We still were miles ahead of the closest Rajdhani Express coming from Bhubaneshwar, which was around 80km behind us.
About 15 minutes later, we received the starter to proceed ahead. By this time, rain started drizzling heavily. Plus, with a busy day up-ahead, we made it a point to have ample sleep.
Had it been the Suraj till 2013, sleep was secondary for me. As the railfan bug in me would love watching trains crossing, while my eyes remained glued even in the darkest of surroundings. Gone are those merry and hyper-active days to a more humble and wiser version of me, who doesn't miss a chance to sleep, even in the smallest time-gap possible.
We were on the main line to Prayagraj Jn and on to NCR, the dreaded zone for many SF and Non-SF trains of the past. With over-saturated tracks, finding a time slot with hundreds of mail/ express/ premium trains and freights, missing a time slot in the zone means the train would be treated as a mere afterthought. Unless you are the Rajdhanis, the controlling of a slot-missed train would be on the controller's mercy!
Initially we cruised pretty well and were slowed down at almost every station till Chunar. Meanwhile, Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani was almost near DDU and the distance kept on reducing drastically. With Howrah and Sealdah Rajdhanis delayed by 10 minutes each, the only Rajdhani that came to our minds were Bhubaneshwar.
However, at DDU arrivals, there was one more Rajdhani, which ran ahead of Howrah and Sealdah and just behind Bhubaneshwar. It was the daily Rajdhani from Dibrugarh (02423).
With our next day tension of getting screwed up in the supposed "Bermuda Triangle of Indian Railways" loomed darker than ever. With every slowdowns, both these Rajdhanis were chasing with full clearance.
I saw some Rajdhani crossings, and decided to sleep till Cheoki Jn. I woke up just before the station and we crawled over Yamuna Bridge near Prayagraj. We skipped PRYJ at about 2.10 am in the mid night and CNB was some 195km from this point.
Jallianwalabagh Express till this point had a satisfactory run in this region, with still a clear 30-40km distance from the nearest Rajdhani chasing down. If we get a great clearance, we don't see a reason how Rajdhanis would catch us up, as both we and Rajdhanis have same stoppage pattern and top speed in the region.
Still, a Rajdhani is a Rajdhani. The reason why these trains are so preferred by the common mass is hardly unsurprising. The supreme track clearance and the punctuality are of a different level altogether. All the East-Indian Rajdhanis, except Agartala and Patna Rajdhanis (i.e those running via NCR Allahabad Div) have a close time slot. Each one having a 10 minute margin with each other from DDU to NDLS and the slot is maintained perfectly on almost daily basis.
Despite being a normal SF train, Jallianwalabagh Express has transformed into somewhat a ripper in its own standards. I was amazed by the run till a point, when we were slowed down at around 4.10am, and were slowly looped to a station called Bindki Road!
It was perhaps our date with destiny! I was half asleep, and saw the station has a loop in the middle and the mainline on the other side. I tracked WMT and saw Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express speeding towards this station.
A 130 kmph thrashing was the first of the two more eventual thrashing to come. Me and Arkya couldn't help but praise the supreme clearance the train received. At one point, it was some 170 km behind us, and now it overtook us within 8 hours of chasing. Although we faced technical issues and were caught by nearly an hour worth delay, this was still exceptional for overtake to happen.
After some minutes passed and at a quiet roadside station, we heard one more shrill honk and this time it was Dibrugarh Rajdhani to do the thrashing.
This was followed by the final overtake by the first Rajdhani of IR, Howrah Rajdhani smashed past us at near MPS.
At this point, it was nearly 4.40am and we wondered Sealdah and Ranchi to follow the trend. To our surprise, we were given the green signal to leave. Arkya, meanwhile was confident of us getting looped somewhere after CNB to allow Sealdah and Ranchi avenge the final straw.