It is entirely possible to travel from the top to the tip of India by train. To explore the hill stations and catch a glimpse into the days of the Raj take a so-called ‘toy train’. These are vintage steam locomotives running on narrow gauge tracks. There are four ‘toy train’ routes in India, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Kalka to Shimla, Matheran Hill Railway and the Ooty Nilgiri Mountain Railway, all serving hill stations, the favoured home of the British Raj due to the cooler climate in summer. Alternatively take the train from the chilled out beaches of Kovalam to Kanniyakumari, located on India’s most southern point.
Sleeper trains join major cities and make it easy to cover incredible distances with very little effort and in relative comfort. Travelling on these services allows plenty of time to get to know your fellow passengers, often families travelling together for a wedding or family event, and learn about their lives as you watch beautiful scenery pass by. Intercity services such as the Shatabdi and the newly introduced double decker train from Delhi to Jaipur are popular with commuters and give a great insight into a spectacularly busy rush hour. Mumbai’s Victoria station is well worth a visit during the morning rush hour to see thousands of people pouring in and out of the ornate gothic terminal building.
There is always something to keep you entertained when you travel by train in India. From talking to fellow travellers, watching the organised chaos of the platforms or counting the number of times the Chai-wallah passes through the carriage yelling “Chai! Chai! Chai!” during your journey!