A very special Sunday...Part 1

July 22, 2007 was a very special Sunday to me. The excitement began on July 19, 2007 when I read a mail about a railfanning trip to Odha! Getting "regulatory" approvals (read "nod from parents") was not very easy! After persuasions, I got an "all clear" from home. I hardly slept the previous night. I was up and running by 0450 itself on the day. I left my home at 0540, and reached Vashi at 0550. I was to catch the 0555 EMU to thane. I rushed to the station. The EMU was no where to be seen!

The indicators were still showing that the EMU would come soon. Finally, the fellow showed up at 0605. The train left at 0610, about 15 minutes late. The motorman was driving swiftly, and all halts were reduced to a mere pause! The crowd was "okay" throughout the journey. We approached Thane outer at 0631. The Nagpur-Mumbai Vidarbha express was crawling towards Platform 7. The loco in charge was WCAM3 #21936. I walked down to Platform 5. The coach indicators were showing the coach positions for 2809 Howrah Mail (via Nagpur). I went around to check the reservation charts, and found that Tapovan has a huge crowd! The train had a huge waiting list, with many passengers left uncleared!

At around 0640, WCAM3 #21882 pulled in with the Howrah mail. The train was about 22 coaches long, and the platform could accommodate only 17! The train stopped twice on the platform. Meanwhile, WCAM3 #21933 rushed through with the Mumbai bound Punjab Mail. Announcements about the Tapovan was made as soon as Howrah mail pulled out. I walked up towards Coach 9 (where my coach was expected to come). The train pulled in at 0648 behind WCAM3 #21881. My coach was D2 (05606, built in April 2005 by ICF), and my seat was 96! It was a window seat, but in the left side of the train!

The train pulled out of Thane at 0652. We crossed a twin Pune WDM2 hauled BCNA near Parsik Tunnel, and the Mahalaxmi express near Diva. There was a steady stream of incoming trains as my train proceeded towards Kalyan. I had my breakfast from the train (Cutlet and Bread) as the train waited at Kalyan Outer! We pulled into Kalyan at 0729, and left at 0731. (Late by 21 minutes!). IRFCAns Abhishek Tamhankar and Pradeep Galgali joined the train at Kalyan. Pradeep was seated right behind me, while Abhishek was on the other row. The coach had the new "bus" type seats. We found it more comfortable than the old ones! The train put up a great show as soon as we left Kalyan. The train literally blasted through Ambivli station. (I checked the speed using a stopwatch, and it was 100.5 kmph!)

We stopped at Kasara outer for some time, and then stopped at Kasara (At 0828). Bankers were attached, and we left at 0835. The coach was fully crowded, and all the doors were packed! We crossed the Panchavati Express at Kasara, and Mangala Express (Ernakulam bound) just outside Kasara. The run across the ghat was chilling! This was my first experience of the Thull ghats! We reached Igatpuri at around 0855. We went to purchase tickets for our journey ahead to Odha. The lady at the counter issued us a "Blank Paper Ticket".

We walked over to Platform 2, to see the Howrah Mail still standing (Tapovan left about 5 minutes after reaching Igatpuri). We went to have a look at its loco. The loco hadn't arrived even then! Finally, the loco reached at around 0910. The loco was WAP4 #22634 of Santragachhi. The train was cleared at around 0925. By around now, a train arrived on Platform 3. We were expecting that to be ours, but later found that the train was LTT-Gorakhpur Express. The WCAM3 was detached, and the loco parked itself on the line between Platform 2 & 3. An RPF guys was roaming around us, and hence photography was a strict no!

Bhusawal WAP4 #22245 came in and took charge of the Gorakhpur Express. Our train was supposed to come in very soon. Our train, 1353 Mumbai CST-Bhusawal Passenger arrived at around 0955. WCAM3 #21950 was in charge. The loco was detached and she went to the siding line. We were anxiously waiting for our power to come in. All of a sudden, Pradeep shouted "WAP4"! We were surprised to see that our train was allotted a WAP4! The loco came close, and she was WAP4 #22371 of Bhusawal. (This loco was earlier with Howrah).

By now, Bhagalpur express pulled into Platform 3. We were confused as to who would move out. Surprisingly, we got our starter first. The 14 coach load of our train was peanuts for the WAP4, and she showed her might soon after clearing the points! WAM4 #20620 of Itarsi was waiting outside to take charge of the Bhagalpur express. The AC trip shed had a huge cache of locos (From almost all sheds up north! I spotted Bhusawal WAM4s, Itarsi WAM4s, Santragacchi WAP4s, Jhansi WAP4, Ghaziabad WAP1, and what not!).

Our train picked speed quite fast, and we hit 90 very soon. The Mumbai bound Godavari Express crossed us not much far away. We were doing 100 kmph at most instances! The run was amazing. We crossed the Mumbai bound Mahanagari Express behind a WAM4 some time before Nasik. We reached Nasik at 1107. The Bhagalpur express (which was following us) reached Nasik at 1112. We were cleared at 1115. The train ran at 100+ kmph all the way except for the Godavari bridge (which has a restriction of 50kmph!).

We reached Odha at around 1130. Pradeep had a contact at the station, and we went over to meet him. Just while waiting outside, we saw WAM4 #21281 of Bhusawal speeding past the tiny station with the Rajendra Nagar - LTT Superfast. We had a small chat with the person, who gave us a refreshing cup of tea. We were waiting anxiously for the Bhagalpur express to rush past! The fellow finally made it at 1142. The speed was amazing! We were back at the person's gate. We all were now waiting to see the Pushpak Express.

Pushpak Express crossed the station at around 1206 with Jhansi WAP4 #22361 in charge. Pradeep had a two of his colleagues joining us (they traveled in the Passenger right from Dadar!). One of the colleagues was having his daughter (a budding railfan) along. Pradeep was explaining lots of information to them, while myself and Abhishek look around! The station is located quite far from the village, and the patronage was very poor! The station is surrounded by farms on all side!

Sometime later, WAM4 #20632 (of Itarsi) rushed past with the Chhapra-LTT Express. While w were still wandering around, WAP4 #22339 of Santragachhi rushed light towards Manmad. We thought there was some failure ahead. We then went to the station office, and had a very friendly interaction with the staff there! They explained the block working system, and how communication is made. Soon, they received a message from Kherwadi (the next station towards Manmad) that a freighter was expected soon. Line clear was given. Soon, they communicated that the train crossed their station. The signals at Odha now turned Green (on the UP Main line) for the train to blast through! I looked at the panel, and saw that the train crossed the outer signal (it was communicated by a "beep").

I rushed out of the station to click the train. That was WAG5 #23025 of Itarsi with a BCNA. We looked around the station, and saw an image taken by IRFCAns adorning the wall of the station! The image had the CR logo, and IRFCA logo on it! Soon, information about another "AC Light" was recieved. That was WAG5 HB #24043 of Jhansi. A few minutes later, WAG7 #27814 of Bhusawal rushed through light (towards Nasik). On enquiring, the station staff found that our train had reached Kherwadi. They recieved the signal for the same, and the station bell was rung. We were ready to return...

(To be continued. This was Part 1 of a two part series. Part 2 will be published soon...)