In a train after a very long time..

Of late, the thoughts that comes to my mind when I consider traveling by train are stinking toilets, endless waits at the railway station, unclean seats and roaches running all-over. My last few train rides were not memorable by any yardstick. The last ride (in March this year), had me getting off the train red-eyed - the flat wheel, plus some odd sounds coming from the wheelset, and a horrible delay had all put me off. I had to book on a train once again because my parents were accompanying me, and there were no other comfortable (and feasible) alternatives. This was a 4 hour journey within Kerala. The train chosen this time was Ernad Express, which runs from Nagercoil to Mangalore, and I was to travel from Thrissur to Kannur. Second Sitting was never an option, and hence AC Chair Car was chosen.

The D-Day: June 21, 2014
Like before any journey, I hardly slept that night. It was raining fairly well in my hometown. I woke up well on time. The four-wheeled Autorickshaw - a TATA Magic Iris - was at our at the appointed time. This was my first ride in one of these four-wheeled Auto Taxi (as they are called in Kerala). The seat was somewhat similar to a Piaggio Ape, but the leg space was much better. It rained quite heavily as we travelled towards the railway station. Thankfully the rain stopped by the time we got off at the railway station.

The LED display at the entrance said that our coach (C1) would be the 12th, and that the train would arrive on Platform 2. After getting a newspaper and some magazines, we headed to the platform. The platform was crowded as usual - but we could get a place to sit. Sometime after we reached, an announcement was made on the PA system that the train would arrive 30 minutes late. In the meantime, my dad found that there was a news in the newspaper that trains would be regulated somewhere between Ernakulam and Aluva to facilitate some metro related work. If only we had read this earlier!

The train finally pulled in at 1007hrs, some 32 minutes late. It was an Erode WAP4 (#22549) that did the honours. Getting into our coach was a bit troublesome - a lot of people crowded the entrance, and it was quite difficult to get in with the luggage. Thankfully, the overhead luggage racks above our seats were empty - so all the baggage went there. The train started at 1010hrs. The TTE came quickly to check tickets, and he did not bother checking the m-ticket - he took a quick look at the ID proof and marked us present on the chart. The AC was quite cold, and it was raining quite heavily outside. I spent most of my time reading the newspaper and playing some game on my phone. We kept crossing trains at frequent intervals. I was quite intrigued by the fact that no vendors turned up anytime during the journey - neither vendors selling water nor any eatables. The train finally reached Shoranur at 1053hrs.

I was surprised that there were no vendors on the platform either! The lone tea-stall outside our coach was crowded heavily. It was still raining, and I had no chance of witnessing a loco change. The coach jerked sometime later, confirming that the new loco had taken charge. We started moving again at 1105hrs. The journey was getting too boring already. It kept raining on-and-off, and this meant I couldn't door-plate at all. Ernad Express is a glorified passenger train and it kept stopping very often. I was getting bored by the moment, and I spent most of my time reading the magazine that I had stocked and also playing some games on the phone.

I was fairly hungry and awaited reaching Kozhikode. We pulled into Kozhikode station at 1255hrs - as if waiting to pounce out, I was at the door. I was desperately hungry and wanted to grab my lunch. There were a lot of people to get off from our coach, and hence had to wait to bit to get on to the platform. Once on the platform, I was shocked to see that there were no stalls anywhere close to the coach! There was one vendor nearby, but he had only non-vegetarian food. I searched for another vendor - found one quickly. He too had predominantly non-veg food only. Left with no options, I decided to buy the sole veg product that was available with him - Vegetarian Biriyani.

The Biriyani - a very typical railway biriyani, rich in oil with too little vegetables anywhere - was palatable to an extent. The accompaniment was a very minute quantity of salad (raitha) and some pickle. We left Kozhikode at 1259. I was preoccupied with eating the biriyani as the train made its way out of Kozhikode. The coach was too cold, and I was not very comfortable with the temperature inside the coach. I was back with my phone, playing some games. The string of stops continued after Kozhikode - I felt the numbers reduced as compared to before Kozhikode. We reached Thalassery at 1407hrs - by now I had a sigh of relief that the journey was about to finish (a sharp contrast with the past when I used to get sad as my destination neared). The train stopped at Kannur home-signal at 1429hrs - I was now sure that we were waiting for the Kannur-Ernakulam Intercity express to vacate the platform for us.

After a long wait, a Golden Rock deemer crawled past my train with the Intercity express to Ernakulam. We finally moved forward and stopped at Kannur station, at 1443hrs - some 23 minutes late. I happily got off the train and rushed towards the exit. Then a quick car ride to the destination.

The cleanliness of the coach (WGSCZAC 94152 based at Mangalore) left a lot to be desired. The seats were rock hard - it was tough sitting for that long on that kind of a seat. Having been used to the good angle of recline in buses, I found the seats too uncomfortable for long journeys. The coach was crowded all the time - all the seats were full throughout, and there were lots of people occupying the gangway in the hope of getting a seat any one of the many stops en route. All through the journey, my belief there is a lot of scope for intra-state premium buses just got underlined. I'd love to use buses more often, and this journey just made my belief stronger. 

Comments

Arun said…
It is sad that SR continues to run coaches as old as 90/91!!! Apart from the usual factors you have mentioned, my biggest grouse is the age old coaches on rails still!!!

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