Train journeys in India are always a memorable and fascinating experience.
Going on a train journey, you lose all sense of time as the rhythm of the wheels and the soft sway of the speeding express lull you into another world. You stare in absolute wonder as you watch life passing by through the large windows.
Trains by themselves are such awesome machines. The steam engine with its choo-choo greetings, as the carbon particles, float in the air, and the powerhouse electric train is living its glory days. Slowly and steadily the Vande express is carving out the path for modern bullet trains to make their way to India.
A specialty of India‘s rail journeys is that the Indian Railways system occupies a special place within the national heritage spectrum of India. You can count yourself as absolutely fortunate to experience the unimaginable as Indian Railways presents four UNESCO World Heritage Sites namely Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1999), Nilgiri Mountain Railway (2005), Kalka Shimla Railway (2008), and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai (2004) with Matheran Light Railway and Kangra Valley Railway awaiting recognition.
Before you step onto your unique train journey remember that Indian Railways presents its heritage through 34 Museums, Heritage Parks, and Heritage galleries, spread all over India. And yes, they are definitely worth a visit as the Railways have preserved 230 Steam Locomotives, 110 vintage coaches, and wagons at these museums and heritage parks. Interestingly, some of these rolling stocks are more than 100 years old.
Here are some legendary train experiences you must have on your bucket list:
Here is a luxury train experience that is all about cultural showcasing of destinations and presenting a true royal ‘Maharaja ‘ experience. Life on the train is all about opulence, and a genteel ambiance. All guest cabins and salons offer optimum comfort and luxury.
Passengers are welcomed with garlands and flower petals showered over them. The service delivered on the train is nothing short of treating the traveller as ‘Royalty’.
Anyone riding the train would feel special for the 6 Night – 7 days trip which starts in Delhi and passes through Ranthambore, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and ends in Mumbai. A majority of the destinations that the Maharaja Express passes through are true to its name – the Maharaja Express. Rajasthan is a land of royalty with beautiful forts, palaces, and havelis.
This luxury train also provides the guest with a variety of delectable cuisines presented in two dining cars over a silver-plated service.
Konkan Railways ( Mandovi Express)
This has to be one of the most delightful journeys by train, as the train journeys past rugged mountains, lush valleys, sunlit paddy fields, bustling villages, and glistening rivers that lead out to sea.
The journey is 738 km long through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka. During the monsoon, the rains grace and purify the already lush green landscape.
The first part of the journey is from Mumbai to Goa. Enjoy one day in Goa and then board the train to continue your journey to Mangaluru. Visit the Battery watchtower and Kadri temple, and rest for one day. Next, it’s the final stretch of the journey ending in Kerela. Take your first steps in Kochi, a delightful coastal city. Visit the Periyar National Park and take a backwater cruise on houseboats in Alleppey.
Boat Mail Express
This amazing train journey from Chennai to Rameswaram crosses one of the country’s engineering marvels. The major highlight of this train is the way it crosses the blue sea. The Pamban bridge connects the mainland to Rameshwaram Island. The gentle sea breeze and the aquamarine landscape are enchanting. There is also hope the bridge might be a UNESCO world heritage site which it truly deserves to be.
Why was it called the boat mail? Because far back in 1914, the passengers changed over to a boat ferry from the Indian end of the route in order to cross the seas to Sri Lanka.
When in Rameshwaram don’t forget to visit Dhanush Koti where the three seas meet. Strong winds blow, and you can feel the waves massage your legs. The view is a reminder of Edward Newgate’s quote ” everyone is a child of the sea’.
This winsome journey on the pretty little gauge crosses 305kms as it snakes its way through 102 tunnels, 900 curves, and 87 bridges run on the Delhi and Kalka track at the foothills of the Himalayas. UNESCO added the Kalka–Shimla railway to the mountain railways of India World Heritage Site. It was built in 1903 when English Ladies had to escape the summer heat.
The journey is quaint as it can sometimes be brought to a halt by cows wandering near the tracks, and it’s time to take a break for tea and pakoras under the tall trees and shady cool passages. Watch the beautiful scenery unfolding before you – apple orchards and pine forests as the green landscape and blue sky fills you up with joy.
Darjeeling Toy Train
The toy train is a UNESCO world heritage site, built in the 1800s, and holds a lot of historical value. Imagine taking a journey on an 1881 narrow gauge line, where some of the original steam trains still run from Darjeeling to Ghoom. At an altitude of 7400 feet, Ghoom has the distinction of being the highest train station in India.
Charmingly slow and quaintly steady wins the race. Going slow has its charm, and you find yourself enjoying the journey even more. The train moves at a slow speed allowing you to see the peaceful sleepy villages, plantation workers plucking leaves in the tea garden.
The best part though is it makes a 10-minute halt as it spirals around a gorgeous garden at Batasia loop, which has a series of switchbacks. The train crosses 450 bridges, as it climbs steeply towards Ghoom. You can also get majestic views of the famous Kanchenjunga mountain snow-covered peak.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
One of India’s most fascinating train journeys which recreates the nostalgia of train travel is clearly travelling in a steam engine locomotive on a track that is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Covering a distance of 46 km, the train journey starts from Mettupalayam to scenic spots like Ooty and Coonoor.
This is the only rack railway in India that runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty scaling an elevation of 326m to 2203m in a time span of five hours and reminds you of the marvels of engineering long ago over extremely challenging mountainous terrain.
Enjoy breathtaking views of valleys, as the journey to my mind, can be nicknamed ‘a cloud express’. Immerse yourself in this magnificent experience as the 1000mm meter-gauge railway slowly ascends the Nilgiri hills through 16 tunnels, 250 bridges, and 208 curves chugging through panoramic scenery of lush green meadows, big blue rivers, and high forest reserves.
This train is also popular as the location shoot of one of Bollywood’s most successful films and was the stage for one of the most iconic songs, with famous stars Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika dancing on the roof of this train to the song ‘chaiya chaiya’.
Kashmir Valley Train
A train journey across Kashmir is surreal; it can’t be put into words. The cold bites but the enchanting landscape warm the heart. The journey from Jammu to Baramulla is one of the most challenging railways projects and built in earthquake-prone zones. The rewards are blissful as you cross mountain passes, undulating meadows and valleys, and the beautiful Aharball waterfall.
The Banihal-Baramulla Railway line in the centre of the Kashmir Valley runs through a 119 km broad gauge rail route through the most beautiful scenery that makes the paradise that is Kashmir.
A memorable experience takes shape when the train goes through India’s longest railway tunnel (11.2 km long) and suddenly the dark gives way as the train emerges to the wonderous crossing of the Pir-Panjal Range to touch Qazigund. Feast your eyes and your cameras on the crystal clear scenery of vast mountain ranges and green meadows, white and blue streams, and the local shepherds or ‘Bakarwals’ grazing their sheep.
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