Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km (71,000 mi) of track over a route of 65,436 km (40,660 mi) and 7,172 stations. In April 2015, Indian Railways has completed 162 years of connecting India.
Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites are part of the Indian Railways. UNESCO has recognized three hill railways in India as world heritage sites, grouping them as ‘Mountain Railways of India’.
Mountain Railways of India: Site 1
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway opened in 1881, and was the first hill passenger railways in India. 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 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 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 , one of the highest railway stations in the world, at an altitude of 2258m.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, and was the second railway in the world to have this honour bestowed upon it.
Mountain Railways of India: Site 2
The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2,203 m, represented the latest technology of the time.
In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the World Heritage Site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the site then became known as “Mountain Railways of India.
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.
Mountain Railways of India: Site 3
The Kalka Shimla Railway is a a 96-km long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century, connecting Kalka in the foothills, to Shimla.
Originally 107 tunnels were built on Kalka Shimla Railway Track and 102 remain in use. The longest tunnel is at Barog.
In 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway became part of the World Heritage Site ‘Mountain Railways of India’.