This site includes three railways. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first, and is still the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway. Opened in 1881, its design applies bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway in Tamil Nadu State was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2,203 m, represented the latest technology of the time. The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96-km long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla is emblematic of the technical and material efforts to disenclave mountain populations through the railway. All three railways are still fully operational.
The Mountain Railway of India consists of three railways: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway located in the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal (Northeast India) having an area of 5.34 ha., the Nilgiri Mountain Railways located in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu (South India) having an area of 4.59 ha. and the Kalka Shimla Railway located in the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh (Northwest India) having an area of 79.06 ha. All three railways are still fully functional and operational.
The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of hill railways. Opened between 1881 and 1908 they applied bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. They are still fully operational as living examples of the engineering enterprise of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway consists of 88.48 kilometers of 2 feet (0.610 meter) gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through Ghoom at an altitude of 2258 meters. The innovative design includes six zigzag reverses and three loops with a ruling gradient of 1:31.
The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 45.88 kilometer long meter-gauge single-track railway was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 meters to 2,203 meters, representsed the latest technology of the time and uses unique rack and pinion traction arrangement to negotiate steep gradient.
The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96.6 kilometer long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla is emblematic of the technical and material efforts to disenclave mountain populations through the railway. The world’s highest multi-arc gallery bridge and the world’s longest tunnel (at the time of construction) of the KSR were the a testimony toof the brilliantce engineering skills applied to make thisa dream a reality.
These railways are outstanding examples of innovative transportation systems built through difficult terrain, which had great influence on the social and economic development of their respective regions.
Criterion (ii): The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of the interchange of values on developments in technology, and the impact of an innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multicultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world. The Mountain Railways of India exhibit an important cultural and technologicaly transfer in the colonial setting of the period of its construction, particularly with regard to the eminently political function of the terminus station, Shimla.. The railway then enabled significant and enduring human settlement, of which it has remained the main vector up to the present day.
Criterion (iv): The development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of a technological ensemble, representing different phases of the development in high mountain areas. The Mountain Railways of India are outstanding examples of how access has been provided to the plains and plateaus of the Indian mountains. They are emblematic of the technical and material efforts of human societies of this period to disenclave mountain populations through the railway. They are well-maintained and fully operational living lines. They are used in a spirit and for purposes that are the same as those at its their inception.
The entire length of all three railways including the stations is included within the property boundaries. The boundaries of the property are adequate. The structural integrity has been maintained and the general infrastructure of the lines is today very close to the characteristics of the lines as they originally were. The functional integrity has been preserved though the lines have been systematically repaired and maintained. The integrity of use has been maintained and from the outset the lines have been used for large-scale and permanent transport, with all the characteristics associated with railway disenclavement of mountain areas. Traffic has been regular and continuous up to the present day, and it provides the whole range of initial services, particularly for passengers and tourists. The property is in a generally good condition with regard to infrastructure, technical operation and social use that enables it to adequately express its values. The main threats to the properties are the climatic and geological risks, which however have always formed part of the everyday operation of the three railways. All three areas might be considered areas for potential earthquakes. There is however also the risks of unauthorized encroachment close to the Kalka Shimla Railway, particularly in the buffer zone.
The tracks have been re-laid and retaining walls rebuilt at various points during the highly eventful history of the railways’ operation, regularly disturbed by monsoon rain, landslides and rock-falls. Various station buildings on the three railways have undergone reconstruction during the course of the century, especially those destroyed by earthquake or fire. These buildings are being restored and maintained in their latest form. Further railway related structures have been restored and maintained in their original form. Though new rolling stock and engines have been introduced, the remaining original ones have also been maintained. This includes the famous B-class steam engines of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Original 4-wheeled carriages and bogie-type carriages are still in use. The vulnerabilities are clearly linked to the fact that these properties are functioning railways which require constant repair and the changing of parts. However care has been given to ensure that these parts retain the design and quality of the original.
The owner of the three properties is the Railway Ministry of the Indian Government. All the laws of the Indian Union relating to railways apply to the property, in particular: the Railway Act (1989), for technical protection measures and the Public Premises Act (1971) which in particular provides the right to expel unauthorized occupants. The legal protection in place is appropriate and the Ministry of Railways is making efforts to apply the legal provisions against unauthorized occupation of land within the boundaries properties as well as the buffer zone.
The management is guaranteed by the Ministry of Railways and the relevant branch offices. There is a Property Management Plan, which deals with the management of the land, the buildings, the track, the bridges, and the tunnels for two of the three lines (i.e. Nilgiri and Kalka Shimla) however recommendations have been made to strengthen these in relation to architectural features and encroachments on the property boundaries. The resources are provided by the Indian Ministry of Railways. Train services, station facilities, platforms and passenger amenities are provided for visitors and commuters. In addition, special tourist trains are promoted. The professional personnel of the three railways, and the technical assistance departments of Indian Railways, are fully operational, and are well prepared for climatic and geological risks. Over a century of operation, they have always managed to restore the integrity of the line. They generally intervene within a short lead time, which contributes to the monitoring of the state of conservation of the property. The three railways have the technical documents necessary for the maintenance of track, infrastructure, rolling stock and stations. Indian Railways has a central research department that considers climatic and geological effects with an impact on mountain lines (RDSO). It recommends protective action, particularly to prevent landslides.
The three mountain railways have been in service continuously from theirits inception. They are in a good state of general conservation, and are maintained on a regular and permanent basis.. The traditional arrangements for track maintenance by railway personnel are considered satisfactory to ensure the present and future conservation of the line.. Both the Nilgiri and Kalka Shimla Railway Lines have Management Plans which outline the processes and practices that ensure the ongoing conservation of the lines and their conservation values. However the first of the lines to be listed i.e the Darjeeling Railway still does not have an endorsed Conservation Management Plan. In addition, the architectural management of the Kalka Shimla Railway station buildings and their annexes, to ensure respect for the property’s Ooutstanding Uuniversal Vvalue, has not been sufficiently taken into account, and a medium-term project should be drawn up for this purpose. The management authorities should step up control of encroachment on land in the nominated property zone and in the buffer zone.
In regard to the Nilgiri and Kalka Shimla Railways the management plans should be substantially improved in terms of architectural conservation and condition monitoring, and by involving the territorial authorities, particularly in relation to visitor management to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Values are protected.
The development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. The two Mountain Railways of India on the World Heritage List are outstanding examples of the interchange of values on developments in technology, and the impact of innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multicultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is intimately linked with the development of Darjeeling as the queen of hill stations and one of the main tea-growing areas in India, in the early 19th century. The densely wooded mountain spur on which Darjeeling now stands was formerly part of the Kingdom of Sikkim. It was adopted by the British East India Company as a rest and recovery station for its soldiers in 1835, when the area was leased from Sikkim and building of the hill station began, linked to the plains by road. In 1878 the Eastern Bengal Railway submitted a detailed proposal for a steam railway from Siliguri, already linked with Calcutta to Darjeeling. This received official approval and construction work began immediately, and by 1881 it had been completed. Since 1958 it has been managed by the State-owned Northeast Frontier Railway.
The DHR consists of 88.48 km of 2 ft (0.610 m) gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through eleven stations between the two termini. One of these, Ghoom, is the second highest railway station in the world, at an altitude of 2258m. Because it passes through a mountainous region, 73% of the total length of the line consists of curves, the sharpest of which is that between Sukna and Rongtong, where the track passes through 120°. There are six reverses and three loops on the line, the most famous of these being the Batasia Loop between Ghoom and Darjeeling. The steepest gradient is 1 in 18 (in zigzag reverses). The Toy Train, as it is affectionately known, affords breathtaking views of high waterfalls, green valleys that are often hidden by cloud, and at its end the splendid panorama of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range. There are several distinct sections: the 10 km plains section between Siliguri and Sukna (partly urban and partly agricultural), the 11 km densely forested section from Sukna to beyond Rongtong, the 38 km largely deforested open hill section with its many tea gardens to Kurseong, and finally the 30 km alpine section to Darjeeling, dominated by stands of Himalayan pine and tea gardens.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway consists of 45.88 km of a 1 m gauge single-track, partly rack-and-pinion railway that connects Mettupalayiyam to Udagamandalam in Tamil Nadu State. The railway can be divided into three sections: Some 7 km, from Mettupalaiyam to Kallar (elevation 405 m), across the central plain of Tamil Nadu, with its betel-nut palm and other plantations. Maximum speed is 30 km/h called the Blue Mountain Express, the name of which was changed recently to the native Nilgiri Express.
The rack section of the line, from Kallar to Coonoor (elevation 1,712 m). There are 208 curves and 13 tunnels, and 27 viaducts. The Kallar Bridge over the River Bhawani, the Adderley Viaduct and the Burliar Bridge are examples of such composite bridges. Here, the railway climbs through almost uninhabited, tropical jungle.
A stretch of 18 km runs through a landscape with dominant eucalyptus and acacia forest. The railway continues to climb across the Nilgiris until it reaches the summit, just before the terminus of Udagamandalam at 2,203 m.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is intimately linked with the development of Darjeeling as the queen of hill stations and one of the main tea-growing areas in India, in the early 19th century.
The densely wooded mountain spur on which Darjeeling now stands was formerly part of the Kingdom of Sikkim. It was adopted by the British East India Company as a rest and recovery station for its soldiers in 1835, when the area was leased from Sikkim and building of the hill station began, linked to the plains by road. The region was annexed by the British Indian Empire in 1858.
Calcutta had been linked by rail in 1878 to Siliguri, in the foothills of the Himalaya. By this time the tea industry had become of great importance for the Darjeeling region, and the existing road transport system was inadequate to cope with the increased traffic. Franklin Prestage, Agent of the Eastern Bengal Railway, submitted a detailed proposal for a steam railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling. This received official approval and construction work began immediately. By 1881 it had been completed in three stages.
The privately owned Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (hereafter referred to as the DHR) was purchased by the Government of India in October 1948. Since 1958 it has been managed by the State-owned Northeast Frontier Railway. Protected by wild, jungle-covered escarpments and located at an elevation of roughly 2000 meters, the Nilgiris hills were isolated until the 19th century with their tribal inhabitants, the Todas. The name of the hills means Blue Mountains in Sanskrit and reflects the perspective of a person looking at them from below. British settlement in the hills began in 1820. By 1830 there was military commandant, and British families from Madras began building summerhouses, especially in Udagamandalam (Ootacamund). By 1870, the Madras government as a whole was moving there for the summer, in imitation of the annual migration of the viceroy’s Government from Calcutta to Simla.
The history of NMR dates back to 1854 when proposals were first made by the British to build a railway up the hills. Work began on the Madras-Coimbatore line (5’6″) in 1853, and the branch to Mettupalaiyam opened in 1873. The problem was how to replace the tedious ascent by bullock-cart or pony to Coonoor. In 1873, the district engineer of the Nilgiris, J.L.L. Morant, proposed building a rack railway, but the first offers were reclined. Sir Guildford Molesworth, the former engineer in chief of the Ceylon Government Railway, acting as consultant to the Government of India, advised a rack and adhesion line on the model of the Abt system built in the Harz Mountains in Germany. In 1882, M. Riggenbach, the Swiss inventor of Rigi rack railway, submitted a proposal for the construction of the railway line. This was accepted, and the Nilgiri Rigi Railway Company Ltd was formed in 1885. The work was inaugurated in 1891, and finally completed in 1908. Subsequently the railway was run by different companies, and was then incorporated into the Southern Railway in 1951. The British began to move into this region of India in around 1820, and the first railway projects were particularly early, in the 1840s. However the broad gauges then used (1.67 m) were basically incompatible with any idea of providing rail transport to the hill regions.
The Shimla region took on considerable political importance as the Indian colonial government decided to take up summer residence there, because of the healthier climate linked to the altitude. The question of transport to the Himalayan foothills, the Delhi region and the Ganges plain then became crucial. The possibility of a rail link was mentioned as early as 1847. The opening of the Grand Hindostan and Tibet Route was however the first major advance in this field. It was operational in this region in 1856.
The first engineering development work was carried out in 1884-85, to establish a steam traction “adhesion line” with a gradient not exceeding 30/1000 (1/33), using the narrow gauge principle. The project was submitted to the government but was not immediately taken up.
Development work was revived by the arrival of the Delhi railway line at Kalka, in 1891. Other shorter layouts and other technical solutions were then considered by the engineers, such as the rack system. Finally a contract was signed between the government and the Ambala-Kalka Railway, for the construction and operation of an adhesion line with a gauge of 2 feet. The final general design project was presented and approved in 1899. It comprised the technical development work, the costing and the rolling stock. The Railway had to meet the cost of construction on its own; only the land was provided by the public authorities.
The work was begun, but at the request of the Army, the initial 2 foot gauge was increased to 2 feet 6 inches. The rails were in laminated steel, and were laid on wooden sleepers and ballast.
Traffic opened to the public on 9 November 1903. But exceptionally heavy snowfall damaged the track on 26 December of the same year, causing a large number of landslides. Difficult operating conditions were thus added to the high cost of initial establishment, and despite the high fares the Railway experienced serious financial difficulties. Its strategic importance led the government to acquire the line on 1st January 1905.
The first steam locomotives were 4-wheeled engines (1900), and these were followed by 6-wheeled (1902) and finally 10-wheeled engines. They were made by Stewart & Co of Glasgow. The locomotive models were derived from those used on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. This rolling stock remained in service until 1953 with no major modifications.
The locomotives were then modified by the German company Henschel: increase in water and coal capacities, modification of the grate, modification of the valve gear. The modified steam locomotives began to be scrapped in the 1970s, and the last ones remained in service until 1980. They were replaced by diesel engines from 1952 onwards. One of the steam locomotives initially delivered in 1905 (KC 520) has been restored by KSR, in 2001, in order to re-establish the tradition of steam traction in the mountains, which today has been almost completely forgotten.
The carriages were built by the Railway itself from 1903 onwards. The first were very simple 4-wheeled carriages, light and short (17 feet). In 1910 new carriages were introduced using steel under-frames and bogies, thereby reducing the number of derailments. The KSR initially had 4 travel classes. Furthermore, extremely luxurious saloon cars could be rented. The second car of this type, built in 1912 (RA-2), has been conserved and restored. Subsequent passenger carriages were made lighter and protected against the effects of corrosion by the use of aluminium.
In 1911, petrol-driven Rail Motor Cars were introduced on the line to carry mail. They were made by the Drewery Car Co. Ltd. in London, and were equipped with White & Poppe 17 HP engines. Car no. 12 of this type is preserved in the National Rail Museum, New Delhi. Diesel-electric motor cars were introduced from 1932, with large windows to give panoramic views of the magnificent Himalayan mountain scenery. One of these cars (no. 8) is known as the “Queen of Shivalik”. With this type of car, the total journey time was reduced to 4½ hours, which is still the same today. Generally speaking, the KSR has always attempted to improve its rolling stock, both in terms of technical performance and passenger comfort.