CHENNAI: Nilgiris, hailed as the ‘Blue Mountains’ draws a large number of tourists from all over the country and even abroad. The ravishing beauty of the magnificent hills, valleys and waterfalls, scenic tea estates, rich flora and fauna and pleasant weather attract heavy inflow of nature enthusiasts and tourists .
Aesthetically designed NMR-87 coach
Nilgiri Mountain Railway, the century old technological marvel is the prized possession of Indian Railways. Rail aficionados from all over the world cherish the dream of travelling in this age old system listed under UNESCO world heritage list. Keeping abreast of times, to cater to the demands of tourists, Southern Railway is endeavouring to upgrade the stations and trains operated in NMR.
Golden Rock Workshop has modified NMR-87, a 25 year old NMR coach in line with world-class standards while retaining its heritage value. The aesthetics of the coach is improved by fitting seats akin to those of the newly introduced UDAY AC Double-decker service to enhance the comfort levels. Themed vinyl wrappings, chairs with reclining feature, LED illumination, two-floor luggage racks, decorative vinyl stickers on the exteriors symbolising the charm of NMR are the new additions to improve the coach ambience. This NMR coach has been upgraded at a cost of Rs.1.8 lakh promising a new experience for tourists.
Development of Eco-tourism destinations in NMR
Udhagamandalam, Coonoor and Mettupalayam railway stations have been identified and developed as heritage stations of NMR. These stations have been provided with enhanced passenger amenities to redefine passenger experience by way of new makeover of the station building, circulating area, gardens, platforms and approach roads. Heritage NMR museums are drawing visitors at Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam. The new museum at Udhagamandalam was opened recently in June this year.
Further, for the benefit of passengers, Wi-fi facility has been provided at Udhagamandalam, Coonoor and Mettupalayam railway stations. There is a proposal to open ‘Coachteria’, a restaurant in the coach at Udagamandalam besides catering stalls at Udhagamandalam and Hillgrove Railway stations. Furthermore, there is a proposal to open Souvenir shops at these three heritage stations.
NMR ‘Heritage Steam Voyage’
NMR trains are operated by Oil-fired X- Class Steam locomotives between Mettupalayam and Coonoor railway stations . Acceding to the demands of rail enthusiasts, 56 summer special services christened as ‘Heritage Steam Voyage’ were operated between Mettupalayam and Coonoor from 31.3.2018 to 24.6.2018 during weekends. . Elaborate arrangements were made to make this travel a treasured memory with Value Added Services such as a Welcome Kit, a Souvenir and on-board refreshments. Southern Railway registered a revenue of Rs.28 lakhs from running these summer special trains.
In view of the increasing patronage for NMR services, round trip services between Udagamandalam and Ketti were run during weekends from 2.6.18 to 23.6.18. These short round-trip services were a major draw among tourists who wished to take a quick glimpse of the breath-taking mountains. A revenue of Rs.2.85 lakh was recorded from running 8 such round trips between Udhagamandalam and Ketti. The patronage for these special runs has been very encouraging.
Focus on the future of NMR
Efforts are on to introduce more services to meet the demand from the ever increasing footfalls in Ooty every year. Southern Railway is ready to offer chartered services by a coal fired steam locomotive hauled train in between Mettupalayam and Coonoor for interested Corporates and Tour operators.
In order to increase the services, two additional steam locomotives and 15 coaches are getting ready at Integral Coach Factory. Once the additional rolling stock are received, the steam loco run will be extended upto Ooty which is now only upto Coonoor. Round trips for the tourists visiting Coonoor will also be introduced between Coonoor and Runnymede.
Souvenir outlets will be started at Ooty and Coonoor so that tourists can carry the memories of their travel experiences in NMR. Southern Railway is presently scouting for different souvenir designs and souvenir suppliers for this purpose. A theme based coffee shop is also on the cards in Ooty station where an old X class steam loco is on display on a pedestal. It is also proposed to give a face-lift to all the railway stations in NMR which include landscaping, benches and view points, to mention a few.
Southern Railway is committed towards development and preservation of NMR for posterity. Constant efforts are being made to upgrade infrastructure and technology on the mountain railway.. Nilgiri Mountain Railway which occupies a position of pride and prominence on the vast Indian Railway heritage network will continue to be a glowing symbol of human endeavour and technological marvel.