About Nilgiri Mountain Rail
Covering a distance of 46 km in around 5 hours, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway takes tourists from Mettupalayam to Ootacamund or Ooty. This is a truly amazing journey that takes tourists from a height of 1069 feet to 7228 feet. The history of the train can be traced back to the times when it was very difficult to reach Udhagamandalam - as Ooty was called in those days. Travellers needed to ride on a horse back or carried on 'dollies' through a forested path to reach Ooty. It was this access difficulty that gave birth to an idea of constructing a rail line to connect the hilly areas of Coonoor and Ooty from plains. The first thought was kept in the year 1854, however, it took around another forty years before the actual work could begin. A Swiss inventor, Riggenback worked on it, and built up the initial line upto Coonoor by the year 1899. Later, by 1908, the track was extended upto Fernhill and then Ooty.
The uniqueness of this rail line lies in it being the steepest one in Asia. To cope with it, a unique system, ABT (Alternate Biting System) is used, which is also called the rack and pinion system. In this the method, pulling the train is quiet different from the usual one. Instead of the engine pulling the train on level lines, here there are two rack bars out of steps with each other between the rail lines. On these racks, the pinions of the train climbs in the same fashion as a person climbs a ladder. The engine, while going upwards, is on the backside to push the train from behind. On the other hand, it is on the front side on the return journey downhill so as to prevent any collision or derailing.
The journey itself from Mettupalayam to Ooty is full of scenic beauty enroute. Starting from Mettupalayam, a small place that sits on the banks of river Bhavani, the train passes through plain areas for the first five miles or so. Thereafter, in the next 12 miles the line rises to an impressive 4363 feet, and passes through nine tunnels. The tourists are treated to outstanding views of the eastern slopes of forested Nilgiris. From here, tourists can concentrate more on their left side as it is on this side that more beautiful views can be seen. The train passes amidst tranquil and serene views of Coonoor, Wellington, Lovedale to finally reach Ootacamund. It covers a total distance of 116 km and crosses 250 bridges and 16 tunnels.