Vinay Kumar responded to Karnataka's decision to make use of an unusually green-tinged wicket at the Karnail Singh stadium by grabbing three for 30 and reducing the hosts to 186 for five in the first round league encounter.
Left handed middle order batsman Raja Ali made a fighting 59 and featured in a 54-run stand for the fifth wicket but his dismissal towards the end of the day tilted the scales further towards the visitors.
Opening batsman Amit Pagnis was the other notable contributor with 39.
At stumps, the experienced Yere Goud on 16 and Shreyas Khanolkar on seven were at the crease.
"We would have batted had we won the toss," said Railways coach Vinod Sharma after captain Sanjay Bangar lost the toss.
The track, traditionally of slow turning character, offered enough bounce and pace. But, there was some juice in the fresh pitch and the Karnataka seamers did enough damage to seize the initiative.
Vinay Kumar struck in the first over, inducing an outside edge from Bangar (0) to Sudhindra Shinde at first slip.
He struck again in the 11th over when he had the left-hander Tejinder Pal Singh (16) caught at second slip.
Pagnis survived a run out chance when on eight as Stuart Binny at point missed the stumps with the batsman stranded in the middle of the pitch.