The Toy Train

I never feel so purely childlike as when we take the toy train (it has a grander official name and status: The Nilgiri Mountain
, a World Heritage Site) from Coonoor up to Ooty. We have lunch at the Savoy and then drive back to Coonoor.

We arrived at Coonoor station at 1:00 p.m. for the 1:30 train, and bought two first-class tickets for Rs. 78 each, entitling us to sit in splendid solitude in the first car. While we waited, we wandered around the station with our cameras. I shot the small fountain:

R took this picture of the train:

A group of men had gathered on a bench on the station platform. One of them sang Tamil film songs in a good strong voice. I love the smiles on his listeners' faces:

A little late, the guard took his seat on a bench at the front of the train, just outside our compartment (photo by R):

The engine was in the rear; the guard held red and green flags, with which he signalled to the engine driver when people or cattle strayed too close to the tracks. When we reached Ooty, R asked him how long he had been working on the train. He said 19 years, with 6 more to go. He lives in Mettupalayam, in the plains, where the train's journey begins; and travels up and down every day.

Scenes from the trip:

At Lovedale, the Station Master came out to meet the train:

The proprietor of the Combined Fruit and Vegetarian Teastall looked on:

A family sat in the second section of our car. Their youngest child rested his chin on the back of our seat, and looked out with fascination; inside me, I had exactly the same expression:


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steve said...


I believe this line was featured on the BBC's "Great Railway Journeys of the World" series in the 1970s. The narrator stopped at a mountain resort that was run by people who acted as if the British were still in charge (even though they knew otherwise). The people there were getting up in years even then, so they're probably gone now. But it seemed a rather incredible journey back in time--first on the steam-driven cog railway, and then to this ghostly outpost of the British Raj.

Thank you for reminding me of that amazing TV jounrey, which I have on videotape somewhere.

Nancy said...

Steve, India has two such tiny trains running up into the hills: the one I wrote about, in the south, and one which goes from the plains of West Bengal up to Darjeeling. Both Ooty and Darjeeling have become larger and uglified, but both have strong British flavours. And the journeys up are very beautiful. I recommend them highly to any train buff.