“Ooty Toy Train” is one of the three famed Indian Hill Railway Line.
It’s part of the “Nilgiris Hill Railway” which stretches along the Nilgiris Mountains of the Southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu. The other two are the Shimla and Darjeeling Hill Railway of the North. It came into existence by the British more than 100 years ago and now declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site, to be protected forever.
My family and I made a trip to “The Blue Mountains”, which Ooty is fondly called, couple of years back. The excitement of my journey on a “Toy Train” is still fresh in mind, hence the eagerness to share the experience with you. Our ride was flagged of from “Udhagamandalam Hill Station” in Ooty descending towards “Coonoor Station” about 28km away.
The moment I saw our ride, outright I knew why it’s called a “Toy Train”. Its bright colors and wooden coaches with large window can bring out a “child” in anyone. And the expectation of seeing a steam engine puffing by was another reason we were there. Unfortunately we were told steam locomotives are not operational between Ooty to Coonoor route. We seated in a coach with capacity of 15pax lead by a Diesel Engine. The seating was a squeeze with little comfort but I immediately booked a window seat so could capture the moments of the journey.
The train “rocked” slowly away from the station accompanied with a loud horn. Soon enough, it picked up speed and we were traveling at an average speed of 60-70km/hr along the beautiful country side of Ooty. The cool fresh breeze was pounding my face as I was jerking my neck out of the window to get a clear view of the train. At few places, I had to quickly tuck my head back inside either because we were entering tunnels or moving very close to rock walls. The train sounded its horn in pride as it passes corners and before entering tunnels to warn any “railway crosses” or wild animals. There were reports of elephant sightings along the railway route.
Beautiful wild flowers under the cool climate, was a wonderful sight. We passed by villages with vegetable plantation overlooking valleys and hills. The train made few short stops to pick up villagers along the way. When we were almost reaching Coonoor, I saw Steam Locomotive Shed where trains are checked, repaired and polished before being put on service. We slowly reversed into the Coonoor Station before coming to a halt.
My family and I disembarked and walked towards the station not knowing the surprise, when another set of train coaches came parked at the station. I wade through a group of passengers towards the front-end of the coach to be overwhelmed by the view of a steam engine! Hot steam rose from the engine and what a joy to see a steam locomotive up close, within an inch of getting into it. It reminded me of a train set, gifted to me by my father on my fifth birthday. Then I saw it retreated from the station into its shed. That was pure excitement of a tourist if you ask me.
There are many other great spots to visit and enjoy while you are in Ooty. Some of it are as below:
- Ooty Botanical Garden
- Doddabetta (Highest peak in TamilNadu)
- Rose Garden (Largest Rose Garden in India)
- Stay in Sherlock Home (well maintained colonial bungalow)
- Fernhills Palace
- Mudumalai National Park (Tiger Reserve)
- Tea Plantations
- Pine Forest