Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Ten Most Memorable Rail Photos

Genre: Life

A lot of my well-wishers have been repeatedly reminding me how much I will miss my beloved Indian Railways once I shift to USA. Today, when exactly one month remains before I leave India, I decieded to travel back in time and mine out some of the best photos I have taken over the years spent on the Indian Railways.

It is said that a photo is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a photo has memories associated with it that needs to be expressed in words. Here are my Ten Most Memorable Railway Photos alongwith the story behind each of them-

1. Swarna Jayanti Express at Shindawane Ghats
This photo remains closest to my heart because of the widespread appreciation it has received from all quarters, including IRCTC who have used it for their advertisement. But, very few people know the story behind this photo- we had gone to Shindawane Ghat near Pune with the Pune gang. After trekking for 3km, the others positioned themselves near a bridge, while Chaitanya egged me to go further and we both crossed the tall bridge, went through a rock cutting and as we were walking, we heard the horn of the approaching train. So, having no time to find a good location, I just managed to climb onto a small hillock by the side of the tracks by the time the train came out of the tunnel and took a photo. The result is what you see above!

2. Patna Express at Padli
This is another "luck-by-chance" photo that has received a lot of publicity, including appearing in DNA Newspaper alongwith the article on IRFCA. After spending around an hour in the blazing sun at Padli near Igatpuri, we decided to quit and move elsewhere. Just as we were making our exit, we heard a horn. Not having any time to adjust myself, I just turned around, pointed the camera at the train and took the shot. It was only on reaching home I noticed the very-European look of this photo.

3. KK at Akkalkot Road
This was during the journey to Bangalore for the IRFCA 2009 Convention. Our train was put in siding at Akkalkot Road just at sunrise time and immediately all of us jumped out onto the tracks to be told that the legendary Karnataka Express (fondly called KK) was to cross. Since there were four other guys also aiming their cameras at the approaching train and the sun was straignt in front of the camera, I decided to go behind the Flag-man. Needless to say, the result was absolutely unbelievable even to me at first!

4. Sewagram on Thull Ghat
This photo is special for it marked the end of hours of wait and a tiring day in the Thull Ghats which involved descending right upto the base of the bridge seen here and climbing up again to this spot. Just as we were packing up, Sewagram Express crossed the bridge and for once, I decided not to focus on the leading loco and rather let the entire train pass and wait for the three Bankers attached at the rear of the train to come onto the bridge.

5. Karnavati at Vaitarna
It was one of the monsoon days when the Mumbai and Pune gang decieded to explore the Western line. While the Pune gang was adamant on going to Saphale, I insisted on getting of at Vaitarna and climbed the hillock next to the station. Even I didn't know how the view from the top would be, but when I saw Karnavati Express slowly entering the bridge in the distance, I was just speechless.

6. Faceoff at Diwankhauti
It was the monsoon trip on Konkan Railway and our Janshatabdi was halted at this tiny station called Diwankhauti for a crossing. Amidst drizzling rain, me and Akshay got off the train and started walking ahead when suddenly the Ratnagiri Passenger approached from behind the rock cuttings. What makes this photo interesting is the red signal exactly in between the two trains, making it look as if two wrestlers are waiting on two sides, ready to pounce upon each other!

7. Rajdhani at Umroli
This was during the scariest railfanning evening I have ever spent. A couple of years ago, Umroli was a ghost station when me, Apoorva and Arzan went there. It was only post sunset we realised that the station has not a single light working! There was quite some time for our return train to arrive, so we had no option but to spend an hour amidst pitch darkness and barking dogs! In the midst of this, the August Kranti Rajdhani came charging in at 120kmph. Unable to see anything in the dark, I just aimed the camera towards the tracks and pressed the trigger, not knowing that the flash was on! The result left all three of us spellbound!

8. CST on Diwali Night
Long before I even owned a digital camera, on the Diwali night of 2006, I was passing by CST by car when I saw the station building beautifully illuminated. Immediately I took out my Sony Ericsson k750i and took this photo from the car itself before the signal turned green. Till today, a lot of people refuse to believe that this was taken using a cellphone camera!

9. Inside Ukshi Tunnel
Ukshi on Konkan Railway is India's only station where trains stop inside a tunnel. I always fantasized how it would feel stopping inside the tunnel but since no express trains have a scheduled halt here, getting this opportunity is totally a matter of chance. I got that chance on recent Kerala trip by Mangala when we were made to wait in siding at Ukshi for Mandovi to cross and my coach being at the fag end of the train, we stopped right in the middle of the tunnel. While a few passengers were getting worried seeing their train stopping in a tunnel, this kid in the next coach was nicely enjoying making for a beautiful silhoutte.

10. The Tourist
It is not necessary to always focus on trains and locomotives alone, sometimes the travellers make for better subjects and one classic case is this photo. I was onboard the Udaipur-Bandra Express where this British lady was my co-passenger. The way she was engrossed in enjoying the Indian countryside intrigued me and I couldn't resist capturing her emotions on camera.

So, is this making you feel that railfanning is an interesting hobby to pursue? Check out IRFCA now! Join the IRFCA Yahoo Group!

PS: Everyone who has the 2009 IRFCA Calender, check out the photo for the month of July! What a coincidence!


  1. Very nice and impressive collection. I was in fact more enamoured by the stories behind them. Thx for sharing and best of luck.

  2. thnx Karan wish you all the best in Virginia. the British lady's pix is aesthetic railfanning indeed.

  3. wonderful collection...liked it a lot

  4. Really excellent series of railroad photographs and stories. Thanks for sharing.

  5. hey really nice pics... can u share some more with me... i am designing the rail museum coming up at lonavala (final year project of architecture). so some old pics, old locomotives, engines.... and can i have your take on how the museum should be and what all must be displayed in it.
    looking forward for support from all the rail fans.

  6. @Nomad
    Thanks a lot for the appreciation!

    By the way, if you decide to make a similar collection of YOUR railfanning photos, it will be 100 times better than this one! :-)

    @Denis Khan
    So glad to see you here, sir. This appreciation coming from someone like you means A LOT to me!

  7. @Adil
    @ CJ of NJ

    Thanks a lot guys!


    Hey that's so nice to know! I would surely share more photos and ideas about making the museum at Lonavala interesting.. give me some time.. I shall consult other railfans too.. stay in touch.

  8. A great set of photographs and a greater set of stories. I am, like many others, really impressed and happy being in a group that has people who are a lesson to me in many fields. All the best in VIRGIN-ia.

  9. omg omg omg!!!!
    *bows down*

    my favs are the tourist, cz she looks so amazed by the look outside her window,
    the ukshi tunnel cz its awesome hw someone is hanging by at d door, d b/w gives it a real amazing effect..

    i didnt understand wht is thr in dat pitch darkness wla pic, plz elaborate.

    rest, all awesome. :) :)

  10. Awesome collection.. and I like the way every pic has a story to tell :)

    Fantastic collection man!

  11. Hello..Excellent collection. But there is a slight mistake in the Face off at Diwankhauti story. Apoorva, not me had accompanied you to the loco of the train. I was in the coach itself, and took this pic by poking my head out of the emergency window.

  12. @Anju


    @Srishar Joshi

    Sir, nice to see you here! And yes, a lot of people have been breaking up VIRGINIA that way! :P

  13. @Ice Maiden

    I am humbled by the generous amount of appreciation shown by you. :)

    About the darkness wala pic, well here is the elaborate explanation-

    The shining letters that you see there ("21861" "WCAM-2" "Valsad" etc) are actually details written on the front face of the train's engine. The long trails of light (looking like comets) are the headlights and other marker lights on the engine.. the long trail effect is because the train was going at a very high speed. In the pitch darkness, I had no clue when exactly the train approached me and I pressed the camera trigger purely on instinct. What happened is like this-

    Since the flash was ON, when the flash was fired, luckily the engine of the train was exactly in front of me, so it illuminated the reflective numbers and letters on the front face of the engine, but due to the speed of the train, the entire face of the engine could not be captured, only its headlights were captured as a long trail!

    Result- very artistic looking photo which nobody, even with great photography skills, can repeat, not even me if asked to! It is indeed once-in-a-lifetime photo, came purely by sheer perfect timing and good luck! :D

  14. hey interesting description of how u captured the pitch darkness wala pic.. amazing!

    n absolutely awesome pics!! ALL of em! hats off dear pal!

  15. Lovely collection. My personal faves:

    1. SJ at Shindawane - tunnel, bridge, twin diesels, greenery - deadly combo. This still remains my desktop's desktop wallpaper - with the calendar.

    2. KK at Akkalkot - simply marvellous, great to see what some experimentation could achieve. Was that your first FC?

    3. (Tie) Karnavati at Vaitarna and Mandovi at Ukshi - one for the rich colours and the other for the lack thereof - but each speaks several thousand words!

    Unfortunately, I (and others) will be deprived of these (and your witty takes on Mumbai) for some years to come. But do enjoy VTech, and keep blogging even while you're there!!!

  16. @Manish

    1. SJ at Shindawane - tunnel, bridge, twin diesels, greenery - deadly combo. This still remains my desktop's desktop wallpaper - with the calendar.

    I will add more to it- Single Line, Unelectrified (no wires!), Train on Curve.. it has EVERYTHING that a railfan wishes for while deciding on ideal setting for a photograph! No wonder it still remains MY favorite too. :)

    2. KK at Akkalkot - simply marvellous, great to see what some experimentation could achieve. Was that your first FC?

    No man. I have had many accepts into FC earlier, but this one I guess got the maximum number of comments!

    Finally, thanks a lot for all that appreciation.. this is the TurboCharger that keeps me going, yearning for better and better shots!


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