Guntakal - Pakala
by P V S Praveen
My first trip report on the IRFCA.It's a bit lenghty. Pl let me know ur feedback…
As I submit this report, the terrible news of the 2301 derailment near Dehri_on_Sone continues to trickle in, with more than 100 people now feared dead (10th September 0730 hours). I offer my deepest condolences to the relatives of those who have lost their near & dear ones in this terrible accident.
Day 1: 6th September 2002
This trip report covers the two-day trip to Pakala, along with a brief report of the Siddampalli station on the Pakala Katpadi MG section of the SC Railway.
The trip to Pakala was long overdue, and was on our schedule for quite some time, but simply couldn't materialize, due to a host of reasons; something or the other kept cropping up. Finally, on the 3rd Of September, the Pakala trip was finalized- 6th & 7th September.
6th of Sept dawned as usual. The entire day passed of rather quickly, didn't realize how it went.
Dumped our luggage in the old Mahindra jeep, and headed for the Guntakal station, which is pretty near to our place. So near that, at any time of the day or night, I can hear the announcements on the PA system, at GTL station. As we approached Platform 1, incoming 284 passenger pulled in from Pakala, with an assortment of about 7 coaches.
On the BG side, the 12 coach 434 Yeswantpur Guntur Passenger headed by the GTL WDM4 pulled out from pf4. This train is the erstwhile SBC-DMM passenger, which was subsequently extended to Guntur, after the conversion of the Guntakal Guntur MG Section. In spite of the train being operated from Yeswantpur, the boards on the train still indicate ‘Bangalore - Guntur’. Even the public announcement system at GTL station refers this train as the ‘Bangalore Guntur’ passenger. Standing on road 5, was a freshly painted WDM4, with a blue & white coloured livery. Couldn't guess, which shed it, belonged to.
Anyway, back to the 287 passenger. This train has a composition of 15 coaches, with about 6 coaches coming in from Bellary and the rest, attached at GTL. The composition is rather haywire, with no order at all. Sample this:
GS-S6-SLR-GS-S1-S2-S3-S4-S5-SLR-GS-GS-FS1-GS-GS + our coach
Reminded me of the earlier vacuum brake rake of the 6004/6004 MAS HWH mail.
This train was the erstwhile Tirupati Bijapur passenger, which was subsequently terminated at Bellary, due to the Gauge conversion of the Hubli-Gadag-Hospet section of the SCR. Now, with the gauge conversion of the Tirupati Pakala Section, this train now runs between Bellary and Pakala only, covering the distance of 330 odd kilometers in a leisurely 10 hours and 15 minutes. This is very popular with the people of Ananthapur district, as a very cheap and convenient overnight train to Tirupati. Now, with the train being terminated at Pakala, the occupancy rates have reduced substantially.
So, off we started, bang at 1815 hours from GTL. The YDM4 cruised leisurely at around 50 Km/h. This section is one of the picturesque sections of SCR, with a lot of hills in & around. Took a couple of snaps at the curves. I could get a beautiful view of the entire rake. The gradient slopes down gently from GTL, so the 287 ran really fast on some of the stretches. This stretch has 3 stations Gulyapalem, Venkatampalle and Khaderpet, b4 joining the Gooty Dharmavaram BG section at Kalluru. The entire stretch is pretty desolate save for the odd cluster of houses, here & there.
It was already dark by the time we touched Kalluru. The BG line from Gooty joins the MG stretch at this station, and runs parallel up to Dharmavaram (DMM). No: 287 was cruising at a decent 75 Km/hour, save for the odd speed restrictions here & there. We crossed the 8564 Prashanti express after Kalluru & 7606 SSPN-KCG express after Garladinne.
Settled down for a hot cup of coffee and some vadas picked up from Kalluru. The blinking TV tower lights, visible from quite a distance, reminded me that Ananthapur was approaching. There was a deafening roar along the alignment as we approached Ananthapur. This booming noise was heard at quite a number of places all along the route. I couldn't clearly make out why this roar comes, as the train passes along the tracks. Maybe fellow IRFCA Ians can explain this.
Started after a 5-minute halt at Ananthapur. The incoming Venkatadri express was waiting for us at Chigicherla. Also crossed the LHF-WDP4 headed SBC-KCG express on the BG section after Chigicherla.
Approached DMM at around 2120 hours. The MG and the BG tracks cross each other at this point, with the MG stretch taking a left towards Pakala, while the BG takes a sharp turn right towards Bangalore & SSPN.
Dinner consisted of Veg Biryani + curd Rice packed from home + a bottle of cold mineral water from Dharmavaram. As I was having my second helping of the Veg Biryani, I heard the familiar EOG car hum. The SBC-NZM Raj pulled in on platform 2. I couldn't get a clear view of the same, thanks to the MG breakdown special on the adjacent track, and dual GTL WDM2A headed cement rake on the BG side, on its way to Dodballapur. We had arrived at DMM before time, so had to wait up to 2150 hours, which is the scheduled departure of the train from the DMM.
Attempt 1 to pull out. The familiar short-short-long horn was sounded. Some disgruntled soul had pulled the alarm chain. After a gap of 5 minutes, 2nd Attempt to pull out: No luk this time as well. This time the guard checked up our coach, + the other coaches as well, his walkie-talkie crackling with messages from the DySS. Attempt 3: Success… After a long sounding horn, the 287 slowly pulled out. Thank God! As we were pulling out from DMM, the famous twin headed ITARSI WDM2A's hauling the 24 coach Karnataka Express to NDLS made their way into DMM. The front WDM2A, had twin headlights, which were pretty powerful.
As the 287 speeded away into the night (doing about 60 Km/hour) I could catch a glimpse of the DMM yard lights for quite a distance, until eventually, they faded away into the distance. Time to hit the bed. Checked in to my two berth cabin, closed the shutters tight, and dozed off.
Day 2: 7th September 2002
Pakala Station Siddampalli Station 7598 Venkatadri express to Guntakal
Darkness all around. Switched on the reading lamp above my berth and had a glimpse at my watch. 0430 hours. The train was stationary for quite some time now. Opened the window shutter to have a glimpse outside. PAKALA JUNCTION. But I was too sleepy, to get up and have a look around. So closed the shutter and went back to sleep. I could hear the hum of the YDM4 as it detached our coach and shunted it onto the adjacent line.
Got up and got refreshed. Had a nice hot water bath in the bathroom adjoining my cubicle. This was followed by a refreshing hot cup of coffee, and a cursory glance at the newspaper. All set for Day 2.
Got down from the coach and had a look around. Our coach was behind the 287 rake, which was now severed into half. The other half was on platform no 1, adjoining us, ready for its duties as the 284 passenger to Guntakal.
Pakala Junction is on the Tirupati Dharmavaram route, with one line branching off to Katpadi, via Chittor. It is a picturesque place as well, surrounded by hills all around. The railway colony here has a colonial hangover, with a majority of the quarters built in the days of the Raj, complete with their sloping roofs and huge wooden doors. This place occupied a place of pride, with its steam loco shed and also, as an important railway junction. Alas, the steam shed is long gone, with only the sign STEAM LOCO SHED left behind. Nothing is left of the shed now, save for the walls, and the roof beams. A steam loco tender with the markings ‘WATER TANK’ now stands on one of the yard lines, a mute reminder to the power & glory of yesteryears.
Anyway coming back, Pakala Junction has only one platform in operation right now. Gauge conversion work between Tirupati & Pakala is going on in full pace, with the tracks been laid right up to Pakala. This work is a part of the Tirupati - Pakala- Katpadi Gauge conversion project.
Left Pakala by road at around 0730 am, after watching the departure of the Pakala Katpadi passenger at 0715 hours and Pakala Guntakal passenger at 0730 hours, both from Platform No: 1.
We now headed for the Vinayak temple at Kanipakam, a place, which fast gaining popularity now. Legend has it that, about 45 to 50 years back, a group of three people (one of them deaf, the second dumb & the third blind) was digging up a well, when they hit a stone. Immediately blood started gushing out from the spot where they had hit the stone. As soon as the blood splattered on to these three, they were immediately cured of their disabilities, much to their wonder. They unearthed the ‘stone’, which turned out to be a tiny idol of Lord Ganesh. They stopped digging the well, and constructed a small temple at the spot. The tiny idol has been growing steadily!, and is now quite big. It is still growing, albeit very slowly. So all U IRFCAians who are visiting Tirupati, please pay a visit to this temple as well. Direct buses are available to this place from Tirupati as well as Chittor. And it is said that if anyone desires something, and prays for it at this place, his/her wish is fulfilled almost immediately. Definitely worth visiting.
After having a sumptuous breakfast of piping hot Pesarattu and coffee, at Chittor, we set out for Siddampalli. After passing the collector's bungalow, we took a sharp right and went along paddy fields, and houses. The Katpadi line was running parallel, and all along, concrete sleepers and ballast were lined up. New bridges were being constructed along side the existing bridges. The road cris-crosses the track and on a single 2 km stretch, we had as many as 5 level crossings!!!!. Never before had I seen so many level crossings at one stretch.
The tar road was long gone now, and we were now on country roads now, having a roller coaster ride, what with bumps and gravel and sharp turns thrown in. The Mahindra jeep I was in, was however, quite comfortably handling the terrain.
1045 hours: Siddampalli Station
Arrived at a site close to Siddampalli station. While our folks were busy with the inspection of the heavy-duty power line (passing from Kolar to Chennai), I decided to check out the line. Clambered on to the embankment and started walking along the track. The track was not worn out as it usually should be , indicating the skeletal traffic on this route. Well, what more can you expect, when you have only one pair of trains running on this route.
As I started walking towards the station, I had a glance at the semaphore home signals. The signal for the loop line had a big Cross on it indicating that the loop line at Siddampalli was ‘Spiked’ i.e., locked .. barred for usage. Checked out the points as well. True. A medium size lock locked the points. Climbed on to the semaphore signals to have a better look. The red coloured lens had a crack, in it, and the green coloured also shared a similar fate. Well there was no need for any lens, as the return Katpadi Pakala Passenger checks in by 1730 hours, during which the visibility is pretty good. Took a couple of snaps of the signal, climbed down the mast and approached Siddampalli station.
The station wore a desolate look, with not a soul in sight. As I walked along the platform, I heard someone approaching me from behind. It was Naik, who was accompanying us from Chittor.. we walked into the station and he introduced me to the SM out there and a couple of other officials, who had come from Chittor.
After the initial pleasantries were exchanged ( What do you do..?..Software Engineer, Where …? Bangalore, Ahh good.. I have also joined my son in the Tiruvannamalai Engg College, Computers 1st Year.. He has done well.. 95% marks in XIIth.. and so on and so forth), I started quizzing him about the station ; A quick fact sheet:
- Name of the Station
- Siddampalli Station
- Located on
- Katpadi - Pakala section of SCR
- Adjoining stations
- Chittor (towards Pakala side) & Ramapuram (Katpadi side)
- No: of trains per day
- 2 (UP Katpadi Passenger at around 0810 hours and DOWN Pakala Passenger at around 1730 hours)
- Average Revenue Collection per day from the sale of tickets
- Rs 25 (!!! What more can u expect when u have only one pair of passengers plying..? Fare to Katpadi is about Rs 6/- )
- Staff Strength
- about 6
At present , these chaps have not much work on their hands. After the departure of the evening passenger to Pakala, the station is locked up and a solitary Khalasi keeps vigil for the night. There are some quarters near the station , but they are no longer in use, as many of the staff prefer to keep their families at Chittor, and commute to & fro the station by the hourly bus service.
Had a look at the Stationmaster's room. All the standard equipment was there. Among them were:
- 2 Nos: Neal's Ball Token Machines One for the up side and another for the down side. Each machine had about 20 to 25 balls. These machines also had a back up emergency switch, which is to be operated, in case the Ball token machines fail to perform.
- Saw a couple of electrically operated telltale signal arm- position indicator switches as well ( I cannot recollect the exact names) . This station is on a curve and hence the signals are not visible properly from the SM's room. Hence these signals indicators imitate the movement of the semaphores;
- Also saw a couple of carbon copies of ‘Caution Orders’ indicating the section where the speed restriction zone was & the speed at which the 203 passenger had to move.
- Observed a set of keys. These keys had to be inserted in the appropriate slot, in the signal cabin, so as to facilitate the movement of the semaphore. Out of these keys, two had a red collar attached to them. This was a visual indication of the closure of the solitary loop line, to passenger traffic.
This station is going to be closed to passenger traffic, within the next 15 days or so, for the conversion work. Once the work is through, there will be a direct BG link from Katpadi to Tirupati. My guess is that the Kerala express and a couple of other important trains will be diverted through this route, initially hauled by diesel, up to Tirupati, These trains can save up to one hour of their journey time, on this route..
Bid goodbye to the SM and his station at around 1230 hours and started back to Pakala after visiting a shrine, in Tamil Nadu .
Headed back to Pakala after lunch at Chittor.
Section 3: Journey to Guntakal by 7598 Venkatadri express.
The 7598 Venkatadri express was stabled on Platform 1. It was headed by SHF YDM4 6142 GTL shed loco. Here is the composition of the coaches:
This train is the stripped down version of the erstwhile prestigious Venkatadri express, which used to run between Secunderabad and Tirupati.
The train started on schedule at 1440 hours. Saw the line to Chittor taking a sharp turn towards the left and disappearing amongst fields. The initial run was nothing spectacular. The express was maintaining a steady speed of about 50 to 60 Km/hour; but what was spectacular was the scenery. U have lots of hills around you and the alignment takes a series of curves around these hills, as it begins its climb upwards. I stood near the door with my camera, and took a couple of snaps of the train, as it meandered its way through these mountains. After about 45 minutes or so, we slowed down and took the loop line at a station. The 283 Guntakal Pakala passenger was on the main line. Although the express does not have a scheduled halt here, the driver stopped the train for about 10 seconds and we took off again.
As we sped along stations, I observed, that due to lack of traffic on this section, some of the stations have been dismantled, while some others have been stripped of their loop lines, leaving the solitary main line behind. In spite of the train being an express, the driver made a number of unscheduled stops, only to start off after about 15 to 20 seconds, after talking to/receiving something from the SM/Linesman.
The route becomes more spectacular near Madanapalle Road section. We are now climbing the hills, and tour right we have a beautiful valley. Reminds me of the Makalidurga - Thondebhavi stretch of the SR. At one point, a board read ‘Summit - Height 714 m’. Crossed Madanapalle road and as the train sped along, I could see the Horsley hills at a distance. This is a small hill station in Andhra Pradesh, ideal for a weekend holiday. Is situated about 30 to 40 Kms from Madanapalle. The APTTDC (Andhra Pradesh Travel & Tourism Development Corporation) runs some guesthouses in this area, which are quite affordable.
We passed through places like Kadiri, Vayalapad, Kalikiri, Piler, Mudigubba etc. By now, it was dark, and the express was really thundering along at 75 Km/hour +, raising a lot of dust in the process. Of course the ‘Roaring tracks’ kept us company throughout the journey.
By the time we reached Dharmavaram, it was 2000 hours. Not much of action on the BG side though. Had my dinner, and went back to my place near the door. As b4, we waited at Chigicherla, for the 287 passenger to cross us.
By this time, I was dead tired and sleepy and managed catch a couple of winks. By the time I got up, the train was approaching GTL town. After the customary chain pull at a place called Dharmavaram gate (many of the folks get down here, as this is in the center of the town), we finally pulled into GTL station at 2300 hours. As I was passing through the over bridge, I could see the 6591 Hampi express to SBC ready for departure on platform No: 6. Came back home, had a good hot water bath, and finally hit the bed.
Well this was my Pakala trip report. Thank u folks for having the patience to read this stuff. This is my first attempt at writing a trip report for IRFCA. Please let me know ur feedback.
Regards to all. As I finish typing this, I can hear the WDG4 honking away intermittently , as it approaches the passenger footpath at GTL. The 434 passenger is ready for departure from Pf4 . the 6009 is expected at 1815 hours and the 7226…