Luxury train travel is nothing new when it comes to the Indian Railways with the likes of the Palace on Wheels and the Maharaja’s Express to name a few. But if you are looking for some fascinating Indian train journeys that are as quaint as they are unique, look no further than some of the trains described here.
Araku Valley-Vishakhapatnam Vistadome
Train travelers between Araku Valley and Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh can soak in the scenery from a Vistadome coach, the first of its kind to be introduced in India in April last year. This coach – one of the few currently operational in the country – gives them a panoramic view of the landscape from a chair car that has seats which can be rotated 360 degrees, large windows and a transparent glass roof.
The windows and roof can be turned from transparent to opaque at the touch of a button. LCD screens that hang from the roof and fully reclining seats add to the experience.
Initially priced at Rs 665, the cost of a ticket was recently reduced to Rs 565 in view of what the East Coast Railway said was a good response from the passengers. The Araku Valley, incidentally is known for its organic coffee by the same name.
Talking about fascinating Indian train journeys, a trip between Mumbai and Goa is an unforgettable experience if one travels in the Vistadome coach. Introduced in September last year on the Dadar-Madgaon Jan Shatabdi to promote tourism, these coaches have the same facilities as the one used on the Araku-Vishakhapatnam route.
In addition to these two routes, trials runs using Vistadome coaches have also been carried out in the Kashmir Valley and a service is likely to be introduced on the Banihal-Baramulla section soon.
The introduction of these coaches is part of a series of steps taken by Indian Railways to make train travel interesting as well as luxurious.
The Mountain Railways Of India
Three railway systems in different parts of India have been collectively designated as The Mountain Railways of India, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This includes the Kalka-Shimla Railway (96 km), the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (88 km) and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (46 km) – all of them are popularly referred to as Toy Trains.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, built in 1881, offers a fascinating view as it runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling. The Kalka-Shimla Railway goes through a series of tunnels and some picturesque stations, overlooking the highway along many stretches during its journey. When it was constructed in the mid-19thcentury, the Kalka-Shimla Railway had the world’s highest multi-arc gallery bridge and the world’s highest tunnel.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway opened in 1908 has 16 tunnels and covers the distance between Mettupalayam and Ooty in Tamil Nadu in about five hours.
Egmore Heritage Train
There are several heritage trains that make for fascinating Indian train journeys. Boarding this special train from Egmore to Kodambakkam is memorable – it is hauled by the oldest working steam locomotive in the world! Named EIR 21, the steam engine built in England in 1855, has been used for periodic heritage runs since it was taken up for restoration in 2010.
A special run was organised on Republic Day this year. The most recent journey using this steam engine was on 27 May, when 40 seats were made available in a coach on a first-come-first-served basis.
Here is a video shared on Twitter by the General Manager Southern Railway.
Heritage special EIR 21 on commercial run successfully held today – 2 more such runs would be conducted on 3rd & 10th June, 2018 (foll 2 Sundays) – A 40 seater spl coach will be hauled by the loco – Fare : ₹650 per adult, ₹500 per child (below 12 yrs) pic.twitter.com/uJQBh5swE7
— @GMSouthernrailway (@GMSRailway) May 27, 2018
Matheran Hill Railway
This train runs on a stretch between Neral (on the Mumbai-Pune line) and Matheran, a tiny hill station, in the Western Ghats. It was built as a private railway by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbhoy between 1901 and 1907. With the revival of this heritage route, this is the latest addition to the list of fascinating Indian train journeys.