Thursday, 21 June 2012

Himsagar Express : Travelling on board the then longest railway service in India (only for the Kollam ( Quilon ) - Bhopal stretch )

**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.

Kayankulam Junction

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) .
Pennar Bridge,Nellore.

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.

No description required.

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 !!!!!!!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Rail fanning at Patra ,Bhopal.The day 139 & let us down :-(

After deciding the previous night that we will be heading to some place or the other to capture the newly introduced Haridwar Junction (HW) - Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) AC express ,I and Ujjawal Kashyap didnt exchange any message until  Ujjawal rang me up around 10:30am ,though awake I wasn't out of bed yet ,before he requested I switched on my laptop and by the time he asked me to check the status of HW-LTT AC express ,it was already being displayed on the screen in front of me,it was around 2 hours late ,the www.trainenquiry. com (for those who don't know ,it is the official site of the  Indian Railways dedicated     to train arrival and departure timings) gave the ETA ( Estimated Time of Arrival ) as 12:35pm,I got ready and left home on my scooter  around 11:45am ,I met Ujjawal on the way and here we were heading towards Patra river bridge ,it was about 10 Km away from our place but straight roads through the National Highway meant we reached there in almost 15mins,on the way we saw a BOXNHL rake passing under the Karod overbridge but we couldn't see the locomotive  that was powering it.Finally we were at our rail fanning spot ,I  parked my scooter  near the tracks and we walked along the tracks to the nearest curve ,we waited for a while and finally at 12:30 pm a Tiger face liveried WAG-7 27526 of Gomoh Electric Loco Shed went past us with a BTPN(oil tankers) rake in tow.Check the pic -

This made me suspicious about the status of AC exp ,remember 2 goods train had passed during this slot,even though Ujjawal was optimistic about the train arriving late than the previous status of it being 2 hours late ,the pessimist in me came out and I pressed those 3 unlucky digits "1-3-9" (139,the official number of Indian Railways for passenger services enquiry )and the news was HW-LTT AC express had already reached Bhopal Junction at 11:55 am ,Ujjawal couldnt  believe it,just some hours ago he had got the response that the train was 2 hours late but I told him they may sometimes give us the wrong ETA but for sure they wont give the wrong information about the train already reaching a particular station.

Anyway I wasnt disappointed much ,as I felt that that it wasn't our fault,anyway Ujjawal still expected the train to come,that wasn't going to be in any case,finally it was time to overcome this disappointment,the wait continued and  at 12:45 pm an ET WDM-3D 11209 (ET means Itarsi and WDM-3D is a 3300 HP diesel locomotive on Indian Railways ) with a pink ET DLS logo over it thundered past us with Jodhpur-Bhopal.Pic here-

Jodhpur-Bhopal Express

Suddenly I saw those tiny aircrafts and motor powered  gliders flying around ,immediately we switched ourselves  from rail fanning mode to plane fanning mode and our cameras started to look at the sky rather than keeping an eye on the proceedings on the land,we  were busy clicking when something similar to the honey bee but much bigger in size started buzzing around Ujjawal,he had to run around for a while before getting rid of this insect,it literally followed him ,so much that he was panting at the end of the whole excercise.Personally I enjoyed watching the tactics between a man and an insect :-O...hhehee :-D .

Ujjawal being chased by that buzzing insect

We came back to our original railfanning mode at 1:11 pm when a WAP-4 shell NKJ WAG-7 #28033 (WAG-7 is a 5000 HP electric locomotive and NKJ refers to the New Katni Electric Loco Shed) passed with BOXN (top open coal wagons)rake and as usual the coal not only filled every inch inside the wagon but also made a small hillock over it.

It was 1:23 pm when the nearest signal turned green and we could see the nearby LC(level crossing ) was also closed.I stood on higher level than the tracks to observe the loco link early,as I shouted "Jhansi WAG-5" ,Ujjawal asked me whether twins or single ,I replied "single" ,this didnt excite him much and he decided not to shoot but suddenly as the train approached ,he loudly told me they are twins !! ,he quickly took out his camera and clicked some fantastic pics!
(actually I was so disappointed on seeing the JHS WAG-5 (another class of electric locos ) that I wasnt able to observe carefully whether it was twin headed or not)

Then we had to wait for 30 minutes  for any kind of action (thats too much on this Bhopal - Bina - New Delhi  section) and finally the silence was broken by a speeding BSL WAP-4 22297 (WAP-4 is a 5000 HP electric loco ,BSL refers to Bhusaval) with GKP(Gorakhpur Junction) -LTT  Kushinagar Express.The dry spell continued,I pressed "139" again and again something disappointing,the Bhopal Shatabdi was late by 30mins ,I spent time doing useless stuff like clicking skies and nearby greenery ,the fields etc.I was resting on the heap of ballast which was neatly set up in the shape of pyramidal frustum ,I did disturb that a bit ;-)  and as I was sitting idle looking at the "red" signal ,I saw something that suddenly took me to excited state,no that wasnt on seeing Shatabdi express  , it was on seeing Camels!! , I spent time clicking camels and traditionally dressed women ,its quite remarkable that these people walk miles with their camels and come so far away from their real home.

Finally after clicking them, I had to do something for which I had really come over here and yeah I did that by taking a low angle-semi low angle shot of AJNI WAG-9 31103 banked  on the curve at 2:51 pm,then I went back to my place i.e. on to the heap of ballast (the ballast is for the upcoming Bhopal-Bina  third line) and within minutes , at 2:53pm ,the KING(Shatabdi Express, the fastest train in India ) came in full glory ,the power was WAP-5 30024(WAP-5 locos are the fastest locos in India at present)  ,the blue LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch based designs but actually made at Rail Coach Factory ,Kapurthala , Punjab ) coaches with large windows as always really looked beautiful.

New Delhi -Bhopal Shatabdi Express (the fastest train in India)

It was time to call it a day ,when Ujjawal spotted something ,a telescopic view through his high zoom camera showed it to be a BSL WAM-4 (another electric loco class ,most of them are more than 35 years old but still going strong )  ,though we knew this was GKP-LTT Super  Fast  express ,the question was whether it was having LHB hybrid rake behind it or not,within minutes the wammie moved and unleashed its full power and passed right in front of us at 2:59 pm,just 6 mins behind the Bhopal Shatabdi,that was just super...unbelievable chase .It was sure that announcements must be going on at Bhopal Junction about the change of platform for GKP-LTT SF as the the usual PF 1 would be occupied by the KING.
WAM-4 class electric locomotives ,really old but still going strong.

Everything  over ,now we were heading towards my scooter  ,when we heard a loco honking at the curve ,it was a WAG-5 ,Ujjawal quickly identified it to be a BNDM(Bondamunda Junction)  loco but as it came closer it was clear that it was a Jhansi WAG-5,it was recent transfer to JHS and the loco WAG-5 23161 "CHETAK" still carried the BNDM logo over it.The container rake behind it looked beautiful.

Ujjawal was bang in middle of Down line capturing the WAG-5 when a Barbie doll liveried  BSL WAG-5A 23337 came with BTPN rake in tow,there was ample time to move away as we had seen it coming quite early.

Finally at 3:20pm ,without waiting for the 12001 Shatabdi or the Dadar - Amritsar  express I headed back home ,after reaching home ,I  immediately switched on the TV to watch the India vs New Zealand  warm up  match before the ICC Cricket World Cup.