Nilgiri Mountain Railway or the Toy train of Ooty
Udagamandalam or Ooty is one of the picturesque hill stations of India, forested by pine trees and embellished with fresh spring water erupting from the valleys. Located in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, it features cool climatic conditions unlike the hot tropical climate of the other parts of the region. This popular summer destination is located on the Nilgiri hills (Blue Mountains) and it boasts India’s only Rack railway/ cog-wheel train service, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR).
This railway is a meter gauge system built by the British East India Company. Commenced in 1900, it has succeeded in attracting the tourists from all over the world with its heritage value. It runs from Mettupalyam, located at the foothills up to the hill station through a pretty town of Coonoor. The length of the rail track sums up to nearly 28 miles, crossing 250 bridges and 16 tunnels. It is operated by steam engine which was recently replaced by a diesel locomotive to give an extra pull when it runs on the mountain slope. Some nature specialists and local inhabitants are raising placards in favour of the steam locomotive because of its eco friendly advantage.
Specialties of the System
The NMR is one of the three railways in India to hold the pride of being declared as the UNESCO World Heritage site. The rail applies ‘the Abt and Pinion’ system to ascend the steep gradient between Mettupalyam and the town of coonoor similar to the cog-wheel train of Vitznau, Switzerland. It is the only train in India to advance to the height of 4300 ft.
The toy train loops around scintillating landscapes, deep gorges and the breathtaking beauty of the mountains. At steeps, one can get a glimpse of the radiant sunlight illuminating the trees around. As the train gallops through the slopes, the smell of wild flowers, and the rhythm of the chirping birds and the freshness of the cool breeze never fail to recharge the holidaying tourist. The tea estates on the way yield the world famous Nilgiri tea leaves known for their unparalleled flavour and taste. One can have a view of the evergreen Eucalyptus trees which constitute the major green wealth of the Nilgiri forests. The oil extracted from these trees provides many medicinal benefits. When the train takes a snail pace at some places, the tourists can see the local farmers and vendors selling fresh carrots, plums and many of nature’s delicacies. The delicious chocolates made by the factories on the way deserve a special mention.
Facilities of the train
The carriages are painted in kiddish blue color, doing justice to the name “toy train”. The second class of the train is quite affordable and suitable for budget minded travellers. For those who prefer a calm and secluded journey, they can pay a little extra and opt for the first class facility. The train is quite frequent and the timings are available in the IRCTC timetable.
How to reach?
Coimbatore is the nearest city which holds an International airport. It would not be difficult for a traveller to take a bus/private cab from Coimbatore to Mettupalyam.
To conclude, the toy train pulling its body up the slopes of mountain, through the towns in the valley with its 50 year old rack locomotives is the splendid way to explore the spotless wealth of Nilgiri hills.