With my last non-aviation trip report (featuring the Pacific Northwest, AMTRAK and British Columbia), I have been inspired to write another non-aviation trip report featuring a train ride on Indian railways. In this report: we get very close to the world's largest mountain range (The Himalayas), another air museum, The Indian Air Force Museum, Palam (New Delhi), and a train journey on the Rajdhani Express from New Delhi to Howrah (Kolkata). So, here we go, another non-aviation trip report on here - let’s do this!
I will keep this as short & concise as possible - a dammed miracle or something. Starting out at New Delhi it was a solid 8 hour drive up to Nainital, the last hour of which took us to our accommodation just outside Nainital. A few pictures from there:
Indian Airlines magazine (2002) route maps:
Fun fact: do you see BLR-MAA-KUL? That was the first ever international flight CollegeAviator took
Some pictures from Nainital:
Long winding roads were so much more enjoyable with THESE AMAZING views!
Nainital Zoo. I was quite sad after the end of it all. Flocks of people ran towards the tiger enclosure when the majestically depressed animal popped out for about 30 seconds. 'Jaanwar ko dekh ke shaer ander chala gaya' (after seeing the animals the tiger went back inside)
I commented, with not many people realizing the fact it was the people's rather wild & loud behavior that drove the tiger back inside.
A slot bear and red panda, as best as I could:
Went on a quick boat ride across the lake: the parents were smart to not let me go on a self-propelled paddle boat because someone was quite fascinated by the impacts of applying right rudder, especially in high power scenarios
We then headed to Ranikhet getting closer and closer to the mountains, the highlight being at Kausani which got us right up to the mountains. A superb panoramic view of a 300km range featuring Trisul, Nanda Devi & Panchuli, with the great Mahatma Gandhi calling this tiny town the Switzerland of India!
Back in Ranikhet we visited an army museum however pictures were a no no. The tailoring machines used to but tweed clothes together.
The drive back to New Delhi was pretty horrendous. Well the first 6 hours to get back were at a solid pace, in fact going quicker than estimated however once we got to the New Delhi City limit it was a whole 2.5 hours!!!!
Anyway, the next morning Mum and I headed to the Air Force Museum. I honestly feel this gem is overlooked, and it can do so much better. An amazing collection of historic war birds from different times. I loved the 2 hours we spent!!
The legendary Spitfire!
I took the time to appreciate the efforts & achievements of the Marshal of Indian Air Force, Indian Air Force. The great gentleman lost his life in September 2017.
Our train back to Kolkata would be the Rajdhani Express - India’s flagship train that links major cities (state capitals) to the national capital in New Delhi. Rajdhani literally means The Capital. This was going to be my first time on an overnight train in India since 2011. I was very excited for this one - especially since it was going to be in AC First Class - the flagship of the Indian Railways. Unfortunately however fog caused havoc in this part of the country at time of year. Fog delays led to trains being delayed by over 7 or 8 hours. Departure day stated for 29th December (1700 hours), and arrival at Howrah for 1130 hours, the next day. And remember, December 30th was the one off Boeing 777-300ER operating AI20 from New Delhi to Kolkata, the afternoon departure.
An SMS sent to us said that the train would be departing 240 minutes late (aka - 4 hours). Well, that ain't so bad - I thought to myself. Oh boy this was going to be so wrong. So so so so SO wrong.
Waiting at the platform:
The Howrah shed WAP-7 that would haul the 12306 New Delhi - Howrah Rajdhani express. Its not IRR (Instrument Rail Rules.... bad one.
) rated so fog was going to be a huge factor.
First Class contains several coupes. The hallway however - half the space was taken up with the tables. Unfortunate.
Well, we departed New Delhi an additional 20 minutes late which made things interesting. Picked up speed as we passed through the city limits of New Delhi, touching 100kmph a couple of times. Also, promised & advertised WiFi onboard did not work. That was unfortunate.
Buttermilk & refresher wipes:
The usual service on this train would be snacks, soup, dinner, breakfast. However it was changed to soup, dinner, breakfast & lunch. Little did I know there was a little bit extra to it....
Anyway, sweet corn soup & breadsticks:
Dinner had several options: Indian vegetarian (paneer OR veg curry), non-vegetarian (chicken OR egg) or continental (chicken).
Ice cream for dessert. Jet Airways gave the exact same.....!
It was quite a late night chatting with the extended family. We'd wake up in the morning, go over to the other first class carriage where we'd chill with them as we made it to Kolkata mid afternoon. With that in mind, I headed to bed, the upper bunk. And that was some struggle. I'm not the most coordinated, you see...
I wasn't restless, but I was up a couple of times. The train was moving just fine, so I felt we were making reasonable progress.
I was up the next morning to some proper IFR conditions.
A normally scheduled Howrah Rajdhani would take 4.5 hours to get from New Delhi to Kanpur, the first scheduled stop. I was confident we made this with the 4 hour delay. Oh how wrong I was. An announcement saying that we were now 9 hours late (losing 5 hours overnight!!)
, and that we hadn't still made it to Kanpur! I was dejected. I knew it would've been worth it to get on the Air India 777. And I wouldn't be seeing Dobby for long now. This wasn't ideal, at all....
Oh well, I tried enjoying it. Here's breakfast:
It would usually take about 2 hours between Kanpur & Allahabad, but this time it was 3 hours. I guess it was close, but now we were 10 hours late...
Some train-spotting (yep, that's a thing!) - WDG3A
WAP-4 (the red ones), WAP-5 (white/orange ones)
Another WAP 4 as we departed Allahabad.
Perhaps the most impressive locomotive in the Indian Railways: WAG - 9!
We toyed with the idea of getting off at Patna and taking a flight from there, as the mood grew bad to worse. However there were some complications to it:
1. We didn't know how much later this train would be as the last flight from Patna to Kolkata departed at 1640 (SpiceJet)
2. Fares were unbelievably high (well...not a surprise given it was so last minute anyway I guess)
3. Patna Airport would be closed for several days thanks to weather dropping to below minimums - yeah, the fog was that bad. Patna Airport was now a temporary shelter for several stranded passengers.
Lunch was served to us very very late: around 3pm. And we were quite close to Patna (reached there at around 3.45pm) - but now just under 12 hours late.
Woke up after a solid nap, holding station at 12 hours nap. Snack time:
Dinner was khichdi (mix of daal & rices) with pickle. The bare minimum the staff could put together on this severely delayed train as stocks ran low.
Rumor went around that the train wouldn't reach till 0630 the next morning. And remember - this train ride was supposed to be only overnight!!! Supposed to be 19hr20min, but I was awake at 0500 in the morning to use the restroom - we were in fact on course for a 0630am arrival in to Howrah. Wow - another night of fog that delayed us even further. A total delay of 18hr15min - and I thought it would only be 7 or 8 hours!
This delay led to some bystanders wondering how & why the Rajdhani express had shown up 6 hours before time - no, it wasn't 30th December train departing Delhi, it was the 29th December departure being horribly late.
So the train arriving at 1215 hours in the afternoon would head back to the yard to get cleaned up before departing Howrah for New Delhi at around 1730 hours. So, with this rake still being around Patna at that time, Eastern Railway had to pull up the back up rake to operate the December 30th departure from Howrah to New Delhi - this reached with a delay of 4 hours.
A horrible experience - simply because of how long we had to spend on the train. Couldn't celebrate my grandma's birthday as the entirety of 30th December was onboard the train. And the amount of time I could spend with Dobby was reduced as well. However, as a reasonable person I figure that there is nothing to fault Indian Railways for.
Fog is crappy, fog is a devil - it will slow things down. Heck, even Patna Airport closed down! I appreciate the extra food, and I appreciated the onboard staff's hard work to keep us not hungry. They were overworked & tired following this long journey: it was equally taxing on them, we passengers certainly had it better.
Celebrated New Year's as I was happy to be reunited with Dobby! My other trip reports: 2017
Wobbly Winter '17/18 (5): Fly Smart? Not quite: The GoAir Debut! (G8128 CCU-DEL A320 Dec'17, pics & video TR)(video trip report)Wobbly Winter '17/18 (4): Efficient Air India! (AI401 DEL - CCU B787 Dec'17, pics & video TR)(video trip report)Wobbly Winter '17/18 (3): Elegantly British? (BA143 LHR-DEL B747-400 WT Dec'17, pics & video TR)(video trip report)Wobbly Winter '17/18 (2): A British Concorde, A British Queen! (BA116 B747-400 World Traveller Dec'17, pics & video TR)(video trip report)Wobbly Winter '17/'18 (1): Insane tailwinds to the Big Apple! (DL A319 MSP-JFK Dec '17 Y, pics & video TR)(video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (10): Software glitch'd? (SkyWest Delta CRJ-200ER, MSP-GFK, Jun '17, w/pics & video TR)(video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (9): Yet no CRJ-700 for you! (IAD-MSP UA E175, Y, Jun '17)(video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (8): A tale of 2 Etihads - electronics BANNED! (B77L/B789, BOM-AUH-IAD, Y, Jun '17)(video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (7): Jet's extended range B737 (9W472 CCU-BOM, Y, pics & vids)(video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (6): Delays galore, inefficiency ensues! (SpiceJet, B737-900ER, SG517 BLR-CCU, Y)(video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (5): Missed opportunity with Jet's A330 (BOM-BLR, Y, B73H, May '17) [pics & video TR](video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (4): Short flight on the Etihad A380! (AUH-BOM, Y, May '17) [pics & video TR] (video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (3): Elegant Etihad? (JFK-AUH, A380 Y, May '17) [many pics & video TR] (video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (2): No MD-88 for you! (MSP-LGA, DL Y, May '17) [pics & video TR]] (video trip report)A (slightly) unlucky summer '17 (1): No CRJ-700 for you! (GFK-MSP, SkyWest Delta) [pics & video TR] (video trip report)Spring Break 2017 - To the Pacific Northwest! (AMTRAK, BC, Idaho, NO flights!)Winter Break 2016/17 (9): The Final Hop Home (AA Eagle ERJ-145, ORD-FAR, Jan '17, Y) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016/17 (8): Ultra long haul with Etihad (AUH-ORD, Y, Jan '17) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016/17 (7): Enticing Etihad to Abu Dhabi! (CCU-AUH, Jan '17, Y) (video trip report)2016Winter Break 2016 (6): My last flight on Jet Airways' ATR (GAU-CCU, Y, Dec '16) + Scintillating Sunderbans (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (5): Konnecting to Kaziranga (S24363 B73H CCU-GAU Y, Dec '16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (4): Take us home, Qatar Airways! (QR540, DOH-CCU, Y, Dec'16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (3): Long haul middle seat - our first flight on Qatar Airways! (QR28 MAN-DOH, Y, Dec'16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (2): Pencil Jet across the Atlantic (AA54 MAN-ORD, Y+, Dec'16) (video trip report)Winter Break 2016 (1): The Frozen Embraer Delay - missed connection! (FAR-ORD, Dec '16) (video trip report)Thanksgiving '16 in the Sin City - My Allegiance with N891GA, to divert or not to divert (LAS-GFK Nov '16) (video trip report)Thanksgiving '16 in the Sin City - My Allegiance with Allegiant! (Part 1, many pictures) (video trip report)The day I flew the world's most popular plane (GFK-FAR-CKN-GFK, C172)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 14: Delta Connection, a quick hop in the Midwest! (MSP - GFK, Aug '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 13: Super old, Super 80, Mad Dog Across the Midwest! (AA ORD-MSP, Aug'16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 12: Flying the Friendly Skies... (United Munich to Chicago, Aug '16)) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 11: Epic Lufthansa, Epic A340! (Delhi to Munich, Aug '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 10: Konnect, Lite, Delight...(S2 B73H CCU-DEL, Aug '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 9: Take me home, Vistara! (DEL-CCU, Jul '16) (video trip report)[/color]Summer '16 trek back home - Part 8: Vistara's INAUGURAL flight out of Kolkata! (CCU-DEL, Jun '16)) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 7: Efficient IndiGo! (Mumbai to Kolkata, A320, May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 6: Big delays, cracked windshield, angry passengers (SG CCU-BOM B73J) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 5: Air India's domestic Dream)liner (DEL-CCU May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 4: Nearly First Class - stories of the empty A380! (LH FRA-DEL May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 3: World's longest jet, Lufthansa's B748i! (ORD-FRA May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 2: ChicaGO on United's A319! (MSP-ORD, May '16) (video trip report)Summer '16 trek back home - Part 1: Sun rise onboard the long range CRJ (DL GFK-MSP CRJ-900, May '16) (video trip report)The pencil jet(s) for spring break! (+ Iron Maiden bonus): Delta MSP-FLL-MSP, March '16
(DL1608 video trip report
, DL2027 video trip report)De-iced & Delayed, cold onboard a CRJ! (ORD-MSP-GFK on Delta, Jan '16) (ORD-MSP video report) (MSP-GFK video report)Delta's aged B767-300ER across the Atlantic! (CDG-ORD in Y, Jan '16)
)Air France's NEW Economy (B777-200ER, Bengaluru to Paris, Jan '16)
)Delays and despair: stressed out in the middle seat! (Jet Airways B737 Mumbai - Bengaluru, Jan '16)Air India's hybrid babybus from Kolkata to Mumbai (Jan '16, Y)
)2012South Africa 3: 12 days in Scintillating South Africa (Kruger, Kulula and Rand Airport, Apr' 12, LONG!)South Africa 2: Elegant Emirates Economy! (DXB-CPT, B77W, Apr '12)South Africa 1: My first flight on Emirates, my first flight on the 777 (CMB-DXB, Apr '12)2011International transit with Jet Airways (BOM-MAA-CMB, Oct. '11)Konnecting to Bhubaneswar (9W BOM-BBI-BOM, Jul '11)Three trips between India and Sri Lanka (9W BOM-CMB-BOM: Jun '11, Jul '11, Oct. 11)To India's Orange City: Mumbai - Nagpur - Mumbai on Jetlite & Tadoba National Park (May 2011)My last flight on Kingfisher Airlines (and 2 other Jet flights, May '11)