Vistadomed! First Train Journey of 2022

First things first – what I am writing about now is not my first train journey post COVID19 – you can find it here https://ashwinkumar1989.in/2021/11/13/my-first-train-journey-since-covid19/ . But that was a purely overnight affair – what I’m writing about is my first daytime train journey since the pandemic and also the first of 2022! And predictably it was a Mumbai-Pune trip; the occasion being to meet my friend Omkar after a gap of close to 1.5 years. The date was Saturday 9th April 2022 and the train of choice was 11007 Mumbai Pune Deccan Express; I had chosen to travel by the Vistadome coach – an AC Executive Chair Car compartment (attached either at the front or at the back of the train) with seats that could be rotated 360 degrees, a roof with glass panes and a viewing gallery at the back with huge windows on the left and right as well as at the back – for an uninterrupted view of the world outside the train – hence the title of this blog post πŸ˜€ !! Anyway, this trip was a welcome break from the continuous grind of work – from the middle of February till the end of March; I had worked on two successive research projects that were extremely gruelling and involved working on all Saturdays AND a few Sundays as well!!

On the day of the journey, I woke up very early (maybe around 4 30 am, don’t exactly remember when!), brushed my teeth and had a piping hot cup of coffee prepared by my mother – bless her for waking up earlier than usual (which itself is quite early!!) for my sake!! Then I took a bath and left my home by around 5 45 am. Found an autorickshaw without much difficulty and reached Vikhroli station within 15 minutes. By the way, I must give you fair warning – this blog will be littered with rail-related technical jargon and station codes; hence, I would suggest you refer to the legend right at the end. I purchased a First Class ticket to Dadar and then (ironically!) boarded the Second class coach of a local headed to CSMT; since I had to climb an FOB to reach Platform 2 – where the local arrived – and the 2nd class coaches were right next to where the FOB ended and the local was leaving just as I boarded! Again, it was the first time I was travelling by a local train since COVID and thus I had no idea of how the crowd would be – but thankfully there was enough place to stand inside the 2nd class coach I’d boarded; being early morning after all. I eventually shifted to a 1st class coach at Kurla and got a seat as well πŸ™‚ .

I reached Dadar at 06 25 on PF3 and didn’t have to use the FOB now; since my train 11007 would arrive on PF4 πŸ™‚ . By the way, I must mention that the crowd in the local was slightly less compared to pre-pandemic levels; though Kurla and Dadar were quite crowded as usual. As always, there was a lot of early morning action πŸ˜‰ . 12116 Solapur Mumbai Siddheshwar Express arrived on PF6 behind a customary EMD at 06 30, 23 mins late. Almost at the same time, 17617 Mumbai Nanded Tapovan Express arrived on PF4. 12116 departed after a halt of 3 mins along with 17617! 11004 SWV DR Express then arrived at 06 37, 3 mins before time, hauled by KYN WDP4D 40347. For some reason, it came on PF5 (which is part of the main Dadar station) instead of PF7 or PF8 (which are part of Dadar Terminus) !! Anyway, 12106 Gondia Mumbai Vidarbha Express then entered PF6 at a great speed behind its usual WAP7 at 06 41, 29 mins late. It left after a stop of 2 mins; with the LP blowing a long HT horn – similar to that of a WAP4. The next train to arrive was 12127 Mumbai Pune Intercity – on PF4 at 06 52, 6 mins late, led by Ajni WAP7 30264.

Barely a minute later, 12127 departed with a big jerk. The rear EOG was on and it was very loud!! By the way, there was a Speed Restriction Board on PF4 – which indicated an MPS of 15 kmph for goods trains and 30 kmph for mail/express trains whenever the signal displayed a single yellow.

A WAP7 headed ICF rake skipped PF6 silently at 06 58 – no idea which train this could have been!! 2 minutes later, 11004 left for the yard; with a long, unique and melodious HT horn of its EMD, followed by a short HT horn. Barely 2 minutes later, 17317 Hubli Dadar express arrived on PF8; just 2 mins late. The next train on the scene was 17412 KOP-CSMT Mahalaxmi Express – on PF6 at 07 13, 16 mins late; hauled by Pune WDP4D 40156. My train then arrived on PF4, led by KYN WAP7 30301.

We departed with a big jerk at 07 19, 6 mins late. Have a look at the interiors of our Vistadome coach – attached at the back of our train in this case!

There was an inner door, which had to be opened by pressing a button – which would then activate the sliding doors!

The best part was the viewing gallery at the back of the coach, with its 3 huge windows – including one right at the back, which gave us (as mentioned earlier) an uninterrupted view of the world outside!

I settled myself at this huge window at the back for a while. We soon picked up speed and crossed 12138 FZP CSMT Punjab Mail behind Ajni WAP7 37414 after Matunga. Then we blasted through Sion and Kurla and crossed an ICF rake hauled by an EMD; probably 17058 SC-CSMT Devagiri Express. There was a slight slow down at Vidyavihar; but we soon returned to MPS – after all, our small 16-coach load was child’s play for a P7! I then took my seat 39, unfortunately on the aisle. We crossed 12154 RKMP LTT superfast behind a WAP7 at 07 33. After Mulund, 12290 Nagpur Mumbai Duronto crossed us, led by Ajni WAP7 30593. We then pulled into PF5 of Thane at 07 38, 5 mins late. We had covered the last 24 km in 19 mins at an average speed of 75.79 kmph πŸ™‚ . 22108 Latur Mumbai Express arrived on PF6 at 07 41, 37 mins late, led by KYN WDM3D 11382. We then began moving with a slight jerk. By the way, the digital display inside the coach was hardly of any use; since it only showed messages such as “This train is from Mumbai to Pune” , “Indian Railways wishes you a comfortable and safe journey” etc. in English, Hindi and Marathi . Ditto for the announcements!

Since this was my first train journey in Maharashtra since the pandemic, I had missed out a lot of developments. One of them was that the line we took from Thane to Kalyan had two small tunnels instead of the long Parsik Tunnel! This meant we actually passed through Kalwa and Mumbra – which had new platforms for fast locals to halt! Anyway, we then crossed 12262 Howrah Mumbai AC Duronto; the rake was mismatched with a combination of Humsafar and Duronto coaches! After Thakurli, we crossed a tanker rake in the far right; led by NKJ WAG5 twins 24465 and 23908. Reached KYN (on PF5) at 08 01, 8 mins late. Lot of people boarded here. A couple of them wanted to sit in the row where I’d been sitting – hence they requested me to move to 4; which turned out to be a window seat! What luck! πŸ˜€ By the way, there was a luggage rack at the front of the coach πŸ™‚ .

Meanwhile, we picked up speed from Vithalwadi and ripped through Ulhasnagar. After Ambernath, we crossed a container freight headed by a WAG9. Ryan International High School (CBSE) and D-Mart whizzed past us before we started crawling. Skipped Badlapur before accelerating with a big jerk. We hit MPS in almost no time at all; zipping through arid land with some coconut and palm trees, residential buildings, a mosque and an LC. After Vangani, we crossed a stationary container rake hauled by LKO WDG4 12722. Then we again slowed down to a crawl before accelerating through Shelu with another jerk. Man, I’ve got used to the LHB jerks; but they still can be really irritating! Also, the 2X2 seating arrangement was very comfortable and there was enough room for my hands as well as legs; but I couldn’t use the rotating to 360 degrees feature – because that needed the consent of my co-passenger. I feel this feature is ideal when you are travelling with family or friends (or even with just one person); but not for solo travel.

Coming back to my journey, we crossed 11010 Pune Mumbai Sinhagad Express with a WCAM3 before pulling into Neral at 08 34, 10 mins late. Departed after a stop of just a minute. I then had my breakfast; consisting of a plate of 3 Sabudana Vadas. There was a long halt at Karjat outer; before we arrived at the station at 08 55. At the same time, 17614 Nanded Panvel Express left behind KJM WDP4 20045 in ‘Bleed Blue’ livery. Bankers were attached at our rear – for the climb up the Bhor Ghats till Lonavala – with yet another big jerk! We departed after a halt of 6 mins, with a melodious HT horn of the lead banker. By the way, I must mention that the bankers obstructed the view at the back of the coach while climbing the Ghats; however, this was non-negotiable – since the bankers are compulsory. The reason for this is that the Ghats have an extremely steep 1:37 gradient; due to which a train without bankers would not be able to climb the mountains without exerting an incredible amount of force on the coach couplers – which would cause the lead locomotive to detach itself from the train and thus the train would roll down the slopes!! In fact, it is the bankers which do the main duty, while the lead loco just acts as a means of direction!

Coming back to our trip, we crossed 12124 Pune Mumbai Deccan Queen with KYN WCAM2 21875; the train had a mix of Utkrisht and CR daytime liveried coaches. As the Ghats began, we crossed a BNCA freight headed by twin WAG9s and braked by a WAG7 triplet – freight trains climbing down the Ghats usually require brakers (attached at the front of the lead engine); to apply brakes and prevent the train from rolling down the hill, since the brakes applied by the lead loco may not be enough considering the enormous length of the train – and thus its combined weight! I went to the viewing gallery and took up my place at the window on the left – since the views from that side are generally more breathtaking. Here is a picture of our lead banker – ‘Tigerface’ KYN WAG7 27319.

It was heartening to see a lot of greenery, in spite of this being the summer season.

Of course, there had to be some arid regions! πŸ˜›

After Thakurwadi, we crossed 12220 SC LTT AC Duronto with twin ALCOs. This was followed by a twin EMD-headed goods train braked by another WAG7 triplet. Boy, it continues to be neck-to-neck even up the mountains!! At Khandala, I saw 22160 Chennai Mumbai superfast standing behind Pune WDP4D 40594. We then raced cars on the highway before LNL.

A medium-sized tree blocked my view of L&T’s Leadership Training Academy; but provided some welcome respite from the heat πŸ˜› .

We crossed 22498 TPJ-SGNR Humsafar before arriving at LNL at 09 45, 4 mins late. Our bankers were detached with yet another big jerk – boy, how many jerks we had to endure!! We left after a stop of 3 mins. We soon picked up speed and began racing vehicles on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. 17032 HYB-CSMT ‘supercrawler’ Express crossed us with a WAP7 after Malavli. Man, I am so used to seeing this train with diesels; sad to see the electrics taking over – again, rapid electrification being one of the developments I had missed out on during the COVID19 period! Anyway, we then crossed a stationary NMG rake hauled by CNB WAG9 32463. Reached Talegaon at 10 14, 5 mins late. I then had a nap; since I had sacrificed some valuable sleep in order to be up and about so early! After I woke up, we pulled into SVJR at 10 47, 3 mins late. Departed after a halt of just a minute. Then we crossed the Sangam Bridge over the dirty Mula-Mutha river.

There was a predictable stop at Pune yard. Then we crossed Pune WDP4D 40213. As the junction drew closer; I spotted KJM WDP4D 40455 and Pune WDP4D 40586 in a shed on the far right. We finally pulled into PF5 of Pune at 11 03, 2 mins before time. Here are two photos of our coach from the outside.

Overall, it was an enjoyable journey; especially considering it was my first daytime journey in more than 2 years! The Vistadome experience was good, though as mentioned earlier; it would have been better had I travelled with a few people. Here is a video compilation of the entire journey for you to saviour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-Txzfr51BM&t=112s . Please keep subtitles on while viewing; for a detailed description! Also, there is a mistake; in one of the subtitles the train 12154 is shown – it is actually 12138. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this report as much as I enjoyed the trip! πŸ˜‰

LEGEND

TECHNICAL ABBREVIATIONS

  • FOB – Foot Overbridge
  • EMD – Electro-motive Diesel (and a modern class of diesel locos)
  • ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and a class of diesel engines of the 1960s)
  • HT – High Tone
  • MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed
  • LC – Level Crossing
  • LP – Loco Pilot
  • CR – Central Railway
  • ICF – Integral Coach Factory, Perambur (Chennai) [used to manufacture most of the coaches in Indian Railways]
  • LHB – Linke-Hofmann-Busch (a modern Swiss company which manufactures coaches with high speed capability and anti-climb safety features; used in many of the trains nowadays)
  • EOG – End-On Generator (a diesel generator attached to both ends of the train [usually LHB] to power the coaches; nowadays quite a few trains [including Deccan exp] have just 1 EOG though)

STATION CODES

  • CSMT – Mumbai CST
  • SWV – Sawantwadi Road
  • DR – Dadar (Central)
  • KYN – Kalyan
  • KOP – Kolhapur
  • FZP – Firozpur
  • SC – Secunderabad
  • RKMP – Rani Kamalapati (Habibganj)
  • NKJ – New Katni Junction
  • LKO – Lucknow Charbagh
  • KJM – Krishnarajapuram (KR Puram)
  • LTT – Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla Terminus)
  • LNL – Lonavala
  • TPJ – Trichy Junction
  • SGNR – Sriganganagar
  • HYB – Hyderabad
  • CNB – Kanpur
  • SVJR – Shivajinagar

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