Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Virgin Lands I

The science of Paediatrics and Indian Railway rarely go hand in hand but that rare union has manifested in form of my elder brother, Akash, a paediatrician and an ardent Raifan (-atic)!

Read his travellogue on one of the recently opened train routes in Maharashtra:

Towards the virgin lands beneath Nandigram I- SEGM-NGP-MMR-J

Finally the day came when we were supposed to go to Jalna. I was supposed to drop my wife at Jalna where she would be studying for next one year. Yes, it was sure a mixed feeling. I was sad as it was a beginning to one year of staying away. I was happy because I was returning by the 10 days old CSTM-NED-NGP 7605 Nandigram exp. I was anxious because I didn't know how both of us were going to handle this separation. I was anxious because I didn't know how MUE-ADB virgin land was going to turn up. I was feeling responsible as it was primarily me who would have to give a strong emotional support to wife. I was feeling responsible because I was probably going to be the first IRFCAn to travel on MUE-MJRI stretch. Later when I called to ask VSP what and where to look for in MUE-MJRI, he confirmed this by reminding me that there is no prior information available on this section as MUE-KNVT had just had its Guage conversion and till now ADB-MJRI was never open for passenger traffic though MJRI-WANI line is probably quite old.

We were supposed to leave on 29th March by 2136 NGP-PUNE exp at 19.53. However suddenly I had to go to NGP for some urgent work. So we decided that I will catch 2136 from NGP and my wife will board the train from WR. Obviously, I was too happy at this development as that would mean another "quickie" with Raptisagar! So I took 2512 TVC-GKP Raptisagar from SEGM. At 15.30 the sun was at its worst with heat taking the toll of everyone. I calculated that all the TTE's must have gathered in the AC's and must be waiting for their crew change at NGP. So took a risk and entered a SL coach. Sometime later a TTE did come but he must have shuddered and decided that the moron standing at the door in the heat of a summer afternoon and intently looking towards engine braving the hot summer "LOO" must be a gone case!!! 2512 had its fairly regular AJJ WAM4, but the coaches were extremely dirty with no pipes below the sink of the wash basin. I took these 2 pics just for example and you can clearly see that it was a real mess!

The work which took me to NGP had to be done before 17.00. Somehow I had managed to call and ask the person to stay back till 17.30 just in case the train got late. As 2512 crawled on Pf no 1 of NGP, I saw the smart yellow green ET WDS that NGP regularly uses to shunt the common rakes from NGP yard and sometimes NGP yard to the platforms.

The pic of this WDS can be seen at .

Far away on Pf 6 or 7 something, a PUNE WDMx (mostly 3A) was waiting with a rake. It was barely 16.45. So I tried recalling which train it could be. Alok Patel or Ram Kinhikar few days back had commented that there are only 3 or 4 Diesel hauled trains seen at NGP. They were NGP-INDB group, Nandigram, and NGP-PUNE. Timing was not correlating with any of these as the loco was facing WR side. Guessing the odds, I rushed out of NGP station.

When some1.15 hrs later, i.e. at about 18.00, I got back to the station, I noticed that almost all the East-West trains were late. HWH-CSTM mail, Jnaneshwari, Azad Hind all were running 1-3 hrs late. I again started thinking if the PUNE WDMx I saw at 16.45 could be a one off link for Awad Hind? Highly unlikely, though! As I started approaching Pf 6 & 7, I realized that 2106 Vidarbha was already ready to leave from Pf 6 and the train I spotted was still at Pf 7- yesss, it was 2136 NGP-PUNE. I remembered Alok saying he also saw this train few days back when seeing off someone on Vidarbha. What could have been the reason of bringing the train so early- about 2 hrs prior to its scheduled 18.35 departure? Is this a regular feature with 2136, Alok?

That day, Vidarbha started right-time and even NGP-PUNE left RT though Azad Hind had already arrived and was waiting for its turn. Just before Ajni, spotted Ratlam WDM3A bringing in the INDB-NGP rake from the AJNI yard. At Pulgaon, though, Azad Hind got its chance and was taken ahead! Had the dinner early and went early to bed as we had to get down at MMR at the unearthly 03.45 and had a gap of hardly 1.10 hrs before the next connection, 1005 Latur exp departed at 04.55.

Somewhere around 02.30, I suddenly got up feeling that the train had been stationary for a lot of time. A strained peek out of the window of my Lower Berth told me that we were stranded at a station called Maheji. I was at a loss and so took out the WZ TT and in the dim light of my discharged cell checked where exactly this place was. We hadn't even crossed Pachora Jn! At a place barely 32 Kms from Jalgaon, 2136 was stopped to make way for 2 trains- god knows which? At about 2.40, we started crawling and picked speed again.

MMR was good 127 kms away according to the WZ TT, and I had already started getting anxious whether we would be able to catch 1005 or not. Covering 127 kms in 1 hr 5 minutes seemed impossible, so we were sure to get late. But how late we could get? I started calculating lying in the midst of the dark coach. To catch 1005 departing at 04.55, we had to reach latest by 04.45 considering the possible platform change and the luggage we were carrying for a 1 year's stay! That left 2 hrs for 127 Kms. It seemed a narrow margin and we could very easily land up on the other side of the 04.45 deadline. Even a single more stop at a wayside station and we were almost sure to miss the train!

I started praying. At 03.15, the alarm my wife had set in her cell started buzzing. I put it off and told her we were far behind our 03.45 arrival and so she might as well sleep for another hour. She went back to sleep again blissfully unaware of my anxiety! I was continuously staring at the stars and the beautiful moonlight outside as it was the 9 th day of a growing moon- I later confirmed. At 03.25, we were yet to cross Chalisgaon Jn (CSN) and I was getting more and more anxious. MMR was still more than 75 kms away as CSN-MMR distance itself is 67 Kms. In last 50 minutes train had covered less than 60 kms – making it average speed of less than 70 kmph. So with the current speed, I was almost sure that another 70-75 kms mean another 70 minutes. We still could catch the connecting train- I was again telling myself – but less confident this time. If we missed 1005, the next option would be going unreserved in 562 MMR-SC passenger. But that would mean no sleep! Since 2.30, I was wide awake and was feeling sleepy now.

Suddenly the train slowed down and I was happy that finally CSN arrived! As the train crossed a familiar looking overbridge and crawled into a platform, I almost jumped seeing the board "Manmad Jn". (I have worked for 2 full years with the Shirdi Temple Trust's Charitable Hospital and so MMR is a very familiar station!) A quick look at my watch and I realized I must have dozed off- it was 4.10- the train had covered about 70-75 kms in 50 minutes- an average speed of 90 something kmph! Bravo WDM3A! I shook up my wife, both of us quickly gathered our belongings, opened the chains from our luggage and got down the train- all in 2-3 minutes!

Still wondering at the unexpected gain in speed and more than that, my unexpected dozing off, we enquired for 1005. It was to come on Pf no6. So we pulled the luggage to Pf no 6.

At 4.30, i.e. barely 45 minutes before its scheduled departure, there was still no sign nor any announcement of 562 MMR-SC passenger which was to be our 2 nd option!

Anyway, 1005 came bang in time at 4.40 with KYN WDM3A. Almost the whole coach got vacant at MMR and lots of day travelers with small handbags entered the coach.

Within minutes 542 NED-MMR pass came on the adjoining Pf no 5- about 30 minutes late. As our train crawled out of MMR, I noticed a WDM3A attached to the tail end of the 542 rake and realized that a mere loco reversal had converted the incoming 542 into the outgoing 562. I must have missed the loco change or the NED-MMR-SC-NED kind of composite name boards being busy getting in the 1005.

As 1005 left MMR, I convinced my wife to go back to sleep without worrying about me as I wanted to see the famous MMR-Ankai stretch standing at the door. A young RPF man came and shut the door off. I let him go and again opened the door thinking that he wont come to this coach again. After 5 minutes, he came back and this time shouted at me- People throw stones- shut the door off. I almost pleaded "Sir, haven't you heard of Ankai fort? It will pass by in 10 minutes. So just 10 minutes and then I will myself close the door! Please sir, anyway at 5.00 am who will throw stones?" He looked puzzled at me. He knew I had got in at MMR. Probably he was not able to understand why someone with a reserved berth wont sleep nicely and waste precious time standing at the door even before sunrise!

The single non electrified MMR-Aurangabad (AWB) line originates from the north end of MMR, goes northwards for some distance (towards CSN) beside the double electrified MMR-CSN-BSL and then takes a sharp right turn to face eastwards and then southwards (almost a 180 degree turn) and then again takes back a 90 degree turn to face eastwards. Here it is joined by another single non-electrified line i.e. MMR-DD (Daund) which originates from the south end of MMR and takes a similar semicircular route to face eastwards. To me, this has always looked like a full circle created by 2 semicircular routes originating from and ending at the same points!!! I had traveled on the MMR-DD route many times but never on MMR-AWB route. And so I wanted to take in as much as possible through my eyes. MMR-Shirdi-Ahmednagar Highway cuts through this circle like a "Q". While traveling on the highway too, I had many times envied the travelers of MMR-AWB line which is so circuitous and goes almost touching the foothills of the Ankai Fort. And today I was enjoying the route myself! From the point where the 2 lines meet (they just physically come near each other, however there is no crossing whatsoever, if I am correct! MMR-DD is a CR while MMR-AWB line is a SCR property.), the 2 lines run almost parallel. After some time they go away from each other and the MMR-AWB line is a mute spectator (without any participation) to a small station Ankai Killa (meaning fort)- AAK on the MMR-DD line- about 19 Kms from MMR. After another 5 kms, another station Ankai (ANK) comes. Here both CR and SCR lines participate. I had heard that there is a single crossover here between CR and SCR lines- tried to locate it, but I could not find any! Thus on CR line, ANK is the 2 nd station after MMR and is 24 kms from MMR, whereas on SCR line ANK is the 1st station after MMR and is just 15 kms from MMR. This is obviously due to unequal semicircular arcs of CR and SCR. After ANK, the CR line takes a sharp right turn and SCR a sharp left turn to take their respective paths to DD and AWB. This whole configuration is not so clearly visible from the Highway and so I was completely contented to get an "inside" look! Satiated, I went back to sleep at some 5.30 am.

It was at AWB – which came at about 6.45am that I was awakened. All the stations on this line are so charmingly small like any other single line section. Halt stations with a single line passing through them, crossing stations with only 2 lines and supposedly big stations with just 3 lines and 2 platforms!

Just before Jalna, 1005 stopped at a small station called Badnapur for crossing. The name on the station board was written in Hindi and Emglish as the routine procedure. But as I went near, I saw original script in Urdu which was engraved on the board but was not painted. Though this is quite usual for stations in Andhra Pradesh due to influence of the Nizam's rule, isn't it unusual for a place in the heart of Maharashtra?!

This pic can be seen at

At Badnapur, 1322 Nizamabad-Pune pass came with a PUNE WDM3A. This was going to be a trip full of WDM3A's- mostly from Pune! All the coaches had boards reading "Pune à Daund à Nizamabad à Parli à Latur à Nizamabad à Pune" wriiten in a way to form a complete circle!

Finally we reached Jalna almost right time at 7.50AM on 30th March and a night full of WDM's and midnight adventures came to an end! I was taking a 3 days break at Jalna and was supposed to board the 7605 Nandigram exp on 1 st midnight (2nd morning)- a train and a trip I was eagerly looking forward to!!!

Check snaps of the trip here:

(to be contd.)...

A1, A2 AC 2 Tier coaches
ADB Adilabad
AJJ Arakkonam Jn
AP Andhra Pradesh
AS1, AS2 AC 3 Tier coaches
ASR Amritsar
AWB Aurangabad
BCNA Closed vagon goods bogie
BD Badnera
BG Broad guage
BOXN Open vagon goods bogie
BPQ Ballharshah
BSL Bhusaval Jn
BZA Vijaywada Jn
CR Central Railway
CSN Chalisgaon Jn
DD Daun Jn
ET Itarasi
FC First Class coach
GC Guage conversion
GKP Gorakhpur
GS General second class (unreserved)
GTL Guntakal Jn
HQ Headquarters
HWH Howrah
HYB Hyderabad
IGP Igatpuri
INDB Indore (Broad Guage station)
IR Indian Railways
IRFCA Indian Railways Fan Club Association
J Jalna
KJM Krishnarajapuram (Loco shed for Bangalore)
KNVT Kinvat
KSRA Kasara
KYN Kalyan Jn
KZJ Kazipet Jn
LGD Lallaguda (Electric loco shed for Hyderabad)
LHF Long Hood Forward

(Driver's cab behind, Hood ahead)
MG Meter guage
MJRI Majri Jn
MLY Maula Ali (Diesel loco shed for Hyderabad)
MMR Manmad Jn
MS Maharashtra
MUE Mudkhed Jn
NED Nanded
NGP Nagpur Jn
NK Nasik Road
Pf Platform
Rake Complete set of coahes in a train
RPF Railway Protection Force
RT Right Time
SBC Bangalore City Jn
SC Secunderabad
SCR South Central Railway
SEGM Sevagram
SL Sleeper coach
SLB Side Lower Berth
SLR Guard cum Luggage van
SM Station Master
SZ TT South Zone Time Table
TTE Travelling Ticket Examiner
TVC Trivendrum Central
UBL Hubli Jn
W/L Whistle; Level Crossing ahead
See/Faa Seeti Bajao; Faatak aage hai
WAG5 Broad Gauge AC Electric loco for Goods trains
WAG7 Broad Gauge AC Electric loco for Goods trains
WAM4 Broad guage AC Electric loco for mixed purposes
WAP4 Broad Gauge AC Electric loco for Passenger trains
WDM Broad Gauge Diesel loco for mixed purposes
WDS Broad Gauge Diesel loco for shunting purposes
WR Wardha Jn
WZ TT West Zone Time Table

Dr Akash Bang,
Assistant Professor in Pediatrics,
MGIMS, Sevagram.( M.S.)

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