A nostalgic MG Trip recalled
by Chamaraj Rao
Now that the Hassan- Mnagalore BG Line is open to Freight, the passenger line is likely to open in the near future. I wrote a trip report on this line last year, thought it may be worth repeating for those rail enthusiasts who may be eager to travel on this line. Here is the report.
An eagerly awaited 117 Miles long MG railway line was opened in 1978, the Hassan-Mangalore Line. A marvelous engineering feat, it required well over 40 tunnels, cuttings, embankments, viaducts and a gradient of 1 in 45 between Sakleshpur and Subramanya Road, in a difficult terrain of the Sahyadri Range. Providing an easy access to the hinterland from the west coast, the line helped with the movement of coffee, iron ore, forest products etc. Near Padeel, east of Kankanady Junction, a branch line connected with the newly built Panambur Harbour.
The line passed through 3 distinct geographical areas. the plateau between Hassan and Sakleshpur (31 Miles), the Ghats between Sakleshpur and Subramanya Road (36 Miles) and the Plains between Subramanya Road and Mangalore (50 Miles), descending from 3000 odd feet at Hassan to 24 Feet at Mangalore. The highest point in Sakleshpur was at 3200 feet.
In the early 80's on a fine bright day my 2 uncles and I rode a bus from Mangalore to Hassan, stayed at Hassan Railway station overnight.Mangala Express (Bangalore to Mangalore) arrived at 6 a.m. The train was full with overnight passengers. Traveling uphill after 20 miles, it passed thru lush coffee estates and paddy fields of Malenad. Halting at Sakleshpur for 15 minutes. the passengers helped themselves to steaming hot idli, vada with sambar and Chutney, washed down with coffee or tea on the platform.
The scenic part of the journey begins at Sakleshpur. The station located in the heart of the town, is at a lower level than the NH 48. The line moves gradually away to the south from NH 48, descends steadily thru a series of loops after Donigal, a small wayside station still closer to the highway. The journey now is thru the tropical forests of the Sahyadri Hills, away from civilization. Kumaradhara River or one of its tributary passes along side of the track at many places. The travel is slow, meandering, affords vast vistas of hills, dense green deciduous forests. the train barely traveling at 20 MPH. We pass thru a series of short tunnels, bridges and viaducts. one of them fairly tall at 125 feet, built on a gentle curve. Almost into an hour, down a roller coaster ride brings us to Yedakumeri. a lonely, lovely wayside station built on a rocky ledge with 2 tracks for trains to cross. It is quite chilly. we are on a high hill, the sun casts a magical glow with fog deep in the valley. A 10 minute halt here. the passengers gorge themselves on steaming hot idli, vada and coffee, a station vendor doing a brisk sale. We proceed further. more tunnels, more curves, dense forest cover.the line clinging to the ledges on the hillside, NH 48 barely visible as a thin line far to the North. It takes 3 hours to complete the Ghats. Most of the youngsters are mesmerized by the passing scenery, sitting near the open door to the right of the train. After Sirivagilu, the train reaches Subramanya Road, a medium sized station where diesel traction gives way to Steam, the switch takes well over 20 minutes. The 3 stations in the Ghats are for rail crossing. Hardly anyone alights or gets on. so remote is their location. A few passengers get off to go to Subramanya Temple, about 5 miles south. Near the station, one glimpses the majestic Kumara Parvath (also called Kumaradhara), nearly 4000 feet tall. The station is located in a picturesque valley, surrounded by lofty hills.
The rest of the journey thru the plains is not half as spectacular. We cross low lying hills, paddy fields, areca nut and coconut plantations and small rivulets. Some of the stations enroute are Kabaka Puttur, Buntwal, Farangipet and Kankanady Junction. Near Panemangalur, the train crosses the Nethravathi River via a tall bridge. Our train was running late, was losing steam traction, reached Mangalore just before Noon, thus ending a memorable journey.
P.S.: The MG Line was popular, very much in demand, profitable with its freight (a goods train alone could fetch Rs. 5 to 20 Laks daily). With the advent of Uniguage concept, the line was dismantled in '94. Badly neglected, the line and the stations with it, fell into disrepair over a decade. Now there is a concerted effort to reopen the line as Broad Gauge. The Plateau & Plain sections have been completed and running. When the entire line is opened in the near future, hope many rail fans will travel over this delightful line and have a thrilling ride.
Meanwhile the Ghat section has become a popular trekking destination for the adventurous (known as the Green Route)