When you succeed to plan you feel good, when what you planned succeeds you feel great and when you succeed as you planned the feeling is stellar
Something similar happened to me at the fall of 2010. December was traditionally never the brightest in terms of my rail travels. But things changed for good as the year ended and I got my two trips. One was NDLS-JAT and one was NDLS-BSP. The best part was I had to travel alone to BSP and I had a reasonably good number of days at my disposal as vacations. In short, I could think of a Railfan’s connection from NDLS to BSP.
And to make the most of the occasion, I decided to fulfil a long pending wish.. and that was to take the magical 2002 till Bhopal and then anything to BSP. And as it finalised, this “anything” later as booked was Amarkantak Superfast Exp from BPL to BSP.
When every bit fell into place, what emerged was NDLS – BPL by 2002 on 18th Dec. Irctc was kind enough to grant me a Window Seat. And my heart was bumping with joy. Almost daily I stared at the ticket for a min or two and every time my spirit went for a joyride. I just couldn’t wait for the thrill of the fastest run possible on IR.
The only worry was F.O.G.!! 18th Dec is the time of the year for which even the Mausam Bhawan at Lodhi Road cant tell whether there will be fog or not! I just prayed as I dint wish to miss the 150kmph bazooka!
The build up to the d-day were sedate. No threatening spell of fog made up the headlines and I tried hard to stay optimistic. The other trouble with fog was if it delays 2002, in all probability I was to miss the Amarkantak .
The morning, I woke up before alarm at 3.45! Before going to the mirror, I jumped up, wore my spects and looked at the heavens. Relieved I was to see a clear sky! I prayed again for a clear day ahead. Morning chores done, I locked home by 04.50 and was on my society gate 5 min later. The taxi wala duly came as appointed and we sped towards NDLS Paharganj side.
The expanse of the roads in Delhi comes to the fore at such an unearthy hour and I could only admire as we zipped through to destination. On the way my taxi-walla asked me...
“Kaun si gaadi loge Sahab?” (Which train will you take Sir?).. I was startled, not by the fact that he said me Saheb as I am still 20 something but it was like getting woken up from sleep when I was dreaming about the day as it was to unfold.
“Shatabdi” I responded not interested to reveal the further details. Again I immersed into 2002 dream.
“Kahaan ke liye?”
“Bhopal”. Again I said reluctantly.
“Arre sahib wo to bahut tez chalti hai”. “150 pe jayegi Agra tak”. He said as a matter-of-factly. Instantly as a nuclear chain reaction all my senses came to life. I felt sooo good to hear the praise of the mighty shatabdi from my cab driver. He revealed how he has seen Shatabdi rip through Ballabhgarh (from where he hails) Level Crossing. His each word of appreciation for the king fuelled my excitement and anticipation.
In the open Delhi roads it took just 15-20 min to reach outside pf1 of NDLS from my home. It was about 1 hr for the king to depart. C7 was to come just as one enters from the main gate of NDLS. No FOB, no walking. It was becoming as simple as it can get. I had Samit Da’s Atlas (for the first time) and TT for company. But I had missed something....... A Pen!!!!! Immediately bought one from the book shop in pf1.
0549 I was blessed with the first looks of THE train. The moment for which I had waited all my life was here. It was renewed love at first sight when I saw 30222 snaking in with brightly lit swanky coaches of the Linke Hoffman Bosche make in an equally brightly lit pf1 of NDLS. The loco had its markers on and that added to the setting.
The train had LED boards and the station had digital charts for W/L status. Looked impressive. Pantry Car staff had taken their positions to load in their ifs and buts for the journey ahead. And so was a not-so-heavy crowd with a fair presence of people from across the borders. “Taj bound folks” came the first thought. And I focussed back on the Shatabdi. Entered into the train with a feeling of dream coming true. And thankfully weather was clear still. I duly got my window seat. Once sit I opened the tray, took out my new Pen, atlas, TT and settled down.
Sitting there I wished the LPs luck . “C’mon boys, give me the full blast!!” This was my chance to see what Priority means on IR! Meanwhile my co-passengers were somewhere from Eastern neighbourhood. And they clicked everything from the Morning tea plate to Breakfast to what not. In front of me was a lady with her very naughty boy and an extremely cute little girl. The little girl when sat on the chair, the chair looked BIIIG.. So small she was.. .. And from NDLS her first of many questions to her mom was “Mumma Chambal kab aayegi..?”. This made me smile while people along side me chit chattied each other. I was now eagerly waiting for 0615. As soon as the watch struck the numbers, we started moving ahead with a nice jerk. 11 coaches with EOG was nothing for the mighty beast incharge ahead. As soon as we started we slowed and came to a halt. And so did all my expectations of mighty speed. It felt like all set for the movie and power off. I tried my best to remain positive and seconds in halt passed like decades. Meanwhile LKO Shat moved out from wat looked like pf9 and our halt ensured that I was to miss the parallel action. Anyways, it was something else I was looking forward to.
Nevertheless, we moved again and this time it was the real Shreeganesh of yet another magical performance by 2002. Just that this time I was on board too. The white ahead swiftly took us out of Shivaji Brdge, Tilak bridge. Saw empty rake of Samata Exp and Taj Exp in NZM COD which were to start a few hrs later. It was 06.30 and we moved swiftly through NZM. It had already witnessed some morning arrivals and looked busy as usual. The large windows made the sighting even more wonderful. By now I could safely declare to myself that there was not going to be any severe fog. As the sun emerged, the horizon went on going farther and clearer. 06.37 we were moving through Okhla and 06.46 we we were flying through Ballabhgarh. (29 kms ex NZM in 16 min, 109 kmph). (*please note that the distances are taken from erail and I dint have a GPS to substantiate it) We slowed down again at 06.55 to negotiate a SR of 20 kmph. As a result it took us 10 min from BVH to cross Asaoti at 06.57. Palwal was dispatched at 07.02 (11 kms in 5 min, 132 kmph!!!). And thus we kept rising. The ride was turning out to b what I had desired. Inspite of the SR, it was great how the train resumed its high speed run. Rundhi, Sholaka, Hodal Banchari etc all were crossed in a jiffy as we rocketed our way through to Kosi. Just after Hodal, we slowed down again till Kosi and crossed it at 07.28. We crossed Punjab Mail here which was the culprit for slow run. Once we had cleared Punjab Mail, we again went on a rampage. 41 kms till Mathura was covered in 18 min which converts to Avg speed in this section at 137 kmph!! The large windows of the Shatabdi was making the journey even more enjoyable. By 07.44 we had halted at the MTJ Pf 1 after making a grand entry. And even after such a helluva run we were delayed by 11 min!! I guess Punjab Mail and SR of 20 kmph is chiefly responsible for this.
07.46 we were out of MTJ and moved swiftly through approaching wayside stations. By 08.18 we were already in AGC city limits but again we moved pretty slowly. Picked up again at Raja ki Mandi and went through at MPS of 80 kmph at 08.25 and at 08.30 we marched into AGC pf 1. As expected the train almost got empty here. But surprisingly (for me atleast) people started filling up again.
MAS Duronto bound for NZM was there at pf 2 or 3. We had crossed BCT Raj somewhere near Kosi I guess. We were served breakfast duly before AGC and passengers boarding at AGC were served breakfast again! Nice I thought.
We started again and I said goodbye to 150 capable stretch. Although we reached AGC late but we did peaked summits in terms of speed and had a longish stretch of full throttle inbetween as well. Overall I would say I was very happy the way we negotiated the fastest stretch on IR.
0855 we crossed Jajau, 26 kms from AGC in abt 25 min and looked a marked slower than what was before AGC. 0902 we sped passed Mania at full throttle. 14 kms in 7 min means we were back in business. 0908 we had rumbled through Dhaulpur which meant we were continuing our 120 kmph blast. At 0912 we were crossing Chambal which looked absolutely serene through the large LHB windows. Less than 3 hrs after departing NDLS, we were into Chambal where the little girl in front of my seat wanted to be for so long. In these three hours she had taken a nap or two as well. And stared through the large wide windows with her eyes extra-widely opened. She looks impressed to say the least. 0922 we were into Morena. 28 kms from Dholpur in 14 min!! Which meant we were keeping pace. However globally we were 20 min delayed. We exited 2 min later and crossed Rairu at excellent speed after a slow run for couple of min. We were peaking again as we zipped through Rairu at 09.44. 09.50 we had reached near GWL washing lines and 0955 we were into GWL.
Quite a few passengers boarded the train here. Meanwhile we had slashed few min of our delay between Morena and GWL. We again sped through the majestic rock cuttings, criss crossed with our fellow track, negotiated a horse shoe and passed Dabra at 10.25. Less than 30 min for a journey of 42 kms. It was 1030 when we moved slowly through Kotra.
1105 we were into pf 1 of JHS. We were on time since GWL here and it was time to bid good bye to a terrific pair of LPs who had made my day. On pf 3 was LHB rake of GKP-LTT Exp marked NE. Exactly after an 8 min halt we bade good bye to pf 1 of JHS. Kudos to the JHS station staff for a timely despatch.
Finally at 11.45 we had the first unscheduled halt!! After more than 430 kms of run since morning had we halted somewhere. And till we had made a halt, I dint realise this!! We halted for a good 7 min however. We strated again and crossed Lalitpur at 12.20. 90 kms ex JHS in a little over 1 hr. Considering a halt of almost 7 min inbetween this was mighty impressive. By 1250 we had skipped Bina. That means another 63 kms or so in half an hour flat. (120 kmph +). We had a literal signal free fly pass in this stretch and we were probably to cover the accumulated delay. Certainly for the last 550 kms or so we were enjoying top priority.
After lunch, all my attention and early rising started taking a toll on my eyes and unwantedly I went into a sleep. I woke up sensing the train had halted. I went to the door and we had halted just after Ganj Basoda I guess. We had moved fairly ahead of the station and that was my guess looking towards the station. Something had happened as some of the train crew were busy on something. We had halted for a good 15 min and this would affect our punctuality. I couldn’t know what was the trouble but was relieved when we were up and running again. We skipped Vidisha next at 13.58 ie 40 kms in about 25 min or so meant we were back in business again.
Final leg of 53 kms we covered in 27 min (115 kmph+). To me it was the most relentless speedy run I had ever done or imagined. We entered BPL at 1425 with a delay of 20 min which was due to SR of 20 kmph, trailing Punjab Mail, 3 instances of slow runs, Halt at Matatila for 7 min and 15 min unscheduled halt at Ganj Basoda. Unitary method suggests that sometimes we did brilliantly than what we were scheduled to do and thats what made this train special.
I finally got out at BPL Pf1 and moved to pf2 for Amarkantak. From pf2 I admired the king as long as it was there and as long as I could see it after its departure.
Finally there was no fog, no major interruptions and Shatabdi had indeed lived upto its reputation. It had indeed delivered with aplomb what all I had expected and infact a bit more. I took this trip for pure railfanning spirits and hats of to the king for such a royal treatment.
It may be a routine for all the folks in making this run of 2002/1 possible and it may be nothing to other set of passengers but for a railfan it is the ultimate at present in IR. A real pride of IR and a real jewel. What does HIGH SPEED means one has to sit in and feel.
At the end of it all I was nothing but feeling stellar!!!
Thanks for patient reading. I have tried my best to report accurately but this report is coming about 2 and a half months after I had taken the trip. Kindly excuse the errors.