One of the highpoints of Ooty, the Nilgiri Mountain railway or the toy train is back on track after 9 months. The train, built in 1899 was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005 and continues to be a tourist favourite, covering 46 km in 5 hours.
The train, which is said to be the steepest rail system in Asia starts from Mettupalayam, chugs along flat planes for the 5 km and gradually climbs to a height of 4,363 ft for the remaining 12 km. The toy train gales its way through dark tunnels, lush forests, and charming hilly slopes and stops at Kellar, Adderley, Hillgrove, Runnymede, Kateri Road, Coonoor, Wellington, Lovedale, and Ootacamund. You can catch mist and fog and the sunlight peeking through the clouds. as you lose track of time and space altogether.
From Mettupalayam, you can see paddy fields and from Kallar to Coonoor the trail is rocky. It is more fun when the train climbs up a steep rise from Coonoor to Fern Hill, which is the highest point on the route. Coonoor, famous for the second largest hill station (besides being a much-loved film shooting location) includes Sim’s Park, Law’s Falls, Dolphin’s Nose, Lamb’s Rock, and Droog Fort.
Lastly, the track takes a downhill turn to Ooty, famous for its lake, Rose Garden, Botanical Garden, Stone House, Tribal Museum, St. Stephen’s Church, and Wax World.
The train painted in blue and cream, with wooden coaches passes through several deserted stations on the way and stops for 15 minutes at each station. The track is an engineering marvel, and the train has first-class and general class compartments. You can book tickets two months before the date of your trip on the IRCTC website. Summer is the best time to visit.
Some trivia about the Heritage train
• It is the only meter gauge rack railway in India.
• Its youngest X class locomotive is over 50 years old, and the oldest is 80 years old.
• The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is the steepest track in Asia, ranging from 1,069 feet to 7,228 feet above sea level at its highest points.
• The railway uses a fleet of X Class steam locomotives. In recent years, its vintage coal-fired steam locomotives have been replaced with new oil-fired steam engines.
• The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is 46 kilometres long, passing through many tunnels and hundreds of bridges.
• Coonoor is famous all over for its signature teas. The most spectacular scenery and views are situated along the stretch from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. Many people prefer to travel only on this stretch of the journey. (courtesy oyorooms.com)
Top 5 must-try recommendations in Ooty
• Homemade chocolates at Main bazaar which is a flea market.
• Visit the Honey and Bee Museum and know every little thing you need to know about the bees
• Higginbotham’s bookstore and even if you look at books or not, it is an experience simply to visit this beautiful building done in white.
• Take a stroll through the pine trees and while exiting feast on some roasted corn.
• Boating at Ooty lake