Guntakal - Hospet
by P V S Praveen
Phew!! Finally Mr. Joshi confirmed my trip to Hospet on the 19th morning. I was to meet him at his office at around 0930 hours. He gave me the directions I confirmed his address and location and then hung up.
Got up at around 0400 hours on the 19th morning. After completing my daily ablutions, I got dressed up and, taking my bag set out to the railway station. Dad was taking his walk, and I told him about the main door of the house being left open.
As I crossed the over bridge, the KZJ-LHF headed 7603 up KCG-SSPN Express passed below us on its way to SSPN. A majority of the destination boards on this train was written in Hindi. Strange! A pair of red lights in the yard indicated the presence of an idle DG4. The twin GTL DM2A's heading the BOXN rake were idling away silently on one of the loop lines, awaiting their signal. I went to the ticket counter and purchased the ticket to Hospet (HPT) priced at Rupees 42. For a passenger train, it is Rupees 23. In the meanwhile, I heard the announcement that the 7228 BZA-Vasco Amaravathi express would be arriving on platform 6. Crossing the tracks, I made my way to platform No: 6 and within minutes the LHF DP4 200002 headed Vasco Bound Amaravathi express came on platform no: 6.
I had to be as close as possible to the DP4, so as to observe it closely, so I headed towards the KCG rake (the KCG-Vasco rake consists of an AC2Tier, 2 Sleeper Classes, 1 SLR and 1 GC. It comes in hauled by the 7603 KCG -SSPN Express, and at GTL, it is attached to the Amaravathi for its onward journey to Vasco/UBL) stabled on platform No: 5 hoping to get a seat in one of the SLR's at the end of the rake. Bad Luck. A couple of Locked Sleeper Class coaches were included in the formation, so the SLR was the third in the formation. I dropped the idea and immediately boarded an SL, and took the TTE's seat. In the meanwhile the DP4 had come up to pick the KCG Rake.
The PA system announced the arrival of the 6331 up CSTM-TVC weekly express on platform 4, and within a few minutes the LHF ED Shed DM2 led TVC express came onto platform 4. I was expecting an AB Rake, but to my surprise, it was a VB. I counted 2 AC2Tiers, Pantry car, Sleeper classes and the customary GSCNs and SLRs. The whole train was pretty deserted. With the re-routing of the Nethravathi Express via the KR and its subsequent extension to TVC, the occupancy rates in the other Mumbai bound trains from TVC have come down significantly. Even the 1081/82 expresses have witnessed a drop in their occupancy rates.
We got our shunting signal, and soon, we left platform 5, went to the fag end of the yard and came back, to platform 6, where we joined the Amaravathi rake. Shortly, the starter was given and by 0630 hours we departed from platform 6. The DP4 took a sharp turn towards the left. To our right, the double track to Adoni disappeared into the horizon. We negotiated a sharp curve, and I could count 22 coaches in the formation. The MG line from GTL joined us after a while. It was a chilly morning and I settled down for some rail fanning with a hot cup of coffee in my hand. I had a motley group of college students for company, who were busy in their own world.
The going was pretty OK, with the DP4 averaging speeds of 75 to 80 kmph. This beast is pretty powerful, going by the way it was effortlessly hauling its load of 22 coaches. Has some superb acceleration and braking prowess. We crossed Padamati Guntakal, Bantanahal, Bevinahalli, Virapur and Hagari (I had been to this station some days ago on a night inspection and had written about it). The DP4 cut down its speed near Hagari and we crossed a dry riverbed, at about 20 kmph. The desolate MG section gave us company till Bellary. Many of the MG stations were in disuse now, with only a single 6-coach GTL-BAY passenger doing two trips per day. Felt sad to note that the once prestigious MG had now been reduced to such a pathetic state. As far as 'action' is concerned here are a couple of sightings:
- At Padamati (Padamati means West in Telugu) Guntakal, a twin GY-WDM3A headed BOXN rake, bound for MAS Harbour was stabled.
- At Bevinahalli, we crossed the 303 UBL-Guntur passenger headed by a GTL-DM2A. This train shares its 12-coach rake with the 433/434 YPR-GNT passengers. It is a cheap and a convenient mode of overnight transport for the people of Bellary & Hubli. It has a couple of Sleeper Class coaches as well.
- At Hagari, we crossed the 5-coach Guntakal-ChickJajur passenger. This train was in the news for wrong reasons, a couple of days back, when it rammed into an APSRTC bus, near Somanahalli in the Bellary district of Karnataka.
Finally at around 0720 hours, we approached Bellary (BAY). We crossed the MG tracks and entered platform No: 1. BAY has a beautiful station building dating back to the late 1800's when MG was constructed. A lot of crowd was on the platform, waiting to receive people/board the train to UBL. With the road facilities in this region woefully inadequate (it took me about 2 and a half hours to reach HPT from GTL. Had I taken a bus, it would have taken me 4 hours +), the folks depend on trains for their transportation needs. BAY is a district headquarters, and u can pick up some good denim stuff from here at Point Blank Jeans (I picked up 3 pants and a denim kurta for about Rupees 1970 odd here).
At 0730 hours, we departed from BAY. The line to Rayadurg took a left turn and disappeared in to the horizon. This is the line taken by the GTL-Chickjajur passenger. This line touches Somalapuram, Rayadurg, Challakere, and Chitradurg and finally joins Chickjajur on the SBC-UBL section of the SR. The DP4 was proceeding at a slow pace, due to the speed restriction zone. The MG alignment was running parallel to us. We crossed BAY Cantonment, and soon were out in the open, having left BAY behind. The MG alignment was being used in some section for the doubling work going on, between Toranagallu & GTL. The existing alignment was being strengthened and new bridges were constructed. A characteristic feature of this section was the abundance of red soil in this region. A majority of the stations were 'red' in colour, their rooftops and other installations covered with a layer if red.
After passing through Kudathini, and after about 15 minutes, we slowed down and stopped at Daroji at around 0805 hours. This station is about 435 metres above Sea Level. The MG station was also existent, save for the fact that it was a ghost station, with no tracks and no trains. We had mountains all around.
Our next halt was at Toranagallu at 0820 hours. This station is the junction for the iron ore line to Ranjithpura a good 30 + Kilometers away. Ranjithpura is the iron ore loading station. SCR loads as many as 6, 58 wagon-BCNA's to MAS harbour.
In the far distance, I could see a factory, but could not make out which factory it was. This station had coloured aspect signal lamps whereas Daroji & BAY had two-aspect Semaphore signals. The red soil was in abundance here as well.
Finally at around 0845 hours we pulled into platform 1 of HPT station. While approaching we crossed a couple of canals from the Tungabhadra dam. HPT region is pretty well irrigated thanks to the dam, and the ryots over here need not worry about water scarcity. Got down and observed a group of foreigners runner hither-thither trying to locate their reserved compartments.
An old lady along with her Indian guide came running up to the KCG-Vasco AC2Tier, but on being told that her reservation was in the other coach; she exclaimed 'Jesus' in frustration, and had to move back. This is a poor example of our government's pathetic tourism policy. It would do a world of good to the tourists, if proper boards mentioning the location of the reserved coaches were prominently displayed on the platform. As I made my way towards the exit, I checked out the time of the return Amaravathi express. 1605/1610 hours. Ok. That would leave me with plenty of time to do my work and have a look around.
HPT is a quintessential small time town, with old age traditions and modernity existing side-by-side. I took a walk to the town on the station road, and observed a lot of old building dating back to the time of the British. The station itself is a small affair. After walking for 10 minutes, I came across Priyadarshini restaurant, which looked pretty decent enough. Near the hotel were some travel agencies offering a full day trip of the Hampi ruins & the Tungabhadra dam from 0930 to 1730 hours. May be some other time, not now. After helping myself to a hot plate of Vada-Soup and some steaming coffee, I made my way to Mr. Joshi's office.
It was 1100 hours by the time I finished my work. Had a lot of time, so decided to check out Hampi ruins. Taking a short walk, I crossed College Street, entered the Station Road once again, and after some time, approached the bus stand. A bus with the name board 'Hampi' written in Kannada (I had no problems with Kannada, having stayed at SBC during my schooling days) was pulling into the stand. Immediately Jumped inside, but found that the front seats had already been 'reserved'(Here, In India, if you keep a towel/Handkerchief/Bag/any such item) on a seat in a bus/train, it is deemed 'reserved' by you. I wouldn't tolerate such nonsense, and did get into a couple of heated arguments over these seats.
Anyway, we reached Hampi ruins after about 20 minutes. I went straight to the information counter and checked out the Hampi map shown by the person out there. Oh Oh. Hampi is too big to be covered by foot, in a day. You had to either hire an auto-rickshaw for about Rs. 100 to Rs 150 or get your own mode of transport. I had no plans of shelling out Rupees 150, so decided to take a walk around. The whole place had a 'foreign' look to it. You had currency exchange counters, internet cafes, shops selling all sorts of handicrafts/knick-knacks and of course you had all types of food joints offering anything from a simple idly -vada to Italian Spaghetti & Noodles and soup and pasta, burgers, milkshakes-name it & you had it. These were of course, primarily meant for the international tourists, who could be found in abundance out here. I could also find some boards written in German/French. Great! You also had some massage centers out here.
After walking for about half an hour, I called it quits and came back to the bus stand. Took a 'Minidor' and by the time I got down at the HPT bus stand, it was 1330 hours. Had lunch at the Shanbagh restaurant on College Street helped myself to an MTR ice cream at Ruchi's and finally headed to the station at around 1445 hours. There was an hour and 15 minutes to go before the arrival of the Amaravathi. Took the ticket to GTL and made myself comfortable on one of the benches on the station, with the latest copy of the 'Week' to give me company. HPT station does not have that many trains. You have:
- 6591/6592 Hampi Express between SBC-UBL-SBC
- 7315/7316 Haripriya Express between KOP-HYB/TPTY-TPTY/HYB-KOP
- 7225/7226 Amaravathi Express between BZA-UBL-BZA 5 days a week
- 7227/7228 Amaravathi Express between BZA-Vasco-BZA 2 days a week.
- 303/304 UBL-GNT-UBL Passengers
- 583/584 HPT-SBC-HPT Passengers via BAY & Chickjajur
- 311/312 BAY-UBL-BAY Passengers.
This is basically a junction with branch lines going to Swamihalli & Kotturu, but no trains are being operated on these branch lines now. There was no action at the station save for the odd shunting by a lone GTL DM2A. A couple of GY-DG3As were shunting in the vicinity. They were attached to a BOXN rake, headed towards GTL.
Finally at around 1605 hours the SHF 200005 headed Amaravathi express came on to pf 1. I checked into S4. In the meanwhile, the 311 passenger to UBL came to platform no: 3. We departed at around 1615 hours. I was dead tired by now and desperately wanted some sleep. Went to the TTE, paid Rs 80/-towards Sleeper charges and took the upper berth no: 27. Fell asleep immediately and got up by the time 7226 reached GTL at 1855 hours. The 6009 mail to MAS came on to platform 5 after a few minutes, and as I was crossing the over bridge, the 1014 CBE-LTT express made its way to GTL station, platform 4. Headed home for another day.