If you are among those individuals who struggle out for the window seat during a train journey, then you know the pleasure of being on a train. Probably the best way to see India is not on an airplane from 35,000 feet but at the ground level on the Indian railway system. No visit or holidaying in India is complete without the activities of the Indian railway stations and a comfortable journey on an Indian train with the tea sellers cry ‘chai, garam chai’ meaning ‘tea, anybody wants tea’. Worth mentioning are also the luxurious way of journey sitting in an AC chair car with all reserved seats and berths. The pleasure is not in arriving but being on these journeys.
Incredible Rail Journeys of India
Kalka to shimla
Following the Kalka to Shimla train route, a beautiful toy train runs winding through the hills and rich flora of Deodar and Pine trees. The majestic route takes you through 864 bridges, 102 tunnels and 919 curves. This little meter-gauge railway was built in 1903 when English ladies would take their leave for summer in Shimla .The total journey time between Kalka and Shimla is around 5 and a half hour. The 96 km Kalka Shimla Railway track was declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO in 2008. This narrow gauge rail route will surely take you back to the days when taking out time to wait and gaze was a rewarding experience.
Konkan Railways connects Mumbai with Kerala and pass through the Konkan Coast. Built in 1998, the Konkan travels from Bombay to Cochin and is considered one of the India`s best railway route in terms of enroot scenery. In the days of British Empire the idea of building a train route along the Konkan was rejected for the area being too hilly with too many rivers. But the Indians thought the other way. The 760km route took 7 years to build and includes 92 tunnels and 1,998 bridges. Best time to board the trains is after monsoons with nice greenery to stare around. Mandovi Express is a good option for the views.
A train journey from Jaipur to Jaisalmer is a rich experience of viewing the barren stretches of the Rajasthan deserts. After a few hours from Jaipur the scenario changes completely to the pastoral landscapes and vibrant settlements of mud huts built of red clay bricks together with camels grazing in the desolate patch of the flat desert.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway follows the route from New Jalpaiguri, the plains of West Bengal to Darjeeling, the hill station nestled in the Himalayas. Darjeeling’s tiny steam train was built initially as a tramway to take advantage of the difference in the price of potatoes between Darjeeling and Siliguri, today the hill railway is considered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Train travels at a speed of 12kmph and meanders through dense forests and curves around tea plantations bringing you close to the tea-pickers. If it’s a clear day, you could be lucky enough to see the snow-capped tip of Kanchenjunga.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Nilgiri Mountain Railway is built in Tamil Nadu by the British in 1908. In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the world heritage site of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. This site then became known as ‘Mountain Railways of India’ after it satisfied the required criteria. It connects Mettupalayam, 1069 ft at the foot of the Nilgiris to Ooty at 7228 ft. Running at a speed of 10.4 km per hour the toy train passes through 16 tunnels and 250 bridges. The journey is a wonderful experience as you can view the green hills, tea estates and the tall girder bridges.
Vasco Da Gama – Londa
On a train journey from Vasco Da Gama to Londa Junction one will pass through the mesmerizing falls at Dudhsagar. As the train approaches the Western Ghats, it speeds up through the thick jungle. Approaching you can have a glimpse of the massive falls and finally after a huge loop around a horseshoe shaped “glen” the train passes right to the falls. On the approach to Londa the sun should just be setting which offers an amazing view of the red clay surroundings. Approximate journey time is 3 hours 30 minutes and the best time to board the train is after the monsoons to get the best of the views.
Matheran Hill Railway
Matheran Hill Railway connects Neral on the Mumbai-Pune route to Matheran, the beautiful hill station. The distance is around 20 km and the journey time is one and half hours over a narrow gauge track. Started back in 1907 this train journey is a wonderful experience as it meanders up the side of the hills passing over lush forests amidst the stunning Western Ghats.
Jammu to Udhampur
Construction of this 53km stretch of railway from Jammu to Udhampur has extended to the northernmost reach of the Indian Railways into the foothills of the Himalayas. It is one of the amazing engineering achievements that meander around the rocky faces of the Shivalik mountain range. There are 158 bridges and 20 tunnels on the route. It’s a rich experience to see the train passing through steep terrains. On the approach to Udhampur, the land flattens.
Kangra Valley Railway
The Kangra Valley Railway lies in the sub-Himalayan region and covers a distance of 164 km from Pathankot in Punjab to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh. It is one of two mountain railways that run in Himachal Pradesh; the other one is Kalka-Shimla Railway. The train travels at a very slow speed on this route and passes through rivers, valley and many other scenic places. The scenery through which the train passes is worth and compensate well for the extra distance covered as compared to travelling by road. On the approach to Palampur, the background of snowy chain peaks, 15,000 and 16,000 feet in height is hardly ten miles away. From here onwards the line runs parallel to the Dhauladhar range. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the snow capped Dhauladhar hills.
Kottavalasa-Kirandul Rail Line
The most exceptional engineering feat of Indian Railways, a train journey from Vizag to Kirandul in Chattisgarh state is an experience of its own. This is perhaps the highest Broad gauge train line in India. The passenger train on this wonderful stretch passes over 58 tunnels and 84 bridges. It shares its way with the famed hill station AP-Araku Valley which falls on this route.