Saturday, November 3, 2012

Aboard 12262 Howrah-Mumbai Duronto Express

        Aboard 12262 Howrah-Mumbai Duronto Express
I’ve had heard a lot of positives about the Durontos (The nonstop trains between two cities) from my fellow railfans and friends alike, hence without giving a second thought I decided to travel on this train from Howrah (Kolkata) to Mumbai.  Although I got a confirmed ticket easily, upon checking the status on the day of my journey i.e. July 23rd, 2012 I was little surprised to see waitlisted passengers. The scheduled departure of this train was 8:20AM from Howrah station so as usual I decided to reach an hour before the departure.  Upon entering the station after negotiating through the crowded streets of Kolkata even around 7AM, I saw a plethora of trains ready to depart and arrive.  I glanced through the departure indicator to see if my train was scheduled but it was not however I figured out that it will depart from platform#21. Meanwhile, I saw Secunderabad bound Falaknuma express leaving from platform#20, at the helm was an SRC WAP-4 class loco.  Also spotted Bangalore-Howrah express which had already arrived hauled by another SRC WAP-4.  
Finally, around 7:45AM my train was announced to depart from platform#21, as expected….. but for some unknown reason they (the section controllers) changed to platform#20 a few minutes before departure. The train was shunted in by a derated KGP WDM-2 class loco around 7:50AM. My coach was B1 (classified as LWACCN), 2nd from the loco which means I had to walk almost the entire length of the train. The first coach was, of course, an End on Generator car (EOG) classified as LWLRRM. As soon as this KGP WDM-2 got decoupled and moved away, a HWH WAP-4 got coupled to my train.  I was surprised to see HWH WAP-4 loco because I was expecting an SRC WAP-4 as this train is maintained by South Eastern Railway but later I learned that the regular link is indeed HWH WAP-4.  My coach was newly built (manufactured in 2009) a CBC coach. At 8:20AM on the button the loco pilots sounded the customary short and the long pitched tones and we departed. Simultaneously an EMU also departed which ran parallel for quite a long distance, and also Jaisalmer bound express train departed at the same time hauled by yet another HWH WAP-4 from Eastern Railway side of Howrah station.  It took a lot of time to negotiate the speed restrictions and join main line, unlike in Mumbai where the turn outs are quite faster, but upon joining (the main line), the acceleration of a HWH WAP-4 was superb. I guess we were doing about 100KMPH constantly for a long time and as a result reached Kharagpur Jn.  in about 90 minutes (of course we didn’t stop here). Meanwhile, the breakfast was served containing two slices of white bread, cutlets and mango juice, it was good!!  The LHB coach was not too comfortable as compared with ICF/RCF but the large windows gave a very good view of outside. We encountered a few Caution Orders (COs) of 30KMPH right after Kharagpur Jn. but after clearing those COs, we were back at speed of 110KMPH, in fact more than 110KMPH but rarely the train crossed 110+KMPH. After morning meal, I got engaged in conversation with my fellow passengers as we continued into a long journey of another 20 hours. 

                                     Aboard Howrah-Mumbai Duronto Express
 The first technical halt was Tatanagar Jn., we pulled in around 11:30AM and after a 10 minute stop and crew change off we went. I saw a few, in fact; all of the armed guards got off of the train and a few ‘passengers’ boarded the train. Now…..I suppose the tickets for intermediary stations is not available on this train then how do these ‘passengers’ boarded with their luggage still, and I guess, will remain a mystery.  Anyway, the acceleration was once again fantastic with new crew members taking charge of the train.  I thought the train might run at 120/130KMPH but I guess never crossed a 110KMPH mark, perhaps did 115KMPH for some few minutes. The lunch was served around 1PM, which consist of typical Indian meal of rotis (flatbread), vegetable, rice, and curry etc. The food was not too bad but could have been better.  The next technical halt was Bilaspur Jn., we pulled in around 5:30PM and again a new set of crew members took charge of the train. I also spotted Bhubaneshwar-LTT (Mumbai) express hauled by a TATA WAM-4 class loco. I guess this, and Puri-LTT (Mumbai) almost always gets a WAM-4 class loco. We, of course, overtook this train. After a 10-minute halt we pulled out of Bilaspur Jn. and between Raipur and Bilaspur I guess the speed did cross 120KMPH but only for a few minutes.  This train takes a detour and skips Raipur Jn.  hence I was not able to meet my cousins…but nevermind!! The evening meal was served and then the dinner around 9PM.  The dinner didn’t have any choice; it was the same old thing!! Same vegetable, rotis, rice, and curry etc.  It was rather disappointing but really didn’t mind.  After the dinner and light conversation with my fellow passengers, I decided it was time for some good sleep. I took the upper berth with the AC ducts right over my head, couldn’t have asked for (anything) more. After watching an Air crash Investigation episode (TAM airlines crash in Brazil), off I went to sleep. I was very tired so I didn’t have a hard time catching sleep; besides being on train I have never experienced disturbed sleep.  The train stopped for 2 more technical halts viz., Nagpur Jn. and Bhuvasal Jn. but I was fast asleep.
The next day I woke up to see the train entering Igatpuri around 7:55AM, pretty much running on time.  Here the HWH WAP-4 22632 got detached and a KYN WCAM-3 21942. This is the same WCAM-3 loco which caught fire while hauling the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen express at Neral Jn.a few months back.  After a 10 minute halt, we pulled out of Igatpuri with cautious speed due to mountainous terrain and steep down gradient. The breakfast was served which comprised of 2 slices of white bread and a veg. cutlet with tomato sauce.  Soon we crossed Kasara, the start of Mumbai suburban section with cautious speed but after this the loco pilot accelerated to 100KMPH until we came across another major and long caution order of 10KMPH. The reason was a major train collision involving an MRVC EMU (the suburban train) and Nagpur bound Vidharbha express hauled by another KYN WCAM-3 21939.

After clearing the speed restriction, we were cruising around 100KMPH through the suburbs of Mumbai until we came to a unscheduled halt right outside Kalyan Jn due to heavy morning traffic and rush hour.  After cautiously negotiating though Kalyan Jn. platform#6, the train again picked out the speed but did only 70-80KMPH because of Pune-Mumbai Deccan Queen express right ahead and a few CST (Mumbai) bound EMUs.  The overall run through the suburban section was quite slow due to above reasons but still the train managed to stay fairly on time.  We entered the destination i.e., CST (Mumbai) around 10:40AM on time.  So this marks the end of my 26 hours 20 minutes train ride on a Duronto express. Overall, it was a good and fairly comfortable journey but I think there’s some good scope for improvement in the service.