About Nilgiri Mountain Railway
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a meter-gauge railway line 1000 mm long that passes through the queenly hill station of Ooty in Tamil Nadu. The fleet of steam locomotives running on this line is aptly nicknamed ‘the Toy Train’ and is greatly popular among children.
The train covers a total distance of 46 km over a span of 5 hours, meandering by the rolling hills, green meadows, and view of the forested slopes. Localities bob up from within the greens with their red-tiled roofs and the train stops every once in a while at quaint little hill stations. You will be waved through Mettupalayam, Kellar, Coonoor, Wellington, Lovedale, and Ootacamund on this ride, reaching the point of 4,363 ft at the maximum.
There are a number of pitch-dark tunnels to cross through, sharp bends along the mountains, thickly forested stretches, and a wide panorama of verdant meadow highlands to enjoy from your window seat. It is not just the brilliant picturesque quality of this dream-like rail journey that makes it so special, but also the fact that the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is part of India’s heritage. The tracks were laid down by the British Indian administration in the year 1908.
Also, the trains use locomotives from over 50 and 80 years back-- the specimens of the oldest x-class locomotives still in use. UNESCO declared the railway as a World Heritage Site in 2005, extending it to the greater heritage site of Mountain Railways of India.
How to Reach Nilgiri Mountain Railway
It’s a short distance between Ooty city center to Udhagamandalam Railway Station- a terminus station located within the city bounds.
By Autorickshaw: In Ooty, auto rickshaws for short-distance travel are available in great numbers. You can hire one from any part of the Ooty city center region to take you to Udhagamandalam Railway Station.
From the Charing Cross Busstand, it takes approximately 9 minutes to reach the railway station via the Commercial Rd.
By Bus: You can also find buses from Charing Cross stand towards Udhagamandalam station.
By Cabs: Hire a cab from tourist help centers in the city or use an online service to get to the rail station.
Best Time to Visit Nilgiri Mountain Railway
October to June is considered the most favorable time to tour on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. While the summers are stifling with temperatures around 30 degrees and the monsoons are fraught with unpredictable rains, the winters till springtime is characterised by clear skies, flower bloomings, and a n enjoyable nip in the air.
The region enjoys around the year salubrious temperature, though the winters are colder than in the rest of southern India and the monsoons make it difficult to travel outdoors because of unpredictable weather.
Summers: March to May is a good time to take a breezy tour along the hills on the Nilgiri mountain railway route. The heat hovers between 25 to 30 degrees during the day, but it is not extremely humid.
Monsoon: Temperatures from June to September remain between 15 to 25 degrees, and there is unpredictable rains that might cause alteration in the train timings.
Winter: October to February in Ooty is marked by clear skies and low temperatures, remaining between 10 to 23 degrees during the day, while you can experience temperatures as low as 5 degrees in the nighttime.
What Not to Miss at Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Places to Visit Near Nilgiri Mountain Railway
1. Avalanche Lake: To access the mesmerizing Avalanche Lake, you have to alight at Udhagamandalam station and travel 28 km from Ooty city center to the Mukurthi National Park main entrance. There’s a number of activities to indulge in at the lake site, from trout fishing to wildlife watching, camping, and safari. Post-monsoon is a great time to go to Avalanche or the great blooming of myriad flowers.
2. CSI St. Thomas Church: One of the oldest churches in the Nilgiri locales, CSI St Thomas in Fern Hill near Ooty is part of the Diocese of Ooty. Regal British era architecture, the sylvan locale commanding views of the lovely Ooty Lake, and the ancient spiritual heritage of CSI St. Thomas makes is a must-visit place in Ooty for those interested in culture and history. Visit this site for the spectacular view it commands of the lovely Ooty Lake, the beautiful European architecture. This church has served as a movie shooting spot for the cinematic adaptation of E.M Forsters’ famous novel titled- ‘A Passage to India.’
3. Lamb’s Rock, Coonoor: Coonoor is famous for its tea gardens producing Nilgiri tea and is the second-highest hill station in the Nilgiris next to Ooty. You can get down at Coonoor at the end of your Nilgiri Railways journey and pay a visit to the enthralling Lamb’s Rock viewpoint amidst tea plantations and surrounding slopes. You can hire an auto rickshaw or a cab to travel 7 km uphill from the Coonoor city center to the Lamb’s Rock viewpoint overlooking the grandeur of Nilgiris. Alternatively, you can also trek!
Other Essential Information About Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Location: The railway route crisscrosses the beautiful Nilgiri Hills extension of the Western Ghats, the journey flagging off from Mettupalayam to Ooty (Udagamandalam). The 46 km long track passes through Coonoor, Kellar, Wellington, Lovedale, and Ootacamund. Steep slopes rise and fall along the tracks, deep ravines are crossed, verdant forested stretches open up before us here and there, and neatly terraced slopes of tea plantation can be found all along. There also are 250 bridges and 16 tunnels through which the tracks pass
Timings: There are two daily trains plying on this line, they are scheduled as below:
- 56136 - Mettupalayam-Ooty MG Passenger
Departure- 7:10 AM
Arrival- 12:00 PM
- 56137- Ooty-Mettupalayam MG Passenger
Departure- 14:00 PM
Arrival- 17:35 PM
There are classes for traveling on Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The prices for First Class and Second Class travel are listed below:
1. First Class- Rs. 1100 for adults and Rs. 650 for kids, from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. (same charged from Coonoor to Mettupalayam)
2. Second Class- Rs. 800 for adults and Rs. 500 for kids, from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. (same charges from Coonoor to Mettupalayam
Number of Stations- The number of stations at present on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway are 4, namely-- Kallar, Lovingdale, Wellington, and Coonoor.
A few years back, the station Fernhill was closed down.
History of Nilgiri Mountain Railway
It was in the pipelines to establish a mountain railway extending from Mettupalayam to the Nilgiri Hills as of the year 1854, however, it took until 1907 to complete the entire line and the Madras Railway Company was initially assigned the duty of its management.
The newly innovated ‘rack and pinion’ system was introduced for the first time in India on this railway and it is effectively functional to date. In 1907, Double Fairlie locomotives were introduced to the line, built by the illustrious Avonside Engine Company and these continued to be in use until 1914. While initially, Coonoor was the last station on this line, it was extended to Fernhill by September 1908 and by October of the same year, Ooty or Udagamandalam was also added on the line.
Travelers’ Tip Before Visiting Nilgiri Mountain Railway
1. Book online in advance to avoid the rush, as the touring by the Nilgiri Mountain Railways is popular with tourists throughout all seasons
2. Come winter-ready, with something to cover your head and neck since the mountain wind blows strongly inside the coaches.
3. Avoid the monsoons, for the rain covered windows will make it hard for you to see anything outside.
4. Take the whole tour, from Mettupalayam to Coonoor for a complete experience.