Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kerala SRTC's AC Airbus....

Kerala State Road Transport Corporation - the state run transport company of India's southern most state, Kerala - is always slow in bringing about modern technologies to their system. The corporation inducted two Volvo buses at the time when Volvo was being introduced in India But unfortunately, the cash-stripped organisation decided against purchasing more Volvos due to their poor financial condition.

This corporation, later introduced AC buses in Kerala. The first service was inaugurated sometime in 2005 with services between Trivandrum and Bangalore. Later, services were introduced from Kottarakkara and Kozhikode to Bangalore as well. The buses were Ashok Leyland/Tata front engined vehicles with about 40 seats. Some time later, in last quarter of 2007, KSRTC introduced more AC buses. A fleet of about 20 TATA Globus vehicles were introduced. Currently, KSRTC operates about 29 (or 30?) AC buses. A few of them are Leyland buses (old ones), while the new ones are entirely TATA ones.


A KSRTC AC Airbus waiting for departure to Kozhikode from Bangalore

The newly introduced buses operate on the Thiruvananthapuram-Bangalore, Kottayam-Bangalore, Ernakulam-Bangalore, Thrissur-Bangalore, Kozhikode Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram-Palakkad routes.

The bus schedules are:
  1. TVM-BGLR: 1330; BGLR-TVM: 1600 (Via ALP, PLKD)
  2. EKM-BGLR: 0610; BGLR-EKM: 0700 (Via KKD)
  3. EKM-BGLR: 2115; BGLR-EKM: 2230 (Via KKD)
  4. KTM-BGLR: 1600; BGLR-KTM: 1830 (Via PLKD)
  5. TSR-BGLR: 2000; BGLR-TSR: 1930 (Via PLKD)
  6. TSR-BGLR: 2100; BGLR-TSR: 2200 (Via PLKD)
  7. KKD-BGLR: 1000; BGLR-KKD: 2200 (Via MYS)
  8. KKD-BGLR: 2200; BGLR-KKD: 1200 (Via MYS)
  9. TVM-PLKD: 0600; PLKD-TVM: 1530
(Legend: TVM: Thiruvananthapuram; KTM: Kottayam; ALP: Alappuzha; PLKD: Palakkad; EKM: Ernakulam; TSR: Thrissur; KKD: Kozhikode; MYS: Mysore)

The crew are smartly dressed and wear a blue colored shirt unlike the normal "Khakhi". The buses have reservation facility, and one can reserve tickets about 15 days in advance. The only reservation counter at Bangalore is at the Kempegowda Bus station. The buses have a TV also - not sure if they are used during the day!

I'm not aware of the traveling conditions in the bus, but from what I've heard, they're pretty comfortable. My opinion is reserved till I travel on one!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Moving to the Garden City.....

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The move is finally complete! I shifted my Base to Bangalore (Bengalooru) from Mumbai on Friday. I took the 1017 Chalukya Express from Dadar to Yeswantpur. The loco that did the honors of my train was WDM3A #18852R of Kalyan. The train left Dadar on time at 2130, and reached Yeswantpur delayed by about 35 minutes at 2120 hours!

The average delay enroute was about 10-20 minutes. My coach was WGACCN 00124 (B1). The rake was 14 coaches long: Loco-SLR-GS-A1-B1-SE1-S7 to S1-GS-SLR

The run was good, and loco did real honors to the job she was entrusted with! I'll be posting the images I took over the trip, and a trip report very soon....

Friday, April 25, 2008

Moving to the Garden City... Update 2

"I mean it" says WDM3A 18852R of Kalyan working my train - 1017 Chalukya express to bangalore! The train left Tumkur at 20.15, delayed by close to an hour! We were just 10 mins late at Birur, but bad traffic controls ensured that we were an hour late at arsikere! We did mps at most places after arsikere. We are blasting through unknown, under lit stations at the moment.... Oh! No! Here we go into a loop again! The railways seem to have decided not to let up reach on time! More coming soon....
Psst! We've started rolling again now..... Hope to reach yeswantpur by 21.30.........

Moving to the garden city....update 1

Good morning everyone..... My train is now in karnataka. The loco did mean serious business overnight, and we were more or less on time... We are now approaching ghatprabha....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One last time to Panvel...

A series of Messages from Ranjeet kept me busy at office, and finalized a program to railfan at Panvel one last time! I left home at 1630, and was welcomed by a long traffic block near Panvel. I had a tough time negotiating my car through the traffic block. Finally made it to Panvel station by around 1655. I parked my car a bit away from the station, and decided to remain away from the platforms!

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As I got down from my car, I saw what I wanted to - Kalyan's first WDM3D #11242! (Ranjeet had informed me that he spotted the loco at Panvel in the morning standing at the sidings!). I've often noticed that some particular locos - mainly diesel locos come to Panvel some time in the morning with freights, and remain there till night to take back some other rake. I've seen this often, and have spotted a variety of locos at the siding including Erode WDM3Ds and Valsad WCAM1s in addition to Kalyan locos! I rushed off to get pics of the loco while WAG5 #23622 of Tughlakabad pulled in from the Diva side with a Container train!

The WDM3D had an unusual Turquoise livery - a sharp contrast to the signature blue-white livery of the WDM3Ds! The loco looked charming, and the builders plate indicated that this was loco number "WDM3D-0142" manufactured in February 2008. Valsad's WCAM2 #21862 gave company to the WDM3D at the loco siding. This loco siding was created some time during summer 2007. After clicking quite a few images, I headed back to my shelter when I heard yet another horn!

This time it was WAG7 #27851 of Ludhiana with a north bound Container train! The loco pilot gave a wide smile as he passed me :-) In the mean time, I noticed that a Kalyan WDM2 had arrived with a freighter at Panvel. This train was next to leave! The Power in charge was WDM2 #18354 coupled to another WDM2 of Kalyan. The station now had one WAG7 hauled freighter, and another WAG5 hauled freighter. Some minutes later, WAG7 #27184 of Ajni pulled out of Panvel with a North bound Container train. I kept heading back to my "shelter" pretty often! Some minutes later, I saw a loco changing lines and entering the UP line! That was WDM3A #18852R of Kalyan with the Ratnagiri Passenger.

I was the first to spot this rebuilt loco at Kalyan - this loco was evading me since! She finally decided to show up on my last railfanning day! The train had 16 coaches, all jam packed. The train was about 45 minutes late then. The train pulled into Panvel and kept waiting for pretty long. By then the clock ticked to 1800, and it was the time for the Roha-Diva passenger to leave now! The train had indeed arrived the station! I suddenly heard a horn, and looked around to seen Kalyan WDM2 #17590 heading out of the station! The loco was incharge of the passenger to Diva!

I decided to hang around for some more minutes and then head back home. The Nizamuddin Rajdhani was running late by over an hour today, and it was futile to wait to see the train! Just as I decided to head back home, I heard yet another horn! That was Vadodara's Ex-Beauty Queen WAG5 #23653 with a JNPT bound Container train!

I decided to call it a day, and started heading back home! I had a heavy heart as I started my car to head back! A station that I had been seeing right from its olden days - when it had just one platform and was under DC wires, to a pretty big station with 3 platforms, and quite a few siding lines under AC wires! This station would now be in foreign territory for me! A station, which I knew each inch of, is becoming a stranger to me!
Just wondering why this much of a filmy style climax? You'll have to wait for my next post!

Just enjoy the pics of the day till then...here they are....

Kalyan's own WDM3d @ Panvel!

Just spotted Kalyan's own WDM3D #11242 at Panvel! More details as i reach home!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Romancing CR Branches...

I've been planning to explore the section since the past many months - but there weren't any train services! The services finally started on March 31, 2008. Two Sundays passed after that day - but I was busy on both days! Finally a call from Mr. Ravi on Friday, and everything was fixed - tickets were booked and we got ready!

I had to get up a bit early on Sunday after a rather late sleep on Saturday. I was damn tired, and had a tough time getting up! I got up and rushed off to check things on the PC! I quickly checked train stats on KR. BY around 8, I rushed out to have break fast, and jumped out with my car. I called up Ravi, and he informed that the train has already reached Kopar! I had a mad dash from thereon, and luckily for me the highway wasn't much crowded. I reached Panvel some time after 0840. I walked into the station to be greeted by heavy crowd on Platform 3. Just as I reached the Platform, announcements were made that the Madgaon bound Mandovi Express was running late, and my train would arrive soon.

I quickly stood at the place where my coach could come. Some minutes later, a WCAM3 was seen pulling towards the station! The loco was WCAM3 #21954 of Kalyan with my train - 1025 Manmad - Pune Express (the train was running only upto Shivaji Nagar due to RRI works at Pune). My coach was D2, the 4th from the loco. I joined Ravi outside the coach. The crowd was heavy! The reservation coaches were full, and even the CC had good reservations! The train pulled out of Panvel at around 0905. Just as my train was pulling out, announcements about the arrival of Mandovi Express was being made!

My train slowly pulled out of Panvel, and kept a low speed since we had to negotiate a point to enter the Karjat line, and the point was about a kilometer away from the station. We slowly switched over to the Karjat Line. I spotted a tanker rake led by twin Kalyan WDM2s standing on the JNPT line. The train picked speed rapidly! We constantly maintained speeds around 70-90kmph on the route. There were two speed restrictions of 30kmph, one near Mohope, and the next after Chouk. The route had two tunnels, one very small and the other about 2.7 kms long!

We reached Karjat at around 0945 i.e., early by around 15 minutes! Udyan Express to Bangalore was yet to arrive. She came in at around 0955 with a Pune WDM3A in charge! The train left after 10 minutes. In the process, my train started losing time. A WCG2 pulled in with the Sahyadri Express (Kolhapur-Mumbai CST) in the meantime. My train finally pulled out of Karjat at 1020 - late by around 15 minutes!

The journey uphill was truly beautiful. The climate was neither too hot nor too cool on our way up. We crossed the Hyderabad-Mumbai Express near Monkey Hill cabin - WDM3A #18983 of Kazipet did the honors on this train. We reached Lonavla at around 1054 - still early! We left Lonavla on time at 1100. The station was filled with WCG2s everywhere except the trip shed! The Chennai-Mumbai Express pulled into Lonavla with WDM3A #18911 of Kazipet in charge as my train started moving out of Lonavla. As we left the station, I noticed a WDG4 standing at the goods yard.

We had a mavellous run from Lonavla to Chinchwad - running non-stop at a very good speed. We made a scheduled halt at Chinchwad. After Chinchwad, the run was painful. We stopped every now-and-then finally coming to a grinding halt right outside Shivaji Nagar. We were made to wait for about 10 minutes at the outer! We finally pulled into the station at around 1215. Myself and Ravi rushed off to get some water and something cold to drink - Pune was boiling hot! Just as we reached the shop, I heard an everfamiliar horn! I rushed off to see who she was, and that was WDP4 #20043 of Krishnarajapuram with the Coimbatore-LTT Express!

My train started her journey back at around 1257. The occupancy ex-Pune (Shivaji Nagar today!) was decent. There were a lot of takers in unreserved compartments. The occupancy in Second sitting was around 75%, while CC had around 60-65% occupancy! The run out of Shivaji nagar was slow for some time, but we picked up speed as we reached Khadki. WE crossed the Kolhapur bound Koyna Express near Khadki - WDM3A #18917R of Gooty did the honors! The train filled up from Chinchwad! The climate was too hot, and both of us were a bit tired by now!

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We had a good run upto Lonavla Outer. We where held up at Lonavla outer for quite some time. While waiting there, I spotted a twin WCG2 hauled BCNA rake pulling in to the yard (Down Yard). We pulled into Lonavla at 1405, and left 5 minutes later. We were taking the UP line - the one via Nagnath today! This was my first journey on that route, and I was surely excited on that! We had a good run across the ghats, but stopping way too frequently! We crossed two departmental train on the way (one near Monkey Hill, and the other near Jambrang). We crossed the Hyderabad Express near Palasdhari - WDM2 #16579 of Kazipet did the honors!

We pulled into Karjat finally at around 1510, and left about 3 minutes later. The run back to Panvel was slow, and we had to made brief halts at Chouk and Mohope for some unknown reasons. We reached Panvel at around 1555. Ravi wanted to travel to Thane by Netravati, and she was late by around 3 hours! Almost all trains from KR was running late, while Kerala Sampark Kranti topping the list at 4:30 hours, Mangala closely behind at 3:30, and Netravati late by 3:15 hours!

Sampark Kranti came at 16:45 - WDM2 #16805 of Ernakulam did the honors, while Mangala came at 17:41 with Ernakulam WDM2 #16671 in charge! Netravati came in much later at 1825 with WDM3D #11112 of Erode in charge! I left Panvel at around 1845, thus winding up a rather exhaustive day!

Images of the day are here! Please do have a look at them, and post in your valuable comments!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Early morning at Panvel!!!

Its a pretty long time since i had been planning a trip to Panvel in the morning. It finally happened today! I got up as early as 0430 in the morning, and left home by 0500. I was expecting the 2432A Holiday special Rajdhani to run late (she was late by an hour yesteday night), and drove leisurely. I parked my car at Panvel station, and walked to the station to find that the Rajdhani had already arrived! The loco in charge was Vatva WDM3A #18830. The rake had the composition: LOCO-RRM-B1 to B7-PC-A1-A2-H1-RRM i.e., 12 coaches in all!The train pulled out soon after I reached the station.
The LTT bound Matsyagandha was running late by 30 minutes, and arrived only at 0545. WDM3D #11112 of Erode did the honors on this train. It was still dark, and i decided to take a short break and headed straight to the one and only canteen at PNVL station. Had a cup of hot tea while the freight action was going on strong! There were three freight trains standing ready to head out (2 to JNPT, and 1 to the opposite side). One of those rakes was operated by "Hind Terminals" and was operating a scheduled trip from Whitefield to JNPT. The loco incharge was WDG3A #13308 of Kalyan. The rake returns in the evening according to the Hind terminals website!
While sipping the piping hot tea, I saw a loco entering Panvel from the Roha side with a short train. I quickly finished off the tea, and rushed off to check what it was! The train stopped on Platform 3. The loco was WDM2 #16877 of Ernakulam, and the load was two coaches - one inspection car, and one SLR. Both from KR! Platform 2 had a similar train! The loco here was WDM2 #18345 of Kalyan, and the load was a single inspection car with "NR" markings! The loco has a marking "inferior" on it. The loco later went out, and shunted out the SLR coach from the "KR" rake.
Announcements were being made that the Jan Shatabdi would arrive on Platform 1. I decided to head out of the station, and rushed to a flyover right outside the station on the Diva side. Just as I reached there, the Ernakulam loco was seen shunting around with the Inspection car. In the meantime, WDM3D #11171 of Erode had arrived with the Madgaon Jan Shatabdi.

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I decided to remain there and see the passengers too. The first one to reach was the KR5 passenger - WDM2 #17108 of Ernakulam was in charge. It appeared that some link mix up had happened there, else this loco should have been on her way to ERS today! Just a while after KR5 reached the station, WDG3A #14981 of Kalyan pulled into Panvel with the Roha-Diva Passenger. Just as I clicked the loco moving out of Panvel, I noticed that points were being set for a train to arrive on the Main line. I decided to wait for some more time - that was WCAG1 #21981 with a Container train! I decided to call it a day, and headed back home!

Here are the pics of the day: Pls do have a look at them, and let me know your comments...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Railfanning at Panvel

I was planning to railfan at Panvel in the "morning peak" hours since the past few days. My office timings changed about two weeks back, and is currently from 1500-2300 (As opposed to 0700-1500 earlier). I had planned this trip last monday, but woke up late and missed the chance. Today, I was determined to do it, and got up at 0730 itself. I headed straight to Panvel at 0815. The highway was relatively empty, and managed to reach Panvel by 0835 (15 kms in about 20 minutes!). The roads leading to the railway station was "infested" with police personnel, and I was a bit surprised on seeing such a huge number of police personnel there!

I decided to park my vehicle behind the station and headed straight there. I left my car in a parking lot and walked towards the station. Announcements about the arrival of Mandovi express towards Madgaon was being made. I rushed towards the ticket counter to get a Platform ticket, and found that the exit towards Platform 1 was cordoned off by the Police! The main line ticket counter too was closed and entry to the area was completely closed! A huge battalion of police personnel were seen, and I had a heat wave rushing across my body! I walked towards the suburban counter and discovered that the Chief Minister (Vilasrao Deshmukh) and the Minister of State for Railways (Narainbhai Rathawa) was coming to Panvel to inaugurate additional EMU services on the harbour line! (3 pairs of new trains are being introduced between Panvel and Andheri, and another 3 pairs between Panvel and Wadala Road are being added!).

There was no scope of even pulling out my camera. I was absolutely dejected as I walked towards the platform. There was a good number of freight trains, but photography was out of question since GRP & RPF guys were everywhere! I saw WDP4 #20036 pulling in with the Mandovi Express, but could stand only as a mute spectator! A sudden wave saw me rushing off to my car and headed straight towards a small LC gate about a couple of kms outside Panvel station. The traffic on the highway was a bit slow, and to add to the fuel were the large number of traffic cops on the road! I took a quick left after ONGC complex and headed towards the level cross. The road was pretty narrow, and I saw that the gate was closed! As I approached the gate, I saw Mandovi at a distance. The loco was picking speed, and she gave a treat with her horn blowing continuously!

I drove further down into a village, and saw that there were ways of accessing the Karjat line! The Nasik - Pune express was expected any time. I got on to the tracks. Villagers were seeing with a bit of caution and a bit of surprise! I stood there under the sun for about 5 minutes when I heard the horn of the train as she started out of Panvel. The train was probably taken on Platform 3 since the train made a quick exit and had picked up considerable speed by the time she crossed me! The loco in charge was WCAM3 #21881.

I then decided to head to Somatne station. I parked my car somewhere near Somatne, and headed straight to the tracks. Mangala was expected any time then. The signal remained red.... A gangman was seen at a distance, and I decided to keep away for some time. After about 15-20 minutes of standing in the sun, I saw the signal turn green. Just a minute later, I could hear the horn and the characteristic "chuff-chuff" of the loco! The loco came closer...and closer... She was WDM2 #16674 of Ernakulam.

The Roha passenger was already late, and I was expecting the train any time. I called up Panvel, and they said that the Garib Rath would come at 1030 itself! It was already 1020, and the train should have atleast reached Somatne by then! I remained around the tracks, where I heard another horn! This time it was WDM2 #18251 of Kalyan working the Diva-Roha Passenger:

The loco came in with full dynamic brakes on, and then braked hard to slow down while entering the loop. I decided to stay there and check if the passenger departs immediately! It didn't happen, and I was sure that another crossing is happening soon! Some minutes later, another horn was heard! I took positions to take a picture - a shiny "orange" colored loco was seen at a distance!

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The loco came closer, and I quickly identified the loco was an Ernakulam Baldie! The loco was WDM3A #14048 of Ernakulam working the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus bound Garib Rath Express!

The loco made a beautiful sound as she notched up to tide over a mild gradient! I called it a day after this spotting, and headed back to the highway. Traffic was very slow, and the number of police personnel seemed to have increased. I took a different route to get back home instead of the highway....

Links to all images have been provided along with the spotting itself! Please do have a look at them, and let me know your opinion! Bye for now!