanasi. We’d only had time to buy pop, water & crisps and it was coming in while our change was being handed over. We didn’t smack the gift horse in the mouth and were into Patna Jct by 1840.

The Hotel City Centre is visible from the platforms and is no distance at all from the front of the station. We were shown both a non-AC room and a standard room, the latter having AC. The price difference was RS900 or RS1700, tax excluded. The only difference between the rooms, apart from the AC unit, was about two feet; they both had bathrooms with geyser and piping hot water. We opted for the cheaper of the two, without air-con, merely because there was no need for AC and the room was in the centre of the hotel and away from any roads. It didn’t matter where you were in the hotel though, you could hear trains departing.

Formalities done at reception, including paying RS1070 (tax included) for the total cost which included complimentary breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we were in our room by 1900 and straight down to the restaurant for quite possibly the best chicken meal I’d had in India.

As we’d finished our meal by 2000 we decided to go and do 12401 Islampur – New Delhi to Danapur to spin MGS WDG3A 13411 in which was 2h37m late returning from Islampur according to a text I’d sent to IR’s 139 service. We were on the station for about 90 minutes, 12401 came and went in that time but what we hadn’t taken into account was that 12401 would have an engine change to a CNB WAG7 for the run forward from Patna Jct. Schoolboy error that one………

There was plenty of evening action, including HWH WDM3A 14130 with 12369 Howrah – Haridwar “Kumbha Express”, which we couldn’t do as it was RA for a fair distance. We waited until 13413 Delhi – MaldaTown arrived, just in case it produced something big that we could do to Rajendranagar but it didn’t, it arrived with LHD WDM3A 16301 which we’d seen at Mankapur a few days previous; so it was back to the hotel for a hot shower. Two hot showers, two days in a row, whatever next……..?

Monday 4th March 2013

Even though we had complimentary breakfast tickets, which had been posted under the room door with the morning paper, we ended up ordering room service breakfast as the restaurant didn’t start serving until 0800.

At Patna Junction we found JMP WDM3A 16531 with 12368 Anand Vihar – Bhagalpur and there were plenty of trains headed by electrics knocking about. MGS WDM2S 18237 was shunting MGS WDG3A 13411 about in the station confines as well. Our 53232 0750 Danapur – Tilaiya arrived with KGP WDM3A 16139 and there wasn’t much room on board at all but we managed to squeeze in for the short run to Rajendranagar; from there onwards it was full and hanging out of the doors as it departed.

The next train into the platform towards Patna Junction was an EMU and it was ridiculously overloaded. Not only were people hanging out of the doors, avoiding getting their feet cut off on the platform edge, they were also wedged between the coach ends, sat on fittings with their legs pressed against the other coach to steady themselves. The train emptied out enough though for it to depart with people only hanging out of the doors; not wedged between the coaches!

The morning Digha – Patna Ghat DMU was next in and again well loaded but there was no sign of people between the coach ends.

While we waited at Rajendranagar for what was inevitably going to be a late Rajgir – Danapur passenger MGS WDM2S 17404 ran through with the stock for 13239 Patna – Kota, complete with LKO WDM3A 16355 dead inside which was to be the train engine from Patna. When it stopped in the middle road I scanned the train for open doors; nothing unfortunately. Not until the train started moving again anyway and ironically the only open doors on the whole train were the AC coaches. It was going too fast by the time they came past us to even contemplate getting on though, so we waited it out.

Any hopes of a second move out to Rajendranagar went down the pan when MLDT WDM3A 16515 arrived with 13234 Danapur – Rajgir Express, although the Buxar – Islampur hadn’t been seen at that point but we passed it just outside Patna Jct anyway. Our 53229 Rajgir – Danapur passenger arrived into Rajendranagar with people on the front of KGP WDM3A 16148, thankfully enough folk got off to make room for two English guys and their bags.

Back at Patna we discovered steam loco #2805 plinthed outside the station; while biding our time for our move forward to Ara.

12142 Rajendranagar – LTT produced twin ET WDM3A’s 18638/18826 and with the AC coaches towards the front and room in 2AC we relaxed on board to Ara, where our relaxing day would no doubt take a change when we subjected ourselves to the local line for local people that was the Ara – Sasaram line; or maybe not as the case was to be.

While minding our own business on the platform we managed to attract a small gathering which we were summoned from by an RPF guy who took us to their office, sat us down and got some waller to fetch us chai.

They were friendly enough folk, they couldn’t quite understand why we were going to Mughalsarai via Sasaram, but it didn’t overly concern them either which was good. Some guy was locked up in the mini jail, looking non too pleased with his current situation and even less pleased when chai was brought for us and not him. He was just told to shut up by the RPF guys and that was that.

While minding our own business on the platform we managed to attract a small gathering which we were summoned from by an RPF guy who took us to their office, sat us down and got some waller to fetch us chai.

They were friendly enough folk, they couldn’t quite understand why we were going to Mughalsarai via Sasaram, but it didn’t overly concern them either which was good. Some guy was locked up in the mini jail, looking non too pleased with his current situation and even less pleased when chai was brought for us and not him. He was just told to shut up by the RPF guys and that was that.

54274 0820 Sasaram – Ara was due into Ara at 1150 but didn’t arrive until 1330, not the best of signs as we were only on a plus 2h20m at Mughalsarai for our 15110 overnight to Rajgir. The RPF marched us round to the train and put us in the guard’s compartment at the rear of the train and told us to lock the door. Everyone else who was already in there was ejected, leaving us with our cold pop, water and supplies for the journey. The guards kit box turned up before he did and I initially wouldn’t open the door to let the guys load it on, until I realised who they were. When the guard turned up though the whole situation took a turn and he didn’t want us in his compartment and told us to get in the coaches. Even telling him the RPF had put us there had no effect; I had suspected that this scenario might manifest itself when he turned up. Having fetched the RPF guy to explain things took a turn for the worst, although it was a good job we found out what we did, when we did. It initially looked like the RPF guy had won the guard over but when he told him where we were going his response was that the train would not go to Mughalsarai and would “stay at Sasaram”. We were told we cold catch another train into Mughalsarai though but that wouldn’t have been an option to make our train that night. Even more importantly the fact that the passenger now terminated at Sasaram meant that 15109/10 were the only diesel hauled passenger trains over the Mughalsarai – Sasaram section and with it potentially getting electric links MGS – PNBE once electrics started working passenger trains ex Varanasi it meant that it was imperative that we got the track in, just in case. Ara to Sasaram would wait until another time; and it would be third time lucky when it did…… LKO WDM3A 16304 departed shortly afterwards about 1h15m late, by which time we were back in the RPF office waiting it out.

We’d flagged 14055 Dibrugarh – Delhi with it’s WDP4B, this the RPF couldn’t quite understand and thankfully didn’t insist we boarded it. Had that occurred I’d have been straight out of the other side and onto the opposite platform to wait it out. Our wait on the platform itself was short lived and when we’d amassed a rather large crowd this time the RPF’s big stick came to our rescue again and moved them away; which was when we were summoned to the office for a second time, this time with no chai though.

15646 Guwahati – LTT arrived in good time with LDH WDM2 17666 in TKD livery. The AC stopped right outside the RPF office and the TTE was quick to confirm that there was only one seat available to Dildarnagar, seat 31 in B2. He escorted us to it and chucked the dosser who taken residence in it out. It wasn’t ideal but at least we had a seat, even if we couldn’t get the seats up due to the amount of luggage beneath them; the train was well and truly rammed. Still there was free flowing chai and it was something relaxing rather than being rammed into the sleeper class.

MGS WDM2 “Jumbo” 17856 was sat waiting to depart Dildarnagar with the last train of the day to Tarighat. We were only there 11 minutes before ET twins WDM2 18670 & WDM3A 18562 departed with 19048 Bhagalpur – Surat. This train was way more respectable than the previous one with loads of standing room in sleeper class and there were pantry car wallers up and down with hot stuff from the pantry car all the time. The Aloo Pakoras were way too spicy for me though!

We were slightly early into Mughalsarai and 15646 was still there when we arrived; we’d been slowing at every section having caught it up anyway with our 3100hp more on the front. As luck had it there was even a bonus move on to Varanasi for our 15110 from there, or even 13050 back to Mughalsarai in the mean time, on 12371 Howrah – Jaisalmer weekly express. Unfortunately it was just late enough to be considered a risk and we had to watch MGS WDM3A 18846 depart, having replaced MGS WAP4 22708 which had brought the train in from Howrah.

Other trains observed at Mughalsarai were:

12334 Allahabad – Howrah with LHD WDM3A 14058, which was replaced by a WAP4.

53361 Barkakana – Varanasi passenger with WAP4 22869 which was replaced by LKO WDM3D 11232 for the run into Varanasi.

15110 Varanasi – Rajgir departed from platform 1 with LDH WDM3A 16135, the one and only sleeper coach, S1, only three from the front of the 10 coach train. It wasn’t very wedged, which was a good sign that may allow for a bit of spreading out; wrong, on a massive scale!

We got ourselves sorted in our respective berths, just in time for the whole of Bihar to start invading S1 and plonking themselves wherever they saw fit, playing music on their phones and a group actually set up card school in the bottom side berth opposite us, two of whom were perched on the end of my berth. One treat decided he was going to get to sleep on the bottom end of the woman’s berth opposite and put his feet across to my berth, which wasn’t actually much of an issue until his feet started flapping with the train movement and nudging me. A stop was put to that with one swift movement of the arm! Two other less than desirables decided that the floor between mine and the berth opposite was the place to sleep and they just made themselves at home. The perils of doing SL class overnight trains in Bihar with no coach attendant or TTE; never again, ever!

I’ve never been so thankful when the noise created by the anticipation of us approaching Patna Junction broke out and a mad rush for the door ensued. The coach virtually emptied. More got in but it wasn’t wedged going forward to Rajgir.

Wednesday 5th March 2013

I must have managed a bit of sleep after Patna as my companion’s alarm woke me at 0435. My own was going off in my pocket but couldn’t quite break through the barrier my earplugs were putting up…..

We were 60 late and ended up having to get of Nalanda, the station before Rajgir, for KGP WDM3A 16148 back to Bakhtiyarpur Jct on 53229 0510 Rajgir – Danapur passenger. We should have crossed 53043 Howrah – Rajgir passenger at Harnaut but there was no sign so we went into Bakhtiyarpur to save festering.

The information white board showed 53043 as being only 90 late so we stayed at Bakhtiyarpur and waited for it.

During our time at Bakhtiyarpur we saw:

18183 Danapur – Tatanagar with JMP WDM3A 16633 (not a KGP link as expected)

13226 Danapur – Jaynagar/Saharsa with KGP WDM3A 16317

15281 Saharsa – Patna Jct with MGS WDM3A 18844 (same one we’d had on it two days previous)

53043 turned up 2 hours late and then festered around quite a bit with HWH WDM3A 16060. Most of the delay was caused by waiting for both the up & down Shramjeevi Expresses to come/go, both with their expected TKD WDP4B’s unfortunately; an off-link on the Rajgir bound train would have been just the trick but it wasn’t to be.

Rajgir was a decent sized station and we offered at least 5 horse/cart types to take us places before we’d even made it to the platform end. 16060 had perched itself next to LDH WDM3A 16135 with the stock off our Varanasi – Rajgir train that morning and made for a contrasting livery photo with HWH v LDH.

53232 Danapur – Rajgir passenger was into Rajgir less than 10 minutes late with KGP WDM3A 16424 and a fairly empty train. We lost a bit of time on the run to Tilaiya though due to random stops at the side of the villages as well as the stations that served them. There was only the odd chain pulling event though. Virtually the whole of the line is elevated above the natural ground level and must have taken a long time to get the earth into place to make it so, there were even a couple of cuttings blasted through rock en-route. The scenery on the whole was nice too, mountains adorning the skyline the whole way with random rock outcrops adding to the sights. The whole line being through rural areas with hardly a road to be spotted until Tilaiya. The new train service must be a bonus for the locals?

JMP WDM3A 18870 was sat at Tilaiya with a Kiul bound passenger the whole time we were there, which was only 19 minutes and we departed at 1438 only 8 minutes late. The train on the return journey to Rajgir being even emptier than it had been on the way out and the bigger surprise came at Rajgir itself when hardly anyone got one, leaving the train empty, and two extra coaches were added for the bonus factor. These were coaches destined to Danapur, according to the painting on their body sides; they’d come from Howrah on 53043 that we’d arrived into Rajgir on earlier in the day. The run back towards Bakhtiyarpur was decent enough and with nothing else to pass we had a clear one and despite being 40 late at one point we arrived into Bakhtiyarpur at 1845, right time.

I’d been checking some of the Patna bound trains and 13225 was last shown 33 late which should have had it into Bakhtiyarpur just as we arrived, then sure enough came the announcement for it arriving on platform 2. 13225 was the Jaynagar/Saharsa – Danapur, it’s late running being a massive bonus really, although the dud KGP WDM3A 16243 wasn’t.

Knowing how unreliable 12401 Islampur – Delhi “Magadh Express” was I randomly checked to see how late that was, 139 confirming 2h16m which meant we should be 5 minutes in front of it from Fatuha Jct; so another bonus move for the evening was in the offering. That was until we got to the previous station and were held just long enough for Indian Railways to let 12401 off the Islampur branch before we arrived at Fatuha. When we arrived Fatuha the 1845 DMU off the Islampur branch was just departing and there was a freight in the way of our view of the Islampur branch so we didn’t even contemplate getting off. MGS WDG3A 13402 arrived into Patna Jct with 12401 shortly after we arrived on 13225.

After another excellent meal in the Hotel City Centre we used 13414 Delhi Jct – Malda Town “Farakka Express” as a taxi back to Rajendranagar with  LKO WDM3D 11238. Both it and its stock were very likely the same loco & stock we’d have on 13483 Malda – Delhi the following night from Tinpahar to Varanasi; one could only hope the loco would be swapped but it wasn’t very likely.

Both MGS WDM2S’s 17404 & 18267 were both shunting stock at Rajendranagar while we waited. Baring in mind we’d got off 53231 Tilaya – Danapur passenger at Bakhtiyarpur at 1846, gone into Patna for an hour to do food then returned on 13414 to Rajendranagar, arriving at 2138. If we hadn’t made 13225 we’d have arrived into Rajendranagar on 53231 at 2216, having had no food, no bonus moves and probably being very pissed off indeed!

The stock for 13242 wasn’t shunted in by 17404 until 2300, there being more people already on board the set than actually stood on the platform when it did so. Going into the carriage sidings for Rajendranagar starters was obviously the done thing. If only we’d known we could have walked down and got 17404 in ourselves! MGS WDM2 16676 was already attached to the rear, shut down.

The reservation sheet was already plastered to the side of the 3AC coach showing every berth occupied with about 80% of people getting off at Bhagalpur though. We were away on time and everyone seemed to be towing the line in respect of it being night time and getting themselves ready for bed.

Wednesday 6th March 2013

An on time arrival into Banka, even though we’d been chained a few times during the last 10km or so. Chai was found at the station entrance and if you were lucky you got a bonus fly in your cup. It was replaced though, but not binned, some poor unsuspecting Indian would no doubt have ended up with the fly in his cup instead.

The run round time from 13242 arriving to 13241 departing was only 40 minutes but we managed to depart right time with only us in the 3AC on departure from Banka; the station signs actually showing it being called Banka Jct, hinting at the fact the line would diverge at some point in the future and probably require another visit from us to complete the dots?

At Tikani we had a bit of a rude awakening from our relaxing when JMP WDS6 36091 came into view in the opposite platform, with two coaches behind it. Granted they were a bright red colour but still coaches nonetheless. A very quick investigation revealed that the train was a “Ticket Checking Special” as per the wording on the side of the coaches; and ticket checking is exactly what went on. Our train was held for about 20 minutes while a group of about 6 TTE/I’s went about doing a thorough ticket check of the whole train, except for our 3AC coach! The RPF accompanying them had couple of guys by the scruff of their collars and were marching them off down the platform. I’m guessing they hadn’t got tickets and were probably going to get a ride on the WDS6 for their sins! Maybe that was how to get 36091 in and it had been their ploy all along.

Unfortunately the 20 minute delay had us into Bhagalpur right time and we missed the minus 9 onto the 0921 passenger to Sahibganj. Little did we realise at the time how significant the passenger train being on time would be.

With nothing else to do for almost 2 hours we had a decent breakfast of omelette toast & chai in the refreshment room and just hung around on the platform watching the antics of people at Bhagalpur station; not before photographing the Hotel Gaylord right outside the station though!

12367 1115 Bhagalpur – Delhi “Vikramshila Express” was constantly being announced the whole time we were at Bhagalpur and was sat in platform 1 blocking our view of everything else with a WDM3D of some description on the Delhi end of the train. Only three trains arrived before ours:

13409 Malda – Jamalpur with a JMP WDM3A ?????

53431 Sahibganj – Jamalpur passenger with JMP WDM2 17763

53441 Mandar Hill – Bhagalpur passenger with JMP WDM3A 18842

Our 13236 Danapur – Shibganj Intercity Express was more or less to time with KGP WDM3A 16142. There were rafts of people waiting for it so we headed for the AC Chair Car. That too was a fight to get on as there were loads of youths doing what Bihari’s do, getting into AC without an AC ticket. We managed to get into the doorway though and ended up talking to a couple of the youths. They’d all been at college and were travelling home.

The train thinned out a couple of shacks out of Bhagalpur and we managed to get seats through to Sahibganj. Upon arrival though we had to seriously consider our next move as we were only on a plus 1h06m at Tinpahar for the 1520 down the Rajmahal branch. We’d seen the inbound of our 53022 1140 Bhagalpur – Azimganj en-route to Sahibganj; it had been 2 hours late with only a 40 minute turn round so it wasn’t looking good. The information whiteboard confirmed it, showing a 1600 arrival time vice the 1355 booked time.

Options for road transport looked very limited, the only such transport around the station area being a couple of shared rickshaws and the odd Maruti van with open side and roof racks, one of which was just leaving loaded with people. These obviously being shared vans to local places. The only jeep in the station confines belonged to the SE Railway, so it looked very much like we would be missing the Rajmahal branch for a second time. We attempted it 12 months previous and had ended up watching the 1910 Tinpahar – Rajmahal leave, 35 late. We also watched it arrive again an hour late. However, our 13413 Malda – Delhi was just arriving in the distance at the time and was 25 late itself so the right decision was made in flagging it then. Worst case scenario we’d still make the 1910 on this occasion but the big question would be, would it depart on time? We were booked on 13483 this time as well, so no room for lateness.

We spent our whole time at Sahibganj sat on a loco pilot’s box out of the way on platform 1. Initially we’d had a following of youths but I’d explained to one that their glaring was uncomfortable and he made them all go away, telling any other glarers the same thing! There was one thing of interest in the yard at Sahibganj, a steam loco. Not being genned up on steam I’d say it was a big loco and it had a tender. We couldn’t see a number from the station footbridge and didn’t risk walking over the tracks and yard to attempt to get one either.

At about 1445 my companion managed to get one of the Maruti vans to take us to Tinpahar. He’d told him it would take 90 minutes and the cost would be RS2000. Had that option been available about 60 minutes previous we’d have gone for it. With only 95 minutes to get for the train it was dodgy enough itself and for 37km to take 90 minutes I was guessing the road was crap, so we opted out in the end.

When it got to the departure time of 53415 1525 Sahibganj – Jamalpur we decided to do it to kill time. Our 53022 was showing a 1630 arrival at that point so we could go out a few shacks for it back. JMP WDM2 17933 was in charge of 53415 and there was plenty of room, to stand.

We went two stations out to Mirzacheuki and what a good job it was too! We got talking to a lad on the station who was flabbergasted at seeing two white people on his home station. He told us that the Bhagalpur – Ranchi Express would arrive before the passenger train in platform 2, and it did about 15 minutes late itself just after 1700. We stood in the “ladies” coach at the front to Sahibganj and then went and found seats in the 3AC forward to Tinpahar. We’d contemplated getting off to do the passenger forward from Sahibganj but decided against the idea. A second good decision for the afternoon…..

En-route to Tinpahar the chain was pulled and a raft of youths got off and could be seen legging it in all directions. By the time I got to the door to investigate two RPF guys off the train were wrestling with some guy, who I assumed had been pointed out as the culprit for the chain pulling. He was putting up a fight and in the end proved too much for the two struggling RPF guys and broke free; to a large cheer from others that were way out of reach. He ran in a straight line as fast as his legs would take him, never looking back until he was a safe distance away. At one point I actually thought one of the RPF guys was crouched with his gun ready to take a shot at the youth, but surely he wasn’t? Kafuffle over we were on our way again.

The previous time we’d been at Tinpahar we’d been surrounded the moment we’d arrived. This occasion was completely different and we just at the end of the platform, out of the way, and were left to our own devices. The stock for the 1910 Tinpahar – Rajmahal was in platform 3 and the loco ran round right after 13404 had departed for Ranchi. JMP WDM3A 16055 was on the stock and ready to go by 1830. All we could do was wait.

At 1900 a driver got into 16055, at 1905 we walked towards the back of the stock, just in case. At 1910 the token was handed to the assistant loco pilot and the road came off moments later. We were on in a flash, as the train departed right time. At departure time there was still no sign of 53022 which should have arrived at 1514 so it was over 4 hours late. There should also have been an 1837 arrival from the Bhagalpur direction, which we thought might actually be a connection into the train and that it might scupper our last ditch attempt to get the branch done, but that didn’t show either.

Missing the minus 9 at Bhagalpur meant we didn’t do the branch on the 1347 departure. 53022 being late meant we missed the 1520 departure also and if it hadn’t been for 13404 Bhagalpur – Ranchi then we’d have missed the 1910 departure as well. Oh to be a passenger on 53022 from Bhagalpur going to Rajmahal. Just how pissed off would you be missing two consecutive departures down the branch?

As we got on the train in the disabled coach an RPF guy followed us in, he’d beckoned to me to go to where he was but we were already committed to getting on where we were with the train about to set off. He moved a couple of people about to make room for us to sit down and then sat down himself. He was one of two RPF who rode with the train as security. His shift was from 1500 to 0230 the following morning and they would ride with every train down the branch during that time.

The train was timed 25 minutes to do the 12km and it took 25 minutes to do the 12km. Rajmahal station was quite a pleasant place and even had a chai seller. I was summoned to the rear of the train to watch the loco re-attach by our personal RPF security. It was all very efficient and we were ready to go with 10 minutes to spare and at 2000 we departed and at 2025 we arrived into Tinpahar; job done!

13483 Malda – Delhi was only a couple of minutes late into Tinpahar and we were shown the right place to stand by a member of railway staff, who hung around us the whole time we were on the platform having probably been told to do so by the RPF? As predicted the loco was LKO WDM3D 11238 which we’d had on the outbound from Patna Jct to Rajendranagar the previous night. The stock had virtually the same coaches but had been shunted about for some reason.

Our berths for the night were 1 & 2 in 2AC; less than ideal being next to the door and where the main AC unit was. It was noisy too. I asked if we could swap to side berths when the TTE came to check our tickets and he gestured for us to wait. Wait we did, but after 20 minutes we got bored and made our berths up. No sooner had we done so did we get our wish and were moved to berths 17 & 18 instead so we made our berths up for a second time before eventually getting to sleep in them.

Thursday 7th March 2013

Our moves this day were quite limited but upon arrival into Mughalsarai we were presented with options, let alone a bonus move. 13009 Howrah – Dehradun & 15668 Kamakhya – Gandhidam were both running late and the bigger bonus was that 54267 0855 Mughalsarai – Varanasi passenger still hadn’t departed when we arrived at 1005, with LKO WDM3D 11395 just being backed on.

13009 soon arrived over the way with MGS WAP4 22062, which was promptly removed and replaced by KTE WDG3A 14952. We had no encouraging to change platforms via crossing the tracks at the Varanasi end of the station. By the time we got to 13009, 15668 had also arrived in the adjacent platform with LKO WDM3D 11249, which was the only dud one of the three trains heading to Varanasi behind 13483 which we’d just got off.

13843 had departed while 14952 was being attached and 13009 followed shortly afterwards, over an hour late. As 13009 stopped at Kashi we had the bonus of being able to get off for 54267 passenger behind, which we did. 11249 with 15668 also ended up stopping at Kashi, well at the signal on the Varanasi side of the station anyway with the back couple of coaches in the station. 11395 wasn’t far behind though and deposited us into Varanasi at 1206, it was only 2h36m late!

We had yet more options going back to Mughalsarai so opted to do that rather than our planned Janghai move on 15159/60. 18104 Amritsar – Tatanagar should have departed at 1115 and 19313 Indore – Rajendranagar at 1215 and with 13240 Mathura – Patna being at 1320 there was plenty of choice. We didn’t need choice though when IZN WDM3D 11330 arrived first with 19313 and departed at 1328, 73 late, depositing us back at Mughalsarai with plenty of time for a nice afternoon noodle devouring session in Comesum on platform 2, and then time to kill until 13239 Patna – Mathura at 1625.

Back out onto the platform and only just onto the footbridge 12391 Rajgir – New Delhi was being announced as arriving on platform 3. In the distance was a WDM3D and the track it was arriving on was set for platform 3. Sure enough IZN WDM3D 11352 arrived with 12391 “Shramjeevi Express” a solid TKD WDP4B turn; not on this occasion though and a massive bonus for us in being an hour earlier than our anticipated next train to Varanasi and on we got. There was even room to sit down in Sleeper Class too.

Just outside Varanasi we passed 18104 Amritsar – Tatanagar with WDG4 12212 topping GD WDM2 16719 approx 4h30m late. Maybe the GD machine had actually failed? It would explain the lateness. Not bad though as it was being announced as arriving at 1310 when we’d first got to Varanasi just after midday!

Back at Varanasi at 1545 we had yet more options back to Mughalsarai, two of which were being announced consecutively as we arrived. 13414 Delhi – Malda “Farakka Express” and 12791 Secunderabad – Patna.

13414 arrived first into platform 5 with LKO WDM3D 11129, ET WDM3A 16224 arrived second into platform 1 but ended up departing first. With the trains being so many platforms apart we couldn’t stand in between and make our mind up when the driver blew up so the one we picked was the one we had to stick with. In this case it was 11129 and 13414 and although not necessarily a wrong choice we could have done with being on 12791 had we known what was going to happen at Mughalsarai.

13240 Mathura – Patna arrived into platform 9 before we departed with LKO WDM3A 16419; a third choice back to Mughalsarai!

En-route back to Mughalsarai for the second time of the day we passed LKO WDM3D 11267 with 13239 Patna – Mathura waiting at Kashi, which had just arrived into Mughalsarai as we had departed on 12391 and then ET WDM3D 11381 with 12792 Patna – Secunderabad. Also at Kashi was a Loram railgrinder which had a water tank in its consist and a driver trailer on the opposite end which was very much line our own DBSO’s. Ironically the whole train was painted yellow as well.

13414 stopped at Mughalsarai at 17:18:49; 54109 1640 Mughalsarai – Faizabad passenger started away from Mughalsarai at 17:17:36, that’s a minus 1m13s but we made it! How you may ask? As 13414 was staggering into the platform it was going slow enough for us to leap of at the platform end. I’d spotted a WDG3A over the far side of the station with what we could only assume was 54109 Faizabad passenger, which of course had been cancelled on us the previous week at Zafarabad! As 13414 took ages to pass us 54109 had blown up to depart just as the last coach was passing by us and was on the move before we even got down onto the tracks to make a bid for it. One guy in front of us managed to clamber aboard while it was moving off, on the ballast side, it was going too fast for us to even consider it though, especially with big bags.

A stroke of luck though in that the loco pilot assistant happened to be watching us cross the tracks saw that I was looking his way as the train was leaving and gestured to me as though asking if we wanted the train. I gestured back to acknowledge and the train was brought to almost a stand to allow us to board before picking up speed again. I acknowledged the crew for slowing for us and was actually grateful of their action for a change. I’d been banging on about locals turning up for the train at departure time and not running for it as it departed, resulting in the driver slowing to let them on. This time the shoe was on the other foot and I was grateful for it, especially with LKO WDG3A 13659 on the front.

Just as we approached Kashi KTE WDG3A 14883 was just coming onto the bridge to cross the Ganga with 13010 Dehradun – Howrah “Doon Express”. Had it been another 2 minutes later and we’d have made it and it would have just topped the day off nicely with a run back to Mughalsarai for our 12325 Kolkata – Nangal Dam from there vice Varanasi. It wasn’t to be though and we ended up sitting at Kashi for quite a while. 12334 Allahabad City – Howrah “Vibuthi Express” was being announced as we got the road to depart but as we didn’t know how long it was going to be we opted for the safer bet of going into Varanasi as it was only a plus 47 at Mughalsarai. It passed us not far out of Varanasi with LDH WDM3A 16122.

Having had a thoroughly enjoyable day and after a meal at the Hotel City Inn over the road from Varanasi station, i sat on platform 9 and waited for our overnight train, 12325 Howrah – Nangal Dam, to arrive; watching the world go by as I did. While biding my time some urchin who’d been scratting around on the tracks emerged in front of me holding a rather large rat up by its tail, showing it off to his urchin mates. He took great delight in swinging it about and teasing it, it almost biting one of his disabled pals who was crawling round the platform. I showed my displeasure at their stupid antics and moved my bags away from them. In the end he threw it onto the platform and then went off chasing it; the rat appeared to be a bit of a docile one, which was probably how he’d managed to catch it in the first place. There were plenty more emerging from random holes on the platform too, which I’d already moved away from once; the rat infested place that it was.

One more surprise of the evening was the sight of LDH WAG7 24588 running through Varanasi station with a coal set, my first spotting of an electric there and a sign of things to come, it had apparently been the third electric through since we’d arrived according to my companion. Maybe they were only using them on goods during the night as every freight we’d seen during the day had been diesel?

12325 was announced, just before time, as arriving into platform 4 and by the time we got over there HWH WDM3D 11297 was emerging from round the corner with the short rake that made 12325 Kolkata – Nangal Dam “Weekly Express”. Our side berths were soon made up and the TTE was soon round to check tickets, after departure. As the train was right away Lucknow, via Sultanpur, everyone was ready for bed and with there being no pantry car the whole coach had an air of calm about it as we went to bed.

Friday 8th March 2013

A very sociable overnight journey indeed. The only minor noise being people getting off at Bareilly and then some getting on at Moradabad; the latter being told to keep their noise down by my companion. All was then well and karma was restored until I decided to get up at about 8 o’clock and found an empty compartment, rather than the crap side berth to spend the majority of the day in. I managed to just beat a couple of others who were looking for places in 2AC to it, obviously without reservations and likely without 2AC tickets as well!

The journey was quiet all the way but for the odd outburst from the kids in the coach. There were no wallers up and down selling anything however there was an IRCTC vendor taking orders for breakfast and lunch at the same time, which was delivered, as he said, after Saharanpur. What I didn’t expect was for the omelette to be delivered first, followed 10 minutes later by the lunch; the latter obviously having been at the bottom of the same food basket. Thankfully we were both hungry and the lot got devoured in virtually one sitting.

It was pleasing to find a WDM3D still on the front of the train when we checked, you just never know with these things and after Ambala it was plain sailing into Punjab territory and a bit of a scenery change followed. Not only was it green but in every town there were temples everywhere, not one or two but three or four; all painted white, standing out above the rest of the town. We had plenty of time to admire Kiratpur’s offerings as we sat for a good while waiting an EMU arriving from Nangal Dam. Surrounding both sides of the station were coal loading/un-loading areas, one for trains the other for lorries; the air was filled with coal dust and when the sun shone through it the density of the pollution was highlighted even more.

As we departed Kiratpur ED WAG7 27460, way out of home territory, was sat in the head shut, probably waiting its coal train being unloaded, by hand! At the next station, Anandpur Sahib, we crossed the loco-hauled passenger train of the day from Nangal Dam to Ambala with GZB WAP4 22690 at its helm. Its train was actually longer than our meagre 13 coach set!

As we’d had to wait for the trains coming our of Nangal Dam we actually arrived into Nangal Dam at 1548, 8 minutes late, after having a cracking run and waiting time at most places since Moradabad. JHS WDG3A 13317 was in the carriage siding, and I say siding because it was just one road, with the stock for our 14554 Amb Andaura – Delhi Jct which would work up to Amb Andaura as 54581 1800 Nangal Dam – Amb Andaura passenger, having worked down that morning for servicing in the carriage siding.

HWH WDM3D 11297 was still our train loco and had given us a good run for the 1042km we’d been on board. It was promptly run round on arrival but couldn’t shunt its train into the siding until 13317 had shunted its out.

As we had 2 hours to kill at Nangal Dam we actually decided to do a spot of sight seeing, choosing number 1 on the list shown on the station platform; Nangal Dam itself. It was apparently 2km from the station, next on the list was only 4km but we didn’t quite fancy the, and I quote, Fartilizer Factory!

A 2km cycle rickshaw ride later we got to the dam, which has two sides to it’s manual doors that regulate the flow, we found big signs up saying “Strictly No Photography”, so that was the end of that idea! The one thing we did notice when passing over the dam on our rickshaw was that it has its own miniature railway running along the length of it on both bits. There’s a small diesel loco, no bigger than 3ft high and it had a wagon behind it with what looked to be some sort of maintenance stuff for the dam’s mechanical bits and bobs. At the junction where the second bit of the dam went off at 90 degrees there was a mini turntable to turn the loco and wagon so it could run up both bits; how very quaint? There was even a further wagon parked up in its own stabling point at one end of the dam.

Back on the station it was in total gridlock. An EMU in the main platform, 13317 running round its set, which it had deposited in the middle road, and 11297 still on its set in the other platform. 11297 having to do a triple shunt to get its train into the siding and rather than actually put our 54581 passenger into a platform it departed from the middle road at 1800 on the dot!

JHS’s 13317 was nothing short of an absolute machine! It sounded like it was going to be good ticking over and excellent is what it was. It had an underlying growl which added to the loud hacking it made when under full power and when the transition came in and back to full power it was off like a short; you could feel the acceleration.

We were waiting time at most places en-route to Amb Andaura and from Una onwards there is absolutely no sign or any hint of any electrification works. The overheads finish just beyond the turnout at the Amb Andaura end of the station, where there’s a no access to electric traction sign, and that’s it, which can only be a good thing for Alco fans, until of course the new railway minister from Chandigarh wants to see a nice shiny WDP4B on his Himachal Express!!!!

The platform was too short to take our train at Amb Andaura and the first 6 coaches were off the end of the platform, although there seemed plenty enough to take the amount of people waiting for it. It was a prompt departure at 2010 and after fully recharging everything we possessed the lights were out by 2100 and most folk were attempting sleep, although my companion did have to remind one family that there were more people than just them on board at round about 2200.

Saturday 9th March 2013

Just as promptly as we’d departed Amb Andaura we arrived into Delhi Junction; bang on at 0530. The usual bartering with auto-rickshaw drivers resulted in a RS100 drive across town to Hazrat Nizamuddin, the journey taking 20 minutes on the deserted roads.

We had to wait until we boarded our 12280 0710 Hazrat Nizamuddin – Jhansi “Taj Express” for breakfast, where we found a box full of omelettes about to be sold up and down the train! There was no room in AC Chair Car, or in non-AC chair car for that matter, and we ended up standing the whole way to Mathura Jct, where upon arrival there was no sign of our 51971 1005 passenger to Alwar being advertised. Not on the departure screen, not in the enquiry office, nowhere. Not thinking much about it we used a machine to check our PNR’s for that night on 18632. They were now RAC6 & WL1 after being WL20/21 originally! On the off chance we then checked 51971 passenger to be horrified by the machine’s response; it was only showing cancelled!

There was nobody in the Enquiry bureau to check with and the tourist info window at the Station Supervisors office on platform 1 was vacant and nobody returned in the 10 minutes we were stood there trying to work an alternative move out. There was a set of stock in platform 4 & 5 so we went to investigate on the off chance the machine was wrong; it wasn’t actually showing cancelled on Spot Ur Train. Neither set had any folk on board and although GD WDM2 16726 was residing in the yard it had no crew on the footplate and showed no signs of moving any time soon.

Back over on platform 1 and this time in the Station Master’s office it was confirmed that 51971 was indeed cancelled. When questioned as to why the only answer I got was due to a technical difficulty; which was nothing short of a typical English answer to a problem when a train was cancelled. There was clearly an engine and stock to work the train so technical didn’t really do it for me! Either way we were told the next train for Alwar was at 1325, this being 54791 1325 Alwar – Bhiwani passenger. This train was a plus 15 at Alwar onto 15715 Kishanganj – Ajmer. If that missed there was a back-up in the shape of the good old Ashram Express with it’s General Motors power. Not a great prospect but still it worked and the Ashram was a plus 1h15m onto our 18632 at Jaipur that night.

With the Mathura/Agra/Jaipur/Alwar trains being split between the Northern & Western timetables attempting to work a move out had been a bit of a nightmare; thanks have to go to the fact that since we’d departed Bihar I’d been able to get access back to the internet via the phone and it was easier to work a move out on that.

Our alternative was to do 55333 Kasganj – Agra Fort passenger to Agra for either 12036 Agra Fort – Jaipur Shatabdi to Jaipur or the late running weekly 19710 Kamakhya – Ajmer which was shown on the screens at Mathura as being 2h40m late. It was almost a plus 4 hours off it onto 18632 and it had plenty of make-up time so there wasn’t really any concern. The only concern was not getting the Mathura – Alwar route in, even though the Agra – Bandikui route was also new track. Reports on IRFCA had said that the Mathura – Alwar route was being electrified and it was the harder of the two lines to get in with only two trains a day each way.

We contemplated the move while doing GD WDM2 16700 on 55333 anyway, the result being we got off at Parkham where it crossed 55338 Achnera – Kasganj with GD WDM2 16851 and went back to Mathura to assess the risk factor. We had 19710 as a fall back if the 1325 passenger departed late so we were quite content that we had options.

Mathura’s old MG platforms were a complete transformation since the MG had been in situ. Proper platforms had been constructed with train watering facilities between them and there were even electrification masts erected throughout but with no evidence of wires overhead. The masts didn’t extend down the Achnera branch though so maybe it was only for the station area to allow for greater capacity, or maybe the line to Bareilly via Kasganj would be electrified?

We’d decided that if the stock for 54791 had no engine on it by the time 19710 turned up we’d be going via Agra. At 1245 LDH WDM3A 18871 arrived with 54792 Bhiwani – Mathura, its rake would go forward to Sawai Madhopur at 1400 and 18871 was removed and run round to the front of our set, which had arrived from Sawai Madhopur. It was bolted on and ready to go at 1315.

LKO WDG3A 13340, with another Alco dead in tow, arrived with 19710 at 1320. We felt confident enough to let it go and stay put to do our move via Alwar. We also knew at that point that 15715 had been 60 late from Moradabad so it seemed we had a bit of leeway anyway. That was until we sat, and sat, and then sat a bit more, eventually departing 30 late and losing 5 minutes to the first station then a further 3 to the second until at our latest we were 54 late having waited 15 minutes at one station for a freight to arrive.

All was well by the time we arrived Ootwad as the train was quite slackly timed from there and we’d have only been about 35 late into Alwar; had we not waited for WDM3D 11259 to pass through with a freight. We ended up being 50 late into Alwar, although safe in the knowledge that 15715 was 60 late from Gurgaon.

The line from Mathura to Alwar was undergoing modernisation on a grand scale. The electrification works were in quite an advanced stage initially, with wires up quite a way out but beyond Bedham there was nothing at all, no masts, no earthworks for masts, no nothing, only a big pile of them at the side of the station. VTA WDM3D 11417 was at Goverdhan with a wiring train an folk putting the wires in situ.

Not only were electrification works going but every station on the line seemed to be having a second platform built with a second platform loop as well. Again some were in the advanced stages with tracks down and others were in the initial stages with earthworks in progress.

Finally the whole signalling along the line was being upgraded from semaphore to colour light, doing away with the need for tokens as well. Colour lights were already in up to Govind Garh but from there onwards it was semaphores all the way to just outside Alwar Jct. Brij Nagar looked to have been recently done as its old semaphores were just dumped in a heap at the end of the platform. All the works were progressing from the Mathura end towards Alwar and in their various stages of completion. It seemed Indian Railways had grand plans for the Mathura – Alwar line, although I’m guessing not for passenger trains. The electrification was a bit strange though as the Jaipur – Delhi main line wasn’t electrified, so maybe that was for goods trains so far down the line?

At Alwar we found a WP steam loco, actually in steam, #7161. It was sat just south of the station, stabled with three coaches, the board on which showed it to be “Delhi Cantt – Alwar Steam Express”. Whether true or not or if it was just an exhibit at Alwar it drew enough attention from the locals as well as us. And while we were there GD WDM3A 16025 arriving with 15014 BGKT – Kathgodam made for a decent photo arriving as well.

15715 arrived 70 late with MLDT WDM3A 16569. There was room in the 3AC for us and we had a very pleasant journey chatting to the locals in our compartment through to Jaipur where we found ABR WDM2 16840 sat in platform 2 having arrived with 12036 Agra – Jaipur Shatabdi, which of course we could have done had we opted for option one of our concocted bashes. The whole unfortunate issue with our initial plan going by the wayside was that we couldn’t do a move on the MG at Jaipur; and we’d probably not get another chance to either before it was converted to BG.

After food on the station the moment of truth revealed we’d both been confirmed on 18632 and had berths 24 & 29 in 3AC coach B1, which was a bit of a result as the alternative hadn’t been a great prospect in standing in sleeper class all night. I’d always had every faith but you just never know with these things.

At Jaipur we saw the following:

TKD WDP4B 40039 with 12916 Delhi Jct – Ahmedabad

ABR WDM2 16796 with 19771 Ajmer – Amritsar

LDH WDM2 17666 with 07936 Jaipur – Secunderabad

BGKT WDM2 17717 arrived platform 5 with a passenger

Next in was our 18632 Ajmer – Ranchi weekly express which surprised us with KTE WDG3A 14883 which had clearly worked the Doon Express to MGS when we’d missed it at Kashi on Thursday evening and then 18631 from there to Ajmer on Friday morning, before presenting itself to us at Jaipur!

3AC was wedged when we boarded and there was also some RAC going on and even some WL folk boarding with their partners who had confirmed berths. I’d got a middle berth and had soon swapped it for an upper to get out of the way. The folk in the upper at the opposite side of the compartment were confirmed and WL and had a child. How they actually faired throughout the night I don’t know as despite the noise I ended up asleep almost straight away and when I did wake the lights were out, curtains drawn and everyone was asleep.

Sunday 10th March 2013

Approaching Kanpur Central everyone started milling about and that was it for sleep; just after 0730. A venture to the door revealed an Alco still on the front of the train, and a very good sounding one too. We were eventually 45 late into Kanpur, where chai was very hard to come by; people having to go all the way to the end of the platform to get some.

The run from Kanpur towards Allahabad, down the double track electrified main line was rubbish to Fatehpur. Very stop start and a bit disappointing really. Almost every loop en-route had a freight in it so whatever we were following had nowhere to go, literally. After Fatehpur though things improved and we got a shift on, hammering down the main line for the remainder of the journey into Allahabad, where we arrived at 1208, 7 minutes short of 2 hours late.

Our bash for the day hadn’t gone out of the window though as it didn’t commence until 1255 and as we were walking over the footbridge 11107 Gwalior – Varanasi was being announced as running 7 hours late, so a potential bonus train to do to Prayag was in the offering.

Watching ET WDM3A 14094 depart with 14217 1405 Allahabad – Chandigarh was the biggest mistake I’d made on the whole trip and the decision eventually resigned me to a day of train spotting at Allahabad.

It seemed like Sunday was a good day to travel home from Allahabad, with most people returning from Kumbh Mela. The station platforms were wedged with folk sat in the shade, all waiting for their late train; nothing was on time at all. Crowd control was in force outside the station with a large pen used as a holding area for what looked like unreserved passengers and opened close to the departure time of the train they were being held for. RPF were all over the station, controlling movements on the station footbridges, some were used as exit only, others as entrance only.

During my “train spotting” exercise at Allahabad one thing became clear in that every train that should have a loco run round at Allahabad was having a loco change instead. The fresh loco being already sat at a shunt signal ready to drop on, presumably to save time. What it did mean was that more locos were required at Allahabad and some very strange off-links were seen, a list of what we saw is below:

NGC WDG3A 13008 arr with 14218 Chandigarh – Allahabad

ET WDM3A 14094 dep with 14217 Allahabad – Chandigarh

LKO WDG3A 13649 arr with 14210 Lucknow – Vindyachal (didn’t see what went forward)

ET WDM3D 14085 arr with 11061 LTT – Muzaffarpur (didn’t see what went fwd)

JHS WDM2 18650 with 54102 Kanpur – Allahabad passenger

ET WDP4B 40052 with 12321 Howrah – Mumbai

UDL WDG3A 14824 arr with 15159 Chhapra – Durg, KTE WDG3A 13517 worked forward

KTE WDM2 16755 arr with 15160 Durg – Chhapra, GD WDG3A 13044 worked forward

ET WDM3A 18816 with a Allahabad – Mughalsarai Kumbh Mela Special

By 1630 I was getting thoroughly pissed off with the place and as GD WDG3A 13044 departed with 15160 Durg – Chhapra WDM2S 17545 began to shunt our stock out of the siding adjacent to it for 14511 Allahabad – Meerut. Both the station staff and the loco crew on 13044 had confirmed it wouldn’t stop at Prayag, which was a bit of a bummer, and then for people to be wedged onto our set as it got shunted out of the siding with the old WDM2S was just taking the piss; especially as I’d been stood looking at the train for quite a while at that point!

As the last coach of 15160 passed by us so did the last coach of our set coming out of the siding. It stopped about 300 yards off the end of the platform, obviously clear of the points to set back in, at which point desperation set in. I’d been at Allahabad long enough without having anything and off I went trudging down the tracks towards the rear coach. Just as we approached the set began to propel back towards the station but we got on just in time, walking past 4 RPF inside it as we found ourselves somewhere to sit while the shunt took place; not one of the blinked an eyelid.

About as content as I could be, having spent almost 5 hours at Allahabad doing nothing, we went in search of food but as platform 1’s floodgates had been opened with a steady flow of people from the holding pen making their way onto it we gave it up as a bad job and ended up doing samosas from one of the vendors on platform 9, where our 14511 Allahabad – Meerut was sat waiting. I was hoping we’d end up with NGC WDG3A 13008 but no such luck and LKO WDG3A 13649 had to suffice!

Our reservations were in 2AC and in side berths thankfully. We were reserved up to Meerut but as we’d missed out on the Gajraula – Najibabad – Kotdwara bit of the bash on the first day due to 14043/44 being cancelled the last part of the bash had been altered and we’d be alighting at Gajraula at 0555, having already done Meerut – Hapur – Khurja Jct on the first night of the trip instead.

As Allahabad was wedged with folk trying to get home, so was our train, including people with unreserved tickets wedging out the vestibule and one ignorant guy insisting he was going to try and find a berth in AC, who at one point intimated that he would sit on our side berth seats with us. Of course he got told well and truly what he could do with that idea.

A few shacks out of Allahabad a mass clearing out of riff-raff occurred. The TTE, RPF and coach attendant all involved in moving them all out, bolting down the shutters and closing and locking the doors behind them. That done it was a lot more peaceful and some much needed sleep followed.

Monday 11th March 2013

At Gajraula there was no sign of any stock for the 0730 passenger to Najibabad and it wasn’t written on the white board in the enquiry office. We were pointed in the right direction by the enquiry office waller, who’d just turned up for work, our train was in platform 4 which was a bay platform at the Delhi end of the station, hidden away.

54381 0730 Gajraula – Najibabad was TKD WDP1 15035 on a short load 5 set. We departed 25 late waiting for SSB WDM2 17723 to arrive with the inbound Najibabad – Moradabad passenger, late! That was pretty much our story all the way to Najibabad and despite having a bit of recovery time we needed it to give people time to try and wedge themselves into the train, or for the driver to use it to get people off his engine so that the poor folk could then try and wedge themselves into the train!

After Bijnor the train emptied quite a bit, it was still full but we could see daylight out of the opposite side of the train. The recovery time at the end of the train’s journey did come in handy. We were 35 late at one point and arrived into Najibabad only 12 late, on a plus 15!

Pioneer of the WDP1 fleet 15001 was sat waiting in a bay platform at the Ambala end of the station with just three coaches. We needn’t have bothered rushing for it though as it sat waiting for 30 minutes, even though the token waller was at the side of the loco the whole time! My guess was that as the level crossing was so busy they only wanted to put it down once rather than twice in 30 minutes and sure enough at 1200 down the barriers went, just in time for an express going the other way towards Haridwar; and off we went 30 late.

The line speed was decent for a branch line and there is a decent climb up towards Kotdwar, as the station signs call it. While out taking photos of the train at Kotdwar we were summoned into he cab of 15001 by the Loco Pilot Assistant, his Loco Pilot then telling us we would ride with them back to Najibabad; who were we to argue that one?

The crew were based in Haridwar, signed all diesels and electrics and drove to Dehradun, Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Saharanpur & Moradabad. When questioned on how they’d be getting back to Haridwar the Loco Pilot told us that they’d be travelling from Najibabad by train 14113 Allahabad – Dehradun, a train they joked was always late. Sure enough Spot Ur Train confirmed it to be running 4h47m late, which was just about right being as it should have departed Najibabad at 0950! This was a massive bonus for us as we’d been planning to get a taxi from Najibabad to Haridwar once we arrived back in from Kotdwar!

Having thanked the crew very much for their hospitality we had just enough time to get pop, crisps and deep fried battered bread before 14113 arrived 4h08m late with JHS WDM3D 14152; an engine we’d seen plenty of times on the trip so it was about time we got it in. There was plenty of room in 2AC for us to relax to Haridwar, and relax we did.

Our chances of making 19019 at Haridwar were dashed as we were held at Ikkar to cross the return working of the train we were on, 14114 Dehradun – Allahabad with TKD WDM3A 14136. IR clearly had a second set in the mix somewhere to combat the late inward as 14114 was right time.

All our hopes of any bash at Haridwar we looking like they were out of the window as 54464 Rishikesh – Agra passenger set off moving from an adjacent platform while we were still arriving into platform 1. Calmly though we clambered down to the ballast, up the platform edge, down on the ballast again and boarded on the offside as the train was moving away; not too fast I might add.

We only went out to Jwalapur so as not to venture too far from Haridwar just in case our returning 54341 Saharanpur – Dehradun passenger was late. We saw the following pass through during our time there:

HWH WDM3D 11404 with 12369 Howrah – Haridwar

LKO WDM3A 16304 with 14116 Haridwar – Allahabad

TKD WDM3A 17907 with 14317 Indore – Dehradun

Our 54341 Saharanpur – Dehradun passenger was surprisingly only 10 late when TKD WDM3A 16373 arrived with it and was soon up the hill into Haridwar. The station was wedged with people everywhere. 14609 Rishikesh – Jammu Tawi “Hem Kunt Express” was just having its extra coaches shunted on by LDH WDM3A 18884 and ABR WDM3A 16280 was shunting on the opposite side of the station. LDH WDM2 “Jumbo” 17814 was being prepared in the siding. Our stock was still in the carriage sidings but the departure board confirmed it would depart from platform 7.

We found the reservation sheets for 24887 Haridwar – Barmer in the booking hall, we’d been WL 69/70 since booking at Delhi Cantt at the start of the trip, yet they’d been showing confirmed throughout. We’d been allocated berths 61/62 in coach B1 and safe in the knowledge that we had berths we went for a quick bite over the road from the station in some random Dosa place, that apparently had Dr D as its chef, who’d made up more dosa recipes than anyone else and could make a dosa from anything; we opted for noodles!

Platform 7 was full of people when we got onto it. The stock for our train had been shunted out into the main platforms by ABR WDM3A 16280, which proceeded to run round the set, draw it out and propel it into platform 7; a few minutes after departure time. Then chaos ensued! The 2nd unreserved coaches were already full when the set backed in and there was even a scramble to get into the AC coaches. A lot of folk not paying attention to which coach they were actually getting into, causing more confusion to the chaos already occurring. Then of course the vestibules filled up with people, none of which had AC tickets, and there began an evening of no doss and general ranting.

The initial journey was just a nightmare, couples in our compartment constantly talking, mobile phones ringing, the lights being turned on/off regularly and when we got to Saharanpur things just got worse, more people got on, the lights went on/off a few more times and voices just got louder so each person could hear above the next.

Finally at Ambala the RPF sorted the squatters in the vestibule out and had them out. The two couples in our compo got off, and weren’t quiet about it, then in got a whole new set of people and 6 of them at that; baring in mind there are only 6 berths! The lights were on, curtains open, voices raised, mobile phones going off. Asking them to be quiet had absolutely no affect and even though the TTE threw two of them out the two berths opposite us ended up with two people dosed out in each of them eventually.

Sleep did eventually come but not until about midnight, having been trying since we’d departed at around 1930…..

Tuesday 12th March 2013

We were about 40 late into Bathinda but had just enough time to check that 16280 was still on the front after the Kalka portion had been shunted on at Ambala and then walk over the footbridge to platform 5 for 54752 Sri Ganganagar – Rewari passenger which was waiting to depart with TKD WDP1 15025. There was plenty of room on board and the whole 1h40m journey to Sirsa was a bit of a blur really as I dozed most of the way.

15025 and train were held at Sirsa for TKD WDP1 15032 to arrive with 54044 Hisar – Jind passenger, only 10 minutes late. This train had more room than the previous one but we were only on it the short distance back to Kalanwali so it didn’t really matter.

It seemed Kalanwali was just waking up when we arrived, some guy wheeling his makeshift stall to the station front, another stall having just opened and a chai stall just brewing up further down the road. Crisps, biscuits, chocolate and a chai later we were stood back on the station with rafts of other folk waiting for what seemed to be the main attraction of the morning in Kalanwali, 14520 “Kissan Express”. It rolled in about 10 late with its booked traction, TKD WDP1 15029, and we were straight to the TTE in the AC Chair Car. His reservation sheet was empty and there was plenty of room for two white folk to relax to Delhi Jct.

While stood on the footbridge waiting for 14322 Bhuj – Bareilly to arrive at Delhi Jct we spotted the following:

TKD WDP1 15055 arrived with 14545 Farukh Nagar – Saharanpur

SSB WDM2 17977, still in LDH livery, backed straight onto 54471 Delhi – Rishikesh passenger the moment the stock arrived

TKD WDP4 20xxx was sat with 12916 Delhi – Ahmedabad “Ashram Express”

TKD WDP4B 40xxx was sat on platform 16 with 14645 Delhi – Jammu Tawi

TKD WDM3A 16002 with 15035 Delhi – Kathgodam

SGUJ WDP4 20003 arrived with 15609 Guwahati – Lalgarh “Avadh Assam Exp”

When 14322 rolled in with IZN WDM3D 11301, which we’d had on the same train earlier in the trip, it cued a trip to good old McDonalds on Delhi Junction station for that familiar taste of home, no matter how bad for you the food may be.

Our next train of choice was 14008 Delhi – Muzaffarpur which was brought in just before 1600 by TKD WDM3A 18866, in a new variant of what seemed to be TKD experimental liveries, this red/silver looking quite the part and looking a lot brighter against the contrast of the usual maroon of WDM3A 16002 sat in the adjacent platform with 15036 Delhi Jct – Kathgodam.

As the stock for 14008 arrived SSB WDS6AD 365xx shunted out the stock for our next potential train and deposited it in platform 16 after 14645 had departed for Jammu Tawi. The usual link for 15274 Delhi – Raxaul was a TKD WDMx but on this occasion IZN WDM3D 11163 backed down onto the train. Which was a result for our move out towards Hapur as both it and 18866 were new, as was IZN WDM3D 11140 which would be fitted in en-route on 14316 Delhi – Bareilly; which we’d seen arrive at Rohtak with 14323 Delhi – Rohtak earlier in the day.

Once all the crap was loaded into the parcel vans at the front we were off, only about 5 late. Once the 10kmph stagger over the Yamuna was done 18866 was put to the test and it sounded quite good. We weren’t at Ghaziabad long before IZN WDM3D 11140 arrived with 14316 as expected.

Our journey forward to Pilkhuwa wasn’t without event with a bit of an incident occurring at Dasna, where we were brought to a stand under signals in the platform. As we set off the chain was pulled and moments later loads of people from the sleeper class behind us were out on the platform gesturing towards the adjacent field. By the time I got out and assessed the situation all I could see were a few youths chasing some guy through the field in the distance, a few more weren’t far behind obviously trying the help them with their cause. As the loco blew up and everyone dashed back to the train one guy on the platform told me that someone had taken a mobile phone; hence the pursuit. We didn’t find out if they got it back as when we departed they were still giving chase in the fields. Hopefully they weren’t going far as Dasna wasn’t a place to be stranded with no express trains being booked to stop there! 11140 was an absolute monster by the way with a very loud turbo whine that could be heard for ages as it hammered off into the distance at Pilkhuwa.

IZN WDM3D 11163 saved us from a fate worse than death at Pilkhuwa when it arrived with 15274 Delhi Jct – Raxaul, and whisked us to Hapur in no time. Pilkhuwa station was absolutely overrun with mosquitoes due to its close proximity to standing water. We were so glad to get out of the place unscathed!

SSB WDM2 17xxx was waiting to depart Hapur when we arrived, with 54406 Meerut – Kurja Jct passenger and TKD WDP1 15001 was sat with 54306 Hapur – Moradabad passenger.

The bonus for us was that 54055 Moradabad – Delhi Jct passenger was late, as it always was, but was actually only 90 late and arrived within moments of us arriving and as it departed a good 15 minutes before 14555 Bareilly – Delhi Jct Express behind it, allowed for plenty of time to do it to Pilkhuwa but not too much time to fester there in the mos-infested place that it was; SSB WDM2 17895 had the honours.

Unfortunately 17895 was my last new engine of the trip as TKD WDP3 15527 arrived with 14555, which we did to Ghaziabad for a 45 minute wait for ABR WDM3A 16415 into Delhi on 19106 Haridwar – Ahmedabad Mail. By the time we got to Delhi Junction I was ready for home, the last couple of hours coming back in from Hapur had dragged and I was feeling tired, run down and ready for some sleep.

Bags collected from the cloak room we were en-route to the airport in a taxi by 2230, which we paid RS600 for. After a quick change of clothing at the airport we were soon checked in, through immigration and sat eating our second helping of fast food for the day; Domino’s Pizza, waiting for our homeward bound flight……


This trip had the potential to have gone horribly wrong if electrics had started working passenger trains out of Varanasi; but they hadn’t. It also had plenty of initial setbacks due to trains being cut short and not running when we’d made our original reservations and then with trains being cancelled two days before we were due to travel on them further pain was sent our way and to then have other trains cancelled outright on us while in India you’d think the whole of Indian Railways was against us.

All that said everything, except for the Ara – Sasaram bit of the trip, went as planned and the cancellations actually made our replacement plans better than the original plan so in this instance the cloud seemed to have a very silver lining indeed.

The highlight obviously has to be the WDS6 on the Ait – Konch branch, a massive scoop and one, even if it is a regular working now, that probably wont be around for long with electrification seeming imminent. Strangely that branch was only planned in when we realised that our plans had us arriving into Allahabad on the morning of the last “big” bathing day at Kumbh Mela!

The engine of the bash has to be given to JHS WDG3A 13317 which was nothing short of astounding and an all round performer; noise, growl, great transition and even its pulling power could be felt after the transition.

A surprise of the trip, and worth a mention, was just how clean Saharsa was. The platforms were clean, the streets were clean, the hotel was excellent in both value and service. A very welcome and refreshing change for Bihar, and a step in the right direction.