PS: Dont worry, I was not in the GMs saloon!
But yes, GMs saloon was attached to CGSK on that fine evening. GM, WCR holding Additional charge of SECR then was on an inspection trip to SECR. On the day, he was inspecting Pendra Road (Between BSP and KTE). His inspection got over, his saloon was attached to the rear of our Chhattisgarh Sampark Kranti Express till Katni Murwara. So, I am encouraged to call our CGSK as GM special from Pendra Road to KTE! (I am not aware if this practice is prevalent in IR or not but I take the cue from the movie Airforce one.. wherein the US Prez in the movie makes a dramatic escape out of his actual Air force one and the plane in which he was received, Hercules C130 it was I guess, transmitted a message of changing its flight code from current to Air force one!)
Coming back, to make the run special and to add to the might of the GM special we had the white beauty of GZB with single dark red ribbon at the helm which superbly supplemented the all greens it got, effortlessly negotiating gradients, curves and snaking with the 23 coach load on the moonlit night. Needless to say with the GM riding the train, any interruptions, delays in the run were out of question..
As far as I remember correctly we had a timely departure from BSP. Me along with my brother and mom were at A1 near the rear end of the train. I had no idea that a ride with the GMs saloon was in store ahead. Everything was as usual with the negotiating of Khongsara Khodri ghats. Pendra Road is the first stoppage for CGSK after BSP. When Pendra Road arrived, I was surprised when we were admitted in pf2. Since passenger traffic is not that heavy in this single line stretch, normally up and down express trains are usually admitted in pf1. In all my runs through Pendra I have noticed my Utkal/CGSK being admitted in pf1 in both directions. The halt in pf2 of pendra went on and on. Curious I went to the door to find almost every head on the pf looking towards the rear of the train. Some shunting activity was going on. On enquiry, the attendant of our coach revealed that GMs saloon is being attached. Since the platform was not long for CGSK to accomodate completely, it ended just after our coach. All the UR passengers had to run beyond the pf to get in. This was one of the drawbacks of having a saloon attached. Had we got pf1, entire rake would have got in. Perhaps GM was more important for authorities than passengers!
As shunting was involved, the halt at Pendra Road was pretty long. Being winter days, it started getting dark by the time we were leaving Pendra. Meanwhile, some 3-4 railway personnel got into our bay. As i shared the bay I could hear some railway gossiping. I tell you, as a railfan I enjoyed it a lot! :-) Just as we were about to start, one of them chatted on his cellphone. As he was talking I could make out one of their colleagues was in the loco and he was chatting. With GMs saloon attached, are some senior officials also deployed in the loco? He asked jokingly "kitni der mein pahunchaoge katni GM sahab ko?" (How much time it will take for GM sir to reach Katni?) I was framing the thoughts of live coverage from that cab but alas that was not to be. Shunting completed, it was time for the Ghazi warrior to gallop ahead. We moved ahead. I am sure the entire Pendra staff would have sighed a breath of relief having sent off the GM!
One of them started reading TOI on his phone and shared the news item of WR removing PSRs that had appeared in the paper. All of them expressed surprise with the print media keeping track of PSR removal! I asked one of them sitting next to me about the MPS of the stretch. He answered "90". Then I asked if P4/P7 really made any improvement over the M4s in this stretch? He said "yes". He said WAM4 struggles with the CGSK load and a P4/P7 is much better. (I thought with all of IRFCA around, he would have made equal number of frnz and enemies with this fact!) Their gossiping continued with the peculiar observations made during the inspection. While I could feel that outside the CGSK was piercing the heartland at MPS. Whenever we had an SR, P7 would conjure up a magic in picking up. In the single line stretch till Anuppur, no loop line crossings, no slowdowns, no silly business. It was plane MPS riding!
We halted punctually at APR. From the door I could notice some activity near the saloon. From Anuppur, it was double line and P7 started rocking again. Amlai, Burhar were rocketed past in a flash and we sped towards our next halt Shahdol. At SDL the railway folks got down. Again the halt was precise and we moved ahead.
After SDL, the route is everything but straight. I headed to the door. The cool blast of wind was a touch discomforting but I didnt want to miss the stupendous night action. And boy I wasnt disappointed either. One of my best doorplating experiences! We flied past the landscape, obliging the greens. The panto spark and station tubelights which we were crossing in a flurry made the setting even more thrilling. Nowrozabad, Umaria (the station from which the tropic of cancer passes) too were dispatched in a flurry.
It seemed that we would reach KTE well before time inspite of the elaborate proceedings we had witnessed at Pendra Road. The moments of the entire trip was the superbly, terrific non stop MPS run from Umaria to Katni. The Rupaund skip being the most fascinating. This station is on the curve. The train literally swayed as it negotiated the curve. Suddenly the tublights appeared out of the curve and went flashing by in a jiffy. In the process posing a brilliant display of lighting on the rake of the train. Peeping out of the door, I could say the experience was seriously fantastic!
Now came the critical moment. I was doing head and tail in my mind wether we would get a smooth entry into KMZ (Katni Murwara), without an irritating red in the NKJ yard courtsey us being the GM special or will the customary halt-before-you-go reception prevail. I had thought only if we get a perfect non stop entry into KMZ, I will believe the repute of GM! (A railfan's mind please.. ) My heartbeats started increasing as we were nearing NKJ. Soon the lights started appearing. I could not see the signals ahead, but we had slowed down a touch. We were not galloping now. My heart started sinking as I could sense the speed decreasing even further through the NKJ yard. I was almost cursing KMZ for not respecting their GM when I almost yelled in jubilation as I could see the ramp of KMZ! Which meant we had indeed crossed the KMZ yard without stopping although slowpaced but indeed a miracle nonetheless! But still I wanted completely unhindered entry into KMZ for the perfect reception and so we were granted! In royal style we were at 0 kmph at SDL pf and then we were 0 kmph again only at KMZ! No stopping in between. Now that was a truly GM special class run! Fast, non stop, all greens and mighty! The P7 ahead indeed made the experience even more enriching!
We shelled our GM special tag at KMZ with the shunter taking away the saloon to KTE. Now we were again just another train on the vast IR expanse! All the might of the dusk was squared up in the morning when we were held up before NZM countless times for overtakes! AP, KK, BCT Raj almost everyone overtook us at will!