Train and bus fans create new routes through curated circular trips

Passengers on the Metro train from Washermenpet to Wimco Nagar following the inauguuration of the Metro Rail line on February 14. Photo: Jothi Ramalingam B   | Photo Credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

Solve this numeric-cryptograph: 71E20251558899102.

The clues:

One, it is a meandering circular trip.

Two, it concerns Chennai and its penumbra.

Three, patches offer a touristy experience.

The decoding:

“On a Broadway-to-Broadway roundtrip a month ago, we boarded 71E (Broadway to Pattabiram), disembarked at Avadi, and took a 202 to reach Tambaram via Outer Ring Road; proceeding to Mamallapuram by 515, we lunched in the temple town; boarded 588, disembarked at Akkarai; boarded a 99 to reach the Sholinganallur junction, where we hopped on a 102 and were back at Broadway.”

That is OMR resident Paul Kithiyon on how he and Santhapriyan Kamaraj, founder-admin of the FB group ‘TNSTC Enthusiasts’, spliced MTC routes.

For Santhapriyan and Paul, a moderator, it was all in a day’s work, which commenced at 10 a.m. and was wrapped up around 7 p.m., on a weekend. The two bus fans translated the trip into a visual experience with video-editing by two other TNSTC Enthusiasts, admin Vijay Narayanan and moderator Vignesh Venkataraman.

Members of TNSTC Enthusiasts, a Facebook group.

Members of TNSTC Enthusiasts, a Facebook group.  

In another trip, also videographed, they explored the north-western extremities of Chennai, sallying forth from Broadway to Red Hills (MTC’s 242); to Ponneri (TNSTC); to Pazhaverkadu (TNSTC); and returning from Pazhaverkadu to Ponneri (MTC’s 595 Cut); Minjur (TNSTC); and Broadway (MTC’s 56P).

Customised routes

Circular trips prove that a little imagination can turn routes numbingly humdrum in themselves into a memorable experience. By foregrounding less-familiar routes, they can benefit those who rely on public transport. For those who do not, these neatly-curated trips can incentivise occasional use of public transport.

Employed in Salem, Santhapriyan would be visiting Chennai at least one weekend every month through 2021 to curate such trips along with his team for a collection to mark Metropolitan Transport Corporation’s golden jubilee in the first week of January 2022. Santhapriyan says their next trip is centred around MTC routes in and around Oragadam.

Additionally, besides the making of these videos for their YouTube channel, the group could aim at compiling an elaborately-written ready reckoner of such ‘patched’ MTC-TNSTC routes and publish it on their website and anywhere else they could to benefit those outside the esoteric circle of bus fanning. Even regular travellers can pick up an obscure but useful route or two from these circular-trip notes.

Larger vision

A ready reckoner combining rail and bus routes would be even more wholesome, promoting an inter-modal approach to urban-and-suburban commuting and travel.

The good news is that rail fans also do circular trips and can therefore be organically co-opted into such an exercise.

A few members of Indian Railways Fan Club during a roundtrip. Photo: Special Arrangement

A few members of Indian Railways Fan Club during a roundtrip. Photo: Special Arrangement  

S. Aravind, a chartered accountant and a resident of KK Nagar, and Sridhar Joshi, a technical-writing professional living in Perambur, are both members of the Indian Railway fan club, IRFCA ( They rattle off circular trips they have been on, with fellow rail fans from Chennai. A majority of those routes meander into other States. Of those staying closer home, the most hallowed and most-travelled is the Chennai-Chengelpet-Arakonnam-Chennai circular rail route.

Sridhar focusses the spotlight on it. “From Egmore to Chengelpet (on the Chennai Beach to Chengelpet suburban line); by an unreserved passenger train from Chengelpet to Arakonnam via Kancheepuram; and another suburban train from Arakonnam to Chennai Central”.

Aravind adds: “We would attempt the Chennai-Chengelpet-Arakonnam-Chennai circular route primarily because the Thakkolam-to-Arakonnam stretch of the rail route was not electrified at that time. The passenger trains used to be hauled by diesel engines, and that would make for nostalgia.”

There is another option rail fans from Chennai exercise, one that allows them more ground without allowing the circular trip to extend into the next day.

“We would reach Chengelpet early in the morning, and at 8 a.m., take Arakonnam Passenger, reach Arakonnam around 9 a.m to 9.30 a.m., have breakfast and spend a couple of hours, and take a Passenger Train to Renigunta, reaching it around 3 p.m., and by another Passenger, reach Gudur at 5.30 p.m., have snacks, and take the Vijayawada-Chennai Jan Shatabdi and reach Chennai at 10.30 in the night,” Aravind details the roundtrip.

He continues: “Travelling by rail lets you cover larger distances in the same time. If you take a 202 from Avadi to Tambaram, it may probably take two hours, and the distance covered would be 30 kilometres, whereas if you take the Kovai Express, in two hours, you would be at Katpadi, 140 km from here. So, the magnitude differentiates circular trips by trains and those by buses.” That comes straight out of the recesses of a ferroequinologist’s heart. However, Aravind recognises buses as an indispensable cog in the public transport system.

Rail-road combos

Both these rail fans have realised in their own ways that if buses do not provide the last-mile connectivity, the rail experience can feel painfully amputated. “Sadly, there is no connectivity if you have gone to Gummudipoondi or Sulurpet, to take you to Thiruvallur or Arakonnam directly by train,” says Sridhar.

Aravind’s commutes bear testimony to the advantage of ‘patching’ rails lines onto roadways, and vice versa.

As a resident of KK Nagar, Aravind’s everyday commute for a few years would dovetail a suburban-rail route (Maramalai Nagar to St. Thomas Mount) and Metrorail route (St. Thomas Mount to Ashok Pillar) and MTC’s “last-mile” service via 5B, 12G or 17D that would take care of his home stretch.

With increased opportunities for an inter-modal, circular-travel experience, Aravind believes, the government should consider introducing a special multi-modal day ticket or pass that would cover public buses, MRTS, Metrorail and the suburban rail lines. Given the variety of options its offers, it could be suitably priced. He elaborates: “A multi-modal ticket or pass for a day, one that combines all public modes of transport within a city — rail and road — would make for a seamless travel experience. It need not even be a card; it can be app-based. With a QR code, it can be validated that this person can travel all day. It would be useful, not only for train and bus enthusiasts, but also tourists.”

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 10:32:53 AM |

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