Installment #19 - January 19, 2001


We woke up on the train from Hyderabad to Delhi on Tuesday morning to find that we were in Agra and had been there for some time. One of the other passengers told us that there was a power failure (our train was electric), that no one knew when we would move again, and that he was going to take the bus from Agra to Delhi. We were considering doing the same when the train began to move. At the next station, we again stopped for a long time, and again, and again. We finally arrived in Delhi about eight hours late and made our way back to the Ajanta Hotel, where we had stayed in October when we first arrived in India.

We later learned from TV and newspapers that the power failure had affected a large part of northern India. It had many similarities to the Northeast US power failure (in 1967, I believe). A transmission line had tripped off due to an overload, leaving one area with too much load, and another with too much generation. Both areas had collapsed, with generators tripping off-line. They were then faced with the problem of starting generating units in power stations where no power was available, and a great deal of power is required to start a generator. The problem had started at about 4AM, and at 8PM things were still not back to normal.

On Wednesday morning, we took an autorickshaw to the airline office and were able to get Rita onto a plane leaving that night. The rest of the day was spent shopping. [It's a good thing that Rita was finally able to get some shopping in before she had to leave.] We returned to the hotel with less time than we needed for Rita to get packed and to the airport on time. When we got there, they would only allow ticketed passengers into the terminal, so I waited on the sidewalk while Rita checked in, and then returned to say goodbye. She was not allowed outside the terminal and I was not allowed inside, so we said our goodbyes in the terminal doorway. [So, when you kissed goodbye, which one of you was flaunting the rules?]

I took a bus back to the New Delhi train station and then walked back to the hotel. On the way, I passed a building with large plate glass windows. Inside, I could see two men sitting in chairs and watching TV. On the floor between them was a campfire. [Sounds like my kind of camping, actually.]

I spent Thursday morning at the hotel, working on the Bangalore and Hyderabad reports. I planned to take the commuter train to the National Rail Museum that afternoon, but learned that the commuter trains stopped at 10AM and didn’t restart until about 4PM. I decided to wait until the next morning to visit the museum and continued report writing for the rest of the day.

On Friday morning, I walked to the train station and tried to figure out how to catch the commuter train. I assumed that it was a service like the one in Bombay, with trains every 10 or 15 minutes. I finally found that the next train was the last morning train, and would not leave for more than an hour. So much for Delhi commuter trains! I decided to walk to the Rail Museum.

My walk took me by the exclusive homes of generals and judges, each with guards carrying guns, a few with sandbag bunkers. When I reached Embassy Row, there were more guards and guns. I assume that this was greater than the normal level of security, and was probably due to the recent successful attack against Delhi’s Red Fort, in which several people were killed or wounded. The unknown attackers escaped.

The National Rail Museum has a yard full of old and interesting locomotives and cars, including a monorail train that had wheels out to one side that ran on the road and balanced the train, with most of the weight on the rail. There was a museum building containing models of railroad cars and some old signaling equipment. I was very interested in how the signals were used to keep trains apart, and disappointed to find no explanations along with the old equipment. There was also a humorous letter of complaint written in 1909 that I have included in the pictures below.

Generally, walking in India requires careful attention to avoid stepping in cow dung, holes, and ditches, but the sidewalk in front of the generals' and judges' houses was very good. As I returned from the museum to the hotel, I was not paying as much attention as usual to where I put my feet. Suddenly, I found myself sprawled on my stomach on the sidewalk. The culprit turned out to be a loop of small-gauge reinforcing wire sticking up from a pavement block by a fraction of an inch that had caught and held my foot. Around here it pays to watch where you step! [We were hoping for a cow dung story.]

On Saturday, I finished the Hyderabad report and packed my bags to leave Delhi for Darjeeling. At this point, the power failed for the second time that day, and I completed my check of the hotel room by flashlight. I spent a while in the hotel cyber cafe, and then walked to the train station to catch my 5PM train to New Jalpaiguri, the starting point for the toy train to Darjeeling. I was told that the train had been delayed until 8:30PM. I pulled out the James Bond novel I had bought for the trip and started reading. When the next train to pull into the platform was not the right one, I started checking, and learned that my train had been delayed until 1:10PM the next day.

The train station retiring rooms were all full, so I rented a bed in the station dormitory for 100 rupees. The dorm was clean and well-lighted. I ended up in a row of four bunks with three Indians traveling togethertwo women and one man. [Let's see, Rita had just left, and you happened to find yourself sleeping in a room with an extra woman...] I had an assigned locker in which I secured my luggage so that I could go out and buy additional food for the extended trip. I slept well, and by the time I got aboard the train on early Sunday afternoon, I had finished reading James Bond.

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Rita packing her bags in our room at the Ajanta Hotel in Delhi.
Rita waves goodbye from the front door of the Delhi Airport terminal building.
This sign at the entrance to the National Rail Museum shows the layout of the exhibits.
I think that this is the largest electric locomotive I have ever seen.
And here’s the largest steam locomotive. The museum layout didn’t allow me to get a better angle for this picture.
This letter is displayed in the Railroad Museum.
Here is a mystery
This car was used on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad. The cars in use today are larger but the coupling system is still the same, and the cars still have manual brakes applied separately for each car.
This is a steam locomotive from the Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad. The ones in use today are not much different.
This view shows the New Delhi train station on the left, a pedestrian overpass in the rear right, and one of the twelve platforms in the foreground. The picture was taken from a second pedestrian overpass.
This view of the retiring room dormitory at the New Delhi station shows my bunk (with my luggage on it) to the right. There are lockable metal storage lockers for baggage.

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