Ian Lockwood

MUSINGS, TRIP ACCOUNTS AND IMAGES FROM SOUTH ASIA

Into the Blue Mountains On Steam Power

with one comment

A steam locomotive warms up at Mettupalayam station overshadowed by the Nilgiri Hills.

A steam locomotive warms up at Mettupalayam station overshadowed by the Nilgiri Hills.

The Nilgiri Mountain railway is not to be missed if you are interested in Western Ghats scenery, unhurried travel and the allure of steam locomotion. Like the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the southern cousin in the Nilgiri Hills has been recently (2005) notified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site . The train connects the plains town of Mettupalayam (on the south slopes of the Nilgiri hills) with the 2,200+ meter hill-station of Ooty (Udhagamandalam).

The route is a total of 46 kilometers, which ascend at a fair gradient and must, thus, rely on the rack and pinion apparatus to zipper the train up the mountain. I took the ride this last July with my father and son, both of who are steam enthusiasts, albeit at different levels of interests based on their age disparity. The ride is slow and offers ample opportunity to appreciate the gradual change in vegetation from dry-scrub to moist deciduous and then evergreen forest. We encountered a herd of elephants, spotted a variety of birds and also enjoyed frequent lizard sightings. There are numerous tunnels, chasms and waterfalls to appreciate. There are also still signs of the 1994 landslide, which caused such damage to the line, not to mention human life. I had motorcycled up to Ooty from the Palnis shortly after  and personally witnessed the utter devastation. The train line had been knocked out for a significant period after the landslide.

The steam locomotive is exchanged for a diesel at Conoor Station, which is a large mid-elevation town, known for its military cantonments. We got down to wander around the workshop with cameras while the train continued on up the last stretch up to Ooty.

Scenes from the Mettupalayam workshops.

Scenes from the Mettupalayam workshops.

Coal loader at Mettuplayam workshops

Coal loader at Mettuplayam workshops

Detail of Nilgiri Mountain Railway steam locomotive

Detail of Nilgiri Mountain Railway steam locomotive
One of numerous bridges on the ascent to Conoor, with the steam locomotive pushing the three passenger cars

One of numerous bridges on the ascent to Conoor, with the steam locomotive pushing the four passenger cars

Signboard on ascent to Conoor.

Signboard on ascent to Conoor.

Water stop on the track half way up to Conoor from Mettupalayam.

Water stop on the track half way up to Conoor from Mettupalayam.

Switching engines at Coonor station in the Nilgiris.

Switching engines at Coonor station.

Loading coal at Conoor station.

Loading coal at Conoor station.
Cleaning a steam locomotive after it made the 3.5 hour ascent from Mettupalayam to Conoor.

Cleaning a steam locomotive after it made the 3.5 hour ascent from Mettupalayam to Conoor.

These images were shot in July 2006 and 2009 with a combination of cameras and lenses: Mamiya 6, Hasselblad 503 cx and Nikon D-200.

Written by ianlockwood

2009-09-07 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Nilgiri Hills, Western Ghats

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One Response

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  1. Yes, its an enjoyable ride, even now. I like the B&W photos

    flowergirl

    2009-09-08 at 4:34 am


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