It was a Saturday in the month of November 2019. I was working. Yes, I fall in that category of people who work all Saturdays a month. I dragged myself to office, opened my laptop and started work. Just to take a detour, I started searching for random things on the internet which led to me searching about longest trains in the country. I have been through this search before, but this time the search was serious.
I knew previously that there is a train which takes you from the Southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari to Vaishnodevi, Katra in Jammu Kashmir.
I went on the IRCTC site and checked this train's availability. The train was fairly full for the month of November and December but it was pretty much empty for January.
Without much ado, I booked a ticket for 31st January 2020 way in advance.
The train whose tickets I had booked was the 16317 Himsagar Express from Kanyakumari to Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Katra.
It leaves at 14.15 hrs fron Kanyakumari on Fridays only and completes its journey of roughly 3800 kms on Monday at 15.10 hrs. The journey lasts for 73 hours with 68 halts.
The reason to take this train was simple. To travel from the Sagar(Sea) to Him(Himalayas) spanning the spine of India and see India from a train.
After a lot of preparation, ticket and hotel bookings and a long wait came the day of my trip.
I left from Mumbai to go to Trivandrum from where I went to Kanyakumari where I had booked a hotel for the night. I spent this day roaming in Kanyakumari and headed back to call it an early night.
The next day I had to board the Himsagar Express at 14.15 hrs to travel from Kanyakumari to Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Katra.
I woke up the next day and quickly freshened up and headed to the Swami Vivekanand rock memorial.
The peace and serenity here was amazing. Because of this I was now ready to take the longest train journey I have taken. I headed back to my hotel packed my backpack and started walking towards the station. On the way I visited the Our Lady of Ransom Church.
I enjoyed the peace here, said a small prayer and headed to the station. In some 5 minutes I was welcomed by the huge pink colored facade of the Kanyakumari station. The station code for Kanyakumari is CAPE. A pretty apt one!
Painted in pink, it looked pretty good.
I entered the station and start exploring the station.
In sometime my ride arrives. The 16317 Himsagar Express from Kanyakumari to Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Katra.
Now, you might say that this is the longest train in India. But sadly, it isn't. It is the 4th Longest train in India.
The longest train is the Kanyakumari to Dibrugarh Vivek express.
The second longest one is the Sichar Thiruvananthapuram Aronai Express.
The third one is Silchar Thiruvananthapuram Superfast Express.
And the Hinsagar Express is the 4th longesy.
It leaves CAPE only on Fridays and reaches SVDK(Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Katra) on Monday.
It starts its return journey on Monday from SVDK at around 21.45 hrs and reaches CAPE on Thursday. One train is sufficient for this entire trip.
So these are some excerpts from my trip.
This was my three tier AC coach. I would have dreaded to travel in the non AC coach. My coach was a very clean and tidy one.
These bags contained bedsheets, blankets and other linen for the passengers of the two 3rd AC coaches this train has. This is a week's supply of linen for its entire CAPE-SVDK-CAPE trip.
Clean bedsheets and pillows provided.
Himsagar Express does a short evening halt at Kulliturai station between Nagercoil and Trivandrum.
Passengers board the Himsagar Express at Kayamkulam Junction. The person on the extreme left works for the Army and was travelling to Samba in Jammu Kashmir. He is seen speaking to his relatives who have come to drop him.
Passengers waiting for their trains at Kayamkulam Junction.
Passengers alight the train as the train draws into Katpadi Junction early in the morning on the second day.
The Second Class coach of the Himsagar express.
One of my co-passenger passing time with a little girl.
A passenger enjoys the view outside.
Devotees at the Tirupati Railway station in yellow.
A hawker selling jewellery moves from coach to coach in the Himsagar express.
One of our coach attendent catching some rest as Himsagar Express reaches Ongole station on its second day. These guys have a pretty hard 7 day duty from Kanyakumari to Vaishnodevi and back to Kanyakumari. All these guys were from Kerela and did a pretty good job of changing the bedsheets and maintaining the AC temperature.
Windows of the AC coach of the Himsagar express getting cleaned at Vijaywada Station.
One of the many cups of tea I gulped down aboard the Himsagar express.
A cleaning crew goes around cleaning our coach. These guys cleaned the coach and the toilets every day twice. They did a pretty good job of keeping the coach clean.
The sun rising as the train draws into the third day of its journey.
A coolie sits at the Itarsi Railway station as the Himsagar Express draws into its third day of the journey.
Hot kachoris and wadas being sold at the Bhopal Railway station.
The Indian flag hoisted at the Gwalior Railway station seen from a train which traverses the spine of the nation.
Braille indications in our coach of the Himsagar express.
A multipurpose stall at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway station. The train has a 30 minute halt here follwed by a 110 minute halt at New Delhi Railway station.
The Himsagar Express during its 110 minute halt at New Delhi Railway Station. I ordered food online via the IRCTC App at this station.
After a chilly night, Himsagar Express reaches a fog covered Phagwara station in Punjab on its final day.
The sun shines brightly over Jalandhar Cantt. Railway Station.
My breakfast for the 3rd consecutive morning- Bread Cutlet. All the food of the pantry aboard this train was awesome and it isbwhat you want for a 4 day long journey.
A fully foggy view from the window as we travel across Punjab.
Himsagar express reaches fog covered Tanda Urmar station in Punjab.
The person in black (again from the army) from Kerela alights at Pathankot Cantt. There were another 2 men from the army who boarded the train along with their wives in the South and travelled to resume work in the North after a vacation.
The coach of Himsagar express in which I travelled
Our coach bears an empty look as the Hinsagar express crosses Punjab and enters Jammu Kashmir.
Himsagar express reaches Jammu Tawi Railway station 20 minutes before time.
Nuns who boarded the train in the south alight at Jammu Tawi Railway station.
The Himsagar express crosses one of the many river bridges between the Jammu Tawi-Katra railway line. This line was commissioned in 2011 before which the Himsagar Express used to run till Jammu Tawi.
The Himsagar Express does an unscheduled halt at the Sangar station in Jammu Kashmir.
The Himsagar Express reaches Udhampur station on a bright sunny afternoon.
The Himsagar Express reaches its destination, Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Katra after a 73 hour jouney which lasted 4 days 3 nights from Friday to Monday . It will reverse direction to go back to Kanyakumari in the night to reach Kanyakumari on Thursday.
The beautiful and scenic Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Katra railway station.
Katra Railway Station in the evening
That is where my journey ended from the Sagar to the Him. Travelling from the Southern tip of India to the North by train for 4 days and 3 nights. It was one memorable journey. The many towns, railway stations I crossed, the many people I saw, the many foods I ate, the various landscapes I saw, all made me understand the India is simply Incredible.