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
Turnworthy

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 Fourth Night

The History
The History

The Fourth Night – 17-Oct-2013 :

RCF was a typical nondescript station with traffic mainly being employees moving in and out of the factory moving to Jalandhar and beyond. As we deboarded the flying camel aka Firozpur DEMU a convoy of cars with SBI Kapurthala Branch executives liberally expressed their warmest greetings and quickly whisked us away to the main administrative building of RCF Kapurthala. An armed security escort & pilot was missing which could have completed the PM convoy treatment. A quick history of Kapurthala in a condensed form was displayed along the hallway as we were made to wait in the main conference room. Punjabi hospitality at its best as we were immediately served tea and refreshments and with no further delay, the GM (Yes, The General Manager himself) welcomed us and started off with a short 10-minute video of RCF and its capabilities. I have to insist that this would have put any marketing collateral and NGC documentaries to shame and one of the moments which would make you proud to be an Indian and to see what we are capable of. With the video out of our way, a constructive discussion followed and the Railfans in us came up with our curiosity and wanted to know a lot of stuff and had tons of suggestions to share. However, respect is mutual and the fact that the GM of RCF had actually earmarked close to an hour for us is not to be taken lightly and we did not intend to waste much of his time. The discussion centered mainly around augment LHB coaches production capacity, role of Rae Bareilly and ICF in the longer term. Most of the suggestions centered around CBC coupling and its asociated jerks, how LHB AC expresses have taken Rajdhani livery thereby stripping the Rajdhani’s of its exclusivity, charging points in side lower berths of LHB’s etc. As we neared the end of our discussion, the GM assigned his right and left hands to make us feel comfortable and satisfy our curiosity. We thanked the GM for his time and set forth on our mission, only this time a couple of more cars was added to the convoy.

The Warm Hosts
The Warm Hosts
The RCF Home
The RCF Home

As we entered the main shop floor, we were instructed not to click any pictures or shoot videos of any work or machinery within the premises. However we were allowed to carry our cameras and mobiles. The factory area had a fluid workflow based layout and was long enough to consume close to a kilometre and a half of your daily walk schedule. No wonder the workers seemed fit and pumped up. I do not want to detail too much on the layout and work involved for one simple reason as its been close to 20 months and I am unable to recollect in vivid detail and the lack of photographs to refresh my memory, however the workflow was very fluid and with some state of the art machines. The factory is divided into multiple divisions to handle specialized tasks. Needless to stay, it all starts with precision cutting of the outer body, floor, moulded roof and all the larger parts of a typical LHB coach. Precision laser guided computer controlled machines subsequently cut out windows, door openings, conduits for electrical circuits etc. A second division gets the undercarriage assembly prepared in parallel along with another dedicated bending machine which creates the door frames fully automated in the blink of an eye. As we move towards the end of the long 1.5 km walk the entire skeleton of a typical LHB coach is ready as bare as it could be. As we move forward the undercarriage and the wheel assembly is integrated onto the body.

Work In Progress
Work In Progress
ICF @ RCF
ICF @ RCF

We move out of the main assembly area and walk around the sand blasting section where the body is bombarded with fine sand at high speed to increase adhesion as it enters the paint job. We moved on to the painting section and looking at those freshly painted coaches was a sight which would probably remain etched for a while. Next stop furnishing & electrics. Seats, berths, Cushions, curtains, wiring , electrical fittings and everything else you see around. This is where the authorities let us have some fun. We were allowed to get into any of the finished coaches and have a look around and were allowed photgraphy with their permission. We spent a good amount of time here and the authorities let us indulge. Lots of group clicks and clicks of brand new coaches smelling of fresh paint made us forget the long walks in oppressive heat. The final section would take care of couplers, cables, hotel load pipes, brake pipes and everything else along with Zone markings as and when it gets ready to be shipped to its respective zone

LHB @ RCF
LHB @ RCF

The entire factory visit lasted close to a couple of hours and by then the long walks and oppressive heat had taken a toll on us. Lots of water and queestions later, we were given a tour of residential facilities within RCF and it ended with tea and refreshments again at the sprawling golf course of RCF. We thanked RCF for their exceptional treatment and promised to be in touch. However, it is not yet over. SBI now decided to take it a notch higher and wanted to prove that there is no limit to warmth and generosity of the Punjabis. They had planned a delicious buffet lunch for the entire team at their premises. A sumptuous meal followed by generic discussions and it was time to bid goodbye as we did not intend to overstay the reception. We were dropped at Kapurthala station and a late running DEMU was just in time to rescue us from the unrelenting heat. A couple of crossings and another bone rattling ride later, we were back at Jalandhar on our way to our hotel to freshen up and gear up for the next activity

Green Trends
Green Trends
Tee or Tea
Tee or Tea ?

After a long hot day in relentless heat, it was time to unwind, relax and move on back to The Capital. Our return to Jalandhar was delayed significantly due to a couple of crossings on a single line section. The locals on seeing such “irregular” travellers along with them on the DEMU were naturally curious and interesting conversations ensued. The one that stood out for me went something like this. The conversation was in Hindi, but I present only the subtitles in English here.

Local : Where are you going from here ?
Me : Delhi
Local : Oh, there are a couple of trains right away, you can take whichever you want.
Me : No. We have reservation for a night train.
Local (With an expression of disbelief to his friend) : Bro, looks like they have reservation and all.

Back to our rooms in the hotel, we needed something to lift our spirits up and just as you have guessed, Bingo, Punjab was bone dry as well. However, we managed what we wanted and reached the station to board the Udhampur – Delhi Sarai Rohilla AC express, which has a reputation of reaching Delhi 30 minutes before time. What we did not expect us was that the train sneaked silently onto our platform with no announcement and we just had a couple of minutes before we realized that it was our train. Before we realized what happened, tiredness took us hostage and the eyes came back to life a good 30 minutes before the scheduled arrival of our train at Delhi woken up to some high pitched screams from the coach attendant. The brain came back to life 5 minutes later.