Photographs: Praveen D’Silva Rajpal, Dubai
Feb 10, 2010
After numerous delays, the much-awaited Mangalore-Yeshwanthpur Express - day train service connecting the port city and the state capital was flagged off in Mangalore Central Railway Station on August 29, 2009 at 08.40 a.m. amidst much fanfare. Since then, this new train has been a big hit. During our recent trip to India, we travelled by the train unravelling the experiences.
On our first day of our trip to India, we went online (Indian Railways Site: www.irctc.co.in) and gobbled up the only six seats available in the Air-Conditioned Reservation Compartment of the Train No. 6516 Mangalore-Yeshwanthpur Express. Our travel date was on the 16th of January 2010 at 08.40 a.m.
When we arrived at the Mangalore Central Station (between Attavar/Pandeshwar) on the scheduled Saturday at 08.10 a.m., to our amazement the train was already stationed in Platform No. 1. We boarded and settled in our seats and at dot 08.40 a.m. the train moved. Travelling at a slow speed, it reached the Mangalore Junction Station (between Kankandy/Padil) at 8.52 a.m. where it haulted for just a minute before carrying on its journey. When it started, the train had 12 coaches plus the engine of which two were general unreserved, nine sitting (reserved) and one three tier air-conditioned compartment (where we had reserved) and watched it passing Bantwal and Kabakaputtur stopping at these Stations for two minutes each and after covering around 92 kms from its origin, arriving at Subramanya Road Station at about 10.40 a.m.
In the five minutes halt at this Station, the train filled left, right and centre in all of the general compartments by the devotees who were returning from the Kukke Subramanaya Temple, a pristine pilgrimage location situated about 7 km from the Station. I learnt that the train gets virtually emptied here on the reverse route by the pilgrims who throng to worship Lord Subramanya as the Lord of all serpents.
After the scheduled five minutes, as the railway employee gave the ‘all clear signal’ waving the green flag, the train hooted and started moving at a steady speed. The stretch from Subramanya to Sakleshpur could be aptly described as ‘a ride through heaven on earth.’ It took nearly 2 1/2 hours for the train to cover the 110 kms giving the best nature had to offer of which 57 kms of ghat section were simply out of the world and an unforgettable experience with the train cruising so to say at only 15-20 km per hour in this sector. Nature is bountiful and there are a few other places in India that perhaps matched what we experienced of the Western Ghats. It was all green and the 12 green cars of the train added to the scenic beauty as well.
Moving from Sakleshpur, the train stopped at Hassan for two minutes. If we say the treat to our eyes ended at Sakleshpur, we are mistaken. There was still a lot of lush greenery around – coconut and arecanut groves, banana plantations and fields lining the route. After a ten minute stop at Arasikere Junction, the train started gaining speed running in the opposite direction with the beauty of the sun-set following it at the background. Then it passed Tiptur, Tumkur finally reaching Yeshwanthpur in Bangalore West at 07.00 p.m. covering a total of 451 km.
The whole sector has been an engineering marvel – a tribute to the Indian brain. There are 670 bridges with fanstastic views beneath them … yes, underneath the bridges; 110 curves and 57 tunnels and a breathtaking 8 degree curve.
There went a huge roar each time the train approached a tunnel, awe and wonder when it passed the hills, a gasp of breath when it negotiated a curve and an exclamation when it went over a bridge. The sound of the water gushing in the stream, the birds flying around a lake, the cattle grazing the fields, the clouds hovering under the sky and the puffing of the train engine completed the splendour. For us, it was special for another reason - it was our 9 month old son Carl Anthony’s first train journey.
The journey of course was not without issues. At least half of the glass windows of the A/c compartment (B1) were smoky (not clear) obscuring the wonderful views nature had to offer while sitting or reclining during the travel. They lay down tracks in the middle of the hills and valleys and then they provide these windows that are smoky!! Wondered whether all the trains running on this sector had these smoky glass windows or this was an exception. Halfway through the journey, the tap of the Compartment ran out of water due to a technical snag. Gradually due to the absence of water, a stench emanated from the otherwise clean toilets for it was continued to be used.
All in all the Rs. 500/- spent for an adult ticket was worth it. In non-A/C compartments the price is still less and one can enjoy the open window views with the air gushing inside. Even the private luxury buses charge the same fare with the KSRTC a trifle less and they ply on roads when there are no roads … especially the 150 km road from Sakleshpur to Mangalore which can be termed as pathetic. The best part of a train journey is it’s a smooth ride - for thank God rails run on tracks and not on roads.
Day Train Information:
The following information is current while writing but has to be taken only as a guide keeping in view the trends (bound for changes) of the largest employer of the world.
Train No. 6516 (Day Train): The Mangalore-Central Yeshwanthpur Tri-Weekly Express train operates thrice a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It leaves Mangalore Central Railway Station at 8.40 a.m. and reaches Yeshwanthpur Station in Bangalore West at 7.00 p.m. the same day.
Train No. 6515 (Day Train): In the return direction, the Yeshwanthpur- Mangalore Central Tri-Weekly Express departs Yeshwanthpur Station in Bangalore at 7.30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and reaches Mangalore Central at 05.55 p.m. the same day. In the reverse journey, the train touches the route of Train No. 6516.
As per the Railway Time Table, the day train takes ten-and-a-half hours either way covering a distance of 451 kms. (The e-ticket had it as 440 kms).
There is a proposal to run the train daily but it remains to be seen whether that proposal turns into a reality.
Advance booking is available and tickets can be booked online or at the railway counters. Tickets can be booked three months in advance and said to account for 58 per cent of the trains seating capacity. One of the passenger booked on an E-ticket is required to present the electronic slip printout and any of the five identity cards (as mentioned below) in original during the train journey and the same will be accepted as the proof of identity failing which all the passengers will be treated as travelling without ticket and shall be dealt as per extant Railway Rules. Valid IDs accepted include Voter Identity Card / Passport / Pan Card / Driving Licence / Photo ID Card issued by Central/State government for their employees.
Another point to be noted while booking online is to book Mangalore Central Railway Station as the boarding station. If booked from Mangalore Junction and one has boarded the train in Mangalore Central Station, though the seats are reserved, one may cough a hefty fine for ticketless travel between Mangalore Central to Mangalore Junction though the distance between the stations is a mere 6 kms. Families are advised to board at Mangalore Central because it just stops for a minute in Mangalore Junction even making it difficult to locate the right compartment to enter among other things.
Make sure you call the South-Western Railway before you embark on your journey to get confirmed whether the train is running on the scheduled date. There are innumerable instances where the train has been cancelled due to various factors, among them incessant weather (heavy rains, landslides) topping the list.
As reported in the columns of Daijiworld, the rail service between Mangalore and Bangalore was called off owing to a gauge conversion (from metre gauge to broad gauge) in September 1996 and the work that was supposed to be completed in a year's time took all this while – more than a decade.
It is no secret discussed in public circles that the delay was partly due to the private tourist bus and the truck lobbies. With each train carrying more than 1000 people one way that would work out to about 20 bus-loads of people. The bus owners feared the annual turnover of Rs. 800 crores would fall drastically with the movement of the new train, as the Mangalore-Bangalore highway is the most lucrative track in the entire State. The sheer negligence of the Union Government was the other factor where the work went on at a snail’s pace until 2002. Besides this, there were the engineering difficulties railwaymen encountered in the gauge conversion work in the steep ghat sections that added to the delay.
All said and done, coming back to the experience, the journey could be simply summed up into a poem.
The Western Ghat’s splendour consist these:
The brooks and the nestled hills
The lakes and the verdant valleys
The waterfalls and the running streams
The bridges and the endless tunnels...
One’s heart would indeed skip a beat
Lo! behold … to watch such a treat!
What poetry cannot express, the pictures would say the rest. Check it out.
The next time you are in Mangalore or Bangalore, take the day train. It would be an experience that you would not forget in a hurry.
More Pictures: Click Here
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