Independence weekend – II – It’s a train ! It’s a bus ! No, it’s a Railbus !

Day 2 of our long weekend trip saw us travelling to Kakinada to take a ride on the Kakinada-Kotipalli Railbus. A railbus is basically a single coach rail vehicle, it looks like a bus but runs on rails ! Ever since the railbus popped up in one of our conversations and then we saw a video of it on Youtube, taking a ride on the Kakinada-Kotipalli Railbus was on our “To do list”.

A clean example 

We started from Rajamundry around 7.45 AM in our Alto, Kakinada is an hour’s drive from Rajamundry. The roads are usually good and it goes without saying, very scenic. As we entered Kakinada, we were greeted by a lovely sight of coconut trees lined up on either side of the road as if to welcome us.

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Kakinada, the headquarters of East Godavari district, is a charming city. It still has the “British” feel it with its colonial era buildings and colleges, the city is an educational hub today. The Kakinada port, of course, is one of the important ports on the east coast.

We drove straight to the railway station, parked our car and waited for the Kakinada-Kotipalli Railbus. What struck us the most about the railway station was the cleanliness. It is one of the cleanest and well maintained railway stations we’ve seen so far. We saw a plaque that said the station was maintained by NFCL (Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd), kudos to them !

The Railbus was scheduled to arrive at 9.30 AM but there was no sight of it even at 10.30 AM, we began to worry if our trip would turn out to be a disappointment. In the meantime, Chennai-Kakinada Circar Express, one of the oldest and slowest trains in the country, arrived. It seems this train still runs at a speed of 45 kms/hr ! It is always fun to watch trains.

Here comes the Railbus !

Around 10.40 AM, when we were losing our patience, the arrival of the Railbus was announced and a few minutes later, the Railbus trotted into the station. It was hilarious to watch the railbus arrive at the platform, it was like watching one of those tiny toy trains that kids play with !

We wanted to take pictures of it but one of our guys almost had his phone confiscated by the station authorities, it seems rules do not allow you to click pictures of railway stations or trains at railway stations without prior permission ! The officer refused to give us back the phone but we pleaded that we just innocent tourist, ignorant of the rules and were let off just as the Railbus was about to leave ! Phew !

The incident was soon forgotten as we chatted up with the TTE and the guard. The ticket upto Kotipalli is only Rs.5/-. We settled down and the journey began.

We were totally amused by the railbus. To begin with, it sways from side to side like a real bus, you almost think the railbus is going to topple off !

The engine is inbuilt, with an engine on either end of the coach. The driver steers the railbus from one end for the onward journey, in the return he simply moves to the engine on the other end and the journey resumes !

The railbus track is a single track that takes you through paddy fields, in fact in some places there is no space between the track and the fields. It felt like sitting in a safari bus in a zoo park, especially because of the iron grills fitted to the windshields.

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To make the “feel” of travelling in a bus complete, even the noise inside the bus is like that of a rather old and worn out RTC bus !

Self-service level crossing 

The one thing that had us in splits is the level crossings at village junctions. At every level crossing, the railbus stops, the guard gets down, lowers the level crossing gate, allows the train to pass, opens the gate and boards the railbus. He even carries all the tools to open/close the gate with him ! Here is a picture of the scene, spot the guard giving a signal for the railbus to pass.

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The purpose of the railbus is to provide one more public transport facility, apart from regular buses and connect remote villages. Passengers seem to be plying on this route regularly. The entire route is a dash of refreshing green with paddy fields stretching for miles and miles.

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The railbus passed by one village after another. As we neared Repur, a village enroute, the TTE asked us to look out for the 116 feet statue of Shiridi Sai Baba. From the railbus, far beyond the fields, we could spot the gigantic statue !

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The village must have been atleast 2 kms away. It was a fantastic sight !

We kept clicking pictures and the guard was as amused with us as we were excited about the ride. He wanted to see the pictures we had clicked, liked our photography and asked us to take a picture of himself with his friends and staff in the railbus. The cool looking man with shades on is the all-in-one guard. We regret that we forgot to ask him his name, a rather enterprising man, he was !

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Funnily, a single coach rail vehicle like this that covers about 40 kms, has 5 railway staff including the driver, TTE, guard and supervisors !

The railbus stopped at a few villages. Most of the these stops did not even have a platform or a station. The railbus simply stopped in the middle of track ! During one such stopping, we got down and managed to click a picture of the railbus, with permission from the TTE and guard, of course ! We present to you the Kakinada-Kotipalli Rail bus !

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After about 45 minutes, the TTE suggested that we get down at a village called Karapa because we were not keen to take the entire 2 hours ride to Kotipalli. He told us we could find autos to take us back to Kakinada. Following his advice, we got down at Karapa, here too, the railbus simply stopped in its tracks !

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We thanked the staff and other passengers who chit chatted with us, they were touched that people from Hyderabad had come all the way only to take a ride on the railbus and see their villages. There is the guard and fellow passengers waving a “bye” to us.

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Dropping us off, the railbus buzzed away like a little busy bee !

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We watched till it disappeared into the greenery, clicked some profile pictures in the scenic surroundings and walked into the village of Karapa. We took a stroll in one of the fields, half scared that someone would take us to task for trespassing. Thankfully, people only gave us curious looks wondering what strangers like us, wielding cameras and speaking in a Telugu, Tamil and English at the same time, were doing their village.

The main market area of the village was bustling with business, we stopped at a fresh fruit juice stall and sipped on some cool, fresh sweet lime and banana juice, the banana juice tasted awesome. The secret, one of our guys who hails from Rajamundry told us, lies in the “Chakkarakeli” variety of banana that is popular in this region.

We took an auto from Karapa to drop us off at Kakinada. We almost fell down laughing when the auto driver casually told us that Karapa was only 12 kms from Kakinada, the railbus took about 45 minutes for that distance ! Kakinada and Kotipalli are 43 kms apart and the railbus takes 2 hours to complete one trip.

The auto dropped us at the Kakinada railway station in 15 minutes, we picked up our car and headed straight to Subbayya Hotel for a sumptuous lunch, whatever happens in the world, food at Subbayya Hotel will never disappoint you.

If you ever visit Rajamundry/Kakinada for a vacation, include a railbus ride in your itinerary. A ride on the railbus falls under the “small joys” of life that leave a lasting feeling of a life well lived.

Info tidbits

– Kakinada-Kotipalli Railbus starts from Kakinada at 9.30 AM and reaches Kotipalli at 11.30 AM. The return journey starts from Kotipalli at 12 noon and reaches Kakinada at 2 PM. It doesn’t seem to stick to these though.

– The ticket rates start from Rs.5/- per head and issued within the railbus itself. You don’t need any prior reservation.

– Kotipalli is a pilgrim centre famous for the Kumararama Temple, one of the Pancharama Shiva Kshetra. You may not be able to visit the temple if you take the railbus because the temple closes by 11.30 AM-12noon, which means you will have to wait till evening for the temple to open. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Kotipalli from Rajamundry (60 kms) or Kakinada and then board the railbus in the return.

– If you want to take a ride on the railbus just for the experience, you do not have to travel all the way to Kotipalli, you can get down at any of the villages and take an auto to Kakinada.

– Do not click pictures at railway stations unless you have prior permission.

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Andhra Pradesh | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Independence weekend – II – It’s a train ! It’s a bus ! No, it’s a Railbus !

  1. V T Badari Narayanan

    Seems absolutely silly banning photography in railway stations. With google glass, no one would even know that you are filming. In this age of satellite imaging, ‘photography prohibited’ is laughable. Very interesting post

    • HOW

      True, if you check youtube, there are tons of videos. They are still following age old rules !

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