Ernakulam Intercity: KSR Bengaluru to Thrissur

The plan was to drive home with my colleagues, to attend a conference and have a short picnic. Things were all going fine till the evening prior to the planned departure. We had charted our route, planned our breaks and even had a checklist of things we should be carrying. However, my car - which we were planning to drive - was still in the workshop. Although I had given it for a routine check-up and service, some issues cropped up, necessitating replacement of a critical component, which couldn't be procured by the workshop till late evening. The bad news was broken at 1800hrs - less than 12 hours before we were supposed to depart!

It was then a mad scramble to identify alternatives. Late night buses were ruled out do to safety concerns of my colleagues. We were left with trains - the early morning Intercity express, and the late afternoon AC Express. The late afternoon train was not a great idea, since it would drop us at Thrissur late in the night, rather a little past mid night. The early morning Intercity was the option left. Indian Railway's luck testing website, I mean Online booking website, IRCTC, showed the train was waitlisted in AC Sitting, and had plenty - I mean, P-L-E-N-T-Y of seats available. We decided to take the risk, and booked four waitlisted tickets in AC Sitting - at 2030hrs. A little after this, a message pops us informing me that only one of the four tickets got confirmed, and the remaining (three) were dropped. I decided to retain that one seat, which happened to be mine, and booked three seats for my colleagues in non-AC Sitting, in the current booking quota. I had the plan to getting them upgraded to AC sitting, against vacancies that might arise there after the train starts.

March 16, 2017:
My previous experiences with Uber/Ola wasn't rosy, especially when calling for cabs to the railway station early in the morning - I got a little cautious this time, and fired up my app more than two hours before my train was to depart. I was quite shocked when the cab turned up at the appointed time, and dropped me at the railway station by 0455hrs - 80 minutes before my train was to depart. I had a coffee from the food court at the entrance, and then headed to Platform 4, where my train was berthed. My coach was at the front - I was quite excited to see a fairly new coach for me there - WGSCZAC 15151, manufactured in May 2015 was my ride for the day.
The "Intercity Express". Notice the spelling errors in Hindi.

Waiting at Bengaluru City!
With over an hour to go, and absolutely nothing to do, I headed straight up front to have an idea of what power would be hauling us out of Bengaluru. I was quite excited to see twins up at the front - WDM3A #16169 (leading) coupled to #16462 of Erode were to haul the 21-coach formation till Erode, where they would give way an AC locomotive. It had been a very long time since I had been in a twin-loco hauled express train. The long journey in the day train is something that I dread - my last journey in this train was back in 2012 - when I came to Bengaluru to attend the personal interview for my present job. Looking back, a lot has changed!
Erode twins waiting to be fired up..

My colleagues turned up a little past 0545hrs. Their coach was near mine - I spent some time with them, and moved to my coach only as the departure time neared. I remained near the coach entrance till the starter was taken off. The starter went off at 0613hrs - two minutes before our scheduled departure time. I settled at my seat - but an elderly gentleman seated near me wanted a seat exchange - a window seat in the row ahead was on offer. Although I do not accept seat exchange requests normally, I felt sorry for the elderly gentleman and accepted the request. I did not like my new seat though - the seat was in terrible shape. The cushion slanted forward, and the pushback hardly helped matters. Mine was a table seat - that meant I hardly had any space to stretch my legs a little - my co-passengers had stuffed the area below with their bags, and I kept hitting the legs of the guy ahead everytime! In the meantime, we started from Bengaluru City Railway station - oops! Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna station Bengaluru (KSR Bengaluru), by 0616hrs.

I had to remain seated till the ticket examiner came by. We rolled into Bengaluru Cantonment by 0629hrs - majority of the crowd joined here. The coach more or less filled here. Plenty of seat exchanges happened even before the train pulled out of the station. We got moving by 0633hrs - by now, people were busy exchanging seats and settling down. The ticket examiner appeared harried and confused as he came around - going by my guesstimate, not more than 25-40% passengers would've been seated on seats allotted to them. It was a very tough job for him - he had to carefully mark attendance on the reservation chart. A little later, we crawled past Baiyyappanahalli, entered the turn out towards Hosur and entered virgin diesel territory.
The ALCo Twins at Erode..

There was a very steady stream of vendors from the pantry - regular items like Idly, Vada, Bread Omlette came first, followed by Masala Dosa a little earlier. Two crisp, hot, Masala Dosas with enough amount of Sambhar and Chutney formed my breakfast - at ₹50, it was a steal! I did not bother wasting my money on the railway coffee - the taste of which continues to be a mystery for me. I headed to my colleagues soon after my breakfast. Their coach was very empty - unlike the newer bus-like seating arrangement, this coach had the old styled seating, which allowed people to face each other. I spent the rest of my time there. The stream of items from the pantry continued - the list was fairly elaborate and had stuff like Parippu Vada (Fritters made of lentils), Pazhampori (Banana Fritters), Cutlet, Gobi Manchurian, Samosa to name a few.
The trailing loco in the twinset.. at Erode

The overall run was very uneventful. We did not have to stop for any crossings - the opposite train waited for us at every crossing. I doorplated for a while as we descended the ghat past Dharmapuri. We made a brake testing halt at 0931, and started off at 0933hrs. We descended the ghats slowly and made the final halt at Muttampatti station at 0940hrs. We picked pace after Muttampatti. We pulled into Salem by 1034hrs. The coach that I was traveling in (D11) remained empty for most part of the journey. We left Salem by 1036hrs. I returned to my coach (C2) a little after we left Salem. I badly wanted to charge my phone, and do some work on my laptop. We made another stop at Sankagiri (SGE) at 1115hrs. We pulled into Erode Junction at 1140hrs - fairly behind schedule. I rushed off to the front to witness the loco change.
The pointsman (or the ALP?) struggling to de-couple..

As I reached there, a pointsman was standing between the first coach and the loco, trying to disengage the coupler - but he couldn't. The shunting LP had to move the loco forward and backward many times before the pointsman (or was that the assistant LP?) managed to uncouple. Finally the twins moved out, and WAP4 #22670 of Erode was brought in. I returned to my coach before the starter was taken off. We started from Erode at 1209hrs. I remained with my colleagues in D11 for some more time. By now, the vendors were busy selling dishes for lunch. I picked up the ubiquitous Meal soon after I returned to my coach. We made a brief stop at Tiruppur (1252hrs). I opened my meal packet soon after we left Tiruppur. The aluminum foil casserole contained rice, a small packet of pickle and a dry vegetable accompaniment (made of beetroot, green peas and coconut). There were two foil pouches, one containing Sambhar, and other had curd.
WAP4 #22670 of Erode being brought in..

Thats my lunch waiting to be attacked..

The meal tasted quite nice, and the serving was quite filling. That was a Railway Meal after a very long time. In the meantime, we turned off from Irugur, and commenced our journey towards Coimbatore Junction. I was excited, sentimental and curious as the train rolled past Coimbatore North Junction. I saw my old primary school again as we crawled towards Coimbatore Junction. We reached Coimbatore at 1343hrs. We got moving again 1346hrs - I did expect a slightly longer halt at Coimbatore. The train picked pace soon after we passed Podanur. I remained in my coach till we reached Palakkad (1441hrs). I, then, moved to my colleagues' coach, where I remained till we passed Wadakkencherry. We made an unscheduled halt at Wadakkencherry, for reasons not known. We finally pulled into Thrissur at 1553hrs - a 9h40m journey. I was boring, plus the uncomfortable seat in the AC Seater coach made for a very boring journey.
Thats my railway meal...

The experience of traveling in this intercity after almost 5 years was exciting. The pantry car in this train, managed by Arenco Catering - based in Calicut, served some amazing dishes. All the items were sold at prescribed rates. Along with hot beverages like tea and coffee, items like Hot Badam milk, Cold Rose Milk, butter milk, tomato soup were offered. The snack menu was elaborate, and fresh items kept coming from the pantry at frequent intervals. If not for the frequent munchies, the journey would've been terribly boring. The coaches were fairly clean, but the flush wasn't working the toilet, raising a terrible stink half way through the journey. The AC was running at full force, and it was quite cool inside the coach.

Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 12677 KSR Bengaluru - Ernakulam Junction "Intercity" Express
Loco links: SBC to ED: WDM3A #16169 & #16462 of Erode; ED to ERS: WAP4 #22670 of Erode
Coach: C2, WGSCZAC 15151 manufactured by Integral Coach Factory, Chennai in May 2015. 

Ratings:
Punctuality: 8/10
Cleanliness: 7.5/10
Catering: 9.5/10
Overall: 9/10

Its value for money, but quite boring to be seated for almost 10 hours. Carry sufficient options for entertainment along if you plan to take this train.

Comments

Charles JC said…
Love to travel by train any time. How long does Intercity train take?

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