Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another normalll day!

It was all another normal day.I'd prefer to only summarize today's spottings as below:

  • Dadar bound Chalukya Express came in with WDM3A #18951R of Pune (Delayed - Crossed Kurla at 0735)
  • Pune bound Deccan Express with WCG2 #20147 @ Kurla
  • Erode WDM3A #14127 sleeping off at Kurla (Yesterday's 6346 Loco)
  • Unknown WCAM3 hauled train near Vikhroli
  • Vidharbha Express near Mulund
  • Madgaon bound Mandovi Express with WDP4 #20036 at Thane
  • LTT-Lucknow super fast @ thane (Loco: WCAM3)
  • Late running Rajendra Nagar - LTT Express @ Thane (WCAM3)
  • Pune bound Pragati Express with WCAM3
  • Nanded bound Nandigram Express: Pune WDM3A
  • Deccan Odyssey with a matching livery loco!
That was all for the day...more spottings expected tomorrow!!!!!!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another day at college!

Today was yet another boring day at college....

I spotted Deccan Express in the morning with WCAM3 #21892. In the evening, while Returning, I spotted the following:
  • Trivandrum-LTT Netravati Express - Erode WDM3A #14127
  • Pragati Express (Towards Pune) - Unknown WCAM3
  • Ratnagiri Passenger (Delayed!) - Unknown WDM3A in DCW livery
  • Nandigram Express (Nanded bound) - Pune WDM3A
The day was quite tiring, and I have loads of works to finish for tomorrow! Am logging off for the moment....
Wait::: The countdown for the last day at college has almost begun! Out Internal Examinations are beginning March 15th! The University's Final Practical Examinations begin on April 16th! Going by these dates, our college days would come to an end by around the first-second week of April...about 25-30 working daysssss more!

Monday, February 26, 2007

To Junnar, Shivneri by road...

This Sunday was a real busy one! I had to attend a Classmate's sister's wedding at Junnar in the nearby Pune district. About 16 of us were all set to make the journey. Two vehicles full of maniacs from Mumbai were on our way to Junnar along the National Highway 222. We had charted out detailed plans and were now all set to make the journey! I left my home at 0640 on my 3 year old war horse - Toyota Qualis Myst MH04-BY-5241. The trusted horse made sure that I kept my commitments! My vehicle was to carry 8 of us, while the other was to carry another 8. But, what finally happened was that only 5 traveled in my car, while the other had a heavy 11 guys!
Both the cars (the other was a Chevrolet Tavera Neo) met at Thane. We had decided a meeting place in Thane, and it was decided to that we meet each other and then move ahead!
After the meet, My car took clear charge of the situation. We drove down National Highway 3 (Mumbai-Agra) upto Mankoli Naka (Near Bhiwandi). From there we took a right turn and drove towards Kalyan City. We crossed a long bridge and reached Durgadi Fort, and from there we took a left turn. We reached Shahad junction, and now turned towards Murbad Road. This road is now National Highway 222 (Kalyan-Ahmednagar-Nanded-Nirmal).
The Kalyan-Murbad road had very little traffic - Maybe because it was early in the morning or may be since it was a Sunday! I drove down for quite some distance before stopping for a leak. The other car was too behind me, and we wanted them to catch up with us before we proceeded!


My car at our first Halt

We had to wait for a very long 20-25 minutes before they caught up with us! After meeting up, I once again left ahead of them. The road was beautiful and enchanting. The road had ups and downs in quick succession, sharp curves and what not. The road was lined on both sides with trees and that was a real beautiful route! It would have been even more wonderful had it been the monsoon!
We started actually climbing the Malshej Ghat at around 0900. This place is a picnic spot, and the route offers breath taking views! The route curves all the way around a hill and you can always see the way ahead! The roads had lots of monkeys sitting on the protecting walls at curves!


Monkeys at a curve!

The sun was up but fog never seemed to let us off! Hills were covered with mist, and the sight was something one can ever forget. We kept stopping many times to click images, and to wait for the other car to catch up with us, but they never came up with us! We finally met only at our final destination!


My car posing near a picturesque mountain covered in mist! A friend of mine is trying to capture that beautiful scene on his mobile phone!

After some photo-ops we finally reached the only tunnel on the route. The hill beautifully come down close to the road, and we finally rush through the tunnel! The tunnel is beautifully shaped!


My car waiting to rush through the tunnel!

While photographing near the tunnel we noticed a peculiarly shaped stone right out side the tunnel....



Light at the end!

We continued our rush through the ghats right after the photo session! Nature was really co-operative with us, and a very good climate kept the journey interesting! We overshot our turn by about 3 kilometres and ended up in Otur. We bought some snacks to make up for our breakfast and then enquired our way back. We finally made in to Bankhar Naka from where we turned into the actual road we had to take. The road leads to Shivneri/Lenyadri. We drove correctly upto our destination (other than a small goof up where we ended up in the Market!)...
We reached the venue of the marriage at around 1130. The marriage was only at 1530 and we had loads of time with us. We decided to visit the nearby tourist attraction: Shivneri Fort.
It is at this place that the famous Maratha king "Chhatrapati Shivaji" was born. The fort is located on the top of a hill, and can be accessed only by foot. The climb is sort of steep and has steps to make the work easy!


A map of the area


The place where Shivaji Maharaj was born. The guys at the windows are my friends!

Some scenery shots from the Fort:



WE reached back at the venue of the wedding at around 1330 or so. The fort was a wonderful place to spend time, and we surely did! We had lunch from the wedding venue. We were all damn tired after the climb, and desperately wanted to rest. I had a very short nap inside my car while some others listened to music in the other car! We met the newly wed couple and exchanged greetings, and a small floral bouquet. We finally bid adieu to our friend, and left towards Lenyadri.
Lenyadri is a hill top temple of Lord Ganesha, and is a part of the Ashtavinayak circuit. I was damn tired to climb that hill! (This temple can be accessed ONLY by foot). My health condition too did not permit me to climb the hill - I am obese and I get asthmatic attacks quite often especially while exerting too much!
I had another short nap while my friends went to the temple. They returned by 1700, and we started our return journey at 1710. My friends in the other car were proceeding towards Ozar, another temple nearby, while I decided to return before it gets too dark.
We covered the Malshej Ghat section before it was too dark, and saw the sun set magnificently!



We reached Kalyan at around 1900. One of my friends got down near Shahad station while the remaining 4 of us proceeded towards Thane. We got held up at a Nasty traffic jam on the Kalyan-Bhiwandi road. It took about 75 minutes for us to cover a small 5-6 kilometre stretch! Once on the highway, I blasted off, and we reached Thane by around 2045 and dropped off one more fella! We dropped the next one at Mulund, then one more at Airoli. I was now all alone, and drove briskly towards my Home. I reached back at my home at around 2145. At the end of the day, I had driven 379.8 kilometres! That was a real tiresome day, and I decided to take an off on Monday to rest!
Will be back to college tomorrow!!!! Bye, and thanks for reading...hope that you'd turn back once again tomorrow!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday....a train without grab handles!

aThe day was quite normal in the morning! I saw the Pune bound Deccan Express flashing through with WCG2 #20127 in charge. Off late, I have been noticing that this loco is almost regular with this train! Some minutes behind the Deccan Express was a WCAM3 tugging a dead sister towards the loco shed. While I reached Thane, WDP4 20030 was waiting there with the Madgaon bound Mandovi express. I took the ever familiar red monster to my college (a write up on MSRTC's Red-Monsters is on its way!!! stay tuned right here!)
I reached back in Thane at around 1625 from college. The 1627 CSTM fast pulled into Platform 4. A light WDM2 of Kalyan rushed towards Kalyan, and our train got its starter with the Route indicator set to "left". We slowly crawled towards the main line, and the 12-coach EMU was now completely on the main line. The fun starts now: The PA system announced that the train on which I was travelling was expected to arrive soon on Platform 4! The train was already on the main line, and we had a Green advanced starter! The train notched ahead, and we went through Mulund without stopping. We had a halt at Bhandup, and next stopped at Ghatkopar. While the train was from Bhandup to Ghatkopar, I noticed that the train lacked the hanging Grab handles! Instead, they lowered the rods which usually support the grab handles, and now passengers can
now directly catch the rods quite similar to buses!
As an indirect/direct effect of this, the usual banging sound of the handles were absent, and the ride was silent other than for the "clickety-clack" sound from the tracks. The fans too co-operated by not making much noise! I spotted a Katni WDM2 coupled to two dead WDS4s at Kurla. I reached Kurla at around 1650. The 1659 Panvel EMU was expected to arrive late by 10 minutes, and the crowd waiting for this train was swelling every second! I decided to leave that train, and instead waited for the 1704 Belapur EMU. That EMU, as usual, had quite less crowd, and I managed to get a seat....Reached home by around 1755....Bye!!!!

By-The-Way: Expect a good journey description of a good journey waiting to happen tomorrow! SO, come again tomorrow...preferably by night!

Friday, February 23, 2007

A friday.....

Yeah! It was a Friday today! A very normal Friday! I took the 0658 EMU from Belapur, and reached Kurla at around 0732. Deccan express went through with a WCG2 in charge. I took the 0741 Asangaon EMU from Kurla....Every thing normal!

It was a very boring day at college with verbal bombardment almost continuously for the first three hours from 0930 to 1230! It was a tiring, boring, sleepy day!

I boarded the 1603 EMU from Thane at 1640! The train was heavily late! Pragati Express had its usual WCAM3....

I am too tired to post more....Good night!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Two more normal days!

Today, and Yesterday were two other normal days! Back to college! I couldn't make an update yesterday since my internet connection failed!
Yesterday: I took the 0730 Vashi Thane EMU from Sanpada since I got up too late to board my usual local(s). I spotted Mandovi Express with WDP4 #20036 waiting at Thane while I got down from the EMU. The rest of the day was quite normal!

Today: I jumped out of my bed a bit early due to the experience yesterday! I took the 0658 EMU from Belapur. I spotted Deccan Express with WCAM3 #21888 at Kurla, and the Latur-Mumbai Express with a Kalyan WDM2 (This link seems to have become regular!). I spotted Vidharbha express somewhere near Ghatkopar. This train has got new name plates!
While returning, I spotted an unknown WCAM3 hauled train near Bhandup. From Mulund, a group of about 4 RPF officers got in, and they took seats near me. I was sitting as if they had arrested me, and I jumped out of the seat quite early before people around pass suspicious looks! I spotted a Katni WDM2 at Kurla DLS, and a WCAM2 hauled Tanker rake at Kurla Goods Yard. Pragati had a WCAM3 (looks like its a regular link now!) and Nandigram had a Guntakal WDM2 (Surprising, Eh!). I reached home at around 1800! Bye for the day...meet ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

To college after 3 long weeks!

Today was the day I went back to college after three long weeks (though I had attended college on one day in between!), it was more or less like a vacation! I rushed to catch the 0642 EMU in the morning, and luckily got into it! I reached kurla at around 0717 or so. Just as I was about to climb the Foot-Over-Bridge, I saw a WDG3A hauled train rushing towards Dadar. A few minutes after I reached Platform 6, the Dadar bound Chalukya Express went through with a regular WDM3A of Pune in Charge. Some minutes later, the CSTM bound Latur-Mumbai Tri-weekly express went through with a Kalyan WDM2 in charge. The Madgaon bound Mandovi Express rushed past at around 0724 with WDP4 #20031 in charge. My local (0724 Kasara 9-Car Fast) pulled in at around 0730. The train maintained good speed all the way upto Mulund. The train crawled through Mulund station, and surprisingly changed over to the slow line after Mulund!!! That was surprising for a fast EMU.
The Madgaon bound Mandovi was still waiting at Thane outer and i really appreciate the action of the section controller to divert our Fast EMU via the Main line instead of making us wait for Mandovi to clear! CSTM bound Vidharbha express was on the main UP line and that made Mandovi wait outside! My train pulled into Thane station at around 0750. I walked out and took a bus to college. I was surprised to read a notice at college that our reporting time has be shifted backwards and it is 0900 AM instead of the earlier 0830 AM! So that gives me freedom to sleep for 30 minutes more!
I returned from College at 1615, and reached TNA at 1655. Myself and my friend took a Fast EMU scheduled for 1654!!! The journey was more or less dry except for the crossing of Pragati Express (WCAM3) and Nandigram (WDG3A of Pune). I spotted Deccan Queen at Kurla. I took the 1733 EMU from Kurla, and reached home by 1830! Bye for the day...meet ya tomorrow!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Pilgrimage 2007: Final Update

Pilgrimage 2007 has finally ended! The beautiful journey with a few "in-built" surprises ended yesterday in the evening. I was too tired to post about it, and decided to do it today!
  • The down journey was by 2618 Hazrat Nizamuddin - Ernakulam Mangala Lakshadweep Express. We boarded the train at Panvel and alighted at Thrisur. The loco in charge was WDM2 #17583 of Ernakulam. She was a star performer! The loco smoked quite less, and had very good and clear beats! She had a very beautiful pickup, and did a good job with the 18-Coach load! My coach was WGACCN 01908 (AS1).
  • The return journey was by 6346 Trivandrum - Lokmanya Tilak Terminus Netravati Express. We boarded the train at Thrisur, and alighted at Panvel. The loco in charge was WDM3A #14125 of Erode, and the coach was WGACCN 01146 (AS4). The train ran perfectly to schedule, and we reached Panvel at 1515, dot on schedule!
  • I had a very short railfanning with Jimmy Jose of Ernakulam, and Antony Damacious of Bangalore at Ernakulam. We went to Ernakulam Marshalling Yard, and Ernakulam Diesel Loco Shed. Unfortunately, we could not spend much time due to each other's personal constraints!
  • I visited the Hill-top abode of Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta District of Kerala. The presiding diety of the temple is Lord Ayyappa. The visit was beautiful, and a trip report of that follows!
Travelogues of the journey is under 'preparation'. I was too tired yesterday. I had a holiday today, but a nasty headache has kept me down! The photos (railfanning ones!) are uploaded to Galleria.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pilgrimage 2007: update 1

Here is the first update from this journey.... I reached trisur on tuesday at ten in the morning. I went to Sabarimala yesterday and just returned today.... Photos would be up on sunday.......

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pilgrimage 2007

Time for another journey! This time it is a Pilgrimage Journey to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala! I just had symptoms of an Asthma attack yesterday, Immediate visit to the doctor did the magic! So finally, I am leaving tomorrow for this journey!

I'll leave (tomorrow) by 2618 Mangala Lakshadweep Express, boarding at Panvel. I will be back on 18-Feb, Sunday on board the 6346 Netravati Express!

Hoping to put up some updates right here! Signing off for the week!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chasing the Mahabus!

DSCF8794a

Eversince I heard of MSRTC introducing their newer fleet of buses - "Mahabus", I was trying to spot atleast one on the road. I saw them many times on the road, but could never photograph them. Today, I had some work and had gone to Vashi. While returning, I purposefully entered the highway to check if any Mahabuses were around. There were none. Dejected by that, I entered Palm Beach marg and started driving back to Belapur. Just as my car started moving out of a traffic signal, I noticed a Mahabus behind! That bus got held at the signal! I took the car a bit ahead, and waited for that bus to re-appear once again! There she is...(in the pic above!).

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MSRTC, as a part of re-structuring their "luxury" segment, decided to take air conditioned buses on lease. Such buses are run under the name - "Mahabus". The Mahabus fleet of buses are run by MSRTC staff, and the corporation pays a rent to the owner of the vehicle. The fleet consists of King Long KL6113 buses, Tata Globus, and Ashok Leyland's 12M bus with a Sutlej body. These buses, reportedly, have 45 seats, with Air-conditioning and TV. These buses are operated on the Dadar-Pune, Thane-Pune, Borivali-Panaji-Madgaon (NOT Confirmed!), Dadar-Nashik and Mumbai-Latur routes. The fare is at par with MSRTC's Volvo Services!

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The bus in the image above is the King Long KL6113. The body of this bus is built by Chandigarh based JCBL. The bus has a rear-mount Cummins engine. The Air-conditioning unit is run by the main power plant itself (like the one in a Volvo). The bus actually looks much better than a Volvo, though I am not very sure about the features inside. To my knowledge, there are two such buses in the MSRTC Mahabus fleet. Will try to get more information very soon. I took that photo as my MSRTC Volvo bus was moving out of Pune Bus station and so I couldn't get an image of the front view of the bus!
Hoping to chase more Mahabus' in the near future, signing off for now!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A journey on a KSRTC Super Fast

After we finished all works at Ernakulam, We (myself and my dad) had to proceed to Coimbatore. We were to board our train towards Mumbai from there. The train was to depart at 0800, and hence we had to reach there by the previous night. Accordingly, My uncle called up the bus terminus and enquired the timings of bus services, and they said that there was one bus at 1630.
We left home, and reached the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation Bus Terminus located near Ernakulam Railway Station at around 1615. I enquired at the enquiry counter, and they said that the bus hasn't come. Finally at around 1655 or so, we saw the bus going towards a fuel station. We boarded the bus at the fuel station.
The bus - KL15 6170, Fleet number RT992 of Thiruvananthapuram Central Depot. The bus was working a Thiruvananthapuram - Coimbatore Inter-State Super Fast schedule. The bus appeared to be quite new, and had a BSII, "H" series Turbo-Charged engine of Hino mounted on an Ashok Leyland Chassis. The bus had a characteristic whine of Hino TC engines! The bus had a "Volvo-Like" shape. (Similar to the one seen in the image above).
The bus pulled out of the bus terminus at 1700, delayed by 30 minutes. The bus stopped at Chalakudi, Thrissur and Palakkad in Kerala. The bus could never go above 60kmph! The bus either had a major engine fault OR had a speed governor installed! I was seated right behind the driver, and the poor fellow could not even overtake other vehicles owing to poor pickup of the bus! All the 51 seats in the bus was taken, and there were standees for almost the entire length of the journey!
We got down at Ukkadam Bus station in the outskirts of Coimbatore city, and took an autorickshaw towards the railway station. The bus took more than 5 hours for the 200-odd kilometre journey! Earlier KSRTC buses were known for their speed (and the drivers for their rash/reckless driving!). But this show from KSRTC was disappointing!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Good service from MSRTC!

The sort of service given by MSRTC to its Volvo passengers is quite unexpected. It is an example as to how an Government run corporation can handle challenges put forth by Private operators! Today, MSRTC (which is other wise known for its poor quality of services!) operates top-class Volvo Buses - branded as "Shivneri" - on the Dadar-Pune route with a frequency of about 30 minutes. The buses are available from 0630 to 2130 from either ends. The buses originate from Dadar (Asiad) Bus Terminus in Dadar (East), and terminates at Pune Railway Station Bus Terminus of MSRTC.
The running time of these buses are 3 hours and 30 minutes, covering a distance of 152 kilometres. The buses have pickup points at Dadar, Chembur (Maitri Park) and Vashi (Highway Junction). In the return direction, the pick up points are Pune Railway Station, Pune University and Aundh. The fare for an end-to-end journey is Rs. 200 (for adults; Rs. 105 for Children under 12 yrs). There is no on-board conductor in these buses. Tickets have to be purchased from MSRTC staff at the boarding point. Advance reservation facility is available, and the reservation charge is Rs. 10 per passenger. The buses stop at the Food-Plaza right after Talegaon Exit in the Dadar-Pune Journey, and there is no halt for Pune-Dadar buses (except for a break for answering nature's call near Khalapur Toll plaza!).
Each passenger is provided a copy of "Mid-Day" Newspaper, and a 200ml bottle of packaged drinking water. About 15 buses are used for the service, and the buses are mostly 2-4 years old! Buses bearing "MH 12" mark are 3-5 years old, while the ones with "MH 11" mark are newer ones (2-3 years old). The buses are based at Mumbai's Parel Depot.
In addition to these "Shivneri" services, MSRTC has now introduced "Mahabus" services. These buses operate from 0715 to 1715 (Ex-Dadar) with a frequency of 60 minutes. They are 35-45 seater Air conditioned buses of Tata/Ashok Leyland/King Long make.
I had two experiences on MSRTC Shivneri buses last week. The first one was on 27 January 2007. The bus was MH 12 AR 9736. It departed from Dadar at 1830 (Sch. Time 1830). All the 45 seats were full right from the starting point! The bus reached Pune at 2200.
My second experience was on 01 February 2007, and the bus was MH 11 T 9231. (The one in the image above!). The bus departed from Pune station at 1250 (Sch. Time 1300). Out of the 45 seats, 20 were occupied from the starting point. At Aundh, 3 more passengers got in. The bus had an occupancy level at a little above 50%. The driver never exceeded 100kmph on the Express highway, and drove the bus with utmost care. He slowed down at curves, took adequate precaution while overtaking. He never braked hard. That was a beautiful journey. He reached Belapur CBD in about two hours and 10 minutes!
Closing remark: This service is always recommended. If you are planning to travel during weekends (Friday evening to Monday morning), Book your tickets in advance. The buses get filled up right at the starting point. Though the rate for the ticket seems to be a bit high for the short journey, it is seriously worth it! Private operators too operate Volvo buses at frequency of 15-30 minutes, they charge Rs. 200 during weekends/holidays, and Rs. 180 on other days! Their service is not very dependable since they wait until the bus gets full!

Addendum: MSRTC Volvos are currently (as of September 2007) run on the following routes:
Dadar-Pune Station; Thane (Vandana) - Pune (Swargate); Mumbai (Parel) - Hyderabad.

A PUNE Ring: Tidbits from the Journey

That was a marvelous 5-day journey! I realised many of my dreams in this one single journey! Read on...
The journey was covered in 5 buses, 2 trains, 2 cars and 1 auto rickshaw! The total distance covered was above 3000 kms, and the time taken was 5 days. Some points:
  1. Myself and My dad took an MSRTC Volvo from Dadar to Pune (MH 12 AR 9736). We reached Pune at 2200 on January 27, 2007.
  2. We took the 1097 Pune - Ernakulam Poorna Express from Pune. Our coach was WGACCN 01108 (AS2). The loco in charge was WDM3A #14093 from Pune.
  3. I could see the Dudhsagar Water falls in broad day light, and that was a beautiful sight indeed!
  4. We took a KSRTC Superfast bus (KL15 6170) from Ernakulam to Coimbatore.
  5. From Coimbatore, we boarded the 1014 Coimbatore - Lokmanya Tilak Express. The loco in charge was WDM3D #11101 of Erode from CBE to Bangalore. From Bangalore, WDP4 #20035 of Krishnarajapuram took charge.
  6. We alighted at Pune, and took an MSRTC Volvo (MH11 T 9231) from Pune to Belapur!
  • Images from the trip can be seen by clicking here.
  • Travelogues of the train journeys can be seen by clicking here.
  • Travelogues of the road journeys would be put up here very soon!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A PUNE ring:: ends

The marvellous journey finally ended on February 01, 2007. I couldn't update earlier since my Internet connection was down. More details very soon!