Think of the iconic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge scene where Amrish Puri finally allows his daughter to go get a life, “Jaa Simran Jaa” and tell us who you think is the real show-stopper there. The train, you'd agree?
We think so too! The train sequence in Sholay, the dancing atop to ‘Chhaiya Chhaiyya’, the nail-biting tension in The Burning Train, Indian Railways and Bollywood are inseparable bedfellows.
Beyond cinema, train journeys offer a charmingly Indian experience, a trip down memory lane, from the food sold by vendors along the journey to the gupshup with co-passengers, from the sights and smells of dabbas being unpacked to the cacophony of a family playing Antakshari
Traversing open farmlands, thundering waterfalls, rolling hills and chugging above wide rivers, the railways treat us to a far more sensory experience than the open skies of an aeroplane’s window ever can.
With a journey that started almost 166 years back, Indian Railways has been serving as the largest railway network in the world, cutting through the length and breadth of the country. We dug into this vast network to shortlist a few iconic journeys. What’s more, Indian Railways is a budget-friendly mode of transport that allows you to enjoy your journey while munching on treats that a swarm of vendors peddle, as and when the train pulls into a new town.
Here’s a list of 6 journeys that offer experiences in themselves:
1. Konkan Railways
Sandwiched between the Sahyadri Hills on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west whilst connecting the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka, the Konkan Railways offers a breathtaking route that hugs India's southwest coastline—cutting through mountains, crossing hundreds of rivers and passing through 92 tunnels and 2,000 bridges.
One such is the Panvalnadi Bridge that is spread across 7 km starting from Ratnagiri station, making it India’s highest viaduct. While every few minutes you’ll be rewarded with views of streams of water flowing over rocks, the undisputed highlight of this train ride is the long silvery cascade of the Dudhsagar Falls. Best viewed in clear daylight, the flowing water makes it look like milk flowing through the mountains and that’s why the falls have been rightfully named Dudhsagar—a sea of milk.
2. Pamban Bridge
This 100-year-old railway bridge is located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. And the only train that’ll help you cross it is the Rameswaram Chennai Express, which leaves around 5:00 pm every day from Rameswaram station. Connecting the Rameswaram island to the mainland of the state, Pamban is anything but just a railway bridge.
One has to see it to believe the pristine blue ocean on either side. What’s more, the Pamban Bridge is supposedly the second longest sea bridge, with 143 piers, spanning 2 km between the mainland and the island, this bridge is 1 m in width and 2.5 km in length. This train ride is bound to be an adventure.
3. The Salt Train
The Salt Train lets you witness Sambhar's salt pans in Rajasthan, which is notably India's largest inland salt lake. Starting from a place called Jhapok, between Sambhar and Shakhambhari Mata temple, the rail journey allows you to catch glimpses of the lake and the other natural scenery that’s spread across 13-14 kms of this train journey.
The only job of the cargo train is to collect the harvested salt from Sambhar and deposit it at the processing plant. The route may not help you get across the vast state of Rajasthan but the short route will offer you a glimpse of an enigmatic view of sprawling expanse of salt that glistens like snow.
4. The Toy Train or Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR)
India’s favourite toy train is a tiny steam train (only 2 ft) that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal cutting through the towns of Siliguri, Kurseong and Ghoom. Running at a speed of 12kmph, the Toy Train will also wheel you through dense forests and tea plantations allowing you to, for brief moments, have a close look at the tea-pickers with baskets strapped on their heads.
A World Heritage Site since 1999, the DHR is famous for climbing up through a number of reverses and loops, crisscrossing the main road through the town of Tindharia and running alongside the fruit stalls on the street. Crossing over 505 bridges, one of the most scenic views that this train offers is that of the snow-capped tip of Mount Kanchenjunga.
5. The Araku Valley Railway
Nestled in the Eastern Ghats, Araku Valley is a hill station in Andhra Pradesh that’s located about 120 km from Visakhapatnam. An all-year-round tourist attraction, the valley is accessible both by rail and road. However, according to the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department, the rail offers an adventurous journey, and we can’t help but agree.
Board the morning train from Visakhapatnam and snake through a palm-fringed coast, thickly-forested hills, coffee plantations and about 58 tunnels, and over 84 bridges. Besides, if you do get dibs on the window seat, you’ll be able to treat your eyes to lush green valleys, towering cliffs and gushing waterfalls before making it through the famous Bora Caves, known to be the deepest in India.
6. The Kalka Shimla Railway
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, the Kalka Shimla toy train ride is will give you an adrenaline surge as the train chugs on a steep narrow track through lush green pine forests, flower meadows and even rivulets.
Running through 20 railway stations, 103 tunnels, 800 bridges, and 900 curves, the train moves at a leisurely pace allowing you to enjoy the scenic beauty around you as it bridges the distance between the capital of Himachal Pradesh, Shimla, and Kalka. You can either board the Shivalik Deluxe Express, Himalayan Queen, Rail Motor Car or other passenger trains.