Mountain Railways of India That are Heritage Sites
The mountain railways of India that run are the most exemplary model of technology utilized to connect highlands with other parts of India. It is comprised of three railways: it is known as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Kalka Shimla Railway, and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is located in West Bengal. Kalka Shimla Railway lies partly in Haryana and is also located in Himachal Pradesh whereas the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is located in Tamil Nadu.
The three railways are all acknowledged by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Heritage routes are known for their refreshing journeys through the mountains, where you can breathe clean, pure air. Check out this article to get a brief overview of the railways that run through the mountains of India.
DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAY (DHR)
Popularly referred to by the name of toy trains, the narrow gauge 88 km long Darjeeling Himalayan Railway links Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri. The locomotives travel through loops and zigzags along two-foot gauge tracks.
It starts its climb from about 330 feet in New Jalpaiguri to 7,200 ft at Darjeeling with Ghoom as the highest-altitude station for trains at 7,500 feet.
Darjeeling is among the most serene hill stations in India was part of the Kingdom of Sikkim in the first quarter of the 19th century. It was purchased from the British in 1835 to set up the sanatorium.
Because of its cool, year-round temperature, Darjeeling became a summer destination for these people. But, the connection between Darjeeling hills and the plains of Siliguri was limited to the horse-cart service.
In 1878, a representative of the Eastern Bengal Railway, Franklin Prestage, proposed to the Government of Bengal for creating an inter-rail link that would connect Siliguri as well as Darjeeling.
The construction began in 1879 when the idea was approved by the lieutenant governor of Bengal, Ashley Eden.
It was a huge undertaking to construct a railway line in the steep terrain of Darjeeling with conventional methods. Loops and zigzags were designed to allow trains to ascend steep gradients along the slopes.
There are three functional loops- Batasia Loop, Chunabhatti, and Agony Point. Batasia Loop is located below Ghum and is considered to be among the most beautiful places to visit in Darjeeling. It has a beautiful garden with the War Memorial in the middle.
The Siliguri to Kurseong route was inaugurated in the month of August 1880, and by July 1881, the route was extended to Darjeeling. DHR was also utilized in World War II for transporting military supplies and war equipment.
It was acquired by the Indian government in the year 1951. Since then, Indian Railways has been in charge of it.
In 1962, the railway was extended to Siliguri to connect to New Jalpaiguri. The three mountain railroads that exist in India, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first to be recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1999.
WHY TAKE A RIDE
- It’s one of the most picturesque train journeys you’ll ever make. When it travels to Darjeeling, the train travels through beautiful hamlets that are brimming with beautiful tea estates and lush hills. Between New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, it’s 7.5 hour of journey.
- If you aren’t keen to go on a full journey you can book a 2-hour pleasure journey (roundtrip) from Darjeeling as well as Ghoom. It gives you an opportunity to visit the most awe-inspiring railway station in India and the Ghoom Railway Station. You can also visit the Railway Museum which exhibits artifacts associated with DHR.
- This classic ride is provided on steam locomotives that have been well-maintained from the time of colonial days. While the train is moving slowly, you will be able to capture incredible photos of the scenery by the train’s motion.
- With its thrilling curve loops and zigzags, DHR is considered to be an engineering marvel of its time. The forward and reverse motion of the train can be an unforgettable experience for all who ride this historic train.
- It stops on the Batasia Loop for 10 minutes. There are stunning views of the snow-covered mountains of Mt. Kanchenjunga from Batasia Loop.
KALKA SHIMLA RAILWAY (KSR)
Shimla is located in the mountains of the Himalayas’ foothills was the summer capital of colonial India. Kalka Shimla Railway was built by the British to connect Shimla to the Indian Railways network.
It’s a narrow-gauge railway line that has the track’s width of 2 feet 6 inches. The line runs from Shimla in Himachal Pradesh to Kalka in Haryana the travel distance is 96 km.
Shimla became the capital city of India in the Summer of 1864, The British administration was required to relocate all of their bureaucratic infrastructure to Shimla every year between the months of October to April.
However, the concept of connecting Shimla to the railway network was not realized until the year 1898. The contract for the construction of the Kalka Shimla Railway Line was given to the Delhi-Ambala-Kalka Railway Company through the British Empire in the year 1898.
It took nearly five years to build the railway track. Train services began in 1903. Trains operating along the Kalka Shimla Railway line are popularly referred to as “the toy train”.
On its journey from Kalka to Shimla, it travels through 102 tunnels, 869 bridges, and more than 800 sharp curves. Only diesel locomotives are allowed along this route since steam locomotives are being eliminated.
The hill railway is mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records for the steepest ascent in its 96 km trip starting from Kalka (2,100 feet) up to Shimla (6,800 feet). It was awarded the status of UNESCO world heritage site in 2008.
WHY TAKE A RIDE
- Kalka Shimla Railway is one of the most famous mountain railways in India. It is a thrilling journey through tunnels, viaducts, and sharp curves that are not common on a typical train journey. The duration of travel varies from 4 to 6 hours, based on the train used.
- Trains that travel on this route traverse the tallest arch gallery bridge that is part of the Indian Railway, known as Kanoh Bridge. At 23 meters (75 feet) high, it’s an arch-style gothic bridge with 34 arches. It offers stunning views of the surrounding area and the bridge itself as trains travel through the area.
- The Indian Railways offers tourist coaches as well as special trains on the Kalka-Shimla line. Some of the most sought-after tourist trains include Shivalik Deluxe, Deluxe Rail Motor Car, and Himalayan Queen. The coaches for tourists are well-equipped to ensure that the train journey is an unforgettable experience.
NILGIRI MOUNTAIN RAILWAY (NMR)
It is regarded as the only rack railway The Nilgiri Mountain Railway connects Mettupalayam with Ooty in Tamil Nadu. It employs a rack and pinion to tackle steep hills and is regarded as a major engineering achievement.
Trains operating on this 1,000mm gauge meter-gauge railway start the climb from 1,080 feet in Mettupalayam up to 7,350 feet in Ooty and travel over a distance of 46 kilometers.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway was built by Britishers to link highland cities with the plains of the lower regions in order to avoid the oppressive summer heat.
It was the first line railway of NMR was completed in 1899. It connected Mettupalayam to Coonoor. It was extended until Ooty (Udhagamandalam) around 1908.
At the beginning initially, the Madras Railway Company handled the commercial activities of NMR and, later, it was acquired by South Indian Railway company.
It became part of the Indian Railways post-independence. It is part of the Southern Railways. Southern Railways is responsible for day-to-day operations as well as maintenance.
In 2005, UNESCO declared it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since then, it has been included on the list of mountain railways in India.
WHY TAKE A RIDE
- The train ride between Mettupalayam towards Ooty is a unique experience. Along the Mettupalayam-Coonoor road, steam locomotives are quaint and, further on, diesel locomotives are available until ooty.
- As the train moves on the tracks, you’ll be amazed by the stunning views of nature, including lush forests, beautiful tea gardens, and deep valleys.
- It stretches through more than 250 bridges with 16 tunnels, as well as over 100 bends. It provides an exhilarating journey that you’ll remember throughout your life. It takes about 5 hours to travel to Ooty via Mettupalayam.
HOW TO BOOK
The railways that run through the mountains of India make up a component of the National Railway Network, managed by Indian Railways. So, You can book tickets online via the IRCTC website for any of the historic routes.
OVER TO YOU NOW…
The inexplicably attractive nature of India’s mountain railways entices travelers from all over the world. Have you ever taken an excursion along these routes? Comment in the section below.