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Kollam - Sencottai Trip Report

Southern Sojourn : Panvel - Thrissur aboard 6345 Netravati Exp

By Binai Shankar


WAP4 from Erode at Trichur Station

Part I

It was getting unbearably hot, and we were lucky ones to be blessed by Maharashtra Government’s new offer – “load shedding”. The power outage lasted till 1130. I rushed out of my home on my Qualis in search of an auto rickshaw. I got one, and we (I and my mom) made it to the station at around 1155. I purchased tickets to Panvel from the newly opened ticket counters at Belapur station, and we made it to the platform with about 3 minutes to spare for the EMU. The EMU pulled in sharp on time, and we reached Panvel at around 1220 or so. The station was too dry for that hour. The crowd waiting for our train was not very high considering the peak season!

Just as we were about to enter the waiting room, an Asansol WAG5 pulled in with a long container train. I left the luggage with my mom, and I decided to check out the reservation chart and the coach position. My coach, AS3, was the 5th from the loco, and our names – for sure – appeared on the reservation chart! I purchased a bottle of water and a cold drink from the only eatery present at the station. The PA system announced that our train would be arriving on Platform 3, and we shifted from the retiring room to Platform 3.

My mom got a seat under a fan, and I decided to check out the power of a container rake parked on Platform 2. The loco was WDG3A #14983 of Kalyan. On the main line was WAG7 #27352 of Ajni with a Container train. I walked back to the platform. Just around 1250, the arrival of KR4 Ratnagiri – Dadar passenger was announced. The passenger came in at 1259 with WDG3A #14678 of Pune. Kalyan WDM2 #16049 pulled in with a Container train on the main line. Just minutes later, the arrival of my train was announced. Finally, at 1308, my train – 6345 Lokmanya Tilak (T) – Trivandrum Netravati Express pulled in with a delay of 18 minutes, with WDM3A #18555 of Erode in charge.

The loco was in the new “pseudo-WDM3D” livery, with its logo put up like a description in some text book (Courtesy – Karan Desai, IRFCA). The arrival of Mangala Express from Ernakulam was also announced. My coach stopped right next to where I stood! The coach was WGACCN 05908 – manufactured in March 2006 – Just 13 months old!!! RCF website shows that this coach was dispatched on March 31, 2006! I kept the entire luggage inside, and decided to stay outdoors till the train started moving. Meanwhile, the Nizamuddin bound Mangala Express pulled in behind an Ernakulam Loco (I couldn’t get the number since about three container trains parked parallel to each other were locking my view of the loco!). A look at the reservation chart baffled me! The 64 berth coach had 2 vacant berths, and out of the remaining 62 berths, 39 were booked under the tatkal quota! (We too had booked in the tatkal quota!)

At 1320, my train got its starter and we were on our way out of Panvel. The TTE came around, and initialed on my ticket. The train picked speed in no time. The pantry staff came around enquiring if we wanted lunch – which we declined. Next in line were vendors selling snacks. While checking the bed roll, I was shocked that we were given only 1 bed sheet instead of two. On checking up with others in the bay, I came to know that some foul play was on. Some minutes later, I caught up with the coach attendant, and he went around saying some lame excuses, and passing the buck to some one else. He was no where to be seen later!

By the time, our train reached Nagothane. We stopped on the main line itself, and the stay extended to around 15 minutes. I spotted the assistance pilot getting down from the loco and fetching water for him and the pilot from a tap on the platform. No crossings took place, and we left the station after a blank wait! There was some track renewal works ahead, and we crawled our way to Roha. We reached Roha at 1455, late by around 13 minutes. We were welcomed into Roha by WDG3A #13303 of Kalyan – The newest Kid there! At around 1500, our pairing train came in behind WDM3A #14046 of Erode. We finally left Roha at 1505. The train crossed over into KR territory about 5 minutes later.

The ride got smoother, and the pilots accelerated to much higher speeds than they could till now! The train started rocking! We halted at Kolad for a few minutes to get the ACD activated, and then we continued our journey to the south! The train kept rocking till we reached Veer. At Veer, we were diverted to the loop line (the one without the platform). Some minutes later, WDM3A #14126 of Erode pulled in with the 15-coach Sawantwadi – Diva Passenger. Both the train got their starter almost simultaneously. We were back on the main line, and reached MPS very soon. The loco up-front was a real smoker, and she let out thick clouds of smoke every time the pilots notched!

We pulled into Karanjadi loop some minutes down the line. We were cross the Rajdhani here! The crossing is such a high profile one, that we had to wait for about 15 minutes! The Rajdhani came around smoking at around 1659. The loco in charge was WDP3A #15518 of Golden Rock in “Green” livery. The 15-Coach train crossed in about a minute. We got our starter about a minute after the Rajdhani went past, and our loco screamed aloud as she put the 21 coach rake back on the main line. The loco smoked up and we were back to 100s!

As always, we got a loop once again. This time it was at Anjani! The halt this time was short. Just a couple of minutes after my train stopped, I could hear a typical EMD horn from a distance, and there she was – WDP4 #20037 rushed through with the Mumbai bound Mandovi Express in tow. After 4 crossings in 80 minutes, we finally made it to Chiplun at 1725 – late by 40 minutes. The coaches were re-watered as passengers were treated to hot Vada-Pav and Samosas. The train pulled out at 1735. The loco put up a very grand show till Sangameshwar road. We were put to the loop here.

Sangameshwar is another KRCL station guarded by a Tunnel on one side. Trains traveling on the UP directions, if they have to enter the loop, have to slow down inside the tunnel itself! Just as the last coach of my train was clearing the main line, I spotted a head lamp ready to exit the tunnel. The other train surely had a danger signal and was preparing to stop, but the signal turned green as the train neared it. I could see the loco notching up heavily. That was the Dadar bound Jan Shatabdhi Express. The loco was WDM3A #14080 of Erode. The crossing was just a matter of a few minutes!

We were back on track soon. The pilots notched up quickly, and they were clearly showing that they wanted to finish off their duty quickly! We reached Ratnagiri by 1900, late by about 15 minutes. I walked up to the loco to have a look at crew change. By now, the CR pilots were on their way to the running room, while KR pilots were checking the loco. The loco was having all her lights on, and the assistant pilot was running around checking various ‘fluid’ levels. The loco was ensured to be in all her health and we were ready to roll ahead! We got our starter at 1910, and we were back on track. The pilots of KR showed that they were superior to their counterparts of CR when it came to notching! The train rocked its way ahead.

Dinner was served at about 2000, while the train was rolling ahead at a very good speed. The Vegetarian Meals platter had Rice, Sambhar, a Veg accompaniment, Curd and Pickle. Water was initially not served, but later after a few of us protested, he supplied water in sealed plastic glasses. We had a non-stop run upto Kudal. We made it to Kudal a few minutes past 2100. We left after the customary 2 minute halt. Our next halt was at Thivim. We reached Thivim at 2148, and we were surprisingly taken to the loop line (Platform 1) instead of the main line. About 3 minutes after we stopped, the Mumbai bound Matsyagandha Express went past at a very good speed. We left Thivim at 2158.

Our next halt was at Karmali, where we reached at 2216 and left at 2218. I decided to wait until Madgaon before sleeping. We reached Madgaon outer by around 2245, and were made to wait for about 15 minutes. We finally made it to Platform 1 of Madgaon at 2310. I decided to check out if the loco changes, and confirmed that only the pilots’ change there and not the loco (As was reported on IRFCA earlier!). New pilots took over, and we were now ready to roll. I was back in the coach, and by about 2320, our train departed from Madgaon. I stood by the door till we crossed the coaching yard.

In the coaching yard, the rake of Mandovi Express was being assembled (two extra coaches were attached owing to the summer rush). Doing all the shunting works was WDP4 #20036 with her cab facing Kankanadi. I went to sleep shortly after 2340. I had a very good sleep, and got up at around 0710. Just as I jumped down (literally) from my side upper berth, the train was pulling in to Payyanur, and the time was 0716. The train left the station at 0718. I hunted out a vacant toilet, and quickly finished all the morning chores!

We reached Kannapuram at around 0735, and left the station two minutes later. I was out at the door to catch some fresh air from the pristine villages of Kerala. My railfanning session on Day two began exactly at 0743 with the photograph of WDG3A #13229 of Erode working a long LPG rake. We had a danger at Pappinisseri outer, which turned to clear just as the loco stopped. We smoked through the station at 0749. We hardly picked up speed when we reached Valapattanam River. The double line territory ends here, and it’s a single line from Valapattanam Bridge to Kannur. We had a long wait before we could cross the river. The Kannur-Mangalore passenger was waiting on the other side of the river (at the station), and she got precedence over us to cross the river. The loco in charge of the passenger was Flat faced WDM2 #17544 of Erode.

We crossed the bridge and the station shortly after the crossing. Valapattanam had a freight siding, and WDM2 #16678 of Ernakulam was seen dozing off at the siding after dropping a BCNA rake. We finally reached Kannur at around 0815, late by an hour and 10 minutes. (The cause of delay was unknown). We left Kannur 5 minutes later. The breakfast (Masala Dosa) was served while the train was stationary at Kannur. We reached Thalasseri at around 0835, and left at 0837. I was busy chatting with my Mom all the way, and suddenly I noticed that we were indeed crossing Mahe. We crossed the Mangalore mail with an Ernakulam WDM3A in charge at around 0905. This crossing was interesting – I was fiddling with my mobile phone, and was simply recording the track outside on my mobile camera when the mail rushed across! We reached Vadakara at 0910 (late by an hour and 12 minutes) and left at 0915.

The run from Vadakara to Kozhikode was uneventful, and I spent almost the entire distance inside the coach. We reached Kozhikode at around 0955 (Platform 3), with a delay of exactly an hour. We left Kozhikode at 1005. Ernakulam WDM2 #16885 was waiting on Platform 1 with the rake of Kozhikode-Shoranur Passenger. A small one kilometre stretch from Kozhikode to Kallayi is yet to be doubled. I decided to stay at the door for some more time. We crossed the Ernakulam-Kannur Intercity express just before Parpanangadi. The loco in charge was WDM2 #18318 of Ernakulam. We reached Parpanangadi at 1040, and departed 2 minutes later. We then stopped at Tirur (1100) and then at Kuttipuram (1120). I was anticipating a crossing, and stood at the door. The Pallipuram-Shoranur section is still pending to be doubled, and I was surprised to find that the Pallipuram-Karakad section has been converted to an absolute block section i.e., allows only one train movement at a time! There are no crossing stations any where!

We reached Karakad at 1150, and I spotted the Coimbatore-Mangalore passenger waiting there with WDM2 #17116 of Golden Rock in charge! We were welcome into Shoranur by Ernakulam twins WDM2 #17620 coupled to #17805. We reached Shoranur at 1156 on Platform 5, with a delay of 21 minutes. The loco pilots once again changed, and new ones took charge. Ernakulam WDM2 #16671 was waiting on Platform 3 with the rake of Ernakulam - Shoranur Passenger. The loco was all set to shunt the rake to the siding. Surprisingly, both my train, and the empty rake of the passenger got our starters simultaneously!

The empty rake was diverted to the Shoranur-Palakkad line, while we took the Thrissur line. We crossed the Bharatapuzha and entered into Trivandrum division at around 1210. The Trivandrum-Indore Ahilyanagari Express was waiting at the Bharatapuzha outer signal with Arakkonam WAM4 #20477 in-charge. My train notched up quickly and we were cruising at a very smooth speed. I was determined to photograph the Venad Express today, and stayed at the door. The section from Shoranur to Thrissur is filled with sharp curves, gradients and what not! The UP and Down lines run at two different levels at many places.

We crossed Wadakancheri station at a slow speed. The outer signal for the UP line had its signal set for the loop line. I knew what was in store for me!!! I switched on the camera and kept myself ready for a photo. I spotted a WAP4 at a curve, and quickly took a photo. The loco was WAP4 #22268 from Erode, and the train was Trivandrum-Shoranur Venad Express. Just as I took the photo, somebody patted me! I turned back and found an RPF constable behind me. I pretended to be taking images of ‘nature’. He asked me to close the door. I closed the door, and went back to my seat. I went to the toilet and washed my face and got ready to get down from the train.

We finally pulled into Thrissur station at around 1245. We got down and had our lunch from the restaurant at the station. I had to book a ticket for my journey to Bangalore the same evening, and hence went to the reservation office. Just as I neared the office, a Golden Rock WDM2 pulled in with the Mangalore bound Parasuram Express. Tickets were not available for any train, and I booked a ticket for a Private Volvo bus (operated by a leading company called Kallada). We then took an auto to the bus station, and then a bus to our destination….


Photographs now available at http://irj.fotopic.net/c1256069.html

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