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!!