Bellary Jn. - Rayadrug Branch
54 km. 20 Sept., 1966 (from Rayadrug end)
This was my first carefully planned railway tour of 12 days' duration, covering mainly Mysore state, now Karnataka. I had as companion, my Australian friend, who was in my College in Madras on a teaching assignment. Leaving Madras Central on 18th night, we had journeyed via Katpadi, Pakala, Dharmavaram and Guntakkal to reach Bellary on the 20th., early morning.
Bellary, initially under Vijayanagar empire, was part of the territory, lying S. of R. Tungabadra, which was gained by the Nizam in 1792 from Tipu Sultan of Mysore, and in turn ceded by him in 1800 to the British East India Company for military protection when he declared himself independent of the crumbling Moghul Empire. It was made part of Madras Presidency, and in 1808 was split into Cuddappah and Bellary districts, and the later, again, in 1882, into Bellary and Anantapur districts, for administrative reasons. During the reorganization of states on linguistic basis in 1953, Bellary was transferred to Mysore, while Rayadrug (now, Rayadurg), which was a taluk of Bellary district, was made part of Anantapur district of Andhra (now, Andhra Pradesh).
Geographically, the area lies on the Deccan plateau, which slopes down gently from W to E, while being crisscrossed by low hills and shallow, broad valleys on altitudes ranging from 500 to 1000 m. This region, South of the Hospet - Bellary axis, is endowed with vast deposits of haematite and lesser quantities of magnetite, both of oxide ores of high iron content. The erstwhile princely state of Sandur, lying within Bellary district, also has large deposits of pyrolusite, an oxide of manganese, which is essential in steel making, especially the steel for rails. Hundreds of companies, big and small, are engaged in mining these metal ores, and, at all times, considerable illegal mining too goes on. Much of the ore is exported, out of Goa and Madras, the rest being used by the iron and steel plants that have come up in the region. The climate is generally dry, with very hot summers.
There were, at that time, two mixed train services on the branch daily , but the first out of Bellary would reach Rayadrug only after noon and give barely 45 mins. to look around the place, which had a fort with Jain sculptures on a hillock; we, therefore, decided to proceed by bus to give us sufficient time there.
We reached the main bus stand at Bellary, but learnt that buses for Rayadrug were starting from a different one, which took time to locate. The bus started at 08:15 and should have reached Rayadrug by 10:00; that was not to be, for, the bus, full as it was to start with, stopped at odd places to pick up more passengers; it did only about 20 kmph while on the move, with the Rayadrug line just on our left. Stopped at Rampur, a small town half way through for some 20 minutes for no apparent reason; left that place at 11:00. Made a trip to a village 2 km from cross roads to off-load a few passengers, back to the cross roads, heading slowly towards our goal. Then the tread of the tyre of a back-wheel became loose and it took some 30 minutes to peel it off. We reached Rayadrug at 12:10, tired and exasperated, myself battling a headache. The hill was a bare rock, with the Jain temple on a ledge about one-third of the way up. Gave up the idea of climbing up to see it; had an excellent coffee in a small hotel in the bazaar, encashed a Rs. 100/- traveller's cheque at the State Bank and reached the station, 1 km. from the bus stand, at 13:00. The Class III fare to Bellary was Rs. 2:60 P.
(0) Rayadrug (1784') A neat, small station with a loop for the single platform facing S, and a siding on the other side of the main line. The mixed from Bellary, with 3 passenger carriages and 2 wagons and a guard van, hauled by a Henschel YK (2-6-0), arrived some 45 mins. late. The engine did some shunting, then collected water from the tank at the end of the siding. d 14:39 (sch. 13:55). Out of the station curved to the right (N), to be joined by the road to Bellary which kept close company with us for much of the way. There was some upgradient which the train took at a sedate 25 kmph, then, as the gradient eased, it accelerated to 40 kmph, running along the comparatively wide bottom of a N/S valley, green with paddy and maize crops, flanked on either side by hillocks.
(14) Budanahallu Halt. Stopped for 10 mins. The driver went into a hut some 50 m away to come back after 5 mins. Meanwhile, the agent of the halt busied himself reading a copy of the Hindu, not minding a middle-aged, village women who rushed in at the first bell and pestered him for a ticket. The porter asked her to board the train without one, but the guard sent her back to get a ticket!. Ran nearly N, with ups and downs, at about 30 kmph. At the 20th km., crossed a dry river by a girder bridge, and then had to slow down to a crawl to cross the first causeway which was about 20 metres long with waters of a flash flood flowing over it to about a half metre height. Three men and an engineer were on the watch. The metalled road to the right, being at a lower level, was fully submerged and had led to the cancellation of the 07:00 bus from Bellary.
(23) Somalapuram. Pfm at left with a brief siding jutting past it. No loop, but an old, small, rock-walled goods shed was to the right of the line. There was a tub at a height, which supplied water to our engine. The driver again went for a loaf - to purchase some vadais from a woman seated at the goods shed. Dep. after a 5 min. stop. Crossed a second causeway but dry. Saw a bus, half-filled with passengers, speeding S towards Rayadrug; he would probably have to negotiate the flooded, first causeway on the concrete bed of the railway tracks rather than by the road.
(29) Pulakurthi Halt. Another 30 m long, low pfm at right. No loop or siding. A corrugated G. I. booking office, but no one to sell tickets. Continued N, with the road close to the right. Crossed two more dry causeways, then the Tungabadra High Canal.
(54) Bellary Jn. (1619') a 16:45, some 15 mins. behind schedule.
While my friend stayed back in the Jn., I went 2 km. to the foot of a sheer hill, about 150 m. in height with a fort atop. Climbed half-way up, felt too breathless and so stopped for 15 mins. to have a look at the scene spread below like a map. To the W and E lay the Tungabadra valley, with the valley towards Rayadrug in the S, past the cantonment, extending like a tongue. The hills were higher to the N. Then climbed down, went back to the junction completing an ellipse. Had supper with my friend in the dining hall, then took the Guntur - Hubli passenger for Hospet, hauled by a YP, and quite crowded, d. 2104, some 15 mins. behind time.
- The branch was making a loss and the service was curtailed to only one mixed each way in 1975. Now the line has been converted into broad gauge and extended to Chitradrug, from where the m.g. branch to Chikjajur Jn. has also been converted connecting with the Bangalore - Arsikere - Hubli - Pune line. But now there is just a single station, Somalapuram, between Bellary and Rayadrug. Only two passenger trains run each way on this section still, one between Chikjajur and Guntakkal and the other between Bangalore and Hospet.
- Those days no one could travel in our trains without bringing home a number of bedbugs which haunted the seats in the compartments, the station benches, etc., and which would hide themselves in every fold and crevice in our dress and luggage. They would multiply in our homes, sucking the blood out of us, until we got rid of them after a strenuous effort, consisting of hunting out each one of them and just squashing them. Somehow, the bugs just do not seem to exist anymore in our trains. Has the sanitation improved in our railways, or has the increasing pollution of the environment just eradicated the species, I wonder.