Saturday, November 15, 2014

An Unplanned Trip

Absolutely unplanned! This is how I would describe my trip to Adarki (110 KM off Pune). Adarki is a very small village located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, on route to Kolhapur. It has one of the sharpest curves (the horseshoe curve) on the Indian railway network and is very famous amongst the rail fans, and it is also a paradise for trekkers as it is surrounded by the Western ghats (the Sahyadri  mountain range). Besides, I wanted to explore the Pune-Miraj meter gauge route that had been closed down after gauge conversion in 1972. The new broad gauge line is laid upon the old MG alignment which is why there are a lot of spectacular curves and steep gradients.

To trek this place, I was told to prepare at least a week prior but I had no plans until I reached there. On one of those mind-numbing weekends (weekends are boring until I embark on an adventure trip), I packed my backpack after abruptly deciding to go on an overnight trip, booked a waitlist second-class ticket on Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen express and I was all set for an adventure.

As I was about leave my house, I received a text from the Indian railways ticketing system stating that my second-class waitlist ticket has been upgraded to an air conditioned chair car. Oh No!! This was my first reaction. I was totally disappointed and very angry at the auto upgrade system introduced by the Indian railways. Upgrading to a higher class is a bliss for everybody but I hate luxurious travel. Upon reaching the train station, I even thought of asking the ticketing staff to downgrade my ticket to its original class but I figured out that it wouldn't be possible because the train was full.

An AC Chair Car of Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen Express

The Deccan Queen express is Indian railway's one of the most prestigious trains - first chugged out on June 1st, 1930. It is fast, has a very few stoppages and is clean and well maintained.

Led by a WCAM-3 class locomotive of Kalyan shed, the train departed on time at 5:10PM however, for some reason it was held up for about 5 minutes immediately after departing. The run trough the suburbs of Mumbai was reasonably good with temporary speed restriction enforced, the train didn't even notch up to 90 KMPH for most of the time except at some places where it did cross 100 KMPH mark briefly.

The Deccan Queen Express at Lonavala.
The train was running with a delay of about 30 minutes as a result of couple of long unscheduled stops however, surprisingly it reached its final destination, Pune Jn., mere 7 minutes late, thanks to some high speed  and all clear run between Lonavala and Pune.
From Pune, I boarded a connecting train bound for Satara - a distance of 145 KM. Upon reaching Satara around 2:30AM, I then boarded yet another connecting train bound of Adarki - a distance of 37 KM. For the first time, I traveled on a luggage compartment of a train. There was no light or fan, absolutely dark, deplorable but I loved traveling on it.  I was accompanied by some scally looking guys who were apparently traveling to a nearby village of Lonand. They asked me all sorts of questions ranging from my whereabouts to my family. It didn't affright me at all but lack of sleep was making me stuporous.
I jumped off the train as soon as the train reached Adarki and went to a 'waiting hall' for a much needed sleep.  The station manager was very kind as he turned off the lights and let me sleep for an hour.

Ernakulam (Cochin) bound Purna Express at Satara in the Dead of Night

Adarki Station

Rail Line was Laid after Cutting some Rocky Hillocks. This Broad Gauge Line has been Laid on Meter Gauge Alignment.

This Station Name Board is over 100 Years Old. The Pune-Miraj Route, which was inaugurated circa 1880, was Meter Gauge Until 1972

Led by a WDM-3A Class Loco, Pune Bound Passenger Train Enters Adarki. There are only Four Trains in a Day that Stop Here
Kolahpur bound Maharashtra Express Passes Through the Rock Cuttings.

Jodhpur-Bangalore Express Passes Through Picturesque Adarki.