5 Most scenic journeys in the historic toy trains of India

Musafir.com, August 18, 2016
Life is like a train track, full of possibilities and happiness.

An epitome of world-class engineering, the mountain railways were built during British India between the 19th and 20th centuries. Mountain railways run on a historic path carved through the mountains passing through scenic valleys exposing views of ethereal beauty. Three of all the present mountain railways in India are given the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site - Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka–Shimla Railway, and Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

One of the oldest train routes in India, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is operational since 1881. Steering through steep rolling plains and breathtaking valleys, this train journey promises you an unforgettable ride passing through 505 bridges, over its entire route of 80 km. The route runs from New Jalpaiguri railway station in West Bengal to Darjeeling via Siliguri, Kurseong, and Ghum. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway makes steep climbs through a number of reverses and loops, one of the most breathtaking being the Batasia Loop between Ghum and Darjeeling. Ghum railway station is India’s highest railway station at an altitude of 2,258 meters.

Kalka-Shimla Railway, Himachal Pradesh

Kalka-Shimla Railway

Constructed in 1903 as easy access to reach the erstwhile summer capital of British rulers, the Kalka-Shimla toy train passes through verdant valleys lined with pine and oak trees for 96 km through 20 railway stations, 103 tunnels, 800 bridges, and an incredible 900 curves. The last tunnel #103 is considered to be the longest and one of the most haunted tunnels in India. This incredible journey lasts for around five hours.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The 46 km route starting from Mettupalayam in Coimbatore to Ooty via Coonoor was completed in 1908 after rigorous hard work through thick and hilly forests. The train meanders through lush green valleys and steep curves consisting of 250 bridges and 16 tunnels. Nilgiri Mountain Railway is famous for the song Chaiyya Chaiyya from Dil Se. You can experience this bliss on your holiday to Ooty.

Matheran Hill Railway, Maharashtra

Matheran Hill Railway

A narrow train route of 21 km carved through the verdant valleys of Western Ghats was completed in the year 1907. Although the route is small, the journey takes around two and a half hours from its starting point in Neral, located between Matheran and Pune. There are talks about UNESCO considering the prospect of assigning the world heritage status to Matheran Hill Railway.

Kangra Valley Railway, Himachal Pradesh

Kangra Valley Railway, Himachal Pradesh

The longest mountain railway route in India, this 163 km track starting from Pathankot in Punjab, terminates at Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh, only after crossing the dramatic Dhauladhar mountain ranges via Kangra. It was completed in 1929 becoming the last mountain railways to be built during the British Raj. Although the route has 971 bridges, it only passes through 2 tunnels giving you maximum exposure to nature’s beautiful creations.

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