Mountain Railways of India

Mountain Railways of India

The Mountain railways of India refer to the railway lines built in the mountains of India.

Three of these railways, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka-Shimla Railway, are collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name Mountain Railways of India. The fourth railway, Matheran Hill Railway, is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each of these are classified as narrow-gauge railways while the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is the only rack railway in India. Mountain railways constructed in recent times use 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) broad gauge.

The Mountain railways of India continue to develop in the present and future. The
Jammu-Baramulla line is currently under construction while some railways are proposed to be built in the future, such as Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh line, Jammu-Poonch line, Srinagar-Kargil-Leh line, and Chota Char Dham Railway.

Mountain Railways of India History

The concept of mountain railways was conceived by the British Raj in order to establish control over the Himalayas and other mountain ranges within India. In 1844, Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India, embraced the idea of making the mountains more accessible, particularly to the British military. In a proposal called Hill Railway, the British planned for a system of train stations across the Indian subcontinent. The locations proposed included: Shimla, deemed the summer capital of British India; Darjeeling, located in the state of West Bengal, known for its tea gardens and scenic views; Ootacamund, located in the Nilgiri mountains of the Tamil Nadu state; and the Matheran hill station, located in the Western Ghats near Bombay (now Mumbai).

The effort to construct a hill passenger railway system throughout the mountainous regions of India commenced in 1878 with the
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway project. Franklin Prestage of the Eastern Bengal Railway initiated plans for the building of a hill tramway parallel to the hill cart road between Siliguri and Darjeeling. By 1881, the line was completed up to Darjeeling.

The next project, which was initially proposed in 1854, was the
Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Tamil Nadu. This project started in 1894, but the railroad was not completed until 1908 due to the harsh terrain along the route. The route was 46 kilometers (29 mi) long, but had altitudes ranging between 326 meters (1,070 ft) and 2,203 meters (7,228 ft).

Construction on the 96-kilometer-long (60 mi)
Kalka-Shimla Railway began in 1898. The railway's purpose was to link the remote hill regions to the rest of the country. In November 1903, the railroad was inaugurated by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon.

Finally, the
Matheran-Neral railway was completed in 1907. Matheran is a station located 108 kilometers (67 mi) away from Mumbai.

The basis of UNESCO's designation of the Mountain Railways of India as a World Heritage Site is "outstanding examples of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain." The
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway received the honor first in 1999 by UNESCO followed by the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in 2005. The Kalka-Shimla Railway received the title in 2008.

The three routes together have been titled the Mountain Railways of India under UNESCO World Heritage Site criteria ii and iv, within the Asia-Pacific region. The
Matheran Railway, a fourth mountain line, has been nominated and is pending approval by the international body.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), given the nickname "the Toy Train," is a 610 millimeter (2 ft) narrow-gauge railway that runs 88 kilometers (55 mi) between Siliguri and Darjeeling. Darjeeling is a major summer hill station and the centre of a growing tea-growing district located in West Bengal. The railroad is operated by Indian Railways. The elevation of the route starts at 100 meters (330 ft) in Siliguri and rises to about 2,200 meters (7,200 ft) at Darjeeling. The highest elevation is found at Ghoom station at 2,300 meters (7,500 ft).

The town of Siliguri, the start of the railway route, was connected with Calcutta (now Kolkata) via railway in 1878, while the additional journey to Darjeeling required the use of tongas (horse-driven carts) along a dust track. On the recommendations of a committee appointed by Sir Ashley Eden, work on the railroad began in 1879 and was completed by July 1881. The line underwent several improvements such as making gradients more gradual over the years to increase manoeuvrability. By 1909–1910, the
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was carrying roughly 174,000 passengers and 47,000 tons of goods annually.

Important features incorporated in the line include four loops (spirals) and four 'Z' reverses (zigzags). The introduction of bogie carriages allowed for the replacement of the basic four wheel carriages formerly used for support and stability. In 1897, a major earthquake damaged the railway requiring rebuilding of the route, including extensive improvements to the track and stations. Further modernization occurred as part of the Northeast Frontier Railway Zone. Most trains on the route are still powered by steam engines, although a modern diesel engine is used for the
Darjeeling Mail train.

The railway is notable for its signage located at key vantage points, marking locations with titles such as Agony Point and Sensation Corner. Spirals located on steep hills are a feature of the railway that provide scenic views of the valleys below.

In 1999, the
Darjeeling line was the first to be recognized by UNESCO and placed on the World Heritage List. A condition of being placed upon the list was that steam locomotives would continue to be used along the route.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a 46 kilometers (29 mi) long metre gauge, single-line railroad which connects the town of Mettupalayam with the hill station of Udagamandalam (Ootacamund). The route is located within the state of Tamil Nadu and travels through the Nilgiri Hills, which are popularly known as the Blue Mountains of Southern India. The Nilgiri is the only rack railway in India and it uses an Abt rack system. The ABT system requires use of special steam locomotives. The line contains 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and 250 bridges causing the uphill journey along the route to take about 290 minutes (4.8 hours), while the downhill journey takes 215 minutes (3.6 hours).

Initially, the town of Coonoor was the final station on the line, but in September 1908 it was extended to Fernhill followed by Udagmandalam by October 15, 1908. The system was described by Guilford Lindsey Molesworth in a report from 1886:

Two distinct functions – first that of traction by adhesion as in an ordinary loco; second that of traction by pinions acting on the track bars. The brakes are four in number – two handbrakes, acting by friction; and two acting by preventing the free escape of air from cylinder and thus using compressed air in retarding the progress of the engine. The former are used for shunting whilst the later for descending steep gradients. One of the handbrakes acts on the tyres of the wheels in the ordinary manner and the second acts on grooved surfaces of the pinion axle, but can be used in those places where the rack is laid.

A unique feature of the line, which is still fully operational, is its oldest and steepest track uses rack and pinion technology. Currently the line runs for 7.2 kilometers (4.5 mi), up to the foothill station of Kallar, where the rack rail portion begins. The rack rail portion ends at Coonoor railway station. The longest tunnel of this section measures 97 meters (318 ft). The route has a gradient of 1:12.5 till Coonoor and past Coonoor to the final station, the track has a ruling gradient of 1:23.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2005.

Kalka-Shimla Railway

The Kalka-Shimla Railway runs between Kalka and Shimla. The railroad is a 95.66 kilometers (59.44 mi) long, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow-gauge line. Shimla is the modern capital of Himachal Pradesh and is located at an elevation of 2,205 meters (7,234 ft) in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was formerly the summer capital of British India, starting in 1864, and also served as the headquarters of the British Army in India.

Prior to construction of the railroad, the only access to Shimla was by village cart-way. The railway line was constructed by the Delhi–Ambala–Kalka Railway Company, beginning in 1898 in the Siwalik Hills, and was completed in 1903.

Kalka-Shimla Railway has 103 tunnels and 864 bridges. Many of the bridges are multi-arched, reminiscent of Ancient Roman aqueducts, while one bridge, which spans 18.29 meters (60.0 ft), is made with plate girders and steel truss. The ruling gradient of the railway is 1:33 or 3%, and it features 919 curves, with the sharpest at 48 degrees (a radius of 37.47 meters (122.9 ft)). The tracks climb from 656 meters (2,152 ft) to a peak elevation of 2,076 meters (6,811 ft) at Shimla. The longest tunnel on the line is the Barog Tunnel (No. 33) which is 1,144 meters (3,753 ft) long, connecting Dagshai and Solan. The loops at Taksal, Gumman, and Dharampur help to attain flatter gradients.

Kalka-Shimla Railway joined the Nilgiri and Darjeeling lines as a World Heritage Site in 2008.

Matheran Hill Railway

The Matheran Hill Railway covers a distance of 20 kilometers (12 mi) between Neral and Matheran in the Western Ghats.

The construction of
Matheran Hill Railway was led by Abdul Peerbhoy and was financed by his father, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy of the Adamjee Group. The route was designed in 1900 with construction beginning in 1904 and completed in 1907. The original tracks were built using 30 pound per yard rails but were later updated with heavier 42 pound per yard rails. Until the 1980s, the railway was closed during Monsoon season due to increased risk of landslides, but it is now kept open throughout the year. The line is administered by Central Railways.

A unique feature of the line is its horseshoe embankments. Notable features of the route include Neral Station, the first on the route; the Herdal Hill section; the steep grade of Bhekra Khud; the One Kiss Tunnel (the only tunnel on the route, it earned its nickname because the tunnel is just long enough to exchange a kiss with one's partner); a water pipe station, which is no longer in operation; Mountain Berry, which features two sharp zig zags; Panorama Point; and finally, the end of the route at Matheran Bazaar. The broad-gauge railroad between Mumbai and Pune runs near the
Matheran Hill Railway, and the two tracks cross each other at two locations. The ruling gradient for the railroad is 1:20 (5%) and tight curves require train speeds to be limited to 20 kilometres per hour (12 mph).

Kangra Valley Railway

The Kangra Valley Railway lies in the sub-Himalayan region and covers a distance of 163 kilometers (101 mi) between Pathankot and Joginder Nagar, an area known for its nature and ancient Hindu shrines. The highest point on this line is at Ahju station at an elevation of 1,291 meters (4,236 ft) and the terminus at Joginder Nagar is at 1,189 meters (3,901 ft).

The line, which is part of the Northern Railway and is made with a 762 mm (2 ft 6 in) gauge, was planned in May 1926 and commissioned in 1929. It is popularly known as the
Kangra Toy Train.

The line has 971 uniquely designed bridges and two tunnels. Two particularly important bridge structures are the steel arch bridge over the Reond nalah and the girder bridge over the Banganga River. Though the gradient of the line is generally gentle, the critical reach with steep slopes is at the 142 kilometers (88 mi) stretch, which is 210 meters (690 ft) wide with a 1:19 slope with approach slopes of 1:31 and 1:25. The terminus stretch between Baijnath and Jogindernagar is 1:25.

Jammu-Baramulla Line

The Jammu–Baramulla line is a 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) railway line being built in India to connect the state of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. The railway starts from Jammu and will travel for 345 kilometers (214 mi) to the city of Baramulla on the northwestern edge of the Kashmir Valley.

The route crosses major earthquake zones and is subjected to extreme temperatures of cold and heat, as well as inhospitable terrain, making it a challenging engineering project. The railway line has been under construction since 2002 when it was declared a national project. It will link the state's winter capital, Jammu, with the summer capital, Srinagar, and beyond. The railway line has been built from Jammu to Katra, and the line from Katra to Banihal may be completed by 2020.

Lumding-Badarpur Section

The Lumding-Badarpur section in Assam consists of a 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) railway line from Lumding to Badarpur. It has numerous bridges and tunnels. The total route length is 210 kilometers. The section traverses the Barail mountains.

Proposed Mountain Railways of India

Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh line is a proposed railway track that is planned to connect Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state of India. Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh line is expected to become the highest railway track in the world by its completion overtaking the current record of China's Qinghai–Tibet Railway.

Jammu-Poonch line is a proposed railway line from Jammu Tawi station via the Historic City of Akhnoor to Poonch via Kaleeth-Doori Dager-Chowki Choura-Bhambla-Nowshera-Rajouri. The line was designated a national project on March 22, 2012. The new railway line between Jammu and Poonch with 234.12 kilometer length will cost Rs. 7227.85 Crore.

Srinagar-Kargil-Leh line is a proposed railway line from Srinagar station via the town of Kargil to Leh by Indian Railways. The line was designated a national project on February 26, 2013.

Chota Char Dham Railway has two different Y-shaped railways, with a total of the following four individual rail lines, Doiwala-Dehradun-Uttarkashi-Maneri Gangotri Railway is a 131 kilometer long route, Uttarkashi-Palar Yamunotri Railway is a 22 kilometer long route making a “Y” fork connection at Uttarkashi from the Gangotri railway above. Karanprayag-Saikot-Sonprayag Kedarnath Railway is a 99 kilometer-long route and Saikot-Joshimath Badrinath Railway, a 75 kilometer long route making a “Y” fork connection at Saikot from the Kedarnath railway above. Rishikesh-Karanprayag Railway is also an under construction new railway link extension from the exiting Rishikesh railway station to Karanprayag.

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Mountain Railways of India - Chhotey Lines

Mountain Railways of India
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Kalka-Shimla Railway
Matheran Hill Railway
Kangra Valley Railway
Jammu-Baramulla Line
Lumding-Sabroom Section

Mountain Railways of India Institution

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Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC)
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Proposed New Mountain Railways of India
Bilaspur-Mandi-Leh Line
Jammu-Poonch Line
Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Line
Chota Char Dham Railway

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