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Travel is Oxygen
Nilgiri Mountain Railway


Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Where else can one think of getting onto a narrow gauge train that is pulled by a 1920s vintage steam locomotive...where the train passes through beautiful mountains offering enchanting valley views with pretty stations on the way !!

I am talking about Nilgiri Blue Mountain Railway, the heritage train that has been running more than 100 years now. The ride on this train is a must for all those who love trains and who love nature. One of the most memorable journeys I have undertaken.

We did this train journey in 2002 and did it again in 2007. My son enjoyed it as much as I did. We took the train for three consecutive days and it was only on the third day that we managed the ride on the train which was being pulled by the steam loco. In the small world of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, everyone seems to know everyone. I remembered the engine driver who was so nice to us five years back. I enquired for Hasan Sharif with a train guard and he assured me that he will arrange to send over the message to Hasan Sharif. Sure enough when I bumped into the guard next morning at Coonoor station, he told me that Hasan Sharif was the driver for the steam train that was coming up from Mettupalayam. So me and my son waited at the platform where the steam train was to pull in waiting for him almost like your childhood cricket hero. Hasan Sharif was of course delighted to meet us and proudly told me that his daughter recently completed her bachelors in Computers and was selected for a job with Accenture. Even I felt proud for him.

Hillgrove would easily be one of the prettiest railway stations I have seen in my life. Wellington and Lovedale would come a close second. The chap at Wellington actually showed us how the token is exchanged with the engine driver at each station. The system there was 100 years old and working ! We could not really explore Lovedale except the railway station there. I wanted to visit Lawrence School there which is more than 150 years old and the recently established but quite well known Light and Life Academy for Photography.

All these stations would have been great subjects for an artist and illustrator such as Vasant Sarwate. I wish he could come over and experience this train and the pretty stations along the Nilgiri Blue Mountain Railway.

The unsung heroes of Nilgiri Mountain Railway are the engine drivers and the technicians at the steam loco workshop at Coonoor. Coonoor is again a heritage railway station with this amazing workshop which keeps the Swiss made steam locomotives of 1920s vintage in working condition to haul up the trains in Nilgiri mountains.

Such a fantastic ride is available at a pittance thanks to Indian Railways. I guess the train fares are so low because the fare is calculated based on the distance travelled. The train ride is about two and half hours from Ooty to Mettupalayam with Coonoor being in the middle. The route passes through mountains and patches of thick forest with spectacular views of the valley. I was reminded of the stiff ticket price we paid for a 15 minute steam locomotive ride many years ago in England.