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Old 17th November 2023, 10:44   #1
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Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

India has one of the largest railway networks in the world. It's beaten to the top spot by just a handful of countries. Over the years, we have seen modern trains that run at high speeds and carry you to your destination with a great level of comfort.

However, these new, air-conditioned trains do not give you the same experience of taking in the natural beauty of the surroundings as some of the older trains do. Certain routes go through dense forests, mountains and valleys which are very picturesque and best enjoyed at a slow pace. Here's where India's heritage and toy trains come into the picture. Most of these are found in hilly tourist destinations all over the country. These trains offer an exciting experience and create memories for everyone - young and old.

Here's a list of five heritage and toy trains in India.

Matheran Hill Railway, Maharashtra



Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-neraldeparture.jpeg

The Matheran Hill Railway was built in the period 1901-07. This train uses a diesel engine and runs between the town of Neral and the hill station of Matheran - a distance of ~21 km. It is administered by Central Railway and runs on a 610 mm narrow-gauge. The railway line and the road to Matheran cross twice. It takes about two hours and 20 minutes to complete the journey.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-jummapatti_matheran_maharashtra__panoramio.jpg

The journey gives you some breathtaking views of the Sahyadri mountains (Western Ghats) while it goes through forests and cliffs with ascents and descents. It has 5 stations.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-matheranhillrailway.jpg

Images: Source 1, Source 2

Kalka-Shimla Train, Himachal Pradesh



Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-ksr_train_on_a_small_bridge_050212_52.jpeg

This railway line was built between 1898 and 1903. As the name suggests, the train operates between Kalka (Haryana) and Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) covering a distance of ~96 km on a 762 mm narrow-gauge. The journey takes about 5 hours and 30 minutes and goes through 103 tunnels and 864 bridges. It passes through the Himalayas climbing from 656 m to 2,075 m offering stunning views.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-kanohbridge1.jpg

The Kalka-Shimla Train is operated by Northern Railways and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has 18 stations.

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Images: Source 1, Source 2

Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu



Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-nilgiri_mountain_railways_hillgrove_station_india.jpg

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway took 45 years to build. It was ready for use in 1903. It runs in the state of Tamil Nadu from Mettupalaiyam to Udhagamandalam. Mettupalaiyam is at the foothills of the Nilgiri mountains with an elevation of ~330 m, while Udhagamandalam which is on the plateau at an elevation of ~2,200 m.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-nilgirimountainrailway800x445.jpeg

It uses a 1,000 mm meter gauge and the line is ~46 km long with a maximum gradient of 8.33% which is claimed to be the steepest in Asia. The train crosses 250 bridges and 16 tunnels on the way passing through dense forests, rocky terrain, and hilltops.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-toytrain2.jpg

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is operated by Southern Railways and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has 13 stations.

Images: Source 1, Source 2, Source 3

Kangra Valley Railway, Himachal Pradesh



The Kangra Valley Railway runs between Pathankot in Punjab to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh through the sub-Himalayan region of Kangra Valley. It was built between 1888 and 1974 with the first section was opened to the public in 1929. It runs on a 762 mm narrow-gauge and is 164 km long. This makes it the longest narrow-gauge railway line in India. It goes over more than 950 bridges through 2 tunnels.

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This train is operated by Northern Railway. It offers a great view of the Dhauladhar mountain range and runs along streams and through tea gardens.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-reond_nullah_bridgenikos_kavoori.jpg

The Kangra Valley Railway has 33 stations. The highest station on this line is Ahju station which is situated at an elevation of 1,290 m.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-kangra_valley_train.jpg

Images: Source 1, Source 2

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal



To end the list, we have what is probably the most popular and iconic train in the country. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal. It was built between 1879 and 1881 and runs between New Jalpaiguri which is at an elevation of ~100 m and Darjeeling which is located at an elevation of ~2,200 m. It travels through six zigzag routes and five big loops to reach higher elevations. Among the most more significant stations is Ghum, which is situated at an altitude of 2,258 m. It is India's highest railway station.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-dhr1.jpeg

The train passes through the mountains, you can see snow-clap mountains and get a view of Kanchenjunga - the third-highest mountain in the world.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-dhr2.jpeg

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway uses a 610 mm gauge and covers a distance of ~84 km. It is operated by Northeast Frontier Railway and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has 17 stations.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-dhr3.jpeg

Images: Source

Matheran's proximity to Mumbai (where I stay) has given me a few opportunities to experience the Matheran train, but I haven't had a ride in any of the others. How many of these trains have you travelled on?

Last edited by Aditya : 19th November 2023 at 19:41.
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Old 17th November 2023, 10:46   #2
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

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Old 17th November 2023, 21:23   #3
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

Nilgiri Mountain Railway is not a "toy" train - its an insult to degrade this phenomenal piece of railway engineering. Its a proper Mountain Railway, and one of the very few working pieces of rack-and-pinon railway systems in the world.
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Old 17th November 2023, 22:13   #4
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Maharashtra

A toy train called Van Rani runs through Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Borivali, Mumbai.

I used to go to SGNP almost every weekend for cycling since it is close to home. This train is not functional now though.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-sgnptrain.jpg

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-sgnp.jpg
Images: Source 1, Source 2
Quote:
With about 20 to 25 seats, the Van Rani mini-train is a well-known kid-friendly attraction. It is quite popular among kids. Children who become eager to see the toy-like train that will take them on a Jungle Safari Ride will find this little train to be an exciting experience. This is about a 20-minute ride.

The Van Rani takes tourists around Borivali National Park on a narrow-gauge train track. It covers around 2.4 km and moves inside the jungle, giving you a view of the trees, animals, waterfalls, and birds, and you will enjoy the greenery all around you. Not just children but even adults enjoy this experience.

The train operates every 30 min and covers two major attractions. The Van Rani is open from all sides with a roof on the top; this helps you get a closer experience with nature.
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Old 17th November 2023, 23:59   #5
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

Quote:
Originally Posted by binaiks View Post
Nilgiri Mountain Railway is not a "toy" train - it’s an insult to degrade this phenomenal piece of railway engineering. It’s a proper Mountain Railway, and one of the very few working pieces of rack-and-pinon railway systems in the world.
Agree, train routes like the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Kalka-Shimla and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway are proper mountain railways and were used as a primary transport between places back in the days. These routes are now kept as heritage routes and they are certainly not toy trains. I think the thread title should be changed to Heritage trains and routes.

Two stations from two different route stand out for me- one is Ghoom on the Darjeeling Himalayan sector and another is Lovedale on the Nilgiri Mountain sector. I can sit around those two stations for hours with a book in my hand and watch the time pass by

Will not spam the thread with my collection of pictures but would certainly like to add one here since the picture is one amongst my favourites.

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-105243c1e20b41508ed37b1ff53ba460.jpeg

Last edited by ABHI_1512 : 18th November 2023 at 00:28.
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Old 18th November 2023, 10:48   #6
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

Gentlemen, I think we are getting into semantics too much. I have travelled multiple times in DHR, with my roots being in North Bengal. Since time immemorial these are called "Toy" train, by the people who built it. Not denying that these are mountain railway, engineering marvels. Peace.
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Old 18th November 2023, 22:32   #7
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

We had an opportunity to travel by the Himalayan Queen from Shimla to Kalka in January 2009. Here are a few pictures taken during our trip.

Himalayan Queen crossing Shivalik Deluxe Express:

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-100_4606.jpg

Up and Down Himalayan Queen:

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-100_4627.jpg

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-100_4628.jpg

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-100_4646.jpg

Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India-100_4651.jpg
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Old 18th November 2023, 23:53   #8
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

Though the NMR is often clubbed as a toy train, it is a proper metre gauge railway, which was operational in so many places in India before the project unigauge came up. It is a proper hill railway alright, with the steepest gradient which requires the train to use rack and pinion arrangement at many locations, and uses the largest gauge among mountain railways in India. But a toy train it is not. The rack and pinion steam engines haul it only from Mettupalayam to Conoor. From there it is hauled by diesel locos to Ooty, and they are proper YDM locos from Golden Rock shed, which used to operate in many mainline routes.
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Old 19th November 2023, 07:14   #9
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

I have been on the Neral Matheran route a few times, also the Kalka Shimla and the Borivali National Park train(featured in Amar Akbar Anthony). Incidentally, there used to be Peshwe Park( Pune's erstwhile zoo) that also had a similar joyride called " Phulrani".
Can I just say however that the popularity of car ownership has dented the charm of travelling in these trains? The sensation of "arriving" at a pristine hill station with a toot of the engine horn, has been replaced by hordes of cars lined up jampacked on the ghats honking incessantly. It is a sad reality.
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Old 19th November 2023, 10:16   #10
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re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

What an awesome thread! Its an absolute pressure to travel by these trains. I remember the Niligiri route we could actually book a ticket via IRCTC. I guess the same should be possible for others too !

Last edited by ampere : 19th November 2023 at 10:24.
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Old 19th November 2023, 15:03   #11
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Re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

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Originally Posted by fhdowntheline View Post
I have been on the Neral Matheran route a few times, also the Kalka Shimla and the Borivali National Park train(featured in Amar Akbar Anthony). Incidentally, there used to be Peshwe Park( Pune's erstwhile zoo) that also had a similar joyride called " Phulrani".
Can I just say however that the popularity of car ownership has dented the charm of travelling in these trains? The sensation of "arriving" at a pristine hill station with a toot of the engine horn, has been replaced by hordes of cars lined up jampacked on the ghats honking incessantly. It is a sad reality.
Phul rani is still alive and kicking - my train crazy kid demands a ride at least once a month. We went 2-3 weeks back.

Slightly OT - but can you share any pointers for a weekend trip to Matheran? Specifically looking for 1) safe car parking near Neral train station 2) How do we book tickets remotely (i.e. from Pune itself, instead of the ticket counter) and 3) any good cottages / stays in Matheran?

Tried searching for a while now, but could not find any up to date information.
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Old 19th November 2023, 22:39   #12
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Re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

Nice to see my hometown featured in this list. I recently took a trip on the same ooty-mettupalayam route after years.
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Old 20th November 2023, 08:44   #13
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Re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

I've done the Kalka Shimla route. It is a beautiful journey.

I regret not doing the Matheran and Nilgiri mountain railway, considering I used to live quite close to these locations. I think for Matheran, the line was not in use when I wanted to do the trip. This was back in 2005-2006.

The one that interests me the most on the list is the Kangra Valley line. Thats a good long distance for narrow gauge operation.

What I like about these journeys is that the people around you are using the train as a means to go from place to place. Its not there for Tourist purposes alone.

I miss these slow journeys. Its all about speed and efficiency now. Back in the day, I used to pray for the train to run late.
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Old 21st November 2023, 08:36   #14
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Re: Heritage Trains and Toy Trains in India

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Originally Posted by three10 View Post
Phul rani is still alive and kicking - my train crazy kid demands a ride at least once a month. We went 2-3 weeks back.

Slightly OT - but can you share any pointers for a weekend trip to Matheran? Specifically looking for 1) safe car parking near Neral train station 2) How do we book tickets remotely (i.e. from Pune itself, instead of the ticket counter) and 3) any good cottages / stays in Matheran?

Tried searching for a while now, but could not find any up to date information.
Sorry, I dont have the most current information about the train, but there are parking areas near Neral station. I think the train booking is now manual (offline), but it is better to verify from other sources as well.
When I went to Matheran back in 2016, I stayed at West End Hotel. It is currently rated 4.0 on Trip Advisor. It was a comfortable place overall. We parked our car on Dasturi Naka (at the hill station entrance) and walked all the way along the rail tracks and into the town. From Team BHP perspective, the Neral Matheran ghat section is one of the more "Interesting" ghats. Not suitable for beginners/overtly cautious/ timid driver .

Last edited by fhdowntheline : 21st November 2023 at 08:51.
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