In Pics: These Historic Indian Railway Stations Are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Railways UNESCO Heritage sites

Among the numerous railway stations across the country, there are a few that are unique for several reasons. Here are four among them that are also UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Indian railways hold a rich heritage and history that dates back to British colonial rule in the country. Founded over 170 years ago in 1845, the railways have become one of the busiest and budget-friendly travel modes for passengers in the country.

As an effort to showcase its long heritage, the Indian railways has been maintaining several museums, heritage parks and galleries, spread all over India.

Though there are various historical rail routes, bridges, tracks and so on that still hold the rich heritage of railways, a few railway stations that were built over a century ago still stand the test of time.

But did you know that among these railway stations, four have been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status?

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1999), Nilgiri Mountain Railway (2005), Kalka Shimla Railway (2008) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai (2004) have been honoured with heritage status

Among the four, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri mountain railway and Kalka-Shimla railway are part of the mountain railways and have been listed for the stunning views of the mountain ranges. Whereas, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai has been honoured for its beautiful Italian Gothic style of architecture.

1. Darjeeling Himalayan railway

A view of the toy train at Darjeeling
Toy train on the move at Darjeeling.| Photo source: Surendrapradhan (@surendrapradhanphotography on Instagram)

Built between 1879 and 1881 with British interest, the Darjeeling Himalayan railway runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is a 2 ft gauge railway that extends up to a length of about 88 km and travels over elevated terrain, from about 100 metres at an altitude of over 2,200 meters using six zig-zags and five loops with a ruling gradient of 1:31 to gain altitude.

Steam engine of the toy train at Darjeeling mountain railways
Steam engine of the toy train at Darjeeling mountain railways. | Photo source: Umesh Rao (@urao65 on Instagram)

Now both steam and diesel engines serve the route that covers 18 stops providing breathtaking panoramic views of the Himalayas and the nearby hills. This rail line was accorded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1999, thereby becoming the first railway in Asia to get such an honour.

2. Nilgiri Mountain Railway

A view of Nilgiris mountain railways.
A view of Nilgiris mountain railways. | Photo source: Albin Abey (@albinabey on Instagram)

Opened in the year 1908, the Nilgiris mountain railways was one of the most ambitious engineering projects of the British Raj. The toy train was built by the Britishers for convenient travel to the Ooty hill station seeking relief from the heat and to enjoy the weather.

Nilgiris mountain railways
Toy train at the Nilgiris mountain railways. | Photo source: Arkanshu Atha (@arkanshuatha on Instagram)

This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 metres to 2,203 metres is a 1,000 mm metre gauge railway in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. It highlights the marvels of engineering and also induces a vintage and nostalgic appeal. It runs through the beautiful mountains of Ooty to Mettupalayam via Coonoor offering magnificent views of the mist-clad hills, lush green lands, dense forests, and narrow valleys.

UNESCO declared the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) toy train a World Heritage Site in 2005.

3. Kalka Shimla Railway

A view of the Kalka-Shimla railway route
A view of the Kalka-Shimla rail route. | Photo source: Harish Sharma (@shadow_and _sun on Instagram)

Shimla was the summer capital of British India in 1864 and also the Headquarters of the British army in India. The Kalka Shimla railway was built by the British, between 1898 and 1903, to connect Shimla with the rest of the Indian rail system. This iconic rail network known for its stunning views of the Himalayan ranges is also considered a specimen of the greatest narrow gauge engineering in India.

It is a 96.6-kilometre-long narrow-gauge railway between the mountainous route of Kalka and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. Besides, the line has over 800 small and big bridges and viaducts and over 100 bridges which were built in just three years. 

4. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

An exterior view of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai.
An exterior view of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Photo Source: Ansh Photography (@anshphotography on Instagram)

Formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus is a historic railway station and a perfect specimen of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India. The structure of the terminus was designed by a British architectural engineer named F. W. Stevens in an Italian Gothic style during the late 1800s. Starting in 1878, it took around 10 years to complete the construction of the terminus which was built to replace the Bori Bunder terminus and was named Victoria Terminus to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Later in 1996, it was renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to honour the great Maratha Emperor.

A glimpse of the Italian Gothic architecture at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai.
A glimpse of the Italian Gothic architecture at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai. | Photo source: Omkar Nilekar (@om.ni.present on Instagram)

It is noted for its remarkable details and structures such as the beautiful stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan that also aligned with the traditional Indian palace architecture. An amalgam of two cultures, it was a team effort by the British architects and Indian craftsmen to create a very unique and iconic structure.

Edited by Yoshita Rao

Sources:
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway by Wikivoyage
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways: A Passage through Time by Government of India.
Kalka-Shimla Railways by National Informatics Centre (NIC)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus by UNESCO

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