Mountain railways of India are scenic voyages on the narrow gauge railway lines in the beautiful mountain ranges of the country. Built during the nineteenth and early twentieth century of British colonial rule, the Mountain Railways offers leisurely ride with breathtaking view. India has six mountain railways to be proud of. Only three of the railways have been given the status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka–Shimla Railway have collectively been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Matheran Hill Railways, Kangra Toy Train and Kashmir Railways are the other mountain tracks traversing through the mountain ranges of India. These lines connect the scenic hill stations with the foothills. These tracks wind their way up through rugged yet scenic mountainous landscape. Given the rough terrain these railways are outstanding examples of engineering marvels. Tunnels, bridges, tracks of the rails are all a rare feat. A ride through these peaceful environs on a narrow gauge train track at a soothing pace is a pure delight.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, fondly referred to as the “Toy Train”, was the first and is still the most extraordinary exemplar of a hill railway. The train started its operation in 1881 and its design provides innovative engineering solutions. The railway is an exemplary effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. The train offers the joy of exploring the grand vista of the Himalayan snow peaks including the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga (8598 m), world’s third highest peak. The 82 kilometer rail run climbs from 400 feet (120 meters) at Siliguri to some 7,407 feet (2,257 meters) at Ghum. The serpentine track traverse through endless series of switchbacks, loops, hairpin turns, tunnels and bridges. The ride is a soothing experience that stays in cherished memories.
The train from Siliguri to Ghoom. Tickets are available with Indian Railways.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is the Toy Train on the ‘Blue Mountains’. Construction was started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway is a feat of engineering and comfortable rides. The train itself is charming. The blue and cream with wooden coaches and large windows are pleasant rides. The 'Nilgiri Passenger' train covers a distance of 46 kilometers. The train chugs through 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and 250 bridges. The uphill journey takes around 290 minutes (4.8 hours), and the downhill journey takes 215 minutes (3.6 hours). Nilgiri Mountain Railways has the steepest track in Asia with a maximum gradient of 8.33%. Enjoy some of the best natural scenery around along with wild life as you pass through The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
The train rides from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam. Indian Railways offers bookings.
The Kalka–Shimla Railway
The Kalka Shimla Railway line is one of the most popular hill railways in India. The ‘Toy Trains’ on this track is a spectacular ride through natural beauty of Himachal Pradesh. A trip on this railway is a unique experience. The train covers the 96 kilometers route from the Himalayan Sivalik foothills at Kalka. The train makes a 7 hour journey. The train makes way through tunnels and over bridges; amidst the lush green valleys. The allure of Kalka Shimla Railway line is it goes through one of the most haunted place in India, tunnel no 33. Known as Barog Tunnel, the ghost of Colonel Barog haunts the place. Along the train route there are numerous beautiful hill towns snuggled in the mountains draped in colonial charm.
The train rides from Kalka to Shimla. Indian Railways offer bookings for a ride.