Marvels of Indian Railways

Konkan railway and the Katra link are the modern marvels of engineering that have been achieved by the Indian Railways in recent times. But there is a rich legacy that was inherited from the colonial days.

Bhor Ghat is a scenic marvel depicted below. We have travelled the section so very often but don’t quite know its interesting history.

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Trains in India are interesting and a way to learn about our people and culture. I know of many friends who try to avoid flights and take trains instead as the interactive journey and the changing landscape is exciting in itself. A perfect train trip would be about 15 – 20 hours of journey with a night thrown in. It neither fatigues you beyond a point nor is too small for you miss having unique experiences. And the rail network is so diverse and widespread, that one spend a lifetime exploring the nooks and crannies of the network. My top priority presently is to travel on the Konkan railway and also do the Katra trip some day.

The ‘RO-RO’ (Roll On – Roll Off) service that helps ferry trucks across treacherous terrain on Western Ghats is an interesting feature. So you loaded trucks that are boarded onto rail wagons and ferried across, saving time, cost, wear n tear of the trucks and making the transport a safer & convenient option.

Closer home the Pune – Mumbai network has been a mundane one now and we are used to it even during the magical monsoons. But it has a rich heritage if you are a connoisseur of railway history. The Bhor Ghat illustration is just a sample of how things have evolved thus far from the days of the Raj.

Some of the must do’s on the Indian Railway network would include the following on my wish list –

  • Complete the trilogy of the Toy Train network. The Nilgiris Express to Ooty and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (popularly seen in songs like ‘Mere Sapnon Ki Rani …’ Movie Aradhana, ‘ Kasto Mazaa He Relaima ..’ Movie Parineeta) are the most popular choices. Add on the ‘Simla-Kalka’ and Matheran Hill Railway to complete the list.
  • Palace on Wheels Editions – Enough tour options are available and they are perfect blend of  luxury and cultural legacy.
  • IRCTC Tours – There are interesting tour options that offer a wide range to suit your budget and trip purposes ranging from spiritual to recreational.
  • The ‘Dhanushkodi-Talaimannar’ ferry service connecting Rameswaram in India to Sri Lanka was a historical service that had got disrupted. The service has now been resumed recently. It could be an option to visit the Emerald Island as well.

Colonial rail adventures books are not that readily available. But one popular gem is Paul Theroux’s ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’. He first published his travelogue in 1975, starting from London and passing swathes of territories in Europe, Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia and finally the Trans-Siberian railway line. He retraced the journey again in 2006 and published the adventures as a second book titled, ‘Ghost Train to the Eastern Star’.

Credit: Hulton Archive Courtesy: Getty Images
Credit: Hulton Archive
Courtesy: Getty Images
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