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22 June 2005

Railfanning at Panvel

Some surprises in store...!!!

A hot and humid day was taking its toll on me! I got an unexpected holiday and had nothing to do at home other than to browse the net, check for group mails and so on! As the day inched minute by minute, I was getting more restless. At around 1140, made a decision to go to Panvel for a railfanning! I called up my mom and informed her of my plans and she approved. I managed to leave my house by about 1150 on my “Black Horse” (A black-coloured Qualis). I had a mad dash to Belapur railway station. My target was the 12.02 local towards Panvel. I parked my car at the parking lot and dashed to the ticket counter. On my way to the ticket counter, I noticed that the time then was 11:57. The queue at the counter was less with just about 3-4 people ahead of me. I purchased a return ticket to Panvel (i.e., a to-and-fro ticket). Just as I reached back at the stair leading to the platform, the clock showed the time to be 12:00. It took just 3 minutes to take a ticket! I literally ran through the stairs to reach the platform. The day was hot and I was panting like a dog! The clock now showed the time to be 12:01. After some tense moments, I relaxed down since I had a minute more for my train! The clock now showed 12:02. No sign of the train! Finally at 12:03, the local rolled in. The coach that I boarded was relatively empty with many seats empty, but the doors were crowded!

The train rushed past familiar territories, stopped at Kharghar, and then again picked speed. One interesting thing that I noticed is that the works of the new “Mansarovar” station was proceeding at an unusually good speed. The construction of the station is going on since 1999 or earlier! Khandeshwar, a station just after Kharghar is being renovated. The station gets new granite paving, the subway is being repaired, and the exterior of the station is being renovated to give a “classy” feel! We finally pulled into Panvel a couple of minutes after 1215. I purchased a Platform ticket (i.e., the permit to roam around the station for the next 2 hours!) The holding lines of the station was almost empty while the loco siding had one WAG5 (#23226) from Tuglakhabad. Unusually, Platform #3 has a very short rake standing close to the Karjat/JNPT/Roha end. I decide to check the rake. The rake was very short (about 5 coaches, all recently painted/washed with one destination board each!). The rake even had a loco – Kalyan WDM2S. Guess what it was? The destination boards said “ New Delhi – Patna Shramjeevi Express”!!! This was a shooting special! I could go near the loco since the area was totally crowded with the “Unit Crew” and their equipments! The station even had a new board proclaiming it to be “ New Delhi ”! Guys… Keep watches on all new Bollywood movies featuring “ New Delhi ”!

By now a rather unfamiliar male voice was “shouting” through the PA system announcing the arrival of the Kerala Sampark Kranti Express. The loco was already visible at a distance. The platform (#1) had a few RPF constables roaming around and hence I never wanted to take a risk and decided to click from the FOB instead! The loco in charge of the Sampark Kranti was WDM2 #16808 from Ratlam! The loco was in its traditional Maroon livery. Just as the train came to a complete halt, I noticed a WDG3A (#14680 from Pune) pulling into one of the holding lines with a BCLA/BCLB rake! I went back to the “ New Delhi ” Platform (PF #3). Just as I neared the shooting rake, the train got a yellow and it pulled out! On the adjoining platform was WAG7 #27476 from Kanpur hauling an empty BCLA/BCLB rake waiting for the signal! As I was nearing the loco, its signal also turned yellow and it moved away! I slowly (and sadly) walked back to the “sheltered” portion of the platform. I was just then that the unfamiliar male voice once again “shouted” that the Netravati would arrive on Platform 1 while the Dadar bound KR4 Passenger from Ratnagiri would arrive on Platform 2.

By now a “soot” coloured loco was visible! That was the “Deccan Odyssey” special loco WDM3A #18719 from Pune at the helm of the KR4 passenger. The length of this ever-crowded passenger train has been reduced!!! The train, it is earlier days, had 14 coaches which went up to 18, and now has come down to 13! It had 3 reserved coaches, 2 SLRs and 8 unreserved coaches! I decided to recount the number of coaches and slowly walked towards the loco of the passenger. Now the PA system came alive once again and clarified that “ Trivandrum bound Netravati Express would arrive on Platform 1 after the Kerala Sampark Kranti Express departs”, and just then the long horn of the Ratlam loco was heard! The “Sampark Kranti” pulled out. Just as I reached the end of the platform, and crossed the tracks, an Erode loco was visible at a distance. I increased the speed of my walk (I really am scared to walk on a railway track!) and somehow managed to reach Platform 1. The loco was still on the main line and had a number of points to clear before it reached the platform!

Vendors selling all sort of stuff – from Samosas to lunch to Bread-Omlettes to Vada-Pav – were now ready to grab the earliest door and finish off their products! One vendor was curiously looking at me admiring the ED beauty! The power today was again a plain WDM2 (#18702). The loco crawled past me, notched up once gain and gained a little speed to make it to the other end of the platform! The train first stopped, and then moved a few metres ahead (to make it to the fuelling point!). Most coaches were of the 20 th century while one SL was a recent 04-make. The 3A coaches were of 00, 04 and 05 make! I walked back the entire distance of the rake and then went to the railway canteen to have some “cool” beverage! By now a long 15 minute halt was over and Netravati slowly pulled out!

The platform now dipped in to silence as all Mallus had already left. Now it was the time of Delhites and other North-Indians to crowd the platform! There was a huge crowd waiting for the “soon-to-come” Mangala Express. By now it was close to 1330 (as per the clock at the station). Just as I proceeded towards the FOB to get ready for the next photograph, a WAG5 (#23314) from Tuglakhabad came in with its horns blaring. The load, as usual, was a BCLA/BCLB rake! Minutes after the WAG5 led rake came to a complete standstill, I could see another loco – this time a “Tiger face” WAG7 (#27149) from New Katni Junction – came in with another BCLA/BCLB rake! To click this image I had to take positions on the FOB since the platform had about two uniformed RPF guys roaming! The top of the loco showed signs of a rain – It was wet!

Just moments after this rake also came to a standstill; I spotted an Ernakulam loco at a good distance. I first decided to stand on the platform, but later changed my mind and decided to stand “Half-Way-Up” the FOB! A different angle indeed! The train slowly pulled in with WDM2B #16674 (from Ernakulam) in charge. The rake had an extra Sleeper coach! Just as the rake halted, I was on my heels…rushing to the Suburban area of the station to board the local waiting for departure! I wanted to make it to the local before the crowd which gets down from the Express reaches the train! I boarded the local, and within minutes the guard blew the “dry” horn of the Local! The word “Dry” here means that the tune is not as melodious as that of the Diesel/Electric Locos! The train rushed out of Panvel and I reached Belapur at about 1400 or thereabouts!

The work of “modernization” of Panvel station is progressing at a good speed. This project involves construction of a New Station building which would house the suburban booking office, the office of the station manager and similar offices related to functioning of the suburban system. One new Platform would “probably” be built. The platforms get a “designer” roof. The Mainline portion of the station will be taken up in the next phase and that too includes a new station building and platforms would be revamped to have all “modern” amenities!

Time to wind up this report... Hope you liked it!!!

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©2005 Binai Kochunni Sankar