Nilgiri mountain railway

posted in: Asia, Experience, India, Tamilnadu | 10

20th July 2013

Nilgiri mountain railway is the railway line connecting towns of Mettupalyam and Ooty. The distance of about 42 km is covered by crossing 16 tunnels and 250 bridges, gaining (or losing) altitude of about 6100 feet. The section between Ooty and Coonoor is run by Diesel engines while stream engines rule Coonoor-Mettupalyam stretch. There is only one train that leaves Mettupalyam at 7:10AM. The same train starts back from Ooty at 2PM. But several trains run between Ooty and Coonoor.


We had travelled on Ooty-Coonoor section few years ago. My daughter always wanted to travel on “Toy train”. Hence we made a plan of driving to Coonoor and taking the train to Mettupalyam.  My friend Sankara and his family also joined us. The date was decided based on the availability of tickets!!


Bengaluru-Mysore road is now infested with speed breakers. I had counted 89 of them few weeks ago!! So, we decided to try out an alternate but faster route of Bengaluru->Salem->Avinashi->Mettupalyam->Coonoor. It was a good decision as Mysore->Ooty road was blocked due to heavy rains.


But our luck ran out just before Coonoor. The driver of an army truck lost his balance. The vehicle turned 90 degrees and got struck in the road resulting in pile up of vehicles on both sides. Even two wheelers could not pass though the broken vehicle.


It was already 1:15PM. Kids were already hungry. Hence it was decided that Sankara would wait in his while others would cross to the other side, take an auto and reach hotel, have lunch and proceed to railway station. We hoped things would be clear by then. It was grateful to see the auto driver not taking advantage of the situation to hike the price. Later, at the hotel, people were surprised to see us, the tourists coming without any luggage.


During the process, auto driver told us an alternate route to enter Coonoor. We relayed the information back to Sankara. It turned out to be useful information as he was able to make it to the railway station just in time!!


The first tunnel encountered after crossing Coonoor.


My daughter who was overjoyed by the experience, posed for a photo.


The train then passes though the jungles.


At some places, it runs next to the highway connecting Coonoor and Mettupalyam.


A small tunnel on the way.


The hills and the plains seen from railway. Though the plain looks very near, train takes a long route to descend slowly.


‘Hillgrove’ is the only station where train stops. It is mainly to fill water!! One can use this time to have some light snacks and tea at railway hotel or freshen up (There are no toilets in the train).


One of the several bridges that we crossed that day.


Bridge seen after crossing it. What you see behind are not clouds but smoke emanating from steam locomotive.


The middle line is used for braking. It uses Abt rack and pinion system (More info on that here).


A section where rocks are cut to make railway line.


It’s rainbow time!!


The last bridge and tunnel combo on the route!!


Let’s take a look back at the route we came!!


The Bhavani River at Mettupalyam.

Last notes

  • Tickets for this train can be booked using irctc website.
  • There is very little difference between ‘first class’ and ‘second class’.
  • It is possible to purchase tickets at railway station. But it can be crowded.
  • This train connects to “Nilgiri express” coming from/going to Chennai. Few tickets are reserved for people from that train.
  • Most of the tunnels and bridges are between Coonoor and Mettupalyam.
  • “Chaiyya Chaiyya” song from “Dil se” was shot on this train!!


10 Responses

  1. Ercotravels

    Wow, sounds a beautiful spot! all the pictures of your journey looking fabulous and attempt to visit. such a nice post. like it..Really, you have an interesting Blog, Aravind! I glad that found your blog and continually enjoying your new posts and/or a follower at your blog. but now hope, you'll be a follower and commenter. Indeed, my blog is also very informative and interesting..such have a nice day..

  2. Srikanth Manjunath

    Train journey always fascinates. That it too if it passes through the forest, hills, valleys it is just awesome. The photos and your mast narration about each minute details inspires us to take the train aka toy train. Super writeup once again.

  3. dimpy roy

    Good post. Thanks for sharing. The mountain railways in India are a sign of style over speed, fun over convenience and is testimony to the adage, the journey is as important as the destination. Come, hop on for the most memorable joyride ever. Check out all mountain railways in India also.

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