Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tweetup - Royal Enfield Factory tour

I had the opportunity to go for a factory tour of the Royal Enfield factory situated at Tiruvottiyur in Chennai. 

This tour is called Tweetup which is specifically for the twitter fans of Royal Enfield. If you are there on Twitter, you may also become a fan of Royal Enfield and get the interactive Twitter updates of the Royal Enfield.

The tweetup was schedule at 2.30 p.m. on 11th June 2011, a Saturday.

My colleague Mohan Babu an avid bullet enthusiastic, joined with me for this tweet-up. For us, from Cuddalore, this 2 hour tweet-up would mean a total of 16 hour endeavor.  The day started for me at 4.00 a.m. with catching the Villupuram bus at 5.00 a.m. at the Cuddalore bus stand.

Reached my Father In Law’s house early and took some time there. Wife and children were there, so spent some time disturbing my wife out of her sleep while my kids are still in slumber. Remember, if she is in her parent’s house she usually gets off from her sleep much delayed. Quite usual for our ladies whenever they are with their mum and dad!!.

Spent some time there with taking a short nap myself and then having breakfast and left from there at 8.15 a.m. to the Villupuram railway station. Mohan Babu left Cuddalore by 7.30 a.m. and we planned to join together at Villupuram for the 9.15 a.m. Pallavan Superfast train.

9.00 a.m. : Reached the Villupuram Rail Station, bought the tickets for two of us, went to the platform where Mohan Babu joined me. Noel sir was also there and he is also going to Chennai by the same train but in the AC coach. So caught up with him chatting for quite some time on the platform.

Noel Sir is one of the senior most person; he has reckoned more than 3 decades of service in our organization MRF and he is now a consultant trainer. He is an inspiration for us in terms of punctuality. He has reached the railway station by 8.15 itself and waiting for the train. 

The Pallavan Superfast train arrived little late at about 9.25, and Noel Sir went to the AC coach and we went to the unreserved coach. Though we were optimistic of getting a seat to sit during this 3 hour journey till Egmore Rail Station, we were drawn aback by the fully packed Un-Reserved coaches of the Pallavan Superfast Train. After some hard efforts, we two managed to squeeze  into the coach. We managed to travel standing in the train for the first 2 hours of the journey. Luckily we got to sit after the train reached Chengalpet. 

Finally we arrived Egmore Rail Station at 12.30 p.m. We got to see off Noel Sir; bid him adieu and went to the Vasantha Bhavan hotel opposite to the railway station. Had lunch and then came back to the Egmore Rail Station to get the local EMU train to the Chennai Beach Rail Station. We were anew to this locality and was treading this route as advised by one of my friends with a vague mind. We were seeking to know of the bus routes and the distance ahead for us from the passerby. The experience was nice recalling myself of past memories of going on long tours without knowing the local knowledge. Finally we caught the right MTC bus and reached the Tiruvottiyur bus terminus. Then after a short walk of 5 minutes we got to the legendry Royal Enfield factory.

The first sight that invited us was this board. There was a gate on the left side and we went into it. What caught our eyes were a line up of Royal Enfield bullets in Battle Green colour which were ready for dispatch. We were then told by the security personnel of another gate meant for visitors and we then walked past right side of this board. Finally reached the factory.

As planned, we two were nearly half hour ahead of the schedule. We were asked to wait at the reception area. 

Thats Mohan Babu my colleague and Shri Nidhi an avid travel blogger of Tata Nano Superdrive fame awaiting at the reception area.

At the reception area we got to grasp this nice book and flipped through the interesting stories around the legend called the Enfield Bullet which has an history of more than half century. The book costs Rs.1,500.

The antique V-Twin bullet. Clicked from insides of the book.

It was about 3.00 p.m. and we got invited by Mr.Praveen who gave us an interesting talk at the Conf. room in the second floor of the building.

Got to know from him that the Adventure Bike of the Royal Enfield which is now being conceptualized will be out into the market in another couple of years. The great thing about this adventure bike is that, you need not worry of the fuel price hikes; you need not worry about non-availability of fuel at demanding locations. If you get petrol, fill your bullet with it, if not? get diesel, if not? get kerosene. If not? get gasoline. If not? get vegetable oil. ...
This bike can be run in 6 different kinda fuel which suits your pocket and which is available easily for you. I direly need this bike!!

There were now 7 people in our tweetup and two more needed to join. So, Mr.Praveen was awaiting for the other two gentlemen. We then got two magazines one is a regular magazine "The Beat" which gives out catchy updates and stories behind the happenings around the enigma called Royal Enfield. The other one is the Trip Calendar for the year 2011. Royal Enfield conducts trips around interesting places with duration ranging from 1 day to 15 days. The God of all these trips is the Himalayan Odyssey which occurs every July.  I dream of getting into the next one as a photographer. Let all things work out for my good.

The much awaited factory came the next. We were advised on the Dos and Don’ts while visiting the factory shop floor. 

Generally speaking, its rarest of the rare cases where people outside of the business are permitted to visit a manufacturing facility.  But, Royal Enfield is a forerunner in throwing the red carpet to we the twitter freaks to glimpse the magnificent beasts while they are getting into shape right from the bolts and nuts to be flying, be it the dirtiest track to the world's highest roads.

These are the accessories which are to come out of the staples of RE. A well designed Tool Box, Rain Wear for the bullet riders formed part of them. RE is opening up for its riders to buy. The products are well designed and catchy.

Then we got to be clicked of a group photograph.

The march into the factory premises starts now...

We were then lead into the engine assembly area. Photography of the high tech machinery is forbidden. He got to enrich us about the steps taken in making of the engines. There is a production line in which the workers assemble the parts. As the engine travels in the assembly line, different parts are fixed into the engine. As a mistake proofing, only one type of engine is produced at a time. 

The engine which is fully built is taken off in a trolley and it is tuned. For this its fixed on a skeletal bullet and started. If the engine confirms to their spec, its okay ed and sent out. 

Then we were enthusiastic to click these curvy bullets on the shop floor.

But we got driven down of our pomp, when we heard from Mr.Praveen that these were the bullets that have failed in the quality tests and are awaiting for the re-exam.

Though many of us got to see so many videos of the handcrafting process of striping of the Bullet Tanks on the internet; I got to see this process in person there. It was awesomeness at its peak for me. Got much elated with the precision in which the person stroked the paint on the tank of the bullet. 

This is the paint shop 

This is an export model of bullet “Standard 500” the aesthetic design really ROCKS. It was hard time to leave off from this spot, since the chicky Std 500 make its pull. 

Another group photo with the Standard 500 Bullet rocking in the middle.

Then we were glimpsed of the process called chromium coating.

We were forbidden to click the assembly line from nearer distance. Got to click this at the border from where photography is permitted.

The finished bikes comes out of the assembly line.
What you see is the real test of the bullet at top speeds. Got to watch a bullet being ridden at an excess of 110 kmph.

After the bullets pass the dyno tes, they are then ridden on a test track.

The tweetup ended at 4.30 p.m. and we bid adieu to Mr.Praveen who took his effort and time in giving us a memorable life time experience of the legend called Royal Enfield.

The whole set of photographs are available at my FaceBook here.