Pune to Bijapur: by 11139 Gadag Express train

During the planning phase, I had searched for tickets to return from Shirdi to Bijapur - all I found was one non-ac seater run by NEKRTC. I didn't want to risk traveling this distance by a non-ac bus. Alternatively, there was on Shivshahi bus operated from Aurangabad to Bijapur - Aurangabad was about 4 hours by road from Shirdi. This made me drop that idea as well. I then looked at options from Pune - the first stop were buses, I did find some interesting options here. For some reason, I decided to simply try the railways - I didn't know if any trains existed - so this was just a trial. I was stunned to see an express train listed for this route - I quickly checked the availability, and found it was waitlisted. I looked at buses once again - they seemed prohibitively expensive for the distance. I was back on the IRCTC website, and booked a waitlisted ticket by this train (11139 Mumbai CSMT - Gadag Express), boarding at Pune. I had decided to keep the Aurangabad-Bijapur bus as a back-up in case my ticket doesn't confirm.

January 26, 2019: 
After a tiring day, but with a very contending darshan of Sai Baba, and the tiring an delayed journey by the Shivshahi bus from Shrirampur (read here), I badly wanted to rest somewhere. I took me a while to gain my senses as I got off the Shivshahi bus, completely disoriented and groggy. I was confused about how do I head to Pune station - in fact, my bus had just come that way, but I was deep asleep then! I decided to head to the nearby railway station (Shivajinagar) first - the station is hardly 5 minutes by walk from the bus station. A quick glance at the departure board there confirmed that I had a train to Pune station a few minutes later. I purchased a ticket (just Rs. 5!) and headed to the platform. There were no boards or signs about when the train would arrive on the platform. The platform was desolate - just a few dogs and couple of passengers there! I was still sleepy, and was quite concerned if I'd fall asleep there.

The train rolled in a few minutes behind schedule - I got into the first coach that came at the place I was standing. The coach was kinda full - I managed to find a seat, though, and rested for sometime, as the train crawled to Pune Station. The train arrived on Platform 3 - the platform was crowded, and getting out to the main platform was a little confusion. I directly exited the station building, and then re-entered through the main entry again. My first stop was the Upper Class waiting room - hoping to find some place to rest. I couldn't get a place to rest - I decided to get fresh first and then head out for dinner. I headed to the food court there, and had a very light dinner from there. I spent some time sitting in the food court itself, before headed out for some yummy Kulfi at Shiv Kailash right opposite the railway station. I headed back to the platform after this late night dessert, and began the long wait for my train.
The station building looked quite good with all the lighting!

The waiting room was still full, and I had to make-do with the benches outside the waiting room. Needless to say, there appeared more comfortable than the claustrophobic and chocking environment inside the waiting room. There was a steady stream of arrivals through out my waiting time - the station was surely busy through the night. There was no news about my train for quite some time - the digital displays on the platforms also maintained silence about my train. I had been training the train continuously using the official NTES app - which updated that my train was a few minutes behind schedule.

January 27, 2019 The first ever announcement about my train was made a little past 0030hrs - an announcement to update that my train would arrive on Platform 5. I had to lug my bag and headed to the platform now. The coach position display indicators on the platform had turned on now, and updated that my coach would arrive right below the foot-over-bridge. This platform was quite narrow and dingy - the platform was infested with rats, and it was really scary around. The rats were quite big - and I had to have my baggage with me all the time to avoid having them damaged. A delay was announced a little before 0110hrs - but the train rolled in at 0114hrs (about 9 minutes behind schedule) with a WDG3A (#13579) homed at Kalyan in charge.
WDG3A #13579 of Kalyan arriving at Pune..

This was a very short rake, and the train actually stopped earlier than expected, causing a lot of confusion among passengers, and last minute running around to get into their coaches. My coach, B2, was a 2017 ICF-Built coach. The coach looked very fresh and spacious at the very first look. My ticket hadn't confirmed and it was in RAC aka Reservation against Cancellation now. This allowed me to travel seated (two RAC passengers would share a side lower berth - they cannot use the berth to sleep, technically). I remained seated there, waiting for the ticket examiner, who showed up even before the train started. He checked the chart, and informed me that my ticket had been confirmed and I could use the berth now. I thanked him - he gave a very broad smile and carried on. I was quite tired, and badly wanted to crash. We started from Pune at 0125hrs - about 15 minutes behind schedule now

Neatly packed bedroll was provided - which was used to set my berth to sleep - I slept soon after the train left from Pune. The ride was quite rough - the oscillations were too high for a comfortable sleep. But the fatigue had the better of me, and I slept in no time. I had, perhaps, among the best sleep I've had in a train - sleeping straight until 0700hrs! As I woke up, the train was stationary at some small station - we did not cross a train here. I used the restroom to get fresh before alighting at my destination - and remained at the door for a while watching the area through which I was traveling. The train pulled into Vijayapura (Bijapur) railway station at 0739hrs - about 4 minutes behind schedule!

Journey in a Nutshell:Train Number: 11139 Mumbai CSMT - Gadag Express
Loco link: Kalyan WDG3A #13579
Coach: B2, WGACCNC #17131/C built by ICF, Chennai. Based at Mumbai.

Ratings:Punctuality: 9.95/10 (Negligible delay)
Cleanliness: 10/10 (Very clean!)
Catering: Does not apply

Overall: 9.95/10

Great journey! I loved the journey - the coach was good, the ride was good. This was my first journey by a ICF built AC 3-tier coach - the interiors were really good, and appeared quite airy. The redesigned ladder to climb up the berths were quite well done, and made life easier for passengers!