Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Bitragunta is located between Vijayawada and Chennai on the east coast trunk line of Indian Railways. Bitragunta Railway Station is one of the main stations in Nellore District. It is under the administrative control of the South Central Railways. Nearest major stations is Nellore to the south and Kavali to the north. A few express trains do halt at Bitragunta today.
Bitragunta was of great importance during the days of British. It is known as a railway town, with a lot of rail activities.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 (now Chennnai) 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 (now Chennai) 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. 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.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...