Booking a ticket on the 12685 was a no-brainer. Three of us from work were traveling to Chennai for some official work. We had to be back at work the next day, and this was the only train that would get us back to Kasaragod in time for work. No other trains were considered during the booking - the only confusion was between AC 3-Tier and AC 3-Tier Economy! We chose the latter - a questionable decision, I'd say.
September 21, 2022:
It was sweltering out there in Chennai. It almost looked like I was out of a shower, with sweat gushing out through all the available pores. The time was a little past 1400hrs - the train was just a couple of hours and 20 minutes way, we were roughly 30 kilometres away from Chennai Central, I mean, Puraitchi Thalaivar Dr. MG Ramachandran Central Railway Station - a distance that would take no less than an hour and 30 minutes by road. We were counting on the faster suburban EMU services to save on some time. We had roughly an hour worth of work left, and the pace of this work was dependent on a multitude of factors. I was losing hope as every minute went by - I quickly looked at alternatives - the only one would reach Kasaragod only past 10.30hrs - that would be too late for work!
These words from, The Alchemist echoed in my ears as the clock ticked past..
“When you want something, the whole universe conspires in order for you to achieve it”
The person who was doing our work understood out predicament, and speeded up, pieces slowly fell into place like a jig-saw puzzle being completed. We were out of the office by 1450hrs - a friendly autorickshaw pilot turned up for us. He quickly air dropped us at Tambaram railway station, roughly 5 kilometres from the place we were at. I had purchased return tickets for the suburban train in the morning itself, and that really saved a lot of time for us. We ran on to the foot-over-bridge, and were greeted by the announcement that the next local to Chennai Beach would depart from Platform 1. We literally ran over the bridge, and rushed down to Platform 1. It was around 1505hrs then. We hadn't had our lunch, and were parched - the first stop was at the sole open stall on the platform, from where we stocked water and bought some packaged foods.
The clock ticked past 1515hrs - and there was no sign of the train yet. I quickly checked on my favorite travel mate, Where is my train, and found that the app had no update about the train, except that it would be a train from Chengalpattu to Chennai Beach, and the train was actually running late. The train turned up a little past 1517hrs - and departed a couple of minutes later. I managed to get a seat under a fan, but was still sweating it out. The train crawled out of Tambaram, painfully slowly for us, as it negotiated points and entered on to the suburban line. Each stop on the line appeared more and more painfully.
The app said the train should reach by 1543 - an additional 5-7 minutes later due to the delay. We could get our train to Mangalore even if the train reaches Chennai Park by 1600hrs. The train got clear signals all through the run - there were no trains ahead of it, and since the section was under automatic signaling, we didn't have to wait for signals anywhere. We got off the EMU at Chennai Park station, by around 1558hrs or so - 22 minutes to go for our train to Kasaragod! I had left some things and a bag at the male dormitory, which was located near Platform 4. And, our train was to leave from Platform 6. We had to run as soon as we got off the train - Chennai Park station is essentially located right opposite to Chennai Central station, and is connected by an underpass.
We finally got into Chennai Central, ah, no, Puraitchi Thalaivar Dr. MG Ramachandran Central Railway station, at 1605hrs - I rushed to the dormitory, while the other two directly headed to the train. I got enough time to pack my things and check out of the dormitory, and run towards the train. I reached the tail end of the train by 1612hrs - I slowed down a bit after that, since I was really tired, and walked down to our coach - the only AC 3-Tier Economy coach in the consist. We had arrived that morning in the very same train, traveling in the exact same coach! I stepped into the coach at 1616hrs - 4 minutes before our scheduled departure time. I just managed to get to our berth, and leave my bag below the berth - and the train got moving with the characteristic CBC Jerk!
We crawled out of Chennai Central - slowly negotiating points after points to reach Basin Bridge junction. We picked pace after Basin Bridge and rushed towards our next halt, at Avadi. The coach was quite cold - patronage seemed quite good as well. We were in AC 3-Tier Economy coach -and it was just the second day of bedroll service in AC 3-Tier Economy. A new storage area was created, and fresh bed rolls were placed on all upper berths. My previous experiences with 3E wasn't great - I, personally, do not look forward to traveling in 3E again, unless I am out of options. I found the upper berth to be quite claustrophobic - the head room is too less and the berth is quite narrow as well. Sitting in lower berths isn't comfortable either, due to the reduced leg room.
I returned to the door as we were nearing Avadi. I wanted to get fresh and also capture the entry into Avadi. The TTE checked my ticket as he saw me loitering around the door - he marked all the three of us 'present' and headed in to check the rest of the tickets. He used the recently introduced Hand-held terminal to verify tickets - a technology that should've been common place by now. We crawled in to Avadi soon later. The platform for mainline trains at Avadi is located along the up line - so a train departing out of Chennai, and stopping at Avadi, needs to cross the UP line (the line towards Chennai) and then enter into the loop line - the entire exercise is very time consuming!
Quite surprisingly, a sizeable number of passengers were waiting at Avadi to board the train. I am sure Avadi is easier for people in the suburbs to reach - they also get some additional breathing time as compared to going to Central. The stop at Avadi was a little long - we started the process of crawling over the points again after Avadi. We had some competition from EMUs as we sped out of Avadi. This train has non-stop run after Avadi - all the way till we get to Katpadi. I was quite tired and returned to my berth now. The AC was quite cold. The berths in our 'cabin' were all full - it felt quite congested and uncomfortable, to be really honest.
We had a slowdown as we reached Arakkonam - the train shifted from the "main" line (the fast line) to the "slow" line as we prepared to head towards Jolarpettai. I remained indoors for most part of the ride after Arakkonam - I was too tired to door plate. I headed towards a door a little before we reached Katpadi. It was too cold inside the coach - and the temperature was getting a little uncomfortable. We had a steady stream of crossings. I was at the door while the train entered the bridge across Ponnai River - this is the same bridge that was damaged due to heavy rains last year. Incessant rains caused damaged to the foundation of the bridge - this is a British era brick-and-mortar arch bridge. The bridge was repaired by concreting and foundation strengthening.
|Interiors of the 3E coach|
|Side lower berths of 3E coach - they aren't aligned to the main berths|
We crossed a train while on the bridge. The train arrived at Katpadi soon later - it was already getting dark, and I couldn't see much of the surroundings after this point. I was at the door as we entered Katpadi - I wanted to see the line coming in from Tirupati - the line joins the station yard almost after the platforms on the main line has commenced. Our dinner was loaded at Katpadi - I've usually seen vendors taking food orders before they load the food, but that wasn't the case here. The Chennai bound Brindavan Express arrived at Katpadi as we started from there.
Police officers came in as we started from Katpadi, and ensured that all doors were closed. I wanted to see the line towards Villupuram from Katpadi - but the doors were already closed, and visibility from inside the coach was poor. It was already dark outside. I badly wanted to have some food and perhaps hit the bed earlier. The vendor in our coach came around to take orders for dinner soon after left Katpadi. We chose to have Chapati - I picked the veg curry along with it. The food was served just as the train reached Jolarpettai - I regretted ordering the food, since hot Dosas with vada came in at Jolarpettai. Since we had already picked up Chapati, we purchased some vada (Medu Vada) from Jolarpettai. The vada was really crisp and tasty, going well with the chutney served along. Coming to the pre-ordered food - the Chapati was a little to thick and hard, while the curry was too watery. I'll try out the dosas, maybe the next time!
Berths were out as we left Jolarpettai - most other passengers around our seat were alighting at Kozhikode or Kannur - both places are reached at quite odd hours. All of them wanted to sleep a little before that - much to our happiness! I wanted to have a coffee from Salem though - I remained awake for the next hour or so, until we got to Salem. I moved to the door as the train approached Salem - I saw a newly laid railway track joining the mainline from the left side as we neared Salem station. I was quite surprised about the new line - I checked on Google maps later to find that the line was a new 'bypass' line being built for trains coming from Omalur side.
We were a little late as we reached Salem - very interestingly the coffee shop was located right next to my coach. The shop is located right outside the AC Waiting room on Platform 4 - this shop sells very good filter coffee. The starter turned to caution as I was returning with the coffee - but the train didn't move until I was inside the coach. I headed to bed, I mean, berth, soon after finishing off the fabulous coffee. I slept quite well after that - the running around during the day, and the last minutes of anxiety surely had its toll on me. I slept quite well after Salem - I briefly woke up as we were departing from Kannur (I recognized the station as Kannur on spotting the Jan Shatabdi Express nearby). I had another nice sleep, and woke up just as the train was passing Kottikulam. We finally rolled into Kasaragod by 0558hrs - a minute ahead of schedule!
Check out my video here!
Journey in a Nutshell:
Train Number: 12685 Chennai - Mangalore Superfast Express
Loco link: Unknown WAP7 from an unidentified shed!
Coach: M1, LWACCNE #213158 built by ICF Chennai in June 2022, based at Basin Bridge Jn, Chennai
Punctuality: 10/10 (Perfectly on time at either ends)
Cleanliness: 10/10 (Very clean)
Coach Maintenance: 10/10 (It was a new coach, very well kept)
Bedroll: Available - clean and fresh
Catering: Onboard catering available - dinner loaded from Katpadi Jn
Overall: 9/10 (Was a great journey, but the coach was little too cramped for comfort)
The new AC 3-Tier Economy is a class that could've been revolutionary, but killed by the steep pricing structure. With a reduction of fare by just 8%, the AC 3-Tier Economy (3E) offers practically no reason for people to switch. The berths are narrower and its much uncomfortable on the whole, unless all the 6 people in your cabin are your family/friends. The upper berth was a little too claustrophobic - the lower berth was slightly better. Of all, I found the middle better to be better than the other two. This class is being phased out by the Railways as you read this - that was a golden opportunity wasted by the railways! Coming to the train - I think this train could be timed to leave a little later from Chennai - probably another 30 minutes later - and could still make it to Mangalore roughly around the same time.