Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Route: Mettupalayam - Coonor - Ooty

Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Coonoor is situated 6,000 feet above sea level at the southeast corner of the Nilgiri plateau and at the head of the principal pass from the plains. Up this Ghat runs a road 21 miles long and a rack railway 16 ¾ miles from Mettupalaiyam in Coimbatore district. The place was constituted a municipality in 1866. Coonoor remained a terminus for the Nilgiri line for eight years. The extension from Coonoor to Ootacamund was constructed by the Government of India and the line was opened up to Fernhill on September 15, 1908, and up to Ootacamund, a month later. Rack system was discarded for this extension though the ruling gradient is as severe as 1 in 23. The Ooty terminus was named Udagamandalam, the Tamil word for Ootacamund.


Functioning of the rack and pinion.
The NMR track is 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in) gauge and the railway is isolated from other metre gauge lines.
Between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, the line uses the Abt rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient. On this rack section trains are operated by 'X' Class 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 operate on the entire section, between Mettupalayam and Udagamandalam.This signals the beginning of the process to phase out the coal-fired vintage Swiss engines that took scores of passengers on the rack and pinion track to Coonoor and Udhagamandalam, covering 41.8 km, 108 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges

The Present Scenario

Nowadays, the traveller from Ootacamund leaves Chennai central station on the evening Nilgiri Express at 9.00 p.m. and arrives at Mettupalaiyam at 7.10 am. After a 10 hour journey. There he merely crosses the platform to join the metre gauge train which leaves at 7.25 am. And reaches Udagamandalam at 11.40 a.m. in less than 15 hours. The Nilgiri Railway (NMR) is a feat of engineering unique in the east.

The line is a metre gauge, practically level for the first four and a half miles, to Kallar at the immediate foot of the hills. As soon as the train leaves Kallar, the rack rails appears and the long climb begins. In the next 12 miles to Coonoor, the line rises 4,363 feet curving almost continuously as it clings to the mountainside, crossing lofty viaducts or tunnels, the longest being 317 feet in length. The gradient posts read one in twelve and a half with monotonous consistency.

Construction expenses were heavy because in addition to the tunnels, a big bridge over the river bhawani at the foothills was necessary. Besides this large bridge, 26 other bridges smaller in size, were constructed and heavy expenditure incurred in rock-cutting and blasting.

To quote a south Indian railway spokesman in 1935: "those engineers must have been lovers of nature when they decided on the alignment."
The Route
The 'Nilagiri Passenger' train covers a distance of 26 mi (41.8 km),[2] travels through 208 curves, 16 tunnels,[2] and 250 bridges.[2] The uphill journey takes around 290 minutes (4.8 hours), and the downhill journey takes 215 minutes (3.6 hours) It has the steepest track in Asia with a maximum gradient of 8.33%.[2]

Mettupalayam StationMettupalayam(Coimbatore) - 0 km (0 mi), 1,069 ft (325.8 m) above sea level - Junction with the 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) (Indian Gauge) line from Coimbatore city railway station. Passengers cross the platform to board the Nilagiri Passenger train (NMR). There is a small locomotive shed here and also the carriage workshops for the line.

        Leaving Mettupalayum, the line is adhesion worked and actually drops for a short distance before crossing the Bhavani River, after which it starts to climb gently.

Kallar StationKallar - 8 km (5 mi), 1,260 ft (384 m) - Closed as a passenger station, this is where the rack rail begins. As the train leaves the station, the gradient is 1 in 12 (8.33%).

Adderly StationAdderly - 13 km (8.1 mi), 2,390 ft (728.5 m) - Closed as a passenger station but is still a water stop.

Hillgrove StationHillgrove - 18 km (11.2 mi), 3,580 ft (1,091.2 m) - Block post and water stop, also has refreshments for passengers.

Runneymede StationRunneymede - 21 km (13 mi), 4,612 ft (1,405.7 m) - Closed as a passenger station but is still a water stop.

Kateri Road StationKateri Road - 25 km (15.5 mi), 5,070 ft (1,545.3 m) - Closed as a passenger station, trains do not stop here.

Coonoor StationCoonoor - 28 km (17.4 mi), 5,616 ft (1,711.8 m) - main intermediate station on the line at site of the locomotive workshops as well as the top end of the rack rail. Trains must reverse a short distance before continuing their climb to Ooty. It is normal for the locomotive to be changed here with diesel traction, being normal for all trains to Ooty.

Wellington StationWellington - 29 km (18 mi), 5,804 ft (1,769.1 m)

Aruvankadu StationAruvankadu - 32 km (19.9 mi), 6,144 ft (1,872.7 m)

Ketti Station
Ketti - 38 km (23.6 mi), 6,864 ft (2,092.1 m)

Lovedale Station

Lovedale - 42 km (26.1 mi), 7,000 ft (2,133.6 m)
Lovedale railway station

        From a short distance before Lovedale, the line descends into Ooty.

Udhagamandalam Station
Ooty - 46 km (28.6 mi), 7,228 ft (2,203.1 m).

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