Indian heritage

heritage mountain train rides in India


Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The last post left me nostalgic about my childhood summer holidays. After much anticipation, finally the day would arrive when bags packed fretting impatiently along with my friends, I would be waiting on the steps outside the auditorium of Loreto Convent, Shillong for my local guardian or parents to pick me up. My father always had a short trip planned. One of them was to Darjeeling via the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway , also known as the toy train. We sat on the steps with our legs dangling out eating chocolates and at certain parts the train moved so slowly we could get off , stretch our legs or jog along and climb back in. I can still recollect the thrill I felt when the train entered tunnels and went over tall bridges.  A memorable joy ride and a great way to enjoy the panoramic views at leisure.


Nilgiri-Mountain-Railway , entering a tunnel


Kalka Shimla Railway

I want to take my kids on a “toy train” ride in the mountains, next holiday. I can already see their eyes gleaming and my son in cloud nine. As I started researching via the internet on mountain train rides in India, I found another treasure!

Three historic railways comprise a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, recognizing their importance in trade and technological development. Still in use today, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka Shimla Railway were constructed from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The Kangra valley and Matheran Hill railways were also built at that time and are in the tentative list for selection into the world heritage site.

Today, these classic railways, relics of British colonial rule, are still operated by India Railways, and offer exhilarating rides over India’s most scenic mountain trails.


Darjeeling-Himalayan-Railway, View of the snow – capped mountains


view of the tea estates

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway,  is a 2feet narrow gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. Built between 1879 and 1881, the railway is about 78 kilometers long. Four modern diesel locomotives handle most of the scheduled services today ; however the daily Kurseong-Darjeeling return service and the daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghum (India’s highest railway station) are handled by the vintage steam engines.

Criteria for Selection by UNESCO The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is an outstanding example of the influence of an innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multi-cultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world.


Coonoor Railway station


Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway based in Tamil Nadu, still relies on its fleet of steam locomotives. For the past several years diesel locomotives have taken over from steam on the section between Coonoor and Ooty. Local people and tourists have led a demand for steam locomotives to once again haul this section.



The train covers a distance of 26kms, travels through 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and across 250 bridges.


Kalka Shimla Railways

The Kalka–Shimla Railway is a narrow gauge train, in North-West India, traveling along a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for dramatic views of the hills and surrounding villages. Shimla became the summer capital of British India in 1864, and was also the headquarters of the British army in India. The narrow gauge link was constructed to connect Simla as it was known then, to the regular Indian railways network.

Prior to the construction of the railway, communication with the outside world was via village cart.



The Matheran Hill Railway is a narrow gauge train in Maharastra, India and covers a distance of 21kms over large swathes of forest territory connecting Neral to Matheran in the Western Ghats. The Neral-Matheran Light Railway was built between 1901 and 1907 by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy, financed by his father, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy at a cost of Rupees 16 lakhs.

Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy visited Matheran often and wanted to build a railway to make it easier to get there !


Kangra Valley Railway

The Kangra Valley Railway lies in the sub-Himalayan region and covers a distance of 164 km from Pathankot, Punjab to Jogindernagar in Himachal Pradesh, India. Long uninterrupted views of the snow clad mountains and corn fields make up for the long ride.


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