India has the fourth largest railway network all over the world of about 68,155 kilometres, carrying 25 million passengers every day and preceded by only USA, China and Russia. The sound of a train whistle blowing immediately transports us back to childhood, when the best memories were formed on train journeys. Yet there are some interesting facts regarding Indian Railways that many people are not aware of.
In India, there are certain train routes which offers a lifetime experience to the passengers travelling onboard. As the train chugs on its track, its rhythmic vibration takes the travellers to another world.
Here, we are going to talk about some of the breath-taking scenic train journeys in India which has always been ensuring an unforgettable experience in the last 161 years of Indian Railways. So, let’s get started….
1. Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway of West Bengal is all about a tiny steam train that hauls on a pleasant upslope journey from the foothill region through turns, sprawling tea gardens and bends that can be experienced from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling.
The route came to existence between 1879 and 1881. The circular loops are an amazing feature of this rail route that offers it an accession. Running at a steady speed of 10-12 kmph, this narrow-gauge train makes its way slowly through sleepy hill towns and villages.
The 78 km long quaint journey takes almost 8 hours and passes through Siliguri Town, Siliguri Junction, Sukna, Rangtong, Tindharia, Mahanadi, Kurseong, Tung, Sonada, Ghum, Rongbul, Jorebunglow and Batasia Loop with the best part being a 10-minute halt as the toy train goes round a gorgeous garden at Batasia loop.
This particular spot offers a marvellous view of the mighty Kanchenjunga. The route enjoys the status of UNESCO World Heritage.
2. Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Another small loco rail-route running since 1908 extending from Mettupalaiyam to Ooty of about 45.88 kilometres long and lies partly in Coimbatore District and partly in Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu.
The 1000mm meter gauge railway slowly ascends the Nilgiri hills, moving through tunnels and curves offering its passengers a ride they would relish for lifetime. As the train ascends the Nilgiri Mountain, thick pine, oak and eucalyptus forests, bends, curves and tunnels enchants the passengers.
The train moves along Asia’s steepest track with maximum gradient of 8.33 percent. As the blue and cream coloured train slides- up the Nilgiris, the sound of the steam engine spells just like an old-world charm on the travellers and gives the feel of British India.
3. Kalka-Shimla Railway
If you want to cherish picturesque valleys, steep pathways and foggy meadows, travel to Shimla from Kalka in this narrow-gauge railway. Bounded by the lofty Shivalik ranges on each side, this rail track was established in the year 1903 and passes through 864 bridges, 107 tunnels, deep valleys, steep curves, rolling bends, forests of deodar and rhododendron, pine and oak. It finds its name in the Guinness Book of World Records for owning the steepest rise in altitude up to 96 km.
The journey, though at a slow pace, is truly enchanting and as the train ascends the slope rhythmically, the scenery around casts a charm on you of fresh air, maple and pine trees. It is surely the journey of a lifetime.
4. Araku Valley Railway
One of the best ways to cover the Araku valley is by going there by Train. Although this route was specially meant to carry iron ore to Visakhapatnam port from the mineral reserves of Chhattisgarh state preliminarily, this railway route in India is a treat for the eyes as well as the soul.
There are 2 direct passenger trains from Visakhapatnam Junction to Araku which includes 1 daily train and 1 biweekly train. The journey from Vishakhapatnam to Araku valley goes through 58 tunnels, over 84 bridges, sharp loops and is quite an interesting one. Treat your eyes to the panoramic views of cascading waterfalls and a number of caves as well.
5. Mandapam-Rameshwaram Railway
One of the most mesmerizing railway tracks lies in the Konkan Railway. On a journey intersecting the ocean, the train travels from Mandapam in Tamil Nadu to Rameshwaram on Pamban Island.
The sea bridge connecting Mandapam to Pamban Island is the second longest bridge of India over the Palk Strait, which is the only route that connects mainland India to Pamban Island. It is certainly one of the most calm and serene Indian train journeys and while the train crosses the Gulf of Mannar, it is certainly going to leave you spellbound, giving off thrilling vibes.
6. Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Railway
A train starting from the Pink City of Jaipur to Jaisalmer through the sterile expanses of the Thar always proves to be a superb experience. Anyone can hold the belief that it is going to be monotonous journey through the rusty desert regions but to be specific, the journey is not at all monotonous.
In fact, one gets to see diversified topography like typical desert landscape with xerophytic vegetation, yellow soil, dunes, grazing camels and scattered settlements of the desert inhabitants. The vibrant settlements of colourful mud huts and stray camels grazing in the flat desert against the rising sun can be a sight to cherish forever in life.
7. Vasco da Gama-Londa Railway
Through dense forests, towns, mesmerizing waterfalls, mysterious tunnels and lush green fields, this rail route will take you through the best of the Konkan Coast. The journey from Mumbai to Goa intersecting through the gorges of Sahyadari and fringes of Arabian Sea is equally or perhaps the most scenic train rides in India.
A train ride from Vasco takes you from the serene beaches to the precarious curves of Western Ghat Mountains offering a breath-taking sight of the Dudhsagar waterfalls, one of India’s highest and most exquisite falls, which is a highlight of this route. You should keep your camera ready between your hands to capture the highlights of one of the stunning and beautiful train journeys in India.
8. Kashmir Valley Railway
The Jammu–Baramulla route is a railway track being laid to connect the Kashmir Valley in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Although Kashmir Railway is one of the most challenging railway projects of the Indian rail system, but it is equally picturesque and enthralling. Located in high earthquake intensity zone with undulating snowy and rugged terrain under extreme weather conditions, make this route an exciting train journey.
The route meanders through 20 tunnels and 100 bridges through the Himalayas and would later include the tallest railway bridge in India, which is currently under construction.