Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Virgin lands III

The virgin lands beneath Nandigram exp – Part III – NED-MUE-ADB-MJRI-SEGM

Exactly at 06.05 i.e. bang right time, after few long whistles our WDM3A started puffing smoke and moved slowly out of Nanded (NED) station.

At another siding the ASR-NED Sachkhand exp rake was lying idle. The train picked up speed very fast and almost started racing! Probably the WDM3A was finding it very easy to pull the almost empty rake. After the heavy "download" at NED, and almost no "upload", now the whole S5 had only me till SEGM, a middle aged uncle till Mudkhed (MUE) and 2 ladies till Bhokar (BOKR). Apart from these authorized travelers with reserved berths, there were lots of day travelers doing up and down for short distance, who were too happy to get a brand new express train with empty sleeper coaches and no TTEs anywhere in sight!

Just after NED, the line crossed a medium to big river- probably ?Krishna river. The morning sun was casting a magic spell on the green surroundings. Everything was bathed in a golden morning light, and I lustfully drank everything with my eyes. A tea at NED had awakened my senses and I was fully alert with excitement. The 12 coached tiny rake smoothly trailed in a serpentine manner behind the WDM3A passing through the green soya fields. It was a typical Marathwada rural setup – more so beyond Mudkhed, but even between NED and MUE – with combination of dry and irrigated farming with fields of mainly Jawar (Sorghum), Cotton, Maize, Sugarcane, Sarso and Soya. As an icing on the cake, intermittently there were banana fields (a sign of good irrigation) and beautiful sunflower fields with yellow spots on the lush green background! There were lots of small unmanned level crossings and the WDM3A was almost continuously whistling with a W/L See/Faa every now and then! Small canals and naala's with small bridges and some medium sized rivers like Krishna, Seetha, and then beyond MUE, Penganga and then Wardha! Overall, the morning was just amazing… cool, eye catching and beeeeutiful…probably a prelude to the dry, dreary and hottt afternoon ahead!

As our train entered MUE station, saw a passenger rake behind MLY WDM2A #16476 groaning for its turn to leave. The boards read "Purna à HYB à Aurangabad à HYB à Parbhani à Purna". The rake was Loco-SLR-FC-3 or 4 GS-2SL-SLR. I confirmed from SZ TT that it was 563 HYB-Parbhani passenger. It was a really thrilling experience to see the almost extinct non AC first class and that too with a passenger train! Wow! Subah subah mazaa aa gaya!

MUE had an Urdu script on all station boards and nicely renovated platforms. I was extra alert as my "responsibility" was starting now. VSP had suggested me to note the Km distance markings throughout MUE-MJRI section as probably there was confusion and only an actual travel could put end to it. Later I found out that the Km distance markings exactly match the distances given in SZ TT till Adilabad.

At MUE, lots of day travelers got in the coach. 2 Marathi speaking villagers came and reluctantly occupied the 2 inside windows (of the Lower Berths 17 and 20). After they were sure these window seats have been grabbed by them and no one in this posh looking but empty coach is going to drive them out, one of them asked me in Marathi "where are you going?"

Without getting into the explanation of where Wardha / Sewagram is, I said "Nagpur, and you?"

One of them blurted out, "Chandrapur!"

"What? Does this train go to Chandrapur?" was my reaction!

"Yes, it does go to Chandrapur but it doesn't stop there, so we will get down at Majri! The train used to earlier end at Nanded. So you may not be knowing that you can now go to Chandrapur by this train!" the wiser looking of the 2 said!

I was stunned for few seconds and then irritation started building up in my heart. What is IR trying to achieve by starting / extending new trains without creating enough public propaganda and awareness through advertisements / media? Forget creating awareness by REACHING to public, IR is creating confusions and giving multiple confusing messages to even those who are aware enough and APPROACHING IR for further knowledge!

A small example-

Between MUE and Sevagram (SEGM),

  • The SZ TT and WZ TT show only 2 stops- ADB & MJRI
  • Website shows 5 stops- Bhokar (BOKR), Himayatnagar (HEM), Kinwat (KNVT), ADB and MJRI
  • In reality, the train has following 9 stops (I confirmed from the respective station staffs)- BOKR, HEM, KNVT, ADB, Pimpalkhuti, Wani, MJRI, Warora and Hinganghat! And if Lingti and Kayar are also stops (as per a handwritten notice on MJRI station notice board) then it adds to total 11 stops! This can be seen at-

Did the full schedule of 7605/7606 appear in the local newspapers? What halts were shown in such advertisements?

Another example-

MJRI station painted train timings board shows the Nandigram timings both ways against 1401/1402 NED-NGP exp (daily)! Check at this link-

So my point is that if you are not able to give correct information even to those who are actually seeking it actively, how you are going to inform others who are passively gathering information?

At NED, I had done some homework and checked the reservation charts of all the 8 reserved coaches. This is the statistics I found-

  • Out of the people who booked for Adilabad (ADB) and beyond, not a single person had started before Aurangabad (AWB). So no travelers whose source station was between CSTM and MMR, traveled till ADB and beyond.
  • Number of people traveling beyond MUE-
    • S1- 1 KNVT
    • S2- Zero
    • S3- 2 ADB, 2 MJRI, 2 SEGM
    • S4- 2 ADB, 3 NGP (from NED-NGP)
    • S5- 3 BOKR, 1 SEGM (Me!)
    • S6- Zero
    • AS 1- 4 MJRI (from J), 1 NGP (from J)
    • A1- Zero
  • Thus total people traveling beyond MUE- 21 (less than 3 per coach!!!)
  • Total people traveling beyond ADB- 13 (about 1.5 per coach!!!)
  • No of people eligible to enjoy 2 coaches of AC- 5 (2.5 per coach, but actually nil in A1!!!)

Now, isn't this a criminal waste of resources? You can expect anything else with the way the train is being advertised! Cant this wastage be at least partly prevented by proper promotion?

Anyway, in such condition when there are NO travelers in a particular AC coach, can / should the AC of that particular coach be switched off?

As the train moved out of MUE station, the first thing you note about the post Guage conversion MUE-KNVT section is the presence of lots of curves with brand new tracks. Then you slowly start noticing the beautiful small stations with just 1 or 2 lines. The Km distance markings which start from ZERO ( ) ; the whitewashed platforms; the cool blue-white striped fencing and matching blue-white striped benches; the novel "blue on yellow" station boards (instead of the routine black on yellow) at both ends of platforms ( ) and brand new white-blue-red station name boards throughout the platform ( ); and at times, unpainted BLANK station name boards ( ) - all of them shout at you over the top of their voices- "You are welcome! Yes, we have just opened up!"

Even the train matched this bubbling enthusiasm of the stations, the platforms, the tracks with the newly painted "Nagpur- Mumbai – Nagpur" (via Nanded / Nanded hokar) on English or Hindi boards respectively.

As the train stopped at its first scheduled halt at Bhokar (BOKR), seeing a man sell some fresh potato sabji with hot puri's, I suddenly realized that I was hungry. After some good unhealthy oily but sure tasty breakfast and a tea again, I was game for further railfanning.

Two more halt stations after Bhokar, at the next crossing station- Hadgaon Road, at 7.17, we crossed a very short 6-7 coached passenger rake hauled by a smart green MLY WDM2A. The coaches were named MUE-ADB-HYB-NED. From ADB, there is ONLY one daily passenger train 552 (ADB-NED) / 551 (NED-ADB) to NED. Are there any other passenger services run on KNVT-MUE section in addition to 551/552? If not, then what we saw must be the 552 passenger which departs from ADB at 04.00.

The so called "ghat" section on the MUE-ADB stretch consists of 2 stretches- The first one of 15 kms is between Dhanora Deccan to Bodhani Bujrug, i.e. just before Kinwat. And the second "Ghat" is from Ambari (the immediate next station to Kinwat) to the next station Kosai- again a 15 km stretch. I was ready with a note pad for counting the number of tunnels on special demand of VSP! Well, I was quite disappointed as my count turned out to be a big ZERO! There is not a single tunnel in either of the sections!

The first section (Dhanora deccan to Bodhani Bujurg) is in fact better of these two so called "ghat sections" and still there is nothing more than small hills, some curves (I was reminded of the topography of Kasara- Kalyan section) and lots of vegetations- all of them dried up being deciduous in nature.

The second section is even a milder "ghat" than the first section. Mainly it consists of deciduous forest and hills which are cut and fenced while guage conversion. But then that is all!

Our WDM3A mightily carried the train over both these sections without any need of bankers. If IR calls THIS as Ghat section, and inflates the chargeable distance, I would say forget about the real Ghats like IGP-KSRA, Chichonda-Teegaon, Dharakhoh-Maramjhiri which require bankers, but even areas like Rayanpadu-BZA, NK-IGP, KSRA-KYN - all of them amount for inflation! Is there any inflation on these sections? If not, then I have really not understood the logic of inflation on MUE-ADB section.

Somewhere between Ambari and Kosai the train crossed the Maharashtra- A.P. border and entered from MS on Ambari side to AP on Kosai side. However there were no proper board / markings for this- which is quite unusual. On the side of a big rock was written with yellow and white- Andhra ß à Maharashtra.

Kosai is the first station in A.P and had tetra-lingual board with Telugu and Urdu in addition to Hindi and English.

At around 10.10, i.e. almost right time, the train reached ADB. Apart from 7605/7606 Nandigram exp and 7609/7610 Purna-Patna exp, there is ONLY 1 daily set of passenger trains between ADB-KNVT. There is another set of a weekly passenger with following timings at ADB (as noted from the ADB station board)-

553 Purna-ADB pass arr 18.00 (Only Wed)

554 ADB-Purna pass dep 23.00 (Only Wed)

What could be the reason for this weekly passenger service, and where does the rake go for rest of the days? Any idea, SCR gang?

This also means the whole lot of trains shown in SZ TT T No 101 are cancelled.

As the train left ADB, suddenly the speed drastically decreased and we covered the 20 km distance from ADB to Pimpalkhuti in full 30 minutes. This must be due to lots of curves, gradients and a bridge (Penganga) on this section, but could it also be due to the fact that this section had been open to express trains only for about last 10 days? In fact the same holds true for the whole ADB-MJRI section. We took about 4 hrs 5 minutes to travel this 100 Kms stretch- a creeping 25 Kmph average speed- though of course that also included the scheduled and crossing stops!

As the train "walked" forward with a slooooooooow speed I suddenly saw a bridge approaching. The river name board was not very clear so I strained to see which river it was. And then suddenly I realized it was not the river name board- it was a state border board- we were AGAIN entering back in M.S. The border lied on the ADB side of the bridge just before the Km mark 179. "Penganga" was the river name written on a board further ahead.

After crossing the bridge within 1-2 Km i.e.just 1 km short of Pimpalkhuti on the ADB side, there was another board welcoming everyone to the Central Railway, NGP division, Warora subdivision and Wani section.

The Nandigram exp, thus-

· Travels total 1069 Km as follows:

o CSTM-MMR 261 km

o MMR-MUE 382

o MUE-Pimpalkhuti 182

o Pimpalkhuti – Majri Jn 080

o MJRI-NGP 164

· Train belongs to SCR whose HQ is at SC in AP

· Still source and destination both in MS, in CR Zone

· Route length in MS 1023 km, AP 46 km (state of the home zone SCR)

· Route length in CR 505 km, SCR 564 km (Probably this could be the reason why its an SCR train)

Till the outer signal of Pimpalkhuti, the Km mark goes on increasing till 181/8 as it's the distance from MUE, and then suddenly the mark changes to 922, as the station comes in CR territory. (922 being the distance from CSTM via MMR-BSL-WR-MJRI)

Pimpalkhuti had only one passenger platform and a big goods platform. The station board has Telugu script though the station is in MS. The Pimpalkhuti SM was very young and was quite talkative. He happily informed me that there were no passenger services from ADB-MJRI section. Also, it was he who gave me the list of stations till MJRI. I never understood this logic of starting 2 express trains without running regular passenger trains on this section. Isn't it mandatory to test a section with passenger trains before starting express ones?

It was 11 AM and the heat had already started taking its toll. There were no vendors selling anything. I was quite hungry by now and missed pantry badly! I just drank water and water and had nothing else to turn to! Later at 12.30 at Kayar station, some local children came to sell the locally made "Kulfi" and cold water pouches. It was only at Wani Jn at 13.30 that I could eat something- roasted peanuts! Even Majri Jn didn't have any proper refreshment stall! I literally starved that hot and sweaty afternoon!

At Lingti (20 km from Pimpalkhuti), the 7606 NGP-NED-CSTM Nandigram exp crossed us with another PUNE WDM3A. The train boards were not as stylish as our rake's and the rake composition was exactly opposite to ours.

Between Lingti (Km mark 902/2), and the next station Kayar (Km mark 877/3), at about 890/4, there was an abandoned station called Mukutban. Anyone having any idea regarding the history of this station? Was there a passenger service at any time on Pimpalkhuti-MJRI section?

When the maximum distance between 2 stations on IR was being discussed, I recalled having read that the maximum allowed distance is 25 Kms. When I was counting the distance marks from Lingti onwards to check if this is true, suddenly just 100 mt prior to my deadline of 877/2, the Kayar station appeared and I thought- this station seems to be built almost as if just to fulfill that formality! If so, doesn't this become the case of 2 stations with maximum distance?

At Kayar we had a crossing with a BCNA rake with twin ET WDMx's.

After the staff change at NED, for 6.30 hours till Kayar, there was not a single TTE in sight! Neither in my S-5, nor in any other SL coaches could I see a black coat when I went from S-1 to S-6 for gathering the statistics of the reserved travelers. (No pun intended! J ) When somewhere after Kayar, finally 2 TTEs came together casually looking for the handful of reserved travelers and mainly trying to shoo away the unreserved day travelers, I deliberately looked out of window ignoring them. A bit irritated, one of them touched my hand and asked, "ticket please."

I stared at him and said "There is a staff change at Nanded. After that, not a single TTE I saw."

He said, "To kya hua, abhi aa gaye hai na! Ticket dikhaiye"

"Why should I show him that I got irritated by his nonchalant attitude," I thought, "he would only be happy that he is getting away with this kaam chori!" And so I wore my most sarcastic smile and calmly said, "Zara baaki sab ke bhi tickets check kar lijiye"

He stared at me and went away. Wasting time with someone like me who already had a reserved ticket was not his motto nor his hobby. There were tens of others- the vulnerable unreserved travelers whom he could trap and tap!!!

The speed got worst in the Kayar-Wani Jn (12.30 to 13.30= 1 hr for 21 Kms) and Wani- Majri Khadan sections. (13.35- 14.00= 25 min for 10 kms). After a long time (about 3 full days) and a long distance (After MMR), the electric poles made their majestic appearance as the Rajura-Wani Jn approached our non-electrified line.

By now, the heat was at its peak. The steel body of sleeper coach was following the Physics rules. Windows were sending in hot winds like a hot air blower we put in neonatal nursery (even worse- this must be some 45 degree C unlike the neonatal 30-37 degree C's) Even the outside view was barren with few exceptions of Palash trees (Flame of the forest) with red-orange flowers. The WDM's smoke alongwith the coal dust of the surrounding coal mines was settling in layers on my face. And my tummy was throwing hunger pangs!!!

It was only a momentary relief as the MUE-MJRI line touched the double electrified BPQ-SEGM mainline. As the train entered MJRI, I thought at least now I would get something to eat as I expected that now slowly MJRI will grow due to opening up of this section. But the condition was even worse than Wani Jn- here even the roasted peanuts were not there! The train had come some 15 min before time at 14.15, but left a whooping 40 minutes late at 15.20 due to few overtakes-

A LGD WAG7 hauled BOXN rake.

A LGD WAP4 hauled express train.

Meanwhile on the opposite line, a BCNA rake hauled by twin BZA WAG5A and the GT express with a High Capacity Parcel Van went by one after the other.

At 15.20, we left MJRI and seeing a double electrified line beneath and ahead, suddenly the WDM3A resumed its full glory and started racing ahead. After stopping at the 2 scheduled stops viz. Warora and Hinganghat, I was finally approaching home sweet home. The Chittoda Jn cabin, the Lloyds steel factory, the famous SEGM curve, the triangle formed by the electrified single line from Chittoda to WR and double electrified lines from WR to SEGM, the jungle of wires and electric poles- all of them looked so familiar and yes, how happy I was to get back to home, my mind already reorganizing my trip report!!!

From 6.30 AM that day i.e. the time we left Mudkhed till 14.30 as we entered Majri Jn, for about 8 hours, I was in a strange, unknown, alien, virgin land. I felt as if I was entering a foreign country's land about which I don't have any information. A land that does not feature in the most informative book I have known and leaned on since my childhood- the zonal Railway Time Table! I felt at loss- I felt I was left on my own- to fend myself! But as the Sanskrit saying goes "Pravaasena Pandityam!" (wisdom comes by travel) I too had definitely emerged wiser!

Check the snaps of the trip here:

Please click here for the Legends.

Thanks again and bye!!!

Yours truely,


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