Trip report: DR-MAO-CSTM

Posted on December 8, 2013


The thought of spontaneous trips are always exciting, but for the first time I managed a pure railfanning journey. Much to the disappointment of many who felt it was pointless to go all the way to Goa, only to catch the next train back to Mumbai. It was all about travelling on the northern segment of the Konkan Railway, from Roha to Madgaon.

I had done the other segment in December 2011 from Mangalore to Madgaon (Konkan Railway starts from Thokur though, a little ahead of Mangalore) on the Mangalore-Verna passenger. Put camp in Colva, my neighbours from Madras, the Fernandes’, were kind enough to host me during their family holiday. Saw enough of the once Portugese-ruled territory; so I was not really inclined for another Goa outing yet.

The CSTM-MAO-CSTM section was in the pipeline for many months, and considering my terrible train travel record this year, a 1000km odd trip was going to make a big difference to the annual footprint on the Indian railway network. Plans were to set to take the Dadar-Madgaon Jan Shatabdi and return by the Konkan Kanya Express on November 26.

On the day, I barely managed to sleep for two hours after returning from work before the excitement woke me up at 4 am. Got dressed, checked the condition outside (not cold at all), walked to Matunga Road and in five minutes set foot in Dadar Terminus.

The 12-coach train (three extra attached) was set to be hauled by an Ernakulam WDM 3A (14123). I was disappointed. I had seen this train only hauled by Erode WDM 3Ds or 3As. The blue livery on the loco was a match for the rakes. The rake was not the best, with pests creeping all through. Given that it has a six and half hour turnaround at Dadar and 20 minutes at Madgoan, you can’t expect much. And this is a daily service, so no weekly maintenance. It has a rake sharing arrangement with its Aurangabd counterpart, but I don’t know how it works.

The train was packed, with the bulk of the passengers getting off at Ratnagiri and Chiplun. By the time we reached Panvel, I exchanged my reserved seat to with the guy standing by the door.

Once we pulled out of Roha, fog engulfed all over. Visibility was not much, it was as if you were riding through the clouds. I did manage to snap a picture of the signboard welcoming you into Konkan Railway territory. However it was not cold.

The fog rises at Vinhere.

The fog rises at Vinhere.

The mist started to rise by the time we crossed Vinhere and an almost three-hour non-stop run ended at Chiplun. The sun was out, pleasant. I put a sheet of newspaper down and sat by the door watching the mountains unwind and the rivers cross. Waterfalls were trickling down, rivers were not flowing full. The best time to visit is monsoon, and all I could do is visualise how the ride would have been if it were in the monsoon.

Before entering Chiplun.

Before entering Chiplun.

And, of course, my attempt at taking photographs with the train speeding at 110kmph (nothing involving risk, very safe). Blurred, target-missed, terrible photographs on my Nikon S4000 (yes, the camera is back). We hardly halted for crossings, once for a RORO freight service and another for the Goa Sampark Kranti is all I can recall.

Crossing a RORO service.

Crossing a RORO service.

At Ratnagiri, the train was almost empty. I went to the last coach and made base by the door there for the remainder of the journey.

Once out of the Konkan Railway headquarters in this region, the viaducts were terrifyingly deep to look down on. It was the Panval viaduct, an engineering marvel by L&T. It is an issue of pride for them, and it was highlighted a couple of years back when they placed a half page ad in the newspapers featuring a photograph of the Trivandrum Rajdhani on the bridge.

Sight from the Panval viaduct

Sight from the Panval viaduct.

The TTE on multiple occasions told me to take a seat inside the compartment. The first time he said it as if he was the boss of the train. But my point-blank refusal showed him who was boss. I laughed inside my head, “What is he thinking? Asking me to sit in my seat.” Railway fan ego, can’t do much about it.

The train was doing great speeds, and as you entered Goa the air was different. Lazy and holiday-like, as it should be. It was an on time arrival and by the time I straddled across platforms checking out other locomotives in the station. The Jan Shatabdi was ready to leave on its return journey.

The Mandovi estuaries.

The Mandovi estuaries.

I walked outside the station, called a biker taxi to drop me off at a Goan place to eat. I forgot the chicken dish I had along with bread and steady flow of Thums Up.

With some time in hand, I asked another taxi pilot to show me around the town, although I knew it pretty well already. Thithe was his name, a Mahrashtrian. He was bald with grey hair on the sides.

He took me to a market complex. “Ye Gandhi market hai. Hum isse gaandu market bolte hain. Idhar sab milta hai. Kapda, vapda, lasoon, l**da, sab milta hai. C**th bi milta hai. Colva (the nearby beach around 10 kms away) mein rate double. Idhar sasta hai,” he said, talking about the rampant prostitution.

He pauses to think for a few seconds, as he negotiates traffic riding on the wrong side of the road. “Par kya kare, unko zabardasti mein karna padta hai,” he said. He pauses again before saying, “Par business to business hota hai. Paisa bi mil jata hai,” he said.

After another fifteen minutes of showing me around, he drops me off at the station. With an hour left for the Konkan Kanya to depart, I sink into Sebastian Faulks’ Devil May Care, a James Bond novel. A portly Punjabi, in his late 20s, and from Delhi sits next to me. A minute later, he intrudes my airspace. He peeps into my book, and with his bulky had flips through the pages while the book is still in my hand. He was dumbfound, it was evident. He looks at me with a wide, scary smile. “Kya ji, kya book pad rahe ho ji? Issme to picture wicture kuch nahi hai,” he said.

I didn’t know how to respond. I chose the safe option, to gently smile back. And he bursts laughing, probably thinking I am nuts to read a book without a picture.

KJM WDP-4 hauls in the Konkan Kanya rake.

KJM WDP-4 hauls in the Konkan Kanya rake.

A few moments later, Krishnarajapuram WDP-4 (20039) got the rake in at platform one. I had just enough time to check the loco out and take a few pictures, before walking to my sleeper coach at the other end of the train.

My exhaustion was starting to get the better of me now. I sat down and watched the Goan dusk. The train was empty till Porvorim, where two college girls took the seat opposite to my berth. They were headed to a wedding and to see further options to study in Mumbai. The duo wanted to get away from home, and live their life in Mumbai. After the brief chit chat, I retired.

Bridge on the River Zuari in the night.

Bridge on the River Zuari in the night.

I woke up at Ratnagiri in a daze and went back to sleep after a moment. The same in Diva, Panvel, Dadar and finally CSTM: on time. I hoped the train would be late, so I could catch more sleep.

I took an EMU, switched at Parel to the Western line and got off at Matunga Road. It was an eventful 24-hour journey.