Trains. At the mere mention of the word, memories of long, cross-country trips come to mind. Sipping masala chai, eating samosas, clambering onto the upper berths, making small talk with co-passengers, watching the scenery fly by outside the windows…cherished recollections from more leisurely days. Let us go beyond the famous ‘toy trains’ of Darjeeling, the Nilgiris and Shimla to some lesser known gems, and relive the magic of the Indian Railways with our children!
From Pune: the Pune-Satara Railway
This train route passes through the Shindvane Ghats of the Sahyadri Mountains, offering breath-taking views as the train chugs through the rocky chasms and forests of the Sahyadris. The Ahmedabad-Kolhapur Express (No. 11049) leaves Pune Junction at 8 am and arrives at Satara at 11 am. It returns to Pune (No. 11050), after departing from Satara at 4 pm on all days. At Satara, the major attractions are the Ajkinyatara Fort, Kaus Lake and the Gare Ganapati temple.
From Bangalore: the Bangalore-Mangalore Railway
This route makes its way through the lush green forests of the Western Ghats, weaving through the mountainside. It is a journey to remember – with deep valleys, high hills, numerous waterfalls, running streams and endless tunnels. It is best to opt for a day train from Yeshwantpur to Mangalore (Yeshwantpur-Karwar Express No.16515 – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). The journey takes approximately 10 hours (7.30 am – 5.30 pm). Attractions in Mangalore include the Sultan Battery, Mangaladevi Temple and numerous beaches. For the return journey, Train no. 16516 leaves Mangalore at 11.10 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, making this an ideal two-day trip.
From Mumbai: the Konkan Railway
Through abundant greenery and a plethora of water bodies, the Konkan railway route from Mumbai to Mangalore traverses the eastern coast of the country. The many attractions along the way include the spectacular Zuari bridge in Goa and the Karbude Tunnel, which at 6.5 km, is the longest tunnel on the Konkan Railway. The Mandovi Express (train no. 10103) departs daily from Mumbai Junction at 7 am and arrives at Madgaon at 6.45 pm, while for the return journey, train no.10104 leaves Madgaon station at 9.30 am every day.
From New Delhi: The New Delhi-Jaipur-Jaisalmer Railway
The New Delhi-Jaisalmer Express No. 14659 departs from New Delhi Junction at 5.30 pm and arrives at Jaisalmer at 11 am on all days; for the return journey, one may board Train no. 14660, which runs on all days and leaves Jaisalmer at 5.30 pm. As the train travels through the barren stretches of the desert from Jaipur to Jaisalmer, the scenes of grazing camels and small mud settlements against the backdrop of the immense Thar Desert make for unforgettable memories. The quaint villages with their colourfully dressed Rajasthani occupants are a sight to behold. Once at Jaisalmer, the JaisalmerFort is a must-visit for any tourist, as are the numerous havelis throughout the city.
From Chennai: Mandapam-RameswaramSea Bridge
Referred to as ‘Varanasi of South India’, Rameswaram is one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots for Hindus. It is a small island town, connected to the mainland (Mandapam station) by a 2 km long bridge over the ocean. The journey is a beautiful one, as the train travels along the bridge with nothing but ocean water on both sides. Rameswaram express (train no. 16701) leaves Chennai Egmore station at 9.45 pm, reaches Mandapam at 10.15 am and arrives at Rameswaram 45 minutes later, at 11.15 am. The return journey is by Train no. 16702 that departs at 5 pm and arrives at Chennai Egmore Station at 6.30 am the next morning.
From Hyderabad: Vizag-Araku Valley Railway
Board the Konark Express (train no. 11019) from Secunderabad Junction at 7 am and arrive at Vishakapatnam at 9 pm, spend the night at Vishakapatnam, and next morning, take the Vishakapatnam-Kirandul Passenger (train no. 58501) at 6.50 am to tour the renowned Araku Valley. Passing through 58 tunnels and over 84 bridges, above the famous Borra caves, with countless valleys and waterfalls on the way, the ride is truly incredible. The Ananthagiri hills on the way to Araku Valley are famous for coffee plantations. The return train to Vizag is train no. 58502; it leaves Araku station at 2.45 pm on all days. Konark Express (train no. 11020) can be boarded the same night at 10.45 pm to return to Hyderabad.