India October/November 2013
This trip had been planned very early on in the year. I’d had an idea of what i’d wanted to cover well before I put fingers to the keys and got it electronically typed up. It was to be a half re-run of a previously ill fated NE trip to Dibrugarh and would also cover some outstanding bits of the Nagpur and Hyderabad areas, along with outstanding branches along the NE corridor from NJP and also a last ditch attempt to get some new YDM4s in on the Saharsa, Sakri & Narkatiaganj sections before they disappeared for good.
Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make my dates fit with those of others who’d be setting off on October 20th and doing much of the same! In the end I had to bite the bullet and book the trip on my own; my first ever solo trip abroad, anywhere in the world, let alone India. I’d put so much effort and planning into it that I wasn’t just prepared to hack it to bits and do only half of it so that was that; my very first solo trip was planned……….
British Airways (direct) – £688.95
BA199 2145 Heathrow – Mumbai
BA142 0340 Delhi – Heathrow
Internal Flight with Spicejet – RS 2867.50 (approx £30.18)
SG233 1040 Varanasi – Delhi Domestic Terminal (1D)
Itarsi – Hotel Shri Nivas (RS1399 for 11 hours, RS1799 for 23 hours) newly built in June 2013, clean, modern rooms with free WiFi, flat screen TV, AC, fan & hot water. Excellent food, despite the menu only being in Hindi.
Nagpur – Hotel Rajhans (RS700 for non-AC, RS900 for AC) is a short rickshaw ride from Nagpur station and has its own website. The rooms aren’t the best and all three I looked at had cockroaches running around. The rooms have AC, fan & TV. Hot water is provided by bucket with a 30 minute waiting time. There is no restaurant but room service is available and the food was good; about the only thing that was good about the place really.
Nagpur – Hotel Siddhartha Inn (RS2100 for executive deluxe room with AC and booked through booking.com) is a short rickshaw ride from Nagpur station. The room was clean and spacious with AC, fan, flat screen TV and hot water in the mornings. The restaurant was closed for Diwali but room service was available and there is an extensive menu. The food was excellent and breakfast is complimentary; included in the room rate. Free pick-up and drop-off is available if arranged 2 hours prior to collection.
Hyderabad – Hotel Harsha (RS1600 for AC room, booked via their website) is basically at the bottom of the 200m station approach, left for 50m and over the road on the right. Rooms are clean and spacious with AC, fan, TV and hot water in the mornings. The hotel offers laundry service and WiFi, the latter being RS550 for 24 hours. The staff were very helpful and attentive and the food in the hotel’s veg restaurant was excellent. Buffet breakfast is included in the room rate as is a morning paper; Hindu Times.
Cooch Behar – Hotel Royal Palace (RS950 for a deluxe AC room) 2km from Old Cooch Behar station or approx 6km from New Cooch Behar station; RS20 in a cycle rickshaw from the former and RS150 in a taxi from the latter. The choice of room type is extensive; ranging from RS650 to RS3000. My room had AC, fan, flat screen TV and round the clock hot water. The hotel has a restaurant but I didn’t use it; only for a pack-up breakfast the following morning as it opens at 0700 and I departed before it had. Service was good and the staff very honest; having returned RS50 to me after they’d overcharged me.
Guwahati – Praashanti Tourist Lodge (RS680 for non-AC or RS840 for AC) is approx 200m away from the main entrance to the station; straight down the main road on the right hand side. While a little rough around the edges the hotel staff are very friendly and the hotel’s restaurant serves good food. The rooms have fan and/or AC, TV and constant hot water from a geyser.
Tinsukia – Hotel Centre Point Towers (RS1350 for a non-AC, non-refurbished room) a short 5 minute walk from Tinsukia Jct (Old Tinsukia) and is accessed through a shopping precinct. The room was very spacious; and actually a twin room. While a bit rough round the edges it more than sufficed. There was a TV and fan but no AC and hot water is only available in the mornings after 0530; bucket hot water is available on request. The hotel restaurant is clean, but for the odd ant crawling around the table, and served up some good grub.
Haflong – Hotel Elite (RS1100 for any room whether single or twin occupancy) is a 15 minute auto-rickshaw ride from Lower Haflong station; and is a solid uphill slog, twisting and turning as the road ascends. The hotel looks new-ish and the rooms are clean, even if the bathrooms aren’t looked after as well. There were large ants crawling about the room but that problem was soon rectified; as was the single large cockroach problem! The room had AC (not needed in the evenings), fan and TV. The bathroom had hot water at any time, from a water heater. WiFi is available but the signal strength in some rooms is not good and I needed to go to reception to keep a constant connection. There is no restaurant at the hotel but the Aahar Restaurant just up the road serves excellent food; mainly of Chinese origin.
Samastipur – Hotel Aryan (RS600 for a Non-AC room) is an 8 minute walk from the station and a few minutes less in a cycle rickshaw. The room was clean; with TV and bathroom which had both a western & Indian style toilet. Unfortunately the hotel didn’t have a restaurant and also didn’t do hot water; not even by the bucket!
Indrail Pass 30 Days – £172
Booked in the UK through SD Enterprises Limited
Thursday 24th October 2013
One thing I’d noticed on my boarding card, having already checked in online at home, was that passengers travelling long distance with hand luggage only should report to a certain desk to have their passport and visa checked. I’d never noticed this before, nor had I ever done it. However, as I had to walk past said desk I presented myself at it. The woman behind it informed me that this kind of check had been going on basically since time began. When I informed her that I’d never done it she then informed me that I would have been sent back from the departure gate to have the checks done; I begged to differ but she was adamant that it would happen every time………
Once through to departures I savoured the last sensible meal I’d eat for 28 days; and a lovely bangers and mash it was too. Then it was time to board, which I have to say was quite efficient but as the plane was full the over-sized hand-luggage policing came into play. Of course mine was both oversize and overweight and by the time I got to the gate there had been plenty of bags stopped from going onto the plane, all piled up to be taken to the hold; yet I was let straight through, no questions asked! The fact that there was no room in the overhead lockers when I got on board was something else; which ultimately resulted in me taking my little bag out of my big bag anyway, to get the damn thing inside the overhead bin!
From that point on the flight was nothing short of absolutely rubbish. I’d managed to change my seat to be now sitting right behind the noisiest child on the plane; and there were plenty of others about too. I did manage some sleep but not a great deal. If it hadn’t have been for one of the air stewardesses making sure I got the last chicken & mash for dinner and then the penultimate non-curry breakfast then it would have been quite possibly one of the worst flights I’d been on. Maybe my pleasantries upon boarding had paid off?
|91106||Doncaster||Kings Cross||1545 Leeds – Kings Cross||1A39|
|G-VIIH||Heathrow T5||Mumbai||2145 Heathrow – Mumbai||BA199||British Airways|
Friday 25th October 2013
Despite the crap plane journey we actually landed 15 minutes early, which gave me a bit of extra breathiong space to get to Dadar for the 1300 departure to Pune; which I’d have only had 1h45m from our booked landing time. As it happened the 2 hours was more than enough as from plane door to Dadar platform took me 60 minutes, which included changing money at the airport; the Pound now being 95.40 Rupees, the highest I’d ever seen it!!! The pre-paid taxi booth had fortunately been empty and my taxi cost RS340, including charge for baggage. Unfortunately the time it had taken the guys at the airport to find my taxi driver had cost me actually making 16339 1205 Mumbai CST – Nagercoil, which was just departing as I got onto the platform it was departing from. I could have boarded as it was departing but I couldn’t see the loco and didn’t know if it was electric or not to Pune nowadays; so I watched it leave.
As Mumbai Airport had nowhere to buy sim cards I used the time I had free to attempt to resource one outside the station at Dadar; a task that had proved fruitless before and revealed exactly the same dead end again due to me not being able to produce an Indian ID card. What a farce; yet the damn things are available to foreigners at airports, just not Mumbai it seems!
My conveyance to Pune was 17031 1245 Mumbai CST – Hyderabad, which promptly arrived at 1300 with KYN WDM3D 11356. Its opposing working, 17032, had departed only minutes before with KYN WDG3A 13604; this leading me to belive that the 17031/17032/12701/12702 link was now KYN locos vice KZJ locos nowadays. There was plenty of space in 2AC up to Pune and a quick conversation with the very polite TTE, who basically asked me where I wanted to sit, had me directed to coach A1 and seat 9; a lower side berth. Having kicked the guy out who’d made his bed up I was soon relaxing in the much needed AC; it had been 93 degrees when I’d stepped off the plane.
At Karjat KYN WAG7s 27128/117 were waiting in the headshunt and no sooner had we entered the platform were they attaching to the rear of the train to bank us up the Bhor Ghats. It the adjacent platform was a set of stock for 51317 1510 Karjat – Pune, with PA WDG3A 14680 standing at the Mumbai end; clearly having just arrived with the inbound 51318 from Pune. I could see a move coming up with that if it worked 51347 1835 Pune – Baramati forward; as the trains name boards suggested. The run up the ghats was pleasant, sunny yet hazy, but once the bankers had been detached at Lonavla and we’d departed, the heavens opened and it hammered down; the Monsoon season clearly not having finished with India yet.
At Pune I found a pair of PA DLMW built WDM3Ds at the head of 11077 1720 Pune – Jammu Tawi “Jhelum Express”; 11379/375. This train always seemed to produce for me yet on occasion it has been spotted with a PA WDG4! Unfortunately the pair didn’t perform as well as I’d have expected to Uruli and were a little dissapointing; if not for the clag they produced. Due to a freight train being in the platform at Uruli our Express was stopped in the centre road for all to alight; there didn’t seem to be much boarding going on. And then it came, no sooner had I got onto the platform did the announcement for 51456 Solapur – Pune passenger give out the bad news that it was 90 late. Not only did this mean that my move with 14680 was out of the window but also that any sensible food move was likely down the pan as well.
Luckily though shortly after the one announcement came the second one announcing that 51326 Baramati – Pune was right time, this only being 48 minutes behind the Solapur passenger so not long to wait. While waiting it was Shakti after Shakti at Uruli; PA 13641 with 12850 Pune – Bilaspur, PA 13556 with 12157 Pune – Solapur then 13426 with a train I couldn’t identify, which had a mail coach in its consist. The next surprise was then PA WDG3A 14814 arriving with 51326 Baramati – Pune passenger, which to be fair I shouldn’t have been too surprised about as it was often a Shakti yet strangely not the time I’d done it to Baramati.
14814 was a bit of a machine, way better than the pair had been on 11077. I had the pleasure of talking to a college student who was travelling to Pune to teach maths over the internet; this being a side job while he was studying for exams. Apparently there was no better way to study than actually practice what you preach, according to his self professed reason for working night shifts! Our conversation came to an abrupt end though as we arrived into Loni. I could see the headlights of what did turn out to be 14680, at the end of the opposite platform and didn’t need any further persuasion to get off; especially knowing that the Solapur – Pune passenger was late behind me.
The wait back at Uruli, in the pitch black, wasn’t much longer than it had been at Loni and I was deposited into Pune at 2030 with 25 minutes to shoehorn some food in. As 12149 Pune – Patna was in platform 1 I used Comesum and they didn’t let me down, producing a good, piping hot chicken dopyaza, rice & nan in under 5 minutes. By the time I’d finished I had 10 minutes to walk to the front of the train and spot the pair of PA machines at its helm, while admiring the very long line of folk being lined up by RPF to board 2nd unreserved. WDM3A 18754 led WDM3D 11406 at the head of the train, which had just the two places in AC that weren’t reserved from Pune. One of these places fell my way after a conversation with the TTE, the second to a young girl who was also travelling only to Daund and was quite intrigued by my small, neat writing in my moves book……..
Daund came soon enough and the pair were off moments after we arrived, to run round and head for Manmad. In the bay platform adjacent was PA WDG3A 13175 with a very fresh coat of paint (one which you could still smell) and a headboard bolted on to the front, short hood end, which was facing towards Pune. Whilst I couldn’t read the writing I could read that it was to work 11406 on 26-10-2013. All I could think was that it had been tarted up for a Loco Pilots’ final turn in the seat before retirement and tht it would re-engine my 11405 towards Amravati so the short hood would be leading on the return towards Pune the following day; of course that didn’t happen and we departed Daund on 11405 with dud PA WDM3D 11378 instead of new PA WDG3A 13175. All I could deduce from that was that maybe 13175 was going to re-engine 11406 at Daund on its run back into Pune the following day? Although at that point it would actually be 27/10 when 11406 passed back through Daund!
Once on board it was bed made and sleep…………….
Gen for Friday 25th October 2013
|11356||Dadar||Pune Jct||1245 Mumbai CST – Hyderabad Deccan Nampally||17031||KYN WDM3D – banked Karjat – Lonavla by KYN WAG7s 27128/117|
|27128||Karjat||Lonavla||KYN WAG7 27128/117 in multi – in tandem with KYN WDM3D 11356; banking in rear|
|11379||Pune Jct||Uruli||1720 Pune Jct – Jammu Tawi||11077||PA WDM3Ds 11379/11375 in multi|
|14814||Uruli||Loni||1620 Baramati – Pune Jct||51326||PA WDG3A|
|14680||Loni||Uruli||1835 Pune Jct – Baramati||51347||PA WDG3A|
|16044||Uruli||Pune Jct||1140 Solapur Jct – Pune Jct||51456||KTE WDM3A|
|18754||Pune Jct||Daund Jct||2055 Pune Jct – Patna Jct||12149||PA WDM3A 18754 & PA WDM3D 11406 in multi|
|11378||Daund Jct||Amravati||2200 Pune Jct – Amravati||11405||PA WDM3D – Via Latur Rd, Purna, Akola (RR)|
(Other than in the moves above)
13641 (PA WDG3A) 12850 1740 Pune – Bilaspur
13556 (PA WDG3A) 12157 1800 Pune – Solapur
14680 (PA WDG3A) 51318 1115 Pune – Karjat, 51317 1510 Karjat – Pune, 51347 1835 Pune – Baramati
14814 (PA WDG3A) 51326 1620 Baramati – Pune, 51353 2005 Pune – Daund
11118 (GTL WDM3A) 01478 0430 (P) Hazrat Nizamuddin – Pune (Special) into Pune
Saturday 26th October 2013
Whilst sleep in side berths isn’t always great it isn’t helped by the noise coming from the large amount of children in the coach; something I obviously hadn’t realised the previous night as they were all asleep. Bizarrely the coaches’ creche like qualities didn’t keep me awake constantly and I managed to doze until about 0830, when chai was served! Said children did decide that it might be funny to try and pinch my pen off my notebook and mess around with the keys on my tablet keypad while I was typing and all the parents could do was smile at me; that’s not what they were doing when I gave them what for and shouted at their kids. Strangely enough silence followed and they were confirmed to their compartment with the curtains drawn. Of course kids being kids, they didn’t stay that way for the rest of the journey and I caught one of them trying to peep through my closed curtains while I was attempting an afternoon nap; its amazing how a good old Yorkshire stare can put kids back in their own box!
There hadn’t been much in the way of food throughout the journey and I was thankful of the red hot samosas I’d had, from a vendor on the Purna – Akola section, as that was about all that was available, other than a chai! 11378 ran round at Akola and took a while about it too; we were almost an hour late away as a result, having been about 30 late arriving. We picked up some time though an yet were held outside Badnera Jct for 51262 Wardha Jct – Amravati to depart in front of us; albeit right time mind. This resulted in us being 25 late into Amravati, where Ajni WAG7 27770 was already running round its stock to work back with 51261 1530 Amravati – Wardha Jct passenger. KYN WCAM3 21893 was in the sidings with the stock for the evenings 12112 Amravati – Mumbai CST and ETWAM4/6P 20620 was sat in the adjacent platform with the stock for 12159 Amravati – Jabalpur, also that evening.
I managed to get myself a following at Amravati from the moment we hit the platform end, the three young school kid’s obviously having spotted me at the doorway and ran the length of the platform alongside, until the train stopped. The bad news for them though was that they had to then walk all the way back to where they’d come from when i went to get a picture of 11378, after it had run round. It was then bolted to the stock and shut down in the platform, at which point my new found following made a bid for the late running 1530 passenger to Wardha; which they were only doing to Badnera to get home after school, which actually seemed like a good idea to do at the time myself so I sheeped them; which of course they found highly surprising and unfortunately the language barrier prevented me from really being able to explain what I was doing.
Badnera did have a refreshment type place but that was about it so I made an executive decision to get a rickshaw back to Amravati, which took about 30 minutes to cover the 10km and cost RS150. The next train back was 2 hours later and only a plus 15 onto my return 11406 1830 Amravati – Pune and which didn’t make either! At first sight there didn’t seem to be a great deal going on outside Amravati station yet as I stood and pondered at the station exit gates some guy soon pointed me in the right direction; suggesting the Eagle Restaurant, which was out of the station gates, turn right, over the road and first left, then on your left about 50m down the road. All in all it was less than 2 minutes from the station entrance and served up an excellent Kashmiri Dum Aloo, rice, nan & cold pop for RS165 and their menu was in English as well; unlike most of the shop signs along the street.
Once food was over there wasn’t really a great deal else to do other than watch the growing queues at the booking office, along with a growing line of bags and people on platform 1, obviously waiting for the stock for the Mumbai departure. The lack of RPF presence actually made it look quite efficient of the locals but i’m guessing it was the norm and everyone knew the drill by now?
ET WAM4 20620 departed right time with 12159 but took 10 minutes to clear the points outside the station, which was probably why the inbound passenger wasn’t allowed towards Amravati until we’d got to Badnera? It turned out some kid had pulled the chain as someone hadn’t made their train by departure time, bizarrely said person came running down the platform, in bursts, all the way to the end, as the train trickled out. Had he actually been fit and healthy he’d have caught it no problem but his fruitless bursts of running would only have benefited him had the train stopped again; which it didn’t. It looked like he tried ringing his mate to get it stopped again but obviously to no avail as the train disappeared into the distance with him watching on from the platform end as it did so……..
The coach attendant on 11406 seemed quite bemused with the fact that I was joining his train for the return journey, although the fact that I was only going to Akola seemed to appease him a little. We were away right time with only about a dozen folk on the reservation sheet for 2AC; so i picked my seat and relaxed in it.
Akola’s MG hides over the far side of the station; we used to joke about the MG being a stations’ dirty little secret. Well in Akola’s case it was literally a dirty little secret, the platforms hardly state of the art, but in a state, there was little lighting and the whole area was just a mess and littered with people. YDM4 6717 was sat in a dead end road just by the station building, shut down, which i assumed would be the engine for my 2230 departure to Khandwa.
With plenty of time to kill I used some of it to grab a bite to eat from one of the small restaurants on platform 1 and then spent the rest of the day, literally, festering around for my train on the MG platforms, where I’d managed to find a new friend, who insisted I meet his whole family. He himself was only 13, yet looked a lot younger, and spoke very good English for his age. His family on the other hand spoke hardly any English between them and he became both the spokes person and translator for the whole group. They were all going to Indore to visit a temple, which was having an open day the following day. While I spent about 90 minutes chatting with the group it was actually quite a change from talking to myself……… Of course the conversation eventually faded out and people were getting tired so they just slept where they sat, on the platform, without even moving; it was like something you’d see in a rabbit warren the way they were all huddled together.
When 2200 came and went I didn’t think much of it, when 2230 came and went I was starting to get bored of waiting and when 2300 came and went with still no sign of a train arriving, which should have arrived at 2145, I got sick of waiting and went in search of some answers; my question to the duty station manager did not render an answer I wanted to hear and his answer to my question as to why the train wouldn’t arrive until 00:50 was a typical Indian response “this is metre gauge sir”, as though the actual rails themselves are to blame for good old human incompetence when it comes to decision making on the railway! Now baring in mind 52975 on its inbound run had at least 2 hours make-up time in its schedule towards the end of its journey, it must have been well down the pan at some point, up to 5 hours I’d say, to actually arrive 3 hours late! Having delivered the good news to my chums on the platform I went to sit somewhere quiet and figure out what the hell I was going to do the following day as even my worst case scenario move was only a plus 3 hours at Khandwa and we were going to be that late away from Akola.
Having found a quiet spot on one of the BG platforms I was finding it hard enough to figure out some form of back-up move, especially as the Western timetable doesn’t have a map of the tables in the front like the rest in India do, when the nagging in my ear started from two guys who hardly spoke English as it was; that coupled with my tiredness was just about enough to give it up as a bad job and just suck it and see. I’d actually thought that my move might go to pot at Itarsi the following day anyway and at least printed out some maps with hotels there, just in case. The problem with any form of back-up move to get to Itarsi was that almost everything ex Khandwa was electric, but for a few trains. Two of them were on my bash plan, which of course I was likely to miss, and the others didn’t run the day I needed them to. My only option was actually to do the good old Karnataka Express from Khandwa to Jalgaon for its opposing working throughout to Itarsi, arriving Itarsi at 2150 that night. The big problem with that move was also that the Karnataka Express had recently changed loco links from 2xET WDMx to 2xMLY WDMx and I wasn’t actually sure if the diesels went through to Itarsi anymore; thinking they now maybe came off at Manmad? With that being about the best I could come up with, other than an electric to Itarsi, I waited the last hour out on a bench near the station masters’ office; so I was close enough to find some more answers if the train hadn’t shown up by 01:00. Those answers weren’t needed as 52975 0710 Ujjain – Akola rolled in at 00:45 with MHOW YDM4 6415, still sporting its’ Sabarmati lilac livery since its transfer at least 2 years previous.
6717 had been started up about 10 minutes before the train arrived, which had been the most positive sign of action since I’d arrived at Akola, now all I had to do was find my sleeper berth; torch in hand off I went, over the tracks and onto the wrong side of the train, to get to the other platform, just like the rest of the folk that had been sat on the wrong platform. It turned out there were three SL class coaches on the train, with my reservation being in S1, berth 25. I was soon being asked by the TTE to vacate S1 and move into S3 and having caught a glimpse of his reservation sheets I could see why, there were hardly any reservations on it; which could only be a good thing. Once everyone had settled down I ended up with a middle berth in a compartment where there were only two other people and was settled myself when 52988 2230 Akola – Mhow eventually got underway at 01:33, just the 3h03m late. I tried to put the impending disaster that would unfold before me the following morning, out of my head and grab as much sleep as I could.
Gen for Friday 26th October 2013
|27770||Amravati||Badnera Jct||1530 Amravati – Wardha Jct||51261||Ajni WAG7|
|Auto||Badnera Jct||Amravati||RS150, 10km||Auto-rickshaw|
|11378||Amravati||Akola Jct||1830 Amravati – Pune Jct||11406||PA WDM3D|
(Other than in the moves above)
20620 (ET WAM4/6P) 12159 1745 Amravati – Jabalpur
21893 (KYN WCAM3) 12112 1905 Amravati – Mumbai CST
14575 (KZJ WDG3A) 57540 1315 Parli Vaijnath – Akola, 57583 2300 Akola – Purna
6415 (MHOW YDM4) 52975 0710 Ujjain – Akola
Sunday 27th October 2013 (Almost; but just not quite!)
As you can imagine it wasn’t the best night’s sleep. I was aware at some point in the early hours that we were 4 hours late yet at 0900 the guy from the next compartment, who was also travelling to Khandwa, was stood at the end of my bed beckoning me to get myself into shape as we were approaching Khandwa, a little over 2 hours late. The recovery time in the schedule this time actually redeming part of my bash; although it wasn’t out of the woods yet as I only had a plus 10 at Itarsi!
Khandwa MG platforms are in no better state than those at Akola yet those at Khandwa have never been any different and always been a shit-hole. In fact the first time I’d been to Khandwa we not only had to suffer the shitty platforms but also some guru who insisted he show us all his cock! There was absolutely no stopping him either let me tell you……. Thankfully no such even occurred this time and the friendly signalman allowed me up his box steps to photograph 6717 departing; now only 1h15m late.
Breakfast was in abundance from the many vendors on the BG platforms. My veg rice did the trick but I couldn’t finish it; I knew a kid that could though, who’d actually come up to me with his spoon, beckoning to dig in with me, when I’d bought the tray as it was. Of course I told him where to go and it had been a good job he couldn’t actually reach my food as he’d have probably dug in without me even knowing it; he was soon devouring what was left of it anyway, looking quite pleased with himself.
The good news was that 17020 Hyderabad – Ajmer turned up bang on time with its twin MLY WDM3As 18903/907, the bad news was that our shit run to Itarsi started the moment we departed, it taking us 5 minutes to actually clear the platform. Whilst we only stopped twice en-route to Itarsi it seemed the driver liked to slow down for crossings at bigger stations, which of course cost us time, as did the bonus chain pulling we were subjected to. Despite our shit run up the electrified double track main line we did only arrive into Itarsi 30 late, which was of course 20 minutes after my 19713, once a week, Jaipur – Secunderabad should have departed. There was no sign of it in the station, which I actually took as a good one but the suspicions in the back of my mind were confirmed when I asked in the Assistant Station Masters office if it had gone or not; of course it had, and right time as well, typically.
At least I’d made it to Itarsi, which was one thing, all I had to do now was come up with a move which didn’t take too much stinging together, although that soon went down the tubes due to 11093 being 2 hours late. While waiting for it I stood at the end of platform 5 and watched the locos coming off shed for the electric to diesel loco changes for trains heading via Jabalpur. Thankfully the ET twins that stood around waiting longest ended up being for my 11093 as they were both new. The twins that did 12141 LTT – Rajendranagar forward I couldn’t do anyway, likewise 12167 LTT – Varanasi, which was only a single WDM3D. I actually toyed with doing the PA twins on 11038 back to Khandwa but as there was no potential option back till late, and I was already in Itarsi with the potential for an early bath, I decided against it in favour of staying local to Itarsi.
Not really wanting to subject myself to the elements on the hot day that it was I managed to get myself a seat in 2AC for the short journey to Pipariya, during which we passed ET WDM3D 11427 with 11464 Jabalpur – Somnath, the train I’d been hoping to get back to Itarsi to bag myself a hotel before doing an afternoon move back out again. That down the pan there was a back-up but having photted 16732/17828 fill the sky with think clag as they departed, I soon discovered that the back-up was also down the pan as 15267 Raxaul – LTT was 2h30m late; ultimately could have done the twins I’d just got off to Narshingpur but instead I’d subjected myself to at least a 3 hour fester instead…….
Had the Indian Government not made it so hard for foreigners to get sim cards this shit out wouldn’t have happened as I’d know through Train Inquiry how late everything was of course! Still, I was where I was and I chose my spot, and sat in it for petty much the next 3 hours. Initially I’d gone over the other side of the station just to get a packet of biscuits and before I’d even sat down on of the monkeys roaming round had tried to relieve me of those; the cheeky shit. Luckily I’d had a tight enough grip of them for it not to be able to pry them out of my hand as it grabbed at them; more importantly though the little fucker hadn’t broken my skin as it had tried to snatch them, otherwise that cold have turned out quite nasty, and likely resulted in a hospital visit. The way the afternoon panned out mind, an afternoon in hospital wouldn’t have been a bad thing……..
The moneys eventually all did one, leaving me to eat my biscuits but not without looking in every direction, including upwards, as I did so. I sat alone on a bench n the middle of the platform watching the world that was Pipariya go by. Nobody hassled me, or even so much as looked at me, for the first 2h30m anyway. The beggars did their thing, one having his own makeshift four wheels contraption to enable his to get about the station and one preferred to push herself around on her arse a foot a a time, shoving the large stick and her bag of belongings about in front of her; each to their own, although I was struggling to see the value of the stick in her life.
The relative silence that seemed to bestow Pipariya was spoiled when a large flock of birds turned up to occupy some trees adjacent to the station; their chirping screeching through the air constantly for over an hour. Bizarrely the whole noise stopped every time there was a large bang in the neighbouring village, yet started again in unison a few seconds later. As the sun began to set and dusk set in the early evening seemed to be food making time, all the ingredients being cut up, by two random women who turned up out of nowhere, on the platform floor; which I’m guessing was pretty much the same for quite a lot of station vendor food.
The person that did eventually want to talk to me happened to speak no English at all and had to be told what to ask by another guy sat behind him, thankfully when KTE WDM3A 16717 turned up with 11271 1620 Itarsi – Bhopal I was saved from his grasps and didn’t need any persuading to get on board; I’d been at Pipariya long enough. The deciding factor in the matter wasn’t really to do with the fact it was a new engine but more the fact that 15267 had been updated to 5 hours late meaning I’d make the late running 13201 Rajendranagar – LTT at the next station, Bankhedi, and if it did miss there was a passenger not far behind; I wasn’t getting back while late now anyway so what was another 30 minutes on top?
Had I waited at Pipariya, I would have got back slightly earlier on 22188 Jabalpur – Habibganj Intercity, but not with a new engine as it was a dud ET WDM3A 18692, which I watched run through Bankhedi. As if my day hadn’t gone bad enough 13201 ended up being 90 late, not 40 as the board at Pipariya had advertised, and when it did turn up the tell tale lighting arrangement in the distance gave away the fact that my disastrous day was going to be topped off with a bonus GM on yet another solid Alco turn that had succumbed to the influx of ET WDP4D’s; this one being 40168, the highest numbered one I’d seen. Of course it made no shite of difference what number was on its side, it was a GM, I’d been well and truly bowled out and had to just deal with it; which I did so in the very rear coach of the train, holed up in a nice 2AC seat, pretending that the GM wasn’t actually on my train at all. The truth was I actually struggled to remember the number of it in the first place, while getting over the shock of what had rolled into the station in front of me.
While between Bankhedi & Pipariya I had a brain wave, when I began thinking straight again; said brainwave was soon put to bed at the inquiry office at Pipariya, which happened to be outside the window of the coach I was sat in, when I was told the passenger behind us was 1h45m late; again not the 15m that the white board was advertising still! So General Motors to Itarsi it was; what a cracking day out it had been, not! It was certainly one I’d re-write if I could.
My hunt for a hotel outside Itarsi station went slightly better than my days’ bash when I stumbled on the newly built Hotel Shri Nivas which conveniently had a price for 11 hour checkout (RS1399 as well as 23 hour checkout (RS1799). The hotel staff told me the hotel had only been completed 4 months prior to my arrival and the cleanliness of the rooms showed. They were modern, with flat screen TV, marble floor, AC, fan & hot water and WiFi was available free, at an excellent strength and fast also. The only problem was the fact that the place had ants; I had to change rooms to get away from them but the following morning found a nice run going from the bathroom, underneath the bed, to the door. They were no bother mind and didn’t want to climb into bed with me, unlike the ones in the other room! The only other problem was that the restaurant menu was in Hindi only so the “boy” had to tell me what was available; I highly recommend the Paneer Butter Massala, it was cracking, just what I needed after a long, non-productive day!
After a nice shower I was glad to climb into bed and put the days’ woes behind me. My earplugs managed to blot out most of the noise from the station, although I did wake at one point trying to turn my alarm off; only to find it was actually a prolonged horn blowing from over the way……….
Gen for 27th October 2013
|6717||Akola Jct||Khandwa Jct||2230 (26/10) Akola Jct – Mhow||52988||MHOW YDM4 – 3 hours late start!|
|18903||Khandwa Jct||Itarsi Jct||1500 (26/10) Hyderabad DN – Ajmer Jct||17020||MLY WDM3A’s 18903/18907 in multi|
|16732||Itarsi Jct||Pipariya||0010 Mumbai CST – Varanasi Jct||11093||ET WDM2’s 16732/17828 in multi|
|16717||Pipariya||Bankhedi||1620 Itarsi Jct – Bhopal Jct||11271||KTE WDM3A|
|40168||Bankhedi||Itarsi Jct||2330 (26/10) Rajendranagar – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus||13201||ET WDP4D|
(Other than in the moves above)
40107 (ET WDP4D) 12296 1955 (P) Patna – Bangalore City (into ET)
18777/11274 (ET WDM3A/3D) 12141 2325 (P) Lokmanya Tilak – Rajendranagar (ex ET)
17xxx/18xxx (PA WDM3As) 11038 1530 (P) Gorakhpur – Pune
21342 (ET WAM4) 12167 0035 Lokmanya Tilak – Varanasi (to ET)
11308 (ET WDM3D) 12167 0035 Lokmanya Tilak – Varanasi (ex ET)
20612 (ET WAM4/6P) 11093 0010 Mumbai CST – Varanasi (to ET – ET WDM2’s 16732/17828 forward)
11427 (ET WDM3D) 11464 1200 Jabalpur – Somnath
18754/11406 (PA WDM3A/3D) 12150 2255 (P) Patna – Pune
400xx (ET WDP4B) 12295 0900 (P) Bangalore City – Patna
18692 (ET WDM3A) 22188 1610 Jabalpur – Habibganj
40058 (ET WDP4B) 12854 1545 Bhopal – Durg
11322 (ET WDM3D) 12669 1735 (P) Chennai – Chhapra
16790 (RTM WDM3A) 12578 1010 (P) Mysore – Darbhanga
Monday 28th October 2013 (Hooray for internet access)
Surprisingly there hadn’t been a load of noise outside the hotel, on the main road below my window, and I managed to doze until just before 0730; I was out of the hotel by 0800 though to prevent my 11 hour rate turning into the 23 hours rate, my bill coming to just over RS1500, including the previous nights’ meal. Having been able to use the hotel WiFi to see what was about between Itarsi and Pipariya I was sat in the front coach of 51189 0830 Itarsi – Allahabad passenger, knowing that 51188 Katni – Bhusawal passenger, due into Itarsi at 0620 was only 4h18m late and would make a nice bonus move for the morning; see how much easier it is with access to the internet, Indian Government take note!
Our 51189 was held at Sontalai for ET WDM3A 16224 to come off the random single line section from the next station, Bagra Tawa, and then ET WDM2 Jumbo 17862 deposited me at Bagra Tawa having negotiated the single line itself. No sooner had it cleared in the distance did the station master ring the bell to signal the approaching of the 4h+ late 51188 Katni – Bhusawal, which arrived relatively empty, within 5 minutes, with KTE WDM2 Jumbo 17794 dragging a dead WDM3D 11275. I wasn’t on board for long as I’d decided to get off at Gurra and wait the 90 minutes for 11272 Bhopal – Itarsi and do some photting in the meantime; which started immediately after I got off the train when PA WDM3D twins 11429/348 hammered through with 12149 Pune – Patna, before I’d even made it to the platform. This was the very same platform road that was occupied by KTE WDM2 17665, still in ET livery, which had been sat there since the previous day with a continuous welded rail train. The crew of which, including the local gang, were very keen to greet me and insisted on lining up in front of the engine to have their group photo taken.
The gang kept me occupied throughout my time at Gurra, even if their English was limited. In between times I photted anything that came through and the gang sometimes did some work; the job of the day seemingly being pulling weeds from the track-bed; they seemed very bemused to know that we used trains to spray and kill the weeds in the UK. When I first arrived I looked to be the only non-railway worker at the station but by the time the train was due there were loads of college students knocking about; having finished for the day. When 11271 did turn up, only about 40 late, it did so with bonus ET WDM3A twins 18566/17940; which was a bonus indeed, especially as I’d been expecting a KTE loco.
Having had a decent morning, already more productive than the previous day, I returned to the Hotel Shri Nivas for lunch, mainly because I couldn’t find any other restaurants in town; all the hotels seemed to be just that, with lodging only. After a second excellent Paneer Butter Massala I was back on the station waiting for my afternoon once a week 17609 Patna – Purna to whisk me to Nagpur. There was time to view the afternoon proceedings while I waited, where a couple of Summer Specials were thrown into the mix just to spice things up a little, both were almost 12 hours late though!
By 10 minutes after the departure time of 17609 I was back in the office on platform 1, talking to the same man who’d delivered me bad news the day before, asking where my train was. This time the answer was that it would arrive on platform 5 in 20 minutes. He wasn’t far wrong with the time but it actually arrived into platform 4. I have to say I did have a bit of a scare at one point as ET WDP4B 40053 arrived with 12296 Patna – Bangalore as the way the announcer was announcing it Bangalore sounded like Purna! When it did arrive though I had to do a double take, literally, as VSKP WDG3A twins 14869/509 rolled down the platform with my 12 coach train. At first it looked like 14509 had been switched out, which would have been understandable with the short rake, but when the loco pilot was instructed to draw the train right to the signal ‘509 erupted into life, it was just a little slower to react than ‘869.
Feeling very pleased with my afternoon reward I graced the 2AC with my presence, which was only three from the front. The journey was very stop, start, with plenty of opportunity for thrash, which was mainly preceded by rafts of black smoke billowing out from both exhaust ports. We were an hour late away from Itarsi and the loco pilot did his best to punish the VSKP Shaktis into pulling some of it back; meanwhile Indian Railways did their best to turn our non-stop run into one more suited to a passenger train! The latter part of the run was by far the best bit for continuous running, however as when entering most big cities in India there was the standard Indian Railways 33% delay factor to contend with and sure enough we sat outside Nagpur for 40 minutes; this being just enough time to make us 90 late on arrival and be the difference in a semi-early retirement to that of a late one!
The Hotel Rajhans was only a short rickshaw ride away and I was soon checking rooms out. It wasn’t at all what it had seemed from its website but the rooms sufficed and were of a typical Indian crappy quality. There was AC, a fan & TV but no hot water; the water took 30 minutes to arrive from the point of ordering. The place is having a restaurant fitted, in the meantime though there is room service, which was quick and the food good. AC rooms were RS900 and non-AC were RS700; strangely they were the same room, just with the AC unit not switched on. Of the three rooms I looked at some were better than others, the first being right next to the hotel reception, the second I decided to give up for the third as it was roomier, and had less cockroaches running about!
Having made a reservation for the following Saturday & Sunday nights (it was Diwali on Saturday and I didn’t want to get withered for a room that night) I was all done and dusted, fed, watered, bucket showered and in bed by 2300; not ideal mind as I had the alarm set for 0455 to do the 0540 Nagpur – Ramtek!
Gen for Monday 28th October 2013
|17862||Itarsi Jct||Bagra Tawa||0830 Itarsi Jct – Allahabad Jct||51189||ET WDM2|
|17794||Bagra Tawa||Gurra||2220 (27/10) Katni Jct – Bhusaval Jct||51188||KTE WDM2 – ET WDM3D 11275 dead inside|
|18566||Gurra||Itarsi Jct||1815 (27/10) Bhopal Jct – Itarsi Jct||11272||ET WDM3A’s 18566/17940 in multi|
|14869||Itarsi Jct||Nagpur Jct||2310 (27/10) Patna Jct – Purna Jct||17609||VSKP WDG3A’s 14869/14509 in multi|
(Other than in the moves above)
40168 (ET WDM4D) 12322 2125 (P) Mumbai CST – Howrah
16224 (ET WDM3A) 12062 0600 Jabalpur – Habibganj
11429/348 (PA WDM3D’s) 12149 2055 (P) Pune – Patna
18668 (ET WDM3A) 14260 2115 (P) Varanasi – Rameswarem
16708 (ET WDM3A) 11463 0930 Somnath – Jabalpur
18581/939 (ET WDM3A’s) 12141 2325 (P) Lokmanya Tilak – Rajendranagar
40042 (ET WDP4B) 13202 2215 (P) Lokmanya Tilak – Rajendranagar
11134/16079 (ET WDM3D/3A) 11093 0010 Mumbai CST – Varanasi
16338 (KTE WDM3A) 11062 1550 (P) Muzaffarpur – Lokmanya Tilak
16072 (ET WDM3A) 01051 1320 (P) Lokmanya Tilak – Gorakhpur (Summer Special)
23361 (ET WAG5) 05514 1430 (P) Lokmanya Tilak – Darbhanga (Special – 12 hours late) (to ET) 18963 (KTE WDM3A) forward from ET
22874 (ET WAP4) 12295 0900 (P) Bangalore City – Patna (to ET) 40123 (ET WDP4D) forward from ET
40053 (ET WDP4B) 12296 1955 (P) Patna – Bangalore City (to ET)
Tuesday 29th October 2013
I had a decent night’s sleep but for the strange sensation of something crawling on my leg in the middle of the night; yep it was a cockroach and the little fucker had even made it under the covers. It was soon wishing it hadn’t though when it ended up on the floor looking a lot flatter than cockroaches are supposed to do! Strangely I managed to get back to sleep until the alarm woke me up…….
The staff were efficient enough at processing me out of the hotel; not usually the case at stupid o’clock in India; someone usually has to wake someone to then wake someone else and then mess around getting dressed, turn the computer on, fill out all the books in triplicate, etc, etc. It only took 5 minutes on this morning and I was soon at the station courtesy of a passing rickshaw.
58810 0540 Nagpur – Ramtek was advertised as going from platform 4 on the electronic display board yet there was no sign on it by 0540; the first announcement being at 0545 to say that it would be “departing at its schedule time of 0540 from its scheduled platform 4”; of course even the great Indian Railways didn’t have the ability to turn back time so I put that one down to an idle employee who simply couldn’t be arsed to set the automated announcement up properly.
The stock was eventually backed in at 0605 by MIB WDM2S 017448, which also had another rake attached with it, which was split of from ours once it had pushed our set right to the end of the platform, where R WDG3A 13135 was sat waiting to be bolted on to work the train; this was done quite efficiently and we crawling towards Itwari at 0620, 40 late. Once the loco pilot opened 13135 up its true potential was revealed; not a claggy machine but loud and made all the right noises and without the whining turbos, unlike the previous afternoons’ pair.
The train was virtually empty the whole way so I got to enjoy the thrash without any myther; I had the front coach virtually to myself the whole way! Once on the Ramtek branch itself the run was excellent. The branch itself is electrified as far as Domni Khurd, where there’s a coal loading facility which had a WAG9 in with a set. Beyond there there’s no sign at all of the rest of the branch being electrified, which doesn’t really make sense as if it was the only bit of the Raipur – Nagpur – Ramtek/Tirodi diesel link that would require one was actually the Tirodi branch as the remainder is all under the wires with the Raipur – Nagpur passenger being nothing but a transfer move to get the locos to/from home depot and into the link for the branches.
Ramtek itself is in a wide open space and the sun was perfect for the morning shot after arrival; unfortunately I had to wait for both the loco pilot and his assistant to take a morning piss, right by the loco, before getting my shots. Much needed chai was available on the platform before the return journey; which was’t quite as empty as the journey up but there was plenty of room all the same. I’d originally hoped to make a minus 5 onto the 0730 Itwari – Raipur at Kanhan Jct but that went straight out of the window the moent we left Nagpur late so I was resigned to a 90 minute fester (cut down from 2h30m thanks to our hour late arrival) at Kamptee instead. This would allow me to cover the inbound Tirodi – Itwari as well.
I would have got some decent photos, albeit of electrics, during my fester but Si Moore had been asked to explain himself when he’d photted something at Kamptee only two weeks previous to my arrival so I left my camera firmly in the bag. The military train parked round the back, with armed escort, was probably more of a reason to do so anyway!
R WDG3A 13603 rolled in only 20 minutes late; it seemed that Raipur DLS had snapped the elastic band that made their Shakti’s quite rare on passenger work? ‘603 was another decent one, which unfortunately I had to listen to from a squatting position in the bog; having at least managed to find one with a dry floor so I could get my bags in with me, a peril of travelling alone…….
At Itwari 13603 ran straight round to work back to Ramtek with 58814 at 1200 while 13135 was shut down in the opposite platform ready to work 58815 1305 to Tirodi. It was a very hot afternoon, which I spent trying to avoid the sun at Itwari Jct, while waiting for 18030 Shalimar – LTT, which was merely a taxi to Nagpur. There wasn’t much to entertain, other than knowing it must take the patience of a saint to drive goods trains in India as MGS WAG7 27005 arrived and sat for almost as long as me, which I’d seen earlier at Kanhans Jct, on my way out and back from Ramtek, then again at Kapmtee and I left it behind at Itwari when 18030 departed at 1315. It had taken 27005 and train 6 hours to do Kanhans Jct – Itwari Jct, which is a mere 15km! And I thought my run into Nagpur the previous night had been a chore………
Back in Nagpur with time to kill I managed to remember to phot the steam engine, which was strangely elevated, outside the station entrance. Then it was lunch in the Comesum on platform 1, which had nothing I actually wanted to eat so I had to settle for they did have! The afternoon was spent chilling on board 11403 1500 Nagpur – Kolhapur with PA WDM3D 11225. I managed to get a compartment of 4 to myself after asking the TTE if I could move. Unfortunately the train was like a Kindergarten with kids making noise everywhere so the iPod had to come out and drown the noise out. Twice folk from the adjacent side berths entered my compartment with their kids so they could have a bit more room and twice they were evicted; the first was told if his son is to stay he has to be quiet, that was the first gone; and when the second started messing with my shoes a stern click of the fingers had the child in tears; that was the second gone. Indians are very ignorant to peoples’ personal space and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to deal with it that afternoon.
Arrival into Akola was prompt and fresh from my relaxation I went in search of a hotel that had a restaurant to have a decent sit down meal and pass the time until my MG overnight north. After five minutes or so of walking around aimlessly I found the prominent Hotel Welcome Inn tucked out of the way, off the main road. The restaurant was empty and its staff attentive; the main thing though was that the food was good. It actually looked like a decent hotel overall, from the look of the reception area and restaurant.
Back at the station I didn’t waste any time in asking the Station Master what time the inbound 52975 Ujjain – Akola would arrive; at least knowing early that it would be after midnight would be better for the mind? I was taken completely by surprise when his answer was 2230 and had to ask again just to clarify that I’d heard him correctly the first time! 2230 it was, so I spent it watching the world go by on one of the benches near the SM’s office. It was actually 2240 when 6737 arrived with 52975, the giveaway that it was imminent being the fact that the loco pilot was checking over 6373, which stood outside the SM’s office in the same place 6717 had a few days prior. 6373 was actually my last Mhow YDM4 and so a massive bonus for me. What wasn’t a bonus was the fact that 6373 wasn’t actually started up until 40 minutes after the set had arrived, unlike three nights previous where it had been on the train within 5 minutes! From the way the crew were lounging around outside the SM’s office I could only draw the conclusion that it was due to some rest issue and they couldn’t start before a certain time; surely it couldn’t have been due to them not being bothered and just tossing it off…..?
My reservation was a lower berth in coach S3, the compartment soon being filled by 5 others, yet there were whole compartments empty once everyone had settled. This night there had been no TTE ticket check and everyone looked to have been left to there own devices, which had the potential for a free for all. I soon moved berths to an upper on in the next compartment; so as not to be disturbed by the waking Indians at dawn the following morning, where I got chatting to a lad who only had an unreserved ticket and was waiting for the TTE so he could upgrade. Needless to say he got a free journey in sleeper class!
At 2350, and at only 1h20m late, my new Mhow YDM4, 6373, got 52988 2230 Akola – Mhow under way. Bizarrely, from the look of the impatient green lights being shone from the rear of the train, it was the guard who wanted to go first. This was never the case and the loco pilot always seemed to be in control. The signal had been off for a good 20 minutes mind but with nothing else to arrive for a while I guess it didn’t matter?
Gen for Tuesday 29th October 2013
|13135||Nagpur Jct||Ramtek||0540 Nagpur Jct – Ramtek||58810||R WDG3A|
|13135||Ramtek||Kamptee||0730 Ramtek – Itwari Jct||58809||R WDG3A|
|13603||Kamptee||Itwari Jct||0805 Tirodi – Itwari Jct||58816||R WDG3A|
|22378||Itwari Jct||Nagpur Jct||1500 (28/10) Shalimar – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus||18030||HWH WAP4|
|11225||Nagpur Jct||Akola Jct||1500 Nagpur Jct – Kolhapur||11403||PA WDM3D|
|6373||Akola Jct||Mhow||2230 Akola Jct – Mhow||52988||MHOW YDM4 – banked Kalakund – Mhow by MHOW YDM4 6540 (following day)|
(Other than in the moves above)
210 (MIB ZDM4) 58839 1245 Nagpur – Jabalpur
227 (MIB ZDM4) 58845 1100 Itari – Nagbhir
13135 (R WDG3A) 58815 1305 Itwari – Tirodi
13603 (R WDG3A) 58814 1200 Itwari – Ramtek
13661 (KZJ WDG3A) 11402 0600 Nagpur – Mumbai CST
22929 (BSL WAP4) 12105 1910 (P) Mumbai CST – Gondia
22831 (BSL WAP4) 22846 2000 (P) Hatia – Pune
22893 (SRC WAP4) 12101 2035 (P) Lokmanya Tilak – Howrah
21211 (BSL WAM4/6PE) 12410 1525 (P) Hazrat Nizamuddin – Raigarh
22514 (BSL WAP4) 12129 1825 (P) Pune – Howrah
22898 (SRC WAP4) 12663 1610 (P) Howrah – Trichy (diverted due to flood breaches after cylone on east coast)
18913 (KZJWDM3A 57540 1315 Parli Vaijnath – Akola, 57583 2300 Akola – Purna
6737 (MHOW YDM4) 52975 0710 Ujjain – Akola
Wednesday 30th October 2013
I managed to get myself motivated to move at about 0745 and found us parked in platform 4 at Khandwa. As I got out of my berth, homing in on the closest chant of “chai, garam chai” didn’t take much doing and I had two lined up on the window ledge moments later. In the main MG platform what I assumed to be 6415, due to the loco being in ex Sabarmati lilac livery, was just departing with an only slightly late 52973 2335 Ujjain – Akola and it wasn’t long before we did the same; departing Khandwa at 0755, a mere 35 minutes late!
The line north of Khandwa is distinctively different from the section south of Khandwa in that the track is in good condition and the line speed is good. The section from Akola is a stagger and the track is that poor that the train rocks from side to side as it ambles along. Of course good track means good thrash and poor track doesn’t; and 6373 sounded like an engine that needed to be thrashed, judging by the excellent sound that emanated from its stack as it climbed out of Khandwa. As the sleeper class was empty still I chose to remain there and wake up a little before moving to the front of the train.
At Omkareshwar Road the good running we’d had was put to waste when we festered around for what I initially though to be a breakfast stop for the crew; I mean no reason of course! Then Mhow YDM4 6300 arrived with a train, which had people on it, and I say that as there was nothing due into Khandwa until 1550. The only two explanations I could come up with were either it was an extra train that wasn’t in the timetable, or that the train I’d seen departing Khandwa had actually been 52993 2140 (prev night) Mhow – Akola,running 6 hours late, and that 6300 was actually working 52973 and was a mere 4 hours late. Either way I wasn’t going to find out the answer and once the token, that the crew of 6300 had handed over, had gone through the machine in the SM’s office the crew of 6373 were handed their token and away we went; now about 50 late.
The run up from Omkareshwar Road was excellent but as I was a good 7 coaches away from the engine I didn’t get full value for money from the noise 6373 was making so at Choral I made my bid for the front of the train; boarding the second coach as it was pulling away. It was well worth the standing, even though there was surprisingly plenty of room in the unreserved coaches. 6373 was worked hard all the way to Kalakund where a surprise was sat waiting as we arrived. The banker, to assist us to Mhow, was sat waiting to attach to the rear but it was in Phulera livery; 6540 obviously having been recently transferred to Mhow with the closure of the Sikar – Loharu section rendering some of the Jaipur based YDM4s surplus. It had Mhow stenciled over the old Phulera Shed markings and on the cab sides but other than that nothing else appeared to have been done to it.
There are some good views of the river valley from the side of Kalakund station and while I was using the small hillocks to get some photos most of the male population of the front coach used them as a toilet! As the train crew got out of 6373 I managed to confirm that we would be crossing 52975 0710 Ujjain – Akola and saw an opportunity for a decent shot of it coming down the hill and round the bend into the station. There seemed to be plenty of time as the semaphore signal to allow it into the station wasn’t off at the time and when it came off the damn thing didn’t show up for another 40 minutes! This left me festering in the hot morning sunshine and when it did turn up I had to politely ask a couplle of railway workers to move of of the direct view I had. It was worth the wait though as YDM4 6607 rolled by and into the station.
After an hours festering we eventually progressed beyond Kalakund, 6373 giving it large on the front and 6540 even more so on the rear; drowning Kalakund station with clag as it did so. It was like having a steam engine on the rear every time 6540 was opened up, in fact I was sure that 6540 would give a steam engine a run for its’ money with regard to the amount of crap it put into the air when under power.
Unfortunately my alone time at the door had ended at Kalakund, and just where the fun started both thrash wise and scenery wise. I was befriended by three young lads travelling to Indore, who just wanted to chat and while I did chat with them I reminded them of the fact that I was standing at the door for a reason, to see the scenery of course; my camera being a giveaway? They respected this fact and did allow me to go about my photographing and collecting of thrash without mythering too much; they were harmless enough though.
At Patal Pani there is a famous water fall just south of the station, which attracts a lot of Indians. Due to the lack of rain in the area the falls were only at a trickle when we passed by. Waiting in the station as we arrived was Mhow YDM4 6726 with 52987 1155 Mhow – Akola. Thankfully we didn’t hang around and were running into Mhow less than 10 minutes later with 6540 accompanying us all the way; again darkening the skies at Patal Pani as we set off. As we arrived I could make out another ex Phulera YDM4 on the shed and 6353 was shunting stock in the yard. 6360 was stood in the middle road and that was it. Our arrival into Mhow was at 1240, 45 late; this despite a 1h20m late start, a bit of a fester at Omkareshwar Road and being held for an hour at Kalakund. With all that taken into account you have to ask the question as to how this train ever arrived at its destination late. Of course I have my thoughts as I’m sure you d yours……..
Once on the platform I noticed a signal come off on the four signaled post just north of the station; the sun was perfect as 6431 arrived with 52977 1125 Indore – Mhow! Meanwhile in platform 1 6353 had sneaked in with a set which I’d initially thought was for the 1300 departure to Fatehbad Chandrawatiganj Jct, which posed a bit of a dilemma for me. I’d not cleared an Indian YDM4 for 1000km and 6353 was my nearest at 950km. It seemed as though I’d just been presented with an ultimatum; should I do my planned move and get the track in from Dewas to Maksi for Alco, or should I go through to Fatehbad and back to Indore and then do an electric to Ujjain instead? At 1250 however my decision seemed to be made for me as 6353 pulled away with the train, which could only mean it was actually the late running 1225 to Ujjain; it would be rude not to eh? What was even ruder was the fact that the dumb ass shunter hadn’t lifted the coupler high enough so that 6353 didn’t take the stock with it as it shunted off the train! Issue rectified, 6353 was then shunted off the train and 6373 was shunted onto the train, having been removed from the set I’d arrived on almost immediately. So with my dilemma removed it was back to original plan.
During the run to Indore I could only smile at the fact that the BG works that had been taking place towards Indore, on the section towards Mhow, had not progressed at all and seemed to have come to a complete standstill. Unfortunately though the electrification that had been in the final stages of commissioning during my last visit was now fully operational and there were now very few trains in/out of Indore with diesels; there were at least five electrics in the station area when I arrived, also present were RTM WDM3A 16098 and RTM WDS6 36149, the latter shunting the former and a set of stock to the sidings.
Indore station was quite busy and even more so on the platform where RTM WDM2 17753 arrived with 19801 Kota – Indore. I was savvy enough to manage to spot that nobody wanted to get into the front coach and bagged myself a seat straight away; it was of course full by departure and it seemed like somewhat of a sleeper train with everyone taking an afternoon nap, including me. 17753 wasn’t up to much, despite it having a distinctive growl when being notched up, so I wasn’t missing much.
I had 90 minutes at Maksi Jct while waiting for 19168 Varanasi – Ahmedabad Sabarmati Express, unfortunately 40 minutes of this time was taken up by some clown who seemed to think he was fluent in English but yet could hardly string two words together and just kept saying word after word, hoping something would make sense. The truth was that for the whole 40 minutes I understood nothing of what he was asking. Yes I understood some words but the sentences were just utter drivel. That coupled with the fact that he wanted to talk politics with me, which I have very little interest in and the fact that he thought India was a world class country, or so I got the impression from his mutterings, resulted in me asking him to leave me alone after the 40 minutes. He’d initially asked for ten minutes and had far outstayed his welcome and at the point of me asking him to do one, it was just noise, and noise I could do without.
The station master confirmed that 19168 was only 10 minutes late, when asked, and would arrive on platform 2 with the AC towards the front of the train; this was correct on all accounts. The only thing he hadn’t told me was the loco number! RTM WDM3A 16555 was the culprit and it sounded very meaty just running down the platform, and even more so when wide open pulling away from stops. As I had a lengthy fester ahead of me at Ratlam I used the fact that my 4 berth compartment was empty, to my advantage and relaxed as best I could for the 3 hours I was on board.
The 4h30m I had at Ratlam actually seemed to fly by. I was in desperate need of a decent meal and found a very good restaurant just up the road from the station on the right hand side by the name of Santushti Restaurant. Strangely I’d asked a local, who’d accosted me while walking down the platform, if he knew of anywhere decent to eat and having walked straight past the place he showed me a hotel which unfortunately only had a Hindi menu. At that point I bode him farewell, despite his best efforts to get me to go to his home to eat, and found my own place to eat. The food at the Santushti was piping hot, fresh and very tasty and what’s more, cheap at RS160 for Kashmiri Dum Aloo, rice, nan and pop.
At the station I took a look at the old MG platforms; the line to Fatehbad Chandrawatiganj having recently closed. I was amazed at the progress, all the MG tracks had gone and had already been replaced by BG ones and two new platforms had been constructed just north of where the MG ones used to be; which look finished. It didn’t look like it would be long before the new section would be open to Fatehbad, at which point another closure would probably follow and it wouldn’t be long before Ujjain – Indore succumbed to the BG death; the MG then becoming just another fading memory in the heads of those that had been so used to its existence for so long……..
I chose to wait it out on the platform and see how bored I got of festering; thankfully I got talking to a guy who spoke fluent English and the time flew by. He was travelling home to Singrauli for Diwali but had a wait listed ticket in AC, which was only WL1 but he wasn’t confident of it being confirmed, however when I saw him walking down the platform towards the train he had a big beaming smile so I could only assume he had a confirmed berth in the end. As I chose to sit on platform 4 I didn’t see much of what was arriving and departing but the one thing I did see was BGKT WDP4D 40127 arrive and depart with 19712 Bhopal – Jaipur, which did get the alarm bells ringing and made me wonder if the train I’d missed at Itarsi earlier in the week, 19713 Jaipur – Secunderabad, was actually part of the same link and that I’d actually missed a GM?
My 12719 Ajmer – Secunderabad was being announced as “arriving shortly on platform 6”, that was until some Mumbai – Delhi Rajdhani was re-platformed from 5 to 6; this resulting in at least 20 minutes delay to my train, which then had the cheek to arrive with single MLY WDM3A 16658 vice the twins I was expecting. Still I wasn’t going to protest and was on board making my bed up for the 1334km, 23h40m journey, in no time and once the TTE had done his checks it was lights out for me, I was shattered and nursing a cold wasn’t helping; probably contracted through the constant getting in/out of AC trains into the 30 degree heat.
Gen for Wednesday 30th October 2013
|6540||Kalakund||Mhow||2230 (29/10) Akola Jct – Mhow||52988||MHOW YDM4 – banking in rear of train; MHOW YDM4 6373 led the train|
|6373||Mhow||Indore Jct||1300 Mhow – Fatehbad Chandrawatiganj Jct||52984||MHOW YDM4|
|17753||Indore Jct||Maksi Jct||1445 Indore Jct – Kota Jct||19802||RTM WDM2|
|16555||Maksi Jct||Ratlam Jct||1355 (29/10) Varanasi Jct – Ahmedabad Jct||19168||RTM WDM3A|
(Other than in the moves above)
6415 (MHOW YDM4) 52973 2335 (P) Ujjain – Akola
6300 (MHOW YDM4) ???? seen at Omkareshwar Road heading south at approx 0930 (not train in timetable)
6360 (MHOW YDM4) stabled at Mhow station
6353 (MHOW YDM4) Mhow station pilot duties
6431 (MHOW YDM4) 52977 1125 Indore – Mhow, 52980 1330 Mhow – Indore, 52979 1445 Indore – Mhow
6607 (MHOW YDM4) 52975 0710 Ujjain – Akola
6726 (MHOW YDM4) 52987 1155 Mhow – Akola
6735 (MHOW YDM4) stabled at Ujjain with stock at approx 1845
36149 (RTM WDS6) Indore station pilot
18930 (KTE WDM3A) 19313 1400 Indore – Rajendranagar
17815 (KTE WDM2) 11703 0600 Rewa – Indore
40127 (BGKT WDP4D) 19712 1730 Bhopal – Jaipur
14095 (ABR WDM3A) 19413 0605 Ahmedabad – Kolkata Chitpur
Thursday 31st October 2013
I managed top stay in a horizontal position until gone 0800, despite the noisy breakfast related chants; which I’d assumed was somewhere around Itarsi. At Khandwa the other two occupants, an old couple, got off, leaving the whole compartment to me all on my own. Even the guy that got on didn’t want to sit with my white ass and did one to the adjoining side berth, which was also empty. The 2AC wasn’t actually that full at all.
After Khandwa a dinner order was taken and I fully expected my food to arrive at Akola but when it hadn’t done so by the time we reached Purna, 5 hours later, I was beginning to suspect that it wasn’t arriving at all; and I’d been looking forward to my egg biriyani too. I had to make provision myself at Purna and was first at the door, where a miriad of wallers were waiting to greet me with fresh veg biriyani’s! That and the “train food” I’d managed to get at Akola sufficed for the day really.
En-route there wasn’t much to report other than seeing Mhow YDM4 6734 waiting on the curve at Akola, to enter the station, with 52973 2335 (P) Ujjain – Akola and 6607 waiting to shunt onto the opposite end once it had arrived to work 52994 1745 Akola – Mhow back north. Other than that and the fact our train lost time at every stop the journey was simple, straightforward and more importantly relaxing and empty in my compartment. This allowing me to chill and watch some of the stuff I’d downloaded to my tablet in relative comfort and peace.
I estimated, as we departed Mudkhed and I attempted some sleep, that we’d probably arrive into Hyderabad at around 0200, approx 90 late; I was wrong! I was woken by the coach attendant at Secunderabad at 0245 and we actually arrived into the deserted and dark station of Hyderabad at 0315, just 2h45m late. Thankfully I’d took the initiative to e-mail my hotel en-route to remind them of my late arrival anyway and they’d responded, so all was well?
I wasted no time in exiting the station and walking down the main drag out of the station entrance. There were still plenty of rickshaw wallers about, all of whom wanted to take me to a hotel of their choice; I’d say I was asked at least 20 times between the station and the main road, and it didn’t stop there as I had a flyer thrust into my face for the hotel at the bottom of the drag! I’d booked the Hotel Harsha online before departing the UK, I don’t usually but with it being a late arrival it made sense to do so. It was only a 5 minute walk from station to the hotel gates; the gates being locked at 0320 in the morning. I had to wake the night watchman to get in, whom in turn then had to wake the night receptionist to check me in; he’d been expecting me though, thanks to my mail. I was in bed by 4am.
Gen for Thursday 31st October 2013
|16658||Ratlam Jct||Hyderabad DN||1740 Ajmer Jct – Hyderabad Deccan Nampally||12719||MLY WDM3A – Via Bhopal, Itarsi, Khandwa, Bhusaval Av, Akola, Purna (RR), Mudkhed|
(Other than in the moves above)
6734 (MHOW YDM4) 52973 2335 (P) Ujjain – Akola
6607 (MHOW YDM4) 52994 1745 Akola – Mhow
Friday 1st November 2013
Despite my late, or should that be early, arrival at the hotel, I was still up just before 0700; my 5 hours solid sleep on the train the previous night seemingly having done the trick. A very welcome shower, shave and change of clothes was the order of the morning; followed by what little washing I’d accumulated being handed in at reception to be laundered during the day. First impressions of the hotel were good; it was clean, the room was spacious, mine having two single beds, it had AC, fan, TV and a paper was left hanging on the door that morning, which had the mornings’ breakfast token attached to it. I didn’t leave enough time for breakfast that morning so didn’t try it. I also didn’t use the WiFi that the hotel offered, mainly due to the fact that they wanted to charge me RS550 for 24 hours use; which I thought was dear enough by UK standards, let alone to be charged in India. Either way I was only going to use it to check my e-mail, which certainly wasn’t worth more than 5 quid of anyones’ money. Clean, semi-refreshed, and hungry I set off for the station to deal with the day’s bash that the Secunderabad Division could throw at me.
Just as I arrived GTL WDG3A 13467 was just arriving with a late 57550 Aurangabad – Hyderabad passenger, which was the stock to form my 57547 0755 Hyderabad – Purna passenger; which was clearly going to be late with only 10 minutes before its booked departure. I’d been hoping that 13467 would run round but it drew beyond the points in the bay platform, I wasn’t disappointed with what was just shunting onto the other end as I got there; KZJ WDG3A 14587.
Shunting the station were KZJ WDM2S’s 017540 & 017673. It wasn’t long before an opportunity arose get one of them in as 017673 backed onto the stock ex 17031 Mumbai – Hyderabad; which it appeared that KYN WDG3A 13561 had worked in. The stock for 57547 Hyderabad – Purna was still being offloaded from its inbound working and some youth had just started to plug watering hoses in so we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon so as the last coach passed me, with open doors I was on board. It hadn’t been going too fast due to crossing over the whole station throat at the time. The shunt turned out to be a quick affair, straight out and back into the carriage sidings; of course as I’d got into the back coach I had created myself a considerable walk to get back to the front coach of 57547, which was till being watered as I got back on with chai and crisps.
I gradually watched the mornings move go down the pan with every minute that passed by and was so glad to hear the announcement “57547 Hyderabad – Purna passenger is ready for departure on platform 4”, followed by a yellow signal and the blowing of the horn to signal that we were ready for the off. Unfortunately this was at 0900, making us 65 late, and any hopes I’d had of going to Lingampalli to make a minus onto 17205 coming back in were blown out of the water and if it was actually anywhere near right time I’d be missing it at Begumpet as well.
Just outside Hyderabad station GTL WDG3A 14686 was waiting for us to cross over before it could enter the station with 17430 Tirupati – Hyderabad and then on the curve just outside Begumpet we passed MLY WDG3A 13250 with 57564 Nanded – Hyderabad passenger. At Begumpet the electronic screens had no mention of 17205, which had been right time when I’d used the machine at Hyderabad to check, yet there were plenty of late trains showing including 17009 Bidar – Hyderabad & 17017 Rajkot – Secunderabad, both of which had been showing slightly late when I’d checked at Hyderabad. The surprise train was 57605 0810 Secunderabad – Vikarabad passenger which basically followed 57547 into the station, the moment it had departed. Dithering a little with what to do as MLY WDG3A 14714 presented itself to me, I chose to do it to Sanatnagar for 57155 Gulbarga – Hyderabad passenger back, which was also showing slightly late on the screen. What I hadn’t actually realised was that 17009 Bidar – Hyderabad actually stopped at Sanatnagar, until the announcement came for its arrival after I’d only been there for 10 minutes or so; this was a massive bonus as MLY WDG3A 14620 dropped me back at Begumpet to do 17017 Rajkot – Secunderabad to its’ destination with KZJ twins 18763/18973, which followed shortly behind. The twins darkened the skies as they skirted the Secunderabad suburbs; 18973 being the biggest polluter of the two. They sounded good as well but as with most runs between Begumpet and Secunderabad any sustained thrash was non-existent.
I thought I had time to kill at Secunderabad but as I was admiring the amount of KZJ shaktis in the station area 57131 Bolarum – Hyderabad passenger was being announced, which presented an opportunity, which would have to result in a rickshaw back from Hyderabad as it was too late to make 17230 Hyderabad – Trivandrum, which despite being a WDP4 I’d have done over a rickshaw of course. For a passenger train, which was well down the pan I might add at almost 2 hours late, it didn’t hang around long and I only just made it into the rear coach as PA WDG3A 14884 pulled away. We staggered out of the station and as if that wasn’t enough the chain was pulled at James Street; I didn’t need any more encouragement to get off, other than the opportunity to do so, and I was back at Secunderabad 15 minutes later having paid RS50 for a rickshaw. Unfortunately there were no MMTS Lingampalli – Falaknuma locals within the timescales I needed.
While waiting for the locos to turn up for my next move, 17058 Secunderabad – Mumbai CST, I found a decent veg biriyani to devour, followed by plenty of chai, which had been distinctly lacking from my day thus far. 17058 should depart at 1255 and was a plus 9 onto its opposing working 17057 at Bolarum, the latter being 19 late according to the electronic machine; with plenty of recovery time to Bolarum so I was expecting it right time. When MLY twins 14043/16017, the former still sporting GY livery, turned up at bang on departure time I had a decision to make. Both were new, I was on a plus 9 and there was nothing back from Bolarum for 2 hours if I missed 17057, and that was a DMU. No matter how hard I scrutinized the the timetable, it was dodgy and I knew it and it seemed like God knew it as well as while I was seriously considering not doing it he presented me with KZJ WDG3A’s 14889/13656 on 11020 Bhubaneswar – Mumbai CST, 2 hours late; problem solved! I was gobsmacked mind. While walking down the platform to admire shatki’s 4 & 5 of the day I heard 17058 depart 17 minutes late.
As 11020 was a decent load the KZJ machines could show a bit of their potential on the short run to Begumpet. I’d been hoping to make 12025 Pune – Secunderabad Shatabdi back into Secunderabad and thought I’d missed it as we rounded the corner into Begumpet station as I caught a glimpse of the hood of an Alco, which had just blown up to depart. Fortunately it was 14714 returning with its Vikarabad passenger and PA WDM3D 11400 was right behind it!
Quite pleased with the way the morning and early afternoon had eventually panned out I had two hours to kill at Secunderabad before the evening trains started to depart. While it was daylight I wanted to get some pictures of the KZJ WDM2S’s and with both 017624 & 017695 knocking about it wasn’t hard. The bonus of that exercise being that my camera unlocked the door to conversation with the loco pilot of 017624, who then invited me into the cab for a jaunt in the yard area. While he was a pleasant enough chap he was grumpy at the same time, muttering under his breath at the shunters, especially when one stopped him so a colleague could ride down the yard; he was far from impressed. After that shunt was complete I took the opportunity to get out of the cab before the loco pilot blew his top at someone; yet he was very polite as I got back off the loco.
Secunderabad was a lot busier in the later afternoon than it had been earlier in the day; maybe it was Diwali was the coming weekend? GTL WDM3A 16603 was sat in platform 1 with 17002 Secunderabad – Sainagar Shirdi well over an hour before departure, from which I watched MLY twins 16200/16551 arrive with 17057Mumbai CST – Secunderabad, just the 30 late, it having appeared that my plus 9 would have been a safe enough bet. Bizarrely though the pair on 17057 were both dud and in a strange twist the KZJ shakti’s arriving when they did ended up in me having more new engines than I would have doing the booked move!
16603 proved its woorth as it hammered through James Street; the key to thrash between Secunderabad and Begumpet being anything other than one yellow at James Street! Begumpet was wedged with folk during the rush hour, all waiting patiently for 57156 Hyderabad – Gulbarga passenger to arrive, in among the MMTS locals. Despite it being a Hyderabad starter it too wasn’t devoid of the Secunderabad Division timekeeping eticate and eventually turned up 45 late, with PA WDG3A 14884; which I chose to not do in favour of 17010 Secunderabad – Bidar behind it. It too was subjected to a late start from origin, which really isn’t acceptable for a Division as large as Secunderabad, and when it did arrive an hour late it meant I was only going to Sanatnagar and not Lingampalli, as I had no way of telling if my return trains, Solapur – Falaknuma & Purna – Hyderabad passengers, were anywhere near time or not as the machine was out of order at Begumpet and they weren’t on the electronic display board.
MLY WDG3A 14700 turned out to be the engine of the day as it outshone 16603 by far on the short journey to Sanatnagar where I found MLY WDM3A 16658, WDM2S 017540 and GOC WDG4 12606, all of which had been at Hyderabad that morning, 16658 off my overnight, 017540 shunting and 12606 in the platform adjacent to where I’d arrived at 0315; it had been running then too, and still was now 16 hours later. Now even I’m sure that isn’t cost effective, or envorinmentally friendly; who am I kidding though right, this was the Secunderabad Division, where trains didn’t start right time and it seemed money was haemoraged from the exhaust ports of every standing loco. This lot need to take a leaf from their counterparts book, on the Southern Railway, and book their fucking ideas up! It was a disgraceful service, every single train I’d done had been late thus far and the Station Master at Sanatnagar had informed me that both the Solapur & Purna passengers were over an hour late, with the Purna actually being in front of the Solapur.
I was quite glad to be Hyderabad, and hotel, bound when 57548 Purna – Hyderabad passenger arrived, with no less than the 8th Shakti of the day in KZJ’s 14923. Not quite feeling as pissed off with proceedings as I thought I should be, I took what little frustration, IR had given me that day, out of the rickshaw wallers as I walked to the hotel; persistent little fuckers the Hyderabad mob are!
Having had an excellent meal in the hotels’ restaurant I found myself being drawn back to the station for some strange reason, maybe as I only had myself for company; I don’t know? Either way, there I was at 2200, walking down the platform, eyeing up a move to Kairatabad for a rickshaw back if the loco that had backed onto the set I’d arrived on was new. GTL WDG3A 13069 was being prepped by the crew as I got to it; which was unfortunately a dud one. As the day had been one for the opportunist, and it hadn’t yet finished, there then came yet another opportunists moment, which actually presented a choice; the caveat being it was too dark to see which engine was on which set as they were being shunted out, one from each side of the station. Common sense got me onto the slowest moving set, along with quite a few locals, who were obviously scrambling for their seat before the scrum started once the train was in the platform.
As both sets began to propel in at the same time, the one I was on, for 12721 2320 Hyderabad – Hazrat Nizamuddin, went into platform 5, the other, for 17014 Hyderabad – Pune, into platform 1. I didn’t manage to get the loco number off my set straight away as it was just shunting off as I got towards the end of the platform, and I had to wait for it to come back into the station; it turned out my decision had been the right one as 017460 came back into the light so I could collect its number. This had obviously replaced 017540 during the afternoon. The set for 17014 had KZJ WDG3A 14572 bolted to it, which had done its own shunt. Now had I been faced with the opportunity to do that only I’d have flagged it. Bizarre I know but as its a mainline engine it is a bit crappy getting them in on shunts, unless they’re booked portion shunts, whereas the WDM2S’s do shunting only and there is no other way of getting them in; that’s just what they do……….
Quite pleased with my decision to return to the station after dinner, I returned to the hotel, and other than packing my laundry, I was virtually straight to bed; my alarm being set for 0800 the following morning and any idea I’d had of doing a move beforehand had gone in the bin for fear of it going tits up and me not getting to Kacheguda for my long distance 12251 Yesvantpur – Korba Wainganga Express, which I’d be doing all the way to Korba!
Gen for Friday 1st November
|14587||Hyderabad DN||Begumpet||0755 Hyderabad Deccan Nampally – Purna Jct||57547||KZJ WDG3A|
|14716||Begumpet||Sanatnagar||0810 Secunderabad Jct – Vikarabad Jct||57605||MLY WDG3A|
|14620||Sanatnagar||Begumpet||0700 Bidar – Hyderabad Deccan Nampally||17009||MLY WDG3A|
|18763||Begumpet||Secunderabad Jct||0500 (31/10)Rajkot Jct – Secunderabad Jct||17017||KZJ WDM3A’s 18763/18973 in multi|
|14884||Secunderabad Jct||James Street||0905 Bolarum – Hyderabad Deccan Nampally||57131||PA WDG3A – train chained at James Street|
|Auto||James Street||Secunderabad Jct||RS50, 15 minutes in poor traffic|
|14889||Secunderabad Jct||Begumpet||1520 Bhubaneswar – Mumbai CST||11020||KZJ WDG3A’s 14889/13656 in multi|
|11400||Begumpet||Secunderabad Jct||0550 Pune Jct – Secunderabad Jct||12025||PA WDM3D|
|017624||Secunderabad Jct CS||Secunderabad Jct CS||Shunting Stock in Secunderabad Jct C.S.||KZJ WDM2S|
|16603||Secunderabad Jct||Begumpet||1640 Secunderabad Jct – Sainagar Shirdi||17002||GTL WDM3A|
|14700||Begumpet||Sanatnagar||1710 Secunderabad Jct – Bidar||17010||MLY WDG3A|
|14923||Sanatnagar||Hyderabad DN||0730 Purna Jct – Hyderabad Deccan Nampally||57548||KZJ WDG3A|
|017460||Hyderabad CS||Hyderabad DN P4||Stock shunt for 12721||KZJ WDM2S|
(Other than in the moves above)
13561 (KYN WDG3A) 17031 1245 (P) Mumbai CST – Hyderabad
13467 (GTL WDG3A) 57550 1530 (P) Aurangabad – Hyderabad
40142 (GY WDP4D) 12603 1645 (P) Chennai – Hyderabad
40118 (GY WDP4D) 16204 1655 Hyderabad – Chennai
14686 (GTL WDG3A) 17430 1915 (P) Tirupati – Hyderabad
13250 (MLY WDG3A) 57564 2330 (P) Nanded – Hyderabad
14716 (MLY WDG3A) 57606 1055 Vikarabad – Secunderabad
40148 (GY WDP4D) 12747 0545 Guntur – Vikarabad, 12748 1345 Vikarabad – Guntur
14043/16017 (MLY WDM3A’s) 17058 1255 Secunderabad – Mumbai CST
16200/16551 (MLY WDM3A’s) 17057 2105 (P) Mumbai CST – Secunderabad
11400 (PA WDM3D) 12026 1445 Secunderabad – Pune
14884 (PA WDG3A) 57156 1725 Hyderabad – Gulbarga
13069 (GTL WDG3A) 57549 2135 Hyderabad – Gulbarga
14572 (KZJ WDG3A) 17014 2245 Hyderabad – Pune
017460, 017540, 017673 (KZJ WDM2S’s) shunting at Hyderabad
017624, 017695 (KZJ WDM2S’s) shunting at Secunderabad
017683 (KZJ WDM2S) shunting at Sanatnagar
Saturday 2nd November 2013
My lay-in was great. I actually thought the noise from the nearby main road may keep me awake during the morning, yet while it was present it didn’t really disturb me. Unfortunately my plan of having a relaxing hotel breakfast was out of the window when I found what was on offer; I’m not a fan of South Indian food at the best of times, especially breakfast. So with nothing else better to do I paid my bill and curiously took a walk to the station to see what was occurring. The answer was not a lot. The inbound 57550 Aurangabad – Hyderabad hadn’t even arrived to form 57547 Hyderabad – Purna; the latter should have departed 45 minutes before I got to the station.
As the game plan the previous day had shown, the Secunderabad Division were performing as expected; very poorly. Not wanting to even contemplate missing the Wainganga Express from Kacheguda I opted for the sensible move of a rickshaw directly from Hyderabad to Kacheguda, and not via Secunderabad to do 12708 to Kacheguda; which was booked a WDP4 anyway. I’d already asked the hotel receptionist how much I should be paying to get to Kacheguda and instantly the prices quoted where double what he’d told me, at RS100. I used my insider knowledge to my advantage and just kept shouting RS50 at every one that quoted me the price, knowing full well I probably wouldn’t get that price anyway; the colour of my skin would see to that. However when we were down to RS70 I bartered a RS60 fare and away we went. The streets were deserted, with no traffic at all, all the way to Kacheguda. I was thinking this was probably due to it being Diwali the following day as all the shops were closed as well.
My impeccable timing had me onto the platform just as KZJ WDM2S 017508 was backing down onto a set in the station. Investigations revealed it was going to shunt the set off 12785 Yesvantpur – Kacheguda into the sidings; confirmed by hand gestures from the shunter. No sooner had I got a photo did the road come off. The shunter watched me get into the front coach and never batted an eyelid. It was a straight out and back shunt, which also had the courtesy to stop with the front coach on the crossing at the same end of the station I’d boarded at thus preventing me having to walk all the way from the opposite end of the station! It turned out this was to split the train in two to berth it for servicing.
Having learnt my lesson from the previous long distance train, from Ratlam to Hyderabad, I used the spare time to get supplies for the journey and even managed a bit of non-South Indian breakfast as well. MLY WDM3A 16716 arrived with a passenger train while I was waiting and ran round to form 57601 0600 Kacheguda – Nizamabad, just the 3 hours late; so I assumed anyway as there was another Nizamabad passenger at 0930 but it was a 77xxx number which usually denotes it’s at DMU. There are exceptions of course. The only other Alco to arrive was GTL WDM3A 18975 to form 57425 1000 Kacheguda – Guntakal passenger; the very same GTL WDM3A had been in the loco staging sidings at Secunderabad the previous afternoon.
My 12251 Yesvantpur – Korba Wainganga Express was only 10 late arriving into Kacheguda, with one of KJM’s finest Shakti’s 13049 in charge. The 2AC was unfortunately towards the rear of the train and was quite full, with its fair share of young children travelling; just like every other long distance train I’d done so far in AC. Fortunately everything I had that was electronic had a full charge and the noise was soon drowned out by my music as I hammered away at my keyboard to write up the previous two days worth of report!
The on-board wildlife obviously found my report writing interesting as I came face to face with a mouse sat at the side of me on my seat; I was actually glimpsing at my notebook when I spotted it, as strangely I’d not noticed it climb up! Once it saw me move it was off though, and thankfully back towards the floor and not behind me. I reckon I must have blocked its run through the coach under my seat, with my bag and I never saw it again after I’d adjusted it to allow enough room for it to get by.
By Kazipet I was ready for a break anyway as selling wallers boarded with just about everything I wanted, which was egg biriyani & chai! This was all topped off nicely with a Cadburys Dairy Milk I’d bought at Kacheguda; the taste of chocolate when so far away from home comforts is always good and the Cadburys stuff always tastes just like it would in the UK.
The noise levels throughout the coach seemed to be centered around where I was sat with one particularly noisy child right opposite, in a compartment with equally as noisy women. Said child was allowed to roam around the coach at will, which resulted in people having to squeeze past it and ruffle my curtains every time they did so and the same cheeky little shit managed to get hold of the malaria tablets that were in the front packet of my bag; granted it was open, but it was also in my compartment and behind the curtain. A quick snatch for the child’s hand soon rectified that problem, and startled it to death as it went running off to its mother, who instantly closed the curtain and hid behind it so as to avoid any confrontation with me as I was about to give her a whole lot of what for! It didn’t stop the blasted brat roaming around the coach some more later on though………
As darkness fell outside so did I. As the guy in the upper side berth was getting off at Durg, just before midnight, I took his berth and left him down below to sit up to his hearts’ content. I needed all the sheets and blankets there were on offer that night as the coach had quite possibly the coldest AC I’d experienced. I’d already put a paper bag over one vent to block it but there was a whole coach load of vents that just kept spewing freezing cold air out.
Gen for Saturday 2nd November 2013
|017508||Kacheguda P4||Kacheguda CS||Stock shunt ex 12785 Yesvantpur – Kacheguda||KZJ WDM2S|
|13049||Kacheguda||Korba||2340 (01/11) Yesvantpur – Korba||12251||KJM WDG3A – Via Kazipet, Nagbhir, Gondia, Raipur, Bilaspur|
(Other than in the moves above)
18975 (GTL WDM3A) 57425 1000 Kacheguda – Guntakal
16716 (MLY WDM3A) 57601 0600 Kacheguda – Nizamabad
14013 (MLY WDM3A) 12713 0610 Vijayawada – Secunderabad
40130 (GY WDP4D) 12708 0720 Hazrat Nizamuddin – Tirupati
017508 (KZJ WDM2S) shunting at Kacheguda
Sunday 3rd November 2013 (The Festival of Diwali)
I was aware that the train motion had stopped and soon noticed that the coach was emptying out and that I was about the last to make a move; the time was 0510 and we’d arrived at Korba. I didn’t waste any time in getting off and heading straight out of the station. I did get caught up in a bit of foot traffic at the bottom of the steps where two TTI’s were doing a full ticket check; looking for those travelling in unreserved with passenger tickets, as opposed to mail/express tickets. It seemed they had quite a few gathered together in a group at the bottom of the stairs to process once the hoards had gone.
I was in a rickshaw to Gevra Road, the end of the branch, within 5 minutes of arriving at Korba. Unfortunately none of the expresses run through to Gevra Road and as I was there and had the time to kill it would have been rude not to get to the end of the line. I was hoping deep down that 58203 0540 Gevra Road – Raipur would be an Alco vice electric but there was no such luck and I was treated to ET WAP4 22953 instead; still it passed the time if nothing else, dumping me back at Korba at 0555 to drink rafts of tea.
A wonder round outside the station and down to the main road revealed nothing at all so I spent the whole time on the station, the main event being the sunrise over the lake on the opposite side of the station. Between the station and lake are a raft of through sidings which were constantly full with coal trains, mainly electric hauled but one did turn up with VSKP WDG3A’s 14510/14654, which were the only locos to run round a train there while I was there; WDS6 36176 was the yard shunt loco.
My KJM machine, WDG3A 13049, had disappeared off somewhere but was back and on the train by 0700 and by 0730 the sun was bright enough and perfect on the front of the train for a photo. I was the only person in 2AC from Korba and I used the opportunity to recharge everything I’d drained the previous day while trying to keep the noise created by the family from hell in the next compartment to me, out of my ears!
It wasn’t long before my personal space was invaded and it was quite possibly one of the fattest Indian women I’d seen; she was a big one let me tell you. Of course she treated the compartment like it was hers. No sooner had I got myself out of the way, so they could get themselves sorted, did the lights go out, the curtains get drawn and them get dossed out. When I turned the light back on and open the curtains to the outside world the fatty had the cheek to tell me to enjoy the daylight; which of course was exactly what I was trying to do before she tried to turn the damn compartment into a lair fit for vampires during the day! When the fatty eventually did get to sleep she did what every fat person does, and very fucking well unfortunately, snore! I had no option to get the iPod out to drown her out; and the same had to occur while she was awake as she didn’t seem to have a volume switch! Every person of her stature just has to have it with them, well she had it in style; the biggest of her many bags was simply full of comfort eating food, crisps, biscuits, sweets, you name it, it was in there………
Having failed miserably on the food front at both Raipur and with the dinner order on board the train, I was glad we made 58206 Itwari – Raipur passenger at Dongargarh. It had only been a plus 8 and we were 13 late arriving but it was still in the back platform and didn’t have the road; so I made a bid for it, leaping off 12252 half way down the platform t minimise the distance I had to run to the footbridge. There was a massive coal train between me and 58206 so the only option was to go up and over it as I wasn’t going under it. As I got to the bottom of the steps for the footbridge I became aware of a few tails, these were attached to three different monkeys, all of whom were just relaxing on the steps. I paused as they were very large, black faced monkeys; they looked at me, I looked back, and they continued looking at me as if to try and figure out who was going to make the first move. Not knowing how much time I actually had, I bit the bullet and made a move, gingerly stepping over tails so as not to get attacked, and leaving as much room as possible so as not to alarm said monkeys. This maneuver seemed to work for all as the guardians of the steps let me by without flinching and their mates on the bridge parapet just watched on as I ran by them!
Safely on the platform I could hear 13049 departing with 12252 and my spin list soon confirmed that R WDM3A 16345, heading 58206, was a new one; I hadn’t been able to see it through the coal train set as we arrived. The train was surprisingly rather empty, but then again it was Diwali and everyone would be celebrating that evening, and as it sits at Dongargarh from 1150-1350 there is no way it should be late; unless of course there just so happens to be an extra express running that uses its path from Dongargarh. Of course I can only thank the said express for me making it in the first place!
Eventually we were on the move 30 late, having been held for three expresses; the first making us late enough to have the next two by us before we went. At that I’d contemplated getting off at one of the shacks outside Rajnandgaon but we were hammering along and what could possibly go wrong between the last two stations that could make me miss the opposing working, 58025 Raipur – Itwari?
It was a safe enough bet as once we’d left the last shack before Rajnandgaon there was nowhere to hold us to have something by us. It wasn’t long before 58205 was showing up either, and right time too. When R WDG3A 13218 arrived I was beginning to think that the links within the Itwari turns were almost solid Shakti’s and let me tell you 13218 was by far the best I had thus far. The driver was a beast and knew how to punish his engine, giving it run 8 as soon as he could, and from main line station stops it was excellent. It actually sounded better pre-transition than after, which was why the loco pilot made the journey much more entertaining. As I was so knackered from my 0500 arrival into Korba I actually spent about 3 hours of the journey on the luggage rack trying to get some sleep. 13218 saw to it that I didn’t get a great deal and the slats in the rack saw to it that my back didn’t thank me for that decision at all! The noise coming from 13218 made it worth while being up there though. Strangely enough I needn’t have bothered in the first place as the train was that empty I could have just dossed out on the seats below.
Having lost about 75 minutes en-route we were sat waiting the road at Kalumna, the station before Itwari, at 2110; we had so much potential to be into Itwari right time, at 2120. Of course it wasn’t to be and we got an extended stop to watch the Diwali fire works going off all over Nagpur. The 360 degree viewing platform, also known as the train, was excellent and there were probably more fire works going off than in the UK on bonfire night; there just seemed to be no respite and with the fire works shops still open when I got to Nagpur there was no wonder they were still going off, almost constantly, until about 2300 that night.
35 minutes we waited, which may have been to do with 58112 Itwari – Tatanagar clearing a platform at Itwari as no sooner did it arrive, did we get the road. At Kalumna I’d made an executive decision to stay at Itwari and do the Ramtek – Nagpur passenger into Nagpur, arriving at 2310. This would then allow me to have a lay-in the following morning and for 40 minutes this night I would gain over three hours in bed the following morning! So having watched most of the few people from the Raipur passenger disappear from the station I went to find someone in the know; who told me that the Ramtek – Nagpur passenger would arrive Itwari right time at 2242 but it may leave at midnight, it may leave at 1am, or it may even leave at 3am and was treated like a goods train from Itwari to Nagpur. This would explain the reason for Vic & Dan not getting back into Nagpur until 3am when they’d done it a few years previous. The gen I’d got was enough to send me to the auto park, just outside the station entrance, where I got stung for a RS150 rickshaw to my hotel near Nagpur railway station. It was about 4km and only took about 10 minutes; as it was Diwali, and they should be out celebrating, and the fact that I feared that there may not have been any rickshaws available as it was Diwali, I let it go and paid my RS150.
The Hotel Siddhartha Inn had been booked by Danielle after my experience at the Hotel Rajhans, when in Nagpur the previous week, had been a little unpleasant. I have to say I wasn’t looking forward to be sharing a bed with cockroaches again so an alternative was found; I figured that something on booking.com couldn’t be bad and it wasn’t. The room was clean and spacious, had hot water in the mornings and offered complimentary breakfast and pick-up/drop-off if arranged 2 hours prior. There was AC, a fan and flat screen TV in the room and despite it being 2230 on the night of the biggest festival in India the hotel “boy”, or old man as he was, rustled me up a good Aloo Massala, rice and chapattis. Without him having done this I’d have been snookered as I’d only managed to eat two samosas all day and the only stalls open outside were selling fire works; which I was guessing didn’t taste that great!
I went to be that night giving the 0600 alarm call a big two fingered salute and set it for 0900. No matter what was on the 0730 Itwari – Raipur the following morning, it wasn’t going to be conveying me anywhere.
Gen for Sunday 3rd November 2013
|Auto||Korba||Gevra Road||RS100, 15 minutes, 8km|
|22953||Gevra Road||Korba||0540 Gevra Road – Raipur Jct||58203||ET WAP4|
|13049||Korba||Dongargarh||0800 Korba – Yesvantpur||12252||KJM WDG3A – Via Bilaspur, Raipur|
|16345||Dongargarh||Rajnandgaon||0730 Itwari Jct – Raipur Jct||58206||R WDM3A|
|13218||Rajnandgaon||Itwari Jct||1330 Raipur Jct – Itwari Jct||58205||R WDG3A|
(Other than in the moves above)
16xxx (R WDM3A) 18518 2000 Visakhapatnam – Korba
16151 (R WDM3A) 58818 1735 Tirodi – Tumsar Road (seen in the bay at Tumsar Road on the stock)
22854 (SRC WAP4) 12809 2035 (P) Mumbai CST – Howrah
22313 (LGD WAP4) 58112 2130 Itwari – Tatanagar
Monday 4th November 2014 (The day after Diwali)
I welcomed my lay-in and actually managed to sleep almost until 0900. I had until 1200 to get to Itwari, which left plenty of time for a shower, shave and decent breakfast. The first hurdle fell foul of the fact that there was no water at all coming from the hot tap once it had run for a few seconds so the hotel “old man” had to get his hands dirty and figure out the problem. When he had fixed it the water was coming out hot but it was absolutely filthy. Thankfully after a few buckets it ran clear and allowed for a decent hot shower. After which a breakfast of bread omelette, toast butter and chai was served in my room. As there were actually only two guests in the hotel the previous night it was like having my own personal “old man”!
A rickshaw to Itwari cost me RS60, a massive difference in the previous nights charge; although with the pound now doing so well against the Rupee it’s a difference of 90p and it was still worth the ride even though it should have been a lot less.
As we came over the bridge to Itwari station I noticed WDS6 36033 with a few coaches right below it and went to investigate, once the rickshaw waller had been round the car park to try and get some change for my RS100 note. I discovered it was actually parked with its stock on the small carriage maintenance shed and there were staff under one of the coaches so it didn’t seem it would be shunting anywhere fast anytime soon; this was soon confirmed by the C&W staff that all came out to investigate what I was doing. In the end they offered me a seat in the shed, out of the sun, and were quite sociable. As the WDS6 wasn’t doing anything soon my need to stay and chat some more wasn’t really needed so I went back to the main station and perched on the footbridge to photograph the ecs arriving for 58845 1100 Itwari – Nagbhir NG train; its set arriving from the Nagpur direction so maybe it actually came empties from Nagpur itself? The sun was perfect from the footbridge for it arriving and I was too busy concentrating on the photos to notice whether anyone was on board when it arrived; there were plenty on board when it departed though!
In the BG platforms was Ajni WAG7 27770, which I’d had out of Amravati on a passenger at the start of the trip; it was now back to goods work as it departed towards Nagpur with a coal train. On the stock for 58815 1305 Itwari – Tirodi, was the machine R WDG3A 13218; as expected. What arrived with 58816 Tirodi – Itwari passenger was not as expected though. I’d been anticipating R WDM3A 16151, which had been in the platform at Tumsar Road the previous evening having worked in from Tirodi. The set then goes into Tirodi the following morning then back into Itwari on 58816. My only explanation for this was that R WDG3A 13593, which did arrive with 58816, had either gone light engine to Tumsar overnight, after I assumed it had arrived with the Ramtek passenger, or it had swapped over at Tumsar Road with 16151 while working 58206 0730 Itwari – Raipur as it makes the inbound Tirodi – Itwari there. Maybe 16151 had developed a problem and needed t be returned to Raipur early for some attention?
Both the afternoon Ramtek & Tirodi were again both Raipur Shakti’s; they’d been the same, but different Shakti’s of course, the previous week. Decent photos were to be had of both in the afternoon sunshine, as was that of the inbound 58844 0615 Nagbhir – Nagpur NG as it arrived; with people hanging out of the doors!
13593 tried to get away three times before actually managing to get out of the platform. Despite the booked departure time being 1200 people were still turning up at 1210, when we tried to depart the first time, and the guard kept stopping the train for the stragglers to board. It would have been funny watching them run all the way down the platform after it, only to watch it disappear into the distance. Indian Railways does breed this kind of contempt though by allowing its trains to depart their origin station late; and this actually making them later in the process, as in this case!
I was off at Kamptee for the Tirodi behind. I had time to get some food and pop for the journey; not that I had any space to be able to eat it! When 13218 and train arrived people were already on the ballast for a wrong side bail in; so I joined them. The train was rammed! A stark contrast to the Ramtek, which had been virtually empty. The vestibules were already wedged and people were sat on the footsteps blocking access. In the boarding frenzy I managed to spot some people arguing with the guys on the footsteps of the front guards compartment; I got to them just as they moved and was one of the first up the steps. There’d been a fair bit of room before the Kamptee mob took up all the available space, and then some. It was hot and I was dripping with sweat but I just had to deal with it and stand in my space, just like the rest of the compartments occupants.
It wasn’t long before a young lad was asking me the usual questions, with his very broken English, and soon the whole guards’ compartment knew where I was from and where I was going. None could really understand why though but the good old “time pass” explanation seemed to work for the crowd I had, with its very limited English. Thankfully when the train was moving there was a bit of a breeze to take the edge off. When the train stood for something to overtake us some got out making it a bit more breathable. And there was me melting while a couple had their young baby wrapped in a nice pink, thick, baby grow, with the hood up; they were using the guards table as a bed for the poor little thing. It must have been roasting; surely?!
At Koka the stop before Tumsar Road where the Tirodi branch deviates, I got a seat on the second half of the guards’ seat. Unfortunately this was taken away from me minutes after I sat down, by the loco pilot who came to use the facilities and threw everyone out; why he couldn’t use the facilities that the rest of India uses and leave us be, I don’t know. We all then had to fight our way into the train some place else. As it was stood waiting for something to overtake it made it easier to snatch the foot space of someone who was outside at the time; it got quite cozy when everyone boarded again though, although thankfully quite a few got off at Tumsar Road.
For the journey towards Tirodi I inherited a whole new set of friends; still with the young lad from the guards van in tow, who was actually going to Katangi. He learnt more, from those that could speak a little more English, in 10 minutes than he had for the previous 2 hours. It was a pleasant enough journey and my company passed the day away. They weren’t intrusive and were polite enough and they all got off in dribs and drabs down the Tirodi branch. All were going to family members’ homes to have round two of their Diwali celebration; having done round one with their immediate family the previous day. By Diwali there were only two of about 10 left, one being the original guy from the guards van and the second being the shyest of the bunch, who seemed to converse better without a group of his peers around.
At Tirodi there is nothing at all yet the area immediately outside the station was very busy; there was a mad scrum for the buses to Katangi and there were loads of share jeeps waiting, doors open, to take people to their destination. I admired the Indian way from from a distance as the buses filled and departed, followed by the jeeps and then the rest just made their way by foot. Two of the young lads off the train had a 7km walk to get to the village they were going to. There were no buses or other road transport available at all and their walk would take about 2 hour! Soon silence bestowed Tirodi, the vehicles and people all having gone, leaving the train, and the few people using it to get towards Tumsar Road, to their own devices; 13218 was the only thing making any noise in the vicinity at all.
We tried to depart Tirodi at 1740, 5 late, but thanks to the dumb ass shunter not having opened the pipes between loco and coaches even 13218 couldn’t get away. The result being a 15 late start. I had a few sat with me, in the literally empty front coach, all but one of whom got off en-route to Tumsar Road; still they were no issue at all and again polite and pleasant enough to be around. I was actually surprised myself that I hadn’t been questioned out by this point!
At Tumsar Road it was a minus 18 onto 58206 Raipur – Itwari passenger and without any screens to tell me I didn’t know whether it had gone or not until it was announced as arriving; I’d suspected it hadn’t with the people on the platform and it turned up 60 late. Again it was fairly empty, not quite as empty as the previous evening but there was plenty of room. R WDM3A 18835 was the loco; no more Shakti’s for me that evening. It preformed well on the run back to Itwari though, although it wasn’t a match for 13218.
We clawed all our time back again by Kalumna and just as I got laid out to wait the 15 minutes for 58112 Itwari – Tatanagar passenger to arrive, we got the road and were into Itwari by 2128; Bilhai WAM4 21358 departing with 58112 a few minutes later.
Outside the station I was accosted by the same rickshaw guy who’d set the RS150 price the previous night and was soon telling him what I was paying; none of them wanted to take me for RS60 so off I set towards the main road. It wasn’t long before I was shouted back, yet they were all still in discussion when I got to them. It appeared that the guy at the front of the queue didn’t want to take me as I already had a reservation at my hotel of choice. In the end the guy from the previous night dragged his rickshaw from the back of the queue and took me for RS60; whether he felt guilty for the previous nights fare or not, I don’t know, but he delivered me straight to the Hotel Siddhartha Inn and even tried to make conversation after we’d arrived.
Although late again I ordered room service, it was delivered within 15 minutes and better than the previous night. With an early start the following morning I didn’t stay up too long and thankfully the fire works died down a little earlier than they had the previous night.
Gen for Monday 4th November 2013
|13593||Itwari Jct||Kamptee||1200 Itwari Jct – Ramtek||58814||R WDG3A|
|13218||Kamptee||Tirodi||1305 Itwari Jct – Tirodi||58815||R WDG3A|
|13218||Tirodi||Tumsar Road Jct||1735 Tirodi – Tumsar Road Jct||58818||R WDG3A|
|18835||Tumsar Road Jct||Itwari Jct||1330 Raipur Jct – Itwari Jct||58205||R WDM3A|
(Other than in the moves above)
13593 (R WDG3A) 58816 0805 Tirodi – Itwari (maybe only from Tumsar having replaced R WDM3A 16151?)
171 (MIB ZDM3A) 58845 1100 Itwari – Nagbhir
163 (MIB ZDM4) 58844 0615 Nagbhir – Nagpur
36033 (R WDS6) shunting at Itwari
16008 (R WDM3A) at Kalumna ballast sidings with a loaded ballast
22840 (SRC WAP4) 12833 2355 (P) Ahmedabad – Howrah
21346 (MGS WAM4P) 11039 1530 (P) Kolhapur – Gondia
21358 (BIA WAM4) 58112 2130 Itwari – Tatanagar
Tuesday 5th November 2013 (Bonfire Night)
The 0600 alarm wasn’t welcome but then again neither was the noise being put out by the local mosque! Unfortunately the hot water wasn’t playing again so I had to get a cold shower as time wasn’t on my side this morning. If nothing else it certainly woke me up. Check-out was simple enough, although the bill did have RS171 for room service which wasn’t mine and it had to be removed before I paid my outstanding balance. There was no rickshaw fiasco on this morning as the car driver was already on hand to take me to Itwari station; free of charge.
Once there I wasted absolutely no time in getting myself a seat on the train as the station was heaving with people; most of them making their way towards my train; 58205 0730 Itwari – Raipur passenger. It took me until the very front coach to find a seat, and once in it that’s exactly where I sat until I got off at Gondia; there was nowhere else for me to move let alone sit! By the time we’d left Kamptee the train was full, standing, sitting on the luggage racks and hanging out of the doors. In my compartment for 8, I shared the space with 25 others, which included a kid who’d been perched on the seat edge in the space between my legs; it wasn’t something I had a say in mind and to be fair to the poor kid he was almost dead on his legs and asleep, on me, within minutes! There were other kids who’d actually fell asleep stood up but with their bodies at a 90 degree angle to their legs, resting on whoever they fell against in the process. The train was too much for some guru who had been sat in the side seat adjacent to me and he got himself off at Kanhan Jct, which at least gave three other people room to sit on the one seat!
While there was barely room to move for the whole 3 hours to Gondia it wasn’t an unpleasant experience even with someone else’s kid asleep on me. It was actually an experience to behold and if you have no preconceived ideas to the fact that the journey will be absolutely crap, then it won’t be. The locals couldn’t apologise enough for the cramped train; which really didn’t bother me at all. They left me to my own devices as much as their minds would let them and the one person that spoke decent English didn’t myther me with it; it’s the mythering that actually turns this kind of journey into a nightmare, not the fact that the train is wedged and hot. If left to your own, you’re just like any other passenger on the train; experiencing exactly the same as them. The guy that spoke decent English was actually travelling to Gondia for work and had to stand all the way; would we accept this from our employer back home in the UK? While standing may be one thing, not being able to move while standing is another. Still everyone was content with their journey and braved it well; most of whom got off at Gondia, just like me, only to be replaced by a whole new set of faces to wedge the train back to it’s gunnels as it departed; having sat for 40 minutes. We’d lost time only due to the sheer wedge factor of the train, there’d been no express trains overtaking us en-route at all!
Food in Gondia was provided by the Hotel Bindals’ “Family Restaurant”, which is a five minute walk from the station entrance. While the restaurant seems a little battered around the edges, although it seems to have tried to be upmarket, the Dum Aloo Punjabi I had was excellent. The cutlery and crockery needed a bit of a clean before I used them and the straw for my pop needed the bin but nothing took the taste away from an excellent meal.
Back at the station, with an hour to kill, I got talking to a young girl who’s 12th birthday just so happened to be 5th November. She was travelling by the same train as me, 12844 Ahmedabad – Puri, but to its’ destination. She was travelling with 23 other family members for a holiday at the seaside resort. Her brother, who also spoke good English, was writing down the reservations for their whole group; they were split into 4 different SL class coaches and not immediately next to each other; which I’m sure was going to be a nightmare to deal with. The lad himself was studying robotic engineering; so if Skynet ever came to fruition he’d be one of the responsible ones! They were a pleasant bunch and I got to greet all the younger generation but as the elders turned up they all had to greet them in the traditional way which involved the touching of feet, and didn’t have time for me anymore.
12844 Ahmedabad – Puri departed Gondia bang on time with SRC WAP4 22840 leading the way to Raipur; I was already looking forward to my VSKP twins forward; I wasn’t holding out for another bonus pair of VSKP Shakti’s though, they’re like gold dust in the Shakti world on passenger trains! One thing of note is the fact that during my time at Gondia I’d not seen 58803 Chanda Fort – Gondia passenger arrive. It could probably have when I’d been eating but there was no sign of it anywhere in the sidings outside the station. Had I stayed in Gondia the previous night like I’d originally planned the move would have been well and truly down the pan and I’d have to be attempting to get a berth on 12833 Ahmedabad – Howrah that night, throughout to Howrah; which is the train I planned to do forward from Tatanagar the following morning anyway. The big issue with that being the fact that it would be electric throughout! What I didn’t realise at that point was that doing 12833 throughout from Gondia to Howrah may well have been a good choice……
At Raipur I had to literally eat my words as VSKP WDG3A’s 14510/14654 replaced my WAP4 for the run forward to Puri. Since the cyclone the East Coast Railway had said on their website that additional locomotives were being drafted in for passenger services and maybe those locomotives just so happened to be pairs of VSKP WDG3A’s, and they hadn’t quite worked their way out of the circuit yet? There had also been some diversions due to a big washout at Parvatipuram, near Rayagada, which may have resulted in locos being stuck the wrong side of the washout of course. Either way I was well pleased with my second pair of VSKP Shakti’s for the trip; I’d actually initially thought they were the same pair I’d had the previous week and only realised they weren’t when I looked through my book! They were familiar numbers as I’d photted the very same pair running round at Korba while I was there. The fact that the diversions for Parvatipuram had now finished probably meant that things would return to normal in the VSKP Twin world very soon; and more importantly that my train that night, 13352 Allapuzha – Dhanbad/Tatanagar could run booked route via Titlagarh.
The journey forward from Raipur was a very interesting one indeed. The occupant of the upper berth above me chose to join me and we spent the whole journey to Titlagarh chewing the cud. The guy was a 28 year old trainee doctor, who was from Nagpur but his 3rd year residency was in Balrampur. He’d been back to Nagpur to meet up with a prospective wife, who he told me had been picked based on her standing, suitability and importantly for him the fact that she was a 1st year trainee doctor, which would allow him to finish his residency and do two more years of training to become a consultant, without having to worry about a wife at home; as she’d be still doing her training.
While his parents had picked out the shortlist the guy himself actually had the say in which girls were the prospective ones, however when doing the choosing the children do have to take their parents feelings into consideration when making their decision. The beauty of the woman is apparently not a factor in the decision making; which I have to say did surprise me. It’s not just the relationship of the two who will marry that is taken into consideration either as the two families must get on as effectively they then become one family after the marriage. Whilst initial meetings with this prospective wife were going well he wasn’t willing to commit at all.
The hospital the guy worked at in Balrampur was right in the middle of where the cyclone had hit and he’d been on duty the night it hit. The winds were the worst he’d known and just gradually increased in speed until reaching their peak. There was no power, which meant no light and nothing working to be able to treat people; the whole staffs’ man concern was what the hell they would do if they had an influx of people with life threatening injuries, whom they would have to treat by candle light. Thankfully no such even occurred and the wind only got to the speeds it did as apparently another 50kmph and the hospital roof would likely have been ripped off!
During our conversation it became very clear that my new found friend was having some difficulty understanding why I was constantly travelling around by train and in some cases through the same place more than once. The explanation of I like travelling by train didn’t satisfy his curiosity at all and he needed some reason in his mind to understand why I was drawn to the trains; once I’d explained that the loco’s were the reason I did what I did he was appeased and everything sank into place in his mind; and he could actually understand the mentality behind it all as well!
It was a shame I had to get off at Titagarh as the conversation had been some of the most enlightening I’d had with an Indian. Still it had to come to an end at some point and it did so when the VSKP Shakti’s dropped me at Titlagarh, 30 late, making my plus 1h05m with ease; and a lot more ease than I knew as I got off. I used the time to take a walk outside the station to find something to eat and it wasn’t long before I stumbled on the first omelette waller of the trip; he was perched on the steps right outside some seedy bar and everyone, including himself, looked absolutely hammered; still he made a decent omelette nonetheless. Further fried bits were consumed back at the station while I watched BNDM WDM3A 16111 arrive with the Ispat Express from Howrah and 10 minutes after my train should have departed I chose to find out how late it was as I only had a plus 25 at Tatanagar the following morning; the answer that came back, when I asked the woman behind the “round the clock inquiry window” stunned me into silence. So much so that it took all my effort to get my lips to ask the question again just to make sure I’d heard correctly the first time; the answer being “8 hours late sir”!
With that bombshell dropped I moped off to a quiet corner to cry; well actually to figure out what the hell to do. I was supposed to be meeting a good friend in Kolkata the following day but that was now out of the window and I quickly e-mailed him to let him know. Having scoured the timetables in an attempt to get myself to Kolkata the following evening for 13147 1935 Sealdah – New Cooch Behar it soon became apparent that it was highly unlikely I was going to make it. I had two options one was to do 18108 Koraput – Rourkela to its destination and hope that 12833, my booked train forward from Tatanagar anyway, was 20 late so it would make it at Rourkela. The second option was to do 12872 0515 Titlagarh – Howrah throughout, in AC chair car. This option gave 50 minutes to get from Howrah to Sealdah for 13147, which at that time of night wasn’t a very comfortable plus at all.
I was denied a berth in 3AC on 18108, along with a load of other folk and SL class was full as well so that put pay to that idea and the fact that I’d not get much sleep on 12872 to Howrah in AC chair car put pay to that idea and I made an executive decision to wait for my booked train and do it through to Tatanagar anyway. At 8 hours late it would likely make the Barbil – Howrah Shatabdi at 1710, which would at least get me to Kolkata for the night. The only option then being doing 15657 0635 Sealdah – Guwahati to New Cooch Behar; of course without a reservation things could be interesting.
The only way to pass the time, other than being bit to death by mosquitoes on a platform bench, which I have plenty of gen about, was to do trains. The bloody mosquitoes had even bitten me on my ass, through my trousers, now that wasn’t playing by the rules at all so it didn’t take much of a decision to get me onto the first train I could do……….
Gen for Tuesday 5th November 2013
|13593||Itwari Jct||Gondia Jct||0730 Itwari Jct – Gondia Jct||58206||R WDG3A|
|22940||Gondia Jct||Raipur Jct||1800 (04/11) Ahmedabad Jct – Puri||12844||BRC WAP4|
|14510||Raipur Jct||Titlagarh Jct||1800 (04/11) Ahmedabad Jct – Puri||12844||VSKP WDG3A’s 14510/14654 in multi|
(Other than in the moves above)
22839 (SRC WAP4) 12809 2035 (P) Mumbai CST – Howrah
20675 (TATA WAM4) 18237 1415 Bilaspur – Amritsar
11145 (BNDM WDM3D) 58217 1930 Titlagarh – Raipur
13135 (R WDG3A) 58207 1515 Raipur – Bhiwanipatna
16111 (BNDM WDM3A) 12871 0655 Howrah – Titlagarh
18927 (R WDM3A) 18426 1610 Durg – Puri
16236 (VSKP WDM3A) 22848 0015 Lokmanya Tilak – Visakhapatnam
16285 (BNDM WDM3A) 18108 1630 Koraput – Rourkela
13596 (R WDG3A) 18517 1630 Korba – Visakhapatnam
16053 (VSKP WDM3A) 58529 1800 Durg – Visakhapatnam
14044/18932 (VSKP WDM3A’s) 13351 1015 Dhanbad – Allapuzha
Wednesday 6th November 2013 (Disaster recovery mode……)
The day got off to a good start when BNDM WDM3A arrived with 18107 Rourkela – Koraput and I was on the platform at Kesinga 15 minutes later, staring at the departure board which had “8-00” at the side of 13352 so at least both stations were on the same channel. Which turned out to be not the actual channel they needed to be on as my girlfriend had been checking the train out online and it was actually showing as 9h45m late, although with the recovery time in the schedule it was showing to be under 7 hours late by Rourkela; which was promising. What wasn’t promising was the fact that R WDG3A 13596 followed me from Titlagarh with 18517 Korba – Visakhapatnam; which would have been nice! The opposing working didn’t reveal anything as interesting though as R WDM3A 16237 whisked me back to Titlagarh on 18518 Visakhapatnam – Korba, where I found 13351 Dhanbad – Allapuzha already in the opposite platform, with the road, ready to go. I only just managed to get to the engines, VSKP WDM3A’s 14044/18932, as the train set off and as one was new I jumped aboard in SL class as it rolled by me. As it was a superfast train the first stop was Muniguda where I had options on the return, the last of which actually being my very own, very late, 13352.
As it turned out my feet barely touched the station at Muniguda as there was already a train sat in, going north; ready to leave. All I could make out from the boards was that it was an extra, judging by the 0 before the train number, and that it was a Yesvantpur – Hatia. Once on board I figured out that the booked Yesvantpur – Hatia should stop at Kesinga and sure enough we did, which was where I discovered the train was 08632 Yesvantpur – Hatia Special, running 2 hours or so late, and the twins on the front were only BKSC machines 16568/16587. It was rare enough to get one on a passenger train, let alone a pair; bizarrely one of the damn things was dud, and I’d only had two BKSC Alco’s! Unfortunately though neither was in the rather nice BKSC orange/green livery, which I think suits the Alco’s very much.
I didn’t have to wait at Kesinga too long for the next surprise of the night when yet another VSKP twin WDG3A set rolled in with 12843 Puri – Ahmedabad, 14541/14672. Despite the fact that my move was in the bin and I was shattered, it had turned out to be a decent night’s bash. Back at Titlagarh the same woman who’d told me that 13352 had been 8 hours late, was still on duty and she now told me it was 9 hours late. By the time I left Titlagarh daylight had broken through and the whole place was starting to wake up; which at least meant breakfast was on offer. And having used the facilities on board 22828 Surat – Puri for a very much needed evacuation, it would have been rude to not do the train to Balangir with the 4th pair in a row, VSKP WDM3A’s 18938/16009, where I waited patiently, willing my 13352 to hurry up and turn up so I could hole myself up in my side berth and just forget about things for a while; like until the train got to Tatanagar!
Bang on 10 hours late we were when VSKP WDM3A’s 14090/18668 departed Balangir with 13352. The 2AC wasn’t that wedged but the most amazing thing abut it was that it was child free and once the TTE had checked my ticket I was holed up in my lower side berth pretty much all the way to Rourkela, where there was a distinct lack of food on offer so biscuits and crisps had to do; yet while I’d not wanted anything egg biriyani’s galore had been sold up and down the train!
We arrived into platform 4 where the front portion, our portion for Tatanagar was immediately shunted across to platform 1 by the twins. The Tatanagar unreserved portion from the rear of the train was shunted over by BNDM WDG3A 13250 and attached to the rear to make a full train. As there was nothing food wise on offer I was back holed up in my berth before departure, still a little weary from my nights’ bash. What was a bit strange was the announcement for our train saying it would depart at “right time 0610 hours from platform number 4”; maybe that was the following days’ eh? Despite all the recovery time we departed Rourkela at 1610, still bang on 10 hours late and arrived into Tatanagar just the 10h40m late at 1950!
I had a couple of options for the night but wasted no time in making a bid for the station exit and walking the 5 minutes or so it took down the road to where the hotels in Tatanagar were; I’d stayed in Tatanagar once before so luckily knew where to go. The Hotel Meridiens’ Utsaav Restaurant sufficed and whipped up a very good, piping hot, Dum Aloo, steamed rice and nan in no time; which despite my lack of food all day I struggled to finish. As I was the only person in the restaurant it was like a personal staff, one to fetch the drinks, one to fetch the food, one to take the order, etc, etc.
Back at the station the first of my two options, and probably the better of them, was soon dismissed when I was told there was no room in 3AC on board 18181 Tatanagar – Chhapra. When I eventually found the reservation chart I found the 3AC to be up to wait list 152 and all from Tatanagar so I never stood a chance really. The stock hadn’t been in when I’d found the TTE either which was 15 minutes after departure time and with KGP WDM3A 16711 sat at the end of the platform waiting I decided to plonk myself at the opposite end of the platform, away from the chaos; what I actually ended up doing though was putting myself right in the chaos as the stock was being shunted together in the sidings just south of the station and when people started walking across to it to bag themselves a seat, before the chaos really did ensue as it was backed in, I decided to follow suit and what a bonus move that turned out to be as BNDM WDS6 36192 shunted the Katihar portion in first. It wasn’t the best move I’d played mind as it loaded as it was being backed down the platform and I had to get out on the track side as there was no way I’d have got through the sea of people between me and the platform side door.
Having walked back over the footbridge I watched on as the odd temper flared up between folk tussling for the same spot on board; the train ended up being 1h25m late away in the end as 36192 wasn’t quick about shunting the Chhapra portion onto the train at all! I then spent my remaining time trying to get fourty winks on a station bench where the mosquitoes seemed to be non-existent yet still managed to craftily get at me through the slats below the bench!
Option number two turned up early; 12101 LTT – Howrah was in the platform at Tatanagar at 2305 and wasn’t due away until 2335. There were at least 6 AC coaches in the formation, including a full 1AC coach. Some guy beckoned to the TTE as the train rolled down the platform and got a wobbly headed response which clearly meant there was room in AC; and there was. I was tucked up in my upper side berth and semi-dossed before the train had even set off; one hurdle over a second to be got over the following morning at Sealdah. At this point I was just glad of the berth and the almost 5 hours sleep it brought with it!
Gen for Wednesday 6th November 2013
|16134||Titlagarh Jct||Kesinga||1810 (05/11) Rourkela Jct – Koraput||18107||BNDM WDM3A|
|16287||Kesinga||Titlagarh Jct||2000 (05/11) Visakhapatnam Jct – Korba||18518||R WDM3A|
|14044||Titlagarh Jct||Muniguda||1050 (05/11) Dhanbad Jct – Allapuzha||13351||VSKP WDM3A’s 14044/18932 in multi|
|16568||Muniguda||Kesinga||0030 (05/11) Yesvantpur Jct – Hatia (Special)||08632||BKSC WDM3A’s 16568/16587 in multi|
|14541||Kesinga||Titlagarh Jct||1730 (05/11) Puri – Ahmedabad Jct||12843||VSKP WDG3A’s 14541/14672 in multi|
|18938||Titlagarh Jct||Balangir||0830 (05/11) Surat – Puri||22828||VSKP WDM3A’s 18938/16009 in multi|
|18668||Balangir||Rourkela Jct||0600 (04/11) Allapuzha – Dhanbad Jct||13352||VSKP WDM3A’s 18668/14090 in multi – 10 hours late|
|18668||Rourkela Jct||Tatanagar||0610 Rourkela Jct – Tatanagar||18190||VSKP WDM3A’s18668/14090 in multi – 10 hours late|
|36192||Tatanagar CS||Tatanagar Platform 2||Stock Shunt for 18181 Tatanagar – Chhapra||BNDM WDS6|
|22271||Tatanagar||Howrah||2035 (05/11) Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Howrah||12101||SRC WAP4|
(Other than in the moves above)
16470 (R WDM3A) 18425 1715 (P) Puri – Durg
13135 (R WDG 3A 58208 0230 Bhiwanipatna – Raipur
18804 (VSKP WDM3A) 58530 2105 (P) Visakhapatnam – Durg
21305 (TATA WAM4) 12813 1730 Howrah – Tatanagar
22408 (HWH WAP6) 12802 2220 (P) New Delhi – Puri
16711 (KGP WDM3A) 18181 2135 Tatanagar – Chhapra
27685 (LDH WAG7) 12819 1530 Bhubaneswar – New Delhi
Thursday 7th November 2013 (The road to the North East)
12101 was due into Howrah at 0335, yet when I woke at gone 0400 we were still pottering along; as were we when I woke again at 0445. The train was just late enough to take the edge off my tiredness, allowing almost 5 hours sleep vice 4, and trickled into platform 22 at Howrah at 0459. Every taxi driver I encountered between the train and pre-paid taxi counter, just outside the exit at the end of platform 22, told make the queue for pre-paid taxis was over 2 hours; I was actually in the queue for 2 minutes, with only two people in front of me and when I heard one ask for Sealdah I asked if he minded sharing and away we went. The fare had been RS100 so I gave him RS50 for my share. The guy I shared with was returning home from a work trip and needed to catch a local from Sealdah to his home town. As we approached Sealdah, 15 minutes after setting off, he directed the taxi away from the station drop-off point and down a side street; I believed this was due to the traffic lights being red for the other route. He told me when he got out that taxi drivers don’t like going to Sealdah as most have unregistered vehicles and at Sealdah there is a greater chance of them being checked over by traffic police; even more so in the evenings so sometimes it can be hard to find a taxi driver willing to take you to Sealdah.
After the short walk from the drop-off to the station front I left Bert drinking chai at the station entrance and went about trying to get over the 15 hour hurdle I had in front of me. There was no sign of the stock to form 15657 0635 Sealdah – Guwahati but I did find BWN WDM3A 18817 on the blocks having arrived with 53172 Lalgola – Sealdah passenger, which is DUW throughout and a turn that I thought would have gone over to electric years ago. As it wasn’t it was now firmly on my radar for a future trip, especially as it now had 1st class in its formation.
On the concourse at the ends of platform 8/9 there’s an inquiry office and next to that, on the left, is a facilitation window, which basically deals with reservations. It didn’t open until 0600 so I decided to be first in the queue; however what actually happened then was the guy behind the counter dealt with everyone else before me as they only needed their berth numbers confirming. He then gave me some excellent news in that there was room in 2AC on 15657, the bad news being there was only room to New Jalpaiguri. With this being 12 hours into the 15 hour journey I was over the moon and even more so when the reservation was handed over!
BGA WDS6 36219 was just dragging the stock in when I got to the platform and by the time I’d got to the front of the train the guy who’d been printing the reservation lists out back in the facilitation office was just starting to paste them to the coaches. BWN WDM3A 16505 was already on the front and the AC was only about 5 back from it. A quick scan at the 3AC reservation charts revealed that there was a berth empty between NJP and New Cooch Behar; which was absolutely ideal of course and I told the TTE this when I asked about vacant berths for the NJP to NCB section. In the end though he told me that berth 21 was free in 2AC from Rampurhat to New Cooch Behar and that I could take that; bonus!
Nursing a cold, courtesy of 13352 being freezing the previous day, and still being a bit tired I did nothing but relax on board 15657; until lunch was presented at 1110! There had been no biriyani choice but the egg curry choice was a good one. There was even a polystyrene plate with the meal, which had each dish packed in a separate tin container. The whole lot, including water pouch, cost RS90, which is a fair amount but the meal was worth it.
At Malda Town 16505 had been removed from the train before I even got outside. I believed the loco link for the train had changed to a MLDT loco throughout having seen it the previous year with a MLDT WDM3A near Sealdah; it must have been an off-link as the booked loco change certainly too place with the BWN WDM3A off and MLDT WDM3A 16598 on.
I noticed that there’d been a TTE change at Malda and made sure that the new one knew about my swap to berth 21 at NJP; he didn’t and then informed me that berths 21/22 were a quota for a station between NJP and New Cooch Behar so he couldn’t really give me either. He basically told me to hang fire and he’d let me know in due course where I could move to. As we approached NJP the TTE thankfully came by to casually inform me that I could take berth 35 to New Cooch Behar; of course it then took him 5 minutes to write out everything in triplicate on his reservation sheets to show that I’d occupied seat 35 for the short distance I was going to. Still it was the final hurdle in what had been quite possibly one of the longest, and coldest, recovery moves I’d done in the country and it would soon be over.
Arrival into New Cooch Behar was bang on time; the Kanchanjunga Express is apparently one of those trains that Indian Railways likes to keep right time, and today I was especially thankful of them doing so. The solid 15 hours in AC had taken its toll on me, and coupled with the 5 hours from Tatanagar to Howrah and the 12 hours aboard the train of doom prior to that from Balangir to Tatanagar I’d basically been travelling non-stop in AC accommodation for 36 hours, minus the couple at both Tatanagar and Kolkata. My 2nd cold of the trip had started, gone through the motions and was about at its peak by the time I got off at New Cooch Behar and all I wanted was a bed and a decent night’s sleep to try and overcome it.
Taxi’s outside New Cooch Behar are plentiful and I was away in a Maruti to the Hotel Royal Palace in no time at all for the fee of RS150; the distance being about 6km. The choice of room rates at the Royal Palace was ridiculous; starting at RS650 and going up to RS3000. I opted for a larger room, as opposed to a box, and paid RS950 for it. The room had AC, fan, flat screen TV and round the clock hot water; all I needed though was a blanket and a bed and that was me done for the night. I was in bed by 2200, bunged up to the eyeballs and dribbling all over the pillow as a result.
Gen for Thursday 7th November 2013
|16505||Sealdah||Malda Town||0635 Sealdah – Guwahati Jct||15657||BWN WDM3A|
|16598||Malda Town||New Cooch Behar||0635 Sealdah – Guwahati Jct||15657||MLDT WDM3A|
(Other than in the moves above)
18817 (BWN WDM3A) 53172 2145 (P) Lalgola – Sealdah
16494 (NGC WDM3A) 15621 0610 Kamakhya – Anand Vihar
Friday 8th November 2013 (Bowled for Bamanhat)
The alarm woke me at 0615 and whilst I wasn’t the sniveling mess I’d been when I’d gone to be I was still a little bunged up but the hot bucket shower did me the world of good and by 0645 I was down in reception asking where my pre-paid breakfast parcel of omelette & toast was; of course it hadn’t even been started and I had to wait for them to make it!
A cycle rickshaw to Cooch Behar station cost RS20 for the couple of kilometers that it was and other than the very loud music that was blaring out from random homes, it was a very pleasant morning ride. The ambiance was spoiled somewhat at the station though by the fact that not only was the music too loud but also by the fact that two different homes seemed to be competing with each other as to who could provide Cooch Behar with the loudest and crappest music possible; and that was at 0700 in the morning!
Cooch Behar station had its very own Railway Museum, which had been opened by Mamta Banergee in 2009. I couldn’t get inside but the view through the windows revealed old artifacts like lamps, keys and other assorted bits relating to what gang workers might use. On the wall though was a picture and whilst I couldn’t see either the number of the YDM4 or the date that it was taken, the caption was big enough to make out and read “the last MG train on the Bamanhat line”. In the foreground of the photo were the BG sleepers, all piled up ready to be installed; the Bamanhat line had lost its MG before I’d started going to India so it was pre 2004.
Due to the very loud music I couldn’t actually hear the train coming, and I haven’t said my train for a reason. When it was almost on top of me it was very evident from the horn that I was probably about to be well and truly bowled out. Others had been bowled for Bamanhat by a WDP4 the week previous and sure enough I was the third white person being bowled within 7 days as SGUJ WDP4B 40025, I think, arrived with 55765 0625 Alipurduar Jct – Bamanhat. I didn’t even give it the courtesy of getting into the platform before I was out of the station and sorting a cycle rickshaw out to take me the 7km to New Cooch Behar; I knew I should have done the DMU to New Cooch Behar that had gone just after 0700!
The very relaxing 25 minute ride to New Cooch Behar was thankfully over flat terrain and didn’t tax my rider too much. It seemed that throughout Cooch Behar the done thing was to place speakers outside your home and play distorted music as loudly as possible; it did destroy the peace and quiet of what would be a very nice, tranquil place otherwise.
As I walked onto New Cooch Behar station BWN WDM3A 18851 was just rolling in with 13141 Sealdah – New Alipurduar, a little over 2 hours late; as I had no back-up move planned this sufficed for starters and I was on my way to a 3 hour fester at New Alipurduar almost straight away! I’d worked out en-route to New Alipurduar that I had two options, one was to get a rickshaw to Alipurduar for the Siliguri – Dhubri passenger back to New Cooch Behar and the second was to wait for the Bongaigaon – NJP passenger instead; of course I chose wrongly and the right choice would have been to do the rickshaw to Alipurduar. Had I done that I would have been back at New Alipurduar, having had a choice of trains back from New Cooch Behar, with plenty of time to spare for the train I actually ended up departing New Alipurduar on.
Thanks for the days’ lack of move to Bamanhat and extended fester at New Alipurduar have to go to Siliguri DLS for making themselves self sufficient in covering all the local passenger work; this previously being in the hands of MLDT WDM’s. It seemed that not only content with covering the Bamanhat trains that they’d bowl me out a second time, to force the extended fester at New Alipurduar, by providing the WDP4s for the Bongaigaon – NJP & vice versa passenger trains; apart from the obvious move I should have done, I could actually have done a GM back to New Cooch Behar for one of the Alco’s back! Still I was content when off-link LDH WDG3A 13288 rolled in with 12508 Guwahati – Trivandrum; a turn usually covered by HWH WDM3D’s. Not only did the Shakti provide plenty of thrash on its’ load 23 train but the train also provided lunch as egg biriyani’s were being sold in abundance in my coach.
It had taken me from 0700 to 1300 to do New Cooch Behar to New Alipurduar and return and when I asked at the inquiry window how late 15904 Chandigarh – Dibrugarh was, the answer of “3 hours late sir” looked certain to resign my day to a bit of a write off as there was no move with Alcos available and ultimately I’d have to hang around for 3 hours at New Cooch Behar for 05817 1555 Alipurduar Jct – Dhubri; not the best days bash ever, but also not the worst……..
BWN WDM3A 16414 was sat at New Cooch Behar waiting to work 13148 NCB – Sealdah and MLDT WDM2 16848 arrived with 15725 NJP – NCB. While I was drinking chai in the shade of platform 2 and actually considering getting a rickshaw to Cooch Behar Palace, a lifeline was thrust before me; a massive off-link in an Alco on 12436 New Delhi – Dibrugarh Town Rajdhani. Whilst I’d seen TKD Alco’s on this train this far NE before I’d never seen a PTRU Alco on it and it took absolutely no pondering as I ran over the footbridge while 18959 brought its train to a stand. This was only the second PTRU Alco I’d managed in my travels to India; something I hoped to rectify at some point in the future with a trip to the area but for now I was grateful of the bonus move more than anything else, which somewhat redeemed a very mundane day to say the least. Of note as we departed was that the afternoon Bamanhat was sat on the curve outside the station waiting to get in.
At New Alipurduar it was 1500 as I got into a rickshaw to Alipurduar, had I not got the times mixed up in my head I’d have gone straight to Alipurduar Jct but for some reason I’d got it in my head that the Dhurbi special departed at 1535 and not 1555. Strangely though I ended up at Alipurduar Jct for the train courtesy of the late running Dinhata – Siliguri DMU; which arrived into Alipurduar a few minutes after I was dropped off. Whilst it was a bonus that the DMU had failed and was being dragged by a freight engine, unfortunately it was the wrong type for me in SGUJ WDG4 12372! Still it was means to an end and meant that the Bamanhat line had seen an additional GM on top of the two it should have on this day!
Thankfully my 10 minutes at Alipurduar Jct allowed just enough time to get a fresh omelette, from the waller right beside my train to Dhubri, and some cold pop and a bar of chocolate for the journey. The stock for the Dhubri was in the adjacent platform to that which 12372 deposited me on and when NGC WDM2 17956 departed with 05817, 10 late, I was the only person in the front coach; which remained so all the way to Golakganj, where I was joined by two RPF and the shunter to run the loco round at Dhubri.
The front part of the front coach was for the “scout party”, so the RPF guy that spoke English told me. They would travel Golakganj – Dhubri – Furkating Jct with the train and then return with it the following night. As they were based at Jalpaiguri Road, near NJP, this was one of the many turns they did as travelling RPF. They were absolutely flabbergasted at the fact that my work shift pattern allowed for 7 days off every 7 when theirs only allowed for 1 day off every 7; I can’t say I’d like to work their shift pattern at all!
The journey to Dhubri was a slow one, one which I’d been warned about by the Dhubri line scout party of Flossy & Vic, who’d done it the previous week and likened it to the BG equivalent of the MG branch from Sakri to Nirmali; which is renowned for being a totter. My experience wasn’t quite that bad but then again I had a whole coach to myself and wasn’t going anywhere other than back with the same set of stock anyway. The back end of the journey was in darkness anyway and from Golakganj the railway is adjacent to the very rough road that runs paralell to it. Quite how the loco pilot is supposed to see directly ahead with the lights of oncoming road vehicles dazzling him I don’t know; of course it wasn’t as though he was breaking any land speed records at that point and the bag of spanners WDM2 he was driving was well suited to the job; it certainly wasn’t the best WDM2 I’d had and was very much down in the list of very crap ones I’d had.
Dhubri station was quite busy with people, most joining the train for its journey towards Silghat 2 hours prior to when it should set off. There was one sleeper class coach in the formation and the people boarding it were soon moved on when they were told it was for reservations only; which of course I had. Initially there was only me and one other guy in the SL coach and bizarrely he spoke English. He advised me that the SL class usually ran quite empty on the train but on this occasion he couldn’t have been anymore wrong as by departure time it was rammed solid. Thankfully I managed to swap my lower berth for a middle one; this getting me away from the crawling cockroaches and also the potential draft from the windows and any rattling they may do.
The clientele on board seemed to vary and as there was no AC class on the train it was either SL class or nothing for those that wanted to reserve; just like me. Prior to departure there was random, uncontrollable crying from a young girl in the berth below me; who I was getting the impression didn’t want to leave her family behind. There were also tears from a woman in the side berth opposite who I think had just received some bad news; whether related to the fact she was going to Guwahati to receive treatment or related to something else, I couldn’t tell. Aside from the tears, the husband of the woman in tears decided to sing himself a Muslim chant just after we’d departed Dhubri; this most probably being some ritual he did every night. It amazed me though that whatever the Indians did they had absolutely no problem in doing it in front of everyone and anyone that is around at the time.
Departure from Dhubri wasn’t just bang on, it was 2 minutes early; Dhubri clearly not running on the same time as everyone else in India; the correct one that is! The TTE on board didn’t do his ticket checks until after Golakganj; at which point I was sock on. He didn’t have a clue what he was looking at when presented with my Indrail Pass but was soon shown the name within it and the ticket number printed on it, which sufficed; he absolutely stank of booze. Tickets done, earplugs in, and lights out, I was sock on again in no time………
Gen for Friday 8th November 2013
|18851||New Cooch Behar||New Alipurduar||1340 (07/11) Sealdah – New Alipurduar||13141||BWN WDM3A|
|13288||New Alipurduar||New Cooch Behar||0630 Guwahati Jct – Trivandrum Central||12508||LDH WDG3A|
|18959||New Cooch Behar||New Alipurduar||0930 (07/11) New Delhi Jct – Dibrugarh Town||12436||PTRU WDM3A|
|Auto||New Alipurduar||Alipurduar||RS50, 8 minutes|
|12372||Alipurduar||Alipurduar Jct||1245 Dinhata – Siliguri Jct||75716||SGUJ WDG4 – Dragging DMU|
|17956||Alipurduar Jct||Dhubri||1555 Alipurduar Jct – Dhubri||05817||NGC WDM2|
|17956||Dhubri||Silghat Town||2100 Dhubri – Silghat Town||15817||NGC WDM2 – Via Golakganj (RR), Fakiragram, Guwahati|
(Other than in the moves above)
40025 (SGUJ WDP4B) 55765 0625 Alipurduar Jct – Bamanhat
40125 (SGUJ WDP4D) 12235 1925 (P) Dibrugarh – New Delhi
16637 (HWH WDM3A) 15959 1735 (P) Howrah – Dibrugarh
11247 (HWH WDM3D) 12517 2140 (P) Kolkata Chitpur – Guwahati
40037 (SGUJ WDP4B) 14056 2340 (PP) Delhi Jct – Dibrugarh
16414 (HWH WDM3A) 13148 1515 New Cooch Behar – Sealdah
16848 (MLDT WDM2) 15725 0900 New Jalpaiguri – New Cooch Behar, 15726 1650 New Cooch Behar – New Jalpaiguri
40029 (SGUJ WDP4B) 12424 1400 (P) New Delhi – Dibrugarh Town
16652 (BWN WDM3A) 13150 1645 Alipurduar Jct – Sealdah
18684 (MLDT WDM2) 15677 1300 Dhubri – Siliguri
Saturday 9th November 2013 (How do you spend a day in Silghat Town……?)
The noise created by the majority of the coach getting off at Guwahati woke me; a quick glance at the watch revealed we were about an hour late. By 0745, at Chaparmukh Jct, the sound of chai being chanted almost constantly got me out of my pit to get me some! There were still I’d say twenty or so folk in the sleeper coach as we went onto the branch at Chaparmukh; a few more of whom alighted at Senchoa, where our arrival was timed just right to allow MLDT WDM3D 11469 to arrive with 55608 0600 Silghat – Guwahati passenger. From Senchoa we branched right, onto the Silghat branch, and that was us Silghat Town bound.
The morning sunshine was quite warm as it burnt off the misty start to the day. We really were running into rural India as we headed north towards the mighty Brahmaputra River, which was the only thing preventing the line connecting with Tezpur on the other side; although after Tezpur’s conversion to BG maybe this option will be considered? The scenery was Assamese in every sense, none of that dusty, arid, landscape that India is generalised for, it was the perfect balance of greenery, rice fields and eventually tea plantations; tea leaf pickers being abundant throughout the plantations as we ambled through them. The run wasn’t particularly slow and 17956 did the best it could, considering how poor a sounding loco it actually was.
At 1000, 5 minutes early, we arrived into Silghat Town. The return departure of the train was a mere 6h35m from that point; and as if 6h30m hadn’t been enough I’d been gifted an extra 5 minutes for the sheer hell of it. As I looked round, as we’d arrived, it was at that point that I really was thinking “how do you spend a day in Silghat Town”? Firstly of course I was going to spend 15 minutes or so photting the loco, which was run round to the other end of the train immediately on arrival; then I only had 6h20m to kill. Then came my savior in the form of the guard from the train, who’d obviously seen me taking photos. He spoke decent English and before I knew it I was eating breakfast with him and the assistant loco pilot over the road from the station, in the only eatery in town apparently. There were plenty of stalls about for biscuits and crisps but the Hotel Maa Kali served up some piping hot subzi and cold bread type things to mop it up with.
After my third chai I was marched back to the running crew rest quarters by the guard, where a bed was made up for me and I was told to relax as long as I liked and was welcome for the whole day. At 1300 lunch was served and I wasn’t allowed to say no! Unfortunately both the main dishes were fish, one with whole little things in a bowl of curry, the other a large portion of a bigger fish, so the veg and rice had to suffice for me; which was more than enough! We chewed the cud over lunch about train crew conditions in both the UK and India and I learnt that in India the maximum service a man can do on Indian Railways is 60 years. Which even if starting at the age of 15 this means a retirement at 75; would you want to work that long? It’s a bloody long time.
During my time in the rest quarters I managed to get all my bureaucracy up to date, while relaxing away from the outside world and the afternoon sunshine, and even managed some rest while I was at it; what a pleasant day, doing nothing, I had at Silghat Town.
The guard had to be woken by the loco pilot at 1600; I was already packed and ready to go, the local youth having done a good job of spoiling the peace with a few fire crackers a short while before which ended my sleep! Other than the fire crackers and a cockerel giving it a few cock-a-doodle-do’s, the town was a sea of tranquility. The was no road noise at all, due to the very little traffic running through, and that that did pass through managed to do so without even so much as a peep from the horn; it was such a nice environment to be in for a change. To be honest, while I was relaxing on my rest quarters bed, it could have been any hotel beech chalet type; the only thing missing being the sea.
There was plenty of time for chai before departure and the loco pilot insisted I accompany them to the Hotel Maa Kali. I didn’t refuse of course but I had spotted a stall with eggs just over the road and managed to get its owner to rustle me up an omelette first. The guard was soon down for his last chai before departing Silghat Town and over chai he insisted that I travel with him to Guwahati in his brake compartment in the rear coach; of course I couldn’t really refuse after the hospitality he’d given me. Sometimes these types of journey can be a drain when you have to constantly answer questions and your brain doesn’t get time to relax and with a 5 hour journey it had potential to be one of those journeys; however I couldn’t have been more surprised as it was a completely myther free trip and I was left to my own devices, most of the time, to just enjoy the ride.
At 1630 NGC WDM2 17956 got 15818 1635 Silghat – Dhubri underway towards Guwahati; just the 5 minutes early! The loco pilot actually blew to go at 1625, 10 minutes early but the guard reminded him of the trains’ departure time to prevent us leaving then; I’m guessing he couldn’t be bothered waiting the second time the loco blew! The earliness didn’t stop there, we were 8 early away from the first station, Jakhalabanda, then we stopped out of course at Salona where one of the rest house wallers sister had a large vat off chai waiting at the level crossing before the station. This duly made a rather large cup for the three of us in the guards’ compartment. By Amoni we were 7 early and then 9 early from Nagaon; the early running coming to an end at Senchoa where we waited to cross the outgoing 55607 1615 Guwahati – Silghat passenger, which arrived 50 minutes after us, with MLDT WDM3A 16724. It was one of those booked crossings where one train would depart late but where the timetable allowed for the recovery time to the next station; I could never understand why the departure time from the first station wasn’t adjusted to take this issue into account in the first place.
My time at Senchoa was spent in the station masters’ office, where I was sat in front of the panel, served chai/biscuits and made chit chat with all the Senchoa station staff. They couldn’t have been more pleased that this little white bloke from England had been thrust into the custody for an hour and made the most of their opportunity to rape my mind of anything and everything relating to the UK Railway system, including the pro’s and con’s of the private railway system. Despite the constant discussion and posing for photographs the hour at Senchoa flew by but unfortunately we had to leave; our train being 30 late when we did so but that time was soon picked up en-route.
At Chaparmukh Jct I missed a trick as just as we set off moving did an announcement come over the public address system for 12068 Jorhat Town – Guwahati to “arrive shortly on platform 3”; this train was bang on time and was timetabled to overtake us and arrive Guwahati 55 minutes early. Not to mention the fact I’d have got another engine out of the day’s move; which of course had been a bit dry in the red pen stakes! 12068 never did overtake us though and we were given a run all the way to Guwahati, where we arrived 20 early; which would have been earlier had we not been signal to signal into Guwahati itself. I bode farewell to the guard, who’d actually wanted to take me to meet the station master at Guwahati; this request I did decline as it was late enough and had been a long day and I wanted to get a hotel sorted out, so thanking him profusely for his time and hospitality I made my way out of the main entrance and down the road to the Praashanti Tourist Lodge; which is about 100m on the right hand side, just after the reservation building.
It turned out that I’d been lucky in more ways than one with regard to getting a room at the Tourist Lodge as had my train not been early there would have been nobody at reception to check me in; the receptionist was literally just preparing to depart at 2200, as I walked in. Had I actually been any earlier than when I was I’d have been turned away anyway as the hotel was fully booked but the person who’d booked the last room hadn’t turned up so I was given the only room available in the whole hotel which just so happened to be a non-AC room; this cost RS680 and had a fan, TV and constant hot water through a geyser. The room wasn’t anything special and far from clean but it sufficed for what I needed it for. One last stroke of luck was the fact that the restaurant staff were still about and more than happy to make me a meal, despite being closed; a rather excellent chilli chicken in gravy with rice & nan was delivered to my room 15 minutes later, which had allowed me to get settled and sort my stuff out for the following day. I was in bed before 2300……………
Gen for Saturday 9th November 2013
|17956||Silghat Town||Guwahati Jct||1635 Silghat Town – Dhubri||15818||NGC WDM2|
(Other than in the moves above)
11469 (MLDT WDM3D) 55608 0600 Silghat Town – Guwahati
16724 (MLDT WDM3A) 55607 1615 Guwahati – Silghat Town
Sunday 10th November 2013 (Where the hell are all the NGC locos?)
While my alarm was set for 0615, I didn’t need it as some little shit in a nearby room was being about as loud as a little shit can be at 0530 in a morning; of course with no respect for his surroundings at all and even my earplugs couldn’t keep him out! In that situation they say “if you can’t beat them, join them”, which is what I did; in the being out of bed stakes anyway.
While the water was hot, I couldn’t get hot water from the shower and had to make do with a bucket hot water shower; which is never a problem, unless you make the water too hot! Breakfast wasn’t available until 0700 so at 0630 I headed off to the station to see what I could find both for breakfast, and to bash
The departure screen was still showing trains that should have already departed so breakfast was on hold for the moment while I went to investigate; finding JHS WDG3A 13441 with 02502 0600 Guwahati – Howrah and HWH WDM3D 11442 with 12510 0630 Guwahati – Bangalore. Unfortunately 02502 didn’t stop at Kamakhya, this being confirmed by the loco pilot so I had to settle for the HWH 3D on 12510; which ended up departing first anyway.
At Kamakhya there were two trains sat in waiting to depart for Guwahati; HWH WDM3A 16442 with 12509 Bangalore – Guwahati and NGC WDM2 17953 with 15927 Rangiya – Dibrugarh. 16442 went first and with me on board. The run to Guwahati is uphill from Kamakhya and 16442 was making a right meal of things with its load 23 train and at one point I actually thought it was going to stall but the loco pilot kept it going and was probably very relieved when over the peak; it was a decent bash for me from the front coach mind! We passed JHS WDG3A 13441 between Guwahati and Kamakhya with 02502; it must have departed shortly after 12510 had; the train it was running as a relief to!
15960 Dibrugarh – Sealdah “Kamrup Express” was already sat in platform 1 and with the 3rd HWH engine of the hour, 16637, I was soon returning to Kamakhya. Of note is the fact that both 16442 and 16637 were both locos I could have had when I played my cards wrong at New Alipurduar 2 days previous; as they say though “everything comes to he who waits”…….
The pantry car on the Kamrup Express provided a hot bread omelette and it was just as well as all that the stalls at Kamakhya could provide me with that was hot, was chai. The whole station area only having two stalls anyway and nothing much else at all.
My 4th HWH engine of the morning, WDM3A 18996, arrived with 07149 Secunderabad – Guwahati special, a little over an hour late and delivered me back to Guwahati where the late morning move would be towards Jagi Road as the “easy moves” to Kamakhya had a drought to the later afternoon, or were GMs! Right in the platform beside where 07149 arrived was NGC WDS6 36245, which I assumed to have shunted the stock into the platform for 12505 North East Express to Delhi, the train already being loaded up. Had I actually checked the couplings were attached I would have prevented the mad dash I made when I actually realised that it was taking coaches with it as it set off from the platform; whilst I couldn’t quite figure out initially what was going on, the fact that the coaches were loaded with peoople meant it couldn’t be going too far and I was on board.
Having gathered my thoughts I soon realised the whole unreserved portion from the rear of 12505 had been detached. It was like a mad scramble among the locals, as though someone was taking away their train to make them walk to Delhi, and it wasn’t even due away for 2 hours! One guy came absolutely hammering down the platform, at full pelt, and just as he ran out of platform, leaped into the air and landed in the coach and then tried to look cool as he walked into the coach to his mates; quite what he’d achieved I don’t know, although it was quite possibly the fastest I’d seen an Indian run.
The reason for the shunt move soon became apparent as we stopped by the carriage sidings and backed down onto another set of stock, pulled one coach off and then shunted the lot back onto 12505. That little escapade over I reminded myself that I needed to get some pictures of the steam loco that was newly placed outside the station entrance; YG 4119, which rang a bell as being one of the locos that had been at Badarpur in the station yard. It couldn’t have been at Guwahati long as it was in pristine condition in a nice red/yellow colour scheme and even the cab looked to be complete. Unfortunately some cretin had placed trees right in front of it at the smoke box end, which just so happened to be shading it from the sun.
While I was outside 15469 Alipurduar – Lumding Intercity had arrived; I found MLDT WDM3A 16588 at the front of the train and the front coach had plenty of room. At this point, and so early in the day, I found myself asking “where the hell are all the NGC locos” as all of the passenger trains I’d seen both on this morning and the previous day had all been MLDT locos, which seemed a bit strange with the fact that SGUJ was in between MLDT & NGC and the MLDT locos were a long way from home. My only rational explanation was that NGC were short of locos, just like they always seemed to be, and that MLDT had taken over their passenger train links to help out. This would then also explain why SGUJ WDP4s were working passenger trains in the Siliguri area as all of those trains used to be MLDT turns; so by MLDT taking on work further east, SGUJ look to have had to fill the void that MLDT couldn’t cover, which had unfortunately included the Bamanhat passenger trains.
I got talking to a young lad on board 15469, right from the start of the journey; it was just a routine conversation and not much to write home about but after I nearly had a fight with a hijra there was plenty to talk about! I’d been stood at the door admiring the scenery when two hijra’s had come down the coach. Usually a stern no has them leaving foreigners alone; however this was the first occasion on my travels where this had not worked and the bigger of the two began to take a more aggressive stance; so I did in return.
So there we were basically shouting at each other, me in the coach doorway and the two hijra’s between me and my bag; I can’t say I was pleased with either the fact that I was at the doorway or the fact that my bag was the other side of the two treats and when one of them punched me in the stomach, not hard, but enough to provoke a reaction, I soon made it clear that I was having none of it and barged the pair of them out of the way to get to my bag, and just as importantly away from the door. This move didn’t go down well and another, slightly harder, girly punch, to my stomach followed. At this point I was starting to get very wound up and the whole coach was watching on, the occupants of which eventually having to calm the situation down before it got out of hand. The two treats disappeared behind the bulk head of the coach and got out at the next stop to harass people in the next coach; then came the discussion…….
Firstly the lad told me I should not have hit or even threatened to hit “the gays” as he called them, however he was told in no uncertain terms that if I was going to get hurt by them then they were certainly going to feel some pain back and that they’d probably been one more punch away from having a fight on their hands. He then told me that they have nothing else in their life and without any education this is just their way of life and a way of life that they actually enjoy; especially the begging for money, which was more like intimidating for money. He was taken a back by the fact that gays were accepted in western society and could actually marry and that they didn’t have to beg for money, or have big sects like in Mumbai.
Jagi Road soon came along, where I bode farewell to my friend for the morning and thankfully didn’t see “the gays” again! Unfortunately two trains which I’d have had money on being late had both flown past us right time; MLDT WDM3A 16078 with 15670 Dimapur – Kamakhya & NGC WDM2 16739 with 15609 Dibrugarh – Kanniyakumari. Missing them turned out to be a massive bonus though as not long after MLDT WDM3A 16524 had departed with 55815 Guwahati – Haibargaon did the bonus of the trip present itself, it wasn’t long before it disgraced itself mind, but still it was a big bonus all the same. Having some VSKP Shaktis earlier in the trip had been massive but when PTRU WDG3A 13479 came rolling into Jagi Road with 06335 Dibrugarh – Kochuveli, fortnightly special, it really was a massive working and was yet another shed ticked of for Shaktis, and not one I thought I’d be getting any time soon.
13479 had a hefty load for a special and soon got to grips with the train, after clearing the points from the loop to single line. To be honest it could have been as crap as it wanted to be, the fact that it had PTRU on the side and sported the the nice dark purple PTRU colour scheme was enough for me to be impressed; however it wasn’t crap at all, far from it and the thrash provided was enjoyed thoroughly, if only for 12km!
As we approached Kamrupkhetri the road came off through the middle road and I was poised for some more thrash at the front door; it wasn’t to be though. There was clearly something wrong as the loco pilot tried to notch up and all that could be heard was the noise from a power unit that clearly was making any power; it sounded to me like some sort of regulating air problem. It wasn’t long before we were at a stand, the driver having left the loco wide open (developing no power) in a vain hope of getting the rear of the train into the loop clear of the points at the east end; we stopped with about 5 coaches foul at the rear which of course meant the main line was at a standstill until either 13479 was fixed, or we were rescued.
The crew were out checking out everything they could, around the power unit, beneath the loco, in the electrical cubicles, making sure air tank valves were seated, the only thing they didn’t do was shut it down and restart it; it was a dead duck though and even the help over the phone couldn’t rectify whatever issue 13479 had developed and in all my travelling in India, over a 9 year period and more than 15 trips, 13479 became the first loco to ever fail on my in India. This was a testament to the reliability of the Indian Railways Alco fleet and the amount of failures in traffic must be minimal; that’s not to say they don’t occur but the fact I’d only had one in so many trips was excellent.
Amazingly, within 40 minutes of coming to a stand there was help at hand. Not content with enough firsts, and on the one train, the PTRU Shakti and first failure weren’t enough and GD WDG3A 13052 had to get in on the act, also my first GD Shakti! It had come light from Digaru, only 20km or so away, apparently a spare engine according to people on the platform. I was thinking it might well have come off the freight that was stood at Digaru as we passed through though?
13052 was attached quickly and once a break test was done we drew up to the signal; just short of 60 minutes after coming to grief 06335 was on the move towards Guwahati and due to its slack timings was actually only 5 minutes late arriving into Guwahati at 1445! The driver was a bit crap with 13052, whether his failure had prompted him to adopt the defensive version of the defensive driving technique I don’t know but full power wasn’t very forthcoming until round about 50kmph; this kind of spoiled the mood really.
During the time at Kamrupkhetri I got talking to a youth who was travelling to Kamakhya to see the temple, who told me he would be writing about his train journey in his daily diary; i’m betting not as much as I was! He of course wanted me to go and sit with him in the third coach but I already had a decent, empty, seating area in the front coach, where I also had two guys to chat to who’d befriended me at Jagi Road before departure.
I’d expected to arrive into Guwahati to make 55754 1430 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon passenger and even though we arrived at 1445 it was showing on the screens as departing at 1500 from platform 3. The Kamrup Express back from Kamakhya was showing right time though so the move was out of the window anyway and having watched MLDT WDM3A 16202 arrive with the stock for 55754 (which didn’t do it as it was sat in the sidings when I returned to the station) I made my way to the Tourist Lodge to use their restaurant for a proper meal; where the Chicken Tikka Massala was even better than the previous night’s Chilli Chicken.
There seemed to be a lot of people making their way down the road to Guwahati station and a hell of a lot more police and army around that there usually was. As it happens there’d been a political rally in Guwahati and everyone was making their way home, hence the extra security needed to manage the large crowds. What the army weren’t doing very well though was managing the crowd who’d gathered round some guy that was having a fit in the roadway; all of whom just stood and watched like the rest of the people gathered round!
I’d left my big bag in the cloak room on platform 1 prior to heading off to Jagi Road and having paid the RS15 charge I was reunited with my bag prior to doing any further moves. I was aiming for either 15646 1645 Guwahati – LTT or 55802 1730 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon to Kamakhya, just to pass the evening before my 1945 departure to Mariani. As I walked over the west end foot crossing I came across MLDT WDM3 16524 with 55806 1625 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon, which got the road to depart as I got to it. 40 minutes later I was back at Guwahati having done 16524 to Kamakhya for an auto-rickshaw back; 15646 was still sat waiting to go, the loco only just being attached when I got to the front of the train, ET WDM3A 16708, and not ET WDM3A 18770 which had arrived earlier with 15647, which I thought might return. Either way NGC WDM3D 11474, with September 2013 builder’s plates, trumped both ET’s 16708 and MLDT WDM3A 16168 on 55802 and also departed before both with 05968 Dibrugarh – Rangiya; depositing me at Kamakhya again, this time to drink chai and do nothing but observe before I boarded my train for the night.
Before I managed to get chai I was accosted on the platform by a railway worker, who spoke decent English. It was he who told me that the elevated crowd levels were due to the political rally in Guwahati; Kamakhya also suffering from the same problem as most empty platform space was taken up by folk veging about waiting for their train home. The rally had been aimed at the poor and everyone around had that simple look to them as though they just went with the flow and did what they were told. Some guy asked about his train while we were talking, it turned out he and his some were going to Dhubri; his son being fascinated by whatever he couldn’t see in my pockets! Of course his lack of education meant he didn’t do as he was told by me or his father, until he was moved away physically. Another, younger lad, also travelling to Dhubri, had been stood observing and when asked if he was with the other guy and his son you could see by the reaction and gestures that they were a class apart and he clearly wasn’t happy to have even been associated with such castes!
While discussing the general on-goings of Kamakhya station 15646 turned up over an hour late. I’d probably had time to return to Guwahati and do it back. It was wedged to the gunnels though, I assumed with people travelling home after the rally. What I found most amusing though was the fact that one of the toilets in unreserved was wedged with young lads; about 8 of them. Even the Army guys walking down the platform had to have a second look and then ask what they were doing. It could well have been taken as a little dodgy with one of the lads on his knees at the window and the others giggling behind him. All seemed to well enough for the Army to leave them be; rather them than me travelling in bog class though, the unreserved toilets aren’t great even at the best of times!
The stock for 15603 1945 Kamakhya – Ledo was in the platform by 1845, having been shunted in by NGC WDM2A 17204. The loco to work the train came out of nowhere though; NGC WDM3D 11474, also with September 2013 works plates, arriving from the Guwahti direction. the Mariani portion of the train, numbered 15605, is at the rear of the train and is split off at Furkating to run via Jorhat Town vice the main line. The reservation sheet was full and there were still wait list and RAC passengers listed.
At 1945 11474 got the journey underway. I took the opportunity to make my bed up and then roll it up so people could get sorted when they boarded at Guwahati; the necessity of this was superseded when one of the coach attendants immediately came into my compartment and put the middle berth up so a woman and her two kids could clamber in. This didn’t bother me one bit as all I did was roll my bed out and get horizontal; while everyone else faffed with their bedding and one guy used another’s shoes so he could get down onto the tracks to retrieve one of his own before the train departed! Faffing over and the TTE having done his rounds, the lights were out and sleep fell all around, including in the berth above me……..
Gen for Sunday 10th November 2013
|11442||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||0630 Guwahati Jct – Bangalore City||12510||HWH WDM3D|
|16442||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||2330 (08/11) Bangalore City – Guwahati Jct||12509||HWH WDM3A|
|16637||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||1825 (09/11) Dibrugarh – Howrah||15960||HWH WDM3A|
|18996||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||0730 (08/11) Secunderabad Jct – Guwahati Jct||07149||HWH WDM3A|
|36245||Guwahati Platform 2||Guwahati Platform 2||Stock Shunt off 12505 Guwahati – Delhi||NGC WDS6 – Via Guwahati CS (RM), Guwahati Carriage Maint Shed (RM), Guwahati CS (RM)|
|16588||Guwahati Jct||Jagi Road||0400 Alipurduar Jct – Lumding Jct||15469||MLDT WDM3A|
|13479||Jagi Road||Kamrupkhetri||0015 Dibrugarh – Kochuveli (Fortnightly Special)||06335||PTRU WDG3A – failed at Kamrupkhetri; complete loss of power. Rescued by GD WDG3A; which then dragged the whole train, including 13479 forward|
|16524||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||1625 Guwahati Jct – New Bongaigaon||55806||MLDT WDM3A|
|Auto||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||RS80, 25 minutes, 7km|
|11473||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||0500 Dibrugarh – Rangiya Jct||05968||NGC WDM3D – built Sept 2013|
|11474||Kamakhya Jct||Furkating Jct||1945 Kamakhya Jct – Ledo||15603||NGC WDM3D – built Sept 2013|
(Other than in the moves above)
17952 (NGC WDM2) 55601 0530 Kamakhya – Lumding
13441 (JHS WDG3A) 02502 0600 Guwahati – Howrah (Special)
17953 (NGC WDM2) 15927 0545 Rangiya – Dibrugarh
40029 (SGUJ WDP4B) 12423 2035 (P) Dibrugarh – New Delhi
16514 (MLDT WDM3A) 55804 0710 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon
20082 (SGUJ WDP4) 12505 0945 Guwahati – Anand Vihar
40045 (SGUJ WDP4D) 12345 1550 (P) Howrah – Guwahati
16078 (MLDT WDM3A) 15670 0630 Dimapur – Kamakhya
16739 (NGC WDM2) 15906 2345 (P) Dibrugarh – Kanniyakumari
16446 (MLDT WDM3A) 55801 0450 New Bongaigaon – Guwahati
16524 (MLDT WDM3A) 55815 1010 Guwahati – Haibargaon
16547 (MLDT WDM3A) 15717 1245 Guwahati – Mariani
16800 (NGC WDM2) 15665 1430 Guwahati – Dimapur
18770 (ET WDM3A) 15647 0805 (PP) Lokmanya Tilak – Guwahati
16708 (ET WDM3A) 15646 1645 Guwahati – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus
16532 (SPJ WDM3A) 03282 1510 (P) Rajendranagar – New Tinsukia
16168 (MLDT WDM3A) 55802 1730 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon
40091 (SGUJ WDP4D) 14056 2340 (PP) Delhi Jct – Dibrugarh
Monday 11th November 2013 (Another one of “those” days)
I was awake by the time the masses got off at Jorhat Town but had refused to surface, my aching back eventually forcing me to sit upright just as everyone disappeared out of the door. It was a sunny morning and with the train, or at least 3AC, now virtually empty we ambled on towards Mariani; right time. We crossed the daily Mariani – Furkating passenger, 55904, at Cinnamara, the station between Jorhat Town & Mariani, with NGC WDM2 17839 and a load 4 set. Arrival into Mariani was 10 early.
There wasn’t a great deal to choose from stall wise but at least there was plenty of chai on offer to wake me up. It had been evident from my time at the door, after Jorhat, that we’d got a different loco on the front, which made sense for the Ledo portion to keep 11474 as it was the front portion anyway. MLDT WDM2A 17978 was said loco, which I’d actually thought sounded like a WDM3A; so either it was a very good WDM2 or its identity wasn’t marked correctly. What was also strange was that on the short hood end it had the number 13364, which had been covered by the paint scheme; which looked suspiciously like NGC livery and not MLDT I might add. It had obviously had some bits off 13364, panel wise, in the past and the numbers just hadn’t been removed. 13364 for the record is a BNDM loco……..
While I drank chai 17978 was run round and people boarded for the journey forward to Dibrugarh via Moranhat; the set now working 05605 Special to Dibrugarh, returning as 05606 to then work back to Furkating as booked. This operation had been going on for a while now and looked set to continue as it kept getting extended to further into the future. When I reserved on both 15605 & 05605 my berth was the same number and it appeared that other people had the same scenario as there were a few still on board from the previous train; the only difference being that on 15605 the coach was B2, due to there being a B1 in the Ledo portion, and on 05605 it was numbered B1, which was a little confusing at first.
The new TTE on board seemed a bit bemused to find a foreigner on his train and proceeded to make sure I ended up with a compartment to myself, as he moved the guy sat opposite to a different place; even though I’d already said I didn’t mind him sitting there. The daft thing was that no sooner had one been moved did another take his place; which was fine as two was more than enough to occupy the compartment area comfortably and the coach was relatively empty but for the few people and the raft of rancid cockroaches that obviously hadn’t figured out that it was daytime; which was their cue to get out of my face. Those that didn’t got under my shoe………..
The line from Simalguri to the new station at Dibrugarh, which seems to be known locally as Banipur, is through some good old Assamese countryside with nothing other than greenery all around, in the form of paddy fields and trees; the odd village sprung up here and there but other than that the whole area must have been pure, unspoiled countryside before the railway infiltrated and carved its path. For a new line though the service is a little poor with just one passenger train a day, each way. There’s the odd express and the token once a week Rajdhani which only stop at Sibsagar & Moranhat at best; and that really is it. Bizarrely we did pass one train en-route to Dibrugarh which I neither managed to get the number of it, or the loco; mainly owing to me not seeing the guy asleep in the side berth that I stumbled into as I tried to open the curtains and see what was going on. I was apologising profusely while the loco passed by and completely forgot to check what the train was before it was too late.
Arrival into Dibrugarh was a little early. The new station, well new to me anyway, its been in existence for a good 3 years now, is a large place but seems to be nothing more than a very large carriage stabling area. I can understand why it was needed though as Dibrugarh Town wouldn’t have been able to hold half of the stock that was currently stabled at Dibrugarh. The station was also plonked in the middle of nowhere and transport to/from is via either shared auto-rickshaws or shared vans, both of which run to/from the front of the station; just over the road. There are notices actually showing the fares to various places all over that station and where the transport departs. The fare from Dibrugarh (Banipur) to Dibrugarh Town is RS40 shared or RS120 on your own. I didn’t realise this when I tried to do a deal with a spare rickshaw waller who wasn’t in the general parking area with the rest. He wanted RS200 and I was only prepared to pay RS100. The walking away trick worked and I was soon shouted back and actually sat in the rickshaw having agreed to pay RS100. Its driver then started banging on about a higher price and while he was outside trying to start it I just got out and walked away; he’d had his chance! The guy doing the dispatching from the general departure area didn’t appear to be too impressed with the driver either for poaching me. The same man was soon diretcing me into a shared auto-rickshaw, where I at least managed to get in the front, and telling me it would be RS40 to Dibrugarh Town.
The run only took about 10 minutes and follows the railway line for most of the way. The drop-off for Dibrugarh Town railway station is on the main road about 200m from the station entrance, almost opposite the Hotel Indsurya. Just as I got out of the rickshaw a loco was just departing Dibrugarh Town light engine and all I found at the station was the stock, in the platform, for 55907 1615 Dibrugarh Town – Ledo and couple of coaches in the siding adjacent. With 4 hours to kill dinner was the first order of the day. I’d printed a map from Google with the hotels near the station but didn’t actually use it in the end. I’d stayed at the Hotel Indsurya on my last visit to Dibrugarh and knew it had a restaurant so headed back down the road to utilise their facilities.
I was the only person in the restaurant when I sat down and the food took almost an hour to arrive; which wasn’t an issue as I had plenty of time. Initially the boy in the restaurant told me there was no steamed rice and then tried to point me towards having a Thali, which I really didn’t want. The menu had an excellent selection on it and the receptionist had to be called to translate in the end; I got what I wanted though, a decent Dum Aloo, a very large plate of steam rice and a rather over done Nan bread. Other than the fact my Nan could have done some damage if throw at someone, the food was very good and piping hot.
Back at the station I found 17978 just about to be shunted onto the stock to work 55907 to Ledo; I’d seen it arrive shortly after I’d sat down in the hotel restaurant. The loco I heard leaving as I arrived must have been the one off the inbound morning train from Ledo running to Dibrugarh. As I didn’t need it I chose not to bother doing it. The move had only been out to Chalkhoa, the first station, anyway. From there I’d planned to get a rickshaw to Dibrugarh, which according to Google maps was about 2km; the alternative option was to follow the tracks and turn left at the junction to follow it round. Thankfully neither option had to occur and I was straight into a rickshaw on the main road, bound for Banipur. It already had one occupant on board but bizarrely the pair piloting the rickshaw kicked him out and then set off with just me in it; which is how it remained all the way to Dibrugarh station, where they weren’t too happy as I handed over the RS40 fare. They wanted RS100 for a single passenger but as I pointed out to them the fare for the journey was RS40 and it was them who kicked their other fare paying passenger out, not me, so it was their problem and not mine. There was no argument back and yet if they’d actually consulted me before setting off I’d have probably quite happily paid the RS100. I was feeling a little guilty as I walked off but not guilty enough to run back over and hand them another RS60. This is the problem with India in that these two lads could have actually been genuinely thinking they were doing me a favour in emptying their auto for me but within the rickshaw scamming world there are very few who are actually genuine. It is those that sometimes suffer at the mercy of their many counterparts who just want to scam the maximum amount of money from every tourist they see; including Indians.
With a further 3 hours to kill I spent the whole time on the station just vegetating and roaming around. I found NGC WDM3D 11476 waiting to depart with 55910 1600 Dibrugarh – Simalguri and right over in the back platform was the Patratu machine I’d had on the New Delhi – Dibrugarh Rajdhani 3 days previous, 18959. It had obvioulsy brought its set round from Dibrugarh Town to stable and be serviced before returned to whence it came on this very evening.When I realised what time it departed from Dibrugarh Town I felt one of those moves coming on. 12435 was 1920 away from Dibrugarh Town and my guess was that it would head round there about 90 minutes before departure and whilst I didn’t need the loco the curve from Dibrugarh into Dibrugarh Town wasn’t used by any passenger train at all so would be a bit of a bonus to get in really; and that’s exactly what happened.
I was closely monitoring the situation from the shadows at the end of the platform and once the crew turned up to prepare 18959 I was looking for the all important open door, which I didn’t have to go far for as they were all open! The crew for the train itself were all down at the back as I’d nearly stood on one dossed on the footbridge earlier, while his colleagues were playing cards. I was getting a little concerned as the time approached 1745, with only 40 minutes before my Kamrup Express, 15960 1825 Dibrugarh – Howrah should depart. The good thing was though that should I actually miss it I could do 18959 to Tinsukia and only be there 45 minutes later. However at 1745 we were off, 18959 making quite a spirited job of it as it tackled the bank out of the station, round to the main line. I was off at the end of the platform as we rolled in and straight onto the main road. There were a couple of auto’s with Banipur on their nose, only on of which was empty at that point though; this time I had no problem paying the RS100 for the guy to take me on my own and get me there as quick as possible. I was back at Dibrugarh with 10 minutes to spare and even had time for chai before taking up residence in the sleeper class at the front for the run to New Tinsukia Jct with HWH WDM3A 16060. Whilst the day hadn’t done much for the new engine factor, the fact that 17978 had followed me round to Dibrugarh Town had done me a bit of a favour and I stood at New Tinsukia feeling quite pleased with the evenings’ track bash and I even had the pleasure of watching 18959 arrive at New Tinsukia with 12435 as my 55901 Lumding – Tinsukia passenger wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere; so even the back-up move would have made a minus at New Tinsukia; had I been forced to do it.
While hanging around New Tinsukia station I noticed that the railway museum, adjacent to the station itself, is clearly visible from the station footbridge. In the grounds I could see YP 2618, Dargeeling loco #781 and YDM4 6114. There is an oval shaped NG set-up that runs round the perimeter of the small-ish museum yard; what runs on it though I have no idea. Unfortunately I wasn’t going to be able to get chance to visit the place properly as it was only open in the afternoon, which also meant I wouldn’t be getting a photo of 6114 either.
From the footbridge I could hear NGC WDS6 36244, providing the music to the ear while I waited, shunting wagons in the yard adjacent to the station. At the same time the automated station announcing system was telling people “not to throw rubbish here and there” and that “ticket-less travel is a crime” but best of all that the railways “need saving”!
NGC WDM2 16800 was the conveyance from New to Old Tinsukia and it was only 15 minutes late arriving at its’ destination with 55901 Lumding – Tinsukia passenger; despite the extended wait at New Tinsukia. My hotel of choice, the Hotel Ballerina, was visible as we followed the main road into the station and I made a quick dash for it; once I’d figured out that the exit from the station was via the platform end and up over the footbridge! Unfortunately bad news was delivered as I walked through the door; there was no room at the inn. The staff at the Ballerina were very helpful though and rang my second choice, the Hotel Royal Highness; where the answer was the same. They then tried a place close to theirs, the Hotel Center Point Towers, which wasn’t listed on my Google printout, which thankfully had rooms available. One of the hotel boys was then ordered to walk me round to the Center Point and I’m glad he did as I wouldn’t have found the hotel, let alone it’s entrance had I done so; it was accessed through what you could only call a shopping arcade but not a shopping arcade as you’d expect in the west; this one was Indian style.
The receptionist at the Center Point was fluent in English and showed me two rooms, their prices being RS1350 & RS1850, the difference being one was refurbished and had AC, the other was a bit shabbier and only had a fan; I opted for the cheaper as I’d be out at 0530 anyway. Check-in was a breeze and the boy from the Ballerina was soon dispatched back to his own hotel; even though he’d actually been with me throughout the whole room vetting process and check-in!
My room had two single beds, a fan, TV and was very spacious. It was also quiet, which was a bonus, as Tinsukia seemed to be shutting down for the night. There was no hot water until 0530 in the morning but bucket hot water would be provided on request. Having had a quick refresh I used the hotel restaurant, where for the second time that day I was the only person using the restaurant I was sat in. The food was good but the Chicken Tikka Massala unfortunately had a very strong taste of cardamom, which spoiled it somewhat; at least the Nan wasn’t lethal if thrown though.
I was pleased to get my head down by 2230 as I was beginning to flag a little from the previous nights’ overnight; of course it was never pleasing for the last thing you see at night to be your alarm set for 0500 the following morning!
Gen for Monday 11th November 2013
|17978||Furkating Jct||Mariani Jct||0355 Furkating Jct – Mariani Jct||15605||MLDT WDM2 – Via Jorhat Town; portion off 15603 Kamakhya – Ledo|
|17978||Mariani Jct||Dibrugarh||0800 Mariani Jct – Dibrugarh||05605||MLDT WDM2 – Via Moranhat|
|18959||Dibrugarh||Dibrugarh Town||ECS for 12435 1920 Dibrugarh Town – New Delhi||PTRU WDM3A|
|Auto||Dibrugarh Town||Dibrugarh||RS100 (single occupancy), 10 minutes, 5km|
|16060||Dibrugarh||New Tinsukia Jct||1825 Dibrugarh – Howrah||15960||HWH WDM3A|
|16800||New Tinsukia||Tinsukia Jct||0630 Lumding Jct – Tinsukia Jct||55901||NGC WDM2|
(Other than in the moves above)
17839 (NGC WDM2) 55904 0630 Mariani – Furkating
17978 (MLDT WDM2) 55907 1615 Dibrugarh Town – Ledo
11476 (NGC WDM3D – Sept 2013) 55910 1600 Dibrugarh – Simalguri
18959 (PTRU WDM3A) 12435 1920 Dibrugarh Town – New Delhi
20071 (SGUJ WDP4) 12423 2035 Dibrugarh Town – New Delhi (was on stock at Dibrugarh ready for the ecs)
11474 (NGC WDM3D) 55908 1600 Ledo – Dibrugarh Town
11473 (NGC WDM3D) 05967 0545 Rangiya – Dibrugarh
Tuesday 12th November 2013
A good start to the morning; not! The phone in my room didn’t work so I had to go down to reception to wake the old man, dossed on the floor, to get me some hot water. He understood I needed it quickly but when it hadn’t turned up by 0515 I had no choice but to attempt a cold shower; luckily I’d only done my hair when he came knocking at the door with his bucket of hot water and the showering experience became a lot more pleasurable from that point on.
Having paid the bill the previous night I was straight out of the door at 0530, having to wake the two security guards that were dossed out by the gate that prevented entry/access at night. As the walk to the hotel had actually confused my senses a little and I’d lost my bearings I decided to just jump in the first cycle rickshaw I came across to take me to Tinsukia Jct station; the rider of which appeared even more confused than me when he told me it was 4km to the station! I’d clearly told him I wanted to go to Old Tinsukia and not New Tinsukia and turned him round when my bearings had been gathered; the cheeky fucker actually turned his nose up at the RS20 I gave him and asked for RS40, his apparent excuse being for the detour he’d made, which was of course his own dumb ass fault for not listening in the first place. And even so, for the distance he’d taken me, the fare should probably have been no more than RS10; and I told him so as I walked off in search of the train that had got me out of bed so early!
In the main platform was the stock off the Lumding – Tinsukia from the previous night, which would return at 0645. The two coaches for the only train of the day to Dangari, 55911, departing at 0615, were in the opposite platform. The only loco in sight was WDS6 36244, in the adjacent carriage sidings, but when NGC WDM2 17998 turned up it put and daydreams I might be having of having 36244 to bed; as it backed down onto its’ two coaches and was bolted on by the shunter.
When 55911 departed, 20 late at 0635, it wasn’t that well loaded and most people were going to Talap; so it seemed. The train had its own gripper, who sold tickets from stations, other than Tinsukia, on board the train; unfortunately he didn’t have any for Dangari so my souvenir had to be to Talap instead; at the massive cost of RS5.
17998 were quite a good WDM2, even when only on load 2. My entertainment on board was provided by some young lad, who’d obviously been itching to talk to me since boarding. He was with his large family, all of whom boarded the train 15 minutes after it should have departed, so were lucky to be travelling to Talap by train that day at all. He soon got bored with me though and went to bother his sisters instead of me. The run was just a run of the mill passenger train kind of affair really, the scenery being provided for the most part by the many Assam tea estates; most of which were having their morning picker gathering to discuss where to pick from next……
The train virtually emptied at Talap, which is the station before Dangari, and there were probably no more than half a dozen folk on board from that point. Arrival into Dangari was right time, despite the late start, there being enough recovery time in the schedule en-route to allow for the late start. Dangari itself is nothing more than a run round point at a road crossing; the run round loop being a very long one though and extending way off into the distance. The station building is still in situ but has long since sold its last ticket, it now becoming just part of the scenery as it’s engulfed by nature.
While I was off walking down the road, looking for a photographing point, a voice shouted in my direction; speaking English! It was the hut owner from just up the way, he’d spotted me walking in his direction and wanted to take a photo of himself with me; his English was very good too.
The train was a lot better used on its return than it had been on the way out, which meant the on board TTE had his work cut out. We were 10 late away from Dangari and had picked most of it up as we approached Makum; where I was on a minus 20 as it was for the last train of the day to Ledo, which allowed you to get back in the same day! When we came to a stand at Makum’s home signal I didn’t really think much of it as Others had done the same move less than 2 weeks previous and confirmed that the minus made; easily. I was suspecting, or rather hoping as time went on, that the Ledo passenger was being let in first, as the station masters don’t seem to be able to do two things at once, then we’d run in once it had and everyone would make the connection, that isn’t a connection, from the Dangari line to the Ledo line. Having been held for 20 minutes I was quite relieved to hear the horn of 17998 but not so relieved when there was no train in the Ledo branch platform; there were still people milling about though so maybe the Kamakhya – Ledo intercity had just gone and the folk milling about were waiting for the passenger behind?
I didn’t like what I saw as we came to a stand, which was the token being handed over to the driver of 17998 and a quick dash to the booking office window confirmed that both the Ledo Intercity & Passenger had gone; so i’m guessing we were held outside for one, or both to run through before we were let into the platform and probably to makle life easier on the station staff in dealing with one train at once. I didn’t really have much of a choice but to get back on board and return to Tinsukia; strangely this move used to be a plus hour from Dangari passenger to Ledo intercity but the I.C. had been re-timed recently, making it a booked minus. Had my plans not gone tits up two years previous then the predicament I was now in wouldn’t actually be occurring in the first place.
Back at Tinsukia Jct I couldn’t find a taxi anywhere so got a cycle rickshaw to take me to New Tinsukia, where from past experience I knew there would be taxis. There was only one Maruti van and a jeep in the station car park, neither of which had anyone in them. It wasn’t long before someone was asking me where I wanted to go though; once they’d looked up from their mass card game that was going on in the shade. The owner of the Maruti was willing to take me to Ledo for RS1500, which I had as a figure in my head anyway; based on paying RS800 a good 4 years previous and for the shorter distance to Dibrugarh as well. There were no arguments from me and while my driver finished his card game I used the station facilities and got some cold pop for the journey.
The driver had told me it would take 1h30m to do the trip and it took exactly 1h30m to cover the 60km or so. The road followed the railway virtually the whole way, branching right just before Makum Jct station. Once on the Ledo road it became a more open road and a lot less congested, the main obstacles being the wildlife in the road. Two cows were just minding their own business, right in the centre of the road, while traffic went round them, clearly not phased by proceedings at all. Goats were plentiful along the route, as were dogs; one puppy not being so lucky in the dicing with death stakes. I’d noticed something in the road way ahead, which looked like it might be a piece of paper the way it was flapping about but as we got closed it was clear that it was an animal of some sort; and one in a lot of pain. It was only a small dog and was writhing around on the ground flipping its body vigorously from side to side as we went past; which was when I noticed the pool of blood by its head. I could only assume it had been hit on the head by a passing vehicle; judging by the pain it was clearly suffering and wouldn’t be surviving its injuries.
Ledo is a place of many stalls all selling random things too. The one thing Ledo doesn’t have though is a place to get some decent food; or not that I found anyway. One of the “hotels” I went into showed me their food, all of which was in metal bowls just waiting to be warmed up, including the rice. A bar of chocolate and bag of crisps had to suffice for lunch, along with the remains of the malt loaf I’d started for breakfast.
NGC WDM2 16819 was on the stock for 55980 1600 Ledo – Dibrugarh Town, shut down in the platform, and NGC WDM3D 11473 was standing just off the stock for 15604 1515 Ledo – Kamakhya intercity, on the adjacent stabling road. Also in the station, and a long way from home, was JHS WDG3A 13432. The station itself wasn’t very busy and there was more wildlife about that anything else, including the goat that just wouldn’t go away. Some poor kid, that looked to be terrified of the goat, will probably be having nightmares about it. His mother had to protect him from it and yet when she tried to push it away it just wouldn’t move and started to nibble on her arm; thankfully it seemed to take a dislike to me and didn’t bother me, or any of my belongings.
From what I can gather the current station buildings at Ledo are those from its MG days and the old MG station canopy and station sign are still very much part of the scenery. It looks as though the old MG tracks were just filled in and the track/platform area now forms the current concourse type area; the BG platforms look to have just been built adjacent to the MG ones at the time. There are no remnants of MG track that I could find anywhere.
At 1415 things started to move and 16819 shunted its stock to the east end of the platform to allow 11473 to shunt its stock in on top of it. I was semi-dozed even before departure; again the early start getting the better of me. I managed to fight off the tiredness though as I was fully aware that I’d eaten nothing of any substance all day and at New Tinsukia I managed to get one of the station refreshment rooms to rustle me up a veg noodle stir-fry in minutes; I’d had 15 but told them I’d only had 10 and it took 4! Payment for said meal was a combination of cash and sweets; the latter being the change I’d got from the chai waller moments before! It seemed that with most things now coming in denominations of five that coins were hard to come by in some places, thus sweets being used as small change.
My overnight wasn’t anything to look forward to as I was getting off at Lumding at the unearthly hour of 0100 and was wary that I needed to get some sleep, if not a great deal, before I got off and was very grateful that the occupant of the upper berth let me get dossed out on my lower berth just after 2000; alarm set for 0045……….
Gen for Tuesday 12th November 2013
|17998||Tinsukia Jct||Dangari||0615 Tinsukia Jct – Dangari||55911||NGC WDM2|
|17998||Dangari||Tinsukia Jct||0820 Dangari – Tinsukia Jct||55912||NGC WDM2|
|Rickshaw||Tinsukia Jct||New Tinsukia||RS50, 15 minutes, 3km||Missed the minus at Makum Jct!|
|Taxi||New Tinsukia||Ledo||RS1500, 1h30m, 60km||Missed the minus at Makum Jct!|
|11473||Ledo||Furkating Jct||1515 Ledo – Kamakhya Jct||15604||NGC WDM3D|
|17978||Furkating Jct||Lumding Jct||1515 Ledo – Kamakhya Jct||15604||MLDT WDM2|
(Other than in the moves above)
16819 (NGC WDM2) 55908 1600 Ledo – Dibrugarh Town
Wednesday 13th November 2013 (Thank god for vacant berths)
It was a good job I woke up when I did as the battery on my phone had died; literally. It never worked again after that moment. It was before the alarm time but had it not been I could have ended up over-dossing and missing Lumding completely; thankfully we were only at Dimapur, about 60 late.
I’ve hung around Lumding station quite a lot in the past, both at night and during the day, and nothing ever seems to change. There were wallers all along the platform selling omelettes and puri and there were people dossed out at the Guwahati end of the station, all over the platform end; probably all waiting for the same train as me. I’d toyed with the idea of getting a retiring room for the 3 hours I had but even if I’d wanted to the list in the booking office confirmed I’d be out of luck as all were occupied. I chose to mill about the place, drinking chai now and again and having an omelette before I boarded. Lumding was one of those places that seemed to be busier during the night than it was during the day, yet there weren’t that many overnight departures.
As always the sound of burbling YDM4s could be heard from LMG loco shed, just over the back of the station and at one point it sounded like one of the locos was being put through its paces as it was hammered, from a standing start, up the yard, then back again and this continued for a good 5 minutes or so; bringing music to the ears and reminding me just why I was standing at some junction station, in the middle of nowhere, at 0300 in the morning!
At 0315 things started to happen at Lumding’s MG platforms. People seemed to be getting wind that the shunting of the stock from carriage sidings to platform was imminent and some found a way into the unreserved coaches before the shunt took place; the stock being in the road adjacent to the platform anyway. Ex Phulera machine 6420 shunted the stock in and once 6202/6387 had come off shed, 6763, which I could see being prepared on shed, came off and was bolted to the front of the stock for its journey to Silchar. 6643 was the only other engine I could see on shed, which was being shunted into the shed as 6763 came off.
I’d not been too concerned about getting a seat up front in unreserved and had decided to scout the sleeper class out instead; unfortunately though it seemed that plenty of others were scouting it out as well. When the reservation sheets were pasted to the side of the two SL class coaches, the news wasn’t good. There’d been rafts of wait listed people, who’d all been confirmed yet in one of the coaches there were still two berths not allocated at all; which I’d almost missed as they weren’t printed very well on the chart. When the TTE turned up he didn’t have the usual mob round him and I was the first to approach. He told me there was no room, which wasn’t what I’d wanted to hear so I asked about the two berths I’d seen on the chart. Out came his own reservation list and sure enough he’d not noticed them himself and basically asked me to pick which one I wanted. I chose the upper berth, mainly because nobody could ask me to pull it down and I would be pretty much out of the way up in the rafters. I was so thankful I’d got the berth too as when we departed, bang on time at 0425, the SL class was full and standing all the way down the aisles; I had to fight my way to the bog it was that wedged, something I should have done before departure.
We passed by the northbound Cachar & Agartala – Lumding expresses en-route but I didn’t manage to see what the locos were from the poor vantage point I had. I did however manage to spot 6390/6647 on a northbound freight not far out of Lumding. I did manage some sleep despite the wedged train but at Mahur things took a turn for the worst as some guy dumped his bag on me. Whether he’d seen me on the upper berth or not I don’t know but when I kicked it off me he was less than impressed and came round to the side of the berth banging on the berth giving it large in his native tongue; at which point I was wide awake! To keep the peace I relented an allowed him to put his bag at the end of the berth and just after we set off he apologised for his outburst; and all was well. At Lower Haflong though I got down from the berth and found myself a doorway to stand in through the hill section, where the scenery is nothing short of stunning.
The journey was hard work for three reasons, one I’d been up virtually all night, two the doorway I was stood in had direct sunlight on it most of the trip and three the train was absolutely heaving; even the roof was well loaded with folk. Due to that combination I decided that my little bag was going inside my big bag and that the camera would stay inside all day as it was sometimes more hassle than it’s worth getting it out of the big bag; especially on very wedged trains. The eyes did take note of everything that was going on though and the BG works south of Jatinga looked to have progressed very well since my previous visit to the area 2 years ago.
Across the valley from Longrangajao the new, diverted, alignment looks to be nearing completion with new concrete bridges seemingly completed where needed and the new station building is even in situ. Some earthworks were ongoing to shore up embankments but all that looked left to do was lay the tracks. At Harangajao though this had already started with sections laid just south of the station, up to a point where the BG was clearly going to sever the MG and at the other end of that section it looked like it was going to use the existing MG alignment; this meaning the MG section south of Harangajao would completely disappear. The section north of Harangajao, to Mahur, would apparently remain MG and operable according to a track worker I spoke to the following day at Jatinga. There were new BG platforms being erected at Harangajao which would corroborate this suggestion. There was still a fair way to go before BG trains would run in the Barak Valley but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be long……..
From Lower Haflong the line climbs to Jatinga and then drops down 1:37 gradients all the way to the valley floor at Harangajao; trains are banked up the ghat section. Despite the hot weather and the fact I was suffering from a bit of hayfever it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the scenery, especially towards the valley bottom where the river is visible; although not much of one at this time of year. There’d been no temptation to get off en-route with the only freight we passed, at Jatinga, having dud ones on it; 6388/6272, the latter being an ex Sabarmati machine of a good 5 years previous. The only other engine I saw was 6640 at Lower Haflong, which I assumed was the banker as there was nothing at Harangajao when we passed through.
While we were running about 30 late it seemed the northbound Barak Valley Express, 15694 0945 Silchar – Lumding, was right time as the southbound was held at Bandarkhal for the northbound to cross; which was my cue to say goodbye to all those I’d shared a doorway with for the previous three hours and find myself a new set of friends on the northbound train.
6493 arrived with 15694, it being an ex SGUJ engine. Its train wasn’t as wedged as the one I’d just got off but was full all the same. I managed to inadvertently get into the coach that is reserved for military, who travel the route daily, as new guys get sent to post and others return to base. As there was no time for me to get out and into a different coach I was allowed to stay and the guys even made room for me to sit down; the door was firmly locked behind me though and the guy that had it open in the first place bollocked by his colleagues!
The seat was a welcome change from the doorway I’d left behind but still the camera remaining locked away; mainly as I couldn’t be arsed at that point but at least I’d sussed out the places I needed to get photos at the following day (not that I actually made it that far south the following day). At Harangajao 6640 was indeed the banking loco, having come down light from Lower Haflong, and was attached to the rear in no time at all. At Mailongdisa we crossed 6202/6387 with a southbound freight; the same pair I’d watched come off shed at Lumding at about 0315 that morning. From there it was plain sailing all the way to Lower Haflong, where we arrived 20 minutes early at 1625; still with 6640 attached to the rear.
Most people for Haflong had got off at Haflong Hill where a fleet of auto-rickshaws had been waiting; all the train does from Haflong Hill to over Haflong is skirt round the city, taking 45 minutes to do so. Thankfully there were a few autos at Lower Haflong and I was soon en-route to the Hotel Elite, on my own in a share auto, for RS100. The trip into Haflong is worth doing for nothing more than the auto ride, which is a solid uphill slog for about 15 minutes, along one road which twists and turns all the way from bottom to top; and then out of nowhere springs the city itself, its streets lined completely with small selling huts with everyone’s home seemingly in the forest area behind.
The Hotel Elite had been booked for me by others who’d stayed there at the start of their trip, a couple of weeks previous; the boys in the hotel reception knew nothing of this reservation, although the main man did when he came in. I’d originally booked for just the one night and should have been going to Agartala the following night but had decided to stay in Haflong for three nights and bin the idea of almost 36 hours in 2AC and with the same engine as well. The rooms were RS1100 whether for double or single occupancy. All had AC, which certainly wasn’t needed at night, fan, TV and hot water from a water heater, available at any time. If you didn’t mind large ants, the odd large cockroach and a few very large mosquitoes then the rooms were fine, even if the bathroom wasn’t kept as clean/tidy as the main room area. The pest issues were soon dealt with by my shoes and all was well shortly after I’d checked in. As the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant they pointed me towards the Aahar Hotel & Restaurant, a short walk down the road on the left, which served up some decent grub, the majority of which was of Chinese origin; all the staff spoke decent English and were very friendly.
I had looked forward to a hot shower all day and savoured the moment, right from the very first jug of water; the shower was about as much use as a chocolate fireguard! Once clean, shaven, nails and nose hairs trimmed and changed into clean clothes I managed to get the WiFi password out of the hotel reception. Unfortunately the signal strength in my room wasn’t that great and I ended up having to go down to reception to get an unbroken signal. As my day had been a very long one I wasn’t late out of bed that night and a very welcome bed it was too; the silence surrounding Haflong was also very welcome, all the huts having closed up by 2000 and the streets being all but deserted by 2030.
Gen for Wednesday 13th November 2013
|6763||Lumding Jct||Bandarkhal||0425 Lumding Jct – Silchar||15693||LMG YDM4|
|6493||Bandarkhal||Lower Haflong||0945 Silchar – Lumding Jct||15694||LMG YDM4 6493 leading – banked in rear by LMG YDM4 6640 from Harangajao to Lower Haflong|
(Other than in the moves above)
20016 (SGUJ WDP4) 12423 2035 (P) Dibrugarh Town – New Delhi
17773 (NGC WDM2) 55901 0630 Lumding – Tinsukia
6420 (LMG YDM4) Lumding station pilot
6643 (LMG YDM4) Lumding Shed
6202/6387 (LMG YDM4s) approx 0500 Lumding – Badapur freight
6390/6647 (LMG YDM4s) just south of LMG at approx 0500 with a northbound freight
6388/6272 (LMG YDM4s) at Jatinga approx 1030 with a northbound freight
Thursday 14th November 2013 (Travelling how the locals travel)
I was up before the alarm, just after 0700; the town was still very quiet with no noise from anything road transport wise at all. Having dumped my laundry at reception I was out of the door by 0720 and down at the Aahar Restaurant for breakfast. There were plenty of auto’s outside, which was a relief after the lack of road noise earlier.
All the auto’s at the auto stand wait until they’re full before heading off to their destination and each person is charged RS20. Once in my auto I showed a RS100 note and the engine was started immediately, without its driver even knowing where he was taking me. Firstly I wanted to check out the excellent vantage point that the auto driver had pointed out to me the previous night as we came past; it was only a short distance from the auto stand anyway; the views from which are nothing short of spectacular. The sun hadn’t quite burnt all the cloud off yet but there was still plenty of fog in the valley below and you can see for miles and miles down the Barak Valley; well worth taking the few minutes to check out the view.
As I had rafts of time before the southbound Barak Valley Express was due at Lower Haflong I decided to speculate and got my auto to take me to Haflong Hill. The worst thing that would happen was I’d spend about 40 minutes longer there than I would have at Lower Haflong but the best that could happen actually did happen and my speculation paid off as after only about 15 minutes waiting in rolled a northbound freight with 6213/6505; as it stopped to let folk off the engines it would have been very rude of me not to get on and join those remained, especially as 6505 was new! Unfortunately the section from Jatinga to Lower Haflong is predominantly downhill so there wasn’t really any thrash to be had; which was a shame.
The 11km takes about 40 minutes for the train to navigate the 11km from Haflong Hill to Lower Haflong; which basically skirts the whole perimeter of the town itself. It probably wouldn’t be any quicker by auto, mainly due to the fact it would have to climb all the way up one side of the hill to come back down the other side; each bit taking about 20 minutes.
6639 was already sat in waiting with the southbound Barak Valley Express when our freight arrived into Lower Haflong. The sleeper class was in a different place in the formation to where it had been the previous day. At least the train was a little emptier than it had been the previous day though and I easily found a place at a door on the right hand side in direction of travel to get pictures of the valley as far as Jatinga; where the main scenery and valley then moved to the left hand side of the train. As we departed 6640 was visible on the far right hand road; I assumed it would be the banker again that afternoon on the northbound Barak Valley and I was wrong.
I had no problem with the photos as far as Jatinga but from there, finding somewhere to stand freely at a doorway on the opposite side of the train became an issue. I’d already moved doorways once as well and the guy who was stood in the second doorway I attempted to hijack wasn’t having any of it and the other guy who was sat on the floor made life even harder. Just as I was become a little frustrated with having to get second rate photos as I wasn’t prepared enough, I noticed a freight train sat in as we arrived into Mailongdisa; 6222 was leading 6490, the rear one being a new one and at that point there really was nothing stopping me getting off for it. I leaped of the train as the SL class passed the locos and high-tailed it back towards them.
I was straight up the steps and onto the rear loco, 6490, the moment I got to the front. There were people already sat at the rear of it so I walked down the side of the loco to the cab and perched myself outside the cab door, where there were at least some handrails to hold on to. I couldn’t get into the cab even if I’d wanted to as some old woman was dossed out on the floor of it and another was dossed in the drivers seat; it turned out they owned all the stuff that was on the side of the loco that I had to clamber over to get to the cab in the first place.
The road was soon off and after only a few minutes of being on the loco, we were off. The locos were opposite was round with 6222 long hood leading and 6490 short hood leading and despite me being between both exhaust ports and yet in front of 6490’s, I could barely hear 6222 over 6490; the noise was immense! The 1:37 climb up to Jatinga certainly made the locos work and I was well impressed with the thrash; a gradient of this sort would probably make a crap YDM4 sound good, still this pair sounded really good. The good thing about being on the side of the loco was that there was nobody in the way to prevent you taking photos to your hearts content; which was exactly what I did! What more could you ask for, thrash, cracking scenery and nobody to get in your way while you enjoyed both! The downside of course was the fact that travelling on the locos wasn’t the cleanest of operations and the clag was rather hot when going through tunnels but it was worth enduring just to see the orange glow emanating from the stack of 6490 every time we were in a tunnel. 6222 on the other hand was just blowing out sparks!
Before we got to Jatinga the Assistant Loco Pilot came round both locos and took money of everyone on board; including me! I was more than happy to hand over the RS20 I did, just for the thrash. I noticed the two women in the cab hand over RS20, which was the reason I gave the same amount. We came to a stand briefly, for about 90 seconds, at Jatinga; which was when I realised that there had been a banker on the rear of the train! It was only the blowing of a horn from the rear of the train, to signify that the banker had been detached, that made me realise I’d completely forgot about the fact that there would be a banker on the rear from Harangajao; and at that point it was too late as moments after the horn from the rear the loco pilot in 6222 blew up and we were moving moments later. I’d not even seen the rear of the train on the journey up from Mailongdisa and was now a YDM4 down in my book for the day as a result. The very fact that 6640 had not passed us going down to Harangajao, to bank the northbound Barak Valley Express, would likely mean that whatever had been detached had been detached so it could run back down to bank the Barak Valley as well; so hopefully I’d get a second chance to see what I’d missed?
I’d been planning an auto move from Lower Haflong across to Haflong Hill but that plan went straight out of the window when I came across 6473/6582 sitting in the station, with a crew in the locos, seemingly waiting to depart. The Hill Queen Special was in the platform with the loco already on the north end ready to depart; I didn’t bother wondering up to find out what it was and again leaped off the locos as they arrived to save the walk back down the platform to 6473/6582.
When I saw the road come off I clambered up the steps and stood at the front of the second loco, which was long hood leading. This time the camera stayed firmly in the bag as there was less room to maneuver. Despite the fact that the gradient towards Jatinga wasn’t as steep, about 1:83 in places, I was more impressed with the thrash and 6473 was a right machine. The Assistant Loco Pilot had a double take at me when he realised I was a foreigner, he even got his Loco Pilot across to have a look; while the locos were left flat out! Other than that I had no myther from anyone at all on any of the three freights I’d ridden with on this day.
We didn’t stop at Haflong Hill going southbound so it seemed that freights only stopped there going north; to drop folk off. Anyone wanting to get on a freight must presumably know the score and be at Lower Haflong when they need to be? There was no taking of money on this trip, although I did decide to get off at Jatinga rather than go down the hill with just the dynamics to entertain. Both of the two army personnel on the platform and an RPF guy watched me get off the locos and none of them batted an eyelid; the RPF guy turned out to be a complete nightmare though!
To keep out of the hot afternoon sunshine I made my way to the only stall on the station and got into the shade there; which was when I was accosted. I could tell the RPF guy, Abraham as he told me his name was, was drunk straight away; which is always a problem with Indians. I had no choice but to talk with him, and listen to him being right all the time. He was a Christian, and not Hindu at all but he basically slagged the Hindus’ off that were sat at the stall while I was. He was from Dimapur in Nagaland and had apparently traveled the world, including spending some time in Australia; which was apparently why his English was good; which it wasn’t let me tell you and ultimately led to a falling out between the two of us; which then led to him banging on about my authorisation to be in Haflong. As I didn’t understand what he was actually asking he got very frustrated and started ranting about me not understanding him; which was exactly what I was trying to tell him. Before the matter got out of hand, and while there were people around I produced my passport and showed the idiot my visa; making sure I kept a firm hold of it at all times. This seemed to appease the situation and he then wanted me to take Naga coffee with him, which actually turned out to be a type of green tea and not coffee at all!
My saving grace was a group of railway workers, who’d just finished for the day and had returned to base at Jatinga. One spoke very good English and when he could get a word in edge-ways we actually had quite a good conversation about his work and the local area. While he was from Kolkata he was stationed in Jatinga as a track gang member. Their hours of work are 0800-1600 but if their work is finished early then they can return to base and relax; as they were doing on this day. It was he who told me that the MG would remain in situ from Mahur to Harangajao after the BG works had been completed. As their base at Jatinga had no road access if they needed any supplies they had to walk to Haflong Hill, which took about 40 minutes down the tracks, and take an auto into town. Basically all the buildings at Jatinga are for railway and army personnel who are stationed there; there are very few dwellings for villagers.
Thankfully after the track workers had gone my pissed up RPF mytherance had found someone else to annoy and left me be to wonder off down the track to be far enough away from his grasp should he decide he wanted to try and talk to me again. The northbound Barak Valley Express was unfortunately a little later than it had been the previous day and when it did turn up 6579 was leading with 6501 on the rear; I could only assume that 6501 had been the same loco that had banked my freight earlier…….
Just a I was considering getting an auto at Haflong Hill, after the train had been there for over 30 minutes, the damn loco blew up to go so I stayed on board for the extra 40 minutes to Lower Haflong; 6501 accompanied us all the way back, just as the banker had the previous afternoon. There were plenty of autos in the parking area at the Badarpur end of the station and I had no problem in getting straight into one; and was back at the Hotel Elite by 1745. As the train was the best part of 40 late it was dark by the time we arrived Lower Haflong and the temperature had dipped dramatically; I should have probably taken my jacket as it was quite cool once the sun had dipped……..
I pondered the excellent day I’d had over not one but two plates of egg chow mein, and an omelette, at the Aahar Restaurant and was back at the hotel to catch up with the days move writing by 1815; I’d not actually written a move all day and everything was written in scribbles all over the place. My laundry was delivered back to my room when I asked for it; costing the grand total of RS70 for two pairs of combats, three shirts and three sets of boxers/socks. They all had a fresh smell about them too; which would set me up for the remainder of the trip.
As the hotel had WiFi I made sure I used it to the fullest and thankfully actually found out a bit of gen that would affect me, from Flossy regarding the Narkatiaganj MG section. Contrary to what the timetable said the Narkatiaganj – Raxaul section of MG was now terminating at Bhelwa, the first station, 7km, from Raxaul. Others had been told by the Station Master at Raxaul that the whole section had closed and they ended up in a taxi to Narkatiaganj, only to find out there that it was actually still open to Bhelwa; my only problem now being how to get to Bhelwa but that could wait for another days thinking. I had a girlfriend who’d not heard from me for days that would be hearing from me via messenger and that’s where my time was spent; even if I did have to stand in reception to get a decent WiFi signal and beat ants off the counter while I typed away on the keyboard.
As Haflong shut down totally for the night quite early on there was very little to do at night, other than go to bed; which is what I ended up doing once I’d got bored with doing nothing, even if it was only 2200………
Gen for Thursday 14th November 2013
|6213||Haflong Hill||Lower Haflong||???? Badarpur Yard – Lumding Yard (Goods Train)||LMG YDM4’s 6213/6505 in multi – Goods Train; rode on side of 6505|
|6639||Lower Haflong||Mailongdisa||0425 Lumding Jct – Silchar||15693||LMG YDM4|
|6222||Mailongdisa||Lower Haflong||???? Badarpur Yard – Lumding Yard (Goods Train)||LMG YDM4’s 6222/6490 in multi leading – banked in rear by LMG YDM4 6501 from Mailongdisa to Jatinga; Goods Train; rode on side of 6490|
|6473||Lower Haflong||Jatinga||???? Lumding Yard – Badarpur Yard (Goods Train)||LMG YDM4’s 6473/6582 in multi – Goods Train; rode on side of 6582|
|6579||Jatinga||Lower Haflong||0945 Silchar – Lumding Jct||15694||LMG YDM4 6579 leading – banked in rear by LMG YDM4 6501 throughout|
(Other than in the moves above)
6640 (LMG YDM4) stabled at Lower Haflong all day; running the whole time
Friday 15th November 2013 (A little more of the same please……..)
Again I was up before the alarm, not being able to sleep much beyond 0630. It was a glorious morning with not a cloud in the sky and after breakfast at the Aahar Restaurant I got an auto to take me round to the viewing area again. The view on this particular morning was astounding; the sun lit up the valley and yet there was far more fog in the valley below than there had been the previous morning. The camera was working overtime!
I was even earlier than I had been the previous day and not wanting to jinx myself by trying the same move again, I just couldn’t resist getting the auto to take me to Haflong Hill again. And it was a good job I was earlier than the previous day as just as we rolled down the hill towards the station single YDM4 6764 rolled by; I didn’t think it was going to stop at first but just as banking loco 6501 came into view the train came too a stand. I wasted no time in handing my money to the auto driver and was onto 6501 like a shot, and the train was on the move shortly afterwards.
The fog I’d seen from Upper Haflong was well and truly blanketing the valley bottom and without my jacket the journey to Lower Haflong was quite cool indeed; although by the time we got there almost all of it had been burnt off, which allowed a clear view of the station area when we arrived. 6505/6213 were sat in waiting to head south and although I’d had them the previous morning I still fancied doing them to Jatinga if they went before the southbound Barak Valley Express. As 6764 had come to a stand just south of the platform end this allowed me to get off and not only investigate the pair going south, but to get some photos of 6764 drawing its train into the far loop.
As there wasn’t a crew in the pair I walked to the north end of the station to get some more photos of 6764 as the sun was now quite nicely on it and then I got talking to an RPF guy, who was on the brake van at the rear of 6505/6213’s train. It turned out he was going to Jatinga to take duty from this day; relieving the twat I’d had the unfortunate miss-pleasure of having to put up with the previous day. The relief crew for 6764 were also lurking about by the van at the rear of 6505/6213’s train and the Assistant Loco Pilot was quite friendly and talkative; his version of what would happen to thee MG once the BG infiltration commenced was quite different from that of the track worker at Jatinga the previous day. The ALP told me that the MG would remain in situ in the hill section only but that it would also only be for goods trains. He went on to say that as the majority of the BG works had been completed in the existing sections that once the diversion section in the hills was complete that a mega-block would commence to allow all the sections to be joined and the existing MG sections required for conversion to be converted; he thought this was likely to commence in September 2014.
When 6505 blew up to go I stepped aboard the brake van as it started moving and took up residence in the right hand rear corner, in direction of travel; which allowed me to get photos in all directions, including immediately behind, without any interruption from anyone or anything. There freight train really turned out to be not only the best way to accumulate trash but also to get the best photos without any hindrance whatsoever; even the guard never even batted an eyelid at me once he clocked he’d got a foreigner on board. Of course from the back of the train there was no thrash but it was a pleasant journey to Jatinga all the same; but for the part where the driver put the dynamic brakes on which literally threw everyone on the brake van forward. I ended up using my elbow to break my fall, which just so happened to be straight into the RPF guy stood opposite me. The guy who’d been sat on the back railing ended up inside the brake van door and breaking his fall on the handbrake! The guard was lucky not to have been thrown off the van altogether as he’d been looking over the side at the time; had he not been familiar with where the things to grab hold of where we’d probably have arrived at Jatinga station guard-less. I learnt a valuable lesson from that journey; always hold on when travelling on a brake van, especially when dynamic brakes are involved………
At Jatinga there wasn’t a sign of the pissed up idiot from the previous day and when he did appear it was with the RPF guy who’d come to relieve him and let me tell you he looked a lot worse for wear, the alcohol from the previous day clearly having took its toll; and I was glad for him. This visit to Jatinga turned out to be a much more pleasant one than the previous afternoon had been as I was immediately invited into the Station Masters’ office; where I was shown the panel, block instruments, token machines and had the entire station workings explained in minute detail. I have to say that the Station Masters in India have a more complex system of work than our signallers back in the UK as there are more tokens and bits of mechanics to move around and slot into places even to allow points to be set; its like a 3D jigsaw sometimes; still the guy clearly knew what he was doing as he went about his business. I was treated to chai and even given a seat in the office to take the weight off my feet. Immediately outside the office door was a weighing machine, which had originated from England 110 years previous; in 1903. Even the token machines had English patents on them dating from 1924. Everything in this neck of the woods that had a date on it was either approaching or over 100 years old! Even all the tunnels in the section had dates on ranging from 1898 to 1917 and soon those tunnels could well become a part of history over 115 years after they were built and had served Indian Railways in good stead throughout their lifespan; standing the test of time while they had.
My pleasant stay at Jatinga came to an end when ex Phulera YDM4 6457 arrived with the southbound Barak Valley Express. Surprisingly it was rather empty, especially compared to the previous two days and I was even offered a seat in unreserved when I boarded. I politely declined though and took the opportunity to use the fact that there was nobody at the door, to my advantage. It wasn’t nearly as hot as it had been the previous two days and even though I was in the sun all the way to Harangajao, it was a pleasant enough experience.
As we were an hour late arriving though I decided to wait for the northbound Barak Valley Express there rather than go forward to wherever the trains crossed and a pleasant 40 minutes’ wait I had too. Some girl on the platform invited me to her residence for tea, which I politely declined. She was working with the UN and was from the USA, yet still looked like her origins were from the Assam area. When I declined her tea offer she then told me that if I wanted to take some photos of the area that there was a bridge across the river, only a few minutes walk from the station, and once she pointed me in the right direction, off I went. It was quite a low bridge and narrow as well but the views up-river were quite good. On the river bed there were various lorries driving about, all being loaded with stones; which according to the girl from the station is what Harangajao is famous for and there were rafts of them piled up alongside the station as well. I later found out that the stones were broken down into chippings and used in building foundations.
While minding my own business on the platform I got talking to one of the chana wallers who’d seen me knocking about for the last couple of days; he did the southbound Barak Valley for northbound, Jatinga to Harangajao, 6 days a week, with only Sunday off. He’ll be a top man on LMG YDM4s for his troubles! Right outside the Station Masters’ office, and also right next to the army barricade to protect it, was a large poster on the wall that said “Broad Gauge brings progress”. I couldn’t not get a photo and was quite relieved that the army guy let me take one as I wouldn’t have liked to try and get one discreetly after being told no; and he had a rather large gun! I beg to differ with the statement Indian Railways are trying to put across though as every section of MG that I’ve seen converted during my time of visiting India has had its service halved after conversion; now you tell me how that’s progress? And in some cases, like in the case of the Palanpur – Gandhidam line the service has gone from at least 5 trains a day each way to just one; which is absolutely ludicrous! Progress my ass; and the locals in the Barak Valley will likely suffer even more as i’m guessing that the freight trains will be less frequent as they’ll be longer, and will probably travel at greater speeds; this preventing people getting on/off as the trains pass through the stations, without stopping. Of course only time will tell; but whatever came I was sure it wouldn’t be progress as far as the locals were concerned.
While I was chewing the cud with the waller 6387 crept in with a goods train; all on its own, no friend at the front and no banker on the rear. There was also no banker in the station so I assumed the train would be waiting for 6501 to come down light from Lower Haflong; I was so very wrong and was about to be treated to one of the best installments of thrash I’ve ever had in my whole life!
The train wasn’t at Harangajao very long at all, enough time for locals to get off and a fresh set to board; and when the signal came off to a yellow I became the last person to get on the engine, as it started the train away. The loco was correct way round, short hood leading, and I was stood at the back on the right hand side in direction of travel; which is the same side as the stack on the YDM4s when they’re correct way round. What happened from Harangajao was the loco pilot notched 6387 up to get the train going and once clear of the points he had it pouring out clag as it was put to full power. From that point on for the 18km journey to Jatinga it was wide open solidly with the only exception being him notching back a little to allow the train to slow through Mailongdisa for someone to get off. There was no shutting off for the 15kmph restriction through Longrangajao station as we weren’t going fast enough, nor for the restriction by a set of track workers just south of Jatinga; which included the guy I’d been talking to the previous afternoon at Jatinga station. I’d waved to him on the way south and he also spotted me on the way back north also. 6387 was notched back only as the train was half way up the platform and began to round the right hand curve away from the station; as it was going slow enough I got off as we arrived as the token for the next section had been handed over as we arrived. The 18km journey from Harangajao took 1h04m on virtually full power all the way; the noise that 6387 made was absolutely phenomenal and put all the other freight train journeys I’d done down to the bottom of the pile, in comparison. I’d literally never experienced thrash like it, and for such a constant period of time also; there was no wonder my ears were ringing when I got off! It was like I’d just come out of a gig having been stood next to the speakers all night.
The moment I got off I was accosted by the afternoon Station Master and got chatting with the afternoon turn army guys also; all basically having the same questions that their colleagues had earlier that day; it was almost like deja vu but I had to overcome the ear ringing first to be able to have a proper conversation with them. Everything was good and despite this being my third visit to Jatinga, all of which had been getting off a goods train also, nobody had batted an eyelid or had any concerns at all that I was doing what I was doing and everyone was very sociable indeed. I think the fact that I told them it was easier to use the goods trains to take photographs, unhindered, made a lot of sense to them but still they generally had no care for what I was doing and I think they were just pleased to have a new face to talk to as everyone out-stationed at Jatinga had only their colleagues to speak with; especially at night when the fog came and swallowed the whole place up, forcing the coldness that came with it upon those unfortunate enough to have to be at work during the night.
The northbound Barak Valley Express was a little late again but only about 45 minutes and thankfully it didn’t hang around at Haflong Hill for 45 minutes like it had done the previous night; which I discovered to be due to offloading goods from the van. The only new YDM4 I had all day, 6391, led the train, while 6202 was attached to the rear as banker; it having been paired with 6387 two days previous. There seemed to be no sense to how the banker was provided and during my three days in the area it had come light from Lower Haflong one day and seemingly been attached, probably, at Badarpur the next two days. Quite what the score with 6640 sitting at Lower Haflong all the previous day had been and likewise why 6501 had remained there all day after banking 6764 in that morning, I don’t know, but there must be some method in the madness somewhere?
Having had a thoroughly good days bash I was ready for some food when we got back to Lower Haflong, only about 25 minutes late; but it as still dark, and cooler than the previous night too and the auto ride up to the hotel was one I’d really needed a jacket for; so I finished the days bash just as I’d started it, being cold in an auto-rickshaw.
I’d left a note for the guy who seemed to be in charge, before I left in the morning, asking him to confirm that an auto-rickshaw could be provided at 0445 the following morning to get me to the station for the 0535 departure to Lumding. I’d also asked him abut it the previous evening and he said he’d confirm; the consensus was that the guy they knew would come at 0445 and the hotel boy would ring me in my room to let me know he was waiting; so with this minor issue out of the way I headed off to the Aahar Restaurant for the last time and thanked the guys there for their excellent service and hospitality during my stay; I’d not had a bad meal at all.
Having failed quite miserably to have a decent conversation with my girlfriend, mainly due to the fact that the hotels’ WiFi was on one, I was in bed by 2145, alarm set for 0415 as I’d really didn’t trust the hotel boy to wake me; let alone the auto to actually turn up!
Gen for Friday 15th November 2013
|6764||Haflong Hill||Lower Haflong||???? Badarpur Yard – Lumding Yard (Goods Train)||LMG YDM4 6764 leading – banked in rear by LMG YDM4 6501 – Goods Train; rode on side of 6764|
|6505||Lower Haflong||Jatinga||???? Lumding Yard – Badarpur Yard (Goods Train)||LMG YDM4’s 6505/6213 in multi – Goods Train; rode in guards van at the rear|
|6457||Jatinga||Harangajao||0425 Lumding Jct – Silchar||15693||LMG YDM4 6457|
|6387||Harangajao||Jatinga||???? Badarpur Yard – Lumding Yard (Goods Train)||LMG YDM4 6387 – Goods Train; rode at the rear of 6387 – 1h04m to do 18km and wide open all the way; without a banker!|
|6391||Jatinga||Lower Haflong||0945 Silchar – Lumding Jct||15694||LMG YDM4 6391 leading – banked in rear by LMG YDM4 6202 throughout|
(Other than in the moves above)
6501 (LMG YDM4) sat spare all day at Lower Haflong
Saturday 16th November 2013 (The BG “Progress” was really coming)
For the third day in a row I was up before the alarm and was down in the hotel reception at 0440; where I found the “boy” on his phone getting a message telling him that the person he was trying to reach had his phone switched off; this was very likely the guy who was supposed too be taking me to the station. My suspicion was all but confirmed when the “boy” walked out of the hotel and off down the road; still trying to contact someone on his phone.
At 0445 there was nothing but a dark, empty street outside the hotel; but then I heard the familiar sound of a two stroke engine and round the corner came an auto. I was already stood at the gate waiting anyway and quite luckily so as the auto wasn’t mine and was almost by me by the time I realised and I just caught the drivers’ attention before it was too late. Moments later he was turning his auto round and whisking me through the morning fog, down the hill to Lower Haflong station; the hotel boy was nowhere to be seen as we headed away from the front of the hotel at 0450.
The information board at Lower Haflong was showing 15696 Agartala – Lumding as being right time; which was a relief as it had been 4 hours late when Others had done it two weeks previous! The station wasn’t so busy and seemed to be only just waking up itself; I had to wait a good 10 minutes for chai! I was joined by two guys, who insisted they pay for all of my morning chai, who had been in Haflong on business but were returning home. They’d chosen to take the earlier train as Sachin Tendulkar’s last ever test match would finish on this very day and they wanted to witness this very memorable occasion on TV for themselves; the only problem was that the match, between India and Australia in Mumbai, was over before we reached Lumding!
One of the chaps was from Lumding itself and the other from Dimapur in Nagaland. They told me that most people in Nagaland were taught English and a very high percentage of the states’ population could speak it. The state itself was totally dependent on Assam for its produce and was also a hot-spot for electronics being moved into India through China and Myanmar; this unfortunately was the same for automatic weapons coming in from China. I had the guys’ company all the way to Lumding; the resident of Lumding actually giving me the name of the Hotel Global as being a decent place to both stay or eat if I ever got stuck in Lumding again.
During the initial part of the journey back north the morning fog blanketed the valley so I missed out on seeing just how much progress had been made on the new bridge span just north of Lower Haflong but once the sun had burnt its way through the extent of the BG works could be seen all along the route; with tracks being laid in readiness all over the place, clearly showing that the line would take a different path to the existing alignment. Where the existing alignment was to be used there were either piles of dual gauge sleepers waiting to be installed or piles of MG sleepers having already been replaced; thus the conversion would just be a matter of moving the rails apart on the same sleepers. My travelling companions for the morning told me that while the work north of Mahur may well be progressing well the railways were suffering with a tunnel at Mahur that kept collapsing and this hurdle had to be overcome before any mega-block could be taken; they were very skeptical about any mega-block taking place at all in 2014!
The nearer we got to Lumding the more BG works actually seemed to be in motion; whether it was clipping up track, laying earthwork foundations or offloading slabs for the platform edging of already semi-completed new BG platforms. One thing I was sure of was the fact that in two years, since my last visit to the area, a hell of a lot of ground had been covered and the BG progress really was coming; whether I liked it or not. Of course once the works were complete I would return to do the new alignment and see for myself whether the area really had progressed after its newly built railway had opened; over 115 years after the British had begun to build the railway that existed at this very moment.
Towards the end of the journey to Lumding I was getting bored and tired. Ex SBI YDM4 6578, at the head of the train, did sound like a bit of a machine; especially when the line curved round to the same side of the train that I was sat at. It had a tremendous whine from its motors too, which complemented its growl quite nicely. The final nail in the festering around stakes was having to wait 40 minutes at Langting for 6192 to head south with the Hill Queen Special; the block sections being quite long as you get closer to Lumding. We were 50 late from Lower Haflong and 45 late into Lumding; this despite festering 40 minutes for a southbound goods at Mupa and 40 minutes for the Hill Queen. Of course the southbound Barak Valley Express just had to produce anew YDM4 on the day I wasn’t doing it in 6746; all of the freight pairings were different to previous days but none of them produced anything I needed, thankfully.
I was certainly ready for something to eat by Lumding and two omelettes, from different wallers, where soon scoffed down, closely followed by the first bottle of fizzy pop I’d had in 4 days; the Haflong area being completely devoid of such luxuries! The whiteboard at Lumding was showing 15928 Dibrugarh – Rangiya as being right time but the train noted below intrigued me a little more; which showed 15902 Dibrugarh – Bangalore as being expected to arrive at 1330, which was 15 minutes behind 15928. I’d scoured the timetable to make sure there weren’t any dodgy minus moves I could make and when I figured out what 15902 was I realised why it hadn’t been on my radar; it should have departed at 0130 and was just the 12 hours late! The unofficial loco gen we had showed that it was booked a HWH WDM3D; but it hadn’t been updated since 2012. When 15928 rolled in with a short rake of 2nd class only coaches and the whole platform moved towards it; my mind was made up. The lady at the inquiry window told me 15902 would arrive at 1355 and that’s exactly when it did arrive; meanwhile I watched the very wedged 15928 depart with NGC WDM2 17952 having the honours.
I spent my time festering out of the way on the station footbridge where I watched LKO WDM3D 11249 arrive with a petroleum train, NGC WDM2 17998, the same loco I’d hhad to Dangari, arrive with 55601 Guwahati – Lumding passenger and run round to work 55602 back to Guwahati and finally MLDT WDM3A 16222 arrive with 15469 Alipurduar Jct – Lumding; which would be my back-up move if for some random reason 15902 arrived with a GM.
The Guwahati end footbridge is also a good vantage point to be able to see into the yard area of Lumding DLS and the shed was packed out with locos; with not all being visible of course. I could see 6497, 6647 & 6420. 6411 was attached to the steam crane which was actually in use lifting a YDM4 off one end of its bogies. 6294, still in the old rust livery, was dumped at the back of the yard area, assumed to be withdrawn and the shell of 6642 was dumped on the floor, off its bogies and very bent in the middle, definitely withdrawn. The only other YDM4 I could get the number of was Alco built machine 6110, which was the station pilot and had shunted the stock away off our inbound Agartala Express; it could quite possiibly now be the oldest working YDM4 anywhere in the world since 6105 was taken out of service having ended its days out-based at Katihar.
When 15902 rolled in I knew I’d played the right move in flagging the wedged 15928, as the sleeper class was virtually empty and I had a compartment area to myself for the fast run to Guwahati; which was the next booked stop anyway. Unfortunately the loco, MLDT WDM3A 16282, was dud but the empty train more than made up for it. The journey only took 3h10m and the last 25 of that was spent getting through the Guwahati suburbs.
I’d decided on the sensible move of going straight to the Praashanti Tourist Lodge, checking in and eating; before doing a quick out and back time-pass bash to Kamakhya. The young lad at reception recognised me and confirmed that the only room remaining empty in the hotel was indeed being held for me. To save time I ordered food before I went to the room and only had a few minutes to wait once I’d got myself cleaned up and sorted. The food was just as good as it had been on my previous visit the week before and set me up nicely for the evening.
MLDT WDM3A 16222, which I’d left behind at Lumding when I left on 15902, would be the first move of the evening. It was just being announced as arriving when I got back to the station and bizarrely 15902 was only just leaving at the same time; 1h15m after it had arrived! I found 16282 floating about over the back of the station so it had clearly been replaced on 15902 but I couldn’t see what by.
16222 turned out to be an absolute beast as it climbed away from Guwahati through the slums that line the railway periphery; it was shame I wasn’t doing it further and probably couldn’t even if I wanted to anyway. Either way a shower and some sleep beckoned so I wanted to get back to Guwahati as quick as possible; Indian Railways had their opwn idea as to how quickly that would be as 15603 1945 Kamakhya – Ledo didn’t depart until 2015, NGC WDM3D 11473 only turning up at 2000! I was initially pleased that 11473 had produced, even though I’d already had it twice, as I hadn’t actually heard if it was any good or not. As I bellowed out of the door, up the hill from Kamakhya I was beginning to wish I’d not bothered as it was less than average; and for such a new build as well. 16222 knocked spots of it noise wise and judging by the noise 11473 made probably performance wise as well.
The Praashanti being full did not work to my advantage at all as right outside the back of the hotel was a courtyard that was being set up for some function or other and the music coming from it, just after 2100, was not quiet at all. Coupled with that two young kids were using the corridor as a playground and despite me telling them to desist they continued at their own will; as is the way with almost all Indian children, none do as they’re told from my experience. Basically I had to lump the noise and accept that it was happening whether I wanted it to or not so after a nice hot, proper, shower the earplugs went in and I attempted some sleep.
Gen for Saturday 16th November 2013
|6578||Lower Haflong||Lumding Jct||1615 (15/11) Agartala – Lumding Jct||15696||LMG YDM4|
|16282||Lumding Jct||Guwahati Jct||1830 (15/11) Dibrugarh – Bangalore City||15902||MLDT WDM3A – train was 12h40m late|
|16222||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||1500 Lumding Jct – Alipurduar Jct||15470||MLDT WDM3A|
|11473||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||1945 Kamakhya Jct – Ledo||15603||NGC WDM3D|
(Other than in the moves above)
6354/6413 (LMG YDM4s) crossed 15696 at Mahur with a southbound goods
64xx/6579 (LMG YDM4s) crossed 15696 at Phiding with a southbound goods
6746 (LMG YDM4) 15694 0425 Lumding – Silchar
6387/6616 (LMG YDM4s) crossed 15696 at Mupa with a southbound goods
6192 05697 0945 Lumding – Lower Haflong “Hill Queen Special”
6110 (LMG YDM4) Lumding station pilot
17952 (NGC WDM2) 15928 0600 Dibrugarh – Rangiya
16222 (MLDT WDM3A) 15469 0400 Alipurduar Jct – Lumding
17998 (NGC WDM2) 55601 0525 Guwahati – Lumding, 55602 1330 Lumding – Guwahati
18575 (MLDT WDM2) 15717 1345 Guwahati – Mariani
17839 (NGC WDM2) 15665 1345 Kamakhya – Dimapur
40108 (SGUJ WDP4D) 14056 2340 (PP) Delhi – Dibrugarh
Sunday 17th November 2013 (Kamakhya revisited…….)
I must have been shattered the previous night as I only remember one tune from the function outside initially keeping me awake and the next thing I knew it was after 4am! I’d toyed with the idea of dismissing the morning bash if sleep didn’t prevail but as I’d had a decent sleep I got up at 0600 and was at the station for 0620; my big bag left at the hotel as checkout wasn’t until 1130.
Things seemed to be running a little better in the Guwahati area than they had been a week previous as 12510 0630 Guwahati – Bangalore City departed bang on with HWH WDM3D 11247; unlike the previous week though its’ opposing working, 12509, wasn’t sat waiting at Kamakhya and was in fact 4 hours late according to the whiteboard in the inquiry office at Kamakyha. There were also two other late runners, both being specials, 03282 Patna – Dibrugarh was just being updated to 7 hours late and 07149 Secunderabad – Guwahati was also showing 7 hours late.
It was a cooler than average morning as there seemed to be a thin layer of cloud that the sun just couldn’t shift. It was making the Kamakhya area quite atmospheric and the hill where the temple sat looked to be shrouded on all sides; which would have probably blocked out the fantastic view that the hill looks to offer of the surrounding area. If my day went tits up I was probably going to try and get up to Kamakhya Temple but the cloud needed to clear a little before I even contemplated it.
I wasn’t at Kamakhya long before NGC WDM2 17952 turned up with 15927 Rangiya – Dibrugarh; this being the loco I’d flagged at Lumding the previous day due to the wedge factor on its opposing working from Dibrugarh. Unfortunately the short load it was on didn’t tax it much up the hill from Kamakhya but it was still nice to hear a proper transition and not one controlled by a micro-processor.
It was a quick-fire morning and by the time I’d walked round to platform 1 at Guwahati HWH WDM3A 16445 was rolling down the platform with 15960 Dibrugarh – Howrah Kamrup Express. It was a lot of a stagger out on this run so the engine never really got tested at all but deposited me back at Kamakhya; where I had a choice of just the four trains to choose from to get me back into Guwahati for breakfast!
The choice of four went down to three when I’d checked the whiteboard out again as 12509 had been updated to show 6h30m late. I’d almost had a 5th choice as well but 15941 Jhajha – Dibrugarh, which was 10 hours late, had passed us as we staggered towards Kamakhya; HWH WDM3A 18805 doing the honours, which had been replaced by NGC WDM3A 16087 by the time I got to Guwahati.
SGUJ WDP4D 40141 turned up first with 12345 Howrah – Guwahati Saraighat Express; which wasn’t even in my list of four to choose from, for obvious reasons. MLDT WDM3A 16514 turned up next with 55801 New Bongaigaon – Guwahati and actually departed before the Saraighat Express; which had been 25 early arriving anyway. NGC WDM3A 16007 turned up next with 55805 New Bongaigaon – Guwahati, which was good for me; however it was held for MLDT WDM3A 16222, which I’d had the previous night, to overtake with 15469 Alipurduar Jct – Lumding; on the opposing working to what I’d had it on the previous night too. So it turned out to be the third departure of four for me back to Guwahati; where I wasted no time at all in heading back to the hotel for breakfast. As per the previous night, I ordered the food before I went to the room and my omelette and toast was literally just coming out of the kitchen as I walked back into the restaurant.
Back on the station I had a short time to kill and used it to mill about over the back of the station; where all the engines seemed to be stabled. From there I watched what would have been my fourth choice train from Kamakhya roll in; 55753 Alipurduar Jct – Guwahati, with MLDT WDM3A 16561. The stock from this train went forward as 15717 Guwahati – Mariani Intercity and I assume 16561 went forward with it as I didn’t see it anywhere at Guwahati during the rest of the day. MLDT WDM2 17980 had arrived from Silghat with 55608 passenger and while sat idling in the platform, long after the crew and passengers from the train had disappeared, some guy turned up with an electronic gadget and began fiddling about in the cab. When he emerged again he came over and introduced himself; it turned out he was a fitter and had taken a download of the electronic data recorder on board the loco. I didn’t think Indian locos had such a thing but it certainly explains a few things when it comes to driving technique and basically giving locos a hammering. He invited me to his office but I had to decline as my next train towards Kamakhya had already been announced. Strangely, after he’d got so far up the platform, he turned round and returned to ask me about the power and speed of our locos in the UK; and once that short discussion ended he seemed to go away appeased.
While still festering around for my train to “not” arrive shortly, I homed in on a few kids on the opposite platform who were basically performing for the waiting passengers and then going round begging for money afterwards. Their performance wasn’t anything spectacular and was executed with an air of repetitive boredom on their part but still they did what they did, lots of times a day, which included some tandem rolling down the platform, clambering through hoops and some strange maneuvers involving clasping together their hands using them as a hoop to clamber through. Whatever their act it seemed to make the waiting public at least get their hands in their pockets and hand over some notes as opposed to coins.
MLDT WDM2 17954 eventually arrived with 15670 Dimapur – Kamakhya Nagaland Express and then sat for over 45 minutes to allow the Brahmaputra Mail to overtake us and depart first. As we followed shortly behind the slums just outside Guwahati were in full swing after a slow start to the morning. The collecting of plastic bottles, glass and cardboard seemed to be the sole reason these slums existed in the first place and were very close to the station to allow the locals to board trains as they were arriving and clear them of anything useful. Everything was sorted and gathered by their respective element type; the one thing they hadn’t seemed to grasp was that if they crushed the plastic bottles they’d create a lot more space to get many more into each, very large, bag that they gathered them in. Everything about the place seemed to be routine and some of the walls by the slum housing even had mirrors on for the women to sort their hair out in. The one thing that did intrigue me was a hole in the middle of the place, which looked to have been built on by layers of plastic sheeting, but I couldn’t see what was in it. The one hole I could see into was being used to collect water from; and it wasn’t clean at all. Nearby there were streams of black, rancid, water running so this must leach through and contaminate the water they collect to use for cooking; surely?
Back at Kamakhya for the third time the whiteboard told me something it hadn’t previously in that my planned return train at this stage, 15647 LTT – Guwahati, was actually just the 10 hours late. Luckily 12509 Bangalore – Guwahati had lost yet more time and eventually departed, with me on board, 7h45m late with BWN WDM3A 18591 giving a good show up the hill.
For the second time in less than 4 hours I used the Praashanti Lodges’ restaurant; the staff having changed since my breakfast visit. Yet another decent meal was served and I went away from the place very pleased with all the meals I’d eaten there; the only one not having been chicken had been the omelette at breakfast.
Bonus of the afternoon MLDT WDM2 18575 rolled in with 15718 Mariani – Guwahati Intercity and then formed the train I was waiting for forward; 55754 1430 Guwahati – Alipurduar Jct Shifung Passenger. Unfortunately it was a complete bag of nails as far as the noise it made went. At Kamakhya this time both 07149 & 03282 had lost further time and both were over 8 hours late. NGC WDS6 36170 was shunting some stock in the station area, one coach of which HWH WDM3A 18805 came from Guwahati to collect. Unfortunately for me the crew doing the shunting didn’t seem to be anywhere near as friendly as the crew had been at Secunderabad that let me on board 017624, 16 days previous, and barely acknowledged my friendly wave to them; so there was no riding about on 36170 for me on this occasion unfortunately.
15959 Howrah – Dibrugarh Kamrup Express was the first of a potential three trains to arrive at Kamakhya. HWH WDM3D 11441 led the train and took me back into Guwahati for what turned out to be the last time of the trip. 55806 1625 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon already had NGC WDM3A 16007 attached, which I’d had already earlier in the day, so I headed across to platform 4 to board my overnight; 15646 1645 Guwahati – LTT with ET WDM3D 11424 already sat waiting to depart. 07149 Secunderabad – Guwahati special arrived shortly behind the Kamrup Express with exactly the same loco that I’d had on the train a week previous, HWH WDM3A 18996.
My reservation on board 15646 wasn’t until Rangiya but there was no problem with me occupying my seat from Guwahati; my problem with the journey was that for some random reason IR had only reserved me up to Katihar and not to Mansi as I’d asked. When I’d queried this with SDEL I was told that they are unable to reserve me as far as Mansi at all and could only do it by reserving me all the way through to LTT with an alighting point of Mansi but as that contrevined my next reservation they couldn’t do it. The big issue with this being that the damn train arrived Katihar at 0525 and I’d chosen this train as it delivered me to Mansi at the reasonable time of 0758. The TTE on board 15646 confirmed that the berths in my compartment we actually Katihars’ quota and that they wouldn’t know if they were taken until the TTE change took place at Katihar; this basically meaning I would be getting up at 0525 whether I liked it or not, which was not a good start to the next few days which were crap enough as it was! I wasn’t best pleased at all when I got bedded down for the night, also because the damn compartment I was located in had the TTE’s in it as well; which was probably going to lead to a sleepless night as it was!
Gen for Sunday 17th November
|11247||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||0630 Guwahati Jct – Bangalore City||12510||HWH WDM3D|
|17952||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||0545 Rangiya Jct – Dibrugarh||15927||NGC WDM2|
|16445||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||1825 (16/11) Dibrugarh – Howrah||15960||HWH WDM3A|
|16007||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||0525 New Bongaigaon – Guwahati Jct||55805||MLDT WDM3A|
|17954||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||0630 Dimapur – Kamakhya Jct||15670||MLDT WDM2|
|18591||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||2330 (15/11) Bangalore City – Guwahati Jct||12509||BWN WDM3A – train was 7h45m late|
|18575||Guwahati Jct||Kamakhya Jct||1430 Guwahati Jct – Alipurduar Jct||55754||MLDT WDM2|
|11441||Kamakhya Jct||Guwahati Jct||1735 (16/11) Howrah – Dibrugarh||15959||HWH WDM3D|
|11424||Guwahati Jct||Mansi Jct||1645 Guwahati Jct – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus||15646||ET WDM3D – Via NJP, Barsoi, Kumedpur Avoider, Katihar|
(Other than in the moves above)
20011 (SGUJ WDP4) 2035 (P) Dibrugarh Town – New Delhi
18805 (HWH WDM3A) 15941 2205 (PP) Jhajha – Dibrugarh (to Guwahati)
16087 (NGC WDM3A) 15941 2205 (PP) Jhajha – Dibrugarh (from Guwahati)
16078 (MLDT WDM3A) 55804 0710 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon
40141 (SGUJ WDP4D) 12345 1550 (P) Howrah – Guwahati, 12346 1245 Guwahati – Howrah
16514 (MLDT WDM3A) 55801 0450 New Bongaigaon – Guwahati
16222 (MLDT WDM3A) 15469 0440 Alipurduar Jct – Lumding
17980 (MLDT WDM2) 55608 0600 Silghat Town – Guwahati
17953 (NGC WDM2) 55604 0435 Mairabari – Guwahati
16561 (MLDT WDM3A) 55753 0245 Alipurduar Jct – Guwahati, 15717 1345 Guwahati – Mariani
16085 (MLDT WDM3A) 15471 0505 Alipurduar Jct – Kamakhya
11472 (NGC WDM3D) 15906 2345 (P) Dibrugarh – Kanniyakumari
17954 (MLDT WDM2) 15472 1630 Kamakhya – Alipurduar Jct
17952 (NGC WDM2) 15665 1345 Kamakhya – Dimapur
16007 (NGC WDM3A) 55806 1625 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon
16282 (MLDT WDM3A) 55802 1730 Guwahati – New Bongaigaon
18996 (HWH WDM3A) 07149 0730 (PP) Secunderabad – Guwahati Special
11476 (NGC WDM3D) 05968 0500 Dibrugarh – Rangiya
Monday 18th November 2013 (Into the depths of Bihar we go!)
As luck didn’t have it we were into Katihar 25 minutes early at 0500 and further to that, once I’d managed to find the TTE on the platform, I was informed that there was no room in AC forward from Katihar. There was no checking of the reservation sheets and no new ones were stuck to the train so I couldn’t actually check for myself so in the end I opted to just sit in the berth I’d vacated and see if someone turned up; of course they did, but not until 2 minutes before departure, which resigned me to a standing place at the door in 2AC.
Having been up for just over an hour one of the TTEs seemed to take pity on me and actually offered me an upper side berth to Mansi; some guy standing at the door had his bag in it so whether it was actually his or he was just claiming it I don’t know but the berth was very welcome indeed; even if it was only for an hour and a half.
I’d expected the plus 3 at Mansi to make even if we were late; which we were but only by about 15 minutes. What I wasn’t expecting though was 55566 Samastipur – Saharsa passenger to arrive with people on the engine and hanging out of the doors! It was a simultaneous arrival with the train I got off so a quick scoot across the ballast and I became part of the scrum to board the Saharsa passenger. An opportunity to get into the train soon arose and I was up the steps and on; the pushing crowd behind soon made sure I was further inside the train whether the folks in front of me liked it or not. I’d managed to get into chair car which allowed me to see all the way down the coach; it was carnage. There were loads of bags of what I think were potatoes on the floor and people had to clamber over them to get in; some ended up stood on them and were literally using the coach ceiling to steady themselves during the journey. Other folk just wedged themselves into the seating area and stood between the legs of those lucky enough to get a seat, others perched, Indian squat style, on the backs of the seats, which was certainly an interesting way to travel. Bizarrely 2 stations out of Mansi the train emptied out in the much the same fashion it had wedged out in the first place; with lots of pushing, shoving and shouting. From that point I had a seat.
Arriving into Saharsa I could see various YDM4s on shed but my view was blocked by some coaches so once we’d arrived I took a stead walk down to the Mansi end of the station, where the small shed is, and had absolutely no problems at all strolling round and photographing at will. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found all the Saharsa based YDM4’s I’d had sat at Saharsa; 6510 was on a BG wagon ready to be sent off somewhere, 6684, 6513 & 6754 were all parked on shed; the former looking like it was now out of service and quite demic. Also present at Saharsa was 6471, which was shunting stock in the yard and 6389/6463. The latter two were demic and looked to be Christmas trees. I also found the remains of 6253 further into the shed area; all that actually remained intact was its’ frame, which some guy had just got underneath to start cutting. Unfortunately when cutting the cabs they’d burnt through the numbers, otherwise I was considering asking if I could have one…….
Having walked to the Hotel Vijeya, where I’d stayed on a previous visit to Saharsa, to find they didn’t have a restaurant, I was pointed back towards the level crossing at the Forbesganj end of the station and to the Hotel Koshi Nivas; a place I’d looked at in the first place but decided at first glance it wasn’t worth checking out; they rustled me up a decent omelette and toast in their empty, dark and dingy restaurant in no time at all. Fed and watered I was then ready for the main event of the day, some pottering around Bihar with YDM4s; while I still could.
6597 was just running round its set as I got back to the station and had plenty of time before departure. At one point it looked like the train may depart almost empty but it soon filled when BWN WDM3A 18997 arrived with 13163 Sealdah – Saharsa and 18814 arrived back from Dauram Madhepura, having worked forward after arriving with 55566. I’d realised that this may happen and made sure I got a seat before the hoards arrived and by departure time the train was heaving yet by Panchgachia it had emptied out to a comfortable level.
The line to Forbesganj, or to Supaul at least, it very rural with the locals relying on their surroundings to provide what they need. Despite the rural setting all the dwelling, basic as they may have been, were built well and their surrounding area was neat and tidy; and there was no rubbish to be seen anywhere.
At Supaul we arrived first, which was a bonus really as the station was heaving with people; meaning it would be a wedged train on the way back. 6683 soon arrived and there were people already on the roof; although it seemed people just traveled on the roof because they could in this area and not because there were no seats. The hoards soon descended on the doors yet strangely one doorway was left vacant so I used that to board while people clambered over each other at the doorways either side. There was room inside the train and I even managed to find myself a 6in x 6in seat corner to plonk my arse on for the journey back to Saharsa; which didn’t get any emptier!
On arrival back at Saharsa I had mixed feelings about the fact that 6471, which I needed, was just about to run round the set it had propelled in and work the 1615 to Raghopur; I also needed some food as all I’d eaten all day was the omelette that morning. As nothing seemed to be actually moving along in getting the loco run round I decided to go with common sense and went off to the Hotel Koshi Nivas again where the Aloo Pyaz and rice I asked for was delivered in no time at all; the bonus of that was that I was stood by 6471, admiring it, before it had chance to depart. The big question then being at what time it would actually depart as my passenger to Samastipur was at 1745.
Having waited for two trains to arrive, 52328 1615 Saharsa – Raghopur, departed after 1700; which had been my cut-off point for doing to the train to Saharsa Kacheri. However as it wasn’t much after 1700 and the fact that the stock for my 1745 passenger to Samastipur was still in the middle road with no engine, I decided to do it anyway; not wanting to smack the gift horse in the mouth of course. The only problem was how I actually got on the damn train. The stock was wedged, the engine was wedged and the roof was very wedged; in the end I pleaded with the guard and he allowed me in his compartment to Kacheri. A cycle rickshaw back to Saharsa Junction cost me RS30, which was more what I gave that was asked for, and it took 10 minutes to cover the 2km; which is a straight line back down the side of the railway. As I got back onto the platform SPJ WDG3A 14698 was backing onto the stock for my 1745 passenger to Samastipur, which was still in the middle road. Luckily I checked the engine again at Samastipur as I actually mistakenly wrote down as 14896 at first; which is so easy to do with the Indian numbering system on the spur of the moment.
While 14698 was being coupled I chose to find myself a seat while the train was still in the middle road; just like hundreds of others had done. We were only about 15 late away and by Mansi the train had emptied out quite a bit, at which point I chose to get myself onto the luggage rack and try and get a bit of sleep. I needn’t have bothered as there had been plenty of room to get dossed out on the sets below in the end and this may well have prevented the mosquitoes getting at me through the slats in the luggage rack as well.
Arrival into Samastipur was just after 2300, the train being a little over 30 late after being held at the last station out of town for quite a while. My task now was to find a hotel at this late hour and I was in a cycle rickshaw to the Hotel Madanlok virtually straight away. As the rickshaw rider didn’t seem to know where the Madanlok was I had to guide him, unfortunately though it was full; as were the next three places I tried, all on the same main road. Just as options were running out and I was considering going back to the station to try for a retiring room, I managed to get a yes from some guy I’d woken up at the Hotel Aryan. The place didn’t look to great but the room was clean and check-in took less than a minute. It was non-AC and cost RS600. There was a TV, which I didn’t use and the bathroom had both a western & Indian style toilet. There was no messing about once I got into the room as I was up early the following morning as it was so it was charging stuff out and bed!
Gen for Monday 18th November 2013
|18814||Mansi Jct||Saharsa Jct||0445 Samastipur Jct – Saharsa Jct||55566||SPJ WDM3A|
|6597||Saharsa Jct||Supaul||1230 Saharsa Jct – Raghopur||52326||NKE YDM4|
|6683||Supaul||Saharsa Jct||1230 Raghopur – Saharsa Jct||52325||NKE YDM4|
|6471||Saharsa Jct||Saharsa Kacheri||1615 Saharsa Jct – Raghopur||52328||NKE YDM4|
|Rickshaw||Saharsa Kacheri||Saharsa Jct||RS30, 15 minutes, 2km|
|14698||Saharsa Jct||Samastipur Jct||1745 Saharsa Jct – Samastipur Jct||55565||SPJ WDG3A – Via Garhpura|
(Other than in the moves above)
16025 (GD WDM3A) 15209 0845 Saharsa – Amritsar
18814 (SPJ WDM3A) 55570 0955 Saharsa – Dauram Madhepura, 55569 1105 Dauram Madhepura – Saharsa, 23225 1250 Saharsa – Danapur
11324 (SPJ WDM3D) 55567 1015 Saharsa – Samastipur
18997 (BWN WDM3A) 13163 2010 (P) Sealdah – Saharsa
18846 (MGS WDM3A) 23226 0645 Danapur – Saharsa (portion off Danapur – Jaynagar)
14116 (GC WDM3A) 15210 0635 (P) Amritsar – Saharsa
6597 (NKE YDM4) 52323 0700 Raghopur – Saharsa
Saharsa Shed (All NKE YDM4s)
6253 being cut up on shed; only frame remaining
6513, 6754 serviceable
6684 demic with what looked to be minor collision damage
6510 loaded onto a BG wagon for transfer away
6471 being used as station pilot
Tuesday 19th November 2013
The 0455 alarm call was nothing short of an intrusion into my life but it was also necessary to make sure I had a decent day out on the remaining MG system in the Jhanjhapur area. I’d originally planned to do the Ganga Sagar Express from Samastipur to Sakri, at 0405, and even had reservations on it; common sense made the 0605 passenger train to Sakri the better move, of course that was assuming it made the plus 15 onto the 0830 MG departure.
Getting out of the hotel at such an early time wasn’t a problem as even though the night security gate appeared locked; it wasn’t. There were even cycle rickshaws knocking around and I wasted no time in accosting one to take me the short distance to the station; while I was still in waking up mode. At the station the guy at the inquiry window confirmed the platform that the 0605 passenger to Jaynagar would depart from; and I found KGP WDM3A 16310 waiting, just where I was told it would be. I’d been expecting a Samastipur engine but as the KGP machine was on the stock that had boards for 13225/6 Patna – Jaynagar it made sense and seemed that the KGP loco and its stock were used to do a fill in from Jaynagar to Samastipur and return rather than just sit at the Nepal border all night. The Jaynagar portion set of stock wasn’t as well used as its Saharsa counterpart but the railway had certainly made the best use of its resources in both cases. The road came off right time, at 0605, and we departed 5 minutes later at 0610; the guard probably not having finished his morning chai.
The train was never wedged and was quite a comfortable journey, even after Darbhanga; by where I’d already seen three SPJ WDG3A’s working passenger trains! We passed 14864 with 17008 Darbhanga – Secunderabad and at Darbhanga two others were sat with trains; 14747 having arrived with 55530 Biraul – Darbhanga passenger and 13591 waiting to depart with 55504 Darbhanga – Samastipur passenger. Had my blinkers not been on the MG that morning I’d have definitely been off at Darbhanga as SPJ WDM3B 14167 was also sat there with 55575 Darbhanga – Biraul passenger. As I needed to do the newly constructed Biraul branch at some point in the future I could see a couple of day’s bash being planned around the Darbhanga area.
While we were 15 late at one point after Darbhanga the plus 15 made no problem; there being no crew in NKE YDM4 6532 which headed the short 7 coach set for the 0830 Laukaha Bazar passenger as we arrived. I had plenty of time to get photos as the sun rose and became ever brighter as it got higher. Alongside the MG side of Sakri station are a a few stalls selling food and chai; naturally both the inhabitants and patrons alike were all a little intrigued by the little white guy taking photos of the MG train parked alongside but their distant interest was all that their attention spanned to. I had no hassle or even questions from anyone and I was left completely to my own devices the whole time I was at Sakri.
The 0830 to Laukaha Bazar eventually departed almost an hour late; which was after 14167 had been allowed to cross over the MG to access the Biraul branch first but before the 0815 arrival from Nirmali had arrived. This meant that the latter was well down the pan indeed and we eventually crossed it at Manigachi, 2 hours late, with NKE YDM4 6551. I chose to get off at Jhanjharpur rather than go through to Mahail; more because I thought the outbound train would be held for the inbound, but it wasn’t. Still my extended time at Sakri allowed me to wonder round and take photos of all the YDM4s that were stabled up at the out-base that was Jhanjharpur.
Since my previous visit there had been a few changes in that the two rust coloured YDM4s that had been present in the demic line had gone, and likely scrapped, but there were still our YDM4s in the demic line; 6512, 6495, 6494 & 6458. All must have been in service at some point in the recent past as all were in the dark blue colours that Izatnagar workshops painted them in after POH, although I guess the painting could have been done at Narkatiaganj. Also present were 6592 & 6534, both sat over the back of the yard and the latter undergoing an exam. I had no problem at all walking round the yard area at Jhanjharpur freely. I did shouted back by what turned out to be the loco maintenance gang; I initially though they may have been RPF trying to stop me photographing but all they wanted was to chat with me in their office, where I was made very welcome and treated to chai and biscuits while we discussed everything and everything about the local area.
The gang told me that the BG conversion works would probably take another 5 years to complete; works were ongoing though and there were rafts of BG sleepers at Lohna Road and a new rail bridge being constructed adjacent to the existing road/rail bridge between Jhanjharpur and Lohna Road. I was also shown some photos on one of the guys’ phones, which he’d taken recently, of a load of steam locos inside the sugar mill at Sakri. He confirmed that none of them still works and thanks to the power of Bluetooth all the pictures were soon transferred too my smartphone. It looked like the place was a graveyard, or museum, depending on your take I suppose; either way it would be great to try and get a look round the place at some point in the future as it didn’t seem the place was in any hurry to dispose of anything on site.
The list of locos on the desk in the office confirmed everything I’d already seen, and that the four demics were indeed demic, with there being two more locos on the list; 6682 & 6752, the latter being a pet of Jhanjharpur as they’d previously painted it in their own livery and put JJP on both ends. 6682 hadn’t been there during my previous visit and was also an ex SGUJ loco, which I’d had some years previous. The powers of deduction should mean that 6682 & 6752 would be on the two trains currently heading my way from Laukaha Bazar & Nirmali respectively. I noticed in the work log book on the desk that 6744 & 6590 were mentioned as having been worked on yet they were nowhere to be seen; I found both the following day at Narkatiaganj on BG flat wagons, likely having been returned to home shed for intermediate work that couldn’t be done at Sakri.
Once the conversation exhausted itself in the maintenance office I was marched over to the station and introduced to the Senior Section Engineer, along with his staff, and the local RPF staff. I spent the rest of my time at Jhanjharpur sat around on the platform, on chairs, with a plethora of staff, who again insisted that they treat me to chai; I wasn’t going to say no!
Had I done my planned bash and gone to Mahail the next part of it would likely have ended up with me getting off at Jhanjharpur anyway as 6551 arrived with the train I should have done back from Lohna Road arrived into Jhanjharpur before 6682 arrived with 55520 Laukaha Bazar – Sakri. 6551 was promptly removed from the train and replaced by 6592; which was unfortunately the wrong one of the two they had a choice of for me. When 6682 did arrive I was ushered into the cab of the loco and the staff event took a photo of me on my own camera for me, as well as the many they took on their own cameras!
At least I had a seat for the short journey to Lohna Road, which I shared with the assistant loco pilot, and could take photos of the new bridge being constructed en-route. While there was no thrash on any of the Bihar MG systems the driver of 6682 did at least get it to full power when setting off; which also made it clag quite well, but that was it. I bore this fact in mind as I walked down the track at Lohna Road to photograph it departing with all the new BG sleepers in the foreground as it did so; progress was coming……..
The Station Master at Lohna Road greeted me the moment I got out of the cab, his colleagues from Jhanjharpur having rang him to let him know I was on my way. After I’d taken my photos I was instructed to join him in his office; which is where I spent the best part of the next two hours. The guy turned out to be from Supaul and was quite pleased with the photos I showed him of my brief visit there the previous day. He told me that the MG line from Nirmali used to run through to Supaul, cutting the distance to Saharsa by a good 40km; as opposed to having to go via Samastipur and Mansi. During 1973/74 the bridge spanning the river just the other side of Nirmali was washed away and never replaced with the service being truncated to Nirmali and on the Saharsa end trains just ran direct from Saharsa to Forbesganj; with no spur being created. He went on to tell me that the BG conversion works would see this link re-instated and once again trains would be able to run direct from Darbhanga to Saharsa via Supaul.
Each Station Master is given a posting by his respective division and the posting lasts for three years maximum; after which time the division relocates them to somewhere else. The Station Masters have absolutely no say in where and have to up sticks and move to wherever they are posted. Some choose to take their families with them, others don’t. Previously the guy at Lohna Road had been at Saharsa but had no clue where he would end up in the future but his time to move was imminent and his family were preparing to move when the new posting came through. The reason for the constant relocating was to eradicate any familiarity that may grow between the Station Master and the locals along with becoming familiar with working practices which can ultimately lead to short cuts being made; which is understandable.
As Lohna Road wasn’t a busy place the staff worked a 12 hour roster; governed so by the fact that they get at least 90 minutes mental rest between every train that passes through. The staff quarters for Lohna Road are at Jhanjharpur and each rides his bike to/from work, taking approx 30 minutes to do over the 4km due to the poor tracks between the two. The Station Master does have an assistant, who he sent for chai, but he himself does all the ticket sales as well; closing up the ticket window 3-4 minutes prior to each trains’ arrival. This he told me wasn’t to allow him to deal with the train but to stop people from stations either side buying tickets from Lohna Road while the train stood in the station; thus saving themselves a few Rupees but losing the railway a fortune in the process. The fare to Sakri was RS5 but there were tickets available to Mumbai, which I was told were sold quite often; unfortunately there were no platform tickets available for me to purchase as a souvenir.
I knew my time at Lohna Road was coming to an end when the bell went on the massive block instrument; that dated from 1923. The bell codes used on Indian Railways are different to those used in the UK, even though the system was introduced by the British. The principle is the same though but there are no codes at all to identify the train type; most of the transfer of information regarding the train itself is done over the direct line phone when confirming which token number has just dropped out of the machine to the next box.
In between being offered the train from Jhanjharpur and offering it on to Manigachi the Station Master opened up his ticket window and the crowd that had gathered on the station were soon throwing their Rupees through the small gap; in return for the small Edmondson type ticket they got back; which was stamped mechanically with the correct date and written on by the Station Master himself. Meanwhile his assistant used the piece of rail hanging outside the office door to rattle a piece of metal on, which gets peoples’ attention, and at the end of that he gives either two or three dings on the rail; this confirms the direction the train is going in but you have to know your ups and downs to be able to figure it out as one means up and the other down.
Tickets had been sold by the time the bell signal came that confirmed that 52526 1030 Nirmali – Sakri had departed Jhanjharpur; this then prompted the offering on of the train and the extraction of a token from the Manigachi machine. The token is then fastened to a leather, or sometimes wire, token holder; these are designed to allow the crew on the loco to collect them while travelling at speed by putting their arm through the hole.
My powers of deduction had worked out correct, although I hadn’t quite thought so as I saw the loco arriving in the distance was in NKE blue livery and not the one-off livery JJP had previously painted it in. When it got into the platform I actually found that 6752 had been painted in a combination of both the NKE dark and light blue liveries with the front and rear ends, along with the cab, being in the dark blue and the body sides the light blue. There was no cab ride for me on this trip but the Station Master insisted that I ride with the guard in his compartment; which was in the middle of the train. The guard himself having no issues with this at all and just before we set off the loco pilot that had been chatting at Jhanjharpur and then traveled in the cab of 6682 with me to Lohna Road jumped aboard and traveled forward to Sakri. It turned out he was going to Darbhanga and by the same train as me from Sakri as well; he treated me to yet more free chai at Sakri!
Sakri was nothing short of a tip outside the station; the streets were strewn with rubbish, if you could actually call them streets. They were lines continuously with small selling huts selling anything from medicine to samosas; fortunately I did eventually find some of the latter fresh out of a fryer. Sakri also seemed to have a bit of a sweet tooth but all the sweets and cakes laid out were covered in flies and the very large hornet types that were attracted to them. This didn’t bother the sellers or anyone buying the stuff though and it was business as usual; as though the hoards of insects also taking an interest in the goods didn’t even exist!
Having walked the length of the road that stretches from the station entrance to the Jaynagar end of the station; I’d had no hassle at all and was just allowed to go about my wandering unhindered. Perched at the platform ends at the Jaynagar end of the station I found an area where fresh fish was being sold. It was about as fresh as it was going to come with some fish still breathing; their sellers keeping them vaguely alive by slapping their hands in the vats of water they were keeping them in to keep some air in the water. Every now and again they’d swap some over, laying out fresher specimens and putting the flagging ones back into the water for a breather. As I found out though it didn’t matter if the fish was dead or alive; it was going to be cut into pieces if a customer took a liking to it. One such very large specimen was taking a disliking to its scales being scraped off, yet when its’ head was taken off on the very blunt machete type blade that the sellers used, it didn’t seem to have an argument then……….
13186 Jaynagar – Sealdah Ganga Sagar Express was being almost constantly announced for 30 minutes before it was due, during which time SPJ WDM3B 14167 went to Biraul for the second time of during the day with the evening 55577 1520 Darbhanga – Biraul passenger; I’d actually been tempted to do it to get the track in but the late arrival back at Samastipur had put me off the idea as I had a very early start the following morning. YDM4 6532 arrived back from its jaunt to Laukaha Bazar but only just before the Ganga Sagar Express did; although it was about the most on time train of the day at only 55 late![Gallery not found]
SPJ WDM3D 11272 arrived with 13186; this giving a pretty solid foundation to the fact that the Ganga Sagar Express had recently changed to electric hauled between Barauni and Sealdah; the SPJ engine I assumed had worked forward from Barauni that morning. The train had previously been a BWN WDM3A throughout.
I relaxed in my 2AC berth for the two hour journey to Samastipur and then headed straight back to the Hotel Aryan where I found out two things; they didn’t do food nor did they do hot water! Good food was sought at the Hotel Swarg just round the corner but a very cold shower had to be suffered afterwards; which wasn’t welcome at all let me tell you. The bed was very welcome though and despite the earlier than usual bedtime I managed to get off to sleep virtually straight away; the alarm was set for 0245!
Gen for Tuesday 19th November 2013
|16310||Samastipur Jct||Sakri Jct||0605 Samastipur Jct – Jaynagar||55519||KGP WDM3A|
|6532||Sakri Jct||Jhanjharpur Jct||0830 Sakri Jct – Laukaha Bazar||52517||NKE YDM4|
|6682||Jhanjharpur Jct||Lohna Road||0815 Laukaha Bazar – Sakri Jct||52520||NKE YDM4|
|6752||Lohna Road||Sakri Jct||1030 Nirmali – Sakri Jct||52526||NKE YDM4|
|11272||Sakri Jct||Samastipur Jct||1605 Jaynagar – Sealdah||13186||SPJ WDM3D|
(Other than in the moves above)
16546 (MLDT WDM3A) 55527 0300 Jaynagar – Patna
14864 (SPJ WDG3A) 17008 0700 Darbhanga – Secunderabad
14747 (SPJ WDG3A) 55580 0515 Biraul – Darbhanga
13591 (SPJ WDG3A) 55504 0745 Darbhanga – Samastipur
13411 (SPJ WDG3A) 55514 0700 Jaynagar – Samastipur
14167 (SPJ WDM3B) 55575 0800 Darbhanga – Biraul, 55578 1130 Biraul – Darbhanga, 55577 1530 Darbhanga – Biraul
6551 (NKE YDM4) 52524 0530 Nirmali – Sakri, 52527 1005 Sakri – Nirmali (to Jhanjharpur; replaced by 6592)
6592 (NKE YDM4) 52527 1005 Sakri – Nirmali (from JJP; replaced 6551 for fuel)
6532 (NKE YDM4) 52522 1240 Laukaha Bazar – Sakri
6682 (NKE YDM4) 52529 1445 Sakri – Nirmali
6752 (NKE YDM4) 52519 1720 Sakri – Laukaha Bazar
Jhanjharpur Shed (All NKE YDM4s)
6512, 6494, 6495, 6458 all demic (according to maintenance staff)
6534 being serviced
6592 being serviced but later used on 52527
Note: 6590/6744 both mentioned in maintenance log book and later found at NKE on BG wagons, assumed to have been recently transferred away from Jhanjharpur for maintenance
Wednesday 20th November 2013 (Following the Nepalese border by YDM4)
I felt a lot more awake than I imagined when I was woken at 0245 by the alarm and I was standing on platform 8 at Samastipur Jct by 0310; having walked to the station, through the deserted streets, and checked with the information window what platform my train would depart from.
SPJ WDM3D 11434 was at the head of 13021 Howrah – Raxaul when it arrived, only a few late. My 2AC lower side berth was vacant and made up before the train even departed and that was me until I accosted a chai waller coming through the train; at what turned out to be Sagauli Jct, while 11434 was running round.
The train AC was virtually empty from Sagauli so I chose to stand at the door and take in the morning Bihari air. On the approach to Raxaul the extent of the current BG conversion works on the section towards Narkatiaganj can be seen; BG tracks were already down and the infrastructure was at a quite advanced stage. The station works at Raxaul weren’t quite so advanced and the fact that there were only three platforms at Raxaul anyway turned the place into a right tip; the island platform that is platforms 2 & 3 was more of a sandpit than a platform. Despite the section from Raxaul to Narkatiaganj being shown in the Eastern timetable as being open then section had been truncated to Bhelwa, the first station out of Raxaul, some months before. Two other folk had found out the hard way that there was no MG at Raxaul and the Station Master had told them that the whole section had closed to Narkatiaganj; it wasn’t until they got to Narkatiaganj in a taxi that they found out the truth! Thankfully I was aware of the facts and headed straight out of the station to find some transport to Bhelwa.
As Raxaul is so close to the Nepal border there’s plenty of motorised transport about but finding some that will take you the 7km to Bhelwa isn’t as easy as you’d expect; none of the taxi’s in the station car park were willing to take me and I ended up on a cycle rickshaw into town where I ended up being transferred into a share auto-rickshaw; which I had to myself. This little jaunt cost me the grand old sum of RS500 and was way over the odds; I know this as I saw the rickshaw driver, who’d dropped me off, taking money off the auto driver who was taking me forward; so there had to be some dodgy dealings going on. Still, I was happy with what I’d paid, however the fare for the same journey in a shared auto would have cost me RS15!
The journey only took 25 minutes down a road that wasn’t the best and riddled with pot-holes; it was on one side of the river and followed the railway which was on the other side. BG works were already ongoing on the section between Raxaul & Bhelwa with tracks already being laid nearer Raxaul and sleepers being neatly laid out on the embankments ready to be slid into place very soon by the look of it. At the Bhelwa end there was no evidence of works and the MG tracks were still in situ towards Raxaul but there were piles and piles of BG sleepers just dumped by the station; they actually looked like the beach defenses during the Normandy landings of the 2nd World War; unfortunately the little station at Bhelwa would have no defense whatsoever to prevent the BG revolution advancing and changing the face of the towns’ landscape forever.
The station buildings looked a little worse for wear at Bhelwa and the departure board dated from 2010; the station benches had most of their slats missing and the place was a dust-bowl; yet I wondered around freely with only the odd stare trying to figure out why I was taking photographs of signals and piles of sleepers. I got less stares as I wondered through the narrow, dusty and yet clean streets of Bhelwa. It was a hot morning and just like Sakri the previous afternoon it appeared that Bhelwa had a sweet tooth and there were even more stores selling, this time freshly made, sweet things and the co-habitation with the hornet types and flies was just astonishing; but it was obviously a relationship that worked for all.
Having walked as far as I was willing and got almost back to the station I caught a glimpse of eggs out of the corner of my eye and 5 minutes later was sitting down with an omelette for breakfast. The shop owner had been frying up some chicken as I approached and didn’t bother to go and find his omelette making pan; no, the chicken was tipped onto a plate and my omelette made in the same pan immediately afterwards. The cumin he’d been using with the chicken, along with some other interesting tastes made for an interesting addition to my breakfast……
Even though Bhelwa station only had four trains a day, which was effectively two as they started/terminated there, it had plenty of small selling huts around its periphery; one such hut selling me some after breakfast chocolate which should have cost RS20 but the woman making the sale insisted on only taking RS15 despite me pointing out the prices to her; that were clearly printed on the wrappers.
I had quite a bit of time to kill just watching Bhelwa go about its’ morning business; the bell signals coming from the Station Masters’ office being my cue to get my ass into gear and find a decent spot to photograph the train arriving from Narkatiaganj. My spot was ultimately governed by where the sun was; which resulted in me having to negotiate what appeared to be the local toilet area to find the best spot. Luckily there weren’t any people to negotiate at the same time! When KNE YDM4 6465 came into view I could immediately see people on the roof of the train and on the back of the engine and feared the worst for my journey to Narkatiaganj; yet as the train ran past me it seemed that folk just chose to ride on the engine and roof because they could as there was plenty of room in the train. This at least allowed me to get some photos before boarding and at least I still got a seat in the process. 6465 had been a SGUJ loco the last time I’d seen it; which had been on the Samastipur – Khagaria section, shortly before the line had closed back in 2006. I’d been on it at the time so it was unfortunately a dud one; the same thing happened to me last time I’d done a train on the Narkatiaganj MG.
The train wasn’t wedged at all and was actually quite a pleasant journey. BG works were evident all the way to Narkatiaganj; at various stages of advancement. I had the company of a student for most of the journey who told me that the reason the trains are now quite empty is all due to costs. The train journey from Narkatiaganj to Bhewla is RS10 and the auto fare forward to Raxaul is RS15 making a total cost of RS25 between the two; the direct share taxi cost between Narkatiaganj & Raxaul is only RS15. I wasn’t complaining though, it made my journey a little more comfortable as a result.
On the approach to Narkatiaganj NKE YDM4s 6590 & 6744 could be seen, still loaded on BG wagons, having been recently transferred back from Jhanjharpur. In the station was NKE YDM4 6703 which had actually been on a BG wagon itself last time I’d been at Narkatiaganj; it was already run round and attached to the stock to work the 1600 to Bhikhana Thori, which would make it my next move as it was a new one. 6465 was detached on arrival and then run out into the sticks to sit for a while; I actually thought it was waiting for another to come off shed before it then went to shed but no such luck and it was eventually backed onto the same set of stock to work the 1515 back to Bhelwa.
As 6465 had been backed onto its train quite late it meant I didn’t manage to get a seat on the Bhikhana Thori train and ended up standing/sitting at the door for almost the whole journey. It wasn’t the worst place on the train mind and I was treated to quite a decent sunset, the sun turning from orange to red as it sank into the dust haze that covered Bihar; a haze it then sank below, well before it reached the horizon. Also visible on the sun that evening was a black spot on its’ lower left side; I later found out from the internet that this was a sunspot and I was wishing I’d took some photos, instead of thinking about it like I had at the time! I’d deemed it too much hassle with being stood at the door and being surrounded by people though…….
It was dark by the time we arrived into Bhikhana Thori; 6703 was run round quite efficiently though and we were away only 15 late. I spent most of the return journey on the luggage rack stretched out, relaxing, and listening to my Ipod. As with the Bhelwa branch, the Bhikhana Thori branch offered no thrash whatsoever. One thing I didn’t notice was any BG works going on so maybe the Bhikhana Thori branch would remain MG for some time yet?
When we got back to Narkatiaganj it was evident that 6465 had beaten us back and seemingly gone to shed as NKE YDM4 6676 was sat idling in the station. 6703 was run round and attached to the opposite end of the same set of stock it had arrived with; I assumed for the early morning Bhikhana Thori train. The same loco pilot then shut 6676 down, where it stood, which I could only assume would be the loco for the Bhelwa service the following day. 6676 had been another ex SGUJ engine that had disappeared off the face of the planet since SGUJ had closed and turned up at NKE; other examples being 6512, 6513, 6682, 6683, 6684 and of course 6465.
Thankfully I didn’t have to do my fill-in move as GD WDM3A 16595 working 15212 Amritsar – Darbhanga was dud. The train was so wedged I thought people were going to end up falling off as they clung to the doors; and that was just departing the platform! The sides of the engine had no room left either yet very strangely the very rear coach had ample standing room. Chai was plentiful on the station and my evening food ended up being the same as breakfast at Bhelwa; I noticed some kid carrying freshly made bread omelettes down the platform and followed him as he did so. The stall they were deposited on was then handed enough money for two; and they were needed!
Despite being in Bihar the next two engines I saw were well over 1000 miles away from home depot, SBI WDG4 12590 & NGC WDG3A 13008, both with goods trains. The only other train I saw arrive, during my chai drinking, was 55573 Raxaul – Narkatiaganj passenger with SPJ WDM3A 16260; which only arrived very shortly before my express to Varanasi should have so my fill-in move could well have been quite a hairy one had I done it.
Narkatiaganj station was typically Indian in that the whole of the station platform area was covered in sleeping Indians during the whole time I was stood around waiting. The comical thing about this platform being the very large cow that was wondering round sniffing at peoples’ bags and startling those that stirred when they found its face just inches from theirs! Of course animals just do what they want, when they want, and this one didn’t stop to take everyone else into consideration as it pissed on the platform; a platform that was on a slope down towards its’ edge. Any soggy disasters were averted by some alert, and awake, folk nearby……..
I was glad that my bed for the night arrived almost to time; JHS WDM3D 11291 had the honours. There was only 3AC on 12537 Muzaffarpur – Mandaundih but as I had a lower berth it wasn’t much of a hassle making it up and I was asleep shortly after departure; now officially on my way home and at this point only having 27 hours remaining in India.
Gen for Wednesday 20th November 2013
|11434||Samastipur Jct||Raxaul Jct||1545 (19/11) Howrah – Raxaul Jct||13021||SPJ WDM3D|
|Rickshaw||Raxaul Jct||Raxaul Taxi Stand||RS20, 5 minutes|
|Auto Taxi||Raxaul Taxi Stand||Bhelwa||RS500, 25 minutes, 7km (well over the odds!!)|
|6465||Bhelwa||Narkatiaganj Jct||1245 Bhelwa – Narkatiaganj Jct||52509||NKE YDM4|
|6703||Narkatiaganj Jct||Bhikhana Thori||1600 Narkatiaganj Jct – Bhikhana Thori||52506||NKE YDM4|
|6703||Bhikhana Thori||Narkatiaganj Jct||1800 Bhikhana Thori – Narkatiaganj Jct||52505||NKE YDM4|
|11291||Narkatiaganj Jct||Varanasi Jct||2010 Muzaffarpur Jct – Mandaundih||12537||JHS WDM3D – Via Gorakhpur, Bhatni, Mau|
(Other than in the moves above)
18594 (SPJ WDM2) 53131 0550 (P) Sealdah – Muzaffarpur (about 5 hours late)
16303 (TKD WDM3A) 15273 0905 Raxaul – Delhi Jct
16396 (TKD WDM3A) 15274 1715 (P) Delhi Jct – Raxaul
20080 (BGKT WDP4) 12557 1235 Muzaffarpur – Anand Vihar (Delhi)
16595 (GD WDM3A) 15212 1905 (P) Amritsar – Darbhanga
6465 (NKE YDM4) 52510 1030 Narkatiaganj – Bhelwa, 52512 1515 Narkatiaganj – Bhelwa
6676 (NKE YDM4) spare in Narkatiaganj station after service finish
Thursday 21st November 2013 (A good day out in Delhi for the Birthday boy)
Yep, it was my 38th birthday and I was spending it alone; in Delhi! Firstly I had to get there; from Varanasi. Despite being late I had a good 4 hours before my flight so took some time to get a few photos of newly out-shopped WDG3A TSPL-01, which was destined for industrial use somewhere, and was parked in the bay platform at the side of me as we arrived. Its’ works plate showed it having been built in August 2013 (Works No. 1313); this at least confirmed that WDG3As were still being built in Varanasi and not Patiala like their WDM3D counterparts.
While wasting my time photographing on platform 1 I randomly tuned in to an announcement that said 54263 Varanasi – Sultanpur passenger would depart from platform 6 and that “passengers were kindly requested to take their respective seats”. This train should have gone at 0550 and I’d assumed I’d missed it; it was the only train of the morning that could get me to Babatpur which is situated right by Varanasi’s airport some 20km out of town. When I got to platform 6 I found UDL WDG3A 13102 at one end of the stock, having arrived with the inbound from Jaunpur, and LKO WDG3A 13344 just dropping on to the other end to work to Sultanpur. Unfortunately this combination was the wrong way round for me and the new one wasn’t working the train. There didn’t seem to be any great rush to get the loco attached and the train away and as it approached 0700 I gave it up in favour of a taxi to the airport.
Taxi fares from Varanasi station are set fares and are posted on the local traffic police booth outside the main entrance of the station; the fare to the airport being RS550. The journey was simple enough and it only took about 25 minutes. The driver that took me got a little more than he bargained for as I left a Central Railway sheet with him, that I’d forgot to leave on the train before I got off, and a full unopened bottle of water, which of course I couldn’t take with me on the plane; he was a happy bunny as he drove away, leaving me at a very deserted Varanasi Airport. In fact I was the first person through the airport doors that morning, where my three hours of waiting commenced. There was waiting to get through the initial security check, then waiting to have your bags scanned and tagged before more waiting to check-in. Then there was waiting to go through security before then having to wait to find out which gate the plane would depart from and even though there wasn’t a great deal of waiting to board the plane, there was plenty of waiting at the plane doors for people to get seated at the front of the plane; before others seated at the rear could get by.
After all the waiting in Varanasi, and the fact the plane had been re-timed slightly later and then departed late on top of that, I was absolutely amazed when we landed at 1239 and I was departing Delhi Cantt at 1320! 41 minutes from touchdown to moving train; this included getting a bus from the tarmac to a gate, going through security, collecting my bag off the carousel, which was just appearing in front of me as I approached it, and getting a pre-paid taxi to Delhi Cantt sorted, where there was no queue whatsoever. Just as I got out of the taxi, in rolled the first birthday present of the afternoon; VTA WDM3A 18620 with a very much on time 19020 Bandra Terminus – Delhi Sarai Rohilla. The 2AC bogs on which took care of all my needs during the short journey from Delhi Cantt; then I was ready for the rest of the day to throw at me what it would.
I managed to get hold of a new Northern timetable at Sarai Rohilla so went into the evening rush fully prepared for the game and the old one I’d brought with me was buried at the bottom of my bag. Next up was the Ala Hazrat Express, 14322 Bhuj – Bareilly, which I was pleased to find, was still in the capable hands of IZN WDM3Ds as 11336 brought it in. I’d thought that the newly allocated IZN WDP4Ds might find their way into this link but it appeared not; I did find the link they had infiltrated later in the evening though.
The biggest surprise of the afternoon was at the Rewari end of platform 15 as we arrived into Delhi Jct; where I found KTE WDG3As 13636/14948, which had either just arrived with a train or where being prepared to work one. The only confusing thing about the situation was that while the locos were coupled to the train, they weren’t piped up; so while I tried to figure out what train the Shakti’s were on I also used the opportunity to dump my big bag at the cloak room for the remainder of the evening.
The big electronic screen near the main entrance led me to believe that the only train going off platform 15 was 54035 1540 Delhi Jct – Jakhal passenger and the next being 14545 Farukh Nagar – Saharanpur; which hadn’t yet arrived, and wasn’t going to end up in platform 15 as long as the set of stock was occupying it so I was pretty confident that the Shakti’s would be working 54035 when I decided to grab a quick bite at McDonalds by platform 3!
When I got back to platform 15 there was a crew on board the twins and the assistant loco pilot confirmed they were working to Jakhal. 14545 had arrived into platform 14 instead of 15 in the meantime with TKD WDP1 15010. There was clearly something wrong with 14948 as the crew kept testing the blower at the leading end of the loco; which still didn’t appear to be doing what it should, even after a beating with a chock! I was a little concerned that whatever problem 14948 was going to result in them being removed from the train and the crews’ gestures seemed to indicate just that but when they were back in the cab of 13636 and the log book was brought for them to sign it signified that they were ready to go; and there was no shunter in sight. From that point it was 50 minutes before the train departed, despite being ready for a right time departure.
I wasn’t too proud of what happened next but I was getting a little sick of the verbal abuse from a few Punjabi kids on board the train so I jumped off as we rolled into Delhi Kishanganj to let a few coaches roll by so I could find somewhere that was abuse free. As I did so I noticed SSB WDM2 17680 rolling into the opposite platform dragging a DMU; a quick question to some guy stood in the doorway confirmed it was going into Old Delhi and I wasted no time in jumping aboard. It turned out the DMU was booked for 74001 1645 Delhi Jct – Saharanpur and beyond and the whole formation ultimately departed Delhi Jct with 17680 doing the work. When I boarded at Kishanganj the train never actually stopped in the platform at all but there were plenty of people using the ecs to get into Delhi.
The previous move had completely changed my planned bash that evening but 17680 had put me almost back on track with 15274 1715 Delhi – Raxaul not even having a loco on it when I got back into Delhi Jct. Doing this train out towards Hapur meant my original move was still on; however I chose to do something completely different and the immediate move had rolled in right beside me about an hour previous! TKD WDP1 15010 and train were booked to sit at Delhi Jct for two hours until 1705 and with 2 minutes left before departure time I boarded for the short journey to Delhi Shahdara; which was still twice as far as it was to Kishanganj. From Shahdara I did TKD WDM3A 18953 forward to Sahibabad on 15274 Delhi Jct – Raxaul and then GD WDM3A 16064 forward to Ghaziabad on 54471 1735 Delhi Jct – Rishikesh; which was where the move fell to bits and there I stayed for the next two hours!
There were plenty of options from Ghaziabad but I chose the wrong one in waiting to do 54304 Kalka – Delhi Jct passenger back towards Delhi for something else back to Ghaziabad; for two reasons. Firstly the damn thing was too late to allow anything but a step off move back into Delhi, and secondly as it rolled in with the second biggest surprise of the day in TKD WDP4B 40069; whether it was a regular link I wasn’t sure but if it was it had replaced what was usually a TKD WDP3A. My only play at that point was to wait and see what would be offered up on the 4 trains I had a choice of back into Delhi Jct; there was still an option to do a step-off at Shahdara but as was quite usual with my last move back into Delhi, from Ghaziabad, everything was dud. There was one new engine though, which I wasn’t even remotely temped to do; BGKT WDP4D 40088 with 19106 Haridwar – Ahmedabad. This train was a very recent addition to the list of trains worked by WDP4s and it wasn’t a welcome one. The other recent addition to succumb to the WDP4 infiltration was 15013/4 BGKT – Kathgodam; which I found at Ghaziabad with IZN WDP4D 40132!
I ended up on the runt of the dud engines going back into Delhi. Thankfully everything was on time that evening, even more so as I was on the last train I could do back from Ghaziabad that was Alco hauled; not including the Moradabad – Delhi passengers which really were just not worth risking. TKD WDP1 15014 did the job though and deposited me back into Delhi Jct with plenty of time to retrieve my bag from the cloak room and get a taxi to the airport. The latter exercise was the usual game of cat and mouse in the car park outside the station. As there’s no pre-paid booth at Delhi Jct your life is in your own hands when it comes to sorting out taxis. I was willing to pay RS500 and the first price I got was “a good price sir” at RS980. This soon came down to RS700 when I told them I was only paying RS500 and by the time I’d almost walked to the car park gates it was miraculously RS500; although when we got back to the van they wanted an extra RS100 for the parking charges at the airport, which is just utter bollocks of course, and I told them so. Off we set at the agreed price of RS500 and what a pleasant journey it was too. The driver wasn’t a nutter but he wasn’t a dawdler either and he deposited me at Terminal 3 of Delhi airport 45 minutes after departing the station; I paid him his RS500 and he was on his way.
That was it, my month long solo trip had come to an end and strangely this was the first time I was actually quite content with where I was at this stage of the bash; I neither wanted to go home nor wanted to stay. I wasn’t desperate to get away from the hassle that India had thrown at me; as there hadn’t been any, at all. I really was just quite content that the trip had reached a natural conclusion and I was now walking through the airports’ entrance to make my way home.
I tried to check-in online using the BA app and the free WiFi at Delhi airport but the signal was that crap that I ended up doing so at the desk. I’d been trying to avoid having to put my big bag in the hold as it was overweight; I needn’t have bothered worrying as the guy checking me in only wanted to know that I had hand luggage, he didn’t even want to see it!
Security is the point where my mindset changed from content to wanting to get out of India as quickly as possible. It was only a small thing but just one of those things where it triggers something inside. I actually thought the army guy on security that took my small scissors away was joking when he threw them in the bin; he obviously wasn’t and neither was I when I asked for his senior to get involved. Indians have just got to be different and they were still having none of it when I presented them with British Airways’ carry-on luggage policy, which clearly allowed the scissors I’d brought with me; hence me bringing them in the first place! Long story short I was ultimately told by a BA representative that their carry-on rule is superseded in India by a federal law which doesn’t allow sharp objects at the airport; this then of course turned my frustration towards BA as none of this was mentioned on their website anyway and they’d be getting told this once I’d returned to the UK; minus my bloody scissors!
I took my frustrations out on a Dominos pizza, which did just the trick before boarding, and allowed me to completely miss take-off; which I was solidly asleep for. I vaguely remembered some form of meal service being dished out and the next thing I knew was the woman by the window wanting to get out to the aisle. This actually allowed all three of us in the row to use the bog and I was then straight back to sleep and awake just in time for breakfast; 90 minutes from Heathrow!
Gen for Thursday 21st November 2013
|VT-SZH||Varanasi||Delhi Terminal 1D||1055 Varanasi – Delhi||Spicejet|
|18620||Delhi Cantt||Delhi Sarai Rohilla||1225 (20/11) Bandra Terminus – Delhi Sarai Rohilla||19029||VTA WDM3A|
|11336||Delhi Sarai Rohilla||Delhi Jct||1225 (20/11) Bhuj – Bareilly Jct||14322||IZN WDM3D|
|13636||Delhi Jct||Delhi Kishanganj||1540 Delhi Jct – Jakhal Jct||54035||KTE WDG3A’s 13636/14948 in multi|
|17680||Delhi Kishanganj||Delhi Jct||ECS for 74001 1645 Delhi Jct – Saharanpur||SSB WDM2 – Dragging DMU|
|15010||Delhi Jct||Delhi Shahdara||1310 Farukh Nagar – Saharanpur Jct||14545||TKD WDP1|
|18953||Delhi Shahdara||Sahibabad||1715 Delhi Jct – Raxaul Jct||15274||TKD WDM3A|
|16064||Sahibabad||Ghaziabad Jct||1735 Delhi Jct – Rishikesh||54471||GD WDM3A|
|15014||Ghaziabad Jct||Delhi Jct||1510 Kotdwara – Delhi Jct||14043||TKD WDP1|
(Other than in the moves above)
13102 (UDL WDG3A) 54262 0315 Jaunpur – Varanasi
13344 (LKO WDG3A) 54263 0550 Varanasi – Sultanpur
14134 (IZN WDM3A) 14311 0605 Bareilly – Bhuj
15511 (TKD WDP3A) 54415 1350 Delhi Jct – Rewari
13223 (ED WDG3A) 12216 1255 (P) Bandra Terminus – Delhi Sarai Rohilla
15011 (TKD WDP1) 14520 0650 Bathinda – Delhi Jct
15512 (TKD WDP3A) 54417 1610 Delhi Jct – Rewari
11395 (LKO WDM3D) 14316 1635 New Delhi – Bareilly
16305 (TKD WDM3A) 14004 1805 Delhi Jct – Malda Town
16397 (TKD WDM3A) 54411 1450 Rewari – Meerut Cantt
40069 (TKD WDP4B) 54304 0705 Kalka – Delhi Jct
16274 (TKD WDM3A) 54022 1800 Hazrat Nizamuddin – Bulandshahr
15531 (TKD WDP3A) 14555 1430 Bareilly – Delhi Jct
15527 (TKD WDP3A) 19020 1035 Dehradun – Bandra Terminus
40088 (BGKT WDP4D) 19106 1510 Haridwar – Ahmedabad
40132 (IZN WDP4D) 15013 0630 Bhagat Ki Kothi – Kathgodam
Friday 22nd November 2013
I often looked forward to the journey home from Heathrow; and this morning was no exception. The underground seemed to be running well and I was delivered to Kings Cross in good time for my 1035 Kings Cross – Leeds; that would take me to Doncaster. I’d joked the previous day in an e-mail with my girlfriend that the journey down the East Coast was a pleasure after being on wedged, hot & slow trains; especially those that often had their chains pulled or departed their origin late due to having to keep stopping for stragglers. Yet the very first departure I witnessed from Kings Cross could well have been a departure in India; the 1000 Aberdeen was brought to a stand as it set off by the chain being pulled. It turned out someone had got onto the wrong train and their friend was chasing the train down the platform in attempt to get it stopped. Once stopped it took 5 minutes to get the doors released and the passenger off; who by that time had missed the 1005 Leeds that they wanted to be on. Of course the one thing that would have prevented delay in India is the fact that the doors would all have been wide open as the train departed and people would still have been getting on so the person wanting to get off could have just done so as the train was trickling down the platform. The irony………
My journey back to Doncaster was a far cry from anything Indian like, the train was empty, it stopped only at the booked stations and maintained a constant high speed; depositing me at Doncaster bang on time. It was a fitting end to what was one of the most enjoyable trips to India I’ve ever done; at which point I was already looking forward to my return in January and had to make sure my Indrail Pass booking was in that evening to beat the 60 day reservation rule.
|G-CIVA||Delhi IGI T3||Heathrow T5||0340 Delhi – Heathrow||BA142||British Airways B747|
|91104||Kings Cross||Doncaster||1035 Kings Cross – Leeds||1D10|
Unlike any other trip I’ve done to India this trip seemed to have less hassle & myther than any before. Whether it was because it was on my own, or whether attitudes towards foreigners are changing with time I don’t know but the one thing I will say is that it made the whole experience a lot more pleasurable. Even in Bihar and the depths of the North East people were friendly and didn’t bother me at all while I was stood minding my own business at wayward places; even while I was riding on the side of locos in the NE Hills nobody batted an eyelid.
On the loco side of things there was a distinct lack of WDM2’s throughout the whole trip; which are now become in a dying breed. On the opposite side of the coin there is an increasing amount of WDG3A’s working passenger/express trains; even from sheds that don’t, or didn’t, tend to use them at all on passenger work; such as VSKP, PTRU, ED & GD. This is likely the answer to the dying number of WDM2’s in service; a lot of those that actually are now being restricted to shunting work in carriage sidings, and that’s country wide from what I’ve seen.
One of the main reasons for my visits to India from day one was the MG and the YDM4s; unfortunately the end is nigh for these machines with the Lumding – Silchar – Agartala line soon to succumb to the BG infiltration; this will leave the Bareilly – Aishbagh/Gonda section as the biggest left with Fatehbad Chandrawatiganj – Akola next; the latter already being chopped down from Ratlam recently and once the bits in Bihar are mopped up and closed there will be very little to go at in the near future; my advice to anyone wanting to sample the MG at all is to go now!
The trip threw up quite a lot of surprises and left some very good memories in my head; not only did I manage to get three pairs of VSKP Shakti’s in, I also had a PTRU one, which of course failed, and then a GD one came to its rescue! By far the best thrash of the whole trip was in the Haflong area while riding on the freight trains; I can still hear 6387 ringing in my ears now, the run off which was possibly one of the best I’ve ever had, the world over, for noise. I can’t believe that the riding on trains through Haflong may not even be possible by this time next year………..