Mountain Railways of India

Nilgiri Mountain Railway (Stephen Niewolik/Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0).

N11 30 37.008 E76 56 8.988
Date of Inscription: 1999
Extension: 2005,2008
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Property : 88.99 ha
Buffer zone: 644.88 ha
Ref: 944ter

Shimla Mountain Railway (Arnab21th/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0).

The Mountain Railway of India consists of three railways: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway located in the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal (Northeast India) having an area of 5.34 ha., the Nilgiri Mountain Railways located in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu (South India) having an area of 4.59 ha. and the Kalka Shimla Railway located in the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh (Northwest India) having an area of 79.06 ha. All three railways are still fully functional and operational.

The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of hill railways. Opened between 1881 and 1908 they applied bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. They are still fully operational as living examples of the engineering enterprise of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway consists of 88.48 kilometers of 2 feet (0.610 meter) gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through Ghoom at an altitude of 2258 meters. The innovative design includes six zigzag reverses and three loops with a ruling gradient of 1:31.
The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 45.88 kilometer long meter-gauge single-track railway was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 meters to 2,203 meters, representsed the latest technology of the time and uses unique rack and pinion traction arrangement to negotiate steep gradient.

The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96.6 kilometer long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla is emblematic of the technical and material efforts to disenclave mountain populations through the railway. The world’s highest multi-arc gallery bridge and the world’s longest tunnel (at the time of construction) of the KSR were the a testimony toof the brilliantce engineering skills applied to make thisa dream a reality.

These railways are outstanding examples of innovative transportation systems built through difficult terrain, which had great influence on the social and economic development of their respective regions.

Criterion (ii): The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of the interchange of values on developments in technology, and the impact of an innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multicultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world. The Mountain Railways of India exhibit an important cultural and technologicaly transfer in the colonial setting of the period of its construction, particularly with regard to the eminently political function of the terminus station, Shimla.. The railway then enabled significant and enduring human settlement, of which it has remained the main vector up to the present day.

Criterion (iv): The development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of a technological ensemble, representing different phases of the development in high mountain areas. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of how access has been provided to the plains and plateaus of the Indian mountains. They are emblematic of the technical and material efforts of human societies of this period to disenclave mountain populations through the railway. They are well-maintained and fully operational living lines. They are used in a spirit and for purposes that are the same as those at its their inception.

Suggested Base:

Coimbatore is a major industrial city in Tamil Nadu, often likened to being the Manchester or Detroit of Southern India. It’s famous for the manufacture of motor pump sets and varied engineering goods. Coimbatore, also known as Kovai is known for its various industries, engineering goods, textile mills, educational institutions, health care facilities, pleasant weather, friendly culture and hospitality. There is a significant minority of people of North and West Indian origin in Coimbatore which gives it a cosmopolitan outlook. The Tamil spoken here is called Kongu Tamil. Other languages spoken include English, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. Very friendly & courteous people in South India. Except for early summer it otherwise has a very pleasant climate throughout the year, similar to a resort town. It’s one of the upcoming Information Technology Hub with new initiatives from the State Govt. [read more]

Ludhiana is in Punjab in India. Ludhiana is Punjab’s most populated city. It’s also an important industrial town. For its production of hosiery, Ludhiana is known as the Manchester of India. Its district is also one of the largest agricultural producers in India, particularly of grains. Established in 1960s, the Punjab Agricultural University is considered as one of the best agricultural universities in India. The city stands on the south bank of the Sutlej river. It was a major town on the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia’s oldest roads. The best time to visit Ludhiana is from February to April. Nights can get quite cold during the winter (from November to January), falling to as low as 0 °C. May and June are very hot; summer temperatures in Ludhiana can reach 50 °C. [read more]

Bangalore, now known officially as Bengaluru (Kannada: ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು), is the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. Once called the “Garden City of India” and the “Pensioner’s Paradise”, these epithets no longer apply to the modern Bangalore. Nowadays it a large, cosmopolitan city with a large working population. Bangalore is the major centre of India’s IT industry and known worldwide as the “Silicon Valley of India”. The earliest records of a place named “Bengaluru” are found in a ninth-century temple in an area now known as “Old Bangalore”. Legend has it that when the feudal lord Kempe Gowda was once hunting rabbits in the area, a rabbit appeared and attacked his dog. This made a great impression on Gowda and he named the place gandu bhoomi (the place of heroes). In 1537, he constructed three districts protected by a walled fort on the site. [read more]

6 Replies to “Mountain Railways of India”

  1. Hope, the uniqueness and beauty of the train isn’t harmed. I traveled in that train in 1978 with my wife, 2 yr old son and 75 yr old mother. The first class compartment we were traveling in had big glass windows on both sides and through them we enjoyed the himalayan grace outside. There was a wall to wall carpet in the compartment and a tea-poy was elegantly placed in the middle. It was as if we were sitting comfortably in our house. New Jalpaiguri, from where the train starts, was full of flies, and even mosquitos. We had packed my two year old son from head to tow to prevent mosquito bites.

    But the moment that 7500 feet climb started and the train started surmounting one mountain range after the other, we just forgot oour woes and enjoyed the train. The higher we went, the happier we were. It was as if traveling from hell to heaven in a single journey!



  2. I really enjoyed the rhythmic chiming of ‘chuff-chuff-choo-choo’ of the engine. I really enjoyed the ride in the cool hills coated with Himalayan cedars.


  3. It was my first toy train journey and the experience was good. The view is amazing and I will definitely recommend it to friends.


  4. It was a wonderful experience witnessing the view of the beautiful hills. I would like to take this amazing train again to travel through the Himalayan region.


  5. The entire trip all the way from Kalka, near Chandigarh, takes about 5 hours. However, many people prefer to travel only from Barog, as this is where the longest tunnel and most spectacular scenery occurs. It’s a steep climb with plenty of fascinating sightseeing along the way.


  6. The train journey from Kalka to India’s erstwhile summer capital Shimla, early in the morning is one of the best things happen to me in the hills of India. One has to experience this journey while going to Shimla! It is simply amazing! The journey is around 5 – 6 hours. In between you get to see many breathtaking views which includes valleys, hills. If you take the train which starts at 5:30 AM or before sunrise you may get to see the sun rising behind the valley.


Leave a Reply to Avinash Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.