A short Rajdhani trip

July 15, 2011, 17:30hrs: After a tiring day spotting buses, in intermitted rains, I slowly lug towards Trivandrum Central Railway station. It was just days after a terrorist attack in Mumbai - the security at the station was on high alert. My baggage was scanned on entry - there were dozens of arm wielding cops staring at me while entering the station. With all my energy drained, I headed straight to the AC Waiting room - but the room was hot and humid! I took a seat, and caught up a few winks. The PA system was blurting out advertisements before each announcement - it was irritating to the core.

My train was shunted in at around 1830. The shining Red-and-Grey rake looked elegant at the first sight. On close inspection, the coach surface was badly wavy, poor paint job, exposed welds and what not. Clearly disappointed by what I saw, I decided to head towards the loco.The platform was full of cops (RPF and State Police), plus there were lots of guys who looked like railway officials. The train had its full complement of 8 AC-3-Tier, 6 Ac 2-Tier, 1 AC Pantry Car and 1 AC First, totaling 18 coaches (including 2 EOGs). The loco was about to be coupled by the time I reached there - no idea what loco shunted in the rake.

The loco assigned to work the train was WDP3A #15518 of Golden Rock. I roamed around till the loco was coupled. There was heavy police presence everywhere. After a while, I decided to head to my coach - at the rear end of the formation. I reached my coach - B2, 10124/C - after walking the length of about 15 coaches. The load was pretty decent despite being a working day - most tickets were to BRC and beyond as seen from the charts. My coach had a few reservations to ERS (including me) - those seats were probably having onward reservations from there. My seat was #7, a Side Lower Berth.
My first impression about the interiors were good - the coach was already cool, and fairly clean. There was no table for Side Lower/Upper passengers, while the 6-seater coupe got fixed fibre plastic trays (unlike the collapsible wooden table seen in other 3A coaches). The roof was classy - the ugly looking vents were absent, instead there were sleek looking panels. The lamps were concealed. The train started off perfectly on time (@1915 hrs) with the characteristic CBC jerk. The WDP3A did an awesome job picking up speed as we crossed Trivandrum Pettah (TVP). The transition kick (so typical of an ALCo) was felt perfectly in my coach. The TTE came around soon after we crossed Kochuveli - the TTE was a young chap, based in NR. He was particular about seeing the ID card for e-Tickets. A passenger in the coupe next to me made it a scene when asked for an ID card - he was acting as if he was some well-known person who gets insulted on being asked for an identity proof.

Meanwhile, the catering attendant came around and asked for meal preference - I asked for Veg. My neighbours in the coach were heading to Nizamuddin, after visiting "Padamnabh Swamy Mandir" in Trivandrum. With the recent discovery of treasure at the temple (Padmanabha Swamy Temple), a lots of tourists are now showing up here. While they were busy discussing about the temple, occasionally making fun of Kerala's customs, the train crawled into Kollam, for its newly introduced commercial halt. There were hardly any passengers on the platform while this train crawled in. The halt was very brief, and we departed from Kollam about 10 minutes late. Just as the train started off, the Attendant came around with the dinner tray. Tomato soup with butter and soup sticks came in first, followed by the main course. Main course had rotis, a paneer dish (Paneer mutter, IIRC), rice, dal, curd, pickle and salt. Water bottles were distributed earlier. Dinner was followed by a cup of ice cream.

There isn't much to talk about the dinner - the quantity was too small for a food lover like me. Food was tasty enough - I have a particular like for railway food. Dinner trays were cleared quickly. Since most of the coach had long distance passengers, lights were going off around the coach. People quickly retired to their berths. The attendant came around to ask options for the next days' breakfast (veg/non-veg). I was getting off at Ernakulam the same night - I informed the same. The train pulled in for its next halt - Alappuzha. No body got in here as well. We were running about 15 minutes late now. We were pulled up at Cherthala for a crossing (TVC Division has the worst section controllers one can every see - a bunch of sadists who love making delayed trains further late, irrespective of the trains' priorities).

I am not sure of what train we crossed at Cherthala, but we surely lost about 5 minutes in the process. The LPs let the beast lose after Cherthala - the train swayed merrily, giving passengers a jolt once in a while. Every slowdown and pick up was felt in the coach - the famed CBC kick continues with all advancements in technology. By now the coach was dark - all lights were off. I remained in my Side lower berth - drew the curtains and kept reviewing some pics I had taken during the day. Sighting Aroor bridge was a signal that we were nearing Ernakulam. The train pulled into Platform 1 of Ernakulam at 2230, delayed by about 10 minutes now. The LPs were letting the beast lost whenever possible, and that helped us regain some lost time.

A lot of crowd was waiting for this train at Ernakulam - If only the Duronto could match the Rajdhani's speed and timings, it would've been successful. I made a quick exit from Ernakulam station, took my car and rushed out. Just as I crossed the Ernakulam North Flyover, I saw the Rajdhani sneaking below it. Later, I crossed the same train at Edappally Level cross - the Rajdhani was either too slow, or I was too fast for the Rajdhani :P

Some notes: The finish of the coaches was awful - bad sheet metal works, and visible welding joints. The paint quality was also awful. The interiors were good - the overall feel was distinct from the regular ICF/RCF coaches. The ride quality was better as well - except for the irritating CBC jerks. My journey was too short for me to comment on the quality of onboard services - but it certainly is irritating to see those catering guys coming with their caps begging for tips. Most often those goon looking chaps come around forcing passengers to pay through their nose - for the "service" these chaps provide. At the end of the day, the Rajdhani is an "experience" all together.

I'd give the train a 9 on 10, punctuality a 9.5/10 and service 7/10 (reducing it for the tendency to beg).

Comments

Sunup said…
Did the catering fellows come to you for tips? If so, then it's too bad and disgusting, considering the fact that you were a short distance passenger.
vinchel said…
Nice review. Have got memories of travelling in Rajadhani when I was 3 or something....

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