I think one thing that everyone will agree on is the fact that even though the British colonization in India was an overall doom and loss for India, the railway system is one of the best things that they left us with and is still maintained to this day. It has made our travel cheaper and faster. Who doesn’t love to travel in the train and India has a number of railway routes all over but the three most picturesque and impressive ones are the mountain railway of The Darjeeling Himalayan railway, The Nilgiris Mountain railway and The Kalka Shimla railway. These three together make the World Heritage Site status.
Let’s see a little about them in detail, shall we?
1. The Darjeeling Himalayan railway
I have always wanted to visit Darjeeling but never got the chance to, so let me give a brief on the DHR and not bore you with a long and cumbersome article.
Built in 1881 over the beautiful hills of Darjeeling, the Darjeeling Himalayan railway is a work of art. It is 88 km travelling toy- train from Siliguri to Darjeeling with the station Ghum being India’s highest railway station having an altitude of 2,257 metres. The way is filled with loops, tunnels and bridges that make the journey all the more exciting. The DHR is run and controlled by the Indian Railways. The engines of DHR works on diesel electric while some still use steam mostly being the ‘B’ class.
The original route made back in 1881 is still maintained in the same way it was back then with very little changes giving it a more antique feeling :). The Darjeeling Himalayan railway is not only an essential part of tourism in Darjeeling but also gives it a kind of identity. The beautiful and well known mountain railway throughout the world attracts many tourists every year, directors from the past as well as present are forced to acknowledge its beauty and end up shooting scenes in their film of the DHR.
From the very famous Meri sapno ki rani in the movie Aradhana to the movie Barfi and Parineeti. The prices of the tickets for an up and down travel is as follows:
Darjeeling-Ghum-Darjeeling : Rs. 650 per person.
2. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
I have lived in The Nilgiris for 10 years of my boarding school life and trust me when I say its absolutely beautiful. Not only the place but the weather too is just perfect. Now coming to The Nilgiri Mountain railway, let me tell you its is comfortable and gives you a pleasant feeling while travelling through the dense forest of the state of Tamil Nadu.
Built by the British in 1908, the Nilgiri toy train travels all over the Nilgiri hills also known as ‘The Blue Mountains’. The trains run on steam engines and the route has been extended from Coonoor to Udhagamandalam both towns being in the same State to Mettupalayam. Due to the steep hills, the train adopted a ‘rack and pinion technology.’
The train travels a distance of 46 kilometres and passes through curves, tunnels and bridges and the journey takes almost 4-5 hours of sheer joy and happiness.
The most famous song Chaiya Chaiya from the movie Dil se starring Shahrukh Khan was shot on top of The Nilgiri Mountain railway but I guess everyone already knew that:)
The cost of per ticket on The Nilgiri Mountain railway is Rs. 80 per person.
3. The Kalka Shimla Himalayan railway
Another famous Toy train of the Great Himalayas is the Kalka Shimla Himalayan railways. A journey on this toy train is said to be an experience of a lifetime as it makes its way through tunnels and bridges over the breathtaking Himalayas.
The beauty outside of the train’s window is a sight you’ll never forget. And for a little extra information that will creep you out, the train passes through the tunnel number 103 which is said to be one of India’s most haunted places. Oooo I bet that sent shivers down your spine as your attention was suddenly distracted from the beauty to the tunnel, well don’t worry it is just a myth, I guess.
Built in 1903, it travels a distance of 95.66 kilometres climbing upto an altitude of 1,420 metres through many tunnels and bridges just like the other two toy trains. The route begins in Shimla and ends in Kalka and vice versa.
The Himalayan queen that runs at 12:10 costs Rs. 255 per person.
4. Matheran Hill Railway
Built in between 1901-1907 by Abdul Hussein after being given 16 lakh rupees by his father, the Matheran railway is a 2 ft gauge railway that travels from Neral to Matheran in Maharashtra, India. It travels a distance of almost 21 km per day. The floods in 2005 forced its shut down but it was re-opened in 2007 much to the people’s delight.
In November, 2012 coaches called Salons were added to the trains that consisted of comfortable sofas and LCD tv screens showing the breathtaking view of the outside. It travels over forests and mountains to reveal the astounding beauty of Nature. There is only one tunnel on the whole journey and it is said that it gives couples just enough time for a romantic kiss.
UNESCO is also thinking of making the Matheran Railway as one of the Heritage Railways of India.
The tickets from Neral to Matheran cost as follows:
Full Deluxe Salon (6 people) – Rs.1500
First class – Rs.300 per person
Second class reserved – Rs.75 per person
Ordinary ticket - Rs.60 per person.
Tickets can be booked 3 days in advance.
5. Kangra Valley Railway
Commissioned in 1929, the Kangra Valley Railway covers a total distance of 163 km all the way from Pathankot in Punjab to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh. Apart from the Kalka-Shimla railway it is the second railway that runs through the beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh. UNESCO has considered the Kangra Valley railway as one the Heritage railways of India.
It runs on a 2.6 ft gauge railway track that run through the high mountains and the best part of it all… snow capped mountains. The railway engineer has cleverly ditched the idea of curves and bends and opted for more straighter bends giving the travellers a chance to look out the window and enjoy the scenery without the problem of going through those painful hairpin bends every little while. It is the only railway that takes you very close to the beautiful and eternal snow.
The price per ticket ranges from Rs.27 for ordinary ticket to Rs. 330 for a first class ticket.
6. Lumding- Silchar Line
The New Lumding- Silchar line was opened in April, 2015. The route starts from Silchar in South Assam to Lumding in Central Assam. It covers a distance of 210 kms and consists of 79 major bridges, 340 minor bridges and 21 tunnels. There are totally 33 stations from Silchar to Lumding.
It has made travel for the people very easy and also given them the benefit of enjoying the ride through the beautiful mountains and thrilling tunnels.
It is considered to be a very great achievement of Indian Railway under the leadership of the Railway Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu as considered by the people of Assam. We hope this newly opened railway makes its way to be successful and soon considered as a Heritage railway by UNESCO