A trip to the Shindavne Ghats

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.

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We guys were dwarfed by the mighty hills.

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.

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The delayed Karnataka Sampark Kranti, led by WDP4D, a modified version of the EMD.

 

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Close up shot of the leading loco. WDP4D, the D denotes the dual cab setup present in this loco.

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.

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The WDG4, our first capture post our ascent.

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.

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One of the few Original imported EMD series Loco. The WDG4 twins leading a freight.

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.

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THE WDG3A, hauling the Kolhapur passenger.

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.

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Serentiy is what surrounded us.

 

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Emerging out of the tunnel, this loco is known as WDM3D.
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WDG4D and WDG4 leading a petroleum rake to Satara.
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The petroleum rakes blend into the surrounding landscape, thus creating a visual delight.

 

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.

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Those pretty cloud patterns.
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Memories is what we are left with right now. (L-R) Myself, Adil, Tyrone.
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The last picture i took at this location, before i left.

 

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Wings of Passion.

 

What do you do when you hear a roaring sound of jet engines flying above? Look above and get fascinated by the sheer size of the jet and forget it, or go gaga over it and find out more about the aircraft and the aviation industry. Most of the people fall in the first category, however there are a small number of us who are awestruck by these metal birds. This fascination often leads us to explore the world of aviation and everything related to it. I am one such person who is in love with these beautiful piece of technology right from my childhood. I am a Plane Spotter.

 

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Emirates Boeing 777-300ER getting ready for departure. Note the Juhu Airport tower in the background.  ©Nikhil Nair

I spent first seven years of my childhood in Sakinaka, a place which lies in close proximity to the airport. The fuel of my passion in aviation was ignited by my dad, who used to show me the planes landing and taking off near our home. Also since he was working with a logistics firm he had access to the cargo terminal, I remember he used to take me in his scooter to a viewing gallery in the airport and from there I could watch the planes taking off. I never knew the names of the jets, the only one I remember was Boeing 747 Jumbo. The size of the jet itself left me awestruck.

“And in that young mind was etched a frame that lived with him”.

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Korean Cargo, the first jumbo jet i ever saw landing during my childhood. I identified this airline as the Pepsi Airline

I used to come back home after such trips and my dad used to help me in drawing those jets, for that he specially bought drawing papers and various pictures of different aircrafts from his office. With this I came to know about the different airlines operating in Mumbai and around the world. My school also had a role in shaping up my curiosity for aviation. From my classroom window and the ground I could easily see the approaching aircrafts. My first distinct memory was the Korean Cargo coming to land. I always waited for the jumbo to arrive and the moment i spotted it my attention was fixed to it. I also had few posters of the classic planes which were with Air India and Indian Airlines back in the day. The L1011 Tristar, Lockheed Constellation, the DC3 etc. Alas i misplaced it. (only if i knew the importance back then)

At the age of 7 I shifted from Saki Naka to Mira road, this meant no more roar of the jets, however I still kept on drawing and identifying the aircrafts from the pictures I got. (Since there was no google in that age and computer was a luxury) This went on for a few years and the curiosity in me grew. I kept wondering what kept this metal birds flying. Here came Discovery and Nat Geo to my rescue. I keenly followed aviation documentaries shown on those channels, and during those days the sensation in the industry was the mega passenger jet Airbus A380. Damn, the prototype itself was amazing, and i was very much impressed by that aircraft. Also watching Air Crash Investigation gave me insights into the functioning of the civil jets. Meanwhile I got introduced to the fighter jets of IAF USAF and RAF. The most fascinating one being the Russian Sukhoi 30 and US made F 22 Raptor.

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Etihad’s A380 landing into Mumbai during sunset. ©Prashob Chandran

Then came the age of computers and internet (obviously in the stage of infancy unlike today) and on a trip to our family friend’s place I stumbled upon a pc game which featured the F 22. Thus I was introduced to a new genre of gaming “Flight Simulation”. With the power of internet I soon began researching about various aspects in aviation, and I always dreamt of flying one of these beauties.

And I still remember stubbornly asking my dad to get Microsoft Flight Simulator X at the age of 13 and ultimately he had to. And Oh, the joy I derived from it. Slowly I got acquainted with the flying procedures and the flight deck of various aircraft. Alas, the joy was short lived, my pc went dead and my parents were so pissed on me that they didn’t repair it for almost six years (my mistake :P) .

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A still from Microsoft Flight Simulator X, where i am in control of this aircraft

Those years my passion for aviation ebbed, I had a career in science which eventually took a toll on me and after four years of struggling and experimenting I finally dropped out of it and unleashed my creative streak. And with new beginnings and the power of social media, I stumbled across some famous aviation pages of India, and it dawned upon me that there is a huge community of plane spotters, right in the city of Mumbai, and there are locations from where one could watch these beauties, up close. KABOOM!!! Man! it feels so good to know that you are not alone in this so called weird hobby.

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The Latest state of the art jet to grace Bombay, the Airbus A350-900 heading to the runway for it’s departure.

 

 

The inner child in me awoke and I was back to my old self, the world of aviation opened up to me in a new perspective. And I always wished to go to these locations and spot myself. Well, and then one day I hopped out of my place one early morning and set out for the spots, I had trouble locating the places but somehow I landed up at the right place, and Lo, the sight was such a spectacle. The whole Mumbai Airport lay in its vast expanse before me, the roars of those engines reverberated in my heart and yes, finally I  felt like a child again, at the age of 22! the same joy which I experienced as a child. And from there I have befriended quite a few people from the plane spotting community, some who have been through the 80s and have seen the legendary classic birds which we unfortunately couldn’t see. It is so good to see that folks younger than me are more informative then i am, and their skills are on a different level than mine. At their age i was unaware that there exists a term called Plane Spotting.  Internet has really opened up avenues i must say.

Some things in life are meant to last a lifetime, and for me my love for aviation will never wane. My friends and acquaintances may call me crazy, well i won’t deny that, but the joy which comes from watching these jets is something which can never be explained. And yes, flying a jet is one of my dream, which I want to accomplish. But right now it isn’t a priority since music is another passion which I want to make my career into. Till then, I will keep dreaming, I will keep doing whatever it takes to feed my inner child. Happy Flying Folks!!!!!! Spread your wings of passion under this expansive sky!!

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The iconic control tower in the background adds to the elegance of the beautiful Mumbai Airport.

All images are clicked by me except wherever mentioned.
Thank You Gaushal Gandhi for the Featured Image in the beginning of the blog.
Thank You Prashob  Chandarn for the Etihad A380 Image.

If you want to check more of my aviation photos follow me on instagram
@that_railplane_guy

Dreaming Reality

Waking up in the middle of the night,

the dream is gone with the wind!!!

Looking out through the window frame,

the world has stopped in my eyes.

The flickering flame of the candle light

makes my shadow larger than life..

(The stones slip away as my feet touches the ground,

As i lay wide awake, among the stars,

her visions are the only sight)

I feel your presence everywhere

but i just can’t get to you.

I hear your voices in my head

but i just can’t talk to you.

Numbed down by the illusions

Paranoia reigns over me!!

Staring at the horizon

the stars seem to burn away.

Time drifts us apart, leaving us no option

apart from living with the memories we left behind!

(Nobody knows the way I am treading through;

The sorrow in my rage blinds me away.)

I feel your presence everywhere

but i just cant get to you.

I hear your voices in my head

but i just can’t talk to you.

Numbed down by the illusions

Paranoia reigns over me!!

How do i resist

the urge that’s ruining me?

Will you hold me in your comfort & guide me through?

Taking me over into a new beginning!!!!!!!!!!

You

An emotional tumult inside my head,

everything upside down, everything disintegrating into chaos.

Where every path lead to a dead end, failure staring me right into my eyes.

 

What are we fighting for?

is this worth a fight!!

In a state of despair, i find myself hurt!!

Broken down, hated upon

Oh, this is not what i have asked for.

 

I need your love, the tender love

which comforts me from the dreary reality.

I want your faith, the faith

which could move the mightiest mountains.

All I ever asked from you was to stand by me!!

 

But where are have you bought us now?

Stuck in the past!!

whereas i made peace within itself.

How hard is it for you?

Haven’t I pushed you,

but have you tried, did you move?

 

I have never been perfect,

i have had my shares of mistakes.

But never did my love for you ebb.

So why do i deserve this hate?

Why am i loathed and despised?

Can’t you see through my shade,

can’t you unravel the threads that lie within me.

Can’t you?

 

I have got no strength in me, to fight a battle which was long lost,

It is up to you to end this.

Will you??

Coming Clean

You and I

We stood there,

Ravaged, broken and shattered.

Nothing more was left,

Nothing more to be spoken of.

Silence never felt so discerning

Never did the distance feel so far,

Until now…

Vicarious was the life I lived,

But deadly was the reality I suffered in.

Her lips tempted the passion within,

And there was I, caught in the crossfire,

Lust swaying over my senses.

Devil reigning me over…

Alas, everything changed,

A part of me died.

Never could I be the same,

Never could I love her in the same way.

But I held the ground,

I held the secret in the deepest corner,

Only to love her straight out of my heart.

Thought this would be a tale from the bygone past,

Which I would tell her at a moment in future,

When everything would be alright…

I held on, I held on.

I dealt with the demons inside,

I struggled with the guilt

But how long could this go on!!

This had to end somewhere,

And the moment was now!!!!

And now that I have opened up

The deepest secret of my heart.

Dear reader,

Here we are standing…

Lost we are,

Everything has lost its meaning.

She is hurt by the deeds of my past,

Nor will she trust me again

Never will she love me again.

And here I stand vindicated,

But I seek forgiveness,

With a hope of starting all again

Coz she was the only one I ever loved……..

Hello world!

Twenty two revolutions round the sun and still I am taking baby steps towards my dreams.

In this city, home to countless dreams and aspiration, I wander across uncharted territories;

Out to make a mark in this world.

Born in a suburban town of Kerala and brought up in aamchi Mumbai, I discovered the various nuances of this city which is very close to my heart thereby bringing me closer to my own inner self. From the late night drive in the woods of Aarey to the immersive magical serenity of the waves at Marine Drive; this city gave me solace in its myriad shades.

Transitioning from an institute which just presented a world of Black and White to an institute which allowed me to explore the Grey world was a turning point altogether in my life. From there, there was no looking back and I was on my own like a bird who spread its wings for the first time. Soon I started drifting in the flow and enjoyed in all ways, experimenting.

However, life keeps going tough and I took time to realise it. A city with a chaos, a chaos which reverberates often in my head, pulls me down and makes me feel like giving up on the very things that I wanted. But I am determined not to give up, and I realise that everything I go through has a reason, a reason to mould my individuality through experiences, a reason to experiment and learn through my decisions, a reason to endure and carry on with the a resilient spirit, for I know somewhere in time I am meant to be there at the top. The day I make my dreams come true would be the day that I know I made it despite the hardships I faced. As it is rightly said “A calm sea never made the most skilful sailor.”

Here I am staring at the vast expanses before me and preparing myself to face the eventualities that are coming through. For life always moves on and on…

.. Nikhil Nair