Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) is a 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3/8 in) metre gauge railway in Tamil Nadu, India, built by the British in 1908, and is operated by the Southern Railway. NMR is the only rack railway in India.
The railway 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 Udhagamandalam. Local people and tourists have led a campaign to return to the use of steam locomotives in this section.
In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the World Heritage Site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The site then became known as Mountain railways of India.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway History
The construction of NMR started in 1908. Initially, Coonoor was the final station on the line, but in September 1908 it was extended to Fernhill, and eventually up to Udagmandalam by October 15, 1908.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Operators
The NMR and all its movable and immovable assets, including the authentic railway stations, the line, and the track vehicles, belong to the Government of India and are entrusted to the Ministry of Railways. The Southern Railway handles the day-to-day maintenance and management but several programs, divisions and departments of the Indian Railways are responsible for operating, maintaining and repairing the NMR. This includes technical as well as non-technical work.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Rack and Pinion is the only Rack in India
Between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, the line uses the Abt rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient. Thus NMR is the only rack railway in India.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Rolling Stock
On the rack, section trains are operated by 'X' Class steam rack locomotives manufactured by the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works of Winterthur in Switzerland.
These steam locomotives can be used on any part of the line (either with or without the rack section), but the newer diesel locomotives can operate on the entire section, between Mettupalayam and Udagamandalam. This signals the beginning of the process to phase out the coal-fired vintage Swiss engines that took scores of passengers on the rack and pinion track to Coonoor and Udhagamandalam, covering 45.8 kilometres (28 mi), 108 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges.
Hence, the Southern Railway decided to replace the coal-fired locomotives. The work was entrusted to Golden Rock Workshop of Southern Railway at Tiruchirapalli. Each of the new engines weighs a little over 50 tonnes and cost Rs.10 crore.
The new engine has been provided with pilot and primary burners with separate tanks to hold about 850 litres (190 imp gal; 220 US gal) of diesel and 2,250 litres (490 imp gal; 590 US gal) of furnace oil. The hauling capacity of this new engine is 97.6 tonnes (96.1 long tons; 107.6 short tons) and it can run at a speed of 30 kilometres per hour (19 miles per hour) in plains and at 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) an hour on a gradient. The arrival of the new engines has eliminated the disruption in service that occurred frequently over the last few years.
For long, the X Class locomotives manufactured by Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works of Winterthur in Switzerland lent that distinct charm to NMR. These locomotives are six to eight decades old, railway officials said
The steam locomotives are always marshalled at the downhill (Mettupalayam) end of the train. The average gradient in this rack section is 1 in 24.5 (4.08%), with a maximum of 1 in 12 (8.33%). Between Coonoor and Udagamandalam the train is operated by a YDM4 diesel locomotive using conventional rail adhesion principles. On this section, the locomotive is always at the Coonoor end of the train as although the line is not steep enough to need a rack rail, the ruling gradient out of Coonoor is still very steep at 1 in 25 (4%).
The majority of repairs to the locomotives are carried out at the Coonoor shed but many of the steam locomotives have been rebuilt at the Golden Rock Workshops. Carriages are repaired at Mettupalayam but, like the locomotives, are taken to one of the big railway workshops for major work.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Route
Dist. Station Code Elev.
to Coimbatore Junction CBE 1348 ft 410.9 m
0 Mettupalayam MTP 1069 ft 325.8 m
8 km 5 mi Kallar 1260 ft 384 m
13 km 8 mi Adderly 2390 f t 728.5 m
18 km 11 mi Hillgrove HLG 3580 ft 1091.2 m
21 km 13 mi Runneymede 4612 ft 1405.7 m
25 km 16 mi Kateri Road 5070 ft 1545.3 m
28 km 17 mi Coonoor ONR 5616 ft 1711.8 m
29 km 18 mi Wellington WEL 5804 ft 1769.1 m
32 km 20 mi Aravankadu AVK 6144 ft 1872.7 m
38 km 24 mi Ketti KXT 6864 ft 2092.1 m
42 km 26 mi Lovedale LOV 7000 ft 2133.6 m
44 km 27 mi Fernhill
46 km 29 mi Udhagamandalam UAM 7228 ft 2203.1 m
The 'Nilgiri Passenger' train covers a distance of 26 km (16.2 mi), travels through 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and across 250 bridges. The uphill journey takes around 290 minutes (4.8 hours), and the downhill journey takes 215 minutes (3.6 hours). It has the steepest track in Asia with a maximum gradient of 8.33%.
As of 2007, there is one train a day over the rack section, which starts from Mettupalayam at 07:10 and reaches Udhagamandalam at noon. The return train starts from Udhagamandalam at 14:00, and reaches at 17:35. The train is scheduled to connect to the Nilgiri Express, which travels from Mettupalayam to Chennai via Coimbatore. A summer special service is also run during the months of April and May, starting from Mettupalayam at 09:30 (AM) and from Udhagamandalam at 12:15 (PM). Between Coonoor and Udagamandalam, there are four daily trains each way.
Even though the NMR stations have networked computerised ticketing systems for onward journeys, it still issues Edmondson style manual tickets for the Udhagamandalam-Mettupalayam journey to preserve the 'World Heritage Site' status of the railway. However, ticket booking is similar to other conventional trains and can also be done via this website. It is advisable to book tickets for this railway well in advance, especially during peak season.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Stations
Mettupalayam Railway Station
Station with the 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) line near to Coimbatore Junction. Passengers cross the platform to board the Nilagiri Passenger train (NMR). There is a small locomotive shed here and also the carriage workshops for the line. Leaving Mettupalayam, the line is adhesion worked and actually drops for a short distance before crossing the Bhavani River, after which it starts to climb gently.
Closed as a passenger station, this is where the rack rail begins. As the train leaves the station, the gradient is 1 in 12 (8.33%).
Closed as a passenger station but is still a water stop.
Block post and water stop, also has refreshments for passengers.
Closed as a passenger station but is still a water stop.
Kateri Road Station
Closed as a passenger station, trains do not stop here.
Coonoor Railway Station
Main intermediate station on the line at the site of the locomotive workshops as well as the top end of the rack rail. Trains must reverse a short distance before continuing their climb to Udhagamandalam. It is normal for the locomotive to be changed here with diesel traction, being normal for all trains to Udhagamandalam.
Wellington Railway Station
Aravankadu Railway Station
Ketti Railway Station
Lovedale Railway Station
From a short distance before Lovedale, the line descends into Udhagamandalam.
Udhagamandalam Railway Station
Udhagamandalam railway station, has preserved much of its equipment from the railway heyday of the Raj. In addition to the original 1908 building, it still has an operational water dispenser for steam locomotives, and a weighing scale made in 1907 by Hendry Boomley & Son of Birmingham.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Popular Culture
Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Film
Nilgiri Mountain Railway on Television
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Operational Detail
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Terminus: Udhagamandalam
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Operated by: Southern Railway
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Stations: 13
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Length: 46 km
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Preserved Gauge: 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3/8 in)
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Opened: 1908
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Headquarters: Mettupalayam
Nilgiri Mountain Railway UNESCO World Heritage Site
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Criteria: Cultural: (ii), (iv)
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Reference: 944
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Inscription: 2005 (29th Session)