The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which was given world heritage status by UNESCO in 2005, completed 106 years of its existence on October 15, 2015. To celebrate the special day, passengers were given cake and flowers.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), the first mountain railway in the country that came up with the rack and pinion system and still relies on its fleet of steam locomotives, is still going strong after 106 years.
The rack and pinion system allows the train to operate on steep grades and is used to cover the steep gradient the engine chugs along on in its journey from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam.
The railway in Tamil Nadu was built by the British in 1908. The line between Mettupalayam and Coonoor was first laid in 1898 and then extended up to Udhagamandalam in 1908.
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NMR still relies on its fleet of steam locomotives. The ‘Nilgiri Passenger’ train covers a distance of 26 km, travels through 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and across 250 bridges.
The journey starts at 1,069 ft above Mean Sea Level and travels up to a height of 7,228 ft. The rack and pinion system begins a little after Kallar station and goes up to Coonoor.
What makes this train journey remarkable is the beautiful scenery it travels through.
NMR passes through paddy fields for about 7 kilometres between Kallar and Mettupalayam. Then, the train takes a sudden turn, running through a rocky terrain for about 21 kms. This is followed by various tunnels, viaducts, bends and twists. The train then enters the steep climb to the tea plantations in Coonoor.
In over 100 years of its existence, NMR has faced several challenges like landslides, tracks being washed away, and much more. But railway authorities have always been proactive in restoring this unique railway as soon as possible.