Hill Railways of the Indian Subcontinent by Richard Wallace 22nd November 2021

This presentation consisted of a review of railway journeys from the foothills of the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas to the Western Ghats and the Blue Hills of the South of India.

The traditional track gauges in India are Broad Gauge 5’6” and Narrow gauge 2’8” although mlre recently Indian main line is 5’0”

The first line to be considered was Zhob Valley Railway which was opened in 1917 and closed in 1985-8 and went from Zhob to Bannu, a distance of 184 miles with a maximum gradient of 1 in 40. It was primarily used for chromite trains.

Next was the Khyber Pass Railway  from Peshewar to Landi Khama (now in Afganistan). It was opened in 1925 and closed in 1932, a distance of 32 miles with maximum gradients of 1 in 25 and 1 in 33.

Next was the Kangra Valley Railway which was all narrow gauge, opened in 1928 and closed in 1942. It ran for 103 miles and was converted to diesel  traction some years before closure.

The Kalka-Shimla Railway was opened in 1903 and is 60 miles long with gradients of 1in 33. It now runs diesel hauled trains.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was opened in 1880 with maximum gradients of 1 in 25 It has a significant number of reversing loops and is now diesel run.

The Matheran Light Railway runs from Matheran  to Neral, a distance of 12.6 miles with a maximum gradient of 1 in20 and numerous tight bends. The rolling stock is now diesel hauled.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a 29 mile metre gauge with a rack system built in 1908 by the British and currently serviced by a “Double Fairlie” locomotive of 1880 vintage.

Several of the above operating railways are being considered by UNESCO for adoption as “Heritage Lines”