It was 27th November, 2012 and I was so excited and looking forward to the journey into various sections in NFR (Northeast Frontier Railway) and especially into the much talked about and highly sensitive hill section. I was wondering what all I would encounter as a photographer, what all I would learn as a rail enthusiast, and what all I would embrace as a traveler. I was traveling along with Sarbamit from Kolkata and Raunak from Lucknow and tickets were booked. Mr. B.M.S Bisht (ex-GM, NFR) was kind enough to have taken care of my accommodation and also introduced me to Sr.DOM Rangiya and CFTM-Maligaon, who have made this journey so memorable and successful.
All packed and ready to leave, I boarded the Habra-Sealdah Local at 17:10pm from New Barrackpore along with Sarbamit. We landed up at Dum Dum Junction and took our next connection Barrackpore-Majerhat Local at 17:44pm to Kolkata Chitpur (KOAA). One of the remarkably different aspects that I noticed was that this EMU had digital name board on the side of each alternate compartment.
It was a fairly easy ride since we were going in the opposite direction in the office hours. Once we were at KOAA, we went to the enquiry booth and asked about our train 05673 Kolkata-Kamakhya Puja Special. We were told that the train had not even arrived from Kamakhya.
There was a sinking feeling. I wondered if my fate was again going to bring me face to face with the nightmarish situation I faced in Sealdah Rajdhani special. If the train was arriving late, it will depart late, which means that we will arrive at Kamakhya late and I will completely lose half a day. The question was how late was the train running? The scheduled departure from KOAA was 21:40pm. I quickly switched on wifi on my mobile and went into train enquiry to check live status. The news was not good but it was nice to know that the train would arrive by 20:00pm. So I decided to just roam around the station, watch the people, and catch up a conversation with my friends.
Since, there was a lot of time at hand, I asked Sarbamit for his camera so that I could show him how to take night shots and also document movement at the Railway Station. There was plenty of diesel action with light WDM’s and WDS going about shunting rakes and just idling away. At around 19:30pm, the rake of 12359 Patna Garibrath was shunted into Platform 4.
After a few minutes, its power arrived. HWH WAP-4 #22635 was taking charge of the train. While the loco pilots were testing the markers, horn, and panto, I managed to take a few snaps with short and long exposure. Soon it was given the green and the Garib Rath crawled out bang at 20:00pm. Here’s the video:
Spending time at the station was becoming a pain with no announcement whatsoever of our train. Soon another rake was shunted into the platform and it was that of 13117 Kolkata Berhampore Court Dhanya Dhaanya Express. Its power of the day was ASN WAG-5A #23611. As I was watching the LP’s perform their duties, the rake of 13157 Tirhut Express was shunted into Platform 3. Its power was ASN WAG-5 #23628. Both these trains were given the green at their scheduled time and they left and I was left to watch the near empty platforms with no sign of my train.
I walked to either ends of the platform and found out that a lot of construction work was still going on at Platform 4 towards Dum Dum Jn., end. There were no food stalls, book stalls, or even water stalls on Platform 4. The vendors were all on Platform 1 and they were definitely not the most courteous bunch I have ever spoken to. The snacks offered by them were of low quality, expensive and top of that, I had to bear with their rude behavior.
Amidst announcement of re-scheduling of 13111 Lal Quilla Express, I heard the shrill honk of a WAP-4. Turned around and saw HWH WAP-4 #22378 bring in the rake of Lal Quilla Express. It was 20:51pm and then my ears heard what it was waiting to hear – the sound of a WDM and it chugged into Platform 2 with the 5-hour late 05674. I sighed a sense of relief but at the same time, I knew that there was going to be a minimum waiting time of 4.5hrs mandatory for rake maintenance.
Surprisingly, the coaches were not numbered and we couldn’t make out, which was our coach. The composition from the loco was 2 SLR’s, 5xSL, 1x3AC, 2xSL, and 6xSLR. Finally, after a wait of 10 mins, a railway official came and marked each coach number with chalk and put up the reservation chart. Our coach was S-5 and it was 5th from the loco. Even after the charts were put up, we were unable to board as washing and cleaning was going on. Finally, we were allowed to board the train but in complete darkness because of an electrical problem in our coach only. Thanks to our mobile phones, we were able to find out berth 63 and 64 – side lower-upper combination. The good news was that our berths were in the running direction!
Finally, the Lal Quilla Express was also given the green and we were left in complete darkness with no knowledge of our departure time. Finally, after an unending wait, I saw the starter turn green and a modified honk by our loco, BWN WDM #18845, marked the starting of an eventful journey!