Remembering the Nilgiri Mountain Railway before the joy ride ‘ends’

A view of the train departing from the Coonoor station. The NMR is one of the seven mountain railways in the country and is the steepest of all. All photos: Facebook/Nilgiri Mountain Railway Revival

For decades, honeymooners and adventure-seekers have looked for romance and escapade travelling through the lush green mountains of Tamil Nadu in a five-hour train journey. Yet the 46-km journey on Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) up and down the scenic route of Mettupalayam -- at the foothills of Nilgiris -- to Ooty continues to be relived and recounted in numerous train tales of nostalgia.

However, just like with everything else, the NMR services were stopped in March to avoid the spread of Covid-19. It has resumed services from December 31. But days before this, the NMR made headlines after a private company -- Homemade Group TN 43 -- paid nearly Rs 5 lakh to operate the train as a charter service earlier in December. It charged a whopping Rs 3,000 per seat, for a single journey even though the regular fare is Rs 600 for a first class ticket, and Rs 295 for second class.

This exorbitant fare, besides an outrage among railway enthusiasts and passengers, led to speculations that it could be a prelude to possible privatisation of the heritage route.

While the Southern Railways has denied any such move, the development dug up some nostalgia attached to NMR, which was accorded the World Heritage Site status by the UNESCO 15 years ago.

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