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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Nilgiri Railways gets fully booked for summer !!



Train journey is most enjoyable as one can spend time leisurely eating the choicest delicacies looking through the window  at the different culture, fields, people and more … as the train chughs past different areas.

As you would know, there are different gauges -  mainly broad gauge (width 1.676 mares) and  meter gauge (1.000 meter).  Till a couple of decades ago, all trains from Chennai Egmore ran on meter gauges while from Chennai Central were broad gauge.  Typically, in a 2nd class compartment, in Broad gauge there will be 8 berths [3 +3 +2]; in Meter it will be 6 (no side berths).  These gauges were originally devised during the colonial days keeping in mind the volume of traffic and goods movement, importance of the places connected and the nature of terrain. Interestingly, Indian Trains have Names besides the Numbers – I had earlier posted on the names of the trains too.   There are some prestigious trains and then there are Superfast trains – they make fewer stops, cover distances in lower time span. 

Away from all these, there is Nilgiri Mountain railway. Nilgiri Hills are a range of mountains forming part of  Western Ghats. Nilgiri Mountain Railway  was built by the British in 1908 and even now operated by  steam locomotives.  By some accounts, Southern Railway, incurs an annual shortfall of Rs 4 crores, for operating this. To many it offers great pleasure of sightseeing of mountain range – some say it is too slow ! ~ it is neither Meter gauge nor Broad but .. .. narrow gauge – and if you are to get out to see the rails on which, the train runs, you will find another difference too.

Between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, the line uses the Abt rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient. On this rack section trains are operated by 'X' Class steam rack locomotives manufactured by the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works of Winterthur in Switzerland.Abtsystem was devised by Roman Abt, a Swiss locomotive engineer who founded his own civil engineering company in 1885. As you could see, there would be rack and pinion, which literally will hold to ensure that the train would never reverse back on a gradient.

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=186765

NMR runs at a very gentle pace – those who had travelled by this would vouch ....one can easily get out of the moving train and get back into it at places, especially before it picks up some speed after leaving stations. The  journey time is four and half long hours for approx. 46 kms.  The main stations are Mettupalayam, Conoor, Wellington, Aravankadu, Ketti (remember MoonramPirai cinema), Lovedale and Udagamandalam.  Though the train referred as toy train wounds so slowly, newspaper reports state that the train is a major attraction and that the tickets  have been completely sold out till June 30. This despite the journey uphill from Mettupalayam to Ooty taking 90 minutes more than the road.

It is reported that Nilgiri Mountain Railways has been fully booked during the summer for the fifth consecutive year.Salem division officials say the train has been getting full occupancy ever since seats were opened for online reservations. “It has been running full from 2008,“ said a senior Salem division official. “Once online reservations were open, many travel agents began booking it, offering it as a part of their tour packages thus making the train more popular and easier to travel on,“ he said.

The 110-year-old train, introduced by the British, continues to be one of the few surviving steam locomotives in the country. With a four-hour ride uphill that includes journeys through dense Western Ghat forests, long tunnels, small hill towns, the Wellington cantonment and the Aravankadu Cordite Factory , the journey during a holiday season is filled with excited screams of tourists and enthusiasts.  At places the train passes through tunnels and at others the scenic beauty is there to enjoy.

Till last year, only three coaches were pulled up from Mettupalayam to Coonoor, one of them being first class. After repeated requests, a fourth coach was added. There is only one trip uphill from Mettupalayam and another downhill from Coonoor to Mettupalayamevery day. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th Apr 2017.

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