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14 June 2005

Thane to Panvel...Once Again!

Through familiar territories!

I had to take my car to the Dealer-Workshop for service. The car being a Toyota , had some ‘long' job-card and the vehicle was expected back only by 1800 hrs. So decided to spend some time ‘rail fanning'! After leaving the vehicle at the dealership, I set off towards Thane Station. As I reached Thane, the Mumbai CST bound Sahyadri Express slowly pulled out of the station. Just as I neared the ticket counter, the 1014 Coimbatore-LTT Express also pulled in. The queue at the ticket counter(s) was less, and I was hoping to get into the platform soon. But to my misfortune one counter closed down and the queue just got longer, with just one counter working. Just as it was my turn, I asked for an M/E (Mail/Express) ticket to Panvel. It was already 1200, which is the arrival time of the Trivandrum bound 6345 Netravati Express. The FOB was too crowded. It was tense moments as I neared Platform #7 where my train was expected. The platform was crowded as usual. Hordes of “Mallus” were getting ready for the train to come in. Just then a flash went past my mind. I was reminded of the Holiday special train to Mangalore which leaves Thane at 1330 i.e., One-and-A-half-hour after Netravati.

So, a totally relaxed me, walked past the huge crowd waiting for the Netravati and reached the rear end of the platform. Just then, the PA system came alive and asked all people standing on Platform #6 to stay away from the edges of the platform – “A fast train would pass shortly.” I quickly readied my camera and kept waiting for the “Fast train”. The train was 7032 Hyderabad – Mumbai Express hauled by WCG2 #20117. The train “flew” past raising almost all the waste that had settled on the tracks for almost the past one year! The waste once again settled down, the people on the platform were back on their heels. People continued “crossing” the tracks. Sometime later, the ‘ever-active' PA system announced the arrival of Netravati Express, and the coach positions too were announced. By now, I could see a Diesel loco at a distance crawling slowly towards the platform. She was soon near me, and the loco was WDM2 #17710 from Erode! My recent observations confirm that Erode has been sending plain WDM2s for this 21-Coach train! Why not transfer this link to some other loco shed which could afford to send WDM3As regularly?

The train soon came to a halt, and the people started boarding. The General compartments were full, and I now decided to wait for the special. Just as I was busy walking back to the “canopied” portion of the platform, a triple headed BCNA rakes thundered past. The rake was hauled by triple MU-ed WDM2s from Kalyan. I saw the trio smoking in tandem, but could not photograph because of two reasons, viz – The rake of Netravati was obstructing it, and a uniformed GRP officer was standing next to me! Soon the “Grand Lady” from ED gave a long horn and the train ‘crawled' out! The entire platform just got empty with just a few nomads roaming around the platform, some sleeping on the floor while others sleeping on the raised bases of the pillars supporting the roofing. Just as I turned back, I saw a brightly coloured Diesel loco waiting for a signal. I initially mistook it for a banker loco for the triple-headed freight that I had seen a few minutes back. Soon I realized that this was another freight headed towards the Kalyan side. The loco in charge was WDM2 #17950 FROM Bhagat-Ki-Kothi! The loco was just worked upon at Parel Loco Workshop.

The fast lines just plunged into silence, with hardly any movement. Just then, the PA system warned passengers on Platform #5 of a “Fast Train”. The train was the Muzzafarpur bound Pawan Express hauled by WCAM3 #21935. Just as the express “flew” past, the PA system once again came alive, this time to announce the arrival of 6339 Mumbai CST – Nagercoil Express. By now this train was near the outer signal. The loco in charge was WCG2 #20138. The “howler” slowly crawled across my camera to enter Platform #5. Most of the long distance trains are handled on Platform #5 (Down trains) and Platform #6 (Up trains). Platform #7 is used only for trains longer than 19 coaches and trains halting at Thane for longer than 5-10 minutes. Along with the announcements of Nagercoil express, the arrival of 3201 Rajendra Nagar – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Express was also announced. This train came in with WCAM3 #21886 at its helm. 3201 departed before 6339. Just as 3201 cleared the outer signal, I spotted a “Diesel-Pair” coming towards Platform #5, in which Nagercoil Express was still stationary! I first thought that the pair would take the loop and enter Platform 6 or 7. Instead, they were made to wait at the Outer. The pair consisted of WDM2S #18463 of Kalyan (With “Inferior” stenciled on the Cab) and WDS6 #36156 of Itarsi. The WDS6 loco was dead and seemed to have been turned out after overhauling by the Parel Workshop.

After a few minutes Nagercoil Express left, followed by the Diesel Pair. By now, 1404 Manmad-LTT Godavari Express had reached Thane. The loco in-charge was WCAM3 #21941. For about 10 minutes, there was no heavy traffic movement other than the regular EMUs running on the Up or down lines. After that period, the PA system warned people on Platform #7 about another fast train! This time it was Light WCAM3 #21959. Just as the light loco cleared the signal, another WCAM3 was seen. This time it was #21888 working the Varanasi bound Kamayani Express. After the Kamayani crossed me, there was another spate of silence, this time for about 13 minutes. The silence was broken by 6012 Chennai-Mumbai Express hauled by WCG2 #20131. Immediately behind 6012 was the Hatia-Lokmanya Tilak Express, hauled by WCAM3 #21900.

Sometime later (6 minutes later, to be precise), when I casually looked towards the CSTM end of my platform, I noticed a Diesel-powered train slowly pulling in. Guess what? That was the 167 Dadar-Mangalore Holiday special, hauled by WDM2 #18354. There was no announcement of any sort! The loco slowly crawled past me. The patronage of the train was very poor. When the train came to a halt, the rear SLR was right in front of me! There was just one lady occupying the entire coach! I now decided to board the front SLR and enjoy the ALCO treat! Just as I walked towards the loco, I checked the occupancy of the train – GS (Rear) – 4 passengers, S1 – 2, S2-1, S3-2, S4-2, S5 to S9 – Empty, AS1 – 2, AS2 – Empty, GS (Front) – 0, FSLR – 5 (Incl. Me!). The total number of passengers carried by this train was 18 (Including Me!) as against a total capacity of 1036 passengers i.e., occupancy of just above 1%. Just as I boarded the Front SLR, I noted that the assistant Loco pilot was busy looking for something under the loco. Sharp at 1330, the train pulled out of the station. The train picked speed in no time, and we reached (or Crossed) Diva at about 1343.

The train painfully crawled through Diva, negotiated the points and entered the Branch line towards Roha. Minutes later we crossed the Dadar bound KR4 Passenger hauled by WDM3A #16013 (from Pune). We had a good run after the crossing. The loco was a poor smoker, but had the characteristic ALCO sound! We crossed the Nizamuddin bound Mangala Express just before Kalamboli. The train pulled into Panvel sharp at 1420. The loco stopped right near the refueling pod, but was not re-fuelled! Instead some officials surrounded the loco and they started checking the underneath of the loco. Some ‘burning' smell was emanating from the rear bogie of the loco! They had some brainstorming, hammers were brought in and they were hitting something under the loco! I was expecting a loco change and kept watching the drama! Just then I noticed that there was no RPF anywhere near me or the platform and decided to click an image of the loco just near me – WDG3A #14647 from Kalyan. Still discussions were going on, and finally at 1440, the starter was given and the loco pilots were permitted to continue! I walked out of the station. This time I decided to take a bus home rather than to wait for the next EMU! I was too hungry to wait for the EMU ;-)

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©2005 Binai Kochunni Sankar