Spectacular Mountain Railway Journeys in India





As a child, we all have played with Toy trains. In my childhood days when I used to play with a Toy train, I used to think what if I could travel the world on a real toy train someday.

It's very much possible if you are planning to travel to India. Take a ride on various railways in the mountains and live the childhood dream. The mountain railways of India is really spectacular and this is something which is a must do when you visit India.

There are various routes in the mountains which you can take and enjoy the scenic beauty while you hear the sweet sound of the steam engines. In fact, UNESCO has also declared these railways as World Heritage sites. Three routes have been declared as world heritage site- Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Nilgiri Mountain Railways and the Kalka-Shimla Railways.

Be ready to get an experience of a lifetime in these spectacular mountain railways of India.

Little History behind these Mountain Railways

All these mountain railways of India were constructed and opened to the public before India's independence. The history goes to the era of Britishers. The Britishers used to love to visit the hills during the summers and hence they wanted an easy access to the hills. As a result, they constructed the mountain railways of India.


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The mountain railways of India still exists and uses the same engines and carriages which were used during the old days. Hence travelling in these spectacular mountain railways of India is a must to relive the old days.

Booking a Ticket 

It is suggested that you book the tickets online in advance so that you don't miss out on the joyride if you don't get tickets due to high season.
There are two ways you can book the tickets. For booking the online tickets visit www.irctc.co.in and search using the station codes or names.

Alternatively, if you have time in hand and can take a little risk you can also head to the station and get your tickets. However kindly note that doing this might lead to not having a ticket due to high demand during the peak season.

Details of the Mountain Railways and How to Travel

The following are the must-visit mountain railways of India and if you are wondering how and from where to go and what will be the cost read below :

1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

This is one of the oldest mountain railways in India and was inaugurated between 1879-1881 in a phased manner. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling and has 6 loops.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is also fondly called as Toy train as it runs on narrow gauge railway tracks with just two bogeys and looks like a toy train when on the move.

There are steam engines and diesel engines which run these trains. If you want to get an authentic experience take a ride on a steam engine train.

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There are two train rides which you can take :

a. Joy ride which runs between Darjeeling and Ghum station

The train starts almost daily from 7:40am and runs till 4:20 pm. The train takes approximately 40-50 mins to complete a journey from Darjeeling to Ghum and back,
There are two options of toy train i.e. Steam Engine and Diesel Engine and for the schedule kindly head to the Darjeeling station and note the schedules and schedules change often depending on the weather and condition of the engines. Note the steam engines are very old hence they often break down.
The toy train ride starts from Darjeeling and takes you to the Highest railway station of India - Ghum station. It crosses one loop i.e. Batasia Loop and its one of the most scenic experience. You can get a clear view of Kanchenjunga mountain from Batasia loop.

The cost of the tickets are as follows :
- Steam Engine - Rs 1310
- Diesel Engine - Rs 805

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b.Train from New Jalpaiguri Station to Darjeeling

If you have lots of time in your hand then you can look for trying the toy train from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling. The journey takes approximately 7 hours. The train stops at 11 stations along the road.

My suggestion is to skip to this and take a joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghum as this will help you to save time.

For a detailed timetable refer to the official site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

2. Kalka Shimla Railway

This Kalka Shimla railway is also a narrow gauge railway. This was built in 1898 by the Britishers to connect Shimla to Kalka and it was opened in the year 1903.

The most unique and spectacular part of this railway is the 103 tunnels and approximately 864 arch bridges through which the railways cross. Its approximately 6-hour long journey from Kalka to Shimla and there are many picturesque railway stations along the route.

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There are four kinds of trains :

a. Rail Motor: It is a first-class single carriage train and the cost of tickets is approximately Rs 300
b. Shivalik Deluxe Express: This is a ten coaches train and the seating is chair car. The cost of tickets is approximately Rs 500 and there is meal service too.
c. Shimla Kalka Express: The cost of tickets is the cheapest at Rs 70 only. However, I won't recommend this as the seating is unreserved.
d. Himalayan Queen: If you are planning to take the Kalka Shatabdi express then book your seats in the Himalayan queen from Shimla as it connects Kalka Shatabdi express at Kalka. The cost of tickets is Rs 260.

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My suggestion is to take the Shivalik Deluxe Express as this offers the best seating comfort and generally, these are not overcrowded as it's avoided by the locals due to the higher cost of the tickets.

One word of caution take this train journey for an experience and not for comfort. Since these are toy trains the seating arrangement is not the best and if you are carrying too many or big luggage then drop the idea of taking this rail journey as there is very little space for keeping the luggage.

The detailed timetable is available at the Indian Rail Info website.


3. Nilgiri Mountain Railway

If you are planning to go for a vacation to Ooty ( Udagamandalam ) then taking a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a must do activity. The train starts from Mettupalayam and ends at Ooty.
The railway was constructed in the year 1908.

The steam engines of the Nilgiri mountain railway has been replaced with diesel engines, however, the officials are trying to reintroduce the steam engines again. The train crosses over 100+ bridges and this the uniqueness of the railways.

The most scenic route is between Mettupalayam to Coonoor.


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It takes approximately 3-4 hours for one way journey and the First class tickets cost Rs 260.

During the summer there are special summer trains however the cost of tickets are approximately 5 times and the ticket includes a souvenir and refreshments in the first class compartments.

Stick to the normal train and save few bucks.

The detailed timetable is available here.

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4. Kangra Valley Railway

This is a little lesser known Mountain railway of India. This railway is relatively a newer one as compared to other Mountain Railways of India. Kangra Valley railway was commissioned in the year 1929.

It starts from Pathankot in Punjab and ends at Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh which is approximately 164 km from Kangra Valley. If you are planning to visit Mc Leod Ganj from Kangra then you can take this train from Pathankot. The toy train crosses 950 bridges and if you want to soak into the beauty of the Himalayan range just look outside.

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The Kangra Valley railway is mostly used by the locals as the cost of the tickets is just Rs 29 one way and this mode of commuting is much cheaper for the locals. You will hardly find any tourists in the Kangra Valley Railway and expect it not to be the cleanest one.

5. Matheran Hill Railway

This is the only toy train in the western ghats which starts from a station called as Neral and ends at Matheran. The journey is incredible. The total distance is 21 km and takes around 2 hours to reach Matheran. The Matheran hill railway was opened to the public in the year 1907.

Its unfortunate that due to few accidents the Matheran Hill railways was running partially till 2017, however, there is a good new now. From 2018 the railways will again start running on steam engines.

The cost of the tickets is Rs 65 for second class and Rs 265 for first class. The trains often run full and hence if you want to take a ride reach the station early.


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Does it excite you to travel in the Mountain Railways of India?

If you have travelled already share your travel stories and photographs with Shoestring Travel at shoestringtravel.in@gmail.com

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