Monday, September 2, 2013

.......To Rameshwaram

Rameshwaram Bound
           I hadn’t been on a long train trip for quite some time and upon my mom’s imperativeness, I immediately booked the tickets to Rameshwaram – A small but beautiful town in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. There’s no direct train from Mumbai to Rameshwaram but then that’s so gratifying for any Indian railway enthusiast. What is the fun in traveling from A to B non-stop!!  I always prefer to take the longest possible route!! After researching for over 3 hours for the best possible connecting train to Rameshwaram in the wee hours of the morning, I zeroed in on a train via Chennai but the AC -2 tier class of 11041 Mumbai-Chennai express was badly waitlisted and I knew it wouldn’t make any sense booking waitlisted tickets. Eventually, I settled in for 11021 Dadar (Mumbai) – Tirunelveli Chalukya express to Madurai as tickets were available in AC-2 tier class, and then from Madurai decided to take the Tamil Nadu State Transport aka State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) bus to Rameshwaram. I've had some more options available to travel via Ahmedabad or Hyderabad but I decided against it as my mom is clearly not a railfan!! The return journey to Mumbai was made via Chennai, and Bangalore. We (my mom, and I) boarded 16702 Rameshwaram – Chennai Egmore express (Boat Mail), and then took 22625 Chennai Central - Bangalore AC Double Decker express to Bangalore, and finally we boarded a flight to back to Mumbai.

                                         On Board 11021 Chalukya Express
     This was the first time I was going to travel on 11021 Chalukya express but I was excited albeit I heard some negative things about this train. My coach# A1 was brand new, manufactured in the year 2012 and being 4th from the loco was kind of blessing for me!!  The train was scheduled to depart from Dadar terminus, Mumbai at 9:30PM from platform#8 and we (my mom, and I) reached before 9PM which in turn gave me some time to spot other trains arriving, and leaving Mumbai.  The train bound for Shridi town was getting ready on the opposite platform, at the helm was a KYN WDG-3A aka ‘Shakti’ class loco and at the helm of my 11021 chalukya express was a KYN WCAM-2P # 21877 class loco. The train was full but most of the passengers were traveling till Bangalore. After settling in, I decided to check out the loco as usual. This is the first thing I do whenever I travel by train.  It was, as mentioned above, dual voltage 2900HP KYN WCAM-2P class loco. The train departed 5 minutes late, around 9:35PM and slowly came over to the main line after negotiating the cross-over speed restriction (technically known as On X-Over speed restriction) of 20KMPH.  After joining the main line, the loco unleashed the power and with a 17 coach load; it took mere minutes to cross 100KMPH mark through the suburbs of Mumbai….but we did slow down a number of times as we were closely chasing 17057 Mumbai-Secunderabad Devgiri express and we were closely chased by Hyderabad bound 12701 Hussian Sagar express till we reached Kaylan Jn., the first commercial halt.  Notwithstanding my train slowed down and crawled, yet managed to reach 5 minutes before time at Kalyan Jn.  After a 3 minute halt, we were given a starter and got diverted on line bound for south whilst Secunderabad bound Devgiri express took the north bound line. After leaving Kalyan Jn. and negotiating through the neutral zone we were back to Maximum Permissible Speed or MPS of 105KMPH and continued to maintain for a long time and as a result we arrived Karjat Jn. 7 minutes before time.  The banker locos (KYN WAG-7 class) were already waiting on one of the loop lines and got immediately attached to the rear of the train to push it up the mountains. After a protracted halt due to early arrival, we accelerated out cautiously. I decided to be at the door in spite of coach attendant asking me to close the door. I stood there for almost an hour till we reached Lonavala. I was astounded by the beauty of the Bhor ghats (mountain passes) at night with clouds levitating around, cold and brumous ambience. We were doing decent speed even while ascending the steep gradients and hence we reached Lonavala before time by over 10 minutes and I knew we will have a good 15 minutes halt resulting from early arrival. This gave an opportunity to get down and check out the train, and the loco link again.  While doing so I overheard two guys talking about the Indian railways, and the locomotives. After listening to them of their ‘technical knowledge’ about the Indian railways, I felt like correcting them big time. They were talking nonsense!! It was apparent that they have had no clue as to the difference between a diesel, and an electric locomotive. Meanwhile, an announcement went off about the departure of Lonavala-Pune EMU (suburban train) before my train. I figured out that we are going to trail this EMU right till Pune Jn. because unlike Mumbai, Pune suburban section does not have dedicated lines for suburban trains. Immediately after the EMU left, we were given a starter to proceed. We accelerated out, and accelerated well but, as expected we took a lot of unscheduled stops which resulted in 10 minutes delay, however due to slack time between Lonavala and Pune, we managed to pull into Pune Jn. at expected time 1:10AM but only just. The loco changed from KYN WCAM-2P (electric loco) to PUNE WDM-3D # 11384 (diesel loco). I thought a GY WDM-3A would haul my train from Pune as it was lying idle on a pit line right next to my train but a PUNE WDM-3D came in silently out of nowhere. It would have been a great off link, had it been a GY WDM-3A loco attached my train. In the meantime, Hyderabad bound 12701 Hussain Sagar super fast express, hauled by KZJ WDM-3A class loco, entered Pune Jn. 10 minutes before time.  I guess this train was closely following my 11021 Chalukya express.  After about 15 minutes halt, the starter was given to my train and rather not surprisingly 12701 Hussai Sagar express started at the same time.  After carefully negotiating the turn outs, my train was routed to south bound line whereas 12701 Hussai Sagar express, after running parallel for about 100 meters, got routed to east bound line. After leaving Pune, I decided to sleep so hopped onto the upper berth while my mom was fast asleep on lower berth unaware of the drama unfolding outside and unaware of what was I up to. 
            I woke up around 6AM and quickly figured out that we were waiting at Miraj Jn., we had covered some 250KM from Pune overnight. Miraj is a small yet beautiful town some 60KM from the city of Kolhapur in the state of Maharashtra and bordering the state of Karnataka. There was nothing much to spot here except for a passenger train halted with a WDM-3D class loco of Pune shed.  

               An unknown passenger train with WDM-3D class loco of Pune shed at its helm at Miraj Jn.

                                                The line bound for Kolhapur from Miraj Jn
               After a 5 minute mandatory halt, we accelerated out rapidly but never crossed the speed of 80KMPH till we reached Belgaum, and then Londa Jn. because I think the section speed restriction was 80-90KMPH. We reached Londa Jn. 10 minutes before time and were given a pronounced halt because I could see Howrah (Kolkata) bound 18048 Amravati express leaving Londa Jn. right ahead of us. This was the first time I was going to travel beyond Londa towards Hubli so I was looking forward for it. It was beautiful outside after we left Londa Jn., it felt like the earth was covered with a green rug. I sat by the door, doorplating as usual. There were a lot of speed restrictions and the section speed, even after leaving Londa, I believe was not more than 90KMPH due to numerous sharp curves and gradients.  All the while, we were closely trailing 18048 Amravati express. We reached Hubli Jn., the South Western Railway headquarter, on time at 12:30PM. I got to see a lot of trains with a variety of locos, including Howrah bound Amravati express hauled by twin GY WDM-3A class locos, which was running right ahead of us from Londa Jn. I got the opportunity to click a lot of photos and even the presence of RPF (Railway Police) didn’t bother me. 
                                       My coach# A1, an AC-2 tier of 11021 Chalukya express

                                                  11021 Chalukya express waiting at Hubli Jn.
                                      An AC-2tier coach of 18048 Vasco-Howrah Aravati express 

   Twin WDM-3A class loco of Pune shed at the helm of Hubli- Delhi Nizamuddin link express
                     After a 15 minute halt and a crew change, starter was given to my train and slowly we crawled and then accelerated out of Hubli Jn. for the next schedule halt at Haveri. We covered the distance of 75KM very quickly and around 1:45PM we reached Haveri.  I didn’t quite have a pretty sight to see upon reaching Haveri. Unfortunately, a train (most probably 06511 Bangalore-Jaipur GR express hauled by UBL WDG-4 class loco) had crushed a man to death and his mutilated body was being video shot by some 5-6 media guys instead of taking the body to the autopsy center.  It was apparent that those media guys just didn’t have any respect for the departed soul!! It seemed that they were in a kind of competition as to who will broadcast first on the NEWS channel. Human run overs by train is not uncommon in India but I didn't see anything like this before. Anyway, we were running before time so again there was a pronounced halt however we departed on time around 1:55PM. This train does not have a pantry car but has the catering facilit so I immediately ordered the food as I was very hungry. The food was reasonably delectable but more importantly I just wanted to douse my hunger. After lunch I decided to doorplate again but it was getting a little boring as there was not much to spot on this section except the never ending fields, and I was eagerly waiting to reach Bangalore. 
                                                         Open field after leaving Haveri
                  The schedule arrival at Yesvantpur, Bangalore was 8:50PM but we reached 10 minutes late due crossing of trains enroute and  the non-availability of platform upon reaching the outer of Yesvantpur,  we were held up for over 20 minutes right outside. There’s a massive 70 minute official halt here with loco reversal hence I got an opportunity to venture outside the station to buy some decent food from a restaurant.  After the dinner, I decided to perambulate around the railway station in order to observe the trains entering and leaving Yesvantpur, and some locos idling. I was hoping that my train will get a KJM WDP-4 class loco but to my surprise it was PUNE WDM-3D which continued after refueling and after getting attached to the other side of the train. The train departed at 10PM right time and after doorplating for 15 minutes through the suburbs of Bangalore, I decided to go to sleep.  A lot of people had disembarked at Yesvantpur so my coach was quite empty which allowed me to take the side lower berth (I guess almost every Indian railfan, by default, request for side lower berth while booking their tickets, whether at the reservation center or on-line). I woke up around 4:30AM to find myself at Erode Jn. in Tamil Nadu state. The train again gets a reversal and gets diverted on the line bound for Madurai. The train bound for Coimbatore from Chennai Central, 12674 Cheran express had already arrived and was waiting right next to my train with an RPM WAP-4 class loco at its helm. Interestingly, this train shares its rake (RSA) with Cennai Central-Ahmedabad 12656 Navjeevan express express.  Around 4:40AM, we crawled out of station and I again decided to doorplate albeit I was only half awake. I was not expecting high speed action here but to my surprise the train did cross the speed of 110KMPH and for the first time ever since I boarded the train in Mumbai, the acceleration of WDM-3D class loco was superb with 17 coach load, it crossed 110KMPH with ease. After spending some time at the door, I returned to my berth to complete my much needed sleep and I was little tired, too. I opened my eyes to see we were exiting Dindigul Jn. around 7am, running right time. Again and as usual, after freshening up, I decided to be at the door. It was beautiful outside with a lot of mountains and some low clouds around but surprisingly no rain.  I spent the entire 1 hour at the door, till we reached Madurai – my intermediate destination to Rameshwaram.  After crawling through the outer of Madurai Jn., we pulled into Madurai Jn. platform# 2 on time at 8AM. Immediately after disembarking, a few railway porters gathered around to help carry our baggages but I politely refused them as I was carrying my backpack and my mom was with her duffle bag. I bid goodbye to 11021 Chalukya express, and also thanked the loco pilots for doing a wonderful job!! I was awed at the cleanliness of the railway station and it wasn’t too crowded. This was the end of my amazing 39 hours train ride but I was ready for a 4 hour bus ride. From Madurai we took the Tamil Nadu State Transport bus service to Rameshwaram, a distance of 161KM.

    WDM-3D of Pune shed at the helm of 11021 Chalukya express at Madurai Jn.,
          Traveling by bus was totally a different experience from that of train, of course it was nice but at any day I’d prefer train over bus or flight. Got a good glimpse of Madurai town while traveling from railway station to bus station, which was 10KM away. I really liked the city, pretty clean and well managed. The newly built bus station was huge and again pretty clean but I really had a hard time communicating with people due to lack of my Tamil language skill however in some way managed to communicate thanks to my Malayam language skill. After asking a lot of people for the right bus to Rameshwaram, I managed to find one just in time. One thing I noticed is that although I was faced by a language barrier, people were still helpful!  It took about 4 hours to reach the Rameshwaram town bus station from Madurai. I have had my GPS on and was constantly tracking the route and was eagerly waiting to travel over the Pamban bridge which connects main land India with an island of Rameshwaram. It was an amazing feeling to cross over the Bay of Bengal on Pamban bridge. Nothing much had changed since my last visit in 2006 except the gauge conversion from meter gauge to broad gauge railway line. Finally we reached our final destination around 12PM. This ended my one way journey of 43 hours from Mumbai to Rameshwaram, covering the distance if 1855KM. It was an amazing journey which I’d like to do it again, and will do it again soon!!

 The route I took from Mumbai to Rameshwaram.

……….Stay tuned for a blog on journey back to Mumbai!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Short Trip to Pune

                       A Short Trip to Pune

Onboard 11019 Konark Express:

We Indian Railway enthusiasts have always savored train journeys no matter the class in which we travel.  The steerage class with an emergency window (without bars) is a paradise for any railfan, including me. Well...after returning from the 12123/12124 Pune-Mumbai Deccan Queen express birthday celebration, one of my very good railfan friends Akshay Iyer asked me if we can travel to Pune again for a short rail fanning trip over the weekend. Well…without any indisposition whatsoever my reply was approbatory.  We decided to travel on Bhubaneshwar bound 11019 Konark express and returned by 16382 Kanyakumari (CAPE) – Mumbai express.  We spent a good 5 hours in Pune, though we couldn’t railfan much but time spent was more worth than railfanning for a change.

         We luckily got confirmed tickets both ways without any difficulty.  We traveled on 6th July 13 and returned the next day.  The 11019 Konark express was hauled by a pair of KZJ WDM-3A class loco, and surprisingly both were in live mode. I have seen this train with twin power many times but this was probably the first time I saw both locos live.  While Akshay boarded the train from the starting point i.e. Mumbai CST, I decided to board from Dadar (a suburb of Mumbai).  I reached Dadar station well before time and spotted a few suburban train services to and fro Mumbai CST and a little later 12142 Patna-Mumbai superfast express hauled by KYN WCAM-3 class loco running on time.  Albeit this train belongs to Central railway (CR), maintained by Mumbai division, it had all but Central Railway carriages (coaches).  All AC class coaches belonged to South Western railway division (SWR), the non-AC sleeper class coaches belonged to Northern railway (NR) and so on, I was really surprised to see this. I, for a minute, thought that train has been transferred to Eastern Central railway (ECR) zone.

         I called up Akshay to find if our train will depart on time and if Nagpur bound 12139 Sewagram express departed, his reply was affirmative.  After about 15 minutes (3:15PM), I spotted Sewagram express entering Dadar station with KYN WCAM-3, the entry was quite rapid and after a 2 minute halt, it left.  No sooner the announcement was made on arrival of 11019 Konark express than I saw it entering Dadar platform #5. The starter signal was already set for its departure even before the train arrived. It was, of course, hauled by a pair of KZJ WDM-3A (diesel) class loco. Our coach was 9th from the loco, a non-AC sleeper class with window berths.  As usual after a 2 minute halt, the train chugged out of Dadar, the acceleration of twin power was clearly felt.  After about a Kilometer into the journey, the train was doing approx 100KMPH through the suburbs of Mumbai with an awesome chugging sound which we could hear in spite of being reasonably far from the locos. At Thane Jn., we overtook 12619 Matsyagandha express bound for Mangalore hauled by GOC WDP-4D (the dual cab diesel loco) around 70KMPH and also crossed an unusually late running 11014 Comibatore-Mumbai express hauled by KJM WDP-4 class loco. This train was running late by over an hour, wonder where did it get delayed!

        After Thane Jn., unfortunately we slowed down and almost came to a halt many times. Perhaps Sewagram express, which was running approx 5 minutes ahead of us on the same track, didn’t get clearance. We continued to accelerate and decelerate but we reached Kalyan Jn. on time (4:05PM), a major junction station 52KM from Mumbai.  We spotted Sewagram express moored on platform #4 as our train entered platform #5 (of Kalyan Jn.). The halt time for both the trains is about 3 minutes and soon both the trains got the starter together. While Sewagram express got diverted on North East line, our train took South line. Both the train started almost at the same time, and ran parallel for a few meters.

         After negotiating through some sharp turn outs and a neutral zone (a short section of insulated and dead overhead wire) (however neutral zone does not matter to a diesel loco), the train accelerated to 100-105KMPH once again and maintained it for a long time, even on sharp curves and under heavy rain. The train, therefore, was running way ahead of schedule and as a result reached Karjat Jn. (100KM from Mumbai) 5 minutes before time (4:45PM). Here the helper locos, known as bankers, got attached to the rear of the train to assist in climbing the tough gradients of Western Ghats (mountain pass). A pair of KYN WAG-7 was attached and in about 3 minutes the train started. However, for some unknown reason we took an unscheduled halt of about 7 minutes moments after starting.   Perhaps, the lead and the banker locos were not synchronized.

           The line between Karjat Jn. and Lonavala (25KM) carved through the Western Ghats by the Brits is nothing less than heaven, especially during monsoon. As the train climbs up, the beauty increased with clouds kissing the mountains, numerous small waterfalls along the railway lines, and many tunnels.  The speed is restricted to 50KMPH due to sharp curves, and a possibility of landslides this gave me an opportunity spent a lot of time at the door to take videos and photos.  As our train started to climb, I spotted 19311 Pune-Indore express with BL WCAM-2 class loco descending the mountains, also spotted 11302 Bangalore-Mumbai Udyan express with its usual KJM WDP-4 class loco link, and 11030 Kolhapur-Mumbai Koyna express with another KJM WDP-4 class loco.  A little later our train took another unscheduled halt at Khandala station for about 10 minutes which gave an opportunity to passengers to get down and click the beauty around.

BL WCAM-2 with 19311 Pune-Indore express descending the Western Ghats.

Konark express climbing the Western Ghats

At the door of Konark express

Entering one of many tunnels between Karjat and Lonavala.

          We entered Lonavala, a scheduled halt, around 5:40PM.  Here the banker locos KYN WAG-7s got separated, after helping the train climb the gradient.  From here we were left to cover another 64KM to reach Pune Jn.  After departing Lonavala, the train constantly maintained a speed of 90-100KMPH without slowing down significantly till we reached the Pune outer.  As a result, the train was running ahead of its schedule by a good 15 minutes……. however not surprising it was held up at the outer signal for about 10 minutes due to non-availability of platform, and for a crossing of 16532 Yesvantpur (Bangalore)-Ajmer express hauled by KJM WDP-4 class loco. Our train finally entered Pune Jn. platform#4 after negotiating the turn outs at 20KMPH hence got delayed by 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, after leaving Lonavala, Akshay and I got busy discussing about the problems faced by the people of North East India, the Chinese busyboding in Arunachal Pradesh and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh entering India through the state of Meghalaya. I suppose the discussion got interesting as our fellow passengers seemed quite interested in our topics though they didn’t share their PoVs.

Entering Lonavala station.

                                     Our train running parallel with the Mumbai-Pune expressway.

To Mumbai on 16382 Kanyakumari (CAPE)-Mumbai express:

After spending some good time in Pune with my railfan friend Archit Goel, it was time to head back home on 16382 CAPE-Mumbai express. A big thanks to Archit for coming all the way to Pune station to drop us in his car at midnight. We reached well before the arrival of our train, around 12:15AM and as a result got some good time to spot some trains. Kolhapur bound 17411 Mahalaxmi express had already arrived on Platform #4 and a pair of PUNE WDM-3D class loco had already taken charge of the train,  after replacing KYN WCAM-3 class loco. This is one of trains which recently got transferred to South Central railway (SC) from Central railway (CR) zone and now it shares its rake with 17416 Kolhapur-Tirupati express.  The announcement of arrival of our train (16382 CAPE-Mumbai express) was made and it arrived 10 minutes before time around 12:35AM, at the helm was GY WDM-3D class loco. Our coach was right in the middle, again a non AC sleeper car.  The train got quite empty after a big chunk of people debarked at Pune. Meanwhile, GY WDM-3D class loco was replaced by KYN WCAM-2P class loco (from diesel to dual voltage electric loco). The 12702 Hyderabad-Mumbai Hussain Sagar express arrived on platform #1 right behind our train hauled by KZJ WDM-3A class loco. The starter to our train was finally given around 1AM after the loco change and as we bid goodbye to Archit, we accelerated out slowly negotiating the sharp turn outs at 20KMPH. I was feeling tired and wanted to sleep so I occupied side lower berth and so did Akshay. While I slept for most part of the journey, Akshay was wide awake.  I woke up to see our train entering the suburbs of Mumbai, running almost 25 minutes before time. KYN WCAM-2P class loco did a fantastic job of maintaining the speed of around 100KMPH even through the suburbs of Mumbai. We finally reached our destination, Mumbai CST, 15 minutes before time around 4:35AM and while we were exiting the station, an announcement was made on arrival of 12702 Hyderabad-Mumbai Hussian Sagar express. We were really surprised as the scheduled arrival time is 5:05AM and as we were about to board a suburban train, we saw it entering platform #9 of Mumbai CST, 25 minutes before time.

          In the end, we boarded a suburban train (EMU) at 5AM to head home thus ending yet another train trip but, of course, many more to follow. A very long trip to South India is coming very soon!! 


Saturday, June 22, 2013

The 84th Birthday Celebration Her Highness Deccan Queen


This was rather a different kind of birthday celebration, the 84th birthday celebration of 12123/12124 Pune-Mumbai Deccan Queen express train. This train was flagged off on 1st June 1930 between Mumbai and Pune as weekend train, especially used to ferry the Brits before independence. Interestingly, it is the first superfast, and ISO certified express train on Indian Railways.  Every year on 1st June we (railfans and regular passengers) conglomerate on platform#1 of Pune Jn. to celebrate the birthday of this lovely sweetheart. It sounds kind of infantile to most of the non-railfans people but for us, it is the happiest feeling  to be a part of this birthday celebration every year.  

  The 84th Birthday Celebration Her Highness
Like last year, this year too I decided to be a part of this grand birthday celebration without giving it a second thought. WellI don’t really like to be a part of any birthday celebration or celebrate it but to this, I just couldn't say no. The occasion was the 84th birthday celebration of Pune-Mumbai Deccan Queen express train.  One of my railfan friends, Akshay Iyer, and I decided to travel together to Pune by an overnight express train. Albeit it takes approx 3.5 hours to reach Pune from Mumbai by train, we decided to reserve tickets on 11027 Mumbai-Chennai Central Mail. However, to our surprise booking tickets in this train was not permitted (between Mumbai and Pune), the other option was to reserve tickets on Mumbai-Shridi fast passenger but even here the reservation status was waitlisted. There were, however, many other overnight express trains to Pune but we decided against it and booked bus tickets on Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) which we got without any problem.

An MSRTC bus to Pune
On the day, rather night of travel  i.e on 31st May I was very excited because this was the first time after 2010, I was going to travel by bus to Pune.  Akshay asked me to meet at a bus stop in Chembur, a suburb of Mumbai.  Upon reaching the bus stop, I saw a huge crowd getting ready to travel to various parts of Maharashtra, rather not surprising because it was a weekend. After confirming our tickets, we were offered to upgrade to an A/C class bus (Shivneri Volvo) which we did after paying the fare difference. The bus arrived at 11PM on the button and it was not a bad idea to upgrade as it was very comfortable, spacious, and very cold inside. I believe the bus is always a better choice to travel between Mumbai and Pune as it takes way too less time than train, thanks to the Mumbai-Pune expressway. After negotiating through the eastern suburbs of Mumbai, we entered the expressway at Panvel. Mumbai-Pune Expressway is India's first high speed, 6 lane road, which starts from Panvel (near Mumbai) and ends on the outskirts of Pune, a distance of around 100KM. I decided to sleep for some time while we were cruising over the expressway.  Akshay woke me up as we were almost reaching Pune railway station around 2AM. We reached our destination way too earlybut it is always good to reach early!!  Had we boarded the train, we wouldn’t have reached any time before 3:30AM. 
Upon reaching Pune railway station, the first thing we wanted to do was to have our lunch/dinner or whateverI don’t know what it is called when we a heavy meal around 3AM!! We did find a restaurant called Comesum on the station but it was a complete ripoff, extremely poor quality and over priced. Anyway, even at 3AM, the station was bustling with crowd with people waiting for 12779 Vasco Da Gama (Goa)-Nizamuddin (New Delhi) Goa express and other trains bound for North, West, and South. With a lot of time on hand, we decided to move around Pune station for a short observation. 11027 Mumbai-Chennai Central Mail was expected to arrive right time (3:25AM) on platform # 3 (the same train which we decided to take to Pune but didn’t get tickets), but not surprisingly it reached 5 minutes before time. The train was hauled by KYN WCAM-2P class loco and was replaced by GY WDM-3D class loco (a diesel loco) because the lines after Pune are non-electrified. Immediately after the departure of this train, announcement of arrival of 51033/51027 Mumbai-Shridi/Pandarpur fast passenger was made on the same platform. The train closely followed Mumbai-Chennai mail and as a result arrived 20 minutes before time. The loco at the helm was KYN WCAM-3 and was replaced by, a rather strange link, GOC WDG-3A.  I wonder where this GOC loco came from!! The usual link is PUNE WDM-2/3A.  Anyway, there were some of my railfan cronies traveling on this train for the same purpose so it was glad to meet them. We also met some railfans traveling all the way from Chennai to participate in the birthday celebration. 
Meanwhile, 12779 Goa express arrived on time from Vasco Da Gama (Goa) bound for Nizammudin (New Delhi), at the helm was PUNE-WDM-3A class loco. This is one of the trains which gets a reversal here with a new set of locos (twin PUNE WDM-3As) attached to the other end of the train. On looking inside the AC coaches of this train, I was surprised to see some of my photos used for display without giving me any credit.  It feels nice that SWR guys have used my photos, but they should have given me some credit!! The train departed on time at 4:10AM. There were many other trains scheduled to depart/arrive, most of them running on time yet a few delayed by 20-30 minutes.

An 86KG Cake to Celebrate the Birthday of 2 trains. 

                      Around 6AM, a huge cake was brought onto the platform weighing around 86KG. One of the good things about this celebration was that the 101th birthday of 12137/12138 Mumbai-Firozpur Punjab mail was also celebrated which I think was never done before. As the day advanced, a lot of railfans from Pune gathered and it was good to see them around, also happy to meet my very special friend Archit Goel.  The station was brimming with people all around waiting for the train to be shunted. Everybody, from kids to old lads, from cell phone’s Video Graphic Array cameras to high end DLSRs, was waiting to click pictures. Around 6:30AM, GY WDM-3D class loco shunted the rake of Deccan Queen to the platform#1. The joy and the emotion all around was quite visible as the train was being shunted. Little later, an adorned KYN WCAM-3 class loco was attached to the train which hauled the train to Mumbai CST.

GY WDM-3D class loco shunts the rake of Deccan Queen

KYN WCAM-3 class loco getting attached to Deccan Queen
The Deccan Queen being shunted
           After a grand celebration with a lot of media lads and even politicians taking part, at 7:15AM the train pulled out of Pune station towards its destination Mumbai CST, a 192KM journey. After negotiating through the turn outs, the train picked up the speed and over took Mumbai bound Sahyadri express from Kolhapur immediately after leaving Pune Jn. A 64KM journey between Pune and Lonavala was done with good speed with the train touching maximum permissible speed (MPS) of 105KMPH and as a result arrived Lonavala on time at 8:08AM. The next 25KM journey was amidst beautiful mountains called the Western Ghats (Mountain Pass) between Lonavala and Karjat as the train descends the extreme gradients with restricted speed of 40-50KMPH.  While descending, the train took 2 mandatory brake testing halts, as usual, however at one of the halts, the train got held up for over 10 minutes due to come technical difficulty with signal, as a consequence there was an unwanted delay.
It was time to head to the dining car for some breakfast, in fact we were already waiting in the corridor of the dining car since the start of the journey chatting with the servers. This is probably the only train on the Indian Railways to have a dining car, most of the trains have a pantry car. The food served on board is apparently the best with a lot of variety which one wouldn't find on any other train. I couldn't stop ordering baked beans with bread slices. Well….one of the reasons to order this dish twice was to spend more time in the dining car! 

The Dining Car 
After clearing the ghats (mountain pass) section, the train accelerated to make up the lost time however due to some caution orders (speed restriction) the train got further delayed.  Around 9:30AM, the train skipped Kalyan Jn. (a major junction near Mumbai where most of the trains have a 5 minute halt).  Still 52KM to go and a delay of over 20 minutes, we were hoping the train will make up some lost time but it didn’t happen due to rush hour traffic in Mumbai suburban section.  The train hardly got all clear signal, most of the time it ran though ‘attention’ aspect signal (the double yellow aspect on MACL type signals on Indian Railways) which resulted in further delay. We finally arrived at Dadar Central station, the penultimate station, around 10:25AM and the Mumbai CST, the destination around 10:40AM.
At Mumbai CST, a lot of people including railfans where busy getting their pictures clicked with the loco pilots which was very nice to see. I took wanted to click my picture with them but I didn't.  After meeting some other railfans, Akshay, Sriram, and I decided to head home thus ending a wonderful short journey until next 1st June.