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India 2012 - 2: Gwalior - Bilevel Suburban Trains (50 p.)

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19 Mar 2007
Vienna, Austria

The previous trip report part:
India 2012 - 1: Punjab Mail, not into Punjab

The accompanying video:

February 5 2012

I rose at 5:25 a.m. and washed a little, showering would only make sense in the evening. My driver called me at 5:45 that he waited in front of the hotel, I walked downstairs at 5:55. The very nice and reserved Salim awaited me and would drive me in his Tata Indica safely and skilfully through the city as well as remote villages this morning. We took the main streets, empty at this time of day, to reach the first highlight of the Gwalior – Sheopur Kalan narrow gauge railway: presumably the longest level crossing in India. South of Gwalior Fort the railway line and a road – which in current condition does not deserve this name (not due to lack of traffic!) – share a carved out gorge which gets completely locked off when a train is passing through. Whoever is caught inside, which of course always happens, has plenty of space available to wait at the side. Still in darkness we arrived at the level crossing guard’s hut. Even if Salim’s English knowledge was limited, he always included the local population into conversations, such as the level crossing guards. By the way, nobody asked for a photo permit here, on the contrary – but more about that later on. While waiting I was fascinated by the play of vehicle headlights in the dust. The train had left Gwalior main station on time at 6:25 a.m. and crossed the gorge grumbling loudly. As expected there were no people sitting on the rooftops yet, but this would change radically after the nearby next stop Ghosipura.

The timetable of train 52171 Gwalior - Sheopur Kalan, exactly 200 kms on 610 mm narrow gauge taking 10 hours:

1	GWO	Gwalior Ng		06:25		NCR	0	1	 
2	GOPA	Ghosipura	06:46	06:47	1	NCR	4	1	 
3	MTJL	Motijheel	07:05	07:06	1	NCR	8	1	 
4	MIAL	Milavali H	07:22	07:23	1	NCR	14	1	 
5	BMZ	Bamour Gaon	07:37	07:38	1	NCR	19	1	 
6	ABE	Ambikeshwar	08:10	08:11	1	NCR	33	1	 
7	SMV	Sumaoli		08:27	08:28	1	NCR	39	1	 
8	THR	Thara		08:53	08:54	1	NCR	46	1	 
9	JPO	Jora Alapur	09:06	09:07	1	NCR	51	1	 
10	SKU	Sikroda		09:27	09:28	1	NCR	58	1	 
11	BHAT	Bhatpura	09:39	09:40	1	NCR	61	1	 
12	KQS	Kailaras	10:05	10:06	1	NCR	70	1	 
13	SYF	Semai		10:36	10:37	1	NCR	81	1	 
14	PPCK	Pipalwali Chowki10:52	10:53	1	NCR	86	1	 
15	SBL	Sabalgarh	11:10	11:20	10	NCR	93	1
16	RMPH	Rampahari	11:42	11:43	1	NCR	101	1	 
17	BJPR	Bijaipur Road	12:00	12:01	1	NCR	107	1	 
18	KAKN	Kaimarakalan	12:27	12:28	1	NCR	117	1	 
19	BIB	Birpur		12:45	12:46	1	NCR	125	1	 
20	SPRA	Sillipur	13:25	13:26	1	NCR	138	1	 
21	IKD	Ikdori		13:49	13:50	1	NCR	148	1	 
22	TKLN	Tarra Kalan	14:13	14:14	1	NCR	157	1	 
23	SEX	Seroni Road	14:26	14:27	1	NCR	161	1	 
24	KJP	Khojeepura	14:39	14:40	1	NCR	166	1	 
25	DURP	Durgapuri	15:07	15:08	1	NCR	176	1	 
26	GIW	Girdharpur	15:19	15:20	1	NCR	179	1	 
27	DTQ	Datarda Kalan	15:48	15:49	1	NCR	191	1	 
28	SOE	Sheopur Kalan	16:25	Last Stn	NCR	200	1

The railway was constructed by the Maharajas Scindia, whom we will get to know better in latter travelogue parts, in the early 20th century as Gwalior Light Railway, building started in 1904, the line to Sheopur Kalan was completed in 1909.
Here you can find an article about the possible classification of the line as world heritage site:

Headlight-shot in the gorge.

The surroundings were bone dry, but a watering place nearby provided some cool wet to reflect on the road surface. A lady had just fetched her morning supply and balanced it skilfully in a shiny silver vessel across the tracks in front of the class NDM-5 loco.

Satisfied with a lovely first scene we overtook the train cutting a loop of the line short on not-so-good streets until we reached National Highway number 3 leading into Gwalior. Here the railway meets highway and leads along it in a separate track bed, crossing the National Highway twice. I immediately chose the next location, morning life was slowly starting – not that it ever had come to a complete halt. Right away we attracted a local crowd, as everywhere, even at the seemingly remotest spots.

The train left the road competition behind, some for ever...

Life slowly started in front of a local temple.

Road traffic also complied with the passing train, so the second scene had been captured. Afterwards we were blocked by the lorries which previously had waited at the level crossing, Salim overtook them daringly (see video). Shortly behind the spot I noticed a semaphore signal and already dreaded not to have gone a little further, but soon after we had passed the train we came across Motijheel home signal, so nothing was lost. Semaphores here are lower quadrant signals which means the arm is being lowered to show a clear track.

Attention, ladies, the playboy is on the prowl!

The train had filled up properly at Ghosipura.

Shortly before reaching Motijheel station NH3 was crossed for a second time, some latecomers were hurrying to the train.

Behind Motijheel the sun was rising, luckily we just came past a side road up a hill, a perfect location. Salim immediately parked in escape position, he simply was a natural talent, I did not have to teach him anything about chasing trains!

Sunrise at Motijheel, bricks were stored in the foreground.

A Sikh family wanted to get their photo taken.

Next the line was leading in a distance from the road but joined it again soon. We passed a roundabout with one incomplete road junction, probably the much needed NH3 bypass. From here it would be a wide four lane highway, up to here it had been a two lane road with loads of dust on both sides. At Milavali halt I clicked the arrival and got to know the local youth. You simply cannot walk anywhere without being approached by people. Even more extreme is the desire to get the picture taken – with my camera!

Only here, on NH3, bus traffic was that elegant.

Entering Milavali halt with crew of NDM-5 803.


Family trainspotting in the morning.

The usual writings and ornaments on trucks, at night you sometimes use the headlight flasher instead of the horn for overtaking.

Entering Bamour Gaon I caught the train with palm trees and semaphore signal, then the railway turned westwards away from the road.

Arrival at Bamour Gaon, to the left someone alleviated himself roadside...


Bamour (sometimes written Banmore) town, with the usual truck megaloads.

A little further north we left NH3 to explore an entirely new world, rural India. At first we had to struggle through the pour outskirts of Bamour, and I thought we would never see the train again. However, outside of villages the road surface was in good shape, you could speed up here. Only in populated section some speedbumps had been erected, a common occurrence in India. The scenes to be seen here, like centuries ago, unbelievable! We were driving through magnificent, wide and airy landscape in comfortable temperatures. A few interesting rock formations provide character for the landscape.

Motorized transport is rare on the road, that's why there is not much more space than on the train. As funny meeting I saw a tractor trailor full of workers with everyone wearing new, bright yellow hard hats of a construction company.

Village impressions on the way.

Cowpats were spreaded for drying everywhere, wood for heating is rare.

Peacock crossing!

As we returned to fertile, green fields the railway line rejoined the road at a distance. Behind Ambikeshwar we found this nice viaduct as next spot. The train soon announced itself by sounding the horn in the distance. There was also a great nature spectacle to be witnessed: the courtship ritual of two male peacocks.

Peacock flight.

Peacock parade.

The train crossing the small viaduct behind Ambikeshwar, peacocks to the right.

Next we drove parallel to the train, which did not move slowly, into the village of Sumaoli. At the village entrance road conditions changed drastically, we drove on a bad cart track into the village vibrant with life. We approached a road junction which should had led to the station to the left. That was a mistake as we soon came across a ditch where the front wheels of our Tata easily could have fitted into. We quickly asked a few locals - not me, of course - and soon we drove along the glorious Sumaoli ring road into the other direction.

The rustic, but overpopulated Sumaoli.

I love the striking walls with slogans or ads painted on them.

Village life.

Probably a political graffiti.

What wares are being offered here?

After a few more great impressions I tried to capture as well as possible while driving we reached the station - and the train still was there! My desired number one shot of the whole journey would become reality the very first day, as the crossing train from Sabalgarh was delayed.

The populated village station.

I immediately ran to the first car and asked the surrounding people for the best technique to climb the roof. It does not lead up the window bars but between the cars via coupling and hoses until you can lift yourself up on the opposing coach roofs. Arrived on rooftop of course I instantly made plenty of new friends wanting to get their photo taken. Usually just with my camera, so they did not get anything out of it, some had mobile phones with cameras.


Daily newspapers, not unlike inside the Viennese subway.

Of course people are paying here and providing livelihoods for others.

In the meantime the station staff had gathered around my driver and demanded two - no less! - group portraits.


We already had to wait for a bit, at Sumaoli proper businesses had developed around the trains. Finally the approaching train appeared in the distance, the signal had already been pulled since I had arrived.


The colourful Indian dresses simply are fantastic for photography.




NDM-5 802 pulled the even heavier loaded early train from Sabalgarh into the station with 25 minutes delay.

1	SBL	Sabalgarh		06:15		NCR	0	1	 
2	PPCK	Pipalwali Chowki06:29	06:30	1	NCR	6	1	 
3	SYF	Semai		06:43	06:44	1	NCR	12	1	 
4	KQS	Kailaras	07:13	07:14	1	NCR	22	1	 
5	BHAT	Bhatpura	07:37	07:38	1	NCR	31	1	 
6	SKU	Sikroda		07:47	07:48	1	NCR	34	1	 
7	JPO	Jora Alapur	08:08	08:09	1	NCR	42	1	 
8	THR	Thara		08:19	08:20	1	NCR	46	1	 
9	SMV	Sumaoli		08:30	08:31	1	NCR	54	1	 
10	ABE	Ambikeshwar	08:58	08:59	1	NCR	59	1	 
11	BMZ	Bamour Gaon	09:34	09:35	1	NCR	74	1	 
12	MIAL	Milavali H	09:46	09:47	1	NCR	78	1	 
13	MTJL	Motijheel	10:05	10:06	1	NCR	84	1	 
14	GOPA	Ghosipura	10:21	10:22	1	NCR	89	1	 
15	GWO	Gwalior Ng	10:50	Last Stn	NCR	93	1



The journey took me down the coach again and back to Gwalior.

An extremely pressurized drinking fountain.

Cattle idyll at Sumaoli.

View into a home.

Where the arid landscape started I waited for the train again, but even here always people came by wanting to have their picture taken.

Narrow gauge next to the newly asphalted road.


Some people on the train had spotted me and started to wave and cheer as the NDM-5 pulled it past in top notch into the barren countryside.

Next time we will continue chasing the train to Gwalior and visit some sights there.
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