A line soon-to-be-revived

Indian Railways has decided to revive the Morappur-Dharmapuri rail line thus bringing down the present railway distance between these two places from 117 km (via Salem) to 36 km.

The Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal conveyed this in a letter to Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Member of Parliament from Dharmapuri in Tamilnadu who had been asking for restoration of this line.

Goyal observed that the detailed project report on the line pegged the project cost at Rs 358.95 crore including electrification with an estimated negative rate of return of 5.6 per cent. He further stated that the proposal had been sanctioned on January 16, 2019 as it would provide an alternative route to the Bengaluru- Hosur industrial corridor.

 Ruthlessly dismantled

This line was shut down in the late 1930s just around the start of the Second World War.

Aravind Sethuraman a Chennai –based rail enthusiast said “This line, being a branch line not so important met with a rather sad fate. The Second World War was upon us, and the British ran short of ammunition and they laid their hands on the high-quality iron that this railway line offered. They just ripped off the tracks and whatever iron and steel they got from this route was packed to the ammunition manufacturers. It was a rather inglorious way to cease to exist” he felt.

 Morappur – Dharmapuri Line

Morappur, a town situated about 268 kms from Chennai on the Chennai-Beypore (now Kozhikode) line is an important revenue block in the Dharmapuri district of Tamilnadu. The station building is of 19th century vintage and though nondescript, it was once a junction.

Source 1941 timetable- The Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Co Ltd.

Morappur was the starting point of the Morappur – Dharmapuri  18.53 mile long 2′ 6″ narrow gauge railway commissioned on January 18,1906.

 “The line was commissioned to address the raging famine, provide employment during its construction and help in moving grains and other relief material to famine-hit areas,” added Arvind. It was later extended to Hosur on May 15,1913, a distance of 54.87 miles taking the total section distance between Morappur and Hosur to 73.40 miles.

Topography

The track  was 30 lbs flat footed steel rails which were laid on cross sleepers of pynkado ( wooden sleepers) ballasted with stone in cuttings and moorum in banks with a stone covering broken to 2 “ gauge. The line was unfenced.

The sharpest curve was of 955 feet radius. The ruling gradient was 1 in 67. It was the property of the British Government, The Morappur- Dharmapuri portion was worked on behalf of the govt by the Madras Railway Co upto December 31,1907.  From January 1, 1908, the line was made over to the SIR Company for maintenance and working as an integral part of their undertaking under the SIR (3’ 3 3/8” gauge).

The Dharmapuri –Hosur section was constructed by the agency of SIR from funds provided by the Secretary of State and as such no portion of the capital expenditure on this section was debitable to the capital account of SIR Co. The capital account was kept separate from the then  Govt of India.

The narrow gauge line was never a remunerative proposition (see table above).

The Dharmapuri – Hosur section of this line was re-laid as a part of the Bengaluru – Salem metre gauge route in the 1960s. This was eventually converted into broad gauge as part of Project Unigauge that IR started in 1990s.  This meant that the Morappur – Dharmapuri section remained abandoned.

Hopefully, the line once restored will become a revenue earner for IR, given its shorter distance together with savings on fuel and time.


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About the Author: Sridhar Joshi

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