Jabalpur-Balaghat NG trip
by Vikas Singh
Reached Jabalpur at 0700 hrs by Gondwana express. Checked into Hotel Satya Ashoka- a new property that has come up recently in Jabalpur. The day was spent in visiting the famous Bheraghat falls, 64 yonis temple and a boat ride in Narmada. Next day at 0430 hrs I was at the Jabalpur station's NG platform. Considering the excellent facilities at station, NG platform surprisingly gets a very shoddy treatment. The 2 DN Satpura express rake soon arrived at the station. First class reservation is not done. Instead one has to buy ordinary second-class ticket, which is later upgraded, to FC in the train. Many a day, the first class coach is not attached. That's the reason why advance reservation is not done.
Sharp at 0500hrs the train left. For some distance till Howbagh station, the NG line is along the BG line (Jabalpur-Itarsi main line). Just before Howbagh station the two lines diverge with Howbagh station catering exclusively to NG trains. Situated around 4 kms form Jabalpur station, the diesel shed and washing lines for NG rake is at Howbagh. The well-maintained station also has first class waiting room. After a brief stop we were on our way to Balaghat Satpura being express train does not stop at all stations enroute. The first stop after Howbagh was Guwarighat. The station is close to the bathing ghat of Narmada and few passengers alighted here on their way to the ghat. The next station was Jamtara. Just after this station is the steel arch bridge on Narmada. With one span of 45.72mts and five spans of 60.96 mts, this bridge No-289 is the only major bridge on the route. The speed on bridge was 5 kmph, giving me ample opportunity to take photos. The first crossing happened at Bargi station. There were three more crossings at Sukrimangela, Ghunsore and Nangarwara stations before we reached Balaghat.
The station after Sukrimangela was Shikara. The station had nice stall selling hot samosa, aloo bondas and jalebis. Since it was first decent food stall after Jabalpur, there was a huge crowd at stall. I was told not to worry because train stops till such time everyone has left the stall. Sure enough the train started only after every one had bought the stuff and stall was deserted. Between Shikara and Ghunsore station is the beautiful ghat section. The route cuts thru nice countryside, with a river closely following it most of the times. At places the line cuts thru the mountains with deep valleys on both sides. At two places because of speed restrictions the train had to come to a dead stop before commencing journey again. The ghat section between Ghunsore and Pindrai is less scenic. The highest point on this route is 546.2 MSL and this is at 1150.4 milestones, around four kms from Ghunsore. All curves had nice small yellow plates giving details of the curve.
The first class coach was 1958 manufacture. Most of the other coaches were 1965 make with one coach of a more recent make (2003). There were a total of 8 coaches. We reached Nainpur junction 15 minutes late at 0925 hrs. The toilets were meticulously cleaned up and water filled in tanks. After a 25-minute stop the train started. The stations between Nainpur and Balaghat are all small, non-descriptive, some mere halts. The train now averaged 40-45 kmphs.
We reached Balaghat at 1130 hrs, full twenty minutes before scheduled arrival. The concrete sleepers and ballast for the Gondia-Balaghat gauge conversion could be seen at station. I was told that tracks are now being laid and route could be opened in another three months. After this the Balaghat-Katangi route would be closed down for BG conversion. The plan is to make the Katangi-Gondia route BG and connect it with Tirodi BG line. The area is rich in Copper and manganese deposits. Hence the need for BG line for economical transportation of the ore.
There is no diesel shed or washing line at Balaghat station. The rakes are cleaned and engines serviced at Nainpur. The station has a clean and well-maintained retiring room. It also boasts of a computerized reservation counter. I had planned to take the 2000 hrs Nainpur passenger to Nainpur. Checked into Hotel Mid point. After quick bath and piping hot lunch it was time for some after noon siesta. Got up late in evening and was at station at 1830 hrs waiting for the Nainpur passenger.