Jules Verne did a splendid job immortalising the early days of Indian Railways in his “World No. 1” Around-the-world-in-80-days. When Phileas Hogg landed in Bombay Port he boarded the boasted Great Indian Railway from Bombay Port to Calcutta Port (Native Name Hoggers, i’m not going to call Mumbai and Kolkata cause of its non-existence then).
Nothing much has changed since the railways then, except that we now have options of swanky Duronto (Khaate peete jaldi Ghar Pahuchade). Hooligans or Train-Daakoo then, are now replaced by “eager to lift ghagra” eunuchs who harrass coins out of meek labourers and youngsters. But about the “Nicer” things that havent changed is the scenic beauty for which i sometime prefer buying the SL class than “glassed in” AC compartments.
After rolling with close to twenty odd express and hundreds of stations across the length and breath of India including Gitanjali express, Ypr-Hwh Express,Coromandel, Jammu – tawi, (Never forgetting stinking) Punjab Express, Jan Shatabdi, Duronto and Mails & Locals & one Swanky Central Railways Engine, I narrow down to two train routes which enrich the phrase of Incredible Ind-Yeah for its sheer natural beauty, rugged terrain and “Bhai Waah” moments.
1. Short leg of Pune-Mumbai
Tunnels, broad gage, diesel chugs and cliff edge rolling, this train route has it all. And if you happen to travel this leg of the journey during a sunset or sunrise, beta aapka to paisa wasool.
2. Coimbatore se Bangalore Jaane wali Express.
Nilgiris oh Nilgiris!! This journey starts with distant views of these relatively short hills, brushes through plains with lush veggies and farming and then the awe-someness starts when its starts rolling around the hills. Unlike Pune-Mumbai where the train climbs up to couple of MSL metres, here you enjoy ground-level views only. If your’e the blessed one and cross this terrain at sunset when its also drizzling the ominious cloud patterns, meek sun-rays filtering through hopeful gaps and dark silhouttes of the hills on magroves dotted with juicy fruits, so close you could hope to pluck them right off.