Birur Jn - Talguppa
161 km. From Talguppa end. 27 Sept., 1966
Changing at Gadag Jn., my friend and I reached Hubli Jn. from Bijapur in the early hours of the 24th. Took the Mysore State Transport Express bus at 0600 for Karwar (125 km), first ascending a little to Yellapur (70 km to SW) and then descending steeply along one of the finest ghat roads I have been on - the view of wooded summits and slopes which plunged quickly into terraced, green fields near valley bottoms, now narrow, then a bit broad, through which meandered like a ribbon some stream past a few houses and huts, was breathtaking. The last 50 km was a Wly run with R. Kalinadi at our right (N), which became a wide backwater for the last 10 km.
Checked into a room in a lodge (tariff, Rs. 4/- per day); comfortable with two beds. Lunch cost Rs. 2:50 each and so did the dinner . Strolled on the beach and then sat quietly gazing alternately at the small islands out in the sea to the W and the Wn Ghats rising to the E, with an outcrop of it reaching out to the sea just S of where we were. Karwar is one of the safest harbours on the west coast, then with the anchorage just a few hundred metres into the sea, sheltered by the islands.
On the road near the beach were heaps of iron ore, dumped there after being brought by lorries from Hubli - though much ore was being transported from Hospet region by the m.g. line to Goa, the ghat section on that branch was a bottleneck, and some was diverted for export from Karwar. But there was no ship at anchor that day - only a few fishing boats . As the sun set, we were enthralled by lilting pipe music, accompanied by drum beats, still lingering in my mind. A procession of men was bringing a big idol of Ganesh, dancing to the tune of the pipes - it was the concluding day of the Ganesh festival and we watched fascinated by the ritual immersion of the idol in the sea waters .
We left Karwar at 0700 the next (25th) morning by road. First SSE along the curving coast to Ankola (32 km), then to Mirjan (54). Turned inland (E) to climb the Wn. Ghats in stages to Devimane (1384' ), d 1008, after having uppuma and a glass of tea for Re. 0:15 P; then ENE to reach the top of the plateau at Sirsi, a 1240, a small town (60 km from Mirjan), alt. about 2,500', famous for its arecanut plantations. That was a major road junction where we had a long wait for the bus to Jog. Had a sumptuous lunch for Re. 1/- and sat facing a big temple near the bus stand till the bus came at 1700.
Ran S across an undulating plateau with teaks, areca nut and banyan trees interspersed with some paddy fields. Then across denser jungles of tall teaks, with occasional level paddy fields for 35 km to Siddapur, d1902 as it was getting dark. Only about 10 passengers in the bus. SSW for some 15 km to Mavingundi, where joined the Honnavar - Shimoga Road, turned left, ran SE( ?) for about 4 km to reach Jog Falls at about 1930. There were lights around and soon found a resthouse; paid Rs. 5/- and occupied a room to fall into a deep slumber.
Spent the whole of the next day gazing at the four streams cascading down in full glory  some 290 m into a deep pool below the precipitous rockface; walked around the left (Nn) bank of R. Shiravati, then for some length across the stone-strewn bed of the river, some 100 m upstream the falls. Returned to face the falls, then went down the steep, slippery 'steps', braving the spray of water to the bottom of the ravine to have a close look at the pool from where water exited Wwds through a gorge; clambered back to the top to gaze at it for the rest of the evening.
Had a quick supper and caught the 1930 bus to Sagar. The train from Birur Jn. arrived past 2200, got into the Class III compartment of Bangalore - Talguppa through carriage which was in the front. The train took its own time to depart from Sagar, reached Talguppa by 2300. We slept in the carriage. At 0400 found the booking office yet to open. My friend went again at 0430 and got the tickets.
(161) Talguppa (1848' ). Station aligned E/W, with a single pfm., sheltered in the middle, on the Nn. side with a medium-sized, but neat and solid block of offices, crew resting room, cloak room, etc. It was sort of eerie in the still dark, early hours. One loop on either side of the main track, with a siding to the S. Two sidings to the goods shed to the W of the pfm. The yard was large with many pipes stack for the Shiravati project nearing completion. The station lay on a level plateau, surrounded on the N, E and S by rich paddy fields; a crestline of the Western Ghats could be made out, running N/S, 3-5 km. to the W, rising nearly 1000' above us.
d 0448, 3 mins. behind schedule. Hauled by HPS (4-6-0) # 31402, the first of the four carriages had a parcel compartment. Just four passengers, including the two of us, in our carriage, and 2 or 3 in each of the others. Ran ESE.
(154) Kanale Halt, a (?), d 0504. No loop or siding.
Ran SE, through paddy lands, passing now and then under the power lines from Shiravati Project.
(145) Sagar Jambugaru (no alt.) a 0518, d 0528. Well-sheltered pfm. at right (S), with a VLR stall, where we had coffee and got a parcel of iddlis, all for Rs. 1: 10 P. Sizeable, but sleepy, town to the S. Two loops to the N, then a siding, bracketing a small loop, with a turntable at the Wn. end Dawn yet to break though the stars were paling. Quite chill with a nip.
Ran ESE, descending a bit, across shrubland, at 25 - 30 kmph. Then in 10-20' deep cutting with teaks above.
(135) Balegundi Halt (no alt.) a 0543, d 0545. Low pfm., aligned WNW/ESE, to the right, serving a loop, lit by a lone lantern; small shack for an office.
Ran S-ESE in a 10' trough, with some dense teaks and bamboo above. As the dawn broke, the sharp chillness of the air decreased somewhat.
(130) Adderi Halt. a (?), d 0555. No loops or siding. No pfm, but a tiny shack, on a level clearing surrounded by tall teaks. A number of passengers got off. Curved right just out of the station. Then more bamboo clusters, with patches of paddy. Then across a larger clearing in the forest, with more paddy fields, watered by a stream. Train stopped to allow some gangmen to alight. 0606 - more teak-cum-bamboo forests, fairly dense , sublime and beautiful in the morning light, with a tang still in the air.
(119) Anandapuram (2088' ), a 0615, d 0626. Watering station. Two-foot high, neat pfm, aligned nearly N/S, partly sheltered, with trees, serving a loop at left of the main track, on the other (W) side of which were large stacks of bamboos, with bullock carts bringing in more. Two sidings jutted out of the lower (Nn) end of the pfm. past a goods shed. Our compartment was empty, except for the two of us.
The forest had been cleared around, with quite a few, newly built, red-tiled, brick-walled houses.
Ran SE, across a level plateau, between some steep, high ridges 5-8 km to the left, and lower ridges 8 - 12 km to the right. More clearings, with younger teaks and less dense shrubs.
(108) Kenchanalu Halt, a 0644, d 0645; small, tin-roofed brick shack of office. A few tiled houses to the E. About 20 people on the track-level pfm., one of them a small girl trying to sell lady's fingers and other girls flowers. A prominent ridge to the E, with peaks enveloped in whiffs of clouds. A valley to the W, its rim beyond rising to a low ridge. Paddy fields between small trewes.
(104) Arasalu (2135' ) a 0652, d 0726. A few thatched huts to the W on a 10' rise.; shrubs around, giving way to jungles to the W and E. A few got into the train, and a few more, about eight, got out. A nice-looking station, with a lantern on either side of a 30' x 20', tiled block of offices, on platform, aligned W/E serving the loop at left (N). A siding with a small goods shed jutting past the En end of the pfm. Lots of bamboos stacked outside the station, past a wooden fence, beyond which ran the road to Shimoga. Had to wait for crossing an up train, 4 carriages, like ours.
Continued ESE at 40 kmph, overlooking a small ravine to the right with fine teaks and bamboos, a stream flowing SW through it. Curved left into ENE, the ravine then shallow with light teak jungle interspersed with some fields. Curved again left, into NE, as the the bottom of the ravine had flattened up and got raised, with the hills more than 6 km away.
(89) Kumsi (2141' ), a 0748, d 0750, running 30 mins. late. No pfm. as such, but a small office to the left of a loop with two short sidings jutting ahead. A little town of tiled houses beyond.
Ran NE across a rice-bowl, curved right into E, with low ridges rising above woods on both sides. Curved left into ENE to enter
(82) Harnahalli (2128' ), a 0801, d 0803. No pfm., but sand-filled past a loop to the right (SSE) in front of a small office; and a tin goods shed adjoining a short siding past it. A village of country-tiled, brick houses 200 m to the S.
Continued nearly E, with steady, ridges 4 - 5 km to left (N) and 6 - 8 km to the right (S) as the flat valley widened, with paddy field all over. Just past a level-crossing,
(78) Konagavalli Halt (no alt.) a 0813, d 0815. Slightly grassy 'pfm' on track level to the left (N); no loops or sidings. Small tin shack for office. A small crowd, some waiting for the passenger to Talguppa. Running nearer the central axis of the valley with rice fields flanked by 600 - 800' high ridges over 7 km away on both sides, occasionally though cutting in rock, turned SE, with shrubs and trees around. Doing 50 kmph across some wasteland with scattered trees, curved left into ESE to enter
Land suddenly drier, dotted with shrubs and fields growing rice and jowar, the latter seen for the first time since Talguppa. Past a canal to the right, strightened into the E.
(63) Shimoga Town (1865' ), a (?) , d 0854. A large station, aligned W/E, with a single pfm, much of it sheltered, serving the loop at right (S). Two more loops to the left, then two sidings ending in a loco shed, then one short siding and a triangle. Three short sidings jutting to the E of the pfm. with a large goods shed. Outside, to the S. of the station, a large town of red-tiled, brick-walled houses, many of them with a storey. Almost the entire crowd has left the train and our compartment empty but for ourselves. Yet, a new carriage was added behind us. Still 30 mins. behind schedule.
Curved right to cross R. Tunga by a 15 x 60' girder bridge, and entered, at the En edge of the town,
(61) Shimoga (no alt.), a 0858, d 0900. Small brick office, without pfm., no loops nor sidings.
A 40' high rock dominated the surrounding paddy and sugarcane fields. Ran ESE, with a ridge to the E and the higher rangein the horizon to the W. Past a pond and quite a few electrical installations,
(55) Shimoga Bidare (no alt.), a 0912, d 0914. A small, tiled, brick office on a foot-high, unpaved pfm at the right (S); a loop to the left. Some railway quarters just outside the station.
Curved into SE; wastelend up to the ridge some 12 km to the E; land on the left dipped a little towards R. Tunga, then rose to the range over 15 km to the W. Turned into ESE, with paddy and sugarcane on level fields on both sides. Heraled by concrete structures with chimneys belching out smoke, curved right into E,
(45) Bhadravati (1805' ), a 0930, d 0941. Again a large station with a sizeable office building on a 2' high concrete pfm. well sheltered at left; also a low-level, unpaved island at left (S), then three loops, then three more with goods trains, the last loop projecting a siding into the power plant and steel and cement factories that lay to the SE of the station . Crossed a 4-carriage train, hauled by an HPS, bound for Shimoga Town .
Just out of the station, crossed R. Bhadra on 11 x 60' concrete girder bridge. Ran SSE across a valley, paddy and sugar cane being raised, with low ranges 15 km away on either side.
(40) Masarahalli (1965' ) a 0949, d 0952. Pfm., with a small tiled, brick office and two lantern posts, at right (WSW); a loop at left. The terrain sloped gently Wwds to the hills 10 km away.; a lone hill some 5 km to left (NE). Sugarcane and paddy as we crossed a few feeder canals, then curved into SE, edging towards the higher reaches of the valley near its En wall, as the terrain became infertile, with almond and other short trees with coarse grass and weeds in between. Crossed the Tunga Right Bank canal by 1x60' girder, curved again past some paddy fields and stacked logs of wood, to enter
(25) Tarikere (2190' ) a 1016, d 1022. Pfm, partly sheltered, at right and four loops to thed ledft with a goods shed on a gairly long, elevated pfm. Moderately big watering station. Town 400 m to the W.
Passed a small lake amidst paddy fields, with a ridge 4 km to the E, and higher (1000') hills 6-8 km to the W. Then curved into S-SSE, climbing gently and edging towards the line of hills to the W, away from those on the E. Entered, due S,
(16) Koranahalli Halt (no alt.) a 1038, d 1040. Tiny tin shack for waiting hall and booking office, on a low, unpaved, grassy pfm., 80 m long; no siding or loop.
We were in an undulating valley, some 15 km across; paste wasteland, dotted with trees, curved left into SE
(11) Sivapur (2527' ) a 1048, d 1052. Both trhe line and the loop curved leftwards, a tiny tin shack for office at right. Quite some ascent since Tarikere.
The ridge on the W was closer (5 km) but lower, with the valley nearly 20 km across, with paddy and coco and arecanut trees on flatter patches; otherwise, open waste.
The m.g. line from Hubli curved in past a hillock to the left (E) to join us some 3 km before the junction.
.... Birur Jn. (2605') a 1106, four mins. ahead of schedule. The junction was large, aligned almost N/S; the main pfm., 250 m. long, 2' high, concrete-paved, with row of offices and well sheltered, serving the main (Hubli - Arsikere) line, the line from Talguppa being track 2. Received on the loop to its W, served by an island to the right as long as the main one, and connected to it by an overbridge at the Sn. end. More loops to the W, with shunting activity on all the time, then a siding into a loco shed with a triangle further to the W. But the pfms. were not busy.
The township, if there was any, could not be seen even from the overbridge, though we could see the Baba Budan Hills to the W. Birur was just the railway junction. Kadur, the major town, was 5 km. to the SE, towards Arsikere.
The Poona - Bangalore Express arrived at 1347, some 143 mins. behind schedule. Went by it to Arsikere, whence took a passenger (after missing one) to Mysore.
- "Karwar?", people would ask those days. The two of us were probably the only tourists that day in 1966, barring any visitors from nearby areas - and we too would not have been there but for a last-minute change in our plans; we had initially intended to continue by train from Hubli to Birur and then to Talguppa for the Jog Falls. Karwar was then a very quiet, small town, untouched by and indifferent to the attention being received by Goa, the border of which lay just 10 km to the N. Karwar has a fine beach, with a cluster of rocky islands some distance out into the sea. Public attention was drawn to its scenic beauty in a Tamil cinema shot there by the late M. G. Ramachandran. At that time practically desolate, the small islands now house tourist resorts with tariffs upwards of Rs. 1,000/- per head per day.
- Karwar now has a naval base. It is, of course, on the Konkan Railway, the line running some distance to the E of the town, which has grown much larger since we were there.
- That was new experience for me. In Tamilnadu, Ganesh festival has traditionally been a quiet, one day affair, celebrated before a practically undecorated, small, clay idol within the privacy of each home. No public festivities, except that the bronze processional idol of Ganesh in temples is taken without fanfare around the adjoining streets in the evening. But in the recent years, its celebration over a week, with large idols set up in public places and their eventual immersion in the sea/river, is catching on in towns.
- With the inauguration of the Shiravati hydroelectric project, much of the water upsteam is diverted to drive the turbines, and with reduced flow, the cascades are no more that majestic as we saw them then, except during heavy monsoon flow.
- There is often a difference of perception between me and the younger generation, when it comes to describing wooded terrain. A route was recently recommended to me for its dense jungles and unspoilt scenery. I have travelled it 27 years ago and found it definitely interesting, occasionally wooded, but by no means dense jungle; and much of it was ALREADY spoilt due to extensive mining and consequent denudation. Intensive afforestation in the interim can be ruled out, as it runs counter to what all satellite telemetry data on India's ever-shrinking forest cover tell. I think that recent travellers, not having many trees around where they live, tend to describe every scrap jungle and light forest as dense. In my opinion, there can be no forest or jungle where man has stepped in. What I am implying would be agreed to by those who have travelled the hills some 30 years ago and again recently.
- The Mysore Iron and Steel Co., now Viswesvarayya Iron and Steel Co., the first government-owned pig-iron producing plant, started production in 1923, 16 years after Tata's unit in Jamshedpur. High grade iron ore is avaliable at Kemmangundi (alt. 1434 m.) in Baba Budan Hills, 50 km to the S. But Mysore state (now Karnataka) lacks coal; the furnces used charcoal, made by the dry distillation wood cut from the trees in the surrounding forests. The Shimoga - Talguppa m.g. line was laid in 1939 mainly to haul wood from the (then) dense forests near Sagar and the Jog Falls. The logs were also used for making railway sleepers. Use of wood was discontinued in 1951, the plant now drawing hydroelectric power from the Jog Falls for its operations, including the rolling of steel. Bhadravati has a cement plant besides a paper factory.
- We crossed three passenger trains during our 6 hour 20 min. journey from Talguppa to Birur, a high frequency indeed, despite the low occupancy most of the way. The section from Birur to Shimoga Town has been converted into broad gauge. A railcar was being operated from Shimoga up to Talguppa, still metre, one trip a day each way, but the service has reportedly been stopped recently.This section too is to be converted into broad, but work seems to proceed at snail's pace; and promises have been made of the extension of the b. g. line to Honavar or Kumta to link up with the Konkan Railway, which will really boost the tourist and agricultural potential of the region.