Friday, October 29, 2010

The train lover's diary - 1

A few random scribbles on my love of trains. It has always been a childhood fantasy (well, even now I would love to) to be a train driver (a.k.a. a train engineer or loco pilot), sit in its cabin and at least pull the horn. :-)

How many of you are intrigued by numbers on the locomotives like WDM-5, WAP-2, WAG-4, WDS-2 etc and their associated sheds like Erode, Golden Rock, Itarsi, Guntakal, Krishnarajapuram, Gooty, Kazipet, Ratlam etc, or love the 'Thomas the tank engine' episodes that used to come on one of the kiddo channels? Well, I do.

Trains forever!
Train journeys always fascinate me for the reason that it becomes an experience when on one. Well I have to say, punning the original Keats' quote, "A thing of joy is a 'train' forever". A train is a symphony with the engine being the conductor and the coaches, the musicians. Travelling in Indian trains does need a significant level of patience because of their slower speeds, crowds, lower degree of cleanliness and the 'adjust maadi' (please adjust) culture of its travellers. That doesn't take away anything off the experience though.

The sound of an engine horn, loud and true, is my most thrilling sound, and one that can shake the ghosts off you. Different sounds for different types of engines, the diesels, the electrics and the steam ones (now sadly deceased, but I have a few recollections of those) and the long and short whistles! Two weeks back, returning from Kanniyakumari on road and late into the night and near Virudhunagar, I was jolted from the monotonous hum of the car at a constant speed by a loud horn at my back to see a train speeding at around 90 kmph on a stretch where the tracks are parallel to the highway. We raced each other for a couple of kilometres before parting. Met the same train after crossing Virudhunagar for a couple of kilometres before we headed our ways.

I love the steamies/diesels for their grumble which is the engine's heartbeat. The electrics sound a tad muted because of the distributed nature of its powerful motors. The rumble and cranking of the engine (the "krug krug krug krug" sound on a Diesel) as it slowly unleashes its 4000+ horses on the tracks as it pulls its coaches, is an engineer's delight. There is a characteristic smell in the smoke of the diesels that can be nosed only in the first few coaches depending on wind draft. Most don't like that acrid smell though. There is the rhythmic ballad of wheels and track joints and the distinct sound when the train moves to another track via a switch. The quick whizzzz of an electric as it glides in and out of a station at an impressive pace, Ethereal!!!

Trains in passing!
Watching a train go by, is wonderful, just like watching the clouds float. How many times when going somewhere, when stopped at a railway level crossing, you get down and watch the "beast of a beauty" roar past you with its signature horn blaring, shaking the ground underneath? It is with a child-like delight that I see an engine appear around a bend or at a distance and then swoosh past with the last coach receding slowly into the two parallel lines of tracks until you see the train as a speck. A similar feeling, when an engine saunters into a station slowly with the squeal of its brakes as it brings the symphony to a halt.

It is a shock moment, when you are in a train, with the windows open and on an adjacent track, out of the blue, another train whizzes past with its horn at full blast. The effect is higher when you have your train moving fast as well. No better example than this to illustrate the Doppler Effect in Physics. And the eerie feeling in a night train, you get up, find the train stopped at some unknown place, peep out of the coach to see where you are, in the dull faded light of the platforms or in the middle of nowhere. The sound of the "Tea, Kaapi, Chaayè" sound of the vendors at platforms, the places with odd names that you pass by, and the scenery outside makes the trip fun. In my younger days, I was fascinated by the telegraph poles that run parallel to the track, where the wires sag in the middle between the poles and it gives a feeling of the wire travelling along with you.

And for the adventurous, how thrilling it is, to keep the compartment door open, peep out "safely" by holding the support rails, and having a blast of air on your face and to see a snaking train do its maneuvere on curvy tracks.

(To be continued at leisure ...)


zeno said...

பாரேன் இவருக்கு மனசுக்குள்ள என்னவெல்லாம் ஆசை இருந்திருக்குன்னு :P
I would say, stuff like, bringing in doppler effect is the hallmark of your writing :)

Ramesh said...

Absolutely brilliant evocative post. A truly great post makes the reader go away on his dreams - this did exactly that to me. Which child has not wanted to be a train driver sometime in his life and you've brought out the mystique of train journey so beautifully.

In my view, one of the best ever posts from you. Bravo.

RS said...

Great post, RaMmmm. Our house is located just opposite the railway track, and every child in my family runs to the gates at the sound of 'oooooooooooooo' whistle sound at a long distance.....

Despite the speed, what makes a train journey more enjoyable is the unpacking of food in almost every compartment and the smiles at the boginning of the journey that transforms into relationships, sometimes even long lasting ones (although this is dwindling these days :()....Would prefer train journeys anyday over other modes....

R-ambam said...

this post is like a train :))

yes Brilliant !!

RamMmm said...

@zeno-Oye, I still have these things in the corner of my mind. இன்னும் மறக்கலை. Buses are yet another thing with a deep imprint on me. :-) Don't worry, I won't put a very technical post in the near future. :-)

@Ramesh-Thanks a ton for the effusive praise and encouragement. I hope I stay up to the standards. :-)

@RS-:-) Thanks! I envy those who have their homes near the tracks. Countless moments of watching them go by, in spite of some irritants. Definitely, food is an option that cannot be missed. Loads of them come out of bags during eating time and a camaraderie that can form between the travellers (ரயில் ஸ்நேகம்?) Sadly the comfort between co-passengers is coming down due to thuggery that happens in a few instances. :( Used to love the Island Express between Coimbatore and Bangalore in my childhood days, for that was the sign of a vacation. :-)

@R-ambam-:-) Thanks for the compliment. I am not yet done with this topic. :-)

Swaram said...

Ahh I travelled to Blr just last nite by train and sooo wanted to write a post on the blissful time we hv in them :) I love every bit of it and ur post said almost all that I wanted to :)

RamMmm said...

@Swaram-:-) Welcome (back) to Bengaluru? Diwali vacationigaeyna? Metro chaos? :-(