December 05, 2021:
After having arrived at Nilambur Road by the Kottayam-Nilambur Road express, we had to spend a little over 3 hours at Nilambur before our return train would depart. The fact that TW and TD were traveling along, I had to make sure they were entertained as well. We were at the railway station until the locomotive reversed and took charge at the other end, and then turned off. We hired an autorickshaw to head to the Teak Museum, located about 4 kilometres by road. I had zeroed in on this place after a bit of research, considering that we had an early start to the day, and TD could turn cranky with the day getting hotter.
The visit to the Teak Museum was exciting - the museum was fairly well kept, and the displays were properly titled as well. The adjoining "Bioresources Park" had all the elements to keep TD engaged as well. Along with the sprawling park, there also existed a small play area for kids - TD made it a point to play on every item kept there. At one point, TD did not want to leave the place - except for my offer to buy her an ice cream! After the Teak museum visit, we headed to a nearby restaurant for a relaxed lunch, and then returned to the railway station. We were back at the station a little before 2pm - and our train was to depart only a little past 3pm (at 1510hrs to be precise).
The railway station was mostly deserted at this point - a few faces that we had seen on our inbound were present at the teak museum or the restaurant as well. This confirmed that some of the crowd on the train were tourists trying to spend their weekend visiting places nearby. Some of these faces had also returned to the station a little after we reached. The station had a fairly big waiting area at the entrance - ceiling fans help keep our cools. I headed to the platform a little early to watch the locomotive being turned on.
|Nilambur Road Railway Station
The process of turning on a diesel locomotive was earlier described as a long drawn and fuel consuming process. In the past, it was often said that it was not efficient to turn off a diesel locomotive if the break was short - however, off late, all diesel locomotives are being shut down for even short breaks (except when halt is part of a schedule). The crowd at the station slowly built up as the departure time came closer. The reservation coaches seemed full, while the unreserved coaches were set to overflow! I remained near the locomotive until it was turned on - the process seemed to have simplified over the years!
|WDM3A #14076 of Ernakulam before commencing our return journey!
Our coach for the return journey was a 2011 built General Second Class sitting coach (GS 11447 based at Nagercoil) - this was an "Utkrisht" coach as well. The coach was built by Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) - I am not a fan of BEML coaches, for a variety of reasons. One major one being its window design - the bars are welded quite close to the body and its really difficult to look out of the coaches. These coaches also had poor ergonomics, in the past - most of them have been refurbished and this part is mostly better now. There was nothing "Utkrisht" about the coach - except for fancy coloured bright looking laminate boards used in partitions, and a few stickers here and there. Utkrisht was supposed to be a program to upgrade coaches - but the upgradations were largely only in terms of using fancy laminates and stickers - no additional facilities were provided, and not even upkeep of basic amenities happened!
We had window seats for the return journey - and this was surely a blessing. The train departed perfectly on schedule from Nilambur Road (1510hrs). The coach wasn't very crowded as we departed out of Nilambur road - but more people joined at the stations en route. We had a halt at Vaniambalam (1524hrs - perfectly on time). The coach filled at Angadipuram - which is a major town on the route. We left Angadipuram at 1552hrs - about 2 minutes behind schedule. The sun was on our side, and it was getting a little hot in there. TD got a companion in the form of another kid (more or less the same age as TD) - they got busy playing with each other. The run from Nilambur to Shoranur was very uneventful - there were no crossings or events worth remembering. The train had very good patronage despite not stopping at most stations on the route - that is worth mentioning here.
We rolled in to Shoranur Junction by 1620hrs - about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The Netravati Express to Lokmanya Tilak Terminus was waiting for clearance on Platform 7, while we were admitted on Platform 6. I rushed off to see the loco change - the WDM3A was already disconnected and was ready to go out. Meanwhile, the Coimbatore Kannur Express came in, and the Netravati express departed. It took a while for the new loco for our train to be brought in - the new loco was a WAP4 from Erode (#22270). While the loco was being attached, the Porbander Express also made its way in to Shoranur Junction.
|WAP4 #22270 of Erode coming in to take charge of my train at Shoranur
I picked up some snacks and tea from the platform before returning to our coach - which was fully occupied by now. If not for reservations, this coach would've surely filled way beyond capacity. Our departure from Shoranur was delayed by a minute (1651hrs) due to unknown reasons - perhaps line clearance on the main line. This being a "shuttle" train, stops at almost every station on the route. Our next halt was at Vallathol Nagar, where we reached very early! We were there at 1702hrs - while our scheduled arrival was only 1714hrs! I believe this halt timing was prepared keeping some overtake in mind. We simply waited till our scheduled departure time, and then started moving (1715hrs). I remember crossing a train after that - I think it was some Sabarimala special train (Kollam-Chennai?).
|The Indian Railway tea!
|Waiting for the starter at Vallathol Nagar!
The run ahead was largely uneventful. We were running through the section during a dry time - very few trains run at this point. A deluge of trains begin a little post sunset - trains go towards Palakkad one behind the other at that time. We kept making stops time and again - Wadakkanchery, Mulagunnathukavu, Punkunnam... and Thrissur (1750hrs - about 6 minutes behind schedule). There was some activity at Thrissur - the platform for trains towards Shoranur/Palakkad was busy - two arrivals were expected in quick succession.
|The run to Thrissur!
The halt was eventless - the crowd never decreased inside the coach, though. We started off 2 minutes later. We crossed two trains in quick succession - the Alappuzha-Kannur "Executive" express and the Trivandrum-New Delhi Kerala Express. The sun was setting by now - the sky turned orange, and the evening rays reflection off the farms and waterbodies along the track side made for a beautiful scene. We rolled in to Pudukkad by 1805hrs - early by 6 minutes! This was another longish halt - we got moving at the scheduled departure time (1812hrs). I slowly moved to the door soon after departure from Pudukkad - we still had some time to go for Irinjalakuda though. The train finally rolled in to Irinjalakuda by 1824hrs - perfectly at its scheduled time. The sun had set - and all we had was some stray dusk lights. It was getting dark - and the birds on the trees at Irinjalakuda station's parking lot were making quite a racket.
|At the end of the long day...
It was the end of a very long day - TD was tired by now, and she slept the moment we got into our car. She woke up just as we reached home - right in time to dig into her favorite Manchurian with Fried Rice. End of a day I'd cherish for long!Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 16325 Nilambur Road - Kottayam Express
Loco link: WDM3A #14076 of Ernakulam until Shoranur, followed by WAP4 #22270 of Erode
Coach: D2, GS #11447 based at Nagercoil
Coach Maintenance: 10/10
Bedroll: Not Applicable
Catering: Not Applicable
This was a fulfilling day. The return journey from Nilambur had nothing special - we were quite tired from the long hot day at Nilambur. The coach was crowded and the sun was upon us on the side we were seated in. However, the journey was a much needed break and my family enjoyed it to the hilt! A special journey that would probably remember close to my heart, till it beats its last!
Do visit my video report of this journey on YouTube!