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My greatest rail-fanning moments on Indian Railways January 17, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

Many years ago, when I was a budding rail-fan, I was fascinated with being a railway guard on Indian Railways. I was so enamored with how the gentleman in white at the rear of the train would lean out of his cab, sound his shrill whistle in a high pitch and gently wave his green flag to let the train move. And as the train picked up speed, his waving of the flag would feverishly increase in its intensity till the train would disappear from your sight.

Years passed and my interest turned into locomotives and their drivers (called Loco Pilots in Indian Railways parlance). Specifically Assistant Loco Pilots who perform inspection of the loco, check signals, and wave the green flag in sync with the Guard at the rear, as the Loco Pilot sounds the horn and takes the train out of the station.

The entire action of a train starting from a station is one of my biggest rail-fanning moments. For a rail-fan like me, those are moments of great anticipation.

Sometimes there is a crew change. The few minutes when the old set of crew interacts with the fresh crew taking out the train are exciting. If there is a loco change, you can bet that there will be a crowd watching to see the loco getting coupled to the train.

Occasionally, you will see a very faithful loco driver pray at the control stand before taking out his ride. Some Assistant Loco Pilots carry waste paper in their hands as they do their loco check. None of them wear a uniform in the place where I come from.

Almost all of them eagerly await the signal of the guard before they start waving their flags. No Loco Pilot sounds the horn till they get a ‘right’ from the Guard. It doesn’t matter even if the starter (signal) is right (green). The Guard’s gotta say ‘aye’.

Sometimes, the train moves as a family makes a last bid effort to the board the train. If the Assistant Loco Pilot spots that he asks his chief to go a bit easy on the wheel.

And I almost forgot about the locos, depending on the type of loco, be it a Diesel (WDM2, WDM3D) or Electric (WAP4, WAM4, WAP1), they all come with different horns, different looks and different take-off actions, which makes each experience different.

A few weeks ago, I created a set of videos capturing the starting of trains at Ernakulam Junction, a major railway station in Kerala. These 12 videos feature probably everything I shared about my biggest rail-fanning moments. I was plain lucky to have the same vantage point for every video, a great place to watch these amazing locos take off. They may all look the same to many. But a true rail-fan will find each journey a different beginning.

Enjoy your videos!


Rail-fanning at Bharathapuzha June 30, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Bharathapuzha or Nila is the second longest river in Kerala. Bharathapuzha means River (Puzha) of Bharathamba (Goddess mother of Bharath – India).

The allusion behind the name is that the river feeds people like their own mother – (the water is pure and can be used for drinking, irrigation or other purposes).

Bharathapuzha originates in the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu and flows west through the three districts of Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram and finally meets the Arabian Sea at Ponnani.

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Nila is very close to hearts of the people of Kerala, owing to its historical and cultural significance. Many of Kerala’s greatest creative geniuses such as Kunchan Nambiar (a satirical poet and founder of the Ottamthullal art form), Malayalam writers M. T. Vasudevan Nair, M.Govindan, V. K. N. and O. V. Vijayan have been inspired by her beauty.

Kerala Kalamandalam, a major learning center for Indian performing arts is situated in the village of Cheruthuruthy on the banks of Nila. The famous Ayurveda treatment centre of Kottakkal is adjacent to the Nila. It is also home to several famous Hindu temples as well. Legend goes that those cremated on the banks of the Bharathapuzha achieve salvation.

A train journey over the Bharathapuzha is a very nostalgic experience for Keralites. Many times I’ve seen travelers gaze out of the windows admiring the river that embodies the soul and spirit of North Kerala. It is not uncommon to hear travelers give impromptu lectures about the history of the river and berate the recent man-made ecological problems that have led to its drying up.

The river flows to its fullest only during the monsoon season in the last few years, and this year Kerala has had a particularly bad monsoon and you can see the river much dried up.

The British laid the current railway track parallel to the course of the river from Parli in Palakkad through Shoranur (a major railway junction in North Kerala) and up to Tirunnavaya (the last station on the line). The railway line is thus an inseparable part of the contemporary history of Nila.

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I recently went on a rail-fanning trip to Bharathapuzha. It has been one of my greatest wishes to visit the banks of the river and check out the trains gliding over the majestic rail bridges over the Nila, ever since I was a kid.

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Highlights of the trip included up and down rides on the Bharathapuzha railway bridges on the Ernakulam-Shoranur Passenger and Shoranur-Trivandrum Venad Express (check out video), a dip in the river beneath the bridges where I had oodles of fun waving out to passengers in the trains, a visit to a local toddy shop and finally some action packed rail-fanning at Shoranur Junction and Bharathapuzha (check out the videos of the diesel and electric action).

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Needless to say, with the sun playing hide-and-seek, intermittent showers and constant rail action, the atmosphere was simply enticing. Indeed, one of my best rail-fanning journeys ever!

Enjoy the videos!

Here are a few pics from a journey over Bharathapuzha in December 2006.




Express trains on the Bharathapuzha Railway Bridge

Freight train (push-pull) action at Shoranur Junction

Parasuram Express at Shoranur Junction

WDM3D action at Shoranur Junction

WAP4 action at Shoranur Junction

Life on the curve May 17, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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The WAP-4 hauled 2644 Hazrat Nizamuddin – Trivandrum Swarna Jayanti Express on a magnificent curve between Gwalior and Sandalpur on 1 February 2008. It was a burning hot day and I had an affable railway worker from Gwalior to give me company in the deserted coach. Enjoy the ride!

The Best of Indian Railways January 20, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Here are 2 mash-ups of my rail-fanning adventures across India in 2006 & 2007.


  • Mangalore bound Parasuram Express bleating its horn at Valapattanam
  • Speeding through a Mumbai local station
  • Trainspotting at Varanasi
  • Konkan Jan Shatabdi at Divankhavati
  • Overtaking a MG train at Kollam outer
  • WCAM/WAG banker freight action on the ghats at Igatpuri
  • Mumbai bound Ratnagiri Superfast Express entering Jalgaon
  • Cucumber seller at Jalgaon
  • High-speed rail action / crossings in the Kollam-Kayankulam stretch and Kannur
  • Footplating on the WAP4
  • RORO train on Konkan Railways
  • Double-headed WDM2 freight action after Madgaon
  • Friendly railway staff on Konkan Railway
  • Kerala Express spotted at Aluva and Kollam outer

The background score in this video is from Androsphynx & TechnoDaftpunk, but I have also preserved the original sound from the clipss so that you can hear the train beats and the loco horns.

The background score of this video is a song from the Tamil movie Aran. No train beats, just rail action!

Hope you enjoy them!

The WAP4 Ride January 7, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
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Moi with a WAP4, Ernakulam

The WAP4 is one of my favorite electric locos. (Well, I’ve an internal tussle going on for the favorite spot between the WDM2 and the WAP4, but that can wait later).

Here’s a video of my first ever footplate* ride on a WAP4 in Kerala in 2007. The ride was awesome as we cruised along lush greenery. Check out the assistant loco pilot call out the signals. Creating this video required some deft editing skills, especially since I didn’t want to show the loco drivers. Windows Movie Maker rocks. Enjoy the ride.


To ride in the cab of a locomotive, from the old term footplate from steam days, referring to the horizontal surface projecting from the locomotive frame, on which the loco cab was constructed. Although diesels and electrics do not have a footplate like that, the terminology persists.

A trip through Konkan Railway-1 August 10, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

A rail journey through the scenic Konkan Railway is the Indian rail-fan’s ultimate dream. The first time I travelled through Konkan Railway was on 14 December 2006 – from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) to Kerala on the 6345 Netravati Express. It was one of my most scenic rail trips ever. I clicked a few snaps then on the LTT-Panvel-Roha-Chiplun stretch, promising to do a full-fledged rail-photography session in the future.

A few days later, I travelled again from Kerala to Madgaon on the 168 Trivandrum-Dadar Holiday Special. I clicked a few snaps again, mostly on the Honnavar-Asnoti-Madgaon stretch. From Madgaon, I travelled to Mangalore on the 2619 Matsyagandha Express, mostly clicking snaps of Mangalore when the train got there in the early morning.

This year, I travelled from Ernakulam to Dadar on the Ernakulam-Dadar Holiday special that left Ernakulam after midnight (8 June 2007). This gave me a chance to photograph the stretch from Kannur-Kasaragod-Kankanadi-Udupi-Bhatkal-Kumta-Cancona-Madgaon during daytime. Click here to view a Google Map of my trip.

The journey was exciting and featured the following:

I have uploaded images of the Ernakulam-Dadar (UP) trip on Flickr. Click here to view them. There are 162 snaps in all. I will upload snaps from my return trip from Mumbai to Kerala (DOWN) trip soon.

Slide gives me an awesome way to give you a sneak preview of my images in this happening ‘8mm film treatment’. If you like what you see in here, you can head to Flickr. As always, your comments are welcome!

Here’s my pick of the best 5 snaps.

And this is my all time fav…

And here’s a sneak look at the entire lot.

Konkan-Railway-Trip-1 Thumbnails

Trainspotting at Kollam August 10, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

Here’s a video from an afternoon of rail-fanning at my hometown – Kollam, Kerala, India. The train is none other than the 2626 New Delhi-Trivandrum Kerala Express hauled by new WAP4 on the block – 22694. The 2626 is my fav train! This rail-fanning spot is just opposite the SN College, Kollam next to the Kollam Junction Railway Station. You can hear me and my best buddy pass inane comments while ogling at the train. The best thing about this video was the group of travellers singing ‘Laila 0 Laila’. Enjoy!

Minutes later, the Kochuveli-Bangalore Express, hauled by a WDM2 passed by. Couldn’t take more snaps than this as the train passed just a few inches from where were sitting… 🙂 But it was such a scary but exhilarating feeling!

Trainspotting videos make me happy! July 25, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

I never knew what an ‘anorak’ meant till an enlightening conversation I had a few days ago with a journalist from Khaleej Times, Dubai, UAE. The conversation triggered me to start a new blog – one exclusively for the train love, snaps and the usual weepie tears of longing on days such as today when I terribly miss the clackety-clack of trains (a phrase coined by good friend Lewis Green) . The blog is currently under development, and it will be a while before I unveil it to the world… but now, here’s a collection of trainspotting videos from the back in the days, just to cheer me up. Hope you like them too 🙂

This is one is shot just outside Varanasi Railway Station. A group of straggler kids who live next to the railway lines join me in my rail-fanning pursuit. One of them was pretty high on dope. Note the smoker WDM2 from Gonda with the classic shrill steam engine whistle, a piece of paper getting buffetted in the wind by the sheer movement of the train, travellers hanging onto the door of the coach, the lady drying dung cakes (source of fuel)  next to the tracks, even my ‘poor’ Hindi – trying to catch the attention of the smiling assistant loco driver by calling him ‘Bhaisaab’ (brother), banter with the kids surrounding me… Shooting this was exciting!

The next two videos are shot on Konkan Railway… where my train had stopped for crossing. One of them is the Konkan Jan Shatabdi, probably the fastest train running on Konkan Railways & the other is the Okha-Ernakulam Express. Enjoy the ALCO beasts! And drop me a comment to cheer me up!

Big Brother vs. Small Brother July 22, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

Check out these two videos of a unique sight on Indian Railways – A metregauge train overtaking a broadgauge train and the latter exacting sweet revenge, in a few minutes. The action is set at Kollam Railway Station in Kerala which has a broadgauge line and a metregauge line that has now been decommissioned.

The trains in action are the 7229 Trivandrum-Hyderabad-Narsapur Sabari Express and the Kollam-Tirunelveli-Shencottah passenger. There was all-round excitement as the trains raced each other. While the MG train made early headway by leaving its platform first, the BG Sabari Express took some time to catch up and show what it was made up of.  The passengers of both trains loved the action.  I was travelling in the broadgauge train. My apologies for the rather not- up-to-the mark quality of the videos – it’s compression plus the direct sunlight on the camera. Neways, enjoy!

Trainspotting videos from Igatpuri July 20, 2007

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.

Here are a few videos of my recent trainspotting adventures at Thull Ghat, Igatpuri.

Freight Train on bridge at Igatpuri
This one is probably the most interesting video as:
• I tripped on a rock as I was moving backwards to get out of the way of the incoming freight train.
• You can hear the whistles and shout-outs of the workers in the tunnel warning of the approaching train.
• I shot this video from a hutment at the edge of the bridge.
• This is a never-ending freight train and I got bored after a while shooting this video. You can see that I’m moving around the camera in weird angles out of sheer boredom.
• Right after shooting this video, I was chased off the bridge by a railway official.
• Did you notice the lovely, daredevil lady perched on the back of the last banker electric loco? I’m sure I can’t ride like that on a loco.
• If you got some spare time on your hands, why don’t you try counting the wagons in this train? First person to get the right answer gets a ‘special mention’ on this blog!
• Please note that there is no caboose in this freight train.
• That’s Suneel walking on the bridge at the end.
• OK, I will stop bugging your brains. On with the video.

Superfast train on Thull Ghat bridge at Igatpuri
Note the loud noise made by the LTT-Manmad Godavari Express as it gets on the bridge. And the ‘hitchhikers’ on the banker locos in the end.

Hike to get to Thull Ghat
A video of the idyllic surrounds of the village leading to Thull Ghat. The village is inhabited by a fishing community. Note the confluence of railway lines. You can see Suneel, the auto rickshaw driver who made my trainspotting adventures a reality.

Bankers rushing to Kasara
WAG Bankers on their way to fetch a train from Kasara. They are running on the down lines. Again note the presence of ‘hitchhikers’ on the banker locos. This video was shot behind the Bharat Petroleum Filling Station next to Ganaka Motel, Igatpuri.

Dedicated to all members of the IRFCA group and authors of ‘The Age of Conversation’ for bringing out an exciting book on conversation that is going to help a lot of kids smile.