The beauty of India’s northernmost state with its green vales and charming towns unspools like a film when one looks out the windows of the Jammu Mail. The train starts in Delhi and makes it way north. Entering Jammu & Kashmir, it winds past photogenic stations with sloping roofs and green fields dotted with coniferous trees. Snowy Himalayan peaks form a continuous backdrop along the way. While the view is reason enough for many to hop on to this train, the recently extended route from Udhampur to Katra also brings in a different crowd, that of pilgrims making their way to Vaishno Devi.
Without a doubt, the best time for a journey aboard this train that runs within Jammu and Kashmir is when thick layers of snow cover every inch of the Kashmir Valley. Groves oickirutr are slathered in white and cottages are adorned with gleaming icicles. Vast meadows spread out like fluffy white canvases, and children bundled up in winter wear frolic in the snow as the train chugs its way through this winter wonderland. En route to Baramulla, the Baramulla-Banihal DEMU train runs through an 11.2-kilometre-long tunnel cut into the Pir Panjal range. The longest and highest tunnel in the country, it is a feat of railway engineering that’s enabled access to northern parts of J&K. To extend this route, a massive rail bridge is being built over the River Chenab. Once complete, it will be among the tallest bridges in the world.
Only one train, the Visakhapatnam-Kiiandul Passenger, travels through Andhra Pradesh’s picturesque Araku Valley, past the lush green Anantagiri hills and sprawling coffee plantations. It passes through 58 tunnels and traverses more than 84 bridges during the Kothavalasa-Kirandul stretch, which is the most beautiful part of the journey. Along the way it stops at Shimliguda station, located at a height of 3,264 feet; this was once the highest broad gauge railway station in the country. The popular hill station of Araku Valley is located in the thickly forested Eastern Ghats with its deep gorges and cascading waterfalls.
A JOURNEY THROUGH ASSAM: Starting from Si I char, close to the Assam-Bangladesh border, the railway line passes through British-era tea gardens in the Barak Valley. It then curves along the emerald hills of the Haflong Valley to reach Lumding in the central part of the state. This track through the verdant valleys of Assam is one of the most scenic rail routes in the country. Long-distance trains like the Kanchanjunga Express ply this stretch.
- Point of Intersection: The Diamond Crossing at Nagpur is the intersection point for train lines from north to south (Delhi-Chennaijand east to west (Howrah – Mumbai).
- Tea and Wake-Up Calls: At train stations and in overnight trains around the country, the voice of tea vendors signals the start of the day. The call of “cheyayi grum,” where the words chai and garam are repeated with characteristic sing-song, is the quintessential Indian Railways wake-up call.
- Meals on Wheels: If you’d like to skip the tomato soup and watery dal for restaurant fare, delivery sites like TravelKhana.com, Yatrachef.com, Railrider.in, Khanaonline.in are here to help. Just put in your train and seat number or PNR number, place an order, and it’ll be brought straight to you.Other Beautiful Indian Rail Routes: