5 Most Spectacular World Heritage Mountain Train Journeys In India
Have you ever got a chance to travel in any of the Mountain Railways of India? Quaint and old-world like, these little wonders are a delight to travel in. If you are looking forward to a small refreshing break from the fast pace of everyday life, book yourself a ticket on any of these fun trains. Their slow, meandering trail through the beautiful mountain ranges of the country will allow you ample time to unwind, take a deep breath, and absorb the beauty around.
Some great picks would be – The Kalka–Shimla Railway, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Matheran Hill Railway and Kangra Valley Railway. These are the five most revered mountain railway systems; of which three, namely – The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka Shimla Railway have won the UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition for being “outstanding examples of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain.”
Train aficionados will be amazed to know that all these railways are still fully operational.
The Kalka–Shimla Railway
The outstanding narrow-gauge Kalka Shimla Railway, an engineering achievement in itself, is a 96.6-kilometer-long, single track network which elevates to almost 4600 feet. The ‘Toy Train’ gives passengers a unique, enthralling experience with breathtaking views. Solan, also known as mini-Shimla lies on this route and is a popular hill station. Also, known to be haunted, tunnel no 103, is also a part of this route close to Barog station. Many tourists ride on this marvel to witness goddess Shoolini Devi festival in Solan during summers.
It boasts of the world’s highest multi-arc gallery bridge built through this difficult terrain akin to roman aqueducts. This line has 103 tunnels and 864 bridges in all.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Running between Siliguri and Darjeeling, this 610 mm (2 ft) narrow – gauge railway track is a 88 kilometers long section and climbs up to 7200 feet where Ghum, India’s highest railway station, is situated. It is an amazing experience to ride on this toy trains powered by a steam engine even today. It also presents an incredible example of establishing passenger and goods transportation system to uplift the backward areas with thriving tea gardens.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The single track, 46 kilometers meter-gauge section, traverses the eminently popular blue mountains of the south. This fully operational link has 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. Earlier the link ended with Coonoor as the last station in 1899 but was extended first to Fernhill and later up to Ooty (Udagmandalam) in 1908. This link exhibits the most exceptional feature known as ‘rack and pinion technology’ which is oldest and the steepest element in the railways. Coonoor is a scenic hill station with picturesque views of the mountains complete with rich flora and fauna. Even with wild life. Travelers must visit the Nilgiri Biosphere Nature Park here.
Matheran Hill Railway
Matheran, nestled in Raigad district of Maharashtra, where the railway line runs 20 kilometers on a narrow-gauge line is known to be India’s smallest but beautiful hill station. It presents a beautiful vista of the lush green western ghats. The rail link commences at Neral and ends at Matheran Bazar. The most prominent feature is the Bhekra Khud steep gradient. It is also well-known for having just one tunnel on the entire stretch named as the ‘One Kiss Tunnel’ as one can exchange just a kiss while the train quickly makes a passage out through this burrow.
Kangra Valley Railway
Linking Pathankot and Joginder Nagar, the Kangra Toy Train section is 163 kilometers long bursting with plenty of Hindu shrines located in scenic valleys. It brings the old world charm to life though its rustic ride. With plenty of tunnels on the route, one can savor breathtaking views of the Dhauladhar mountain peaks between Kangra and Mangwal. Also can be seen is the ancient ruins of the Kangra fort while the train rambles through.