Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rolling the Curves

Vizag-Koraput-Rayagada-Vizag rail trip, February 5 and 6, 2007

This was a trip I was alays dreaming about. Having lived in the close vicinity of the legendary Kothavalasa-Kirandul line (KK Line) for almost 15 years, I never had an opportunity to take a ride on it. It was on February 5 , 2007 that I finally had my chance. VSP, Praveen and Bharath came down to Vizag from Hyderabad. Sridhar Joshi, Seshadri sir (Chechu), Swaminathan sir, Karthik and I came down from Chennai. We took the only passenger service to Kirandul early in the morning at 6.30 AM. We all piled into the First Class to get the best of the line.

It was a march of the electrics all along. The KK line is meant for transport of iron ore. Large freight trains hauled by three electric locomotives each ply this route all day. In a matter of 6 hours we passed almost 50 electric locos!

Vizag to Kothavalasa was along the Chennai-Howrah trunk route. We deviated towards the hills after Kothavalasa. It was a normal run until we reached Boddavara. The hills appeared and pretty soon, we were rolling along horseshoe curves in and out of numerous tunnels.

Seen here is a tunnel that we are about to enter. We are on a horseshoe curve and could see the other end of the tunnel before we entered it.

One of the 52 tunnels on the KK line. A lot of people on maintenance work at the tunnels.

Tyada station. We were waiting for a freight train to pass us from the opposite direction and give us a clear way ahead.

The locomotive of our train, A WAG5. It is meant to haul freight trains on this line. The KK line was fully electrified in the 1980's.

One of the many interesting things we abandoned bridge. There must have been a realignment of the tracks here. Probably due to landslides.

An unusal site...a sole loco with a short load. This line ususally has king-size freights hauled by three locomotives.

One of the many exciting sharp curves in the hills. This one is close to Borra Caves station. The curve is a steep gradient and in minutes we reached a high altitude.

The only level crossing on the line upto Araku. This is a beautiful spot for a level crossing with trees and flowering plants all over. The road slopes down in a series of curves to this point and rises again.

The same level crossing seen from a distance... from the opposite side of the horseshoe curve that the line took. We are at a higher altitude thanks to the steep gradient of the curve.

The steep gradients brought us to the highest point on the line: Shimiliguda at 996.2 mts above sea level. The gradient from Kothavalasa to Shimilguda is at an average of 1:60. Shimiliguda was the highest broad gauge station in India until 2004. Surprisingly, Bangalore is at an altitude of 920 metres...only 76 metres less than Shimiliguda.

Sridhar Joshi and VSP relax after Araku. We had spent most of the hill section aty the door observing the route. Post Araku, the gradient levelled out.

The train curves along the backwaters of the Machkund reservoir.

We passed along river Kolab too.

Post Koraput, we were once again up the grade into the hills, forests and the remaining of the 52 tunnels. This is the famous Maligura viaduct over the Maligura Nalla. This long and curved viaduct delivered us into yet another tunnel. this viaduct was pictured copiously for promotional material by Indian Railways.

The view of the train on the viaduct.

We got off the train at Jeypore. We were supposed to spend the night at Koraput. But the Maligura viaduct made us go all the way till Jeypore.

We had ready transportation at Jeypore. This Mahindra Bolero took us all the way back to Koraput

Day 2. We boarded the Koraput-Rayagada Passenger early in the morning at 5: 00 AM. It was pitch dark as the train rolled out. Chechu loves to travel by the door. Despite his age at 65, he still possess the energy to stand by the door all day and enjoy the passing scenery. ..something that tires the rest of us. The early morning darkness proved to be a dampener for him and he was forced to sit until day broke.

The train took an alternative route...the K-R Line or Koraput Rayagada Line, yet another hill railway for transporting freight iron ore. This line is not under wires and allowed us to enjoy a diesel loco's run through the hills. Much line the KK line, the KR line too traversed the hills and tunnels.

The day broke revealing wonderful hills looming large in the winter haze.

At Lakshmipur, VSP harangued a tea vendor to supply us tea even as the train started to move.

One of the many station on the way early in the morning.

Soon we reached the most enchanting stations on the route: Rauli. As we cleared one long tunnel and broke into a brief clearing over a bridge before disappearing into another tunnel, we spied a horsehoe curve perpendicular to us and a station far away on the ghat side that seemed to be all alone.

It was all silent and uncanny. A bare and ethereal beauty in the middle of nowhere covered in haze.Apart from the tracks, signals, station house, a tiny platform and a couple of houses, Rauli was as nature made it. The power supply came from generators and solar panels and water was piped from a natural spring high up the hills.

Nestled on the hillside, Rauli was a one platform station. It overlooked a valley that had absolutely no human settlement. Ahead of the station was another tunnel. Hills and vegetation all around with no huma settlement, Rauli was a magical little station, one of the most beautiful ones I had ever seen.

Rauli is a crossing station and we waited here as the Hirakahnd Express passed us from the opposite direction. It was an obvious choice to have a crossing here. The hills on either side were treacherous and prone to landslides during monsoons. These hills warranted a block limit and a reversal to terminate trains in case of landslides or derailments. No wonder Rauli materialized.

From the platform we could have a hazy view of the steel girder bridge that we crossed minutes before on the far side. The horseshoe curve behind allowed us the spectacular site of watching the Hirakhand Express to cross us, go around a curve and materialize on the bridge on the far side of the curve. We watched in bated breath as the train came out of the tunnel, went over the bridge and disappeared again into another tunnel.

Our journey resumed. We were now passing through thick forests, steep curves and viaducts. Chechu was in great spirits as the wonderful scenery swept by. He perched himself at the door and enjoyed the run all the way down to the plains at Rayagada.

Viaduct after viaduct brought us from the high hills to the humid and sultry plains of the coastal side. The journey concluded at Vuzag, where we started.

1 comment:

P.N. Subramanian said...

Wonderful journey. There is darling station "Darliput" in between Araku and Koraput. You could have come down to Jagdalpur instead of getting down at Jeypore and going back to Koraput. You could have done the same from Jagdalpur as well.