The Nilgiris properly called Nila-giri or Blue Mountains is an integral part of the great plateau occupying the junction of the eastern and western ghats. The name "Nilagiri" is about 850 years old and was given by the inhabitants of the adjoining plains because of the blue haze, which envelops the range.

The Nilgiri Mountains are known for their coffee and tea plantations. Potato is the major cash crop of the district. Chinacona products, eucalyptus oil, geranium, scented phenol etc. are also produced here. The district is also noted for its ancient tribes like the  Badugas, the Todas, the Kotas, the Kurumbas, the Panias and the lrulas.

Udhagamandalam, the Queen of Hill stations and popularly called as Ooty is a major tourist attraction. The beautiful botanical gardens, the Ooty lake, the children's lake garden near the Railway Station, Doddabetta, Coonoor and Kotagiri are some of the many scenic spots on the blue hills.


From the year 1854 onwards, various proposals were mooted to build a mountain railway from Mettupalayam to the Nilgiri Plateau. All the proposals had either a technical or financial problem. One of the early proposals even suggested the use of heavy water carriers to counter the weight of the train on the slope, and another suggested a ropeway in the steeper part of the terra in.

Finally it was a Swiss Engineer named N. Riggenbach who thought of rack rail system at an estimated cost of 1 ,32,000 pounds, which was considered too costly and dropped. Meanwhile, the Madras Railway Company opened the Madras-Coimbatore-Beypoor (Calicut) railway line for traffic in 1862. And in 1873, opened the 26 mile Long Branch line between Podanur and Mettupalayam, which made Mettupalayam the foot hill point for any body going to the hills.

The revival of various plans for a mountain railway finally ended in 1885, with the Nilgiri Railway Company being formed with a capital of Rs.25 lakhs. And in August 1891, the first sod of the line was cut by Lord Wenlock, the then Governor of Madras Presidency. After many problems and change of hands, the line was ultimately completed and opened for public traffic on 15'h June 1899 by the Madras Railway. The line was extended to Ootacamund from Coonoor sometime in 1908 on the same gauge over a distance of 11 and 3/4 miles at a cost of Rs.24, 40,000.


The Railway line from Mettupalayam to Ooty is 45.88 km. long and lies partly in Coimbatore District and partly in Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu, on the eastern slopes of the western g hats. Mettupalayam is at the foot of the hills with an elevation of about 330 metres and Udhagamandalam on the plateau with an elevation of 2200 metres. The average gradient of this metre gauge line is about 1 in 24.5.

The sharpest curve on the section is 17.5 degrees. There are about 208 curves on the section, out of which 180 curves are 10 to 17.5, degrees. 76 numbers of curve lubricators have been provided on the sharp curves. 

There are 250 bridges on the section, out of which 32 are major ones and 15 are road over/under bridges. The total lenial waterway works out to 31 .63 metres per km. The longest bridge is Bridge No.25 at Km.9/1 1-12 of 3 x 18.29 and 12 x 3.66 girder spans. There are 16 tunnels between Kallar and Ooty, all of which are in excellent condition. Most of the tunnels are un-lined.


Boasting of the only rack and pinion system in the whole of Asia, the unique rack section of the Nilgiri

Mountain Railway begins at Km.7/8-9 beyond Kallar Down Top point and ends at Km.26/8-9, a little before the Coonoor Up Home signal. The average gradient on the rack section is I in 15. The rack rails consist of two toothed steel bars laid in a double row at 44 mm apart and 64 mm above the running rails so that the tooth of one is directly opposite the gap of the other to ensure that the engine pinions do not work off the racks when negotiating curves. The entry to the rack is effected through a specially designed entry tongue laid in special channel sleepers fitted with bow springs and connecting links which is connected finally to the rigid bars. The maximum permissible speed on Mettupalayam-Kallar and Coonoor-Udhagamandalam "Non-Rack" system is 30 KMPH while between Kallar and Coonoor "Rack" section the maximum permissible speed is 13 KMPH.

Trains are operated on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway on the Absolute block system. Engines are attached always at the Mettupalayam end of the formation, pushing the loads while going up. Each of the coaches and wagons are provided with a brakes man who independently operates the hand brakes and the 'rack' brakes on whistle codes obtained from the driver.

The "X" class locomotives used on this railway are tank engines of '0-8-2' type with 4 cylinders of compound type; the high pressure cylinders work the adhesion wheels while the low pressure cylinders working on the exhaust steam of the first two cylinders work on the rack system.