Hello everyone, in my previous post i spoke about my love towards aviation, in this post i would like to introduce you to the world of Railfanning. Like aviation i used to be amazed by the locomotives and the trains during my travel to Kerala or in the Mumbai Suburbs. And again with internet i found a whole community of railfans(RF). Few among em were planespotters too!! Voila, i found the perfect people with whom i could enjoy my hobby.
Having been to railfanning sessions within the Mumbai Suburban section and during my journey across the country via train, i always wished to go to picturesque locations and click these heavy metal snakes. And then happened Shindavne.
A scenic hilly area on the outskirts of Pune, Shindavne falls on the Pune Miraj railway line. A trip to this location was RF Adil’s suggestion to which me and RF Tyrone agreed immediately. We originally decided to visit this place in April but eventually we rescheduled it to May and the date chosen was 21st May 2017. Our initial plan of action was to take the Pune Kolhapur passenger train and alight at Shindavne station. However the drawback of this was that our session would be limited to the station itself and we wouldn’t be able to access the hilly terrain. Also there were chances that this train could be delayed, thereby casting a doom to our plans. Thankfully Tyrone had researched about this place and with the guidance from senior RF Apurva sir we soon discovered that if we would undertake a road journey we could reach the hills easily and without much efforts.
Everything set, we hired a car and left Hadapsar at 8 30am. Driving along the Pune Solapur Highway, from Uruli we took a turn towards the Uruli Belsar Road and continued towards Shindavne village. The roads narrowed down from the four lane concrete road to single lane unpaved dust roads. The mammoth hills and the tall Shindavne Viaduct was visible from quite a distance, and our driver was equally thrilled and enthused as much as we were. We reached Shindavne village and with the help of the villagers we soon found ourselves inching closer and closer to the viaduct and the hills. After a point, we reached the base of the hill and all four of us jumped out of the car and were engrossed in observing the magnificent beauty surrounding us.
We guys were so lost in the surrounding that a lound honk of the train suddenly startled us. All three of us looked at each other in surprise and we scrambled to take our cameras out and aim ourselves towards the oncoming train which was on a higher ground. Turns out that train was the Karnataka Sampark Kranti heading towards Pune, running with a delay of around 90 minutes. Delighted at a beautiful catch we inaugrated our railfanning session. We three decided to trek up on the hills near the tracks from where we could get a vantage view of not only the viaduct and the tunnels but also the entire city of Pune. The trek was a fairly easy one and soon we found ourselves by the side of the tracks,a few hundred feet above the ground.
Despite being there in the peak of summer the weather was still pleasant, thanks to the continuous cool breeze soothing each senses of ours. Once we settled for a spot we patiently were awaiting the metal monsters. Moments later a honk reverberated the surrounding and we got into position. Me and Adil were standing on an elevation whereas Tyrone who was behind us positioned himself near the viaduct.
The snake emerged through the tunnel and we saw WDG4 twins leading a fully loaded freight towards Satara. Tyrone decided to do a Facebook live video. The video ended on a hilarious note as towards the end we could see an excited Adil running towards the viaduct in order to get more shots.
The WDG4 diesel class of locomotive is originally known as EMD GT46MAC, manufactured by the American firm General Motors Electro Motive Division. These locos entered service in the year 1999, the first few being imported in full form. There exists a passenger variant namely WDP4 series, also known as EMDGT46PAC which was imported in the year 2001. Since then these locos have undergone quite a few modifications to suit the local conditions. Some of the modifications have been aesthetic as well.
Half n hour later we were delighted to see a freight train again led by WDG4 twins. The delightful thing about this loco was that this was one of the original EMD locos which were imported and assembled in India. The train was inching closer and closer to us and we got ready for the clicks. The Assistant Loco Pilot delighted on seeing three railfans acknowledged our presence with a smile and a wave, and so did the guard in the end. Nothing can be more joyous for a railfan than a crew acknowledging their presence.
All eyes were on the Kolhapur passenger which should have crossed us by now but it was nowhere to be seen. Moments passed and then we saw the passenger, led by WDG3A series loco negotiating the curves up in the distance and heading towards us. The train was delayed by 90 minutes again. No sooner did it emerge out of the tunnel our hands instinctively pressed the shutter button and we captured some beautiful memories. This time the Loco Pilot acknowledged us with a honk and a wave. Wow, another memorable moment!
The WDG3A belongs to a class of locomotive known as the ALCO locomotives ( abbreviated for American Loco Company). These series are the mainstays of IR since the late 1960s. These locos were chosen to replace the ageing steam engines. The locos were originally known as ALCO DL560C. Like the EMD the initial Alcos were imported into India. Since then the locos have evolved with time and at present the latest tech w.r.t to Alco is the WDM3D and the WDG3 series loco. The Alcos are famous for their chugging and the furious smoking while accelerating. However the Alco locomotives pose a threat to extinction because of the cleaner and efficient EMDs as well as the electrification project undertaken by the railways.
Now with the reduced train movements not only did we engage in photoshoots but also we changed our locations, trekking upwards. From here on there weren’t much movements with the exception of two freight trains towards Satara. However, the valley offered us solace and we three were lost. Nothing spoken, as if each of us were talking to our inner self, soul nourished by this new experience.
As all good things come to an end, this too had to end. And soon we descended back to the base, and bid goodbye to the hills, but not before taking a group pic.
See you soon Shindavne, before the line doubling and the electrification kicks in, which would deface you with obstructing electric poles. Thank you for your beautiful aura which cannot be explained but only felt.