**It is to be noted that Kanyakumari-Jammu Tawi Himsagar Express (train number 16317 / 16318 ) is no longer the longest train service in India,the throne now is with Kanyakumari - Dibrugarh Town Vivek Express (train number 15905 / 15906 )
After holidaying for almost 2 weeks in Kerala ( The God's Own Country as the tag line of the state's tourism board says and its very much true I must say ) , it was time for us to return to Bhopal,Madhya Pradesh . Madhya Pradesh (translated into English, it wouldn't be wrong to call it the Central Province/State ) tourism board taking advantage of the geographical location aptly has a campaign encouraging tourists to visit the "Heart of India ". Bhopal the famous city of central India and perhaps known all over the world for the Bhopal Gas Tragedy ,the Worst Industrial Accident in History.Ok so now back to the trip report.
It was the morning of 16th march 2011 when I got up to books tickets through the IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation ) website but unfortunately the site was down (common during the peak time i.e. at 8:00 am when the bookings for tatkal open ) and then , the only and perhaps the best way was to go the railway reservation office at Kollam , luckily I got my ticket and also got the required seats , side upper and side lower (if you have travelled on Sleeper Class of Indian Railways you will understand better about the seat positioning etc. ) .And on the same day I met railfan Jyothish K.D. who was heading to Thiruvananthapuram ,the state capital,onboard 12626 Kerala express,the rake was looking really dirty and had a tired look .Actually Kerala express is the longest daily service on Indian Railways ,its route is New Delhi - Bhopal - Nagpur - Vijayawada - Palakkad - Ernakulam Junction - Kottayam - Thiruvanthapuram.The trains completes the mammoth journey of 3036 Kilometres ( 1886.4 miles ) in 51 hours and 05 mins .
On the day of our journey i.e. 18 march 2011 we reached Kollam (British name - Quilon ) station a bit late but luckily our train 16317 Himsagar Express was a bit late and reached Kollam at 5:31 PM , 21 mins behind the scheduled arrival time .It was hauled by Royapuram Electric Loco Shed based WAP-4 22786 .
|Royapuram Electric Loco Shed based WAP-4 22786|
I was surprised to see the Pantry car as the very first coach, the departure from Kollam was really good ,it was parallel action between Punalur bound passenger which had Erode Diesel Loco Shed's WDM-2 at its helm , the diesel smoked and quickly overtook us , suddenly Mangalore Central- Thiruvananthapuram 16649 Parasuram Express heading towards Kollam came in between , our train accelerated and I saw the the Punalur bound passenger waiting for the signal,the Royapuram WAP-4 (the locomotive hauling my train ) was blasting with the tiny 11 coach rake ,I was surprised that it had only 11 coaches as I didnt know about the slip coaches back then and at the same time I remembered capturing a longer Himsagar exp some time back at Bhopal.The train reached Kayankulam at 6:22pm ,still running late , from there a husband and wife and their little baby boarded the train ,their seat was in the adjacent compartment.
The train reached Ernakulan Town station at around 9:10 PM and after some sometime we reached Aluva .At Aluva RPF ( Railway Protection Force ) men came and asked the lady who was with her child whether her name was Vijaylakshmi and informed her that her husband couldn't get into the train after getting down at Ernakulan Town station , immediately she came down from the upper berth and was asked to wait at Aluva till her husband reaches Aluva, the train left soon and then within few mins I saw some light flashing, it looked as it was from some lighthouse, it was actually a flight taking off from Cochin International Airport , the airport was looking awesome ,especially the runway .
In the mean time I heard some co-passengers talking about the slip coaches , anyway we slept at 10:50pm (isn't it a bit late by train journey standards), the last station I remember was Thrissur , probably the cultural capital of Kerala.
The next day i.e. 19 march 2011 ,I woke up to find that the the train was longer ,the slip coaches had been augmented at Erode perhaps,we had a good run and reached Vijaywada 6 minutes ahead of the scheduled time .
|With augmented coaches|
After Nellore we had lunch and I really liked the food . This train indeed offers better food as compared to some other trains (just my personal view) .
|Lunch ... it was good .|
At Vijawada I felt some movement ,I went out to check what was happening and I saw a Milk tanker and a parcel van being attached at the rear end.We had a high speed run throughout the night.
|The beautiful railway bridges over the RIver Krishna , Vijayawada.|
|Impressive truss work . Krishna Bridge,Vijayawada.|
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20 march 2011 It was 6 AM when I woke up I knew if the train was on time then we shouldn't be far from Itarsi,suddenly we crossed a tunnel ,I knew this was the ghat section between Maramjhiri and Dharakhoh ,I immediately got down from my Side upper berth and took my window seat .
|Dharakhoh ,with that the ghat section comes to an end .|
I saw few trains, important one being the Hazrat Nizammudin (Delhi ) - Bangalore Rajdhani led by WAP-7 class loco.We had to wait at Itarsi outer for 20 mins and I saw two trains getting out of Itarsi ,one towards Bhusaval line and another on the Nagpur line, the heading towards Nagpur was 12616 New Delhi - Chennai Central Grand Trunk GT Express ,as the trains passed our train slowly moved into Itarsi Junction around 8 mins late.
|12616 New Delhi-Chennai Grand Trunk (GT) Express curves out of Itarsi|
|Our loco takes a breather at Itarsi ,simply because we had a fantastic run throughout the jouney.|
|The beautiful railway bridge over River Narmada located north of Hoshangabad (north of Itarsi)|
After crossing the Budni ghat section,Himsagar express was held up near Bhopal and we reached Bhopal Bhopal 15mins late at 9:40am and with that the journey of 2270 kilometres came to an end.
Finally I was back home after 19 days 3 hrs covering 4598 kilometres on Indian Railways !!!!!!!