Coromandel Chronicles: Journey in 2014, Part-2

Hello There Friends! 😀

For those who have missed the first part, here is the link for it Coromandel Chronicles : Journey in 2014, Part-1

I am back with the 2nd part of the 2014 Journey report by Coromandel Express in the series called Coromandel Chronicles. In this blog, I will describe on what concluded in the second half of the journey from Visakhapatnam to Chennai.

Year’s back, during my childhood days, sleeping was a thing, which lured to the minimum extent, whenever I undertake an overnight journey. Over the last few years, since I have covered this route at all possible direction, I did not mind in lying down and sleeping. As many of my friends say that I am getting old now and maybe yes, a point I cannot deny over the time.

Visakhapatnam is the only station of the route, where the train will go a reversal and will halt for as much as 20 minutes. This is one of the most beautiful and scenic stations, with hills covering the backdrop, giving a certain photographer a very good chance to capture the scenic surround.

This is one of the most important railway stations of the route, and on railway point of view, it serves as the divisional headquarters for Waltair division (Visakhapatnamwas referred as Waltair, back in those days).

I was strolling along platform number 1, in search of a charging point. Thanks to the 2007 made coach, the charging point was not present in each coupe bay, and a person who wants to put his mobile to charge, will need to stand near the toilet bay, queued up and wait for his turn. Thus, the possibility of charging your phone was thus remote while on run. Now, all I  did have less than 20 minutes to boost up the charge from 35% to somewhere around 50 %. Ultimately, when I heard the repeated “Dayachesvi Vinandi” announcements for my train, I got up and went inside my coach. My train departed Visakhapatnam platform number 1 at 5.45 am with a new loco link, ED WAP-4 #22232, all the way to Chennai.

I was unaware of the new loco link, but later did find out on reaching Chennai later that evening. While all these were going, I did notice that the crowd sleeping on the corridor bay did not move, neither were there any passengers who got down from our coach. The sunrise was showing up fast, and thanks to the delay, I spotted one of the most beautiful Loco Trip shed in the country, just near the foothills of a small green hillock on the other side. I saw the first Electric Broad Gauge Passenger locomotive of IR, i.e. AJJ WAP-1 #22000, looked to-be lined up for a possible duty. Slowly, we accelerated along the suburbs of the city, and saw the outer of the station; it was stacked up with trains, waiting for their clearance. First, one I spotted was LTT-VSKP Express with VSKP WDM-3A in its lead. Barely a kilometer away, had I seen a train with a WAP-7 loco; possibly, it was Godavari, waiting for its clearance.

Just at the junction point near the Gopalapatnam RRI, the trains going towards south will take this route and thus, Coromandel switched the points and entered the route towards Duvadda. At this particular juncture, I saw a train curving towards VSKP and it was AJJ WAM-4 hauled Villupuram-Kharagpur Express.

The stretch between Visakhapatnam and Vijaywada is my all-time favorite railway stretch. The 350 km stretch, connecting two major important cities offers quite a picturesque route between Visakhapatnam to Rajahmundry. In addition, the passenger train traffic in this route is higher than the previous stretches. The striking hill drop, curves, Ghats, elevated tracks, green natural fields and of course trackside actions, make the whole thing a thorough bliss to watch and experience. In the meantime, everybody in the coach, started to wake up and slowly the pantry people started yelling “Chaai”, “Bread Cutlet” and etc. I was unperturbed by all these usual happenings and focused op capturing some morning actions and crossing en route.

 

Trainspotting is one such hobby, where the pleasure of spotting trains is a way of relishing yourselves in attaining a great peace of mind. In a route, where the scenic conditions are just exactly how I desire, the regular crossing of freights and other mail express are such a delightful sight, only which a railfan will understand. Meanwhile, I too had a cup of coffee and was thinking to have some food in the meantime. While all these, I saw many more crossings. One of them being a KZJ WAG-7 hauled SC-VSKP Special near Anakapalle. Next, I waited for many more crossings, and one of them being the Garib Rath express to Visakhapatnam, which crossed shortly after we skipped Annakapalle. Moreover, I saw one VSKP Bound Passenger (most likely CCT-VSKP Passenger) Crossing somewhere before Tuni.

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CCT VSKP Passenger

Meanwhile, I saw the beautiful Hill Temple of Annavaram, one of the most popular temples of Andhra Pradesh from a significant distance and experienced a MPS skip of the station. Soon, I bought myself a plate of Bread Cutlet and Sauce, which was actually satisfactory to say the least. Local Vendors, selling varieties of food, and other useful train journey related gadgets like lock and key, magazines, mobile covers etc. were busy in their own ways of continuing their business. In the meantime, I went and stood near the doors for a short session of doorplating.

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Coromandel Express, curving somewhere before Samalkot

This is the dose of eternal happiness for me. The hustle-bustle of the co-passengers in my coach and the shout and chaos of the vendors, adds to the vault of happiness in me. As like the first part, I always consider, Coromandel Express as more than a train to travel, though it is not that I do not like traveling in any other train. The usual happenings and the run of this train in certain stretch of the route and from the time it served me so safely, a mere blog will not be completely able to describe on what it is.

In most of my journeys, babies are usually the most annoying thing to tolerate. However, in this journey, the parents of the baby are worse in comparison to what the infant was up-to. They were administering all sorts of unhealthy practices to themselves and the kid. The worse thing is that they had little idea about how a long distance train journey unfolds and never gave a concern about how their co passengers were having problems. So much so was their menace that I chose to doorplate for close to an hour.

In the meantime, I was awaiting the regular overtake of East Coast Express. This is the train, which leaves Howrah, as much as 3 hours before our train does, and Coromandel overtakes this, just near Pithapuram on a given on time running day. This day was a little different, our train was delayed nearly an hour, and at this point of time, the 3G network was not working for me that properly. I searched on and on, finally gave up and went to my seat. Barely 5 minutes later, I saw a train was looped on the other side and was thrashed by us at MPS.

This was East Coast indeed, with LGD WAP-4 #22643, and the place was Anaparti. Shortly after, we slowed down once again, and on the other side, saw a LGD WAP-4 storming at MPS with Visakhapatnam bound Tirumala Express. This concluded and I went to the door once again, to take the picture of the picturesque Kadiyam curve. Soon after negotiating this wonderful curve, we were on the course of entering the city of Rajahmundry or Rajamahenravaram. At Rajahmundry outer, saw the crossing of a train going to Howrah from my native, 12666 Trichy-Howrah Express with WAP-1 #22041 from Royapuram shed.

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Slowly, our train entered platform number 1, and then curved into a 5 minutes halt. Rajahmundry has always something new to offer. Be it dry fruits, or breakfast items, Rajahmundry is always buzzling with options. On the other platform, I saw the display board flashing the possible arrival time of 12840 MAS-HWH Mail. Slowly, at about 8.45am, at a delay of close to 1hr and 5 minutes, we left Rajahmundry and once again, this was the time of doorplating for a particular reason- the reason being the crossing of the longest river bridge of the route, River Godavari, on whose Eastern bank, Rajahmundry is situated.

 

As one leaves Rajahmundry, he will see the lines diverging into two different ways and a MEMU shed being the divider. Both these lines lead to the same destination, but one (the current line we were on) is a rail cum road double-decker bridge. The other bridge is a bit far from this location, and that will gradually run parallel with the rail cum Road Bridge while crossing the river. This is the Godavari Arch bridge and on the way to this bridge, a station in between Rajahmundry and this bridge comes, which is called Godavari P.H. Seemingly, this is a multidirectional bridge.

While we cross the city of Rajahmundry, we will see a flyover from the city, getting over the railway bridge and the vast riverbed of Godavari appears. At patches, there are sand beds and at patches, the river was flowing. This is a point, which dad used to tell stories about his first arrival to the city by the then Janata Express, back in the mid 70’s and how Godavari Bridge was then.

As soon as the bridge ends one can see, a large, almost 180-degree curve can be seen and simultaneously the road bridge curving away from the train line. After a short while, we meet the other direction lines, when we near Kovvur.

As per “Jatayu,” a popular Bengali fictional character comments in Golapi Mukto Rohoshhyo, that appetite is usually higher when you are traveling by a train. Rightly, so, it was not even 2 hours, while I prepared to have something else to eat. To my luck, the tasty mini samosa-selling vendors boarded from Rajahmundry, it is one of the tastiest things to have for a train journey. They sell 6 mini sized samosa for Rs. 20 and boy oh boy, it tastes exceptionally good! A train journey is never complete without having frequent snacks and junk food. The next station we skipped was Nidadavolu junction, a small junction station, which serves a branch line for trains to enter the coastal towns of the state like Machilipatnam and Narasapur. As soon as we crossed the station, I saw a WAP-7 on the other side; it was hauling the Link Dakshin Express.

Once again, I got ready with my camera, expecting a crossing, and this time it was near Tadepalligudem, I have to see the crossing of LGD WAP-4 hauled BBS bound Prashanti Express. After this crossing, we entered the newest stoppage of Tadepalligudem. Coromandel Express is one train in this route, which is in the wish list of demand of every Tom, Dick, and Harry of the route. No matter nobody boards the train from this station as much in reality, but the demand for a stoppage at all possible station goes on. Therefore, barely 2-3 passengers got down and seemingly, none boarded except the vendors. After a brief 2 minutes halt, we left Tadepalligudem exactly at 9.20am. The next halt was Vijayawada ( Eluru wasn’t a stop back then), which was nearly 107km away.

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I was still confident on reaching my destination on time, but at the given hour, it was running about one hour late and likely estimated to reach Vijaywada by 10.40-10.50am. Therefore, in the meantime, I was simply enjoying the crossings one after the other. These included a marginally late running Simhadri express to Visakhapatnam and a WAG-7 hauled freight.

Soon we skipped Eluru at 9.50am, and entered Krishna district. This is where Vijaywada is situated and was about 40 km distance away from the point we were then at. We were nearing Pedda Avutapale, at about 10.25am, when I saw a LGD WAP-4 crossing us with 12864 YPR-HWH Express and we were keeping up pace till we skipped Gannavaram at fairly a good speed, till we reached Mustabada.

After this point like always, the crawling phase before BZA begins. This is a phase where all the BZA trains start to crawl for the next 15kms and Coromandel is no exception. The speed was about 30-40kmph and finally we got to rest at Gunadala at 10.38am. A halt of 2 minutes, after this, we picked up good speed all the way to BZA outer and crossed the coaching depot at decent speed before slowing down at the outer of one of the largest railway junctions of the country, Vijaywada. We entered the platform when the clock ticked 10.55am.

Vijaywada Jn is yet another memorable station for me, as this is the point where I along with my father, get down and buy lunch. The tasty juice parlor is one favorite place and I never miss having a glass of grape juice whenever I travel via Vijayawada. At this point of time, I saw a train depart exactly at 11am from the adjacent platform.

This was none other than 22882 BHUBANESHWAR-PUNE Express!

Yes, admittedly, this did manage to make Coromandel trail it, all the way from Bhubaneshwar to Vijayawada, almost a distance of 800km. Thus, a late running Coromandel was not set to overtake this weekly train.

While wondering about all these things, I was busy having various snacks and eatery stuffs along the busy bustling platform of the station. I bought three parcels of South Indian Meals and water bottles and finally boarded my coach. Soon at about 11.10am, after a 15 minutes halt, I saw the signal turn amber, and thus Coromandel Express started moving from Vijaywada Junction and set up for a non-stop 430km run to Chennai.

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East Coast Express at BZA

As soon as we started the platform, I saw a LGD WAP-4 #22643 entering the adjacent platform with none other than 18645 HWH-HYB East Coast Express. Thus, we were on course of crossing yet another important river bridge of the stretch, Krishna. In about 7 minutes, after leaving Vijaywada, we crossed the magnificent Krishna river bridge over to Krishna Canal junction. This is the point where trains to Guntur diverge and the other line goes straight towards Tenali junction. From this point, we were accelerating and after skipping Krishna Canal at a good speed, we soon notched up MPS in no time. Soon after this point, I had my lunch, and went plugged in my ear phones to take a break from doorplating. Soon after we crossed Tenali, we were cruising at MPS and meanwhile all these; I decided that it was the time to have a good afternoon siesta.

I slept around 12.40pm, woke up at about 13.55pm, and the train was constantly hitting a very good speed. At about 14.02pm, I saw a freight crossing with AJJ WAG-5 in the lead and our train slowed down to obey a speed restriction caution at Alluru Road.

Once again, we accelerated to MPS, charged towards Nellore, and saw a crossing of AJJ WAP-1 with Chennai-New Jalpaiguri Express. When the time ticked 14.28pm, we approached River Pennar Bridge, and following a speed restriction, we crossed the bridge at a sedate pace and entered the important upcoming city of Nellore, the city famous for quality rice.

 

As we cross Nellore, we can see the cityscape falling behind and a good run until Gudur was on course. At Gudur, we had a crossing of a MEMU and finally crossed the station at around 15.10pm. Here is the junction point, where the trains towards Renigunta junction are diverged from the main line. In addition, after crossing Gudur, we crossed the last SCR station and entered Southern Railway, Chennai Division. A board was conveying this message. We still were 135km away from Chennai, and the stipulated time given was more than enough to reach our destination bang on time or even few minutes before. I called up my Uncle and he said to message him once we cross Gummidipundi. On the other hand, I called up my good friend from Chennai, Rahul Nivascar, and asked him to join me at the station if he could possibly come down from his college.

From this point, we notched up MPS once again and stormed up few of South Andhra’s stations like Nayudupeta, Sulurupeta (nearest railhead to Sriharikota). We finally crossed Tada, the last station of Andhra Pradesh and crossed over to Tamil Nadu as it welcomed us with Arrambakkam. We were on course of having entered Coromandel Coast. The Pulicat Lake is well accessible from this point.

We crossed Elavur, Gummidipundi and Kavaraipettai at a very good speed. In the meantime, saw an EMU train entering Kavaraipettai, and thus the indication of Madras Suburban EMU services. We slowed down near Attipattu, a place with a large factory at the backdrop. This is the stretch of Chennai Suburban routes, which has few industrial establishments lined up. Our train came to a halt at Attipattu Pudu Nagar station for some unknown crossing reasons. We were set to halt for about 5 minutes before getting the starter to proceed.

At one point near Ennore, I saw an express crossing with ED WAP-4 in its lead and later on checked it to be Sanghamitra Express. I called up my uncle, told him about our location, and asked him to come over.

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Ennore Curve

Meanwhile, we slowed down to cross the creek of Ennore. There was a flurry of freights zipping across the other line towards Vijaywada. We accelerated towards Tiruvottiyur, and seemingly saw a WDM-7 from Tondiarpet Shed cross us with freight consists. We neared VOC Nagar and one more crossing of LGD WAP-4 hauled Chennai Hyderabad Express, zipping past us at a decent speed. In the meantime, we came to a halt at TNP outer. We waited for around 10 minutes and the time was 17.20pm, we were consequently, caught up with a delay and finally we left around 17.20pm towards Korukkupetai, skipped it at a crawling speed. This is the point, where a train has the bypass lines to go for Chennai bypass and enter the AJJ route after Vyasarpadi Jeeva and one more set of lines, which goes towards Chennai Egmore. We took the straight line connecting Basin Bridge Junction. At Basin Bridge outer, we saw the junction point of Chennai- Arrakkonam lines diverging and an EMU accelerating the points towards its destination. On the other side, I saw the lines towards the famous Basin Bridge Coaching depot.

We saw the cityscape of Chennai as the great “Marina Arena” or the Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium, rose up into our sight from Basin Bridge outer. It was 17.32pm already, and we were crawling ever since. On the other side, I saw a plethora of WAP-4’s and WAP-7’s of different sheds as we crossed the Chennai ETS. At about 17.35pm, we finally entered platform number 8 of the Capital city of Tamil Nadu, Chennai.

Soon after, I got down, my uncle, who ultimately had to wait for 10 minutes and saw Rahul Nivascar walking down the platform and greeting my parents and me. After we were set with to go out of the station to switch to Park Station for taking an EMU to St. Thomas Mount, a place where my Uncle stays.

As I walked along the platform, I saw the crowd was already stacked up to board the train for the return leg as 12840 Chennai Howrah Mail, which was due to depart at 23.40pm.

Thus, the tiring, yet a very exciting journey concluded.

Finally, I would end this blog with a big smile and a picture of the Erode WAP-4 and the train called Coromandel Express, which has the habit of adding memories ever since the first time I have traveled in it.

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ERODE WAP-4 #22232

Though this journey ended, but surely did mark the beginning of an unforgettable trip to South India.

 

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