Thursday, September 10, 2009


This train is not featured here because of the number it had for a long time – 10 mail, but the connection helps. For long this was the flagship train between Chennai and Bombay VT – as it was then called, until the superfast avatars took over. It is also probably the oldest between the two metros, and still quite popular.

Though now numbered as the 6010 mail, it is still lovingly referred to as the 10 mail. It has never boasted of being the fastest – in fact, it could well qualify to be among the slowest trains out of Chennai. The format has not changed – the two nights one day journey being the same; give or take an hour or two.

As with many slow trains on this largely single line route – this is the one that is stopped to allow the other trains to cross. This and the fact that it stops at many small villages en route gives you a wonderful insight into the quaint tiny villages and the railway environment nearby. "The 10 mail stops here" – they would say in those days, when asked about the hometown of the would be bride!

This could also be a very religious train out of Chennai – the pilgrims to Puttaparthi get off at Anantapur, those headed to Mantralayam have the Mantralayam Road station and those to Pandharpur can get off at Solapur or Kurduwadi. Many headed to Shirdi also get off at Daund to take connecting trains or buses. The big draw is that this train reaches these places at earthly hours. It also crosses many rivers considered religious – the Tungabhadra, the Krishna and the Bhima are among these. Children throwing coins into the rivers is a common sight.

A unique twist in the tale comes between Gulbarga and Solapur – there are two small wayside stations in this section with what is called the Scissors Crossing. The train has to go past the signal, back up on the loop line, and wait for the opposite train to cross. This type of crossing is very rare – and the only two stations in this near 1300 kms provide a wonderful insight into the working of the railways – if you happen to be detained for crossing.

And, at Solapur, you finally can have the best Pav Baji served on a Railway Platform by a departmental caterer – not counting the 5 star type of Food Courts that have sprung up.

If you are a lover of high speed action, then this is not the train for you. If your love to take in the scenes slowly, ambling on platform when the train stops for long, running out of a crossing station for a quick smoke (without the attendant penalty), then this is the train is for you. After all, there is life in 10 mail, and it could be 10 times more enthralling than on the speed demons!


Blogger madras maverick said...

Super post.

Blogger qa_director said...

10 Up has always been my favorite.

If one had a few hours' work in Madras - documents to be submitted in person because you did not trust the Mail - then 10 Up is your train.

After completing your work in Chennai, you langurously board the train - even in your jammies sorry Lungies if you wish - clamber into your berth as soon as the TTE has checked your ticket and be lulled into your sleep.

There is none of the urgency of the Madras Bombay Express or the Superfast with obviously its accompanying noise.

Don't be fooled that 10 Up is a slow train. On some rare occasions, you may find yourself behind a loco which has a Loco Pilot who is in a bigger rush than his passengers. But soon realism dawns on him because his train is always the given the lowest priority and the LP is then suitably house trained!

You get some great food on the way - the idlis and coffee at Gooty, Biryanis at Guntakal and Solapur some of the best on the IR.

The Loco change at Pune wakes you up ever so slightly because the jhatka of the Diesel loco to which you have become so accustomed during the day, suddenly disappears. You stir to feel some movement and soon the coolness of the Sahyadris assail and wake you up.

You try your best to go back to sleep - you nod off as the train pulls into Lonavala. And then it is the noisy braking which keeps you awake. You see the gradient from Lonavala is very steep - descending 1 unit for every 37 units travelled - the steepest for a mainline. Soon, the last of the tunnels has been passed through the Electric Loco Pilot is now pushing his train to the limit. Wayside stations are finally becoming a blur as they are passed through with a vehemence previously not seen in the journey.

In no time, the train is once again braking to stop at Kalyan. You sit up and if in an upper berth, bang your head on the roof - Ouch! You are now in Bombay so better be careful that your luggage does not get stolen in the melee.

As soon as the train leaves Kalyan, you rise, fold your sparse bedding, freshen up as the train thunders through the Parsik Tunnel on the outskirts of Thane.

In a few minutes you are in Dadar and now there are barely 10 passengers in your entire coach. 15 minutes or so later, the train is pulling into VT - always VT - not for me the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminal Mumbai - too long and tongue twisting while CSTM is disrespectful - imagine Shivaji Maharaj being reduced to four letters???

You alight - a lone coolie asks you if you need help - you don't. You stretch out and start the long walk to the terminal building to catch a cab and go home - to snatch a couple of hours' sleep in a non-shaking bed!

Aah the romance of 10 Up - they don't make such trains any more in this age of Sampark Krantis, Durontos, Rajdhani, Garib Raths and the like.

Speed is nice but when you have a need to take things easy - take a 10 up!

Blogger Senthil said...

Wow! Pure Nostalgia


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