To Bengaluru, by train, after long...
Warning: Long Post!
End of April, yet another trip to Bangalore. This one too came at a very short notice, like all my trips to Bangalore have been. I was looking at my travel options on the internet – Buses have always been my love. I had to be in Bangalore on Monday (by night). I looked at buses for the Sunday (April 29, 2012) – but most of them were sold off. Day buses were available, though. I decided to take the day bus from Ernakulam on Sunday – but seats of my choice weren’t available. I then decided to take the KPN day bus from Coimbatore – and almost booked the tickets. For some reason, I did not book the ticket. My unstable mind was still undecided on what bus to take – just when I got this idea of taking a train.
Getting a ticket on a train from Kerala (which destination it is to) it a herculean task in itself. My choice was the day train (12678 Ernakulam – Bangalore Intercity express), since I had to be in Bangalore by Monday night. I had an appointment for Tuesday morning – so reaching there on Tuesday morning was a risk. I then got this crazy idea of getting a Tatkal ticket for the day express leaving on Monday. I got the ticket after battling with IRCTC for a crucifying hour – And, I was finally traveling to Bangalore by train!! (Read my experience of booking the ticket here)
April 30, 2012: The D-Day…
I started from home at 0835hrs, with over-greed of being able to get into the 0830hrs Kodungallur-Thrissur KSRTC bus. I reached the bus stop by 0840hrs. A private bus came – the bus was packed to the core, and I did not even think of getting into that one. A KSRTC bus came in at 0845 – thankfully with a few empty seats. The bus picked crowd as it ran forward – we kept pace with the bus that went ahead a while earlier. I was dropped near the railway station at around 0945hrs. Just as I was walking into the railway station, an Erode WDM2 pulled in with the Kannur-Alappuzha Intercity express. Shoranur passenger was on Platform 2 (twin Ernakulam WDM3As were in charge), while Platform 3 was occupied by the Guruvayur passenger (power was WAP4).
After the Shoranur passenger left, a WDM2 from Golden Rock (I think it was 16682 – ex-ERS) came in with the Ernad Express. The Ernad left after a few minutes, while the Guruvayur passenger left at around 1010hrs. My train – 12678 ERS-SBC Intercity Express – was announced on Platform-2. I wandered around Platform 2 until my train came. It is an island platform. The apron of the line running through Platform-3 was recently concreted. From the looks of it, I believe they are planning to have water hydrants and use it as a stabling line for passenger rakes. My train came in past 1020 with a WAP4 of Erode (22713?). The composition was SLR-GS-GS-GS-D1 to D8-PC-D9 to D11-C1-GS-GS-SLR-VPU… phew! That was a 21 coach rake! The AC Chair Car coach (03151) was covered with advertisements – thankfully, the windows were spared though.
|The only photo from the trip..|
The journey began at 1025hrs (5 minutes late) from Thrissur. My seat was near the door of the coach. The coach was more or less full, with vacant seats strewn here-and-there. The coach was not very cool. The awkward design of the AC vents meant that the cooling effect was very less – the AC vents were directly aimed on the overhead luggage rack. Since our coach was running full that day, the overhead rack too was packed! The effect was – our baggage made a chilled journey, while the passengers below sat and sweated it out. Most passengers switched on the fans, which did help matters a bit. In the mean time, the TTE came around checking tickets. He allotted some vacant seats to some unreserved passengers (all of them were to Coimbatore).
We stopped at Wadakkenchery and Vallathol Nagar – both on the main line – since the Shoranur passenger was now right ahead of us. We stopped at the signal before Bharathapuzha Bridge – I was expecting some train (freight or passenger) to be crossing over. But no crossings happened, and we were allowed to continue after a couple of minutes. The train moved over to Palakkad division at this point. The run after Bharathapuzha was brisk. We were not detained anywhere, and ran non-stop till Palakkad. Lunch was served a while before Palakkad (orders were taken soon after the train left Thrissur). We reached Palakkad at 1156 (13 minutes delay) A few passengers in my coach got off at Palakkad, while a few others got in. I had my lunch after we left Palakkad.
We were stopped at Madukkarai for some time (reason unknown). I headed to the door after Madukkarai (one of those rare moments in the journey when I actually ‘doorplated’!). It was hot outside, and the land around was absolutely ‘dry’. I was at the door to observe the alignment around Podanur. The approach to Podanur was indicated by the ramp that the old MG trains (Coimbatore-Pollachi route) took. The ramp is still intact – it looks like they are going about widening the ramp to accommodate the new BG line. Right near the ramp was the “Welcome to Salem Division” board. The platforms have been renovated, and ‘modernised’ to BG standards. The erstwhile MG platform would now be a terminal platform. They have installed LED coach position indicators and such fancy stuff at the station – wonder why the railways find it important to invest in such gizmos, which they never bother maintaining.
We did not stop at Podanur, but ran through at a very slow speed. After Podanur, the train entered the double line route towards Coimbatore. The last time I went through Podanur (2008), the bridge on Noyyal was being rebuilt – this time, I went on the new bridge! We reached Coimbatore at 1303 (Sch: 1245). It was chaos in our coach since almost half the coach was getting off at Coimbatore and a similar number was waiting to get in! The TTE barely managed to save his coat while getting off. We started moving out of Coimbatore at 1308 (Sch: 1250 – 18 minutes late now). It was chaos inside the coach as well – a lot of passengers with Waitlisted tickets were on board now. There were a few with the normal unreserved ticket as well – who were asked to clear off. It took over 30 minutes for the chaos inside to settle – almost everyone got a seat.
While the chaos settled down, a line of vendors from the Pantry walked in with various eatables, ranging from the ubiquitous ‘pazham pori’ (fried ripe bananas) to an array of vadas (fried crisp snacks). Being a train running to Kerala, the pantry attendants were a mix of Malayalees and Tamils, interspersed with North Indians. The guys from North were seen selling more of Tea/Coffee and water and less of those tongue-twisting fries. I politely asked my co-passenger (a 60+ aged lady) if she wanted my window seat, so that I can have her Aisle seat (easier to get to the door often) – he arrogantly refused, with an “order” to shift to some other seat (middle seat in a three seater), which I bluntly refused. I was back to my window seat now. We reached Tiruppur at 1355 (22 mins late). A few passengers got in from here, filling up those rare vacant seats in our coach. We left Tiruppur at 1357. By now, the frequency of vendors increased, and it was increasingly difficult to resist eating the variety of snacks they were selling.
The variety of food they offered was seriously good. The items on the menu were: Veg Cutlet, Pazhampori (Fried Banana), Medu Vada, Masala/Parippu Vada, Bhajji (Raw Banana/Chilly) and Bread-Omlet. In addition, ‘packed air’ (you might be lucky to find some potato chips in it) and cold beverages were sold. By now, I was seriously engrossed in trying out every item they brought in (except a few, which did not look very delicious). I was tracking the speed of our train at fairly frequent intervals – we were doing ~105kmph most of the time. I got off my seat as we entered Erode yard. I headed to the door (without bothering to carry my camera along) – to be welcomed by an idle WDG4 of Golden Rock, and a couple of WDMs. We reached Erode at 1441 (Scheduled: 1425hrs). We have a traction change here – the Wappie gives way to a deemer. But the prospect of having to walk the length of 17 coaches made me put off the very thought of watching the loco change. The coaches were all crowded, which would make walking through the vestibules a nightmare.
The halt at Erode was fairly long. The coaches weren’t cleaned or watered at Erode (Erode used to a ‘clean train station’ earlier – guess, the tag doesn’t hold good now). We left Erode at 1459 (24 minutes late now). The deemer working our train did not disappoint with its show – the loco was quick in attaining three digit speeds. Ours wasn’t a very light load as well. I was back to my seat after Erode. The grumpy old lady found someone to exchange seats with, and a young ‘techie’ was now my co-passenger. This guy would head to the door every time a Coffee vendor came – guess he loves having coffee at the door! We stopped at Sankaridurg en route (1523/1526).
I had a short nap after Sankaridurg, and woke up only as we were approaching Salem. The appearance of Salem station has changed a lot in the two years since I last traveled through the place in daylight. We reached Salem at 1557 (26 minutes late). The margin of delay was increasing at each station, and I was slowly losing hope of reaching home in time. We left Salem only at 1607 (increasing the delay to 32 minutes now). The run until Omalur was slow – not very slow though. We branched off from the main line at Magnesite Junction. Omalur station (the first on the Bangalore line) was empty – there was not a single freight anywhere in the station. After Omalur, the train veers off to the right – taking a curvy route to Bangalore. The section gets spectacular after Omalur – it’s a railfans’ paradise. Lots of grades and curves – its curves everywhere!
It started getting cooler outside – it was awfully hot inside the coach though. The coach attendant was particular about closing every door – and not very interested in reducing the temperature in the coach. He disappears soon after closing the door, and would re-appear only as the train reaches the next station – I couldn’t find him anywhere near the coach. We reached Dharmapuri at 1713 (Sch: 1643). Quite a lot of passenger got off here. There were lots of passengers waiting on the other platform – guess, they were for the Salem passenger. It was cool outside – pleasant climate. We left Dharmapuri at 1717hrs (22 minutes late). I remained indoors till we crossed Rayakkottai. Headed to the door after Rayakkottai – the countryside was scenic. The land was dry, but punctuated with hills – small and huge.
I door-plated all the way from Rayakkottai to Kelamangalam – that section was really scenic. We pulled in to Hosur at 1849 hrs – delayed by a good 36 minutes. I got off at Hosur. It was a pain to walk the distance of 17 coaches plus the locomotive to reach the foot-over-bridge to get into the main platform. Just as I reached the FOB, I noticed the trolley path at the end of the platform. I wonder why they take these trains on Platform 2, when Platform 1 is vacant. The railways have this sadistic pleasure of making people walk with their luggage to get out of the station. To add salt to the injury, Hosur station has only one FOB, that too at one end of the station. They could have at least placed that towards the middle of the station. Once out of the station, I got into an autorickshaw to head to the bus station.
The three-wheeled F1 vehicle took me on a scary ride through congested streets of Hosur and stopped outside the bus station – the ride made my pocket lighter by Rs. 80! There were about three Karnataka SRTC buses waiting to head to Hosur – all of them were full. I decided to take a TNSTC bus instead. I got in to the first one – TN-29-N-2239. That bus was working an ordinary service between Dharmapuri and Bangalore via Rayakkottai, Hosur. The ticket fare was Rs. 32. The seating was tight – legspace on the lower side compared to Kerala SRTC. The backrest was rock hard as well. The bus started from Hosur at 1910. The driver was fast right from the word go. The conductor was well behaved – did not shout at passengers for not giving change. I was dropped at Bommanahalli, exactly at 2000hrs.
There ended another trip to Bangalore – by train after a very long time. The last time I headed to Bangalore by train was in December 2009. My last journey by Intercity was in June 2008 – back then, the train got a diesel end-to-end, and had sleeping accommodation then! That journey was a turning point for me – hope this journey too would be one :)
...And, Apologies for the complete lack of photos.