The Evolution of a Railfan
More than three decades ago, I never knew such a word existed (Railfan) . I don’t know even now if this is a legitimate word. I am not sure if I could categorize myself as a RailFan. Am I a rail enthusiast.. Lots of questions unanswered as I am still trying to get to terms with what exactly am I ? Don’t know and If I think a bit, I realise, that I should not care either.
My tryst with trains began when I was around 3-4 years old, when I started realising things around me and understand what is going on. Being brought up in a factory surrounded Tiruvottiyur area and close to the station (about 5 mins walk), every trip to the city centre for me was by Gummidipundi – Chennai Central EMU. Being surrounded by factory class people moving in and out of the station crossing the tracks madly, it was ingrained into me even before I started learing the alphabets, that crossing the tracks, not waiting for that extra 40 secs – 2 mins for a train to cross is pretty normal and safe. (Which I would realise 30 years later that it is not so) I do not know how it is now, but then, TVT was a 4 Line station with 2 loops for the platform on either side and 2 mainlines for the up and down traffic. I can hardly re-collect 2 or 3 instances when the mainlines were not occupied by freights waiting to enter the huge Tondiarpet Marhsalling Goods Yard. It would be a surprise if the EMU’s would ever be on time. Everytime we used to comeback to TVT from Central, we would have to wait at the Moore Market Complex as we will never be sure if the EMU would go towards AJJ side or Gummidipundi Side. Check with the guard and board the train ( I assume the issue still persists even now). There was just a single platform then with EMU’s on either side. We always had to take the first compartment from the guard side and the reason being that we can get down at TVT and cross the tracks to reach the other platform. I was always shit scared to do that and would ask my parents to board the 5th or 6th car so that we can take the ROB. The 2 mainlines were always occupied with freights awaiting clearance. Even though we would cross a comfortable 30-40 metres away, my fear of these trains suddenly rushing past us crushing us to pieces was always there even though I never showed it. Basically I was in an environment where trains were a way of life, but nothing was conducive enough for me to become a well…err.. Railfan ( I hate that word !!)..
Well one day all that is about to change and change drastically, like an electronic circuit, my brain would switch on the Railfan gene and there would be no stopping me. It was one of those usual lazy evenings and we were coming back home. It must be around 5:00 – 5:30 PM when we got down at TVT and cross the tracks to the other side. Surprisingly the main lines.. both of them were free and I could see a green signal on the down line to Chennai. We stopped just just before the UP Main line and I could see a dark blue / maroon livery Engine ( I never knew the world loco) on the down line. The Driver (Not loco pilot) had a green flag protruding outside the window which was furiously wavering. I thought the driver was trying to ensure not to lose his flag and then it came down thundering and literally blasting past us throwing a truckload of dust and vanished before I could count to 20. I was spellbound and awestruck and did not move for about 15 seconds. My dad had to shout at me before I could come back to reality. Yes I was in a trance and just could not get out of it. I never know then that trains can go so fast. I was mesmerised and hypnotized and in the process,, my RF gene was switched on. Later I asked my Dad (He was a RF in his own rights :)) what was that blast and then he told me, that it was the great HWH – MAS 141 Coromandel SF express. Yes Coromandel Express switched on my RF gene and hence a special place for that train in my heart even though I have never ever travelled in that even once.It was then that I decided, I would become an Engine Driver and aspired to become an engineer.
Enter my world of Railways HERE