Posted on August 14, 2013


As a railway enthusiast, it has been a shameful and regrettable year till Sunday.  A lone journey to Madras and back by the Dadar-Egmore Super and Mumbai Express in February. It still is bad as of Wednesday, but an eventful ride again to Madras via Secunderabad has added mileage to the trip sheet. The Madras Mail has become too boring to hop on to and no other train fits my office schedule. But, when there is Indian Railways there is always a way.

Here is how it went:

Mumbai-Pune: Madras Mail (Sunday departure)

Pune-Secunderbad: Shatabdi

Secunderabad-Gudur: Simhapuri Express

Gudur-Madras: Pinakini Express (Tuesday arrival)

Madras Mail
Hauled by 21894 Kalyan WCAM-3, the train entered Dadar around midnight. Seven coaches away from the locomotive, you could hear the BHEL engine whirring loud. After a doorplate till Karjat and around two hours of sleep it was time to get off. You cannot book a ticket to Pune on this train, but you can get one to Daund and get off at Pune.

The Pune loco set to get coupled with the Shatabdi.

The Pune loco set to get coupled with the Shatabdi.

Secunderabad Shatabdi
A recent addition to the Shatabdi list, the 11-coach train covers a distance of 597 kms in eight hours and 40 minutes. Easily among the fastest in the section, with stops only at Solapur, Gulbarga, Wadi, Tandur, Vikarabad, Begumpet, the train is helmed by a Pune Alco. 17863 WDM-3A was in charge on Monday morning as the sun came out, and a splendid non-stop 262-km non-stop run till Solapur. Unfortunately, sleep caught up and I had to doze off just before the Solapur halt till Gulbarga. And never did I take my foot off the door since then. Effortless hauling and great speeds clubbed with sharp curves, fields, cement factories, some drizzle and occasional crossings: the quintessential demand for a railfan on his journey.

This was my second Shatabdi train experience, and fourth aboard one. My first time on this train was in 2003 with family between Madras and Mysore and later between Bangalore and Madras. I had put my foot down to travel on the train between Mysore and Bangalore as well, but it was a Tuesday, hence no service! We had to settle for the push-pull passenger. No complaints, anything is better than a lousy bus ride.

In 2011, I took the Mysore Big Blue again (as we call the Shatabdis) to Bangalore, my LHB coach debut. The Pune Big Blue still uses the old ICF rakes, a throwback in time (all the coaches were manufactured in early 90s) but it should not be long before they will be drawn to scrap.

The Pune loco reassured my faith in Alco awesomeness like the ones in Erode and Golden Rock do. This comes at a time when General Motors’ engines are starting to take over and electrification of lines is at full swing.

The train reached on time at Secunderbad. It could have reached 40 minutes earlier if not for the deliberate halts, too much buffer time.

An early arrival at Wadi.

An early arrival at Wadi.

Simhapuri Express

It was a seamless transition, from the loud marauding smoke-filled acceleration of diesel locomotives to the silent surges of a WAP-4 (Lallaguda 22781). It was drizzling as I departed from Secunderabad and all I could hear from the loco was the compressor’s hum and the timely horns. I had no complaints, I caught up on some lost sleep. I blinked at Nellore and by the time I could come into my senses we had reached Gudur.

Pinakini Express  

Yeshwantpur-Dibrugarh Express crosses Madras-bound Pinakini.

Yeshwantpur-Dibrugarh Express crosses Madras-bound Pinakini.

A reserved ticket always comes handy in this train. Among my favourites for the sheer number of times I have been on this 24-coach Superfast for my Nellore trips, Pinakini entered Gudur ahead of schedule. With the sun not taxing so much, it was a pleasant ride. The closer we got to Madras Central the more excited I was. The train entered on time at 1250 hours with a Lallaguda WAP-4 22607 in front.

It was a circuitous route, but I had a good time catching up with friends in Secunderabad. And the actual travel time was lesser than that taken by the Madras Mail.

Total distance: 1571 kms

States covered: Maharashtra, Karnataka, (Telengana), Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu

Railway Zones: Western, Central, South Central, Southern

Loco types: Dual Electric Traction, Diesel, AC Electric