Indian Railways – My annual vacations in the 70’s and 80’s

20 Oct

Though this was not the specific loco which hauled the Madras express, this was the class of locos which used to haul the Madras express

We used to stay in Secunderabad – Dad was a railway man hence we stayed in the Railway quarters of South Lallaguda, studied in the Railway school (I had to move out of St.Johns due to dad’s constant transfers) and travelled to Tiruppur every summer during our annual vacations.

This photo is from the early 1900’s and I used to travel in the 70’s. The platform was more crowded and had the ubiquitous A H Wheeler & Co. stall.

I clearly remember all those train journey’s. We used to take the Madras express from Secunderabad (Dep : 1530hrs, If I remember correctly) pulled by a WP steam loco. I used to drag my father to the front of the train to see the loco. Loved to see those huge locos being prepared for the journey. Even before the trip to the front of the train, there used to be a mad scramble for the window seat facing the engine. I and my sister used to run into the coach and into our first class coupe (privilege of travelling in first class due to dad’s position in the railways) to grab the berth facing the engine. Once in a while, if my sister got the berth facing the engine, I used to throw a tantrum to get that particular berth. Post getting the seat/berth facing the loco, I would then drag Dad to go and watch the loco.

A Loco entering Platform 3 of Secunderabad station in the early 1900’s. In the 70’s it was covered and had the Konark express departing from platform 2.

View of platform 1 in 1890

Once the train started, it used to be fun to watch the loco at the curves, the hooting, the smoke and the rhythm of the chugging of the steam loco. I can vividly remember those journeys. Within half hour of the train starting, Mom used to unpack the goodies which was prepared and packed weeks in advance for the journey. We were never allowed to buy anything during the journey, it was all home cooked food. Sambhar rice, Curd rice, tamarind rice and savouries to accompny the food. As the day started getting darker, the train used to reach Kazipet. We were never allowed to get out of the train but dad used to get down to fill the bottle with water. In those days you could drink the tap water from the station. I used to panic when dad got out of the train assuming that the train would leave without him. I used keep screaming at him to get back quickly. As the night settled, Mom and sister would take the 2 lower berths and I and Dad used to take the 2 upper berths. We almost always travelled in a 4 berth coupe. I used to desperately try and be awake to get a glimpse of Vijayawada, the reason being that the train crosses the Krishna bridge and I used to love to hear the sound of the train when it is crossing the bridge. I don’t think, I ever managed to be awake till I grew up.

This is where the MG section used to be. I used to love to go and watch the MG locals and trains departing from this section

I clearly remember our preparation for the journey, the auto or a rickshaw to the station, waiting on platform no. 1 (If I were an artist, I would have portrayed the station of those days accurately), watching Godavari Express depart before the arrival of our train, going to the reservation board and being excited seeing our names on the reservation board and dragging dad all along the platform to see the station, (as I write this, I can smell the coal from the locos shunting at the station). Some times, I used to drag dad to the MG section of the station to get a glimpse of Venkatdri Express, which used to depart at 3PM from the MG section of the station. Venkatdri was the only train I remember not being hauled by a steam loco. It always was hauled by a matching livery diesel loco. If I remember correctly, the livery used to be dark green with a matching loco. I ensured that I watched a few local trains entering and exiting before we returned back to our platform. The MG section never used to be as busy or as crowded as the BG section was and I used to wonder why?  There used to locals which used to go upto Falaknuma via Kacheguda and the other ones used to go upto Bolaram. Back to our train after these small tours around the station, our train used to depart Secunderabad and reach Madras the next day at 6AM.

We used to go to the first class waiting hall on the first floor of Madras Central to freshen up and get ready for the onward journey. I used to take a bath quickly and then stand in the corridor and watch the MG EMU’s on the beach line (just a glimpse between buildings). After everyone had taken their bath, we used to go down and have our breakfast at the railway canteen. It used to hot Idli’s and vada’s and they used to taste so good. Post the breakfast, I used to drag dad to explore the station. There used to be only 7 platforms in those days and 2 platforms for the local trains. At around 11.15, we used to take the West Coast express to Tiruppur. I clearly remember the stations from Madras to Tiruppur. First was Arakkonam, Katpadi, Jolarpettai, Salem, Erode and then Tiruppur.


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