Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

India – November 2012

Those of you having read my my India reports from the last couple of years know I’ve had a bit of a rough time of things and had various issues put in my way by Indian Railway’s, and even by God himself to prevent my plans from seeing themselves out the way they should. I’m very sorry to disappoint those wanting to read some good old doom and gloom though, this trip went absolutely swimmingly from start to finish; well almost…….

It wasn’t a long trip and really just a stepping stone en-route to Australia, others I was travelling out there with went via Malaysia but I had some unfinished business in Southern India to contend with so thought it more prudent that I have a stab at covering what I needed as time was running out with the General Motors infiltration taking a new twist shortly before we went out with GOC WDG4s taking over many of the ED WDM3D turns in the Mangalore area.

Thursday 15th November 2012

Arrival into Mumbai airport was at stupid o’clock, as always. The queue for pre-pay taxi’s was a bit large, the reason for which soon became evident when we got to the front; there weren’t many taxi’s on offer! One of Mumbai’s senior officials had passed away a few hours before we’d arrived and taxi drivers were just not working as a result. When one did turn up he wasn’t having any of taking us to Dadar for a small fare and we ended up having to go with him and bartering a fare. We did the right thing as he point blank refused a fare after dropping us off at Dadar and drove off. It looked like chaos outside the station, thankfully a chaos we’d avoided and once on the platform we never looked back.

We had the morning to kill before heading cross country to Gudivada that afternoon and the first train of the morning was the 12051 Dadar – Madgaon Shatabdi with ED WDM3D 11110 to Thane where we’d planned to do 22105 Mumbai CST – Pune forward to Kalyan but it arrived with dud ED WDM3D 11213 so we made a mad dash over for KYN WDM3D 11391, complete with DLMW Builders Plates on 11004 Sawantwadi Road – Dadar. It was on a short rake and was already on the move when we got down to the platform, 3 coaches from the rear coach. I was amazed I’d made it into the luggage van at the rear, let alone my companion behind me. The Indian’s sat on the floor were all staring in amazement as two white men spoiled their morning karma. It too the journey to Dadar to recover.

Into the bay platforms at Dadar we were offered another long walk to jump straight onto 12116 Solapur – Mumbai CST which arrived without us seeing the engine, and engine that was at least another 20 coach walk away when we got to CST. Another DLMW WDM3D 11378 of PA.

The “Udyan Express” was its custom WDP4 so we didn’t bother going back to Dadar and did an EMU to Tilak Nagar for the short walk to Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, where our 22820 LTT – Visakhapatnam would depart at 1225. The station area was crowded, as was the smaller than average booking hall. That would probably explain why there had been a new one built adjacent to platform 1, although finished it wasn’t quite functioning as it could, with just the advance reservation counter functioning. At least it had some seats to sit on while waiting for our train, and somewhere to shelter from the hoards and sun.

Outside the entrance to the new building was a plinthed steam loco #716, which must have been a recently added fixture. When we went onto the platform for our train we found that the inbound, 22819, had arrived right time with KZJ WDG3A 14619. We’d expected it to run round and return and for the stock to be shunt released by one of the WDS6’s that were around the station area. Neither move occurred and KYN WDG3A 13589 backed onto the other end 15 minutes before departure. The most worrying thing about our time at LTT was the fact that we watched 16345 LTT – Trivandrum “Netravati Express” depart with GOC WDG4 12607, which had been sat on the blocks when we arrived. The only thing we could assume was that it had arrived with 12620 Mangalore – LTT, it was the original loco link after all, although that link used to encompass 12051 CST – Madgaon Shatabdi, which it clearly didn’t now from our observations that morning. 22820 was away right time and banked between Karjat & Lonavala by only a twin set of KYN WAG5’s 23206/152. The Mumbai suburbs were strewn with WDS6’s and WDM2S’s the following being noted:

36081, 120, 106, 138, 239, 252, 157, 259, 105, 514, 140

017428, 018378, 018976, 018499, 017576 & 017390

Friday 16th November 2012

Despite being over 30 late away from Vijayawada after 13589 had run round, 22820 was only a couple of minutes late into Gudivada Jct. Our plans for the day were to head into Machilipatnam by DMU for one of the afternoon loco hauled trains back out. We had the morning to kill first though and as 57382 Narasapur – Guntur passenger, with BZA WDP1 15064, was late we were deposited at Tarigopulla for a lengthy fester, not wanting to risk crossing at one of the stations the train we’d just got off didn’t stop at. It was harmless enough but had nothing to offer in the way of refreshments at all. Thankfully BZA WDP1 15068 wasn’t too late going the other way with 57218 Macherla – Bhimavaram Jct passenger and it got us into Gudivada with a few minutes to spare for the 1245 DMU to Machilipatnam, which had to wait another DMU coming off the branch before it could depart anyway.

I’d been to Machilipatnam before but ended up returning on the same DMU we’d done down the branch due to the set for 17211 Machilipatnam – Yesvantpur having been used on a Summer special to Secunderabad and was 5 hours late on its way back, which was way too late for us to wait around for. This time though I was so glad to see the stock for 17211 Machilipatnam – Yesvantpur waiting to be dragged in by BZA WDP1 15066, as we arrived. BZA WDP1 15066, BZA WDM2 17675 & GY WDM3D 11115 were all in the sidings, which completed the set for the 4 loco hauled departures that evening. 11115 was ours, 15066 just shunted itself into the yard once it had brought our stock in and 15059 ran round its set and was waiting with 17049 set as we departed, leaving 15066/17675 for 17402 and the VSKP passenger.

The front unreserved coach of 17211 was ours all the way to Gudivada on our own, where the train filled a bit. Sat over the back of the station was BZA WDM2 18588 with 57298 Narasarapur – Guntur passenger, which sat there for 40 minutes. It would be our train forward from Vijayawada to Guntur. It was on time away from Vijayawada and the whole journey to Guntur was in darkness.

We’d been deliberating on which hotel to stay the night at in Guntur and some guy on board the train had told us the best places to stay. We ended up at neither my original choice or the one the guy had suggested. The nearest place to the station entrance was full due to a conference so we ended up at the Hotel Geetha Regency which was RS2200 inclusive of all taxes for a decent sized twin room with AC which was spotless.

We couldn’t resist a walk back down to the station, before food, to view 18047 Howrah – Vasco Da Gama with its GY twins, on this occasion 14040/045. We actually had reservations on this train to Danakonda for the return working back to Guntur but common sense prevailed and a hotel was the right thing to do.

Saturday 17th November 2012 

A day of BZA WDM2 18588, which had stabled in the middle road at Guntur overnight after we’d got off it the previous night, lost two coaches somewhere and then been sat waiting in the platform for us with 57217 0800 Guntur – Macherla passenger.

There had been potential for an extra move towards Nadikudi Junction on the 0735 departure of 17229 Kochuveli – Hyderabad but that wasn’t to be, I even checked it too, but didn’t actually get the number of the WDP4 that departed with it as I was too pre-occupied with trying to chase down the only chai wallah I’d seen walking around the platform, who when accosted left us with four cups of tea lined up on our window ledge…….

The journey to Macherla wasn’t bad at all, no myther, a bit of thrash from our WDM2 on the front and a few conversations with locals on board. We passed two trains on the way to Nadikudi Junction, the first being 57218 0530 Macherla – Bhimavaram Jct passenger with BZA WDP1 15065, the second being the legendary 12806 Secunderabad – VSKP with its custom WDP4B 40016 and not a pair of off-link Alco’s as it often got.

Macherla station was a simple affair, one platform and one run round loop. A shadow of its former self judging by the old tracks hiding in the adjacent undergrowth and the water tower that looked very out of place in what can only be described as an adjacent field. There was at least a shack outside the station building for us to buy cold pop and water to refresh ourselves. We were on time out and on time into Nadikudi Junction, the crew having finished their lunch, which they were eating in the front coach, just in time to get out, walk to the loco, get in and go.

We bode farewell to 18588 at that point and waited for our late running 57651 Secunderabad – Repalle passenger, which had been spotted shortly before we came out with a GOC WDG4. I was assured it was an off-link and that the train was usually a MLY Alco but that doubt was always in the mind. A doubt that was soon blown away as MLY WDG3A 13374 rolled in with the train, all 18 coaches of it. There was surprisingly plenty of room on board and enough room in the front coach for a small one and a lanky one…..

We were in for a long journey, all the way to Repalle, just 6 and a half hours. It was largely no issue at all. The only real issue in the end being the fact that there was no food on offer anywhere we stopped. No vendors attended to the train at all, not even chai wallers and by the time we got to Repalle we’d not had a single cup of tea since Guntur that morning. Being in the front coach didn’t help as we were right at the end of the platforms when the train stopped and everything food wise was at the opposite end to us. Guntur wasn’t worth risking but we actually had time at Tenali but I hadn’t realised initially that the stock was being watered until it was too late.

Repalle was as simple as Macherla had been, just on a bigger scale. Outside the station was a town, its main roads lined with shops that were still open. Unfortunately none seemed to want to rustle up any omelettes, despite having plenty of eggs on the go, none of them also had any fresh food made with everything laying about looking like it had seen better days. As a result dinner was the remainder of the maltloaf we’d started that morning, biscuits and pop.

There were at least 4 SL coaches on the train, none of which had reservation lists glue to them. We had berths 17 & 20 in S3. One guy already sat on the train confirmed it would be a full train and always was. He also confirmed, when asked, that it “sometimes” arrived Secunderabad on time, hopefully one of those times would be the next morning as we were only on a plus 15 for our first train of the day. What we didn’t know at that point was that it was the same set and engine that formed the 0810 Secunderabad – Vikarabad…….

Sunday 18th November 2012 

The good news when we woke was that we were only 15 late and with plenty of make-up time we should have been on time into Secunderabad. The train was full too, I hadn’t noticed it fill overnight but was more than aware that morning with people milling about trying to get their teeth brushed and kids clambering around the place, there was of course luggage strewn everywhere as well, with us approaching the train’s destination.

Despite leaving Moula Ali almost on time the last few km into Secunderabad were a stagger, literally from signal to signal, with a wait at most. The last signal outside the station was pulled off at 0810, with just enough time for us to probably see the tail-light of our 0810 passenger depart. As we arrived there was a KZJ twin set on a train 18812/14622. We couldn’t tell if they were multi’d up but set off in search of an answer when we arrived at 0816. The train departed while we were on the footbridge, struggling to make any headway through the crowds and it was only at that point that we realised we hadn’t missed the 0810 passenger to Vikarabad after all, it being announced as being on platform 6. Even at that point we didn’t realise that it was the platform we’d arrived on, not until we got back down the steps onto it! And there began our day spinning around Secunderabad/Hyderabad; the first time I’d actually seen the place in daylight.

We didn’t venture far for the majority of the day, Begumpet having the most diesel hauled trains stop at it and was easy enough to string some sort of plan together, including nipping into Hyderabad. So the morning was spent doing just that with the following noted:

MLY WDG3A 13374 57605 Secunderabad – Vikarabad passenger (after arrival with 57619 Repalle – Secunderabad fast pass)

MLY WDG3A 13202 57547 Hyderabad – Purna passenger

GTL WDG3A 14633 17001 Shirdi – Secunderabad

GTL WDM2B 16701 12747 Guntur – Vikarabad

KZJ WDM3A 18756 12701 Mumbai CST – Hyderabad

We didn’t have long at Hyderabad, enough time to spot locos, 017177 & 017228 both shunting about in the carriage sidings, 18895 was also sat with a set of stock. By the time we got to the front of the stock for 57517 Hyderabad – Tandur passenger 017228 had just finished depositing it in the platform. It wasn’t long before the loco backed down, not quite what I was expecting at all, but still I should have suspected, LGD WAP7 30261! Of course the line from Hyderabad to Wadi was in the process of being electrified and had got beyond Tandur, so it made perfect sense for it to be an electric.

While sat pondering on board 57517 it suddenly dawned on me that I couldn’t quite figure out what our reservations were for our sleeper class overnight on board 56903 0040 Solapur – Gadag on the 21st. Investigations on both the e-mail confirmation from SDEL and my original booking form confirmed that I’d completely missed booking it. None of the ticket machines at Begumpet would even acknowledge that the train existed let alone the classes of accommodation. The timetable did however show it as a 2nd class only train so maybe that was why I’d not done it in the first place? Still having arrived back into Secunderabad I was soon writing out a reservation form just in case and on my way to the reservation counter on platform 10. There wasn’t a queue at the reservation windows but there was a reason for it, the windows that were open were for current day reservations only, the advance windows closed at 1400 on a Sunday, the time being 1530! I at least managed to get the guy behind the counter to confirm that there was indeed sleeper class on board 56903 but the bad news was it was already RAC4! Not the best news we’d had and it was looking like I may have given myself a right start to my own birthday with a 2nd class overnight on board a passenger train.

Having been delivered back to Secunderabad by PA WDM3A 18858 on 12025 Pune – Secunderabad our afternoon plans would take us further out of town than Begumpet. We’d planned to cover 12591 Gorakhpur – Bangalore as it was booked MLY twins and as it was late we had plenty of time to take in the sights of Secunderabad:

017508 & 017530 were the resident shunt engines

KJM WDM3A 18704 was in the sidings, having arrived earlier with 22883 Duronto from Bangalore

MLY 13653 was also in the sidings and shunted the stock in for 17064 SC – Manmad “Ajanta Exp”, which would likely be worked by one of the 2 MLY twin sets sat in the station area 16500/18978 & 18903/16375

GLT WDG3A 13468 worked 17002 SC – Shirdi

WDG3A 13600 had arrived into one of the high numbered platforms with what looked like a passenger train

PA twins 11347/17910 had seemingly arrived with 17057 CST – SC “Devangiri Express” and shunted the set out after 2 hours waiting

LGD WAP7 30286 worked 12591 Gorakhpur – Bangalore into SC for MLY WDM3A twins 16551/18887 forward

We’d been hoping that 12591 would depart before 17002 so that we could do 13468 forward to Ligampalli but of course that’s not what happened and just as it seemed that 12591 was ready to go 13468 blew up and departed 20 late! 12591 eventually departed at 1710, 1h50m late, 40 minutes after arriving. The run to Begumpet was a wrist slitting move, signal to signal with no thrash at all from the pair. The move forward from Begumpet to Lingampalli was a different matter with KZJ WDM3A 18895 on 57156 Hyderabad – Gulbarga passenger. It was a bit of a machine.

Lingampalli station was full of locals waiting for EMUs into the city, both of which arrived one after the other, one for Falaknuma, the other for Hyderabad. Announcements for both were constant until they’d both gone and people criss-crossed their way across the station to do whichever took them to where they wanted to be. We sat patiently on a bench on platform 2 away from the chaos, under cover of darkness.

WAP 7 30261 returned first with the return Tandur passenger and shortly behind was 57548 Purna – Hyderabad passenger, no sign of the Solapur – Falaknuma passenger, which would have meant we could do a step off move. As it had pulled up short we hadn’t realised that the Purna passenger had produced twin GY Shakti’s 13141/086, in multi, both working and only on load 10, until we got closer to the train. It was a fitting end to a day as we staggered into Hyderabad for our overnight to Daund Jct that night which produced yet another MLY WDG3A, 13408, on 17014 Hyderabad – Pune, which just topped our Secunderabad experience off nicely.

Monday 19th November 2012 

After sleep gave way to waking hours, the morning seemed to fly by and we were at Daund in no time; early. Having checked that 13408 was still on the train I was then straight over to the reservation office, outside the station to try an resolve looming our reservation problem for the following night.

The greeting on the reservation office windows said “Serving you with a smill”. I can tell you there was no smill, or even smile, in sight. There was plenty of decorum though. There was one queue for reservations and two for unreserved tickets, all three were in a straight line and nobody in any queue was having anyone push in. I was 10th in the reservation queue, and was quite content waiting my turn. I was at the window in 15 minutes and my reservations for 56903 0040 Solapur to Gadag on 21/11 in Sleeper class were in my hand within 60 seconds. RAC 8 & 9, which meant another 3 reservations had been made since my visit to the reservation office at Secunderabad the previous afternoon. RAC at least meant we could get on the train with our reservation, although we could end up sharing a berth.

Daund appeared to have three shunt engines, none of which were the custom WDS6 that always plied Daund with its services. They were WDM2S 17344, WDM3A’s 018660 (CLA) and 18648, all three of which had “not fit for passenger” on the cab side. PA WDG3A 13556 arrived from Nanded and ran round to work back with 57515 1305 to Nanded. The late running 11078 “Jhelum Express” was worked by PA twin WDM3D’s 11375/361 and the on time 12779 “Goa Express” was worked by PA twin WDM3A’s 18754/720.

PA WDM3D 11181 had arrived into platform 6 at Daund with the 0940 passenger from Pune, just as we’d arrived from Hyderbad. It had sat at Daund as long as us and later formed our 51327 1435 passenger to Baramati. By the time we boarded the only empty side seats on the whole train were the nearest two to the engine……

Departure was on time and the run a sombre stroll through the open wilderness, strangely green on one side of the train and dusty on the other. It wasn’t a wedged train and there were a couple of unofficial stops at crossings (which had fixed stop signals) that the locals used to their advantage. The line twisted and turned and quite a lot and evidence of the old NG line could be seen throughout the journey.

Baramati was a big place that sprung up out of the wilderness, its station was as expected, a simple one platform affair with a run round loop, although it did have a set of freight wagons in a siding being unloaded.

Our return journey was as relaxing as the outward, although not for some, there was a bit of a riot over seating taking place a few bays back which resulted in one woman taking her shoe off and hitting another with it, which of course soon ended the debate!

We had our own riot when we got to Daund; we were in the front side seats of the front coach and the Railway Post Office decided that it was going to be their bay from that point and moved everyone out. They then tried to move us out of the side seats too, which I took great exception to, especially as the whole coach was full at that point. We stood our ground though and wouldn’t move until they found us seats, which they eventually did, which did involve some old woman being relocated to somewhere else though. The irony of the whole event was that no sooner had I stepped off the train to get chai, while we waited at Daund, did ED WDM3A 16507 arrive with the late running Solapur – Pune “Superfast Express”; and we were off in no time, standing in the vestibule to Pune. What a machine 16507 was too, it ticked all the boxes, including the loud one.

In Pune that evening we had time to kill and used the nearby Hotel Samrat for food, which was as good as always. Our overnight, 11023 1750 CST – Kolhapur, arrived into platform 1 just after 2200 with WCAM2 21877. By the time we got to our A1 2AC coach it had been taken off and surprise of the evening ET WDM3A 16213 was backing down, surely an off-link?

Tuesday 20th November 2012 

We were woken by the coach attendant banging on the side of our berths, as we rolled into the platform at Kolhapur. PA WDG3A 13549 was sat in the sidings with the stock for weekly 12147 0905 to Hazrat Nizamuddin and PA WDG4 12317 was being used to shunt the stock off our train into the sidings. Ex GY, now GTL, WDM3A 14013, still in GY livery, was sat with 17004 0730 Kolhapur – Hyderabad, which according to the timetable only ran Wed & Sat but the departure poster confirmed it was now daily and WDP4B 40015 with 11030 0755 to Mumbai CST.

We didn’t have much time in Kolhapur but enough for breakfast from one of the stalls in the station car park area. Our train, 11052 0845 Kolhapur – Solapur Jct, was worked by PA WDM3D 11216. The reservation sheet plastered to the side of the 3AC coach only had our two names on it. There were no other people reserved in it at all and I had to bang on the door to get someone to let me in. The whole coach looked like a bomb had hit, there was bedding strewn everywhere. I had to clear rafts out of our booked berths get be able to sit down; all the others were the same. By departure time all was in order though, other than us leaving 10 late awaiting WDG4 12383 arriving with an unknown train that wasn’t in the timetable and had no boards on the side.

Miraj station was busy with trains; PA WDG3A 13548 was waiting departure with the 0950 passenger to Belgaum, WDP4B 40007 arrived with 16531 Ajmer – Yesvantpur (previously booked twin Shakti’s of GY/KJM) and PA 13549 pulled in alongside us with 12147 Kolhapur – Hazrat Nizamuddin, not a move I’d have chanced from Kolhapur, even though it did make! When we departed PA WDM3D 11261 was left behind in the platform we vacated and KYN WDM3D 11356 was in charge after the train had reversed.

At Kurduvadi Jct we had a choice of trains towards Pune, the first being 11002 Pandharpur – Sainagar Shirdi, a recently introduced train, which arrived with KYN WDG3A 13589. The same Shakti we’d had over 1000km off at the start of the trip. While it was running round PA WDM2 17694 arrived with 51456 1140 Solapur Jct – Pune Jct passenger, which we opted to do that instead and hoped to get to Jeur before 12170 1400 Solapur – Pune “Superfast” did so we could do it forward to Daund. Our hopes were dashed at the last hurdle of Bhalwani, where we sat for both 12170 & 11002 to overtake us, the former being ED WDM3D 11187. Which ultimately ended up with us getting off at Bhigvan for a 1h20m fester for 17031 CST – Hyderabad, not wanting to risk Daund.

Bhigvan was nothing short of a dust bowl and very mostastic as the sun disappeared from the sky for another night to impose upon us. Other than ED WDM3A 16507 staggering through the middle road with 16351 CST – Nagercoil there was no train action at all until our 17031 arrived 10 late with KZJ WDM3A 18893. Even though 17031 is timed for a horse and cart to Solapur it still lost more time, festering about for other trains to pass and even the Pune – Solapur “Superfast” to overtake, which it is booked to mind. The result was us being 45 late into Solapur.

We hadn’t expected the reservation charts to be posted at the time we arrived but sat at the bottom corner of the chart area was sure enough the chart for 56903 Solapur – Dharwad passenger. We’d been moved up the chain during the day to RAC5/6 and once we’d clapped eyes on our names on the list a quick scroll across revealed that we’d been confirmed in S1 berths 11 & 13, which was a massive relief. In fact there had been 12 RAC passengers on the list, all of whom had been confirmed and were allocated berths.

Our minds now at ease we could concentrate on our surroundings, Solapur was Shakti City; PA 14676 with 12116 Solapur – Mumbai, PA 13664 arrived from Hubli with 11424 Hubli – Solapur Express and KZJ 13412 arrived with 11041 Mumbai – Chennai. Our set for 56903 was on platform 4 and by the time we’d got over to it most of the seats in 2nd unreserved had been taken, although most had people dosed out length ways across them. The only sleeper coach on the train, S1, was 3rd from the front of the train, which had GTL WDM2 16705 already bolted on for the journey. The front coach was absolutely caked in oil, all over the roof, down the sides, everywhere and the second coach hadn’t come off in much less of a state during whatever event they’d been subjected to. One can only assume that whatever engine had been leading the set at the time had been the victim of a catastrophic failure which resulted in the ejaculation of the contents of its oil system!

Our sleeper coach seemed to have an air of decorum about it, everyone was quiet and just making up their berths and although I was probably dosed out at some point before departure I did hear us leave at 0040, on time.

Wednesday 21st November 2012 

My 37th birthday, what could possibly go wrong………?

We arrived into Gadag Jct bang on time and sat in the adjacent platform was a train ready to depart. It turned out to be 57273 0600 Hubli Jct – Tirupati Jct, which was about 30 late with GTL WDM3A 16566. No sooner had we collected its number did the loco pilot blow up to depart. It was a bit of a bonus to have made, we didn’t realise just how big a one it was until later at Hospet!

It was a fast passenger and didn’t stop at too many places and other than being held at Harlapur for the Amravati Express to hammer through with GY twins 14041/040 we had a good run to Hospet, where we decided to get off for the train behind; the one we should have originally been on from Gadag, and have breakfast in Hospet.

Back on the station we sat and watched the world go by; GY Shakti’s 14552/579, which had been in the station when we’d arrived, had disappeared off somewhere and there was no sign of KJM WDM2S 017206, which must have returned to the adjacent yard to do some shunting. The next Alco we saw was the one we got on, having spotted no less than 11 WDG4’s from a mixture of PA & GY and not UBL as I would have expected.

It turned out that the minus we’d made at Gadag was my birthday present from Indian Railways as had we missed it we’d have been presented with PA WDG4 12599 at Gadag with 51412 0800 Hubli Jct – Bellary Jct, instead of being presented with it at Hospet. At Gadag if we’d flagged it the bash over the Bellary – Chikjajur line would have gone down the pan, at Hospet we just watched it leave, safe in the knowledge that our train forward from Chikjajur started at Hospet and had yet to arrive from Bangalore.

In hindsight we’d had plenty of time in Hospet to have actually gone to Hampi and done a bit of sight seeing but instead we watched the world that was Hospet Junction station do it’s thing. The inbound working for our 56910 1330 Hospet – Bangalore didn’t arrive until 1350, thankfully with KJM WDM2 17603, a welcome relief. Our progress towards Bellary was decent enough, especially as it was double track from Hospet onwards, until we got to Kudatini, the shack before Bellary. We were held for the on time 17226 Hubli – Vasco “Amravati Express” to pass us with GY twins 14032/038, both in their custom GY livery.

Just when we thought we’d caught some time up into Bellary we were held outside for 35 minutes. The reason becoming evident when we rolled into the station to find P-way men everywhere, every one at a set of points, all with a raft of clips at their feet. It seemed Bellary was experiencing some technical difficulties with their route setting, which may explain why the inbound was so late at Hospet? Despite their points problems Bellary were quite efficient in running our KJM WDM2 round its train and we were ready for the off quite quickly, departing at 1716, only 1h36m late.

There was plenty of make-up time in 56910’s schedule into Chikjajur and we arrived at 2203, 8 late, where the Hubli portion of the train, 56912, was already sat waiting with KJM WDP4 20035 and once our 17603 was removed it shunted its portion onto our set, blew up and departed. Chikjajur had quite possibly the hottest chai in India and plenty of it! Along with a nice pullao vendor to serve us rice in newspaper, for the second time that evening.

I’d already fallen asleep on the station bench twice by the time our train was announced and was very grateful of the bed it was bringing into the station for me. From a distance it looked like the headlights on the loco could have been above one another rather than side by side; the former indicating a GM and the latter an Alco. Thankfully it was KJM WDG3A 13273, the first Shakti I’d ever had, that arrived with our 17302 Dharwad – Mysore. The TTE was waiting at the 2AC coach door for us and beckoning us in, not that he had to, we were as keen to get to our beds as he was for us to get to them. Gripped at the door we were then allowed a hassle free bed making session, being a quiet as could be in the darkness that surrounded us.

Thursday 22nd November 2012 

We arrived into Mysore right time. According to the electronic departure screens 56204 0720 Mysore – Chamarajanagar passenger was on platform 3 but it was actually waiting on platform 4 with the crew preparing KJM WDG3A 13268 for departure. The Assistant Loco Pilot was a young woman as well. It’s not very often you see women involved as running staff on Indian Railways at all and this was probably the first time I’d seen one flagging a train off from the cab. By Ashokapuram, the second shack out of town, the train was full and standing, so much so that we couldn’t see anything out of the window on one side all the way to Chamarajanagar due to the amount of bodies in the way. The only thing we did manage to spot was KJM WDM3A 16294 heading into Mysore with the morning passenger from Chamajanagar which was even more wedged than ours.

The MG line to Chamarajanagar only closed on 16/01/2007 but there was still plenty of its history to be found at Chamarajanagar. The new station building and platforms were a little to the left of the original station, the building for which remains in situ and is used as a moped store for commuter’s bikes. The original platforms are still there as well, one of them actually having a section of track left down through part of it, and the old station running in boards remain in place. Unfortunately the only thing the platform area seems to be used for now is a toilet. There is one remaining vehicle, still on a section of track, surrounded by weeds, bushes and turds and overgrown, this being an Izatnagar built steam crane which will probably remain where it stands until it wastes away into the ether.

Amazingly the booking office entrance area, at the front of the sold station building, could have been mistaken for a useable office but for the pile of branches in front, which we assumed to be to prevent access. Inside the hallway the old MG departures were still listed as was the pricing fare structure at the time the station closed. The whole place was very surreal and provided quite a bit of nostalgia; it was a shame I never managed to do it before it closed.

The return working 56203 1110 to Mysore was a breeze compared to the outward, we could see out of the windows on both sides. We were held at Nanjangud Town for KJM WDM3A 14047 to arrive with the late running 56214 Tirupati – Chamarajanagar Fast Passenger before heading back into town, passing 16294 returning to Chamarajanagar at Ashokapuram.

At Sujathapuram the new BG alignment takes a straighter route through than the old MG one, the MG tracks still being in place for about half a km round the back of the station building and over the old viaduct just outside the station. When I’d been up to Nanjangud two years previous there had been some old coaches and a rail car round the back of the station and 4 coaches just plonked on the viaduct. All that remained were two rail cars in the station area and a single coach just off the viaduct; it seemed Indian Railways had been having a bit of a clear out.

Our selection of trains towards Bangalore was somewhat limited due to the amount of turns on the Mysore line that are worked by KJM’s finest GM’s! 16559 was 20026 & 12008 20065, not that we’d expect anything less and we ended up on the train we expected 56237 1425 Bangalore passenger with the best Alco KJM has to offer, or so it was at one point, WDM3A 17961. Just before 17961 got to do it’s stuff WDG4 12106, looking like it was in desperate need of a coat of paint, arrived with 16560 Yesvantpur – Mysore Express and sat outside waiting for us to depart was KJM WDG3A 13053 with 17304 waiting the road in. Another KJM shakti 13043 was sat in the sidings with a set of stock and two ED WDM3A’s 16504 & 16460 were both about for the two trains departing to the southern that evening 16232 to Mayilduthurai and 16732 to Tuticorin.

17961 was good but I’d had better from KJM, namely in the shape of 13031, which was quite possibly one of the best Indian Railways has to offer in the form of noise from a 16 cylinder Alco. Still it was well worth bellowing at and the run back up the hill from Kengeri into Bangalore was cracking, although a few more coaches added to the load 16 rake would have made it more spectacular.

At Bangalore City ET twins WDM3A 18777 & WDM3D 11210 were occupying their usual spot of the whole of platform 1 with 12627 1920 Bangalore City – New Delhi “Karnataka Express”. We saw them again about an hour later when they were allowed round us at Baiyappanahalli while we waited 22 minutes for the road to cross over onto the Salem line on board 16232 1545 Mysore – Mayilduthurai with ED WDM3A 16504. Thankfully it was only 40 late into Hosur where we changed for 16527 Yesvantpur – Kannur which arrived 30 minutes late with KJM WDM3A 14053 to whisk us off to Southern territories.

Friday 23rd November 2012 

It didn’t seem like a rude awakening when the alarm went off at 0445, probably as we knew we were booked forward to Nilambur Road in 3AC from Shornaur, but it was. Still we were almost to time and 16349 Ernakulam – Nilambur Road was already in the opposite platform waiting. It arrives with a portion for Palakkad and the train was already split in two, ours with ERS WDM3A 14127 already bolted on waiting to go. Our 3A berths were vacant and doss was being collected before we even departed Shoranur.

After arrival at Nilambur Road 14127 shunted its set into the one road siding adjacent to the platform leaving the run round road free for trains to run round all day. There were plenty of photo opportunities in the atmospheric surroundings, which were put to an end eventually by the station master. We’d crossed ERS WDM3A 14048 with 56612 0650 Nilambur Road – Shoranur Passenger on the way up to Nilambur Road but crossed a different ERS WDM3A, 18558, on our way back to Shoranur, with it’s return working 56613 0920 Shoranur – Nilambur Road. Our 56614 0910 Nilambur Road – Shoranur was worked by ERS WDM3A 18596, which had arrived with 56611 from Palakkad. We could have actually risked doing 18558 back to Nilambur but arriving back into Shoranur at 1325 for a 1330 departure wasn’t quite the best plan now was it? Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing and it made, although our whole afternoon was in turmoil by the time it did arrive……..

As we arrived into Shornaur, about 20 late, ERS WDM2 18537 was just departing with a late running 16606 Nagercoil – Mangalore “Ernad Express”, which was a bit of a bummer as had we been on time we could have done it north to Kuttipuram for our 16108 Mangalore – Chennai, that we’d be boarding at Shoranur anyway. Still ED WDM3D 11214 was sat in with 56323 Coimbatore – Mangalore passenger, which we ended up missing in the end as we got caught off guard with the fact that the crew were ready to go and some idiot who shimmied us away from the train as it was leaving telling us it didn’t go to Kuttipuram. That little schoolboy error resigned us to an afternoon at Shoranur to melt in the humidity as the temperature just seemed to rise and rise. The last time I’d had sweat pouring from me while I was sat motionless was in Burma during the end of their Monsoon season; this was just ridiculous and no matter how much cold pop and water we consumed our bodies just didn’t cool down. The spicy egg curry we’d had in one of the many refreshment rooms probably didn’t help matters.

While festering about GOC WDG4 12526 arrived with 16345 LTT – Trivandrum and was removed for the customary ED WAP4, also 16649 Mangalore – Nagercoil arrived, and departed I might add, with pioneer WDM3D 11101 of ED.

Then it happened, catching us completely off guard, in fact so off guard I wasn’t even looking for the train approaching in the distance. Lulled into a false sense of security knowing all the GOC WDG4’s were working trains up and down the Konkan and into Mumbai, not! 12618 was rolling into the platform with our 16108 Mangalore – Coimbatore; it had no f****** right I tell you!

Surprising even myself, I wasn’t as pissed off as either I thought I would be when the inevitable happened, or as I should have been. We could have done the GM to Ottapalam for an electric behind to Erode but once we’d had it what difference did it make in doing it all the way to Erode. We could also have done 17229 Kochuveli – Hyderabad throughout from Shoranur to Erode with an electric but we had reservations in 2AC on 16108 and nothing on 17229 so in the end the best move to do was the one we did, which got me my second GM in the country; a sign of things to come? Unfortunately yes!

There was one downfall to 12618 appearing in that I needed the track for Alco from Karur to Trichy and the only other time we went over that bit of track on this trip was on the same damn train again after the weekend. This meant our grand plan of going into Trichy and staying there the night had just gone out of the window and we’d have to revert back to our original bash plan of doing 16232 Mysore – Mayilduthurai from Salem to Thanjavur, which at least we were reserved on. This plan had been in from the start but wasn’t of any benefit now as the sole purpose of doing the train had been to get to Thiruvarur for the first MG departure of the day but since the MG closed on 19th October it was a redundant move and staying in Trichy the night had seemed like the sensible thing to do. Thank you Indian Railways twice for spoiling our plans…….

At least the journey to Erode was relaxing in the empty 2AC and there was far too much on time running in the south, 16108 was on time from Shoranur, early into Coimbatore and early into Erode, darkness having just fallen at the latter as we ambled down the platform expecting a storm anytime soon. ED WDM3A 16462 departed with 56319 Nagercoil – Coimbatore passenger and ED WDM2 18697 arrived with 56843 Trichy – Erode passenger, the stock off which was shunted away by GOC WDS6 36020, while GOC WDS6 36002 shunted the freight sidings adjacent to the station. 12083 Mayilduthurai – Coimbatore “Shatabdi Express” arrived and departed with ED WDM3A 164xx.

We were reserved on 16232 from Salem at 2345, the only diesel hauled train to get there was 11022 Tirunelveli – Dadar “Chaluka Express” which had only been extended to start back at Tirunelveli three days a week, the first being on 8th November, so a bit of a bonus really. It arrived with PA WDM3D 11348, which promptly ran round and took us to Salem Jct, where we waited for 16232 Mysore – Mayilduthurai to arrive with ED WDM3A 16507. The same ED WDM3A we’d had on 12170 Solapur – Pune the previous week. One question I had to ask at that point was where the hell were all the ED WDM3D’s?

Saturday 24th November 2012 

We were late into Thanjavur and the plus 2 we had pipe dreams of making onto 16179 Chennai – Mannargudi remained just that. It wasn’t until we were walking over the footbridge did we realise that 16507 wasn’t 16507 any more, it had morphed into ED WDM3D 11108 somewhere en-route. The big question being; where? To pass the time before our lengthy day covering the line out to Karaikal commenced we did the 0535 Thanjavur – Trichy DMU to Budalur to fester for 16177 Chennai – Kumbakonam “Rockfort Express”, which was also late.

Budalur had plenty to keep the mind occupied though. The old MG platforms remained in situ with everything but the rails. It was overgrown with vegetation but at least it wasn’t being used as a toilet like Chamarajanagar. Whether it would remain that way forever would remain to be seen as Thanjavur had been the same 2 years previous but was now a building site with new BG tracks being laid in the old MG platforms 1 & 2, so maybe eventually the line from Trichy to Thanjavur would end up double track throughout?

16177 arrived eventually with GOC WDP3A 15502, the first WDP3A we’d had on the trip. The sleeper class was empty and made for a good place to accumulate some thrash off the GOC machine, and a very good one it was.

During what should have been our short wait at Thanjavur for 56714 0630 Trichy – Karaikal it soon became apparent that all wasn’t well in the Thanjavur area and the job was well and truly round someone’s neck. Once the Rockfort Express had departed for Kumbakonam a DMU arrived from Mannargudi and occupied platform 5. It was the 0805 passenger to Trichy. Our 0745 passenger to Karaikal was showing as expected at 0810, which then dropped to 0830 and became even later when GOC WDM2 18600 arrived and departed for Trichy with 56811 Mayilduthurai – Trichy passenger, which should have gone itself at 0745. The result of the whole farce being that the 0805 DMU departed after our passenger arrived, at 0845! We departed for Karaikal at 0850 65 late, standing as the train was wedged. Everyone would be late for work in Trichy as it had just been a farce and to add to that 16866 Ernakulam – Karaikal Express was somewhere in the mix. Both trains heading for Trichy would have to cross it somewhere, likely delaying both further.

Our train engine was pioneer WDP3A 15501 of GOC. It too was a bit of a machine and actually put 15502 to shame. We got seats shortly into the journey, after a few folk had got off at wayward shacks, and from then on it wasn’t such a bad journey at all. At Thiruvarur we were given a glimpse of what we could have had if the bash had been planned prior to October 19th.

Nagore is a big port area where coal is shipped in for onward transport by train. GOC WDG4 12423 was waiting to depart with a train as we arrived and ED WDG3A 14614 was shut down at the Karaikal end of the station minding it’s own.

GOC WDM2 16879 was sat at Karaikal at the end of the main platform, stood off the stock it had arrived with and would return back to Chennai with that night as 16176 2045 Karaikal – Chennai Egmore. There was nothing on the station area at Karaikal so the walk to the opposite end of the train was the only thing I did during our time there. Of course we arrived a mere 37 late, despite being the best part of 80 late for the majority of the journey, so our time was somewhat limited there anyway and was only prolonged while we waited for ERS WDM3A 14123 with 16866 Ernakulam – Karaikal, to arrive at 1228, 18 late, having probably followed us section to section all the way from Thanjavur.

On our return journey at Nagore a crew change took place and from that point on the whole run was transformed. The loco pilot knew exactly what he was doing and wasn’t afraid of the power handle at all, giving it the old run 8 straight from the off at halts with no loop.

We were given an age into Thanjavur and as a result were held a few shacks out to lose all our make-up time, we assumed this was to ease congestion in the station as we were booked to sit for 12083 Mayilduthurai – Coimbatore “Shatabdi” to overtake us but that wasn’t the case. That too was late and we were held outside the station for ED WDM3A 17803 to run in with the Shatabdi and then for GOC WDM2 17674 to depart with the late running 56822 Tirunelveli – Mayilduthurai passenger.

As we were late and had been on the train for over 4 hours we opted to get off and wait for the 1630 Trichy – Nagore passenger at Budalur and have a bit of a relax.

We’d been hoping that GOC WDG3A 13436 would come back out on the 1630 Trichy – Nagore passenger, we’d passed it earlier working into Trichy with 56851 0635 Nagore – Trichy. It wasn’t to be though and GOC WDM2 18533 was turned out for it instead. The train was absolutely wedged as it arrived and when hardly anyone got off that’s when things got interesting. People were three deep around the front door trying to get on, those crouched on the floor in the vestibule soon got the message and clambered to their feet before being trampled on and then the crush ensued. Once on the train everything else I did was governed by those behind me pushing me in further. At one point I managed to be parted from one of my bags as people jostled for what little space there was, thankfully though I managed to recover it before it ended up in among the feet of those on board, being trampled on.

The short journey to Thanjavur was nothing less than a journey borne straight from the fires of hell! Not only did I have no space and was attempting to hold my bags near me with my feet, it was roasting and with the amount of bodies tightly packed in there was very little breeze. By the time we reached Thanjavur it felt like I’d sweat out more than a lifetime’s supply of liquid. Not only did I feel like I’d pissed myself, my shirt had turned a dark blue and my shins were sweating, which is just not on, since when have shins sweat?

Our nice afternoon/evening bash was truly in turmoil, a bit like Thanjavur really. The station was wedged with people waiting for the first two overnights 16865 Karaikal – Ernakulam & 16231 Mayilduthurai – Mysore. Any hope we’d had of stringing a move together had gone, GOC WDM2 18600 had passed us at the shack before Thanjavur heading into Trichy and the 1805 Thanjavur – Mayilduthurai was nowhere in sight so we did the next train out of town and gave it up as a bad job. Having only come from Karaikal and being an express, ERS WDM3A 14123 with 16865 was still 40 late leaving Thanjavur but the 1h35m allowed to do the non-stop run allowed for us to actually being into Trichy 10 minutes early.

There was plenty of action going on at Trichy, the bits that interested me the most though were GOC WDS6 36013 shunting the station area and GOC WDS6 rebuild 36510R, which was the first WDS6, let alone rebuild, to be out-shopped with a twin cabbed body of a very similar style to the 12 cylinder exports RITES had sent to Angola, Sudan, Mali etc. It could possibly have been modelled on the new shaped ZDM3s.

We had plenty of time to kill at Trichy and opted to find a hotel for when we would return a couple of days later to leave our big bags at, before doing food and then using the upper class waiting room on platform 1 to get a shower after our sweating fest earlier!

Trichy station was busy at night and although we didn’t venture out onto the platforms until 0100 below is a list of what we saw:

12634 Kanniyakumari – Chennai ED WDM3D 11173 into/out of Trichy

16714 Rameswaram – Chennai GOC WDP3A 15534 into Trichy

12693 Chennai – Tuticorin ED WDM3A 16460 into/out of Trichy

12694 Tuticorin – Chennai ED WDM3D 11183 into/out of Trichy

16723 Chennai – TVC RPM WAP4 20068 MS – TPJ, GOC WDP4B 40075 fwd

16724 TVC – Chennai GOC WDP4B 40064 into Trichy, RPM WAP4 20068 fwd

12661 Chennai – Sengottai ED WDM3D 11200 into/out of Trichy

12662 Sengottai – Chennai ED WDM3D 11201 into/out of Trichy

Although most were on time our 12661 Pothgai Express was just short of an hour late away, the latest of the bunch. And not only that the bloody electronic coach indicating boards were the wrong way round and our 2AC was 3rd from rear and not 3rd from the front as shown, which was just what we needed, a brisk walk down the whole length of the 23 coach train after freshening up. A train that departed shortly after we’d managed to board too.

Sunday 25th November 2012 

The plan for the morning worked out nicely, albeit we had to get off 12661 a little early due to it being 50 late to do the planned moves on the Sengottai – Virudnagar line. This involving the following:

GOC WDM2 16666 with 56732 0700 Sengottai – Madurai &

GOC WDM2 16536 with 56731 0715 Madurai Jct – Sengottai

When the line from Virudnagar to Sengottai had been truncated and BG’d the section from Tenkasi to Sengottai was made into dual gauge, the only remnants of which were the old rail housings on the sleepers, which now only had two rails attached to them. The last section of the MG to Punalur had closed on 20th September 2010.

The purpose built MG Diesel Loco Shed at Sengottai, built to house the out based GOC YDM4’s when the line was severed, was still in situ but was overgrown with greenery and occupied by stacks of sleepers rather than throbbing with YDM4s.

The only bit of MG track still down was at the Tenkasi end of the station on the lead out. The whole station area looked as though it had been left alone since closure but for the rails having been removed completely. At the Quillon end of the station there were buffer stops on the BG tracks, which will ultimately lead through the hills to connect with the Punalur – Quillon section, which is now open, when the conversion of this section is completed. One of the best memories I have of YDM4 thrash was on that very section when 6200 slipped to a stand on dry rails and the loco pilot assistant had to get out and drop sand onto the rails from the front footstep of the loco while the loco pilot showed 6200 who was boss; absolutely fantastic it was, and a loco that still survives, albeit in Mysore Railway Museum.

The whole of Sengottai MG station looked like it could have been part of the movie set within some zombie film where everything has just been left alone for years, it had quite a sombre feeling to it, one that actually made you feel quite sorry for the place and what would ultimately become of it once works had been completed and the scenes we’d witnessed that day were no more.

GOC WDM2 16536 was promptly run round when it arrived and had been sat on the opposite end of the stock for quite a while by the time we got to it, after our Sengottai MG appreciation roam. ED WDM3D 11200 was also sat there with it’s stock off our 12661 “Pothgai Express” which we’d got off that morning.

The stock for our 56734 1200 Sengottai – Madurai passenger was empty so we used the time to try and relax and catch up on a bit of sleep. Shortly before departure GOC WDP3 15519 arrived with a newly reinstated 0930 passenger from Tirunelveli, after that section had been converted from MG to BG as well. Unfortunately only two of the four trains that the timetable advertised had started running on the line otherwise we’d have been doing the return working to Tirunelveli rather than going the long way round to Vanchi Maniyachichi via Virudnagar.

Our relaxing was over by Tenkasi but at least we had seats for the journey. GOC WDM2 16867 was sat at Rajapalaiyam waiting for us, with 56733 1125 Madurai – Sengottai, when we passed through and that was the only thing we saw until our next train out of Virudnagar Jct.

During my first trip to India in 2004 the MG section from Virudnagar to Tenkasi was closed for conversion and from memory, and it was dark at the time, the MG just had a small run round siding adjacent to the BG platforms at Virudnagar. It looked like some work had taken place to create another BG platform since then but it seemed to have just stopped midway through them being built. Maybe preference had been given to getting the electrification works done, with wires being up throughout the whole station area.

Our wait for the southbound 56320 Coimbatore – Nagercoil passenger was only about 40 minutes and it was bang on time when it arrived with ED WDM3D 11109. There weren’t any seats though so we stood for the whole journey, getting our fill of 11109 while we did. Good engine, good driver, good run to Vanchi Maniyachichi.

Again we didn’t have to wait long for our train, 56768 Tiruchendur – Tuticorin, to arrive, with TNP WDM3A 17968. It too was on time. 17968 was an ex ERS engine and still in ERS livery with a TNP depot sticker plonked on top of the ERS one and the Ernakulam writing on the cab sides painted out.

Before we could depart we had to wait for the slightly late running 16732 Tuticorin – Mysore to come off the branch with ED WDM3A 16460, which we’d seen the night before at Trichy with 12693 Chennai – Tuticorin and had rather hoped it would return with our 12694 ex Tuticorin that night. Obviously it wasn’t to be.

The run down to Tuticorin was great. The train was empty, 17968 was a decent engine and there was no myther at all. At Milavittan we crossed GOC WDM2 16858 with 56827 Tuticorin – Tirunelveli passenger. There was also a big yard which leads off to some docks, stabled within it were  GOC WDM2 17473 and a very new looking WDS6 36517 in blue livery with no shed markings at all. It also didn’t have an “R” suffix after the number to indicate it was a rebuild either, which the first 10 365xx did have, so maybe they’d actually stated building them in that number series as well as doing the conversions from WDM2 to WDS6?

To sum Tuticorin up, it stank of fish, as you’d probably expect from a port town. There was nothing at Tuticorin either, other than the station and one vendor on the platform, which resulted in our evening meal being pop, crisps and biscuits! There was a much busier shack, Tuti Melur, 1km out.

ED WDM3A 16504 was sat with 12694 Tuticorin – Chennai, which we’d had on 16232 Mysore – Mayilduthurai from Bangalore to Hosur 3 nights previous, from that i worked out the following loco-link:

Day 1 16232 Mysore – Mayilduthurai

Day 2 16231 Mayilduthurai – Mysore

Day 3 16732 Mysore – Tuticorin

Day 4 12694 Tuticorin – Chennai

Day 5 12693 Chennai – Tuticorin

Day 6 16731 Tuticorin – Mysore

Where the loco change takes place and when in the cycle is open to discussion though as 16460 being seen at Mysore, Trichy & Vanchi Maniyachichi over the course of a week would have meant it would be a fresh loco ex Erode on 16232 but 16504 would lead you to believe it had to have worked through from Mysore. Both fitted into the cycle with either of the above being true so maybe the cycle went round twice before the loco change at Erode, who knows?

Our beds were made well before departure from Tuticorin and we were in them the moment the TTE had checked our tickets; an 0300 alarm call beckoned for our 0318 arrival into Vriddhachalam Jct.

Monday 26th November 2012 

We were 40 late, which cut down on the fester at Vriddachalam if nothing else. There were two sets of stock in one of the main platforms, back to back, one set for the 0600 Trichy passenger with an ED WAP4 and the other for our 56834 0430 Vriddachalam – Cuddalore Port passenger with ED WDM2 16802, which had been overhauled and out-shopped from GOC, as a WDM2, just the previous month (Oct 2012) according to its works plate.

The morning time pass move at Cuddalore involved the following trains:

ED WDM2 16678 with 56873 0530 Villupuram – Mayilduthurai &

GOC WDM2 16885, in ERS livery, with KZJ WDG3A 14926 dead inside on 56874 0540 Mayilduthurai – Villupuram

The only other train we saw at Cuddalore was 16736 Tiruchendur – Chennai which ran through with TNP WDM3A 18896

The bonus of the morning soon came into sight at Cuddalore as 56513 Nagore – Bangalore arrived with GOC WDG3A 13449. It ran round and we positioned ourselves in the front coach of a very empty 16 coach train indeed. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t up to much and before we knew it our Shakti action was over, KJM WDM3A 14084 was waiting for us at Vriddhachalam and already moving off to prepare to back onto the opposite end of the train for its run to Bangalore.

At Chinna Salem we waited approx 30 minutes to wait for 56838 Salem – Vriddhachalam passenger to arrive, about 40 late itself, with TNP WDM2 17835. We’d seen the same engine arrive into Vriddhachalam with 11063 Chennai – Salem Express and left it running round as we departed for Cuddalore. My assumption would be that it would return to Salem with 56837 passenger then work back to Chennai that night with 11064.

Almost at Salem we had to wait just that bit longer, at SalemTown, for KJM’s 17664 to arrive with the opposing working of ours 56514 Bangalore City – Nagore, which we assumed GOC’s 13449 would work forward from Vriddhachalam.

Our time pass at Salem was used to get some tickets for folk back home in the UK, which would have been a whole lot easier had the booking window not closed when i was next in line, and they’d allowed more than one reservation form per person at a time. The result of that rubbish rule being me going to the back of the queue to wait a further 60 minutes to get back to the front, with only 8 people in front of me. My time at the window when I got there being 3  minutes! Which is what happens when you fill out your reservation forms properly and know where you want to go and by what train……

We were then Trichy bound on 16339 Mumbai CST – Nagercoil with ED WDM3D 11239 which gave way to ED WDM3D 11109 at Erode. With no other option we got off at Karur and festered for 16108 and the inevitable GOC WDG4. Little did we expect to have exactly the same one we’d been withered by the previous week, 12618! At least it was on time.

At Trichy I met up with a good friend, who I’d originally met while he was working in Malaysia for Ircon. Unfortunately our time together was limited as he was departing 10 minutes after we arrived for Guntakal to attend to a recently out-shopped GOC WDM3A overhaul that kept overheating.

The Hotel Meega in Trichy wasn’t up to much but its bed was much needed, although it took me quite a while to get off to sleep that night, even after over 20 hours out of bed……..

Tuesday 27th November 2012

It was hot outside for 0700 in the morning and we were dripping with sweat by the time we stopped to photograph the plinthed steam loco #4110 on the station approach road. The shower we’d had seeming like a lifetime away by the time we got to the station itself. At Trichy we found ED WDM2 16802 with the 0710 Mayilduthurai passenger and opted to wait for 16866 Ernakulam – Karaikal Express which came with ERS WDM3A 17894. Shortly before departure and into platform 4 arrived KJM WDM3A 14077 with the once a week 17315 Vasco Da Gama – Velankanni Express which we’d be doing forward from Thiruvarur to Velankanni itself, it being the only loco-hauled train of the week that visits Velankanni!

At Thiruvarur we had time to venture down to the deserted MG shed to get some photographs before it all disappeared into history. GOC YDM4s 6225 & 6312 were on the shed with 6321 in the station area. 6312 hadn’t been overhauled since May 2001 according to its plate on the cab side and 6321 was done in 2003. Both had been a long time out of works and may never see the inside of them again……

On October 19th the last remaining section of MG on the Chennai – Rameswarem line had closed between Thiruvarur & Pattukottai. This actually marked the end of an era in MG history as the only remaining MG line in operation on any of the Southern Railways in India was now the Mettupalayam – Ooty section, which would likely remain MG forever due to the historical value. It was always going to be the case that Ooty would home the last remaining YDM4s in Southern India but the frightening reality was, this had now come to fruition.

In the station area with 6321 were two coaches, just left in the platform. 6321 being a YDM4 that seemed to end up finishing off every section of railway it ended up at. It had been at Sengottai when the Punalur section was winding down and also at Villapuram 6 months after MG operations had ceased there too. Would it get another reprieve? Not very likely this time; it’s only hope being through a RITES export contract, which seemed to have dried up a bit, as far as YDM4s were concerned anyway.

The MG platforms were devoid of people, other than a couple of guys doing some platform work. Goats mostly occupied the station area, one even pretending to be a person and utilising the empty station bench for its afternoon nap. Another was trying to make like a train as it walked down the rail head, balancing quite well as it did so; it would be the only thing using those rails in the near future and the next time they were used would probably be to take all the old MG stock and locos away to meet their makers, some coaches already having done so being burnt out on shed.

14077 turned up after about 45 minutes at Thiruvarur, where the front half of the stock was watered before departure. The front 2nd unreserved coach was empty despite the SL & AC classes being quite well frequented. At Nagappattinam 14077 ran round and we changed ends. While walking down the platform to the opposite end we were offered two different rickshaw’s to Velankanni; really……!

En-route down the branch it was evident that the line had not actually been completed and earthworks to strengthen embankments were still taking place, hence the 10kmph slack over the stretch where the line went across the open, waterlogged area. Velankanni itself has a 3 platformed station and a very white station building. the car park of which was full of taxi’s and rickshaws jostling for business. when we got back from lunch it was a different story though; the station front was deserted.

On the return journey the opposite half of the stock was watered at Thiruvarur, where we alighted to wait for 56713 Nagore – Trichy passenger which arrived with GOC WDP3A 15524 and not orange GOC WDM2 16885 as we expected, having seen it on its way into Trichy that morning with the inbound working. We didn’t have much of a move on that evening back at Thanjavur but did learn one thing in that we should get off at Thanjavur for the 1630 Trichy – Nagore and not even consider going to Budalur!

GOC WDP3A 15502 was 56040 1805 Thanjavur – Mayilduthurai &

GOC WDG3A 13449 was 56582 1630 Trichy – Nagore

The latter being another engine we’d seen heading into Trichy that morning, this one coming back on the train we thought it would.

At Nidamangalam we got off for the DMU behind into Mannargudi where we found TNP WDM2 17703 with the 18 coach train that was 16180 2115 Mannargudi – Chennai Egmore which would be our overnight towards Chennai. I managed to swap my upper berth for a lower one before departure and there were at least 5 empty berths in the coach too. We’d only booked our berths on the train 10 days previous, an amendment made after the MG had closed at Thiruvarur; Mannargudi not having been in the original plan, neither had Velankanni.

We departed right time, our beds already made. By the time the TTE came round I was already in the land of nod and was again shortly after he checked our tickets.

Wednesday 28th November 2012 

I woke at 0459, seconds before my alarm would go off at 0500. Conveniently we’d just rolled into a station which revealed we were 16km from Tambaram, which we should have actually departed at 0500. By the time we got there, having festered around at stations in between, we were 60 late.

We got off to await the arrival of 16702 Rameswaram – Chennai behind, which did so about 30 minutes later with GOC WDM2 16879, which we did forward to Mambalam where TNP WDM2 17678 was just about to depart with 56039 Chennai Egmore – Pudducherry passenger, which I’d been expecting to see a GOC engine on. We should have done it back to Tambaram, in hindsight. 12634 Kanniyakumari – Chennai was 90 late by the time it arrived Mambalam and the Pudducherry passenger would have made it no problem, I was sure of it. Still we were where we were and did ED WDM3D 11200 into Chennai Egmore where TNP WDS6R’s 36508 & 36510 were both shunting stock into the carriage sidings while TNP WDM3A 16084 sat waiting to depart with 16853 Chennai – Trichy Express via Cuddalore.

We did the first EMU that turned up to Chennai Park, which is opposite Chennai Central station, the walk to which is off the train on the left hand side, out of the station, under the subway (on the left at the end of the road) then through the car park and total chaos leading to the ticket offices and station building itself.

The place was flooded with ED & RPM WAP4s but on the blocks of platform 11 was TNP WDM2 17583 which had probably arrived with our stock for 22601 1010 Chennai Central – Sainagar Shirdi. Also in the station was TNP WDM2S 17395, clearly doing some stock shunting and over the back was a GOC Shakti, shunting off the stabling point. It wasn’t until it actually backed down onto our 22601 that the shed sticker on 14616 revealed that it was in fact now a TNP WDG3A but still in its GOC livery. It turned out that TNP had been allocated some of GOCs WDG3A’s in the last couple of weeks, possibly while we’d been in the country, to more than likely make way for GOC to home more WDG4s unfortunately.

My attempts to photograph said TNP Shakti backing down onto the train, to get the shed sticker in the picture, were halted before I’d even managed to press the shutter. Some railway guy told me not to take photos and that it was not allowed without permission. Of course when I asked where I should get permission the usual turning of the back and hand waving gesture over the shoulder followed. I got my photo, cameras weren’t made with fold out screens to allow them to be more covertly operated for nothing……..

We were towards the back of the train, only 3 from the rear, and our TNP Shakti was a good 18 coaches away from us so there wasn’t any thrash all the way to Yelahanka where 76552 Chikballapur – Bangalore City turned up loco-hauled vice the DMU we’d expected with the 7xxxx train number it had. KJM WDM3A 14024 had the pleasure, the train running via Bangalore Cantt into Bangalore City and not Yesvantpur as most others do. Before we departed Yelahanka GTL WDM2 18541 arrived with the Vijayawada – Yesvantpur passenger which was in excess of 90 late. We couldn’t do it without involving a rickshaw from Yesvantpur to SBC but it gave me a plan for the morning; it departed Yesvantpur on its return at 0800.

At Bangalore that night I parted ways with my travelling companion, who was heading off back toward Mumbai via Goa on 12627 SBC – New Delhi “Karnataka Express”, which I also did all the way to Bangalore Cantt. On load 24 and up a big hill I’d have expected more from ET twins 18777/11210 on the front of the train. I was highly disappointed that they seemed to make mincemeat of the gradient up to Bangalore Cantt, there was some thrash but it wasn’t sustained full power for a lengthy time, it was on and off.

A KJM WDMx was just leaving Cantt when we arrived with 56514 Nagore – SBC passenger, a train I could have done with making really but it wasn’t to be so I had to wait for 12678 Ernakulam – SBC at 2020, which was late, and gave me a second taste of the reality to come when it rolled in with GOC WDG4 12606. Another ED WDM3D turn which had been taken over by the GM invasion. It seemed that the GOC WDG4 infiltration into the ED WDM3D turns was far worse than anyone had actually realised and it wasn’t just trains in/out of Mangalore as had been previously reported through IRFCA.

I stayed in the Hotel Pavana Regency where a non-AC room cost me RS1270 (inclusive of tax), its only outside the main entrance on the right hand side, hid behind the trees lining the path, above a food place.

Thursday 29th November 2012 

The alarm woke me at 0600, after a brief spell of voices in the corridor at 0430, having had a rather peaceful nights sleep. A nice hot shower certainly did the trick that morning, it was that cool during the night that I even had to use the blanket part way through it to keep warm. I left my big bag at the hotel for the day as it was 24 hour check-out, which was good until 1830 that evening, and off I went in search of a good days bash. It didn’t start very well……..

16518 Kannur – Yesvantpur wasn’t on the screens initially at Bangalore City and when it did appear it wasn’t expected to arrive until 0830; which wasn’t conducive to making the 0800 Yesvantpur – Vijayawada train now was it?! The only other alternative was the 0750 SBC – Hubli passenger, which was actually a minus two onto it at Yesvantpur, which I actually had in my head was a plus three for some random reason. It made, just, but I wasn’t on it when it rolled into Yesvantpur on the adjacent platform to the 0800 Vijayawada!

Having spotted KJM WDM2 16862 on platform 1 with 56514 0715 SBC – Nagore passenger I opted to do that up to Bangalore Cantt and get a rickshaw to Yesvantpur, costing RS100. Two reasons; one it was a safer move and guaranteed making the Vijayawada passenger and two, I’d noticed the stock being shunted out of the sidings adjacent to platform 10 by a KJM WDP4. Said WDP4 arrived into Yesvantpur at 0802, bang on time, stopped and the 0800 Vijayawada started away as soon as it had done. A close shave but one I’d managed to avoid, although I don’t know why as GM’s just seemed to be throwing themselves at me…..!

I’d witnessed ED WDM3D 11223 arrive into Bangalore City with 16731 Tuticorin – Mysore, which was a new ED machine and would very likely get done that evening on 16232 Mysore – Mayilduthurai up to Bangalore Cantt; previous experience telling me that the locos off the Tuticorin & Mayilduthurai get swapped over at Mysore. It also seemed that the morning belonged to the number “223” as WAP4 22223 was sat just outside SBC with 16526 Kanniyakumari – SBC and WAM4 21223 was just departing Bangalore Cantt with and SBC bound train as I arrived in.

GTL WDM2 185541 was waiting for me at Yesvantpur and did a good job of getting the train to Yelahanka on time. Which was more than could be said for the inbound commuters from Hindupur & Chikballapur. The Hindupur arrived first with KJM WDG3A 13056, which for a morning inbound commuter train was quite empty, standing room only, but still quite empty.

The stretch of line between Yelahanka & Yesvantpur was quite straight and fast and give engines plenty of time to be given a bit of a hammering, 13056 being no exception, it being far superior in noise to 18541.

The remainder of my day was spent roaming around the greater Bangalore area, the only plans I actually had were to cover 12975 Mysore – Jaipur with its MLY twins & the inbound 12628 Karnataka Express that afternoon with its ET twins, a move which unfortunately led to one pair arriving as the other departed and resigning me to my 4th GOC WDG4 move of the trip, again though strangely it was 12606, the same one I’d had Bangalore Cantt to City the previous night! Sightings are as follows:

KZJ WDM3A 18756 12430 Hazrat Nizamuddin – SBC then light to Yesvantpur

KJM WDP4s 20xxx/20xxx dit 56515 SCB – Hubli

GTL WDM2 18541 56503 0800 Yesvantpur – Vijayawada

KJM WDM3A 16296 16528 Kannur – Yesvantpur into YPR

KJM WDG3A 13056 56524 0630 Hindupur – SBC

KJM WDG3A 13034 12258 Kochuveli – Yesvantpur into YPR

KJM WDM3A 14083 56221 0920 SBC – Tumkur & 56226 1550 Tumkur – SBC

KJM WDM2 17776 56526 0755 Chikballapur – SBC then 56525 1800 SBC – Chik

KJM WDM3A 14025 56228 0400 Shimoga – SBC then 56230 1625 SBC – MYS

KJM WDP4 20024 17308 Bagalkot – Yesvantpur

KJM WDG3A 13043 17304 1120 Yesvantpur – Mysore (same set as 17308)

MLY WDM3A twins 16200/18914 129751015 Mysore – Jaipur

ET WDM3A twins 14085/18825 12628 NDLS – SBC “Karnataka Exp”

GOC WDG4 12606 11014 Coimbatore – LTT (didn’t see if it came off or not!)

KJM WDM3A 17685 56227 1645 SBC – Shimoga

KJM WDP4 20xxx 16201 1630 SBC – Shimoga

KJM WDM3A 18824 16216 1800 SBC – Mysore

KJM WDM3A 14024 76552 1555 Chikballapur – SBC then RR for 76553 1830 to Dharmapuri

Last but not least I’d decided to do 16232 Mysore – Mayilduthurai up the hill from Bangalore City to Cantt and then get a taxi straight to the airport. I’d only chosen it as it would offer more thrash up the hill with a single loco than the Karnataka had done the previous day with a pair. The expected ED WDM3D 11123 had obviously been left behind at Mysore for the Tuticorin as ED WDG3A 13499 strolled in with 16232, a very welcome end to the trip indeed. A single engine up the hill to Cantt made for a better run that the two sets of twins I’d had in recent days and 13499 was given a hammering. A happy ending to a great trip, all I had to do then was endure a 1h03m taxi journey to the airport, which cost RS800, and prepare for a whole new trip to a whole new country as Australia beckoned……..