Construction and Operation of Some Steeply Graded Routes

The hill railways of India are numerous, widely scattered and varying in character.

India is a sub-continent larger than the whole of Europe less Scandinavia and Russia. It is bounded on the north by that greatest of mountain ranges, the Himalayas. The spurs of the Himalayas are hundreds, and in some instances thousands, of miles long. There are, besides, notable detached ranges such as the Nilgiris in southern India, and the Western Ghats overlooking the west coast. Moreover, the tropical climate of a land in which there are many people who come from more temperate climates is responsible for driving them to the welcome coolness of the hills in the hot weather. Hence the need for railways to carry them to the hills. Occasionally, however, the trade of the country has also to be transported over the mountain ranges.

It is difficult to define a hill railway, and still more difficult to describe all those that might claim this title; but this page will give readers a general idea of the various types of hill railway in India. Classification may best be based first upon gauge and then upon geographical or traffic conditions. The hill lines are built to four gauges :

broad (5 ft. 6 in.),
metre (3 ft. 3-3/8 in.),
2 ft. 6 in., and
2 ft.

The term «ghat,» which frequently recurs on this page, means a hill, hill range, route through hills, or a pass.


The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is described here:

The others are dealt with here: