Folks, for those of you who have read my earlier report on night inspections; well here comes another. This time the destination was Hagari station (HGI) on the Guntakal Bellary section of the SCR.
We started out as usual at about 0015 hours, in the Mahindra jeep. The team included the Sr DEE, the Train Lighting Inspector (TLI) and me. The TLI had brought his Motorola Walkie Talkie set with him, and we could get to hear all sorts of messages between the railway staff. Amongst others, we heard of the position of the 2627 up Karnataka express (right time). We had to cover a distance of about 45 kilometers and the road was not that good.
After a thoroughly bumpy ride of about one and a half hour (the road was really pathetic in some stretches, we didn't have the luxury of stopping over for tea, there was not even a solitary tea shop anywhere), we crossed the Andhra border and entered Karnataka. Taking a left turn off the main road, we drove along a tarred road and took a left along a mud road, and came in sight of the dark Hagari station.
It was 0055 hours by the time we reached Hagari. Hagari is a small station located about 45 kilometers from Guntakal on the Guntakal Hubli Section of the SCR. In its heydays, when MG was very much a force to reckon with, this station used to serve as a watering point for the steam locos as well as the passenger trains that used to halt here, thanks to a river flowing nearby. But alas, all that is gone now. With project Unigauge taking its toll, everything is in a state of disuse. The steam locos have long gone, but the tender-watering mast still stands, a mute remainder of the yesteryears. On one of the loop lines, an eight wheeled tank wagon rake was stabled. In their days of yore, they had served many an oil refinery/ filling station. But now their destination is only one; the nearest scrap yard.
So pathetic is the state of MG that not even a single tube light exists on the MG platform. The only traffic on this MG route is the solitary 6 coach Guntakal Bellary passenger doing two trips a day. As far as the BG section is concerned, the section is moderately busy. HGI Handles:
We then entered the station building, on the BG side. As usual people were sleeping near the ticket counter, but thankfully, they were spared the luxury of a fan. We knocked on the door of the SM's room. A Khalasi who was surprised on seeing us opened it. The TLI informed the SM on duty about the inspection. I had a look around the SM's room. It was adorned with all kinds of the usual railway paraphernalia- safety posters, list of equipment available at the station, station line diagrams for both MG and BG etc. This station has been classified as ‘B’ class, Grade III, ’SWLQ’. I noticed another interesting stuff. ‘The payment of wages act’ According to it the signal staff would be paid their salaries by the 8th of every month whereas the engineering staff would be paid their wages by the 25th of the previous month????
As I was observing the safety posters, I heard a bell on one of the Ball Toke machines ring .The ‘KYN-54’ goods train was scheduled to pass, carrying aluminum coils from the Jindal plan at Hospet, to Kalyan. For that matter every station has two Neal's Ball token machines, one each for the adjoining stations. In this case Haddinagundu was the station on the Bellary side and Virapur, the next station towards Guntakal. So at around 0115 hours we came out and stood on the platform.
Hagari has three ‘roads’ (rail tracks in railway parlance). On Road 1, a Plasser track-tamping vehicle was stabled. The KYN-54 was to pass through Road 2, which is the main line. Road 3 was the outer loop line.
The otherwise dark night was lit up by a bright constellation of stars. A distant boom in the air made me look up. A plane was making its way high up, towards the western side. Might be the Chennai Mumbai flight, or some international flight. Down to terra firma.
After some time, a small speck appeared on the horizon; Slowly it became brighter and brighter, and I could faintly hear the distant hum of the thumping Diesel loco as it made its way slowly towards us. But hey, wait a minute. Why was it coming slowly, when all the signals were cleared? Ohh. Okai, I remembered seeing a yellow token on one of the knobs on the Haddinagundu side ball token machine. The KYN 54 was negotiating a speed restriction zone.
As it cleared the outer cabin, it slowly picked up speed. I could hear the distinct clat-clat-clat… clat-clat-clat of its wheels as it picked up speed. Within minutes, it came looming up. The loco was a DG3A of the Pune shed, in Raj Livery, LHF. It was hauling a BOXN rake with open bed wagons carrying aluminum foils interspersed in between. Probably headed for Kalyan, hence the name ‘KYN 54’. The loco driver exchanged all clear with the Khalasi & the SM, and was rather surprised in seeing all of us standing there. After watching the goods train pass, with the red tail lamp blinking from the caboose, we stayed on the platform for a while. I stayed back and observed as the KYN 54 negotiated the curve and sped away towards Virapur. The Semaphores changed their aspect from ‘OFF’ to ‘ON’.
The station had improper lighting and this was discussed. It did have some railway quarters, but all of them had been abandoned, with the SM doing up & down from GTL. Water supply was available.. No problem. Revenue collection on that day was Rs 201/-. Hagari gets 2 pairs of passenger trains per day on the BG side, the Guntakal Chickjajur Guntakal passengers & the Guntur Hubli Guntur passengers.
Went into the SM's room. After about 10 minutes, the bell on the Virapur side Ball toke machine began to ring. The KYN 54 had crossed Virapur. The SM pulled the lever on the machine from the vertical position to the horizontal position. Immediately, the red band ‘Train on section’ disappeared from the slot. Meanwhile the Plasser was witnessing some activity.
The technical folks, who had slept over for the night at Hagari, were getting ready for their ‘midnight operation’. In the meanwhile the SM spoke to his Haddinagundu counterpart and issued a ‘line block’ on the Hagari Haddinagundu section, for one hour between 0210 & 0310 hours. When u issue a ‘Line Block’, on a particular section for a specified time period, no train is allowed to pass thru that section. So the Plasser folks had just an hour to complete their work and return to the base at HGI before the line block was removed and clearances issued for the 7315 TPTY-Kolhapur Haripriya express, scheduled to pass through HGI at 0315 hours. Within minutes the Plasser blared out its small horn and in a typical rail bus fashion, pushed off. By the time I came out on the platform, it was gone. I could hear its distant hum.
No more trains for the next one hour. Back, in the SM's room, the customary checks for the First Aid Box and detonators were made. I had a look at the detonators. The box was a medium sized barrel, containing about 10 detonators. Manufactured in the Railways Ordnance Factory. Never heard of such a factory b4. Got to find out where this factory is located. Took out a detonator and had a good look at it. Red Coloured, circular in shape, with a bigger circular base at the bottom. The Date Of Manufacture was etched on to the circular base ‘1999’. After this was the ‘RajBhasha Implementation’ check. Was the staff using Hindi, in their day-to-day operations? According to the rules, they should write at least one Hindi word on the station blackboard along with its meaning, written in English. I had observed this in many stations across the Southern part. The SM should be in possession of his name badge, with his name and designation written both in Hindi & English. Unfortunately, our friend at Hagari had none.
Next came the safety manuals check. A safety manual is a document issued by the transportation branch of every division, to all the staff concerned with day-to-day train operations. Every manual has a separate topic, on the various safety measures to be taken, while running trains. The topic in this manual was ‘Operation Of Portable Field Telephones’.
It was 0220 hours now. Time to move on. After entering remarks in the Inspection Register, we all trooped out of the Hagari Station, crossed the MG lines and made way towards our jeep. By the time we reached home, it was 0400 hours. Tried to get some sleep, but was wide-awake by 0600 hours. Yet another day…