The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was built in 1980 by the British and it now operates under the Tamil Nadu Railway (Salem Division). Known for the exciting train journey in the hills, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a World Heritage Site and is popularly referred as the “Mountain Railway of India”.
The train connects the popular towns of Mettupalayam, Udhagamandalam and Coonoor. Every day, there is one single train that starts from Mettupalayam in the morning (7:10 AM) and reaches Ooty in the afternoon. The train from Ooty starts at 2:00 PM and arrives at Mettupalayam at 5:35 PM in the evening. There are 4 trains that travel to Coonoor. During seasonal times, there may be an additional train service launched by the railway department.
You can book ticket online through IRCTC or at the ticket counters of the station. In this age of computerization, you can still get the Edmonson style manual tickets in the station. These old type of tickets are still issued to preserve the classic heritage of this iconic rail journey.
The total distance travelled by the train from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam is 46 Kilometres which encompasses over 250 bridges, 208 beautiful curves and 16 tunnels. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway holds the record for travelling in the steepest track in the Asian continent. The journey time upwards in 4 hours and 50 minutes while the downward journey is 3 hours and 35 minutes.
The Intermediate Stations
To board the train, the travellers need to cross the platform from Coimbatore junction. The tracks are straight until the train crosses Bhavani River and then the climbing starts. After crossing of five stations, the main station Coonoor is reached. The in-between stations of Kallar, Adderly, Hillgrove, Runneymede and Kateri are all closed but the trains stop there for passenger refreshment or as a water stop. The Kallar station is where the gradient starts maximising.
Coonoor is the next intermediate station which has locomotive workshops and the diesel locomotives are changed here. After the crossing Coonoor, the climbing to Ooty begins. The Nilgiri Mountain railways then cross the next main stations Wellington, Aravankadu, Ketti and then Lovedale. The train descends to Ooty just before the Lovedale station. After Lovedale, the next destination is the beautiful Fernhill station and then the final destination Udhagamandalam is reached.
Popularity of Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Being a World Heritage Site, this railway route attracts travellers from around the globe. You can always find local tourist crowd during both season and off season period. The scenic beauty of the travel route is favourite for film shooting, passionate photographers and avid travellers.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway has featured in the BBC documentary which dealt with the Hill Railways in India. The popular movie “A Passage to India” by David Lean features Coonoor railway station. There is an Indian Army Regiment, cantontment and a cordite factory at Wellington.
The most famous “Chaiyya Chaiyya” song starring the king of Bollywood Shahrukh Khan was also shot on the top of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. There could be no one who doesn’t like the visuals of that song. Such is the beauty of the rail route and the location.