A memorable train journey

A memorable train journey

A memorable train journey

Manjunath Hegde Bomnalli describes a scenic train journey in a difficult terrain between Castle Rock in Karnataka and Kulem in Goa.

Tourists heading towards the famous Dudhsagar Waterfalls in Goa or passengers moving farther by train cannot escape from the magic of the journey in Braganza Ghat between Castle Rock railway station in Karnataka and Kulem railway station in Goa.

In addition to the gigantic waterfalls, trains moving slowly with the support of multiple engines on the tracks laid right across the dense forests and rocky mountains of the Western Ghats also entrance them.

Watching trains moving in front of Dudhsagar Waterfalls has been a rare and cherished moment for many tourists, and a few films have also popularised this spot. But, unlike the journey in plain areas, more than one engine with automatic emergency braking system make trains moving in this ghat section more special, and train operations in Braganza Ghat section is a matter of pride for the railway officials also.

While Castle Rock is situated at an altitude of around 588 m, Kulem is at 75 m. The 26 km-long railway track between these two places moves through the hilly region housing numerous tunnels, curves and bridges.

Though several passenger trains also move on this line, railway officials admit that the focus has been more on freight traffic here since this railway line was developed by the British around 125 years ago, connecting the port with interior parts of the region. This track became a broadgauge line two decades ago.

Ghat section

The South Western Railway (SWR) officials say that the ruling gradient of this ghat section is one in 37. To move a freight train carrying 5,400 tonnes of goods from Kulem to Castle Rock (up the ghat direction), five engines (locos) are used (two in front and three in back). The power of five locos is 20,000 HP in total. For a passenger train, two locos will be in front and one in the rear.

Even in ‘down the ghat direction’ from Castle Rock to Kulem, multiple engines are used for both passenger and goods trains. Running trains in this ghat section is more challenging in the rainy season, they say.

The speed limit for passenger trains including express ones is 40 km per hour, while it is 30 km per hour for goods trains. Chennai-Vasco-da-gama Express, Vasco-da-gama-Nizamuddin Express, and Howrah-Vasco-da-gama Express are some of the important passenger trains moving in this ghat section.

The composition of additional locos are attached to the trains either at Castle Rock or at Kulem, in accordance with the direction of their journey. In entire North Karnataka region and Goa, trains with so many additional locos controlling their speed in the ghat section can be seen only between Castle Rock and Kulem.

Though the official passenger stoppage for trains moving in Braganza Ghat section is only at Castle Rock and Kulem, trains stop at Karanzol, Dudhsagar and Sonalium stations en route for operational purposes. This helps the tourists to alight at Dudhsagar station, visit the waterfalls nearby, and come back to catch another train.

Some people also trek along the railway track from Castle Rock to Dudhsagar falls. Many people consider the railway line as an engineering marvel even today.

Visit to this place, either by train or by trek is more exciting in the rainy season, while panoramic view of Western Ghats with mist-covered mountains, heavy rains lashing the area, and rainwater cascading from the rocks at several places make it more special. It is the place where journey itself becomes the destination.

Castle Rock

Though not a big place, Castle Rock village in Uttara Kannada district, situated close to Karnataka-Goa border, has acquired an important place in railway and tourism maps, because of its location in the Western Ghats, proximity to places like Dudhsagar Falls and being an important train link.

It is surrounded by Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve in Uttara Kannada district, Bhimgadh Wildlife Sanctuary in Belgaum district and Bhagawan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa. Till 1961, the railway station here was an ‘international’ one, as Goa was a Portuguese colony till then.

Even today, constructions of the colonial era can be seen along the railway track from Castle Rock towards Goa.

It is said that the place was named as Castle Rock by the British, and its earlier name was Kalambuli. This village is also known for cane furniture.