Fast & The Furious – III

Part I : https://pixeltrailz.com/2016/11/04/fast-the-furious-i/
Part II : https://pixeltrailz.com/2016/11/14/fast-the-furious-ii/

Part 4 : The Climax

All Clear
All Clear

It is undisputed blasphemy for me to sleep in a train with an emergency side lower berth at my disposal, but the brain and physical limitations of my body overpowered the unwilling heart and sleep was instantaneous. The misty and cool early morning was welcomed with a sedate cruise through Kohli, a good 40 minutes behind schedule. We sped past Godhani and after a customary outer halt and a crawl reached Nagpur at 5:50 in the morning. Like every other journey, my morning freshening up and usage of the bathroom facilities were done and dusted well before dawn while the washrooms were clean and manageable. Ten minutes later, we crawl out of Nagpur and our P7 started to really pump itself up after clearing all the points. Ajni was crossed at MPS and the ride between Ajni and Sewagram outer was as fresh as it could be. Rising sun, with a low lying mist, foggy morning rushin past green fields and the new Vidharba Cricket Stadium. 45 minutes after we departed Nagpur, the P7 peeps into the quintessential Sewagram curve, A full 90 degree curve where you can see the loco curving at 50kmph from any part of the train. I have to say that this curve had never disappointed me. We accelerate out of the curve while the Nagpur bound Mumbai – Nagpur Duronto speeds past us on the mainline from Wardha towards its final destination.

Resting Place
Resting Place
The Line To Nowhere
The Line To Nowhere
Good Morning Folks
Good Morning Folks

By now, PK is up and indulging himself. Breakfast was served around Majri. I am unsure if it was the previous nights tweet about the pristine quality and quantity of food or whether it happened in its natural course of events, the breakfast was well above average. Upma and vada seemed fresh and not yet cold. Pk believes his tweet did the trick and I did not want to deprive him of his satisfaction and hence agreed. Unsure of whether we would get breakfast when we change over to 3A at Balharshah, we fueled up. By the time we finished our breakfast Chandrapur was getting dispatched at MPS. Either we enjoyed the breakfast relishing every bite or our Loco Pilot was in a hurry. The reasoning favored the latter notwithstanding the decent breakfast. Sewagram to Balharshah was completed in 72 minutes, a distance of 132 kms average being exactly 110 kmph. A fabulous run completly eliminating the 40 minute delay and bettering it by 15 minutes. Well, time to deboard and move over. We gather our belongings, which was a shoulder bag and 2 bottles of water and amble over couple of coaches ahead to B3. As luck would have it, both the lower berth occupants had shifted over to 2A and we quickly occupied both the lower berths with absolute adult like matter of fact expressions and maturity and curbed our natural instinct to scream & jump up in joy and exchange high fives. More water and another round of breakfast and back to business. The next halt Vijayawada is another 450 kms and 6 hours away and a couple of hours of power nap would certainly not hurt.

Enter The Curve
Enter The Curve
Dragging The Tail
Dragging The Tail
All Is Well ?
All Is Well ?

Sleep was elusive. The heart won. However did not feel like sitting upright. So face down and pillows as support, I look out of the large windows, eyes wide open, like a chameleon and watching the best entertainment Indian Railways has on offer. I start counting poles, time taken, estimate the speed and compare against my GPS. Kept looking out for crossings, overtakes, high speed skips and the real thrill you get at the switch over points at MPS. Sirpur, Manchiryal, Pedapalli, Odela and every station enroute was just a passing blur. Full MPS crossings with heavy weights Grand Trunk Express, Tamilnadu Express, Telengana Express (Old AP) , Bangalore Rajdhani Express & Yesvantpur Sarai Rohilla AC Duronto. After a blistering non stop MPS runs with a few customary loop overtakes of SCR, we had a beautiful relaxed and a slow crossing with the rockstar, Karnataka Sampark Kranti Express near the Kazipet lake. A short technical halt at Warangal for about 10 minutes and we were back on track towards Vijayawada Junction, an extremely busy junction which had always amazed me.

Kay Yes Kay
Kay Yes Kay
Kazipet Branch
Kazipet Branch
Massive Junction
Massive Junction

As we departed Warangal, the entire train entered into an almost trance like state. Curtains were drawn, bedding re-arranged and slowly more than half our coach drifted off to sleep. It was contagious and we were not immune either. Lunch was served around 1230 in the afternoon and to our relief, it was well above average. I have earlier heard of this discrimination between sleeper class and AC passengers of this Duronto when it comes to food. All my skepticism went out of the window the instant I tasted the food. There IS a distinct difference. With nothing else to do and the LHB coaches dancing on the tracks at MPS, we settled down for a short nap amidst the rhythmic sounds. An hour later, while the coach was still in deep slumber, I decided to freshen up inside out completely and spent half an hour occupying one of the cleaner washrooms and returned cleaner, fresher and a much better odor all around me and was just in time to enjoy the extended and massive entry into Vijayawada Junction. Vijayawada Junction is one of the important Junctions of the Southern part of India, where the lines towards Howrah / Vizag & Nagpur / Delhi bifurcates towards Central Telengana & Coastal Andhra respectively

I have no words to describe this station. A massive well maintained clean and neat Junction with multiple lines, crossover, junctions, yards, stabling lines, loco shed extending at least 8-10 kms beyond on either sides, with 10 long well equipped clean platforms. It was a sight to see and experience. My first visit to this Junction during day time and it is a monstrosity of a junction. We met one of our friends at Vijayawada and after a short halt, a fresh crew is now all set to take us all the way to Chennai. Right on dot 1430 hrs, we enter into the final leg of our journey to Chennai, with a typical LHB jerk. As we exit Vijayawada, we meet a soon to be condemned AJJ WAP1 with the Chennai Central – Santragachi AC express with its rear end halfway into the Krishna River Bridge waiting for clearance to enter Vijayawada, one of the massive river bridges of Indian Railways. With a not so great monsoon season, the river was not in its full glory as we accelerate towards Chennai. As our trip nears its end, tiredness now takes over completely and we settle down for an elusive nap.

Entry
Entry
Enter Krishna
Enter Krishna
Inevitable Wait
Inevitable Wait

The Vijayawada Chennai section is supposed to a terrific run for our Duronto, but a lot of freights and slow moving express trains ahead of us sharing the same track ensured our acceleration was patchy at best. We were running around 40 minutes behind schedule when we crossed Nellore and thankfully we had a clear line post Nellore. The distance between Nellore to Ennore, around 160 kms was covered in about 100 minutes. Post Ennore, we had a typical sedate crawl around 40-60 kmph and reached Chennai without any further stops a good 15 minutes behind schedule at 2025 hrs. We step out for a quick coffee, get back to end of PF5 to witness a few shunting operations at Chennai Central and I have to say inspite of all the frustrations I have had being held from Vyasarpadi outer to Chennai Central every other time, the operations at Chennai was quick. The efficiency with with Railways worked to clear arrivals and departures was commendable inspite of the busy hour. Half an hour after we reached Chennai Central, Duronto has been shunted out & its loco out to the trip shed. PF 1 cleared in just 20 minutes; Brindavan enters and ready to get shunted out. It gets shunted out quickly enough and PF3 is cleared; Kaveri Departs and shunter loco out in no time PF 5 cleared; 30 minutes 3 PF’s cleared while Palani and Blue departs bang on time and the PF’s cleared of shunters immediately relieving PF 7 & 11. I was extremely impressed with the operations and the efficiency with with PF’s were cleared to make way for DD, MYS & CBE Shatabdi’s , Kovai, JS and everyone else to spend as little time crawling from Jiva to MAS.

There is now just one more activity left to do. We cross the tracks onto PF 11, help ourselves to some piping hot Sambhar rice and curd rice, enjoy a coffee and settle down onto our two lower berths on 12657, the sleep killer ripper mail. As is the norm, two passengers on the same PNR cannot have lower berths and PK had to gift his lower berth to one of our co-passengers in the same bay. I was successful in avoiding the exchange by maintaining eye contact only with the platform vendors. We depart as our fellow IRFCAn @SJ pinged us expressing his inability to meet us at Chennai and that he would be busy taking shelter under a tube light at Perambur waving at us and got our co-ordinates in relation to the loco. Unaware of his counting capabilities, we indexed our coach from the rear to stop counting at 3. We cross the Basin Bridge curve, switch over to the fast lane at Vyasarpadi Jiva, accelerate madly and wave at @SJ drifting past Perambur at 90kmph. As we shift back into the darkness towards Arakkonam hoping SJ did see us, we settle down for the first good rest on the sleep killer. The killer mail, true to its reputation was right on dot as we deboarded at Bangalore East and took a cab each to our respective destinations. 1 flight, 4 furious train rides and 5000+ kms, no official leaves, tired body and a refreshed mind. What more can you ask of a weekend ?

Fast & The Furious – II

Continued from right here …

Part 3 : Back to Nizamuddin

Back To Base
Back To Base

The ever unreliable NTES indicated that Nizamuddin bound Mangala express was on time at Morena, the scheduled halt before Agra. An 85 minute schedule for an 80km run was an overkill and we expected it to be on dot at Agra. With 15 minutes to spare, the thought of exiting the station for a hot cup of tea seemed inviting. However our lack of geography outside the station forced us to get on the foot over bridge and await Mangala on PF3. We had a sleeper class ticket in hand, but the lack of sleep caught up with us now and decided to upgrade to AC 3 Tier. As we entered the platform Mangala entered the platform silently sneaking past and fooling everyone including the platform indicator boards. A good 10 minutes ahead of schedule. One look at our designated sleeper coach and the blazing sun outside, we took the long walk in search of the TTE requesting an upgrade. The TTE was an affable no nonsense fellow and assigned us a couple of berths up to Nizamuddin. The occupants of the bay where we were allotted did their best to make the place inhospitable and be a deterrent for any new passenger about to join them and I have to say they were successful in their half hearted attempt. We roamed around other coaches, identified two good unused upper berths, informed the TTE and settled for a power nap.Meanwhile, our travel from Chennai to Bangalore for the next day was still a question mark and called one of our good dentist friends to book a couple of sleeper class tickets for us, reminding him to use our correct names age and most importantly the sex. By 11:05 AM we had 2 confirmed sleeper class tatkal tickets for our final leg of the journey and was relieved to know that the patient’s half pulled out tooth was finally fully out and sitting on the table. The TTE collected the difference in fares, issued the receipts, returned the change and the next thing we saw was us cruising beyond Faridabad and we were deposited right on dot, 1315 hrs at Nizamuddin.

Chennai Express
Chennai Express

Lunch outside at the Comesum restaurant was forgettable and hence no recollection except that I had one. The heat was taking its toll on us and started questioning our decision of travelling to Chennai in Sleeper Class, albeit a Duronto. We decided to split the journey and booked us on AC III tier from Balharshah to Chennai. PK, who has a fetish for PRS counters, wanted to have an intimate chat with the PRS clerk and started our hunt for the same. After extended enquiries and search, we found the PRS counters near Okhla. A confused clerk issued us 2 AC III tier tickets from Balharshah to Chennai on the Nizamuddin Chennai Duronto, scheduled to leave Nizamuddin in the next 1 hr, wondering how we would reach Balharshah in time tomorrow to achieve this feat. Well, we have a connection that cannot fail. We laboriously returned back to Nizamuddin, onto our scheduled platform awaiting a sleeper class full LHB duronto ride to Chennai. Half an hour later I was peeping out to feel the rushing wind on my face from my side lower berth emergency window.

Start Of The Duronto Saga
Start Of The Duronto Saga
You Just Wait
You Just Wait

Agra Fort - Jaipur
Agra Fort – Jaipur

The Duronto lives upto its name and was screaming at MPS as we passed Tuglakabad. The comparison between the Gatimaan ride and the Duronto ride was a tale of 2 sparkling contrasts. A sophisticated ride vs a down to earth one. 160kmph vs 120-130 kmph. Air conditioned vs natural breeze. Closed windows vs fully open emergency window. Silent vs Cacophony of sounds. Smiling service vs “service”. Trackside vs non trackside. Exciting vs Speechless. The difference in speed between the Gatimaan & the Duronto was a consistent 30-40 kmph, however the sleeper class travel in the Duronto accentuated every experience by a significant margin. Once again it would be unfair to use adjectives to describe the experience, but the Duronto ride started off with a mind-blowing and hair raising feeling, the latter being quite literal. We overtook some passenger or freight train every station enroute to Agra at 120-130 kmph with our WAP-7 loco screaming and pushing tresspassers out of the way. Stations, trains, trees, fields, bridges and every other landscape blurred past us. All I could hear was the loco whine, the breeze, the typical clickety clack of railway points as we go over them. A spectacular exhibition of aggression, precision and pride. The Nizamuddin – Agra section was completed in 1 hr 55 minutes, 10 minutes slower than what Gatimaan achieved in the morning, but I have to admit that I have more vivid memories of this Duronto ride than the former. The exhibition continued beyond Agra all the way upto Jhansi.

Skipping Gwalior
Skipping Gwalior

Dholpur, Morena and every other intermediate station was quickly left behind at a cruising 120kmph. Slight deceleration before approaching Gwalior and we skipped Gwalior on the mainline at a cruising speed of 70kmph while platform 1 was preparing for receiving the Bilaspur bound Rajdhani. The rhythmic motion, cool winds and the cyclic lullaby generated by the wheels on steel was slowly taking me back to wonderland when a sudden streak of flashing lights a bit ahead of us brought me back to senses. It took a couple of seconds to register the fact that it was another train cruising at maximum speed towards its destination, only to make an illusion as if it was converging right into us. Expecting a nasty jolt which never came, we converged into the portal safely passing the train at a right angle right below us. It was later once we reach our home would we realize that up and down lines go over each other at a couple of locations between Gwalior & Jhansi. Had we taken this geography lesson earlier, I would have had a video to share the experience, except now that the photographic memory is exclusively stored in a safe deposit locker somewhere in my ROM. Nevertheless, that was SOME sight.

Entering Jhansi
Entering Jhansi

Having full faith in the sleeper class catering service of the Duronto, we had ordered for dinner at Jhansi. Once again we were not let down by the on board catering and were eagerly looking forward for our dinner as we reached Jhansi right on schedule. Credit has to be given to the e-catering provider at Jhansi. It takes a lot to prepare something worse than on board catering. The mindless run continued on beyond Jhansi upto Bina post which the sectional speed was reduced to 110 kmph. By now, the body had exhausted its reserves and was begging for a rest, which we happily obliged. We never knew when we skipped Bhopal.

… to be concluded …

Exit Jhansi
Exit Jhansi