Six Days Seven Nights – The Sixth Night

Five full nights on the move along the IR network and a couple of them almost sleepless left us longing for more rest. However, assuming you would have read my earlier blogs, visiting the washroom prior to sunrise is an unwritten law in my book of rail travel. Added to that early morning freshness and cruising past the green fields and the forests of MP is reason enough to be up and enjoy the high speed run. Early morning tea was quickly dispensed with and I realized that we were slightly behind schedule by may be a quarter to half an hour and our P7 was in no mood to extend the delay and was on a rampage towards its next destination, Nagpur, the land of Oranges.

Bangalore bound RAJ entering Nagpur, the land of Oranges
Bangalore bound RAJ entering Nagpur, the land of Oranges

The LGD P7 had a mindless run and quickly traversed the two ghat sections enroute with minimal fuss. By the time we reached Kalmeshwar, a good 20-30 kilometers before Nagpur, we had completely made up the delay and was running close to 30 minutes ahead of schedule. A scheduled arrival of around 10:15 AM at Nagpur now seems like 9:45 – 10:00 AM arrival and it excited us as we would have a good 30-45 minutes stop and would allow us to enjoy some proper breakfast. Needless to harp on again, the pathetic mini breakfast delight was instantly gobbled and left us not wanting for more, but the body needed more and a 30 min break at Nagpur seemed perfect. After a customary hold and crawl and switching points, we did indeed reach Nagpur around 9:55 AM and had a solid 30 minutes to self indulge in some good food. I stepped out of the station, got a quick bite breakfast and much better tea this time around and back in time to ensure that I do not leave the RAJ stranded without my esteemed presence. I was welcomed in my coach with fresh fragrance of oranges. A perfect flavor and the perfect combination of sweet & sour concoction left us in no doubt about the “Nagpur Oranges” claim.

All Set to Negotiate the Sewagram Curve

The Nagpur-Balharshah section is the one we have been waiting for mainly for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is to have a look at the great Sewagram curve once again and second, high speed MPS encounters with all of the southern heavyweights including the GT, TN, AP, KSK and RAJ and a much awaited OT of the legendary AP express. Needless the say, the entire section was on doorplate mode. A word of caution here. Door plating on the RAJ at MPS is not something to be taken lightly and shooting videos and photos of trains at MPS while door plating is, in no uncertain terms, not recommended. Even if you do, take care and do not do something stupid. There is no such thing as safe door plating. Well, warnings apart, the RAJ did a great job and we had a scintillating couple of hours of unadulterated adrenaline blast as we moved past the Sewagram curve, heavyweight encounters, AP express overtake and finally reached Balharshah after a breathless run from Nagpur in a exactly 2 hrs and 15 minutes. RAJ took a well deserved rest and the SCR crew took the reins of our RAJ from Balharshah. The only blip in this section was our failed wish to meet the Nizamuddin bound Bangalore RAJ at MPS. Our counterpart was waiting for us at Balharshah and bid us goodbye just as we came to rest. Now that we have settled down back in our seats for the next section, we suddenly realized the nightmare that we had entirely forgotten, LUNCH !!!

The Router
Signal Arms indicating lots of possibilities
The Kazi Lake
The Kazi Lake
Shining Bright
An evening sun greets us near Kazipet

The next 30 minutes was hectic and our prayers were unanswered. We were served lunch. We prayed again and quickly gobbled up the disaster. We chewed the pieces by hand and swallowed them quickly like a medicine and washed it quickly with bottled water and spared us from the lingering taste and fragrance of this delightful cuisine. It was then that we made the most sensible decision of our lives. I live to eat and I cannot tolerate this Rajdhani crap which they serve as food. The Raj has a scheduled arrival of 18:35 at Secunderabad and we had a good 5.5 hrs to cover that 350 kms of FEDL section and it essentially means an early arrival and coupled with a loco change and crew change we should easily have around 30 mins to hunt for food at Secunderabad. With this decided, my travel mate’s always on the charge mobile starts ringing and after a good hmms and ok’s and fine’s later, I was informed that we have a few fellow rail enthusiasts meeting us at Secunderabad. I have always held Hyderabadi Biriyani as one of the finest foods, Hyderabad has to offer and it was a no brainer when I asked my always on the charge travel mate to call them back and asked them to get us our load of the finest Biriyani Hyderabad has to offer and pamper us with some Karachi Biscuits. With dinner plans settled and excitement sky high a short and simple nap is all that is needed. After all we expect an early arrival at Hyderabad and decided to save some of our energy for the evening. However, we missed one small detail about SCR which would certainly make arriving Secunderabad ahead of schedule almost an impossible feat to achieve.

Moving on
22692 Bangalore Rajdhani Express moving out of the Delhi – Chennai Trunk Route towards Kazipet
Slow Dance
Raj curves forever at 15kmph to enter Kazipet
Almost Done
Entering Kazipet Jn.
Army Train
A load of army trucks moving towards Kazipet

After our short nap, a second round of door plating showed us what SCR is made of. High speed run, sudden braking and deceleration, branching off to loop line, cruise, branch off to the main line, accelerate, high speed run, sudden braking and deceleration and this turned out to be a pattern almost at every alternate station. Yes, welcome to SCR as the freights on the mainline look at you mockingly while they let you overtake over the loop albeit at a crawling pace. In spite of all this, we still managed to reach Secunderabad outer a good 40 minutes ahead of schedule and were made to wait endlessly. By the time the malfunctioning railway level crossing was closed and we entered PF10 of Secunderabad Station, we were bang on time.

It is always delightful to meet friends old and new en route a rail trip. We met a group of rail enthusiasts and had a great time discussing our recent trip and plans for next meetup and get together. 20 minutes passed in the blink of an eye as our train honked restlessly for its departure. Quick byes, couple of hasty group shots later, we boarded back onto our train for the final leg of our trip. As the train slowly departed, a friend of ours suddenly realized the mistake and quickly handed over the goodies for our dinner. They were caring enough to even get us some paper plates. Well, that was a bit too much of a stretch. The restaurant did not have enough change. For the first time ever in the history of my rail trips in India and more so in this rail trip, I was so eagerly looking forward for my dinner.

Closing in
Bangalore bound RAJ closing in on Secunderabad

Our pantry ringmaster started his circus. As usual he started off his passenger’s ordeal with his dinner service. Reluctant passengers helplessly started their dinner with the most sincere prayers from their hearts. Superiority complexity swooned over us as we dismissed those pantry guys nonchalantly to just ignore us and punish the rest. For the next 20 minutes, we had no eye contact with anyone. There was not a word spoken. The aroma of freshly prepared Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani slowly engulfed the coach giving a welcome relief to the rest of the passengers as it overwhelmed the under cooked and the horrendous taste and aroma of the Raj cuisine. To be honest, I really felt sorry and bad for the rest of the passengers for having to endure the Raj cuisine and to top it off see 3 of us summarily dismissing off the Raj staff and feasting on some of the best food money can buy. Really, what is the point of all the grind and pain and effort we all put up in our life if we cannot enjoy our food, the real reason why we work our back off. I see my colleagues skip lunch, dinner, breakfast, sleep and everything else all on the pretext of client satisfaction and work ethics and such philosophical crap. You live only once. Live your life. Eat well. Eat on time. Sleep Well. Sleep on time. Spend time with friends and family. Travel. Meet new people. Try new food. See unknown places. Be good. Feel good. Do justice to your work, but not blindly. We all eventually die and our it is important to ensure in our quest & greed for wealth, we do not die a premature death while we live physically. In a corporate world, you are dispensable. You can be replaced. Once you outlive your utility, you are of no use. Be real. Live life. With all that philosophy flowing out of a simple Hyderabadi Biriyani, we decided to retire early and call it a day. There is no more fun in the Raj now as we entered the final and slowest leg of our journey.

Oh no not again !!!
And again a Freight blocks our mainline with with a UBL DG4 12139 at the rear (Banker ???)

After a good night’s rest and a slight delay, Bangalore welcomed us back and we took our own path and bid goodbyes hoping to meet sometime again. Hope you enjoyed reading the series as much as I enjoyed recollecting time.

Sunset over the Hills - #Flickr12Days
Slightly mistimed shot, but thats the best I could manage that day from a train. Bangalore bound Rajdhani Express negotiating the beautiful Raigir Curve as the sun sets over the Raigir Hill

The Seventh Night : Home Sweet Home.

Six Days Seven Nights – The Fifth Night

Extreme tiredness and deprivation of a well needed sleep in the wee hours of the morning was reason enough to leave us completely disoriented. A couple of roadside tea doses later, we regained our senses. As we bid a temporary goodbye to a part of our team whom we will meet later, my companions and myself quickly left towards Old Delhi to collect what would remain of that luggage which we had deposited in the cloak room. Much to our disbelief the deposited luggage was received intact , albeit on closer examination it did seem like there was a concerted, lazy and a half-hearted attempt to remove some stuff. Our ride back to Bangalore was once again in the RAJ scheduled to leave Nizamuddin late evening. With a whole day to spend now, it was time to take an auto to somewhere near New Delhi station for a day’s rest and some shopping for the family. After a couple of rejected lodgings due to its well maintained bathrooms, we ended up with a relatively decent lodging for the day. The auto driver made a handsome INR 100 tip from the lodging owner. No wonder he took us for a very cheap ride.

Early Riser
Early Riser

Back in the room, we continued what we considered as an abrupt disruption of our sleep for another couple of hours before indulging on some breakfast. Quickly freshened up and got hold of a very philosophical and an up to date current affairs updated rickshahwallah who gave us deep insights on life’s philosophy and the current political problems faced in our country. He had an expert opinion on everything except when we asked him where would be the best place to shop near Karol Bagh. Anyway we moved on and started our home shopping festivities (It is a crime not to get gifts for home even if maybe more expensive than the entire trip) which lasted close to a good 3-4 hours. As time ticked by, weariness increased and our stomach started its obnoxious grumble to be fed. Little did we realize that in this entire process, we had completely missed an appointment to meet a few rail enthusiasts at Nizamuddin station. Deciding not to worry too much about it, we called up and extended our sincere apologies on the mess up as we quickly returned to our lodging, indulged in good food and had a spirited rest for the next couple of hours.

As evening set in, we freshened up, packed up for one last time, ensured everything is taken care of and left for Nizamuddin Railway station to board the RAJ back to our homes. Not sure of Delhi’s road traffic situation, we kept a continuous track of our GPS to ensure that we will be on time. We had a faint ray of hope that our 2A tickets in the RAJ may get upgraded to 1A, which was soon summarily dismissed and the three of us ended up with random berth allocation thankfully at least in the same coach.

The RAJ departed bang on time and in a matter of few minutes already started rattling the tracks close to a 130-140 kmph. The same queer arrangement and planning as mentioned in one of my earlier posts regarding the Great RAJ dining experience started all over again. A customary hot and spicy tasteless soup and bread sticks were served, which was quickly dispensed with. True to its reputation and much to our satisfaction, RAJ stuck to its culinary delight this time. The food was absolutely unpalatable and tasteless. I am led to believe that in a hurry paneer was replaced with playdoh and the gravy liquified tomato ketchup, with no salt of course. Little did I know that this was just the start and as we break in to the next morning and afternoon, the RAJ will up its stakes and serve us even more rotten, tasteless, miniature models of culinary delights. Thankfully the ice-cream was branded one and it tasted like warm vanilla milkshake.

Waiting !!!
Waiting !!!

Ever since the Bhopal Shatabdi was introduced, I wanted to travel in it or watch it rip past, but as my schedule and luck would have it, I was unable to do either of them. This was an opportunity to witness its rampage. Excitement was at its peak in anticipation of close to 280-290 kmph crossing action as we decided to doorplate till the crossing is done. NTES indicated a crossing anytime as we crossed Sholaka and it appeared that my dream would remain unfulfilled at least for now as we had a spectacular crossing with a TSR of 30kmph. Post this excitement, we decided to call it a day and enjoy the next day’s action and we also did not want to miss the culinary experience. We had 2 SLB and one UB once charts were prepared and there was this well built and in perfect shape middle aged gentleman who wanted one of our SLB. I personally did not see any reason to sacrifice it as the situation did not warrant one. He was fine, mid to late thirties, with no medical reason for not being able to climb (I knew it because I asked for it as he was insisting on the SLB). Needless to say, I am not going to sacrifice an SLB for no valid reason and hence politely denied. He was very persistent in knowing as to why I would not hand over the sacred berth and after a lot of frustration, I gave him 2 reasons. 1. I need some air. 2. I want the SLB and I am ready to exchange if he could provide me another SLB. I wasn’t sure as to what convinced him, the discussion ended there, however his stare continued throughout the journey.

The White Stallion
The White Stallion

Six Days Seven Nights – The Second Night

Land of Oranges - #Flickr12Days
Departing Nagpur

The Second Night – 15-Oct-2013 :

The RAJ collected a good 30 minute delay at Nagpur need to shed off that little extra flab at the earliest as making up in the last section of this route is virtually impossible due to heavy congestion. As if on cue, RAJ quickly picks leaves Nagpur in a hurry. Nagpur – Itarsi section has always been one of my favorite sections in this entire route. The landscape varies from a flat Vidharba region and quickly transforms into green and beautiful ghat sections as we enter Madhya Pradesh.

Bye Bye Oranges
Bye Bye Oranges

The first of the ghat sections Teegaon – Chichonda is quickly done without any fuss or a halt. A few bankers were awaiting arrival of P4 hauled 24 coachers to push them up the gradient. RAJ, a mean 18 coacher P7 hauled champion, made a mockery of the gradient and before we could realize, the RAJ thrashed a busy Amla junction at MPS leaving AP express behind. As darkness set in, we were forced to miss the scenic Maramjhiri – Dharakoh section, which TN express usually covers at dusk to witness the beautiful sunset. Evening gave way to darkness and we had to settle with seeing our own forgettable reflections now as interior lighting took over.

Sunset @ Chichonda - 2
Sunset @ Chichonda

Itarsi passed at a steady 3okmph without stopping and we picked up quickly enroute to Bhopal about 90 kms away. Itarsi – Bhopal section is another beautiful and scenic landscape, which cannot be enjoyed on the RAJ in either direction due to its timings. Arrived Bhopal on time and couple of gracious railfans, who decided to just encourage us on our trip, treated us to some local delicacies and satisfy that sweet tooth of ours. As we departed Bhopal, the dinner saga was quickly done with and unlike the previous night, we decided to call it a day as we have a very hectic 3 days ahead of us. As much as I wanted to see our RAJ overtaking my first love TN, I decided to give it a pass and rest.

Sunset @ Chichonda - 1 - #Flickr12Days
Raj cruises past a setting sun near Teegaon

Woke up a couple of times as we skipped Mathura and Agra. RAJ had made up all of its lost time and is now all set to reach Delhi on dot. As always , we were slightly trolled a bit before Nizamuddin and reached our first destination, Hazrat Nizamuddin with a 15 minute delay. We quickly moved hearing to the announcement of the two heavyweights GT and TN arriving back to back shortly. RAJ did overtake TN then , a sight I missed or should I say wanted to miss ?

Life isn't easy
Life isn’t easy

It has been 14 long years since I last visited Delhi and I was unsure of what was going through my mind. The next leg of our travel is late night and we have a full 16 hours to kill in our Capital. Delhi is home to one of the most congested railway networks in the country and it is no wonder that the RRI system (Route Relay Interlocking) at New Delhi Railway Station is one of the world’s largest RRI system certified by the Guiness Book of World Records. There are multiple terminals to decongest traffic and regulate trains. New Delhi & Old Delhi Junction are two of the larger terminals, supported by Nizamuddin, Delhi Sarai Rohilla & Anand Vihar catering primarily to South , North & Northwestern, North, Northeastern and Eastern parts of the country.

TeeKayDee !!!
Bandra – Delhi Garib Rath with a TKD ALCO

Since we had a good 16 hours to go and board the next train from Old Delhi Junction, we quickly decided to make a short visit to Rewari Steam Loco Shed, which is about 90kms from Delhi on the Delhi – Jaipur line. Rewari Steam Loco Shed is a delight for steam lovers and classic locomotives. It houses the trio which pulled the very first train from Thane to Bori Bunder in 1853, The Sahib, Sultan & Sind. A quick cab ride through the better parts of the city took us just outside Delhi Sarai Rohilla, where we checked in to the cheapest available lodging to quickly freshen up and get ready for a heritage visit.

Diesel Paradise

Rewari Junction
Tummy Full
Belly Filled and Ready for action
Like A Boss
A beautiful Katni ALCO

Breakfast was a quick roadside, dipped in Amul butter hot and smoking Aloo parathas served with some local accompaniments. At 10 INR per paratha, we had no room to complain and there was no need either.Incidentally, there was some unprecedented delay on one the regular Delhi – Rewari passenger and hence our Bikaner bound ICE was made to run as a commuter train upto Rewari. On hindsight, our current booking in 3A proved to be a blessing in disguise. Old Delhi, Delhi Sarai Rohilla and the route to Jaipur is certainly not a sight to behold. It passes through some of the most backward and unhygienic areas of Delhi, in start contrast to the roads and infrastructure around Nizamuddin and other parts of the city. One striking aspect though was the Delhi metro. It was omnipresent all across Delhi. Sreedharan really took Delhi Metro to great heights, literally in some areas. Thanks to the lousy commuter run of our train, we reach Rewari a good 30 minutes behind schedule. We get down, took in some customary tea and walk towards the steam loco shed under a blazing hot October Sun. Rewari is a a diesel lovers Railfan Paradise. It serves as a diesel filling station and sports a never ending stream of locomotives and double container freights from 4 different directions. No electric poles to block your views or obstruct your clicks. We decided to spend some time railfanning over there on our way back.

The Entrance
History Lesson
A Brief History
Hi Buddy
Sultan Restored
Ready to Roll

Hundred meters ahead and a short 5 minute walk following the pointers all along the way and we reach the loco shed with no fuss. The place seemed deserted and left us wondering if we were in at a wrong time. Much to our relief a few workers let us in and explained that the ONLY restriction was “NO SMOKING”. Rewari steam loco shed , unlike the active diesel and electric locomotive sheds in India, lets you do whatever you do want as long as you do not disturb anything or anyone. We were free to get in to the locos, shoot photographs of anything , anywhere and anyhow. Roam around unsupervised anywhere. Considering all the red tape involved in other maintenance facilities of Indian Railways, it was a welcome change and nothing, not even the blazing hot sun could suppress our excitement and energy which was well spent spread over a period of 2-3 hours.Getting up, close and personal with Sahib, Sind, Sutlan and the regal of all, Akbar was an experience which I cannot express in words in a simple blog. Hundreds of clicks, bottles of water, cokes and pepsi’s later, it was time to go back.

Look at me !!!
Wheels on the Train goes round and round

Do you recollect that commuter train with an unprecedented delay, which made our express into a commuter ? Well, appparently that is now in Rewari and will leave for Delhi soon. Locals in a small town like Rewari know train timings inside out and since our special train will now have its own timings not in sync with the locals timings, we had an almost empty train transporting us to Delhi. A request to footplate was promptly turned down and we were soon chugging our way to Delhi.

Inside the beast
The Belly of the Beast, Akbar
The beautiful Sher-e-Punjab taking a sunbath
Signal Please !
Are we all Set ? Lets get going !!!
It Ain't complete without me :D
It Ain’t complete without me 🙂
Chillout Lounge
Chillout lounge for an overnight stay, built to taste
The Unsung Heroes
The real unsung heroes of Indian Railways


Six Days Seven Nights – The First Night

It was a moonlit night in old Mexico. I walked alone between some old Adobe haciendas. Suddenly, I heard the plaintive cry of a young Mexican girl. That’s how Pat Boone starts off his Speedy Gonzales and has nothing to do with this recollection of mine.

It was indeed a moonlit night and a good night’s rest was in the beckoning. I took my little monkeys to bed to quickly get them to sleep so that I can indulge in a little bit of “me” time before I wind up for the day. Just as my heavy eyelids was desperately trying to out bulge my eyes to send me to paradise, I heard that distinctive beep of someone pinging me on Facebook. It is a cardinal sin not to check and go to sleep, lest the demons unleash the lousiest dreams on the planet. I have a message waiting for my droopy eyes. “Let me offer you a deal. A visit to RCF, Kapurthala. Does it excite you ? Received permission to visit the factory on 17th October 2013. So if you are interested, I will add your name on”. Before I rant on, let me emphasize, why this is a BIG thing. First, I am a rail enthusiast and a visit to manufacturing facility where the passenger coaches are manufactured is a dream. Second, getting permission to visit a
Central Government owned research and development manufacturing unit is not something you get everyday in India. You need to pull a lot of strings to get this done. Needless to say, I am super excited and still not sure if the actual journey, factory visit, a personal trip after a while or something else which is making my adrenaline hit the roof.

The First Night – 14-Oct-2013 :

I have never traveled in “The Rajdhani Express” (To be referred as the RAJ henceforth) and excitement of traveling in one of the better Rajdhani Expresses in its LHB avatar was making the day crawl ever so slowly. Packing for a single traveling male is just a 10 minute exercise and in spite of an extended one hour relaxed packing schedule, time seems to have come to a complete standstill. As the clock slowly crawls past 5PM, I bid my goodbyes and embark on an exciting trip ahead. Bangalore roads were empty due to holiday season and the short trip to the railway station was much quicker than anticipated. With a full 90 minutes to kill before departure, I met my other fellow railfans and decided to indulge in a short pre dinner roadside junk, which on hindsight, would turn out to be one of the better decisions we made. As the rake enters the platform, the nondescript and dull platform suddenly barges to life. For some reason, which I am still yet to comprehend, I just fail to understand the urgency with which the passengers board the train. It is not as if it will pull out ahead of schedule when everyone boards.Anyway we gave way for all those busy bees who wanted to reach the capital a bit earlier than us, settled our luggage inside and got ready for a small photo shoot. The loco HAS to be shot and framed. So off we go, shoot the LOCO and a few otherwise useless shots and before we knew it, we were all set for departure. Boarded the train, got our tickets checked and settled for the Great Rajdhani Dining experience.

KJM WDP4B 40018 in SHF is all set to take the Rajdhani Express from Bangalore to Nizamuddin upto Secunderabad
KJM WDP4B 40018 in SHF is all set to take the RAJ from Bangalore to Nizamuddin upto Secunderabad

Dinner in RAJ is a sight to behold. Just as we settle down, our designated pantry attendant stacks the dinner right next to the doorways and vestibules. My assumption on this bizarre maneuver was that he was trying to be efficient, however as the dinner progressed, it was clear that he did not want the passengers any way to escape this exclusive gourmet. Water bottles were nearly thrown at you, soup sticks slid on a not so sparkling plastic red plate, A red piping hot liquid, which we later came to know as tomato soup was slid efficiently across. Now that the starter was served, it was finished ever so quickly as we did not intend to savor the taste for a longer time. Sarcasm apart, we finished it quickly because that’s all it takes to gulp two tablespoons of soup. Now comes the main course. 3 Chapathis each the size of a standard Indian Idli, A paneer curry which sent us on a leather hunt for the paneer and 4 tablespoons of rice, which was, well let’s just leave it at that. A request for yoghurt / curd was promptly served with a red blazing stare and followed by a small cup of white liquid 30 minutes later. The dessert was a surprise. We were served Baskin Robbins smallest cup of Vanilla ice-cream. It was honestly as vanilla as it could be, but I could already hear a few passengers complaining that they did not want a milkshake for dessert. Now that the Lilliputians were served dinner, the passengers decided to settle down gradually for what is going to be a good 30 hours of the RAJ experience, albeit with a grumbling stomach.

As the train started cruising through the Makali ghats, the passengers gradually started to retire for the night. Peace prevailed as lights were switched off and RAJ started picking up towards its next halt, Dharmavaram, which is a crew change halt. The railfans in me and my friends and the non existent photographer in myself, kept us awake for a good amount of time, trying to upload the clicks so far to IRI. However the patchy internet and cruising through signal free area, made it an effort in itself. By the time we successfully managed to upload one single click, we were slowing down to enter Dharmavaram. A quick doorplating and we witnessed a huge curve with station lights and signals gleaming along the tracks. One of my favorite sights is a train switching , snaking and crawling to enter an almost deserted station late at night. As usual, the cameras breathed life and managed to click a few forgettable ones. As the train departed Dharmavaram, we decided to call it a day to enjoy the ripping action after Secunderabad and of course, we did not want to miss the loco change festivities the next day.

Dal Vada Land
Dharmavaram , Known for its famous Dal Vada, feeling lonely late night
Free at Last
Heart Transplant @Secunderabad

15-Oct-2013 – Early Morning around 5 AM :

The key to travel in a long distance train in India is proper scheduling of your daily activities during the course of travel. A 30-33 hour ride could be reason enough to pamper yourself to an extended sleep or letting your mind wander aimlessly, but it could have an irritating impact. It is of my strong conviction that you should complete the washroom usage before 5:30 AM in the morning. They are clean relatively, with water available and no waiting period. Anything beyond 6:30 AM, you have a long waiting period and your body may not be willing to co-operate with your mind. So based on my past experience, I was all up and dandy and fresh by 6:00 AM and looking through the large transparent glass window to evaluate our position. As expected in this section, we were a good 30-40 minutes behind schedule. The RAJ was in no hurry and maintained the delay all the way up to Secunderabad.

My Saviour
New Found Power – LGD P7 30290

We were positioned 13th or 14th from the LOCO and in spite of our brisk and accelerated walk sprinkled with a few sprints, we were not able to witness the grand detachment of KJM WDP4B from our RAJ. However, the LOCO area was a beehive of activities with loads of folks checking various gauges and levels, while a LGD white stallion 30290 silently enters the frame to storm the RAJ all the way up to Nizamuddin. Ten more minutes, loco coupled, pressure gauges checked, oil levels refilled and the P7 is all set. We make a quick sprint back to our coach and ready to latch on to the best part of the RAJ. No , I did not mean the food, but the high priority adrenaline pumping high speed run. The P7 departed with the backlog of around 30-40 minutes to catch up. Back in our seats, we were served a delicious tasteless breakfast with miniature models, eaten effortlessly by us as we quickly started ripping the outskirts of Secunderabad. It was time to witness the beautiful Raigir curve, but nothing much to describe here as we almost missed it,for which we made amends on our way back. Quickly reached Kazipet and made up around 10 minutes of lost time.

The Raigir Curve
A missed shot of the Raigir Curve. We made up for this on our way back

The Kazipet Disaster :

Konark express was gracious enough to let us go first as our RAJ honked and jerked to start. As quickly as it started, it was forcefully stopped by a fellow passenger a few coaches ahead of us. As we peeped out, a crowd had gathered ahead and a good number of them squatted to get a deeper look below the train. Fearing the worst, we were informed that someone had slipped between the platform and the train and authorities are trying to extract him. To our relief, he luckily survived, but probably with some life altering disability. Our TTE explained later that he slipped while trying to board the train balancing his breakfast on one hand and trying to get in on a moving train using his other hand for support. As much as I would like to blame the lip smacking breakfast provided by the pantry that he was desperate enough to enjoy the cold and bland station breakfast, it was his fault entirely. It was later informed to us that he was operated upon and will live. So much for a breakfast, but it sure made us sit in shock for a while. The 10 minutes we caught up so far was wasted and we were 90 minutes behind schedule when we departed Kazipet

Nostalgia Reloaded :

I was a regular traveler on the Chennai (The then Madras) – New Delhi trunk route during 1995-1999 and yes it was a no-brainer and my journeys always used to be in the legendary Tamilnadu Express, which till date enjoys extreme high priority and still known for its ruthless and aggressive run. As we moved out of Kazipet and merged on to the Chennai – New Delhi trunk line, it all started coming back to me. The wide eyed , open mouthed and shocked expressions on travelers waiting for their rides, the sheer awesomeness of high pitched whine from the then WAP1 and the calm which would have restored after the storm passed, helpless passengers looped at various wayside stations for the legendary TN to pass through the mainline and the pride and thrill within me as we go an a rampage station after station. Hasanparthi Road, Jamikunta, Ramagundam , Manchiryal and the likes were shown no respect. A sudden argument with the famed pantry boys of the RAJ, as it brought me back to the present, left a lingering feeling wishing I was on the TN rather than the RAJ.

High Five
SWR primo supremo meets its counterpart

Anyway, it was make up time and the RAJ had its intentions clear. We have a catwalk of prestigious trains in the offing as we settled down for an aggressive run. RAJ is the king now atleast on wheels if not on meals. RAJ, incidentally following the TN literally, charged past all the big towns and made a mockery of the 90 minute delay at Kazipet as were just 50 minutes behind now as we cruised past the Wardha River at Balharshah outer. The right curve onto the river amidst a foliage of greenery had not changed in the last 14 years. Yes, I had never traveled in this section after 1999 and my loyalty to TN just keeps coming back. First Love maybe :).

Karthik Calling Karthik
The meeting of the RAJ’s

Just as we clear the river, we meet the first of the heavyweights, our counterpart, the Numero Uno Primo Supremo, Bangalore bound RAJ crossing us on its way to Secunderabad, the last of its high speed sections. We were welcomed into Balharshah, by another white LGD stallion with another legendary and always popular AP Express in tow ready to give some distance between itself and the Bangalore bound RAJ

Meet the Legend
RAJ meets the legendary AP at Balharshah

Balharshah reached, made up 40 minutes, loco relaxed, LOCO pilot changed, Exclusive gourmet meals ready, line clear, signaled and our RAJ is already furiously accelerating in its pursuit to reach the land of oranges and make up for the remaining 50 minutes. RAJ is a sprinter and a very good one, it is not like your typical marathon athlete, but a marathon athlete with a spirit of the 100m dasher. The next milestone is to get ahead of New Delhi bound AP, right in front of us and considering the delay , it was our educated guess that it may not happen before we reach Nagpur as AP is not a sloucher either.

Time To Stretch
Travellers Relax at Balharshah

While all this analysis were in progress, our super exclusive pantry attendant started off his circus again, albeit a bit tired (Probably due to enjoying their own cuisine) and we quickly finish our uneventful lunch samples and prepared ourselves for high speed crossings of the evergreen Grand Trunk Express and the almighty TN. We crossed GT before Sewagram, known for Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram. Sewagram is an RF paradise where the trunk lines from Mumbai and Chennai merge and a triangular bypass from Chennai trunk line to the Mumbai trunk line. Chennai – Delhi trunk line slows down to a 50kmph speed limit to negotiate one of the famous and massive curves of Indian Railways and is a sight to watch for every rail enthusiast. Trains on the Nagpur – Mumbai trunk line, rips through Sewagram without slowing down on the mainline.

The famous paper factory just outside Balharshah

A quick glance at our watches and realized we had hardly covered up around 10-15 minutes delay. Apparently, the though process was telepathically transferred to our loco pilots and pumped the loco with an extra dose of adrenaline. The result, a breathtaking run of 70kms completed in about 34 minutes on the flat Vidharba region of the country. 5 minutes before time at Nagpur outer and a 10 minute delay as we pulled into the land of Oranges. AP is still ahead of us and we are coming for you soon !

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The quintessential Sewagram Curve

RAJ in a hurry to make up for lost time
The quintessential Sewagram Curve