April 13, 2011

Adventure in Amla


AMLA IS A MEDIUM SIZED junction about 3 hours run from Nagpur on the Grand Trunk route. Proceeding towards the north, we first have Nagpur, then Amla, followed by Betul, Itarsi, and then Bhopal. Long before electric and diesel came on the scene, Amla was a small sized railway centre, with a branch line going to Parasia. There was a regular Passenger Train service connecting Amla and Parasia. Those who have stayed in this area will also remember the steam run Bhopal--Parasia Fast Passenger train which would pass through Amla late in the night.

Amla also had a sizeable goods yard, and of course , a loco shed. The Grand Trunk Express halted here, as did the Dakshin, and several other trains too. I have been through Amla several times while on my way from Itarsi to Nagpur back in the 1980s. And I unfailingly traveled by the Itarsi--Nagpur Passenger. Once I even had to spend the whole night at Amla, seated on the platform. It was a tiresome experience, but I had a great time nonetheless.

Mr Vinod Nanekar, Deputy Station Superintendent of Nagpur railway station tells me that once, a long time ago, a problem had arisen in Amla. Wagons had accumulated in the yard, and the staff were at a loss to understand how to clear up the mess. Amla phoned Nagpur control apprising them of the situation, and so, that very evening, an official from the Operating Department was dispatched from Nagpur to study the situation and suggest a remedy. Cases such as this are not uncommon. Yards do get out of hand at times, and when this happens, an official is sent who will suggest for instance that six wagons lying at this corner be attached to a certain train, another three lying over there be taken to a nearby station and stabled till further orders are received, and so on.

Our official from Nagpur arrived in Amla travelling in his saloon, and set about doing his work. When night came, his saloon was stabled at one end of the platform for him, so that he would have no trouble in entering or getting off the carriage.

An Express was due to arrive late in the night and Amla found themselves in a fix. Both platforms were occupied, one with the saloon, the other with an empty row of carriages. The ASM on duty ordered that the saloon be shunted to a nearby track, as a single carriage would take less time to be shunted out than whole line of carriages. Soon a shunting engine came in and stood a little distance on the same track as the saloon car. The pointsman standing close to the carriage gave his signal and the engine backed up with a mighty woof, but in doing so the driver made an error in judgement and banged against the saloon a bit harder than usual. The official within was jolted from his sleep, and woke up. He was in a towering rage. He climbed down from his carriage, and gave the driver and pointsman a piece of his mind. Then he strode along the platform to the ASM’s office to report the matter.

While the shunting staff stood beside, terrified of the punishment that would be meted out, a phone call was made to Nagpur. Soon the official in Amla was yelling into the phone telling his superior in Nagpur about what had taken place.

It is impossible to say what Nagpur had to say on the phone. It appears the boss in Nagpur wasn’t too pleased hearing such a complaint coming in the dead of the night. Maybe he yelled back saying “What nonsense, I didn’t send you to Amla for sleeping in your saloon!!” Whatever it is he may have said, Nanekar tells me that our official soon calmed down, to everyone’s enormous relief. He put down the receiver and looked around sheepishly. Then he told the men that it was quite okay, that he would return to his saloon, and they could resume with their shunting !!!
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Ravindra Bhalerao