They say you dream and the universe makes sure it comes true. It has happened to me many times when I see something in my dream and later (could be years at times) witness it come true. No I am not talking about wanting to achieve something and keep dreaming about it, these are just dreams that I see much before the desire sets in. So one dream that keeps recurring is train travel. So what is special about train travel?
I have dreamt of various train travels, but one that always excited me was witnessing it from the locopilot’s seat. So in this particular type of recurring dream, I am at the front of the engine seeing the track, though not exactly piloting it. I have had this dream so many times and even though I have travelled very frequently in train, but only recently it did this dream come true.
Way back in 1997 or 1998, in school we went on a trip to Ooty. We travelled in the toy train from Mettupalayam to Ooty and I fell in love with the journey. But since it was 2nd class, the view was different. Even though I have been to Ooty many times after the school trip, it was always in car. In our recent trip, I decided to take the toy train to relive the memorable experience I had almost 20 years ago. We chose the first class ticket thinking it might have comfortable seats and more space. Comfortable they were not, but they provided the best view in the train. I absolutely loved it. As everyone knows, in a toy train the engine is at the back and pushes the train up the hill, as opposed to the traditional trains where the engine pulls a train. So the FC compartment is the first, then another FC coach followed by couple of 2nd class coaches and finally the engine.
The Engine getting ready:
Chennai to Mettupalayam:
Train number: 12671. Departure – 21:15. Arrival – 06:15 Fare: Rs 340 for Sleeper class and Rs 890 for 3rd AC.
Mettupalayam to Coonoor:
Train number: 56136. Departure 07:10 am. Arrival – 10:30. Stops for 10 mins for engine change. Fare Rs 185 for first class and Rs 25 for 2nd class.
There is good 1 hour gap between arrival in Mettupalayam before the toy train starts. There is a small canteen in the station, but I did not like the food at all. However, it would be a good idea to have a light breakfast (unless you have motion sickness), as it takes good 5 hours to reach Ooty. We got down at Coonoor at 10.30 am, so just had couple of idlis.
The train stops at various places mainly to fill water as the train is powered by steam engine till it reaches Coonoor. Here, the engine is changed to Diesel. It was such a sight to see the track from up close and getting into tunnels were even more fun. Highly recommend the toy train just for the wonderful experience at least once even if it takes more time than driving up in a car.
The Scenic route:
The train chug chugs its way through many but short tunnels. The train stops in many places, giving you many opportunities for wonderful photos.
Pit Stop: Between Mettuplayam and Coonoor there are no stations where passengers alight or get down. Kallar is the first place where the train stops, it is also the last place on plain before the train starts ascending. After that it makes pit stops in Hillgrove and Runnymede for refilling the water. Remember it is a steam engine. Runnymede especially was beautiful and will bring out the photographer in you. Hillgrove station has a small shop where you can buy packaged food.
The rack and pinion:
Between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, the line uses the rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient. The Nilgris Mountain Railway is the only rack railway in India.
Even though it would take only couple of hours in a car from Mettupalyam to Ooty, and it takes 3.5 hours, I preferred the train to enjoy the scenic route and not to forget the best view one could ever get. It was not until the journey began, I realized my childhood dream coming true and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. However, if you are travelling to Ooty, it might be strenuous as it takes close to 5 hours. So choice is yours. For return from Ooty, we took a car to save time.