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India 2012 - 7: Jodhpur - Into Thar Desert (50 p.)

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19 Mar 2007
Vienna, Austria

The previous trip report part:
India 2012 - 6: Jodhpur - The Blue City (50 p.)

The accompanying video:

February 7 2012

In the afternoon I drove uphill for sightseeing at the impressive Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur.

Visible in the distance was Umaid Bhavan Palace, a megalomaniacal folly constructed 1929-43 for the former Maharajas which is supposed to be the largest private building worldwide:

Inside the fort you had to climb to the palaces, again displaying excellent masonry. Some of the interior left by former Rajput rulers could also be seen as well as panoramic views of Jodhpur and its sights. Once more a colourful mixture of visitors was encountered, from people in welfare uniforms to two elderly Japanese ladies sporting three Nikon DSLRs with giant lenses. One lady wore a Nikon jacket holding a Canon jacket in her arm. I asked her about it, but unfortunately she did not understand English sufficiently.

More about one of the largest forts in India can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehrangarh_Fort


View at the blue old city centre houses.



Obviously the guards had to wear these historical uniforms.



The insanely decorated interior of Phool Mahal (= Flower Palace) from the first half of the 18th century.



Extremely detailed facades.



My friends, the chipmunks, were also present.

The gate to the city.



In the vicinity the third main Jodhpur sight: Jaswant Thada Mausoleum built in 1899.

The beautiful fort tour was completed and I did not feel like diving into the chaotic city. Even if you noticed that not that many people were living in Rajasthan, Jodhpur still was a city of a million. On the ride back I was cheated, the drivers made full use of the fact that you would be stuck on the hill without them. I still could haggle a little, you only have to stay stubborn, and it will usually work. You can assume that the starting price is way too high in any case. On the way back I was met by a horse drawn cart full of schoolchildren and at Raika Bag I saw a Plasser&Theurer track maintenance vehicle, then I went to rest at the hotel with many full days of travelling adventures ahead.

February 8 2012

Today was the big desert travelling day of trip, not only that, but I was about to use the passenger train consisting entirely of unreserved 2nd class coaches. Such experiments are only advisable in India if you know your destination region is one of the most deserted in the country - literally. An hour before departure I ordered a tuk-tuk to the station, the Jodhpur – Jaisalmer (speak: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jaisalmer.ogg ) passenger was not yet standing at the announced platform. I took a few photos and videos of express trains as well as the colourful platform life. However, watching how someone cleaned his teeth by hand using water from a puddle was quite disturbing. Then I saw the human side of life here when a guard stopped a half-departed express for an old lady who otherwise would not have made it. An express rake was shunted on platform 5, I asked the shunting worker who claimed that the Jaisalmer passenger was about to stop here. Now I spotted my train still standing between two platforms at a facility to replenish water supplies. A few daredevils wearing sandals walked through the sewer of garbage, bodily waste and spit, which had accumulated between the tracks, to enter the coaches. I preferred to wait and then took a window seat in the very last compartment of the train. This proved to be an excellent choice, as I was spared huge masses of people on the more populated part of the trip and later, after reversal at Pokaran about two thirds down the line, could enjoy the ride right behind the loco, Abu Road WDM-2 16799. Next to me a family with two little boys occupied the compartment. We started with a slight delay, at Raika Bag we crossed the first WDG-4 hauled freight. I knew that only here a proper crowd would board the train. And it turned out to hold true, from now people were standing in the corridor. An elderly gentleman ordered a few people around, and now we were sitting complete with a few children inside the 8+2 compartment. My coach looked like the oldest rolling stock, but imprints bearing the construction year could be found everywhere - it turned out to be 2008! At Raika Bag the line to Jaisalmer branched off, from here, apart from one station, you could only find semaphore signals and tokens used.

The morning pictures from Jodhpur station could already be seen in the previous travelogue part.


1	JU	Jodhpur Jn		08:30		NWR	0	1	 
2	RKB	Rai Ka Bagh Palace08:36	08:37	1	NWR	2	1	 
3	MMC	Mahamandir	08:49	08:50	1	NWR	4	1	 
4	MDB	Mandor		09:00	09:01	1	NWR	10	1	 
5	MMY	Marwar Mathaniya09:20	09:21	1	NWR	33	1	 
6	TIW	Tivari		09:33	09:34	1	NWR	43	1	 
7	OSN	Osiyan		09:53	09:54	1	NWR	64	1	 
8	BKC	Bhikamkor	10:08	10:09	1	NWR	79	1	 
9	SRK	Samrau		10:20	10:21	1	NWR	89	1	 
10	MWT	Marwar Lohawat	10:38	10:39	1	NWR	108	1	 
11	STSN	Shaitansinghanagar10:54	10:55	1	NWR	123	1	 
12	PLC	Phalodi		11:37	11:42	5	NWR	137	1	 
13	MBT	Marwar Bithri	11:54	11:55	1	NWR	147	1	 
14	MKHR	Marwar Khara	12:10	12:11	1	NWR	162	1	 
15	RDRA	Ramdevra	12:28	12:29	1	NWR	183	1	 
16	POK	Pokaran		12:45	13:10	25	NWR	195	1	 
17	AQG	Ashapura Gomat	13:16	13:17	1	NWR	199	1	 
18	OCH	Odhaniya Chacha	13:33	13:34	1	NWR	216	1	 
19	SBLT	Shribhadriya Lathi13:52	13:53	1	NWR	237	1	 
20	JCH	Jetha Chandan	14:11	14:12	1	NWR	258	1	 
21	THM	Thaiyat Hamira	14:32	14:33	1	NWR	282	1	 
22	JSM	Jaisalmer	15:30	Last Stn	NWR	301	1


Now I would like to show a few outside photos from Raika Bag with the same train the day before (February 7 2012) hauled by Abu Road WDM-2 16825.

The poorest keep alive by collecting trash.

Slow departure from Raika Bag, in India trains rarely accelerate fast right away as there are people still jumping on and off.


Experienced loco crew.

The last coach with guard negotiating curve 1 of the line to Jaisalmer. Standard IR coaches are based on a design by the former Swiss Schlieren company.

All photos from now on were taken with the small Powershot.

The sweet smallest child of the co-travellers.
Every window consists of glass, sunblind and anti-theft bars, except for emergency exits.

Inside the coach a dark, cool atmosphere dominated due to the low-lying windows - essential for the hot season.

Now it was over with creeping pace, between stations the train reached decent speeds only going slow near stations. At least while riding it for the first time the line proved interesting, even if the only hills could be found close to Jodhpur. Outside the city I came across more blue painted villages. At Marwar Mathanya we accumulated some delay as a freight crossing had to be waited for. With GM-thunder and sounding the horn a BGKT WDG-4 blasted through the station (see video, minute 20:50). Thankfully the window bars were mounted in a perfect distance inbetween for taking videos and occasional snaps with the small camera. During the ride the character of the landscape constantly was changing, sometimes steppe-like, sometimes fertile agrarian country. I often spotted mustard fields in India, here as well. People were partly dressed in local fashion, some with colourful turbans, I also caught a glimpse of the occasional camel. Other than that there was no exotic fauna to be found apart from a few antilopes jumping around the landscape. Between villages with low, flat roof houses sometimes round huts could be seen.



Our delay had increased to 30 minutes due to the freight crossing, but thanks to a generous timetable we reached the half-way station Phalodi Junction, on time. This was the only modernized station along the line with island platforms and colour light signals, junction for a new line to Bikaner which I was not able to find on any map. IRFCA-friends visited it later, at a spot trains were passing sand dunes close by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanx13/6809505938/in/photostream/lightbox

Brand new WDP-4B 40074 still without shed markings hauled 54819 JSM-JU passenger into the opposite direction.


Some track workers wore turbans and golden earrings.

A view back at the modern station.

Now we had more space in the coach.

The older boy of the family.

On the way you could regularly see military convoys, this is one of the main support lines. Jaisalmer lies almost as far from Jodhpur as from Karachi, there are hardly any settlements west of the town, only desert and the Pakistan border. Ramdevra was the disembarking point for many passengers including my family as a prominent temple could be reached from here. I was unusually alone now, the coach almost empty.



10 seats per compartment, quite comfortable but the number of people often exceeds that.

At Indian stations you could commonly find these more or less artistic signs for the smallest room.

Inside the coach it looked like that, two opposite toilets - in AC coaches one of them "Western style" - and an additional wash basin outside. Accessories and cleanliness were generally OK, of course better in AC class, I was used to much worse with South-Eastern European railways.

At Pokaran the train is led to a terminal station via a track triangle with Ashapura Gomat station at the other end, where 14073 Jaisalmer - Lalgarh (Bikaner) Express was already waiting to continue skipping Pokaran. At Pokaran you could find an army base, a 14th century fort and a busy goods loading yard, probably the first is the reason for the diversion in a flat desert landscape. The loco BGKT WDM-2 16799 was now reversing to right in front of my nose, so I could enjoy the ALCO-sound to the fullest.



Busy traffic on rail and road (if it deserves that name...)

At first we only got up to semaphore-rich Ashapura Gomat, the train stopped here for almost an hour to wait for an oncoming freight. Why exactly here stayed a mystery to me, as the following stations were close and offered plenty of crossing opportunities. Maybe a military train at the next station blocked the line.


I already had suspected something wrong with the train as nothing happened for an hour. A nice railroader, who probably had seen me taking pictures before, alerted me to the fact that the freight was now approaching. What followed was a perfect desert railway scene, the long train kicking up dust, flickering air and seven semaphore signals at a glance.


Katni WDG-3A 14594 pulling the ultimate desert freight.

It paid off to wait for that, of course our crew now had to notch up resulting in a great ALCO-concert (see video).

Finally we were able to move on, of course always handing over the token like at the following station Odhaniya Chacha.

Meeting Abu Road WDM-2 16840 travelling single loco east at Shribhadriya Lathi.

That's how Thar Desert mostly was looking like, although few sand dunes could be found, mainly it was sand and dry vegetation.

In the next part we will explore the desert dream Jaisalmer! :)
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RailUK Forums

NY Yankee

26 Mar 2012
New York City
This is not meant to be offensive, but I can't believe the smartest people in the world come from this country. This country produces doctors and engineers, yet there are guys in India who brush their teeth with muddy water.


19 Mar 2007
Vienna, Austria
What does the fact that someone is citizen of the same country have to do with anything? Countries are entirely fictional structures, everyone acts as an individual.
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