Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bitragunta

Bitragunta is located between Vijayawada and Chennai on the east coast trunk line of Indian Railwys. The town is in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. Nearest major stations is Nellore to the south and Ongole to the north. A few express trains do halt at Bitragunta today.

Bitragunta’s significance lies in the history of the Steam Era. The abundance of suitable water and availability of plain land enabled the construction of a unique Mechanical Loco Shed. The loco shed was first constructed in the year 1885. A roundhouse with turn-table facility was added in 1934. The roundhouse was known for its architectural value and joined the Mysore roundhouse as one of two spectacular loco sheds in the country. At that time, the loco shed handled 45 steam locomotives and later went on to become one of the biggest in the Indian Railways. Bitragunta was also provided with a major yard and also inter-changing depots for the drivers and guards.

The steam shed was logistically important to medium and long distance trains originating from Madras and the ones passing through Vijaywada down south. In those days, experiments were being made with the Pacific locomotives (WP) of the Grand Trunk Express to provide it more mileage in terms of water and coal consumption. The objective was to provide the GT with a non-stop run between Madras and Vijaywada. The WPs were fitted with water scoops, to enable them to take on water while on the run. A water trough was constructed at Bitragunta just for the purpose. The water scoops on the WPs worked well enough. Unfortunately, due to a deteriorated level of the quality of coal, the engine had to be changed at Bitragunta. The coal carried in the locomotive's tender could not sustain the 420 km long journey, due to the high ash content. Bitragunta had 22 WP locos in its shed then. Later, the shed, under South Central railways held 59 WG and 5 XD locomotives.



Along with the growth of Indian Railways, the marshalling activities at Bitragunta increased manifold. In 1968, a full-fledged marshalling yard with hump facility was established and a wagon-repair depot was added later. The marshalling activities included segregation of wagons and long-distance marshalling orders. The activities continued until 1998.

Bitragunta was also a known “railway cantonment”. Predominantly occupied by Anglo Indians, it had 1000 spacious railway quarters built in European style. It also hosted a Western Culture Institute that is standing till today as the legend of those glorious days.

The evolution in the mode of traction power from steam to diesel and diesel to electric caused the reduction of shed-activities and finally the steam shed at Bitragunta was closed. The closure of the marshalling yard brought a complete closure to the glory of the railway town. Consequent upon the closure of the steam loco shed in Bitragunta, the infrastructure, other equipment and land have not yet been utilized for any purpose.


But Bitragunta still continues as a changing point for all up & down freight trains. Most of the express trains continue to halt here. An ART and MRV are still stationed at Bitragunta. The station still retains vestiges of the glorious past in form of its long platform and old buildings. The remains of the steam shed and the roundhouse can still be seen today.

12 comments:

nomad said...

although a large part of childhood vacations was spent in nellore, little did i know such a treasure lay just a few miles north.... oh how i rue those days !!

Anonymous said...

My dad is from Bitragunta and We use to go there when my grand parents are alive. I still remember the sai baba temple, Rama temple and railway mixed school ground we use to play (thats where my dad went to school) railway bridge. I wonder how it look like now. Good old days ....

Anonymous said...

My mother is from Bitragunta..and the greatness of the town was everybody from adult to a kid used to talk about trains and train numbers..My grandparents still live there but the town lost its all glory

Anonymous said...

I am from Bitragunta popularly known as Shantakka or Lakshmakka. Passionately involved in Scouts and Guides when I was young. Now living in New Zealand since 1999. Look forward to speaking to some, who can recognise me. Post your comments here. Thanks

Raghu, trraghu@yahoo.com said...

Your blog provides a wealth of information. I'm a rail modeler and a steam fan and plan to build a railway layout in HO scale in the Indian context. I was looking for more references and photographs on the Bitragunta station, because its roundhouse is unique. could you help me, offline? I'm located in Bangalore and plan to visit Bitragunta soon to take some photographs of whatever remains.

Anonymous said...

I am from Bitragunta and my parents, brothers/sisters still live there. I am very happy to see and read about my town on inter net. And also I recognise and happy to see one of the member who posted comments, scout girl Lakshmi. I do not know if you recognize me, my name is Gouse. I remember the good old days of Bitragunta and its glory and spent most part of my life in Bitragunta. I live in USA with my family and kids.
Thanks,
Gouse.

MOSES said...

I am happy to see this blog. As my Great Grand Mother came from Nellore and settled with her daughter(My Grand Mother named Mariamma Teacher) who was a teacher in Bording school which was in front of Ex President Sundara Murthy.Still I come evry often to see my birth place. I say Britishers are far better than us .They never play dirty politics.TRUTH IS BTTR.

Moses

zaheer said...

this is zaheer from bitragunta.....my dad muneer famous for visitavle marchant.........our site is www.bitragunta.com we r looking for anglo indians who knows abt bitragunta.........if any one want to viste plzz www.bitragunta.com ..............

Craig said...

I lived in Bitragunta for 4 years between 1960 and 1964 and attended the Railway Mixed Middle School as it was then. I can remember my teachers from the 5th form (Mrs Magee) and 7th form (Yolanda Gordon) but cannot remember the 6th clearly though it may have been Ms Anthony.

My father was a train driver and stationed at Bitragunta until emigrating to England in 1962. Most of the family have grown up and live in the UK now but it is nice to wander down memory lane from time to time remembering a wonderful childhood and carefree Railway Colony days.

Anonymous said...

We lived in bitrgunta for many years and still cherish memories of a really happy childhood. Can someome put up pics of the railway hospital and catholic church. My Dad would like to see more pics of the loco shed.

Thanks

imrankhan said...

HI I AM FROM BTTR MY NAME IS IMRANKHAN I REALLY MISS MY HOME TOWN

v srinivasan said...

I am from chennai, was in rmhs bitragunta 76-81, fantastic school days, the place and the trains, calling them in nos. Like to visit bttr shortly to see my school, and my old teachers

v srinivasan