On the 0644 special to Kerala
Some personal reasons, and the need for a break from the monotonous routine in Bangalore made me travel to Kerala. I was initially planning to take a bus, but had to switch over to a train since my parents too were accompanying. Thanks to summer holidays, coupled to a weekend, all trains were running full to the brim, and there was no chance that I could get a ticket anywhere. Once the train was chosen, we decided to book tatkal. (The experience booking this tatkal ticket was described earlier, read here)
I left office early on the day of my journey - 15 May 2009. My brother was to drop my parents, and bring along my baggage, at the station, while I went straight to the station from Office. I reached the station a while before the Shatabdi arrived. The rake of the New Delhi bound Karnataka Express was deposited on PF1 by a WDS6 already. WDM3D #11188 of Erode, which 'would have' brought in the 1014 from CBE, was parked on the stabling line near Platform 1. Two inspection cars were providing company to the WDM3D.
Platform 2 was occupied by a very late running Sheshadri Express (to Kakinada). This train was ready to depart to its destination, with WAG5 #23826 of Vijayawada in charge. The displays were showing that the train is re-scheduled to depart only at 1700 hours. Platform 3 was occupied by the rake of Kacheguda Express, while Platform 4 and 5 were vacant. Platform 6 had the rake of Chamundi express (as usual), while Platform 7 was awaiting the arrival of Shatabdi Express from Mysore.
The Shatabdi arrives from Mysore, with WDP4 #20009 in charge...
The Shatabdi came in perfectly on time, with WDP4 #20009 of Hubli doing the honours. The train left later with WAP4 #22618 of Arakkonam doing the honours. The rake of the Kochuveli Express was brought in by WDM3A #17994 of Krishnarajapuram (a while before the Shatabdi left.). Kochuveli express was crowded to the brim, thanks to the day being Friday. All general coaches were overflowing, and people were trying to persuade the Guard to allow them in his cabin!
Kochuveli Express got WAP4 #22794 of Arakkonam. By now, Platform 4 was allocated to the Marikuppam bound "Swarna" passenger. The delayed running of Sheshadri Express had by now disturbed the entire platform allocation, and the Marikuppam-Bangalore passenger (which later works as "Bangarpet Express") was sent to Platform 7. The passenger came in with WDM3A #17902, and left as the Express with WAM4 #20573 of Arakkonam.
The Kochuveli express left delayed by about 5 minutes. The starter was given on time, and the Guard cleared the train as well.. But something happened, delaying the train. Meanwhile, WDM3A #18904 was preparing to depart with the Chamundi express to Mysore. A while after the Kochuveli Express pulled out, WDG3A #14660 of Krishnarajapuram brought the rake of my train - 0644 Ernakulam Special - to Platform 5. The rake had 13 coaches - one 2A, one 3A, 7 Sleepers, two unreserved second sitting and two SLRs. (This train shares rake the with one of the ERS-Patna Expresses).
Meanwhile, WDP4 #20043 came in from Krishnarajapuram shed to work the Kacheguda express, and WDM2 #17477 of Krishnarajapuram was preparing head the Marikuppam bound 'Swarna' passenger. The Itarsi twins - WDM2 #17826 (leading) and WDM3A #18960 - were idling on Road 7 (the line adjacent to Platform 5). A while after I returned from Platform 3, a triplet led by a WAM4 of Vijayawada came on to Platform 5. The trio comprised a WAM4 of Vijayawada (the leading loco), an Arakkonam WAM4 and an Erode WAP4. The Erode loco was uncoupled from the rest, and attached to my train. The loco was WAP4 #22729. By now, my family reached and I had to rush to pick up my baggage. After dropping my baggage inside the coach, I headed off to Platform 1 to get some Vitamin M (read cash), and a couple of bottles of water.
WAP4 #22729 of Erode comes in to take charge of my train...
I rushed back through the subway to Platform 5, and got into my coach. It had started raining - albeit slightly - outside. The clock slowly ticked towards 1845, but there was no signs of our 'co-passengers' turning up. I quickly checked the charts, and found that only about 15 of the total 64 tickets issued for the coach were booked over the counter - the rest were all E-Tickets! 16 seats were allotted for Tatkal Quota, and 4 for Salem Quota. Most reservations were end-to-end. The clock now ticked past 1850, but there were no signs of my train moving. I checked out from the door, and saw that the WAM4 duo (which had dropped the loco for my train) were still parked ahead of my train! The locos were given clearance at about 1855. My train finally pulled out at 1905 - a delay of 15 minutes at origin.
We had a painfully normal run from SBC to Cantonment. We reached there in exactly 10 minutes, and left Cantonment at 1918. About 10 passengers - including one of my 'co-passengers' joined the train here. The train never speed above 60kmph on its run from Cantonment to Krishnarajapuram. There was another short halt at Krishnarajapuram (1932/1934). We crossed the Chennai-Bangalore express at this station - It was a WDP4, but could not check the number since my window had condensation formed between its glass panes.
The run from Krishnarajapuram to Whitefield was even more painful, and the train had to crawl its way there. It was raining pretty hard, and visibility from my window was negligible. I did not notice that the train actually made a halt at Whitefield. A while later, I saw on my GPS receiver that we were near Malur. Around this time, the train kept a decent speed of about 85-90 kmph. A steady stream of vendors made rounds with dinner options - that included Chapatis, different varieties of rice and dosas. We slowly descended on to Bangarpet by now. We made the 'customary' halt at Bangarpet Home, for a couple of minutes, and then proceeded to the station.
It was pouring down as the train slowly entered the station. The new "aerodynamic" DEMU was parked at one of the platforms at Bangarpet. The train had the boards "Bangalore - Bangarpet - Marikuppam" on it. The downpour just strengthened as our halt progressed. A couple of passengers got into our coach, but the TTE refused to accomodate, since the coach was fully occupied. We left Bangarpet after the customary halt at 2042, instead of the scheduled time of 2005 - a delay of 37 minutes.
Passengers slowly pulled out berths and lights were being switched off in cubicles one after the other. Our co-passengers too followed suit. In the mean time, we reached Kuppam. It was just a customary halt - about a minute long. I recalled my visit to the place in December last year. The train picked speed quickly, and we reached a comfortable 104 kmph in a very short time. While I was busy recording speed on my GPS, I suddenly noticed that the speed graph was on a sharp downward curve. The train came to a dead halt at Mulanur - we remained at the station about a couple of minutes.
I dozed off a while after the train started moving from Mulanur. I woke up as the train crawled into Somanayakkanpatti - the station just before Jolarpettai. The train crawled through, and then stopped right outside Jolarpettai 'B' Cabin. A short halt - about a minute long - later, we cruised towards the main line. Another minute-long halt later, we continued our crawl towards Coimbatore. The signal was double-amber, and we had another painful crawl towards Thirupattur. We left Thirupattur at 2242 - 42 minutes late. I dozed off soon after the train started from Thirupattur.
As if after ages, the coach was cooling brilliantly. On most of my previous journeys, the coach resembled more of an oven than an airconditioned coach. This time, the coach - 01914, made in 2002 - was cold as if it was a refrigerator. I enjoyed the climate inside the coach really well - and it was raining outside - as I pulled on the blanket for a nice sleep. The sleep was really undisturbed and it went on till 0400. I woke up at 0400 as a few alarms in the coach went off. The train just crossed over into Trivandrum division then. I just saw a road going parallel, and a Kerala SRTC Air Bus rushing off. That was adequate indicator about the location to me... the train just pulled into Vallathol Nagar then. An unscheduled halt later, we continued our roll towards Thrissur.
We made unscheduled halts at all stations en route. We still pulled into Thrissur at 0445 - early by 5 minutes. We had arranged for a taxi, and my mom 'spotted' the driver standing at the main exit. It was still raining outside, and we had a drenched walk back to the exit from our coach. The driver quickly pulled out the trusty ambassador from the parking. The journey to my home from the railway station - about 32 kms - took about an hour. It was drizzling slightly through the journey. I was at home at 0600. That was one train journey I loved a lot - after really long. Moreover, that was my first train journey to my hometown after about 10 long months - all my journeys to my home town were by Bus since August 2008.
Images from the trip are here.... do have a look, and don't hesitate to drop in a line :)