When someone travels 3 times a year for vacation across the length and breadth of the country how tough can it be for him to write travel blog? That’s what I thought when I started writing this experience. Turned out, when you have an overwhelmingly rich experience of travelling it becomes tough for you to choose. So I chose a rather unconventional subject for my first endeavor, something very close to my heart.
There is an old saying “The journey is always more beautiful than the destination”, and what better way to travel in India than with the great Indian Railway. Yes today I will talk about all the beautiful section of Indian Railway where only the journey itself can be called a fulfilling vacation experience. Readers, before I start discussing about them let me deviate for a couple of line more. My association with Indian Railway long distance train started when I was barely 3.5 years old. But the rhythmic movement, the horn, black smoke of diesel engine(I am a late 80’s child) and the never tiring “Clickty Clack” sound, concept of middle berth, ladders to climb immediately struck chord with the young heart . I am still in love with those and I whole heartedly believe, if you want to know ‘middle class’ India; travel by Indian railway in sleeper class.
Ok enough of nostalgia. When we are talking about one of the beautiful sections of it we got to start with 3 queens of Indian railway, 3 queen from hills with narrow gauge.
DHR – This line from Siliguri to Darjeeling when built was an engineering marvel, just because of the sheer height and the gradient . This railway hold the record highest railway station for more than hundred years until the Chinese broke with tibetian railway. But I am not going to talk about those. The reason for mentioning Darjeeling toy train at first is for one single reason. It is Darjeeling , “the queen of hills”. This railway line winds through Jungle, then tea garden and as you are getting mesmerized by green landscape Mount Kanchenjunga appears with his grand presence. No wonder there has been so much romanticism attached to it.
Simla-Kalka – As if the British thought building one beautiful section of railway was not enough so they start building this line. If Darjeeling railway is famous for its winding hairpin turn and loops, this line will take her prize for tunnels and bridges . I was 3.5 years when I get introduced by the term “Toy Train” here. This tunnel concept was new to me and absolutely hooked to it since then. Let me share a fun fact about these tunnels. Simla being a hot favorite among honeymooners in north India there is one tunnel in this line famously known kissing tunnel. As it gets dark for just enough time to kiss your partner sitting beside you. It’s a pity that bollywood never used this railway section.
Nilgiri – Ok I haven’t rode this line. Being the most technologically advanced among these 3 lines It was mostly a neglected line until ‘chhaiya chhaiya’ happened. If you are a Indian monsoon lover you have to try this line in monsoon. Nowhere in India is monsoon more beautiful than western ghat-nilgiri section.Darjeeling got Kanchenjunga, simla got its tunnel then this line can proudly say “I have monsoon”.
So first 3 awards went to British engineers, It is time for our ‘Desi Babus’ to take the centre stage. It is never easy for broad gauge lines to usher romanticism as it is a more work horse kind of line than pleasure ride still these 3 lines can easily boast itself as “Handsome Dude” of Indian rail (if narrow gauge is queen broad gauge have to be male J ) . One thing is common among the next three. They are best enjoyed in monsoon.
Vizag-Araku This line was built for pure business, bringing iron ore from Bailadilla to Vizag port. Never realized when they mixed business with pleasure J . I was fortunate enough to travel this line in mosoon. The track is too hilly for a broad gauge line. The gradient is so steep that sometimes it takes 2-3 engine to haul the train. But in monsoon this line will greet you with waterfalls almost entering into the train, tunnel that never seems to end and bridges with enough height to do a bunjee jumping. I am not gonna rank it as I am still confused among our 3 “handsome dude”
NJP-New Alipurduar Readers, trust me, I am not doing any partiality towards Bengal. This line may be infamous for elephant killing. But it had to be one of the best sections of Indian railway. Again the purpose was business, to save time for travel, and in an attempt to do so they created a line which can rival F1 track for Montreal (Just kidding). Yes this line never climbs the hill but winds through gorges between the Himalaya, and the tea garden and 3 tiger reserve! Yup you read it right. If vizag- araku has gradient , this line got bends. The north eastern section of Himalaya produces more river than any other section. So the number of bridges is un-countable. You want to fall in love for dooars? Travel this section at daytimes in monsoon.
Konkan Railway Undoubtedly the most celebrated section of broad gauge line in Indian Railway. It is so famous, bbc made documentary on this. In monsoon you will find a black market of the sleeper class ticket (yup sleeper class, not A/C). If nilgiri line is queen of “monsoon rail”, this line have to be King. The crown jewel of this line is Dudhsagar falls (do googleJ) but let me make a confession, though I got the chance to travel this line 2 times but it never happened. And I curse myself for that. But I have travelled the road that runs parallel to this line and trust me readers, make this a “Must to-do before you die” thing.
PS: Kashmir Railway is going to be completed by 2017. And I am sure when the full section will open it will be the undisputed King of Indian Railway if not the world. And Indian railway will have a “Winter King” after first time in its history.