8 Feb 2013

Mountain Railways of India : The Beautiful World Heritage Site of India

Mountain Railways of India includes six narrow or meter gauge railway lines mainly, among those three lines are most famous, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka Shimla Railway. All these three railways are still fully operational and have been included in the UNESCO world heritage sites from India which is a quite pride thing. The Kangra Valley Railway and the Kashmir Railway are in the rugged hill regions of the Himalayas of Northern India. The Matheran Hill Railway is in Maharashtra.

Mountain-Railways-of-India

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway:

Darjeeling-Himalayan-Railway-Toy-train
The small-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway—often called the "toy train" for its size started in long back 1881.It was the very first and is still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway in India. The design of this applies sphisticated and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty which could be a very difficult task for obvious reasons. It is closely linked with the development of Darjeeling as the queen of hill stations and one of the main tea-growing areas in India beyond doubt. 

When we will analyse the historical dimension of this,we will find that the densely forest mountain spur on which Darjeeling now stands was formerly part of the Kingdom of Sikkim. It was selected by the British East India Company as a rest and recovery station for its soldiers in 1835, when the area was leased from Sikkim and building of the hill station began, linked to the plains by road. In 1878 the Eastern Bengal Railway came up with a detailed proposal for a steam railway from Siliguri, already linked with Calcutta to Darjeeling. This received immediate official approval and construction work began soon, and by 1881 it had been completed. Since 1958 it has been controlled by the State-owned Northeast Frontier Railway. It consists of considerably long 88.48 km of 2 ft (0.610 m) gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through eleven stations between the two places. One of these, Ghoom, is the second highest railway station in the world, at an altitude of 2258m. As it passes through a mountainous region, 73% of the total length of the line consists of curves, the sharpest of which is that between Sukna and Rongtong, where the track passes through large 120°. There are six reverses and three loops on the line, the most famous of these being the Batasia Loop between Ghoom and Darjeeling. The steepest gradient is 1 in 18 (in zigzag reverses).

The Toy Train, as it is famously known, affords breathtaking views of high waterfalls, green valleys that are often hidden by cloud, and at its end the splendid panorama of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range. There are several distinct sections: the 10 km plains section between Siliguri and Sukna (partly urban and partly agricultural), the 11 km densely forested section from Sukna to beyond Rongtong, the 38 km largely deforested open hill section with its many tea gardens to Kurseong, and finally the 30 km alpine section to Darjeeling, dominated by stands of Himalayan pine and tea gardens.gardens. 

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway:

Nilgiri-Mountain-Railway
The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway in southern state of Tamilnadu was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2,203 m, represented the latest sophisticated technology of the time. 


The Nilgiri Mountain Railway consists of 45.88 km of a 1 m gauge single-track, partly rack-and-pinion railway that connects Mettupalayiyam to Udagamandalam in Tamil Nadu State. 

This railway can be mainly divided into three sections:

1)Mettupalaiyam to Kallar (elevation 405 m): In 7 km across the central plain of Tamil Nadu, with its betel-nut palm and other plantations. Maximum speed is 30 km/h called the Blue Mountain Express, the name of which was changed recently to the native Nilgiri Express.

2) Kallar to Coonoor (elevation 1,712 m): The rack section of the line, having 208 curves and 13 tunnels, and 27 viaducts. The Kallar Bridge over the River Bhawani, the Adderley Viaduct and the Burliar Bridge are examples of such composite bridges. Here, the railway climbs through almost uninhabited, tropical forest.

3)A stretch of 18 km runs through a landscape with dominant eucalyptus and acacia forest. The railway continues to climb across the Nilgiris until it reaches the summit, just before the terminus of Udagamandalam at 2,203 m.

The Kalka Shimla Railway:

The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96-km long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla is indeed a symbol of the beautiful technical and material efforts to dis-enclave mountain populations through the railway.


Mountain-Railway-India
Mountain-Railway-India
The line delves through 102 tunnels, the largest of which is 3,750 feet (1,143 meters) long. It also crosses 864 bridges, many of which are viaducts with several levels of arched galleries reminiscent of ancient Rome’s aqueducts.These lines offer riders an unmatched travel adventure in rugged mountainous terrain and stand the test of time as outstanding feats of engineering. Perhaps their most important role, however, was as socio-economic lifelines for isolated communities in this mountainous region.

World-Heritage-Sites-Of-India
Pic courtesy : asi.nic.in
The Indian railways helped to link rural and urban people together as part of a rapidly modernizing India. These all three mountain railways are still fully operational today, and a ride on any of them reveals the incredible engineering achievements that brought these superb rail service to these rugged locales.

The mountain railways face intermittent problems due to political instability in few regions. They are also at the mercy of seasonal storms, which can wash out tracks (and roads) and requires extensive repairs as maintaining these narrow and curvy tracks is just a totally different thing which requires a lot of efforts and expense. Maintenance of these treasures can be difficult and expensive, but their high appeal to domestic and foreign tourists helps to keep them running. Local and Central governments should give more attention to preserve these precious and beautiful world heritage sites.Visiting these natural and man-made beautiful places could be surely a lifetime experience for many people.


What are your suggestions to protect the world heritage sites in India?

What are your views on the importance of these sites?







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