REMEMBER, Under the Wildlife Protection Act, one can be penalized up to amount of Rs. 25,000/- and an imprisonment upto seven years for the wildlife offence. Please don’t add your name in the list.

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Nilgiri Mountain Railway(NMR)...Heritage on Rails

At the height of 2,600m stands Udhagamandalam (Ooty) The Queen of Hill Stations. Nilgiri Mountain Railway(NMR)- ‘Nilgiris toy train’- the oldest mountain Railways in India, connects the town of Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam(Ooty). Both towns are in the state of Tamil Nadu.

It was in 1854, that the first plans were made to build a mountain Railway from Mettupalaiyam to the Nilgiri Hills. But it took the decision-makers 45 years to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and complete the construction and installation of the line.

The line was completed and opened for traffic in June 1899. It was operated first by the Madras Railway under an agreement with the Government. The Railway line from Mettupalaiyam to Ooty is 45.88 km. long and lies partly in Coimbatore District and partly in Nilgiri District of Tamilnadu, on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats.

This railway is widely regarded as a marvel of engineering. The train itself is a charming blue and cream with wooden coaches and large windows. It is hauled up hills by steam engines, designed and built by the Swiss Locomotive Works. Twelve of such locomotive engines survive even today.

[ooty+train.jpg] http://www.indianrail.gov.in/hill_6.jpg

The train covers the 45.88 km (28 miles) to Udhagamandalam in four and a half hours. There are five stations between Mettupalayam and Coonoor - Kallar, Adderley, Hill Grove, Runnymede and Kateri – and, at one time, there were five between Coonoor and Ooty too. Through Wellington, Aruvankadul, Ketti, and Lovedale are still functional, Fren Hill, the last one, was closed down a few years ago.

The train travels through 208 curves, 16 tunnels, and 250 bridges. The uphill journey takes around 290 minutes (4.8 hours), and the downhill journey takes 215 minutes (3.6 hours).

The NMR track is 1,000 mm (3 ft 3⅜ in) gauge and the railway is isolated from other narrow gauge lines. The sharpest curve on the section is 17.5 degrees.

Between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, the line uses the rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient. It is one of the steepest Railway lines in the World. The rack is seen in between the two tracks.

Image:Rack and pinion animation.gif http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/28/NilgirisRailwayRack069.JPG/180px-NilgirisRailwayRack069.JPG (for a larger view please click on the image)

On this rack section trains are operated by steam rack locomotives manufactured by the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works of Winterthur in Switzerland. These steam locomotives can be used on any part of the line (either with or without the rack section), but the newer diesel locomotives can only operate on the upper section, between Coonoor and Udagamandalam The Steam Locomotives are always marshalled at the downhill (Mettupalayam) end of the train.

The Maximum permissible speed on Mettupalaiyam-Kallar and Coonoor-Udagamandalam "Non-Rack" system is 30 while between Kallar and Coonoor "RACK" section the maximum permissible speed is 13 kmph and is perhaps the slowest in India.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/53/Ooty-coonoor-nmr-tickets.jpg/180px-Ooty-coonoor-nmr-tickets.jpg (view larger click on the image)

Even though the NMR stations have networked computerised ticketing systems for onward journeys, it still issues old style manual tickets for the Ooty-Mettupalayam journey to preserve the World Heritage Site status of the railway. However, Ticket booking is similar to other conventional trains and can also be done via the Indian Railways' website. It is advisable to book tickets for this railway in advance, especially during peak season.

Extensive rice fields surround the 7 km stretch between Mettupalayam and Kallar. Soon after is an impressive 21km section through truly rocky terrain. The track passes over 26 viaducts, and twist and blends through 13 tunnels. After a steep climb, the train enters Coonoor, the little hill station known for its tea plantations. From here, the track is uphill till you reach Fern Hill at a height of 2,218m, the highest point on the railroad. Shortly before Ooty, the line dips downhill. If you enjoy taking pictures, keep your camera ready for a few shotsof the viaduct between Kallar and Adderley. This ride is sure to turn the most hardened rail critic into an avid fan. You’ii delight in hthe edge-of-the seat twists and turns as the train runs across tall girder bridges, and over green hills before gently meandering through rolling tea estates. The exhaust beat of the loco never falters, maintaining a deafening staccato which can be heard for miles around. Truly a journey to remember.

In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the World Heritage Site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the site then became known as "Mountain Railways of India." after it satisfied the necessary criteria, thus forcing abandonment of modernisation plans.

There is only one train (As of Feb-2008) a day starting from Mettupalayam at 7.10AM and at reaches Ooty at noon. In return, the train starts from Ooty at 3PM and reaches Mettupalayam at 6.30PM. Coonoor is the main Intermediate station on the line and between Mettupalayam and ooty. There are Four trains a day each way from Ooty to Coonoor. The timings are arranged in a way that passengers can catch the Nilgiri Express, from Mettuppalayam to Chennai


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