On our trip to Ooty, we had kept aside half a day for a visit to Coonoor, another hill station only 20 kms away. To make our journey to Coonoor more special and enjoyable, we decided to take a morning toy train ride in the famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Upon arrival in Coonoor, our car would pick up and take us around the various spots of interests in the hill town. We planned to return to Ooty by car by late afternoon. A perfect plan for half a day Coonoor trip from Ooty!
Ooty Toy Train – Past & Present
Now the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, that we were so keen to experience, was built by the British and initially ran between Mettupalayam (1069 feet) to Coonoor (5616 feet). It was finally extended to Ooty (7228 feet) in 1908.
In October 2005, it joined the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (which was the first one in the group) to become Mountain Railways of India collectively designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The third one, Kalka Shimla Railway joined the two around three years later. The NMR is the only rack railway in India. The rack and pinion system enables the train to climb up the steep gradients of the hills to reach Ooty.
Currently, the train starts from Mettupalayam in the morning and takes around five hours to reach Ooty. In the afternoon, it begins its downhill journey back to Mettupalayam and reaches its destination in around three and half hours.
The shorter version of the journey is from Ooty to Coonoor or vice versa. It takes a little more than an hour and is hence convenient for those with less time on hand. The trains from Ooty run both in the morning and afternoon. Same goes from journey between Coonoor and Ooty.
The Toy Train Journey to Coonoor
We had opted for the morning train to Coonoor which would give us ample time to enjoy the train ride, explore the hill town and then return by late afternoon to cover some attractions in Ooty itself. Everything in our trip was planned, but there was something missing – the tickets. Exactly, where were the tickets?
We had tried to book online before starting our trip though without any success. The person from whom we hired the car had assured us of getting them; however, two days before our journey, there was still no sign of any booking. It looked like, in all probability, the toy train ride to Coonoor would eventually get cancelled. We still kept our fingers crossed and looked forward to book our tickets on the same day.
The morning of the journey, our driver stood in front of us flashing a broad smile and our tickets. He had woken up early and stood in the queue of Ooty train station counter to get us our tickets. He was super happy and so were we. Finally, the toy train ride from Ooty to Coonoor was now possible.
At the schedule time, we reached the station – a very clean one – and waited for our train to arrive. The blue and cream toy train chugged into the station and we quickly grabbed a seat in the nearby coach. We had a first class ticket which meant better seats and fewer people in the coach.
The adjoining coach was occupied by a group of young people who broke into ecstatic applause the moment the train’s whistle blew indicating the start of the journey. Throughout the journey, they were at their enthusiastic best – chatting continuously, laughing without a care in the world, clapping at great views and screaming in the tunnel.
The Beautiful Views
The views began to appear very soon and with a large window, it became easier to peer out and enjoy them. Hills covered in huge trees and vegetation, tea plantations, bridges, tunnels – absolutely beautiful sceneries kept us constantly looking outside. Luckily, the views on our side were far better than the other side so we enjoyed more.
Actually, the most picturesque part lies between Coonoor and Mettupalayam, but since we had opted for the journey up till Coonoor only, we had to content ourselves with only a portion of the beauty. Nonetheless, it was very scenic.
The destinations that the train passed through in its 20 km journey included Lovedale, Ketti Valley, Aravankadu and Wellington. Ketti valley has the most beautiful views and WeIlington is an army town that has featured in a number of movies with army as their backdrop. Ketti and Lovedale, too, have films shot there.
However, the most famous one, undoubtedly, is the hit song Chaiya -Chaiya that was picturized on the top of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Coonoor, the destination itself was where the ‘Kapoor and Sons’ was filmed.
Sim’s Park In Coonoor
It took us a little more than an hour to reach Coonoor and once there, we straightway drove to Sim’s Park. The park was established in 1874 by J D Sim and Major Murray. It is spread over a large area and can be explored through walkways. There are quite a number of trees that are pretty old. The oldest amongst these belongs to Eucalyptus species and dates back to 1869.
Other than this, there are other trees and plants including Rudraksh, Ferns, Camellia and Oak. A number of these have been brought from other countries from around the world. There is also a lake with boating facilities. Adequate seating arrangements ensure that there is a place to sit every time it is required.
Close to noon, the mist started setting in and we longed for a cup of tea. Just outside the park entrance, there are a number of stalls on the road. We settled down at one of these to observe the local life around while enjoying a cup of hot tea and a plate of Maggie – another pleasure of any hill station.
Two Beautiful Tea Estates
Highfields tea estate and factory was the next place we visited. Entering the plantation was not possible so we roamed around and took pictures. There was a tea factory too but we gave it a skip since we had already visited a tea factory in Ooty the day before. The plantation was beautiful; however it was the beauty of Singara estate that completely blew us.
On our way to Lamb’s Rock – a view point named after Captain Lamb – we abruptly stopped over to this place to enjoy the beauty that spread around. The beauty was due to the mist that covered the plantation partially. It looked absolutely stunning! A small factory outlet sold tea. The visibility from Lamb’s Rock entrance itself was not so good so we skipped the plan to go any further and returned to visit a small Eucalyptus Oil Unit and do some shopping at the adjoining outlet selling tea, chocolate, oil and creams.
Our half day trip to Coonoor trip from Ooty passed off rather quickly and we wished we had little more time on our hand to explore Coonoor for some more time. A hearty lunch concluded our trip to Coonoor and we set out on a return journey to Ooty, this time by car.