Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Little Rail Bus - Bull Run II

Shimoga - Talguppa Rail Bus. April 14, 2007

I did it again. I travelled on the Shimoga - Talguppa rail bus for the second time. The last time I did it was in 2004 . This time, I travelled on it with a group of 8 others. I could not have photographs the last time and instead wrote a long and nice trip report. This time I keep the words short and say it with pictures.

All photos are by Bharath Moro except where indicated.

Tucked away in a corner of Shimoga railway station is the sole and tiny platform for the Metre Gauge Rail Bus. The bus is an articulated one with a trailing cab. It is a typical Ashok Leyland bus with an internal combustion Hino engine. Braking is however a vacuum affair.

The bus has the typical steel rail wheels. The controls are similar to a normal bus except for the lack of a steering wheel. The horn is typical bus type except that it is an air horn like a normal locomotive mounted on the top. The rail bus cab also has a sander. Seen here are the two lights on before departure. The time is 6.20 AM and the lights are not required. They are put on just for the photograph.

We started to roll along the worn out tracks. The bus does not have the typical rail shock absorbers. Instead it has a leaf-spring absorber that is ineffective in absorbing the jerks. Seen here is the unique operation of gates. This line is quite basic with only one round trip service. hence there are no gatekeepers. The guard doubles as a gatekeeper. The bus slows down before each level crossing and the guard gets down to close the gates/stop traffic in case of gateless crossings. He then lets the bus pass the crossing and reopens the gates. The bus waits for him to return and then moves ahead.

The line is quite old and passes through some variety of terrain. Hence a lot of speed restrictions as seen in the photograph. There are a lot of steep gradients en route.

We reach Haranahalli the first stop as the sun rises. There are no proper platforms all along the route. Just little elevations. Years ago, normal trains used to ply this route behind steam locomotives. Stations have dilapidated ever since. but the little bus still has its patronage in the rural hinterland of Karnataka.

The bus is straight out of the 1960's. The line is more than 60 years old and bumpy. But the forest scenery rolling outside the windows is priceless.

Interiors are cramped and tiny but neat. Seen here is the guard who has to share seat with the passengers. Photo by Ranga

It is April, well into typical South Indian summer. But the higher altitude of Malanad still affords some mist and fog. The weather is cool and fresh.

Visibility is just about adequate. Malanad is a rain-fed countryside. It rains quite often here and that is the reason for the evergreen forests in the countryside.

A view from the driver's cab of the rail bus. The mist adds to the excitement of this little railway.

Kenchanahallu at 7:45 AM. We are halfway between Shimoga and Talguppa. This is a 'tea-halt'. the crew takes a break for some breakfast and tea. Kenchanahallu is a beautiful station along a state road. the road passes right through the station. Photo by Ranga

The passengers take a break along with the crew at this tiny station. Photo by Ranga

Kenchanahallu is amidst tall and shady trees. It is all quite and peaceful here. Photo by Ranga

We take the opportunity to have some refreshments ourselves. We followed the crew to this little hut next to the station that provided us delicious idlis and hot tea. Photo by Ranga

We resumed our journey after a while. Seen here is the guard operating the gates and running back to the train blowing his whistle to indicate Proceed. Seen here is the National Highway from Bangalore to Honnavar. Photo by Ranga

Adderi is a quiet and earthy station with big trees in the middle of some woods. An old lady and her grand-daughter walk away into the village. Photo by Ranga

We are now approaching Sagar, the biggest town in these parts and also the biggest station.

Sagar (Jambagaru) railway station is a grand building, almost abandoned now. It used to have retiring rooms before. Despite its age, it still stands strong and beautiful reminding one of the days of the Raj.

The empty space beside the station used to host a number of loop lines long ago, now dismantled. Sagar was a major station and goods yard in the olden days. The rail-bus stopped for 15 minutes here.

A lttile distance from Sagar was the Section Engineer's office which displayed teh history of this line as seen here. RRB - Birur. SME- Shimoga. SMET- Shimoga Town; ARU-Arasallu; ANF-Anandapuram; SRF-Sagar Jambagaru; TLGP-Talguppa. This line is up for broad gauge conversion and that would mean the end of this rail bus. But mericifully, the scenery would remain.

Interestingly, the station is called Sagar Jambagaru while town is called just Sagar. A nice pic by Bharath Moro.

VSP takes a respite. He has a facewash at the only water closet at Sagar station, which, surprisingly is working. Photo by Ranga.

The commercial goods transported on the rail-bus - cane baskets meant for some village market. Photo by Ranga.

The sign on the top of the door says "Nimma tale Hecharike" or "Take care of your head" in Kannada. vivek Pillay seems to be just aware while Lakshman (right) is more cautious.

We approach our destination: Talguppa, the terminus of this line.

Talguppa has a quite and serene atmosphere thanks to all those trees and a quaint old building that is surprisingly neat and tidy.

It is 10:30 Am now. The bus will return to Shimoga at 5:20 PM. Before that the cab of the bus has to be reversed and attached on the other side of the trailer car.

The driving cab is detached and taken to a branch line by switching the tracks manually. Seen here is the manual switch that is fast disappearing all over India being replaced by automated switches.

A closer look at the switching device, which has key to prevent accidental switching.

The driving cab is taken to the end of the branch line to a tiny turn table. The cab is placed on it to reverse its direction.

The crew is pushing the cab around to reverse its driving direction. Since the bus is very light, the crew simply pushed it onto the table using their hands. The turntable rotates on a set of bearings and is easy enough to be operated manually.

The found it easy to push it clockwise.

The cab is now reversed. It is ready to resume its lead position in the return trip.

The trailer cab hasdbeen pushed onto a switch line, the switch operated by a manual lever. Now the driving cab will be pushed back to attach it to the trailer.

The trailer and driving cab are hitched together.

The formation is brought back to the platform where it will rest till evening. The crew retire into the woods to take a well deserved nap and rest.

The team at Talguppa by the bus (before reversal). L-R: Colin Peter, Lakshman, Tejender Reddy, Assistant Loco Pilot, V Srinivas Prasad, Vivek Pillay, Praveen PVS, Bizzy Mishra and Bharath Moro. Squatting - yours truly.

Talguppa station building is a neat and cool place straight from the 1940's. It has an interesting architecture that is well maintained. Seen here are the two ticket windows. Surprising for a small station of a small village that sees only one round service a day. But the station has a reservation quota to book on the 6228 Shimoga-Bangalore Express. One of my favourite stations. I just hope that gauge conversion does not see the end of this beautiful station.


Gautham said...

Thanks Ranganath for an excellent piece of travetry. I heard that this rail bus was going to be stopped and so was thrilled to know that its still running(atleast as of April 07).
I'am planning to make a trip this week. Please let me know immed if you know if this railbus still operates.

-Ch. said...

Very nice photo essay...Thanks!

Grizzly said...

I found this a very interesting series of photographs. in the early 80s 84 I think friends and I traveled this line under steam. My photographs have yet to be digitalised when they are I will post a link.
Great stuff, brought back good memories of my travels in India.

Cardiff UK

Neil Satyam said...

Is this railbus still operational ??