200 MINS OF MONSOON GLORY
Continued from part 2…
WCAM-3 ‘rocks’ the cradle…
The overnight adventure had squeezed out every joule of energy from our bodies, while the serotonin in our brains urged for a desperate nap. The quiet lifeless coaches welcoming our four tired souls did wonders that would put hypnotics to shame. Half an hour to departure without much action, the seniormost among us had blissfully entered dream-world within minutes. The rest three of us looked forward to sustain longer. As amusing as it was a few hours ago, the ghost train 22102 MMR-LTT Rajyarani Exp, again kicked off on time with the same KYN WCAM-3 21890 with occupancy levels in decimals below unity.
We were thrusted to 3-digit speeds in the blink of an eye, thanks to the impeccable acceleration of the WCAM-3. However the dense cool air hitting our faces knocked out one more to sleep. The same TTE visited us with a stoic look on his face. I could never have put up such a face if I had to wake up at 05.00 to check just a dozen passengers on a train. With just half our manpower active, the two of us, still awake, could not afford to miss the raw might of the WCAM-3 unleashed at dawn. The multitude of green fields interspersed with tiny hamlets flashed past in milliseconds. The melodious rhythm of hammering the tracks at unshakable 105km/h along with the two-dimensional nudges proved to be the perfect lullaby for our sleep-deprived folks. The freshly acquired green robe flaunted by the earth all along served as the perfect substitute for an early morning cup of green tea for the rest two of us. Summit to Odha, all received undesired wake-up calls on a lazy Sunday morning, but their reverence for the Rajyarani kept the chain of greens unruffled.
Video: Kasbe Sukene To Khervadi at MPS
Video: Skipping Odha at MPS
The train through beautiful locations…
Nasik Road populated our train to a decent level. Families with casual attires and not-so-bulky luggage were privileged to grab a seat of their choice. With no delay whatsoever, the Rajyarani charged towards the next close halt Devlali. Further, the scenic locations upto Igatpuri were mouthwatering enough to have woken up our napping counterparts. The womanly curves along the tracks being looked upon by mountain-tops shielded by clouds had the envious Rajyarani craving for attention. Daily runs by the unscathed Rajyarani had blunted its appreciation for the scenic worth of the surroundings; however it was delicious fodder for our group of craving monsoon railfans.
Video: The stretch from Padli to Ghoti at MPS
The mesmerizing Thull Ghats in monsoon
Igatpuri trip shed was all painted in red. A host of WAP-4, WAM-4 and WAG-5 locos with a few WAP-7 and WAP-1 was the densest collection of electric locos I had ever seen. A few could be recognized after their late night encounter at MMR. Just a couple of minutes before time, our train had claimed the platform at IGP as a sight-seeing point for the next 5-7mins. The LP seemed to be in no hurry at all. The snack vendors were zealously offering their hot vadas, while three railfans were scouring the territory to live the moment. A dose of idli vada renewed our enthusiasm to such an extent that we ended up jogging to catch the departing train.
An unbelievable welcome into the Thull Ghats put us on high alert. Clouds, fog, mist all around, the gentle streams of water stroking the musculature of the terrain, the enticing dark tunnels and the stunning viaducts towering high over the valleys were treating our expectant eyes to delight. They must have surely noticed the graceful Rajyarani snaking over the tight curves and descending the trying gradients. The green mountain slopes were joyfully enduring the soft drizzle under their faithful cloud cover. Their virgin beauty untouched by man and beast would inspire nature lovers for centuries to come. The climax had us jumping with excitement as the Rajyarani dominated a freight led by a WAG-9 with triple WAG-7 breakers by overtaking it on-the-go. It was hard to think how 30mins of heavenly pleasure passed by so swiftly.
Videos: Complete Thull Ghats (Igatpuri to Kasara) in 3 parts
Last few moments…
A two-minute halt at Kasara was done with and now the WCAM-3 had some great gradients to assist its MPS glide towards Kalyan. As one would expect, it seemed nature had exclusively applied a green filter to the visible spectrum. The cool relief sent from the skies had sprung new life into the otherwise barren slopes and plains around us. Gitanjali, Tapovan, Kashi Exp all breezed past us splashing the downpour. Ah, the Thull Ghats were going to have more guests and admirers. Just before Kalyan, the weekly visitor LTT-Kamakhya AC Exp made a humble appearance that proved to be the icing on the cake. My three companions were to continue upto Thane, while my Rajyarani ride ended at Kalyan itself.
With Kalyan getting closer, a sense of achievement and content had set into our minds. We had experienced an awesome extra-ordinary run onboard the empty train, an adventurous 6 hours at Manmad with all the night action covered, the mind-blowing blast by the Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto and last but not the least the fantastic Thull Ghats on a monsoon morning. In short, I would describe it as a railfanning experience unparalleled and a visual delight incomparable. I offer my heartfelt thanks to my three friends for having made this trip possible and for the countless memories to cherish for eons.