On the legendary Parasuram, to Kannur

Parasuram Express traces its origin to the early 1970s, as the 49/50 Link Express to Shoranur. Later, the then Day Express (numbered 49/50) was introduced between Cochin Harbour Terminus and Cannanore (now Kannur). Not much later, the train was extended to Trivandrum Central and Mangalore, and named Parasuram Express. The train is still fondly called as the "Day Express" by many people - and the train, true to its name, covers most of Kerala in broad day light.

The train has a very glorious past, but is now reduced to mere tatters of what it once was. This train makes a grand 41 halts in its 634 kms run from Trivandrum Central to Mangalore Central, averaging a royal 45.83kmph. (The train averages only 44.49 kmph in the opposite direction, taking 43 halts over the 634 kms distance). The train takes a halt, on an average, every 18 minutes. The shortest gap between two halts is just 4 minutes (between Divine Nagar and Chalakkudi) and the longest is one hour (between Kasaragod and Mangalore Central).

My earliest memories are of a 13 coach train headed by a WDM2. I used to door-plate all the way from Shoranur to Thrissur on the Netravati Express, which used to ferry me from Mumbai to Thrissur atleast thrice every year, just to see this train. The train length grew by leaps and bounds over the past few years. It jumped up to 16 coaches soon after the train got electrocuted in mid 2008. The train started getting a WAP4 between Trivandrum and Shoranur from May 2008. The introduction of a WAP4 link indirectly helped the train, as the length of the train started its upward journey.

The train lost its pantry car around the same time, making another dent to the train's already tattered past. Parasuram express got a boost as the railways recently increased the number of coaches on this train to 21 and reintroduced the pantry car. Recently, some social obligations mandated a visit to Kannur (the erstwhile terminus of this very train). While the primary choice was an overnight train, and Maveli Express was chosen as the best option, since it departs just past midnight from Thrissur. However, it appeared that too many people too had the same opinion, and seats were sold out on this train. Malabar Express was the next call - the odd departure time from Thrissur was a major roadblock. Tickets were hard to get, and we finally settled for the Day Express.

I decided to do the ticketing part through a PRS counter, instead of IRCTC. That was a visit to the counter after a very long time (to be more appropriate, about a full year later). Booking was a breeze. On the day of the journey, June 26, 2009, we (yours truly and my parents) started from home at about 1030, for a train that departs at 1240. It was pouring at that time, and the journey to the bus station was in a totally covered diesel autorickshaw. From Kodungallur, we got into a bus heading to Thrissur. We reached Thrissur a while past 1200. It was raining even as we alighted from the bus, and an autorickshaw was hired to ferry us from the bus stop to the railway station, a 0.59km journey.

It was raining, albeit slightly, even as we alighted at the railway station. The ticket counters were buzzing with activity, as ever, with over 6 trains scheduled to depart over the next one hour. We headed straight to Sassya Restaurant on the platform, and purchased lunch packets. We were not sure if lunch would be available on our train, and did this as a precautionary measure. A while after we arrived, the Ernakulam-Nizamuddin Mangala Express arrived, with WDM3A #14139 of Ernakulam doing the honours. The train was pretty crowded, with families return after their annual vacation. Just as Mangala arrived, the Trivandrum bound Parasuram express pulled into Platform 1, with an unidentified WAP4.

Both the trains departed from Thrissur in about 3 minutes, from their arrival time. A while after Parasuram left Platform 1, the Kochuveli bound Kerala Sampark Kranti Express arrived. Itarsi Jumbo WDM2 #17847. The same loco had worked the same train the last week too. This train was at Thrissur for a slightly prolonged period. After the Sampark Kranti left, the Hyderabad-Trivandrum Sabari Express was taken on to Platform 1. WAP4 #22270 of Erode did the honours. The station dipped into silence a while after Sabari Express too left. The PA system crackled to life at around 1300, announcing the arrival of my train.


WAP4 #22281 of Erode arrives at Thrissur with the Mangalore bound Parasuram Express

My train, Parasuram Express, arrived at 1304, with WAP4 #22281 of Erode doing the honours. My coach, C1 - WGSCZAC 94151, was the 11th in the 21 coach formation. The coach was refurbished at the Rehabilitation workshop at Bhopal in 2008. What caught my attention in a split second was the "To seat 75" marking outside the coach. I was perplexed on seeing this mark since the coach actually had only 73 seats!!! I re-counted again, and found that the railways had conveniently forgotten seat numbers 3 and 73!!! The train started at 1308, delayed by a whole 28 minutes.

The WAP4 pulled out the 21 coach rake in no time, and we were cruising at decent speeds in no time. We had our lunch as soon as the train started from Thrissur. I had Veg Biriyani for lunch, while my parents had Veg Meals. Both were really tasty. The train made a brief halt at Mulagunnathukavu home, for a while. This was to let a twin WAG5 hauled tanker rake to pull on to the loop line. We started as soon as the tanker rake stopped. Our next scheduled halt was at Wadakancheri. The station is situated on a marvellous curve and one can see the entire train, from loco to SLR, when the train is at the station. The station is surrounded on all sides by hills, and low flying clouds hugging around them made for very good visuals.


Low hanging clouds, slight drizzle and the lush greenery made my journey a very pleasant experience...

The day was overcast, and the weather was pleasant. We started from Wadakancheri at 13:35, delayed by 35 minutes. The coach attendent appeared sad at the delay. The section ahead of Wadakancheri is even more picturesque. The entire section from Thrissur to Shoranur is unofficially called a Ghat section, and has numerous turns and grades. The entire section from Shoranur to Ernakulam has an MPS of only 80kmph, due to constant turns and grades. The train continued a medium paced run till we reached Shoranur Outer signal.

The line from Ernakulam to Shoranur was laid by the then Maharaja of Cochin, back in 1902 as a meter gauge line. The line connected Cochin state to the railway line laid by the British, connecting Madras (now Chennai) to Tellicherry (now Thalassery). The basic layout of the railway line continues to be the same even today. The Ernakulam-Shoranur line is treated as the 'Main' line, and the newly laid by-pass line is treated as a 'loop' line. The entry to Shoranur is controlled by a signal placed on the banks of the river Bharathapuzha. This signal also marks the entry into Palakkad division. After a long crawl from the signal to the station, we stopped on Platform 5 of Shoranur Junction at 1400, delayed by 25 minutes.

I jumped out of the train, and rushed towards the loco, to check out the new loco that would take my train. The WAP4 was just getting uncoupled. The loco went out quickly, and our 'new' loco was let on to the line soon. WDM3D #11239 of Erode was to work my train from Shoranur to Mangalore. The loco came in quickly, but the coupling took a very long time. A railway officer, working in the Construction department, questioned the pointsman on the excessive delay in changing locos at Shoranur - he had no reply to state. I rushed back to my coach soon after the loco came close to the couplers. However, the departure took even longer.


WDM3D #11239 of Erode, comes in to take charge of Parasuram express at Shoranur...

The attendent was now worried if the Dehradun express would overtake us - which was a probability if our departure was getting more delayed. That was not the case, and we started moving out at 1422, delayed by 42 minutes. The loco change at Shoranur was taking too long, and was surely nullifying any time advantages that the electric loco brought to the train. While we started, WAP4 #22660 of Erode arrived with the Hyderabad bound Sabari Express in tow. While there was a perceivable difference in the starting torques between the locos, the diesel did maximum justice to the 21 coach rake. The young lady pulled out the rake in style, letting out very little smoke.

The run from Shoranur to Karakad was pathetically slow, owing to track doubling works. The work on this section is on since late 2006, and is still at a very early stage. Land movers were working hard to level land around the railway tracks. The Nilambur line gave company for a while, and later disappeared into a dense teak jungle. My train slowly picked speed as we crossed Karakad Home signal, and sped up its way through the main line. We crossed an unknown train a while after Karakad. The track condition is pretty good beyond Karakad, and we had a very smooth ride. We reached Pattambi at 1435. The loop line - this station has only one loop line, and that is kept between the two main lines - was occupied by a BOBYN (Hopper) rake, led by WDM2 #17141.0 of Erode.

We left Pattambi at 1439, delayed by about 46 minutes now. The run past Pattambi was eventless, barring a stop every 15-20 minutes on an average. We had halts at Kuttipuram, Tirur, Tanur and Parapanangadi, before reaching Feroke. I was seating inside the coach for most of the time, and could not check out the crossings that we had over this period. As we approached Feroke, I noticed a BTPN rake backing up on to the UP main line. The loco was a WDG3A (other details unknown). The rake was pulled out of an IOC Fuel depot besides the railway station, and was being prepared for departure towards Shoranur later in the day.

As we sneaked on to the loop line at Feroke, I noticed a departmental rake occupying the Down Main Line. This train had about 4 BRNA (flat) wagons, one Caboose and WDS6 #36015 of Golden Rock heading it. The BRNA wagons had about two mechanical cranes each. These cranes were being used to pick up old rails from track sides. We left Feroke station, after a brief 2 two minute halt, at 1600 - late by 45 minutes. We had a crawl from Feroke to Kozhikode home signal. Made a brief halt at the home signal, and slowly crawled on to Platform 4. Kozhikode station was recently re-modeled, improving train operations greatly.


WDM2 #17108 of Ernakulam waiting at Kozhikode with the Ernakulam Intercity in tow... notice the old towers of Kozhikode station in the background

The Kannur-Ernakulam Intercity was waiting for departure on Platform 1. WDM2 #17108 of Ernakulam was in charge. WDM2 #16875 of Golden Rock was waiting at the Shoranur end of Platform #2. There was a huge crowd waiting on the trackside near Platform 4, waiting for my train to get in. A very huge crowd alighted at Kozhikode, only to be replaced by a similar number of passengers. That was my first visit to Platform 4, I made good use of the time my train stopped there to explore a bit of the platform. The platform was not very good in shape, and facilities - in terms of catering provisions - were bad.

We left Kozhikode at 1620, delayed by 30 minutes. The railway line started off as a double line, and sized down to a single line just past the LSS (which also doubles up as a Gate signal). The train crosses a Level Cross, and then again expands to a Double line. The home signal for the UP line is while past the point where the line re-expands to a Double line. Undoubtedly, the Level Crossing is the bottle neck that the railways face in complete doubling. The train picked speed as we approached Vellayil. I was back inside the coach now. The next halt was at Quilandi, and then at Vadakara. We were about 26 minutes late as we departed from Vadakara. We reached Mahe at 1718. Mahe is the gateway to the erstwhile French conclave called Mahe (Called Mayyazhi locally). Mahe is currently under the rule of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The station, interestingly, is located in Kerala.

The starter turned green in exactly two minutes after my train stopped there... but the train showed now signs of moving. We finally left at 1724 - delayed by 32 minutes. We made yet another halt at Thalassery, and left at 1737. We crossed the Mangalore-Trivandrum Express here. I was at the door after Thalassery, all the way to Kannur. There were no crossings in this section. Our baggage was moved from the luggage rack to the door as the train crossed Kannur South station. The train slowed down as we neared Kannur, and made a complete halt at the home signal. A few seconds, I noticed a train coming from the opposite direction. That was the rake of Kannur-Kozhikode passenger being shunted out from Platform 1A to Platform 2. The loco doing the shunting work was WDM3A #14124 of Ernakulam. The loco stopped just short of the LSS. We started moving soon, and pulled into Platform 1. The train came to a complete halt on the platform at 1801, late by 26 minutes.


Entering Kannur...

My brother was at the station to take us to our destination, some 20 kilometres away. There ended a journey on the legendary train. Although the train was delayed and I missed most of the crossing enroute, it was a journey that I enjoyed most. The train badly needs a rejuvenation. It makes lots of halts, and the railways should think of introducing a passenger train to serve the needs of passengers at smaller towns, and run a faster day connection between Trivandrum and Mangalore. Images of the journey can be seen here...

Comments

Anonymous said…
Thank you for the detailed and interesting travel log. I loook forward to reading the log about your travel to Northern India.
Akshay said…
Thank you so much for depicting the alignment of the tracks at Kannur station. I must say Kannur has a really interesting alignment of tracks. I remember while coming back from Guruvayur, I couldn't see Kannur station in both directions. I hope to travel in Parsuram Express atleast once now.

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