The fascinating world of Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Nilgiri Mountain Express with a steam locomotive

Steam locomotives and heritage railway stations

Where else in the world can you get more than 2 hours of metre gauge train ride with vintage steam locomotives, heritage railway stations, beautiful mountains, valleys and forests all around. No wonder that it has been recognised as part of UNESCO world heritage. Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a wonder in India which needs to be experienced in all its glory. Fascinating is a clear understatement.

Romance of Steam

Romance of Steam - vintage steam loco of Nilgiri Mountain railway
Romance of Steam – vintage steam loco of Nilgiri Mountain railway

There would not be too many things in this world as romantic as a steam locomotive. When such a steam loco is an ancient machine still in working condition, the charm is palpable. The romance turns into a serious love affair. Steam, smoke and sound – together they make a heady cocktail. From my childhood, I have looked with great admiration every loco driver that came by. Steam locos have had a special place. These drivers have been my heroes. Would never miss an opportunity to chat up with this special tribe.

Steam loco at Coonoor loco workshop

Vintage steam loco at Coonoor loco workshop
Vintage steam loco at Coonoor loco workshop

Black beauty up close

Black beauty up close - vintage steam locomotive of Nilgiri Mountain railway
Black beauty up close – vintage steam locomotive of Nilgiri Mountain railway

The X class steam locomotives that power trains between the stretch of Coonoor to Mettupalayam of Nilgiri Mountain Railway are wonderful machines which are kept running by equally wonderful technicians of Indian Railways who work diligently at the steam loco workshop at Coonoor. Unlike the Light and Sound shows at various archaeological sites, watching these beauties is a Sight and Sound show. Mechanical engineering at its best ! Any youngster who watches these Swiss origin machines up close is bound to be inspired to be a fine mechanical engineer or a technician.

The Man and the Machine

The Man and the Machine - railway technician taking care of the vintage steam locomotive
The Man and the Machine – railway technician taking care of the vintage steam locomotive

Coonoor Railway Station

Coonoor Railway Station is part of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Coonoor Railway Station is part of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Like all pretty rail stations of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Coonoor is no exception. The heritage structure seems to be in good shape and the presence of steam locomotive workshop ensures activity throughout the day with lots of steam, smoke and sound in the air. 

Water stop at Hillgrove station

Water stop at Hillgrove station on Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Water stop at Hillgrove station on Nilgiri Mountain Railway

When you see closely the entire process involved in running and maintaining steam locomotives, you cannot help but get involved in it. Each step is part of a ritual which the technicians and engine drivers perform with the same rigour and meticulousness with which a priest would go about performing a pooja. The degree of involvement may be actually higher. This X class steam locomotive is enjoying its water stop at Hillgrove on Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Water break for steam loco, tea break for others
Water break for steam loco, tea break for others

The Blue Station

The Blue Station, another heritage railway station of Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The Blue Station, another heritage railway station of Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Another quaint little station on Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Hardly a soul around. There is some life only when few trains in the day arrive. At other times, it is a ghost station. The staff here would have plenty of time to do their thing, may be read, write, chat, smoke or simply sleep. 

Read other blog posts related to Railways :

Steam locomotive at Darjeeling puffing its way

Trains passing through Bhimbetka

5 Comments

  1. Loved it Milind. You revived my memories of my ride on the train from Connoor to Oooty. Very nicely expressed. Your eye for looking beyond the obvious is commendable. Fabulous pictures as always.

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