I wanted to make sure the Pune-Ernakulam Poorna Express was part of this journey - I wanted to either travel TO Pune, or From Pune by this train. Almost all my previous journeys to Shirdi were via Pune - and bus connectivity from Pune to Shirdi and vice versa is great. This time around, I wanted to travel as much as possible by train. I initially worked on an idea of traveling from Ernakulam to Pune, and then to Shirdi - but the return connectivity didn't work well, forcing me to plan the opposite. Things worked fairly well in the opposite direction, and connectivity was available for every part of the journey as well!
My first booking among all the tickets in this journey was from Pune to Ernakulam - I desperately wanted to ensure this part goes through - IRCTC threw up an Upper berth for me in AC 3-Tier despite there being quite some berths still available. I had a phobia for upper berths - more of a claustrophobia of the narrow breathing space up there. I was a little upset about how this would turn out - nevertheless, there always is an option to exchange seats or maybe some seat could turn up empty! The next worrying factor was availability of food enroute. This train doesn't have a Pantry or an onboard catering service - and the route the train takes doesn't have major places that could cater to the train, either. The official eCatering service didn't list too many options either - all of these added to my confusion, rather botheration.
November 13, 2021:
I returned to the station after a sumptuous dinner, topped with a lip-smacking Kulfi for dessert. My first stop was the paid waiting room at Pune station - the place was not very big, but had enough seats to rest for a while. The toilets were clean - but not clean enough for a paid waiting room. I spent some time at the waiting room - and used the time to charge up my phone and video camera as well. I remained there for an hour, before heading out to the platform. My train was to depart from Platform 1 itself - I retrieved my bag from the Cloak room a little before the rake for my train was brought in to the platform. The rake for my train was brought in at around 2145hrs or so for a 2210hrs departure. My coach was towards the rear end of the rake - but the coach position wasn't exactly as mentioned on the coach position indicator boards.
My coach, B1, was built in 2000 by Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala (WGACCN 00124). The coach appeared to be full right from the beginning - and most passengers seemed to be traveling till the end! It was mostly families all around - most of them traveling for the first time after the onset of the pandemic. My co-passengers were an elderly couple traveling to Ernakulam - looked like they were settled in Ernakulam. I was extremely tired - had an early start to the day, and a long journey over the sweltering day. Although the day started off cold, it turned quite hot by noon, and I was drained out by evening. All I wanted was to sleep peacefully - by now I considered the upper berth a blessing. I usually make it a point to check the locomotive before the journey starts - but this time, I was too tired to do all that! The train started off exactly on time - at 2210hrs.
The TTE came around soon after we started - and, I headed off to my berth soon later. I slept in no time - and had a nice long sleep. With that sleep, I also overcame a long fear of Upper berths! I woke up at around 0645hrs the next morning - the train had stopped at Desur station for a crossing then. We crossed the Bengaluru - Belagavi express here. We had an eventless run after that till Londa - where were reached by 0733hrs. Work on line doubling is progressing at a brisk pace in the region along with electrification. Orders for breakfast was taken during the run to Londa - I was sure the food would be served at Londa. The train has a reversal at Londa - this was my easy opportunity to find which loco(s) hauled my train!
|The Poorna Express waiting at Londa|
I had a nice tea at the station to start of the day. The vendors on the platform were busy selling Vada Pavs all the while. In the meantime, the locos slowly reversed - twin WDM3Ds from Pune, #11360 & #11430 were in-charge of my train. We were actually quite early at Londa - 52 minutes early, to be correct! Since we had a lot of time to go, the loco reversal also happened at a leisurely pace. I returned to my coach soon after loco reversal was complete. My breakfast was already kept on my berth - I had ordered for Idli Vada. The serving had three thin-as-dosa Idlys and one small vada - this was insufficient as a breakfast even to someone on a strict diet. The Idlis were really thin - they were just slightly fatter than a dosa - perhaps all the used was a teaspoon of batter per idly! I picked up two more Medu Vadas from a platform vendor to supplement my breakfast.
|Pune WDM3Ds #11340 & #11430 with my train at Londa|
We departed from Londa at 0830hrs - perfectly at scheduled departure time. We slowly trundled out of Londa - we crossed a freighter soon out of Londa, followed by an uneventful run to Castlerock. We rolled in to Castlerock by 0909hrs. The Braganza ghats commences from Castlerock - and all downbound trains receive braker locomotives from here. Although I wanted to go and check the braker locomotives, we stopped on a line that did not have a proper platform. Meanwhile, we crossed the Shalimar bound Amaravati Express here - twin Gooty WDM3Ds, banked by twin Hubballi WDP4s working this train. We started off from Castlerock at 0930hrs - perfectly on scheduled time.
I was eagely awaiting this section - the Braganza ghats between Castlerock and Kulem. This is a spectacular stretch with twists and turns, tunnels and waterfalls! My last trip to this stretch was long ago - atleast a decade ago, if not less - however, my last trip here was by foot! Yes! It was a trek with my close friend, Jayasankar. (Read about that journey here) Meanwhile, the train, now banked by twin WDP4s, slowly descended down the ghat. The train made mandatory halts at three places in the ghats - Caranzol, Dudhsagar and Sonalium - although there are "stations" at all these places, no tickets are issued. The stops aren't timetabled, either. These stops are technical stops for brake testing and for conveyance of operating staff. People who trek on the ghat section (technically illegal, though) also use these halts to ride to the nearest station (Castlerock or Kulem).
|Somewhere along the Braganza ghats..|
The section passes through a spectacular water falls - called the Dudhsagar, literally translated to Ocean of Milk. The waterfall generally resembles an ocean of milk - the drop is quite tall, and the froth from the water makes it look like milk. However, its beauty is more during the monsoons. The Dudhsagar falls is located on the River Mandovi, and is located inside a wildlife sanctuary. The train is the easiest way to reach the waterfalls - although you cannot get anywhere close to the waters here. Although the waterfall has water throughout the year, it reaches its best during the monsoon. I was traveling during the winter - and water level was low. The fall was still beautiful, though. Like all ghat sections, this railway line also hugs around the slopes of the ghats. Interestingly, the line runs along a "U" shape. The first station, Caranzol, is kind-of exactly opposite the last station, Sonalium.
The 26-kilometre long line through the ghat section was laid by the British, for the West of India Portuguese Guaranteed Railway (WIPGR) in the late 1880s. The line was built as a connection between the Mormugao port in Portuguese territory to British India, via Hubballi. The line has a very unique working pattern - the ghat section does not have catch sidings to arrest runaway trains, and hence the use of brakers on descending trains in mandatory. The locos used as bankers (in case of ascending trains, brakers in case of descending trains) are equipped with a system called Automatic Emergency Brake (AEB) - this system automatically applies brakes when the speed exceeds 30kmph. This system is a back-up to using brakers, to prevent any untoward incident following a brake failure or a coupler failure. The ghat section also has a very unique signalling system - something that I haven't seen elsewhere.
|WDP4 #40007 leading the braker pair!|
|WDP4 #40036 was the pair|
My lunch was served sometime during the journey on the ghats - the vendor informed that the food was loaded at Castle Rock. It was piping hot when served - but it was served too early to be consumed hot. Meanwhile, we rolled in to Kulem station by 1056hrs - about 19 minutes before scheduled time. I got the opportunity to see the brakers now - twin WDP4s, #40007 & #40036, from Hubballi shed did the job for my train. The locos were already disconnected by the time I got there. We started off from Kulem at the scheduled time, 1120hrs. I finished my lunch soon after we left Kulem - it was a very early lunch, though. It was an eventless run after Kulem - we had a halt at Sanvordem, on the way. We got to Madgaon at 1215hrs - about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. The train has another reversal here. The locos were disconnected soon after arrival - I believe they refueled the loco before reversal.
|The lunch platter|
|Just before the locos were disconnected for reversal, at Madgaon!|
I picked up a vegetable sandwich from a stall on the platform, as a post lunch snack. The station was kinda sleepy at the time - there were no other departures at the time, except for mine. There seemed to be a check-point at the exit of the station - perhaps, to check RT-PCR reports of people arriving in to Goa. The train started off from Madgaon perfectly at the scheduled departure time, 1320hrs. It began raining soon after we departed from Madgaon. I had no option of doorplating anymore, and headed inside. Most people were asleep - or preparing to sleep by now, This meant there was no space to sit - I headed off to my upper berth. I generally do not sleep during the day, especially while traveling - but I had no choice this time. Sadly though, I slept for some time!
I woke up just as we were pulling in to Shiroor station for an unscheduled halt. It was still raining, and there was no choice of getting off the train. During the halt, we crossed the Mangalore-Mumbai super fast express. We started from Shiroor by 1624hrs. The next halt, a scheduled halt, was at Mookambika Road (Byndoor) halt station. The station serves as a railhead to the famous Kollur Mookambika temple. We got to Bydoor by 1633hrs, and departed by 1635hrs. The station is located right after a tunnel, and is very picturesque. We crossed the Mumbai bound Matsyagandha Express at Senapura. We rolled into our next halt - Kundapura, at 1659hrs. I badly wanted to have something hot - but none of the stations we stopped until then had catering facilities, and the train did not have onboard facilities either. I was hopeful of finding something at Kundapura - but I was disappointed.
|While waiting for departure from Kulem!|
The next halt was at Udupi, where we reached by 1734hrs - 4 minutes ahead of schedule. I was excited to spot a catering stall very close to my coach! I managed to get a hot cup of tea from here - something that I was longing for since I woke up! The stall was crowded - most passengers in the train had thronged this small outlet. We started off at 1740hrs - perfectly to schedule. We had an unscheduled halt at Mulki for unknown reasons. It got dark outside, and traveling got a little boring now. I had to turn to my phone for some entertainment - again, something that I don't really like. I am not sure if we had stopped anywhere after Mulki - we got to Mangalore Junction by 1850hrs, 25 minutes ahead of schedule. It was still raining! We crossed the Kannur-Bangalore Express here.
I had to buy something for dinner - I couldn't order on eCatering due to internet connectivity issues during the journey. The coach was well away from the platform shelter, and there were no stalls in the vicinity. A few vendors turned up as the rain mellowed a bit - the initial lot of vendors had only non-vegetarian items. I waited for a while to see if anything vegetarian turns up - the only thing close to vegetarian to turn up was Egg Biriyani. I picked up one after a while - the rain picked up soon later, and I finished my dinner waiting in a short shelter outside my coach. The biriyani was delicious - must say that. We started from Mangalore Junction at 1925hrs - perfectly on schedule. It was a quick jaunt to Kasaragod (2006hrs). I was all set to sleep by now.
I headed off to my upper berth soon after we left Kasaragod (2008hrs). The train had reached Kanhangad by the time I slept. I had another round of great, undisturbed, sleep - I slept all the way till the train was just departing from Ernakulam town station! The train finally rolled in to Ernakulam Junction station at 0302hrs - 18 minutes ahead of schedule. There ended my 5 day long solo journey!
Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 01197 Pune - Ernakulam "Poorna" Special Express
Loco link: WDM3D #11360 & #11430 of Pune
Coach: B1, WGACCN #00124 based at Pune.
Coach Maintenance: 10/10 (Old, but very well kept)
Bedroll: Not Available.
Catering: Onboard not available - but the food from Londa & Castlerock was good.
This was a journey I had been looking forward to - a revisit to the Dudhsagar falls was just the cherry o on the icing! These 5 days were an amazing "me" time before getting busy with work all over again. The Poorna express has plenty of buffer time at almost every stretch it runs through - I think these could be used to ensure a pre-midnight arrival at Ernakulam. This train arrives at a very odd time, and connectivity is an issue for people traveling ahead of Ernakulam. I really loved this journey, and look forward to repeating this again soon!