The Northern Hop: Hop 1 complete...

Marking an end to "Hop 1" of the Northern Hop, I reached Chandigarh yesterday evening at 1853, delayed by about 38 minutes. The journey had quite some surprises and an even bigger lot of disappointments.

My train, 2653 Kochuveli-Chandigarh Kerala Sampark Kranti Express, was worked by WDP3A #15532 of Golden Rock, from Kochuveli to Vadodara. The train was late right from Thrissur (the point where I boarded), all the way till we changed locos at Vadodara. The 3100-hp rare specimen of ALCOs in India (this loco becomes rare by the fact that it is the only diesel loco in India to have twin cabs), did a marvellous job with my 20 coach train. The run on KR was amazing, and we were allowed to run through at most occasions, without having to stop for crossings. The technical halts in the diesel run segment were at Ratnagiri (Pilot Change), Chiplun (Watering), Roha (Pilot Change and Vasai Road (Pilot Change).

My train was overtaken by both the Rajdhani's from Mumbai and also by an unidentified express train. I couldn't witness the loco change since I fell asleep not-so-long after Surat (where we were made to wait, in order to allow the Chennai-Jodhpur Express go ahead). I woke up the next morning, just as the train came to a dead halt outside Kota Junction. We reached Kota, early by about 20 minutes, and left on time. The horn of my loco sounded too much like a WAP7, and I eagerly ran to the loco at Kota, only to see WAP4 #22678 of Vadodara doing the honours.

The loco did an amazing job with my train. We were made to crawl through Mathura to let the Delhi-Agra passenger pull into the station, and then the train took full advantage of the greens ahead. We were made to ride yellows after we crossed Palwal, and the train was left to crawl at about 50kmph all the way to Hazrat Nizamuddin, including a slightly prolonged wait at Nizamuddin home to let the Nanded bound Sachkand Express clear a platform for us. The run from Nizamuddin to New Delhi was another interesting section, where we were riding the yellows again. We "overtook" the Lucknow-NDLS Gomti Express at Shivaji Bridge. Gomti had WAP4 #22546 of Kanpur leading its way.

We had a prolonged halt at New Delhi - a station where I almost attained nirvana spotting the first ever WAP5 in life. To make my life happier, my train was welcomed into NDLS station by WAP5 #30006 working an unknown train. We were taken on Platform 7, while WAP5 #30014 was on Platform 9 with the Chandigarh (Una Himachal) bound Jan Shatabdi Express. I almost called it a highlightable day of my life as we started from NDLS. The whites were dominating most of the electric trip shed, and I almost lost the count of the whites I saw over the day.

One thing that I noticed at the coaching depot is that the EOGs of all Rajdhani/Shatabdi trains were kept running, even though their departures were a long time away. We had a very painfully slow run from NDLS to Subzi Mandi. The run ahead was amazingly superb, with very little signs of a stoppage or a slowdown. My train was allowed to run with enough importance through the section. We made a brief halt at Kurukshetra (about a minute long halt) and then continued the run.

Ambala was reached late by around 15 minutes. The Haridwar-Amritsar Jan Shatabdi entered the station just behind us, while the Jammu Tawi-Hapa Express was waiting at a platform line. We were made to stop twice on the Ambala-Chandigarh section, for crossings. The first was with the Himalayan Queen, while the second was with the Kalka-NDLS Shatabdi. Both the trains had WAP7s. We finally reached Chandigarh at 1853, welcomed by a WDP3A heading a passenger train to Ambala, and an Abu Road WDM3a with the Jaipur bound Garib Rath. Post alighting at the station, I made my first ever ride in a LPG run Ape autorickshaw.

What made the visit most surprising was the fact that it rained a while after we reached Chandigarh. This surely made for a grand welcome to the first planned city in India. It rained pretty well on our way as well, forcing me to remain indoors most of the time, especially on the KR route as well as in Rajasthan!!! I wish to write a more detailed write-up on this journey very soon... images too would be online as I reach back in Kerala... hope to have a blast on Hop 2 and 3 as well!!!

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