Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Rockfort Express

Upon arriving in Chennai, we had lunch with my dad and brother (whom I hadn't seen in more than a year!) and did some shopping. We also quickly met up with some relatives and it was nice seeing them after almost 3 years. David and I were then scheduled to take the 10.30pm Rockfort Express overnight train to Trichy where my mom and cousin would be welcoming us.

Traveling by train in India is truly a unique and unforgettable experience. Indian Railways is one of the world's largest employers and transports millions of passengers to almost 7,000 stations all over the country. The trains have a character of their own and the train stations are always bustling with large numbers of passengers, shouting vendors, porters and shops. It is indeed quite a sight!

The Rockfort Express is a very popular overnight train that connects Chennai and Trichy and operates daily. It originated in Trichy and is named after the Rockfort Temple in the city. The train covers the journey between the two cities in about 6-7 hours and therefore passengers should prepare themselves for a good night's sleep. There are various coach categories to choose from: A/C First Class, A/C 2-Tier, First Class, A/C 3-tier, Second class sleeper and General compartments. As the train almost always runs full, it is advisable to book tickets in your preferred category in advance. The Indian Railways website has detailed information about the train schedules and intermediate stops. Our tickets were purchased on the Make My Trip website, which we found very convenient.

The train departs from Chennai Egmore station and goes all the way down to Kumbakonam. Most passengers' final destination is Trichy where they can alight at Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli Town or Tiruchirapalli Junction. We were booked in the A/C 2-Tier category and our final destination was Srirangam.

The train usually departs on time but this time there was a 15 minute delay. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to travel by Rockfort Express after such a long time. I have always had fond memories of it from my childhood and especially enjoyed the slow movement of the train - perfect for falling asleep. It was so exciting to see the train approach and as soon as it stopped, people scrambled to check if their names were listed on the train doors. A man came along with sheets of paper, a large brush and water and went along from one coach to the next pasting the passengers' reservation details. We were happy to find that our names were indeed noted and boarded the train.

The train is very unique in that it really makes the most out of the space it has. Seats that can be converted into sleepers are set up in every available space, therefore making the passageways very narrow. Passengers can choose their berths and David was on the upper berth while I was below. Two gentlemen shared the compartment with us but were just minding their own business. We set up our sleepers and were provided with blankets and pillows for the night. The train conductor came to check our tickets and informed us that he would let us know when to get off.

Soon, it was lights off! We were both tired and immediately dozed off. This was the first time I was traveling on the Rockfort Express without my parents and I was therefore worried about missing our stop. Usually my parents would be alert and wake up in time and tell me to be ready and so I could always sleep with the assurance that I would not miss my stop. This time, I had to be the alert one and so, I did not fully sleep. The thing is, there is no loud announcement made when the train stops at a station, so one has to have an idea of the arrival time beforehand. On top of that, it is really dark outside and the windows are tinted, making it difficult to see the station name outside.

Although the train was scheduled to arrive in Srirangam at around 5am, I was awake by 3am. Everyone else was fast asleep and did not seem too worried about their stop. David and I walked down the aisle to the train exit area where we could open the train door while it was moving to enjoy the early morning breeze. This is one of the best things about this train! We spent some time reading the interesting notices and warnings and I especially liked this particular one:

So beware, boys! :)

We finally arrived at Srirangam and received a very warm welcome from my mom and cousin. It was a wonderful journey and the perfect way to travel to Trichy. I could finally re-live the memories from my childhood and share the experience with David!

Keep checking back to read more about my adventures in Trichy!


Ravipa said...

Excellent recollection. Rockfort Express is my favourite train in India and you have vividly captured the experience here. Looking forward to your further updates.


japinder said...

i have never been on a train in india

Karthik G said...

Lovely article. Thanks for writing this article & uploading the pics.... I'm a rail enthusiast [railfan] from Mumbai...


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