Hello everyone, I am back with the 2nd part of my blog on the memorable trip to North Bengal for Railfanning purposes. For all those people who have missed the first part, here is the link for it.
Coming back, after we arrived at New Jalpaiguri station at 8.55 am, the first thing we needed to do was to check-in at our retiring room. The process of booking a retiring room in Indian railways is based on the status of the PNR of a ticket. A confirmed/ RAC ticket- holders can avail these services, which again depends on the availability on a given date.
Now, back to the incident, we needed to check-in by completing all the formalities by initially contacting the room authority. As we went near the retiring rooms zone in the first floor above platform number 1, we were told to go to the Main Information and PAS counter, which was at a walking distance from where we were. The layout of the station is a little bit on the far side of the main building, and a person who needs buy a connecting ticket or even walk out of the station needs to walk few meters in a long Foot-Over-Bridge from the platforms to the main building.
Meanwhile, we were running out of time. We needed to make this thing quick, as our Passenger- train, to Dhupguri was scheduled to depart @9.50 am, and we were still to freshen up, after a train journey and the time ticked to 9.10 am. We ran to the main counter, where I enquired about the running status of the special train we were supposed to board, because few days back, it was cancelled owing to poor passenger footfall. The one big advantage of boarding this train was because of its arrival to New Jalpaiguri as Padatik Express from Sealdah. Going by its schedule, Padatik Express follows the same route and almost takes the same time as like its counterpart, i.e. Darjeeling Mail. Padatik departs exactly 50 minutes after Darjeeling Mail and maintains a difference of the same till it reaches New Jalpaiguri. Since during the whole journey, our train made a delay of 55 minutes, Padatik; which followed us was a certainty to make a similar delay, if not the controllers would have played a major troll.
On reaching the main counter, we showed the retiring room SMS and we got our room number instructions. In the meantime, I bought the tickets of the special express and came to know it was running about 45 minutes late. While walking back to the retiring room from the main building, we heard a certain announcement to grant Room Number 12 as 2 certain guests are joining. This was the instruction to the room authority while we felt honored to have listened about our visit in such an important railway station. Thus, we were allotted a room by the authority, and to our utter disgrace, it was one of the dirtiest rooms beyond imagination. The tiles were muddy and dirty, and the toilets, were stinking. Immediately, we called up the room service person to clean up the whole mess and after this was completely taken care off, we refreshed as fast as we could and in the end heard the announcement from the room of the arrival of Padatik Express at Platform number 3.
Describing about the positives from the retiring room is the beautiful view of trains and locomotives from the large window. Every now and then, a diesel locomotive’s honking, chugging, and cranking was joy to watch and music to our ears.
New Jalpaiguri is gifted with a large number of diesel locomotives from various sheds. Sheds like Izzatnagar, Lucknow, Bhagat Ki Kothi, Siliguri and many more locos are homed in different North Indian sheds. The train was scheduled for its arrival at 9.50 am, and both of us waited for the arrival and saw a Burdwan based Alco chugging and entering Pf 3. This was our train, loaded with passengers, who got down and in few minutes, two of the FOBs in NJP station was filled with large number of passengers.
From NJP, the train was scheduled to become a link express special to New Coochbehar, about 125kms away from NJP. Rightly, so, we took this completely empty train with around 10 passengers per coach to Dhupguri, around 65 kms away from NJP. As we expected, a person with an Unreserved Express ticket can board in any coach of the train except the AC ones, as the AC coaches will be locked from inside and the vestibules will be closed. That was never an issue, like me and Pramit boarded a suitable Sleeper coach and chose our favorite trackside emergency window seat. We heard an announcement that our train will depart at 10.15 am and in the meantime, we bought some hot Parathas with Ghugni for our breakfast.
Sharp at around 10.15 am, we heard the loud Alco’s honk, and our train started to roll out of platform number 3. From a distance, I saw the loco link of our Darjeeling Mail, i.e. WDP-4 #20001 shunting the rakes of Darjeeling Mail in the station yard.
The route between NJP-NCB via Dhupguri, Falakata is filled with innumerable and uninterrupted curves. This starts from NJP outer itself, while one line goes towards Siliguri Jn, the other line goes towards Ambari Falakata (the route we are taking) have large curves.
Slowly after clearing the points, we met a DEMU, which was coming from Haldibari and will go upto Siliguri Jn. While crossing the DEMU, the alco showed why it’s so popular for chugging and smoking, as the whole area was filled with dark smoke. Slowly, the train kept up a good speed till Belakoba, the station till which the double line work was then completed.
Right here, the train switched to the single line territory, and geared up for the first stoppage of the route at Jalpaiguri Road. After a brief halt of about 2 minutes, we sensed the departure of the train. At that point, saw the Loco Pilot got down and it looked that he was waiting for some reasons. Rightly so, I saw the other side of the tracks, and saw a possible single crossing was imminent. These single line territories do have their advantages. At that point, saw a WDG-4 or GT 46MAC of Siliguri (SGUJ) shed was charging with freight consists and smoked past us from the main line while we were capturing its picture from the other loop line. The picture is given below
Next, we hopped inside our coach and simultaneously, our train obtained its starter and proceeded towards its next halt at New Maynaguri, which was on the other side of the large Teesta River banks. Once again, the alco chugged ruthlessly and traveled at a good speed to cross the river and finally reach the next halt of New Maynaguri. After a short while, the train proceeded towards its next halt and our destination, Dhupguri.
While we were moving at close to the route MPS of 110kmph, suddenly the train slowed down and we saw a station approaching and the train changed the tracks and entered a loop of non-platform side and the station was Betgara. Either this meant overtake or a crossing was on cards. As per our tracking list and timings, it was the time for the crossing with 12435 New Delhi bound bi -weekly Rajdhani from Dibrugarh.
In the meantime, it started raining slowly, and we took our umbrellas out, went, and stood on the other empty loop to see the Rajdhani smoke past through the main line. Both Pramit and me chose our spots and waited for crossing, and saw an Alco chug from quite a distance. The calm countryside of the place was so peaceful, that even a cycle bell produced clear sounds. Soon, we saw it was an Alco hauling a set of LHB coaches, and when it came closer, it was the Tughlakabad based WDM-3A #14002 R. We took a video of the Alco speeding with the elite class train of IR with ease.
After we were done with Rajdhani, we quickly hopped in our train as it left sooner and finally without any more hiccups, we reached Dhupguri station. Once again, the platforms were inside diverted to a loop and the main line unfortunately for us had twin alcos from New Guwahati Shed blocking a possible uninterrupted MPS action.
Dhupguri, location wise is a perfect spot for train spotting in North Bengal as it is located on the end of a magnificant curve coming from New Jalpaiguri side. There are numerous stations, locations on this 120 km stretch with beautiful curves and river bridges, and Dhupguri isn’t an exception. Although, we could have chosen the popular Salbari Curve or even the curve near Kolaigram station, but thanks to the connectivity purposes we chose to stay at Dhupguri. As per our plans, we would possibly stay till the crossing of Saraighat Express and come back to NJP by the same train, which we took to reach this place. Or even if it’s a worst-case scenario, we always have the services of the road connectivity, as the highway was barely half a mile from the station.
Coming back to the story, we reached Dhupguri exactly at 11.48am. As soon we tracked NTES, 12423 DBRT-NDLS Rajdhani Express had already skipped Salbari (about 14 kms away from the spot) about 8 minutes back and we were supposedly to run as fast as we could to the curvy spot about 100 meters away from the station. Thanks to the slow yet steady rain, running wasn’t possible as the platform was extremely slippery. Just as we stepped out the platform, we saw the signal from the other loop indicating track change to the main lines and yes, it was for 12423. Our dreams of capturing this Rajdhani at MPS was shattered as we saw an EMD WDP-4B (Modified GT 46PAC) in SHF mode negotiating the loop lines and proceeding with a LHB rake towards its upcoming halt at NJP. We did manage to get a decent picture of the three in one train frame consisting the NJP-NCB Special (we came), twin alcos in the main line and the Rajdhani.
After we were done with this Rajdhani, we expected the alco to move away as soon as possible. Slowly, we took our time and walked to the center of the curve. In the meantime, NJP-NCB Special departed from Dhupguri at around 12.10pm and saw one more train approaching the station loop with an EMD; this was supposedly 12501 Poorvottar Sampartk Kranti to New Delhi. It stopped near the changeover signal to allow a train to pass from its opposite direction.
Yes, this was the time for 12424 NDLS-DBRT Rajdhani Express, to skip Dhupguri, and for the same reason, Poorvottar Sampark Kranti was detained. We got ready for taking the shot and saw a monstrous LHF faced EMD curving with LHB coaches and honking beautifully before it slowed down way further to change the tracks and skip Dhupguri with ease. Thus, for our record, we didn’t get to shoot a video of the daily Rajdhani’s in this trip.
In about few minutes, 12501 Poorvottar Sampark Kranti too got the starter and once again, crawled the way to clear the loop. It was hauled by WDP-4B from SGUJ. We were done on shooting at the same spot we walked further ahead of the big curve and stood near the Road bridge, while we heard an alco honk. It was the twins, which spoilt our day, finally chugged off towards NJP.
In the meantime, we saw the highway was just above the tracks, and it looked quite a busy one too. Frequent buses to and from Siliguri, Coochbehar, Falakata, Matabhanga, Dinhata, Alipurduar were crossing in plenty. There is beautiful small pond near the tracks, offering cool breeze in the cloudy day. In the meantime, we engaged ourselves for a mini photography session and waited for the next action, which was supposedly the late running, Guwahati bound North East Express. Around 1.25pm, we heard a EMD honk, and immediately we got into our suitable positions and saw and EMD, which looked way to familiar with a 24 coach rake, honking and speeding away towards Guwahati.
It was indeed North East Express and the loco was none other than the one, which hauled our Darjeeling Mail, the previous night (WDP-4 #20001). As it stood, North East did change its loco at New Jalpaiguri, and got a new loco for the next lap of the journey. Soon, we came walking to a new spot, and waited for the next train to cross. Not surprising, it was a train was going back to the city we stay with a Burdwan based alco and fewer coaches. It was 13142 Teesta Torsa Express, with Burdwan WDM-3A skipped the curve, and proceeded towards New Jalpaiguri.
Meanwhile, we were then crossing a small village road, aside a small pond on one side the tracks on the other side while waiting for the next action. This time again, it was a train coming from our city, only but running as a special with BWN homed alco. It was SDAH-KYQ AC Special.
This was the 4th LHB train since the time we left for Dhupguri from NJP, perhaps the best of the lot from my POV.
By the time it was around 14.30pm, we were hungry and searched for a hotel nearby. To our luck, we got a glimpse of a roadside dhaba and had meals. By the time we were walking towards this eatery, we saw those NGC twins with BCNA Rakes chugging towards Guwahati. After lunch, our primary target was to capture North East Express bound to Anand Vihar. But before that, we saw a jam packed train entering the platform for its scheduled halt. It was none other than Howarh bound 15960 Kamrup Express. It was around 15.05pm, and as per its schedule it was running bang on time. The loco link was Howrah WDM-3D.
Why was the extra crowd? It was because of the occasion of Ambuvachi Mela in Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, the trains from Assam were running jam- packed. Kamrup departed exactly on time while we proceeded to the other end of the platform waiting for North East Express’s skip. Around 15.50pm, we saw the skies cleared up and sunshine in the tracks. On the right loop, we saw an alco from SPJ halted with BTPN consists (it came while we were having lunch). Suddenly we saw a surprisingly white EMD, with sunshine on its cab, charging towards the station and it was North East Express, which was a good catch for us, considering a not so eventful videography day.
We issued our tickets, came to the platform, and decided to skip Saraighat capture, and return back to our retiring rooms by taking 13148 NCB-SDAH Uttar Banga Express. More than the enthusiasm, we were extremely tired after an almost sleepless night and little refreshment meant to arrive by Uttar Banga. Soon, we heard the announcement of the same, and Uttar Banga Express entered Pf-1 with BWN alco in its lead. It came around 16.18pm and departed about 16.22pm while we both managed to be seated near the exit doors. As expected, the alco charged up and picked up speed and skipped numerous stations, finally came to halt at its scheduled stop at Jalpaiguri Road at about 16.53pm. After a brief 2 minutes halt, the train departed towards NJP and finally after a little hiccup at Belakoba and Ambari Falakata outer, we reached New Jalpaiguri at 17.30pm.
After de boarding, we straight went outside the station and we had one plate of Momos. It was way delicious than what you can expect from any street side shop in many other cities. We came back to our retiring rooms, took a good bath, and went to the room corridor to see innumerable Alcos, EMD’s plying for different duties, and we saw trains like Awadh Assam Express, India’s longest running train Vivek Express and many other trains later that evening. At around 9.30 pm, we had our dinner, and came back and retired for the night at around 22.30 pm, only to conclude an awesome day of railfanning.
Stay tuned for the final part, coming soon!