Travelling in India is on frequent occasions a chaotic and strenuous affair. Airfares have been deliberately brought down to suit the pockets of middle-class flyers. And yet Indian Railways continues to be a massive juggernaut, the 7th largest utility employer in the world. Spread over 65,436 km of tracks the Indian railways ferries about 23 million passengers daily. This redoubtable artery of the subcontinent also offers a mind boggling array of experiences and landscapes to the curious traveler. The romance of a train journey will never lose its relevance in India.
- Himalayan Queen
The Himalayan Queen remains the only regular train service that goes to the hilly town of Shimla from Kalka. This metre-gauge track is famed for its scenic glimpses of the Shivaliks on either side. The train passes through 102 tunnels, 87 bridges and numerous precipitous curves. Built in 1903, the heritage rail track features on the Guinness Book of World Records for scaling the world’s steepest route in 96 kms.
2. Goa Express
Speeding through the quaint hamlets of Goa, this route stretches from Vasco Da Gama in Goa to Londa in Karnataka. Stealing a glimpse of the relaxed Goan countryside you will be surprised at the change of scene when the route snakes through Western Ghats dense forests. The mountain slopes also hide a couple of spectacular waterfalls if you watch closely.
3 The Island Express
Known as one of the most picturesque routes in southern India the ‘The Island Express’ snakes through the sun-kissed regions of interior Kerala, servicing a route from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum. On the cultural front, this route will let you witness how the Hindu gopurams co-exist with the dainty Keralite churches.
4 .Desert Queen
One of the luxury treats from the Indian Railways the Desert Queen gives you a different perspective on the Thar Desert. As the train hurtles though the limitless desert it also touches on tourist spots like Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. It goes on to become an experience of a lifetime as you watch camels grazing or the spectacular hues of a desert sunrise from your window seat into nature’s cinema.
5 . Dooars Voyage
As its name suggest the ‘Dooars Voyage’ plies through a selection of forest and wildlife sanctuaries in northern West Bengal. The Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Chapramari Forest, and Buxa Tiger Reserve are all covered on this route. From the streams and rivulets of the Teesta River to watching elephants in the forests the variety of flora and fauna dazzle the traveler.
6. Jammu Mail Route: Jammu to Udhampur
Licking the northern tip of the country’s expanse the Jammu Mail is another spectacular show of a train journey. Beginning from Jammu, the route maneuvers across wide rivers and rugged slopes of the Shivalik range, to finally smoothen out into meadows while nearing Udhampur.
- Matheran Hill Railway
Another heritage narrow gauge track the Matheran Hill Railway route covers a small distance but offers you the lush abundance of the Western Ghats. Constructed by Abdul Hussein Adamjee Peerbho within 1901 to 1907, this journey is sure to delight forest and mountain lovers alike.
8 .Chilka Route
Switching from the Western Ghats to the Eastern Ghats the Chilka route is a pleasant surprise for all the bird-watchers. Meandering past the lush forests of the Eastern Ghats this passage endears to nature-lovers as the Chilka lagoon happens to be a haven for migratory birds.
- Darjeeling Himalayan railway
For anyone wanting to watch women pluck tea-leaves from a train window this is the ultimate journey. This narrow gauge track is also famously called the ‘Darjeeling Toy Train’. From the plains of Jalpaiguri the track ascends into the Himalayan foothills, winding past green expanses of tea-estates, and on clear days gifting its passengers with glimpses of the Kanchenjungha peaks.
- Mandapam – Pamban – Rameswaram
The Pamban Bridge, an old cantilever bridge built way back in 1914, connects Mandapam to Pamban Island. In spite of being a regular with pilgrims flocking to the Rameshwaram temple the Mandapam-Pamban rail route should be experienced for the sheer beauty of the oldest rail bridge in India.