“Wow, I’m so excited. After years of curiosity I shall ride ER EMUs on a frequent basis…” uttered my mind with a childish grin as I lay my first steps at the mecca of ER – Howrah (HWH) on my way to Barddhaman (Burdwan – BWN). As a career-building opportunity, I wholeheartedly accepted my destiny as MS Ophthalmology trainee at Burdwan, practically a three year exile from home, my home state and home railway zone(s).
The story starts at HWH, where my 12101 Jnaneswari Exp was received around two hours late after a desperate delay of around 2hrs in the KGP-SRC stretch, thanks to the coincidental disruption of OHE wire the earlier night. Our 17th coach ended miles away from the business end. As a WDM2 would struggle with a fully-loaded freight rake, dad & I somehow managed to haul our heavy luggage to the suburban lobby on the ER side over the FOB. A quick dash to the Unreserved Ticket counter provided us the license to chase down a departing HWH-BWN chord local. Scheduled departure being 06.10, the guard was on his toes even before that and just about to ring the ting-ting. “Dada, ektu daaraan” cried my dad with immense hopes in his eyes and the gentleman surely obliged. We barely managed to board all our luggage into the first door that we came across after the guard’s cabin and the very next second we were accelerating out of HWH! As we settled on our seats it immediately gripped me that, had it been a Mumbai EMU departing from CSTM/CCG, we would have had to pull our triathlon of weight-lifting, running and high jump at least 20 metres longer possibly in a losing cause!
My last and only experience I remember onboard an ER EMU was about 18 months back as a pretty short journey to and fro. Several bits of that experience readily flooded my mind but this was quite different. The chord line that I had heard about for so long and of which I had viewed innumerable videos online about prestigious trains ripping across at 130km/h was gradually unfolding before my wide open eyes. I even got my dad interested in the proceedings to follow and I’m proud to say I did well.
So the first thing I noticed on a Monday early morning EMU is the relaxed crowd, really indifferent to the fact that they were up and running pretty earlier than most and that a potentially tough week could lie ahead. Monday mornings in Mumbai, in stark contrast, are invariably undesired. A group of people reserved seats for their fellow co-passengers boarding at next station, somewhat similar to Mumbai. But wait, there’s more. They have a tea/biscuits vendor serving them without a word from either party. Wow, so they have it this way everyday as a fixed service? Surely the answer is affirmative.
I couldn’t disturb my gaze fixed to the western side as I took my first peek at the humongous HWH ELS with several WAP-4, WAP-7, WAG-7, WAG-5 and a single WAG-9. It was a sight to behold as the red monsters and white beasts had outnumbered the passengers in my coach! The vast coaching yard with several rakes parked literally made my jaw drop in awe. The EMU carshed was another entity that could not be missed by my prying eyes. All-in-all just the several huge establishments around HWH makes a railfan visit HWH as and when possible.
As we bid goodbye to the mainline at Bally, I point out the same to my dad. For all practical purposes the mainline is of interest to him, while for me the chord line is the sweeping winner with regards to high speed action and several prestigious trains of the region. A few kilometres down the line, lush green rice fields are in abundance, which makes us wonder how quickly we have moved from urban to rural landscape skipping the ‘suburban’ whereabouts altogether.
A few Monday morning down locals towards HWH were running decently occupied with daily commuters. But immediately turning to the other side, I see a SDAH-Dankuni EMU racing with us and unable to catch-up. Although my EMU wins comprehensively, our crew generously waits for the lazy passengers to switch to our EMU, thus nullifying the advantage. I immediately reckon that CR’s Transharbour trains at Thane hardly care about their mainline counterparts and vice versa, which by ER standards stands as terribly heartless, isn’t it?
The fertile plains decorated with green crops turned into an endless and continuous landscape till my eyes could see. The morning beam of sunrays caressing their smooth and vast expanse gave it a glistening appearance in a hue that I had not often come across. A person starved of deep sleep for such a long time would have given up by now, but the railfan in me discovering new avenues in ER’s backyard turned out to be extremely stubborn.
A crawl followed by a complete standstill for around 20mins wasn’t on the cards. From the plentiful super-intelligent discussions around us, it appeared there was some technical problem ahead of us. There we were, anxiously stuck at Janai Road outer praying for no more shocking surprises in store for our already troubled journey. The brakes were released a few minutes later and we crawled into Janai Road only to find the guard being scratched for information by several daily commuters. It was obvious they are getting delayed but the level of frustration is far subdued as compared to a similar situation in Mumbai. In fact the news got confirmed that there was a signal failure at the next station, Baruipara. Another 20mins evaporate in vain as we don’t move an inch. Just when my eyes have given a green flag to the sleep request propped up by my subconscious, a miracle happens and we accelerate normally to Baruipara.
The chord line, thanks to its high speed MPS fully enjoyed by premium trains, has become quite a well-known stretch for Youtube followers. Having watched countless high speed and parallel action videos, the stations coming up one by one didn’t seem as unfamiliar. Throughout the stretch upto Saktigarh, we crossed quite a few expresses and EMUs but too much to identify for a newly hatched ER railfan. However before Saktigarh, around Palla Road at 08.40, the white beast hauling the red brigade at a decent speed with roaring EOGs was sure enough identifiable. Sealdah Rajdhani it was without a doubt. Saktigarh rail flyover was another interesting finding for me as I was unaware about it.
As BWN outer came within a stone’s throw, our EMU did the most expected thing of coming to a halt. What followed was the most anxious few moments as I could hear roaring EOGs. As we started to move, His Highness ER King HWH Rajdhani had already strolled through BWN and was being restrained over crossovers. Customary WAP-7, shining coaches, glimmering windows further reinforced its respect in my heart. BWN diesel loco shed has a conspicuous presence on the right side when one approaches from HWH and I was quite delighted at the sight of a few BWN alcos, which are extremely rare in my region.
Our EMU smartly pulled in around 08.57, after departing from HWH at 06.12, overall delayed by 40mins due to the technical problem. I had consoled my mind as none of the two bigwigs of ER could impress me by a high speed exhibition. However I couldn’t exit BWN station without a consolation prize as a surprise Yuva Exp crossed BWN at a sedate speed. Poorva Exp was expected soon, but I didn’t want to keep my uncle waiting who had come to pick us up.
More interesting journeys coming up…