Ooty: NMR weathers yet another storm

Along with local people, tourists waiting for resumption of service on the sector

Udhagamandalam: Having weathered many a storm during its long and chequered existence, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) is all set to emerge triumphantly from yet another major setback.

The breathtaking sight of the toy train chugging through the hills between Coonoor and Mettupalyam which had been conspicuous by its absence for the past about six months will return soon.

Along with the local people for whom the NMR is a prized possession, the tourists are also waiting eagerly for the resumption of services on the sector.

Prized possession:The passenger train of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which connects the town of Mettupalayam with the hill station of Udhagamandalam in the Nilgiris, is seen chugging through the Glendale Estate, near Coonoor. — File Photo: K. Ananthan

They are also hoping that the return would be marked by some announcements relating to improvement of services.

Long considered as the Pride of the Blue Mountains, the NMR, which came into being in 1899 between Mettupalayam and Coonoor and extended to Ooty in 1908 lived through many challenges which confronted it over the years including several attempts to dismantle the line on account of it being uneconomical, a major accident during the early 1980s involving a freight train and its locomotives developing technical problems frequently on account of old age.

Hence, when a major natural calamity in the form of landslides triggered by heavy rains hit the NMR, particularly on the Mettupalayam-Coonoor sector on November 8, 2009, the people here were filled with agony and apprehension but were confident that the marvel of engineering skill which had been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005 would bounce back despite speculation to the contrary.

Living up to the confidence reposed in it, the Southern Railway rose to the occasion notwithstanding odds of a varied kind.

As a result, services between Ooty and Coonoor were resumed on January 5.

Soil

With the total estimated cost of restoration put at Rs. 12.45 crore, the workers guided by senior officers of the Railways had to remove over 48,000 tonnes of slipped soil from about 150 locations, rebuild two badly damaged bridges, construct a new bridge, strengthen two bridges, renew tracks over about 2 km, repair damaged rack bars at 50 places and put up retaining walls at three places apart from removing uprooted trees and setting right damaged pipelines, signals, electrical and telecommunication lines.

Among the various challenges the workers and officials of the Southern Railway had to grapple with before putting the prestigious NMR back on the rails were hostile terrain and weather, threat from wild animals and labour shortage.

D. Radhakrishnan From THE HINDU

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