Guntakal - Vijayawada - Bapatla
by P V S Praveen
Hi folks, Came back this morning after a 2-day trip to Bapatla, a small AP town, on the Gudur Vijayawada section of the SCR. I had left Guntakal on the 25th evening and am back on the 27th morning.
I was all set to go to Jillellamudi (a small village close to Bapatla), on the 25th after my Mumbai trip got postponed. But, stayed back for two reasons.
The 7226 down Amaravathi express was officially cancelled on the 25th due to the agitation at Bellary. This means that the rake, which had come to GTl, from BZA on the 25th morning, was terminated at GTL and sent back to BZA as an empty rake. I would find no pb: in finding accommodation
Footplating on the WDP4 was another reason.
On the 25th morning, I decided to take a stroll down to Guntakal yard. Sure enough, the empty rakes of the Amaravathi and the Hampi were parked in adjacent lines in the yard.
Reached the station at around 1830 hours and purchased a through ticket to Bapatla (BPP) by paying Rs 114. As I walked up the platform, I was in for a major disappointment. It was not a DP4, but a GTL shed LHF DM2A, which was assigned to haul the Amaravathi Rake. There goes my footplating…
As I had already done foot plating on a DM2, in my early childhood on the Kottavalasa-Kirandul section of the SER, I dropped the idea. Went ahead and took the First Sleeper Class coach I could find. We were fifth from the engine. The whole coach was empty save for about 5 to 6 people.
I took berth 33 and had the whole bay for myself. No one was there in the adjoining bays as well. In the meanwhile the 6009 mail had arrived on pf 6: Left in about 20 minutes after its customary loco change.
After the incoming CBE - LTT 1014 Dn Express came to a halt on platform no: 4, we got the starter and slowly pulled out. The DM2A in charge pulled out slowly; we crossed the Gooty double lines and entered the single line section. After passing the DRM's office, the DM2A started notching up rapidly blenching out a huge amount of smoke. Soon, we were cruising along at a comfortable 85 kmph. I changed into a comfortable pair of shorts, had my dinner consisting of hot Puris and Alu Subzee prepared at home.
The TTE soon came in with an empty, blank reservation chart. I handed him my Bapatla ticket.
‘Ticket to Bapatla?. Shall I make a full Sleeper class ticket to Bapatla?’
‘No. No. I would be taking the second sitting from BZA by the Pinakini. Will it make it to BZA on time?’
After paying Rs 91/- towards SL charges, I settled back on my berth with a pen and paper in hand. We halted at Maddikera and Pendekallu. Pendekallu is a junction; the bypass line from Gooty comes and joins here.
The passing headlights of vehicles on the NH7 over bridge indicated the arrival of Dronachellam Junction. Got down and took a hot cup of tea. A drunkard in our coach, in a semi-conscious state, with his hand dangling outside attracted the attention of the TTE. He immediately went in and woke up the drunkard and checked up on him.
Pulled out of Dronachellam after a five-minute halt. The track to Secunderabad took a sharp left and disappeared among a cluster of slums and a LC gate.
The DM2A picked up speed and within minutes Dronachellam disappeared into the darkness. There were hills all around and we were negotiating a series of curves. I switched places between my LB and the side LB window, to catch a glimpse of the action.
At around 2115 hours, we slowed down at Betamcherla. This is a small town with a couple of granite tile factories around. Started immediately after a 20 second halt. The drunkard in our coach was occasionally blabbering away, disturbing the otherwise silent coach. I had switched off all the unwanted tube lights and fans and closed down the shutters. It was an amazing feeling, having the entire coach for you.
The next stop en route was Bugginapalle Cement Nagar, at around 2125 hours. This has a medium sized cement factory (I do not know to which company it belongs). The station is pretty desolate save for a couple of folks around. After Cement Nagar, we had a lot of hills all around. The DM2A had cut down its speed and we were doing about 45 kmph.
Crossed Krishnammakona station after about 15 minutes. This station is located in the middle of a valley and has no approach road at all! It means that u cannot access this station by road. The lone SM and his Khalasi exchanged all clear with us. By this time, the moon had come out slightly from behind the clouds and the otherwise dark night was beginning to light up. We were now approaching the Nallamala forest range. This area is notorious for being a safe haven for Naxalites. The DM2A was working real hard now, putting in a real effort as it hauled the 16-coach rake.
After some time, we approached a tunnel. A semaphore warner in the ‘ON’ position was located near the entrance of the tunnel. It took us about a minute to clear this tunnel. Surprisingly there was no lighting and ventilation inside the tunnel. After the tunnel, the DM2A slowed down, and took the loop line and came to a halt at Chelama Station.
This station, situated in the midst of dense forest, is pretty desolate, a small platform on the other loop line, lit up by a solitary tube light and a sodium vapour lamp, which lit up a couple of staff quarters. This station was in the news some time back,for the wrong reasons, of course. A DG4 was partially burnt by naxalites belonging to the People's War Group (PWG). On the positive side , this station can prove to be a perfect getaway for the city folk, if some amenities can be provided.
After waiting for about 20 minutes, I heard the horn of a loco. Within a few minutes the bright headlight of the DM2A appeared in the horizon. The 8563 up VSKP-SBC Prashanti express crossed us at a slow pace, its general compartments crammed with Gooty devotees. At around 2300 hours we started off; and after a few minutes, came across the second tunnel. This one was much bigger than the first one, and took us nearly four minutes to cross, at a fairly decent speed of 45 Kmph+. The next halt was at Diguvametta. This station is a watering station; every passenger train/express train stops here to fill up its water tanks. After a halt of about 7 minutes, we pulled out of Diguvametta. It was already 0045 hours, so I pulled down the shutters and went off to sleep.
It was 0445 hours and we were approaching Guntur Junction. We were on time, but I had to catch the Pinakini from BZA at around 0600 hours, and was hoping that this train would make it by that time. It was 0500 hours and we were held up to allow the incoming 2704 down Falaknuma express to SC. Finally we left Guntur at 0515 hours, a good 20 minutes behind schedule. Twin WDP1s (the trailing WDP1 was dummy) from BZA were assigned to take us to BZA. In spite of getting green signals, the going was pretty slow as a no: of speed restrictions really put the brakes on. By the time we were crossing the Krishna Bridge, it was five minutes past 6. There goes my Pinakini; So I thought.
After crossing the BZA trip shed, I caught a glimpse of the familiar twin headlights. Good. The Pinakini thankfully was waiting for us to get in. I got down near the footpath, and ran up to Platform No: 1, and took the second coach behind the WAP4. After a minute, we got the Starter, and the Pinakini started off on its 430 odd Kilometers run to Chennai. As we were leaving, the WAP4 headed 6004 mail was entering platform 6.Has about 6 AC Coaches, but pathetically no pantry car as yet!!!. Stood near the door with a cup of coffee in my hand. After crossing the Krishna River for the 2nd time, the WAP4 picked up speed and soon we were doing a comfortable 95. We crossed the AJJ WAM4 headed Tiruchi Howrah express, trailing the 6004 Mail, all the way up to HWH.
The 2711 halted enroute at Tenali and Nidubrolu. We crossed a BZA headed MEMU, the Gorakhpur express and a lot of goods trains. At around 0720 hours, we pulled into Bapatla station. I got down and headed straight for the SM's room. My accommodation was supposed to have been booked in the Officer's Rest house at Bapatla, but thanks to a communication gap, (they were expecting me on the 25th) I had to wait for some time, before the rest house was finally opened.
While I was waiting at the Section Engineer's office, I took a walk around and noticed a big heap of fastening clips lying around. A lot of old, disused tracks + the odd trolley and scrap was lying around. Railway offices all around are typical. U find the same laid back attitude, those Mazdoor Union Posters donning the walls, those photographs of staff taken at a major occasions, + portraits of Gods & Goddesses and others adorning the tables and walls of the chamber and of course, the ubiquitous railway telephone and the slowly whirring fan overhead. Life goes on at its own pace over here.
After refreshing myself with a cold water bath (the geyser was not working), and a sumptuous breakfast of Onion Dosa + Coffee, I took the AEE's RJ_Registration-Yamaha RX 125 bike, put in a litre of gas, took some flowers and a coconut and pushed off on my 12 Km trip to Jillelamudi. I was running against time. It was 1000 hours on my watch now. Had to be back by 1125 hours to catch the MAS-LKO express to BZA.
Returned back from Jillelamudi, after a gr8 darshan.
Picked up my bag from the room, signed in the matron's register and went back to the AEE's room. Luckily for me the LKO express had not yet arrived. The 7406 Krishna express was due. As I was chatting with the AEE (Young chap- my age, BTech from REC Kurukshetra, MTech from Delhi University, 1998 IES Batch, Recently married, no social life at all, save for the odd trips to the Bapatla beach), the PA system announced the arrival of the Krishna Express on pf: 3. Took leave of the AEE, bought the Rs 32/- ticket to BZA and waited for the Express on pf: 3. Within a few minutes the P4 hauled Krishna express came in. It has an unusual arrangement of coaches with second-class chair cars unevenly distributed amongst general second-class coaches.
I was too tired after staying late last night. Could'nt catch much of an action as I kept dozing off on my seat. At Tenali Jn, we waited for abt 10 minutes to allow the WDM3A KJM Shed hauled Nagarjuna Express to come on to Platform 3.We Reached BZA station at around 1345 hours after waiting for clearance at Krishna Canal Jn & again on the bridge. The down Krishna express to TPTY crossed us on the opposite side. At BZA the 8046 Dn East Coast express was all set for departure. I headed straight for a family friend's house at Marutinagar, a good 6 kms away from the station.
Came back to the station at around 1930 hours, to catch the 7225 up Amaravathi express back to GTL, scheduled to depart at 1945 hours. After helping myself to a plate of hot Chapattis and Pulav priced at Rs 10/-each, at the Rail Aahar, I headed straight for Platform 5 where the Amaravathi was stabled.
It was 1955 hours and the Amaravathi had no intention of departure. Couldn't understand why. In the meanwhile, the Ratnanchal Express from VSKP pulled in on platform 5. Quite a few passengers from Ratnanchal came over and boarded the train.Well, Amaravathi did a good thing by waiting for the Ratnanchal. This is the last train from Vijayawada towards Nandyal side, on that day.
Finally at around 2015 hours we left BZA behind a BZA WDP1 with a WAM4 type horn. By this time, I was dead tired, so spread out my bed sheet on the upper berth. Saw Guntur at around 2055 hours and went to sleep. The next day at 0530 hours, I arrived at GTL, and headed home…