Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Day at Rameswaram

My day-trip to Rameswaram on January 1, 2004.

Rameswaram Island as seen from the Indira Gandhi Road Bridge

The older cantilever rail bridge (metre gauge) adjoining the new road bridge over the sea (Palk Straits). This bridge was completely washed off in the 1964 floods and was re-built. The remnants of the older bridge can be seen along the new one. The central portion is a cantilever that lifts up to allow boats and other bigger vessels to apss through the channel into the fishing harbour .

The rail bridge extending to Rameswaram island.

Rameswaram is a green and windy island. Windmills for generating electricity. This photo was taken from the Gandhamadhanam hill which houses one of the numerous Rama temples in Rameswaram.

Ramnathaswamy Temple: 4000 feet long pillared corridor with over 4000 pillars, supposedly the longest in the world. The carved granite pillars are mounted on a raised platform. What is unique about this corridor is that the rock is not indigenous to the island and it was brought in from elsewhere in Tamilnadu across the sea.

Is that Sri Lanka? An island in the sea far away as seen from he Kodandarama Temple whihc itself is on an island between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi.

Freshly laid road to Dhanushkodi. This is a National Highway 49 (Kochi-Madurai-Dhanushkodi).
Note a railway track (a blue line) on the right side buried beneath the sand. This is the metre gauge line that used to run all the way to Dhanushkodi till 1964.

Ghost town! Dhanushkodi was abandoned during the 64 floods and remains a ghost town today. Seen here is an abandoned railway building.

Another shot of the rail bridge

Indira Gandhi Bridge connecting Rameswaram island with mainland India.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sims Park, Coonoor

Sims Park, Coonoor

Parks are my favourite landscapes in cities and towns. Having lived in Bangalore for 4 years, I can say that a city or town without a park is no civilization at all. However, I cringed at the state of Lalbagh the last time I visited it ( almost an year ago after I moved to Chennai). There are in my opinion, two parks...recreational and botanical. Both the Cubbon and Lalbagh parks are botanical first ands recreational next.

A giant Fir tree

I was looking forward to the botanical gardens at Ooty during my vacation at the end of 2005. I was not expecting much from the lake, though water bodies surrounded by vegetation happen to be my most favourite landscapes. For some reason, I could not make it to the Ooty botanical garden. The Nilagiri Mountain Railway occupied most of my time and mindspace. At Coonoor, I suddenly found that I had 3 hours to spare before I could catch the next shuttle train back to Ooty. With time to kill, I explored all options at Coonoor for sight-seeing in the guide book. Sims Park was described as a garden in a ravine...mmmm sounds interesting. I decided to check it out. The auto drivers insisted that I take a more well trodden option: Dolphin's nose, tea gardens et....but my mind was set on the park. I was not disappointed.

Long and winding pathways.

Sims Park is the best reason to visit Coonoor. It was built over 130 years ago, and covers about 12 hectares of land. The park is situated in a deep ravine on the north side of Coonoor Railway Station. Set in a natural forest on the slopes of the ravine with winding footpaths all over, the park is a home to a wide variety of trees, brought here from all parts of the world. The grass is always green and fresh and in winter, the mist mingles freely with the trees giving you that romantic atmosphere seen only in movies. This park is more compact and definitely much prettier than the botanical gardens at Ooty.

Little pond at the bottom of the ravine

The USP of this park is the collection of trees and plants it hosts. It is divided into eight major sections and contains over 1,000 species of plants from the Himalayas, Australia, Africa, China, Europe, Brazil and other places. It is this painstaking 100 year old collection of trees that should be the ideal interest for any nature lover visiting Coonoor. There is a representative of almost all genera in the plant kingdom here. This is also the home of the Himalayan holy Rudrakhsa and even the Australian Monkey Puzzle.

Set in a natural forest

Pines and Firs of all kinds adorn this garden. There is even a separate rose garden within the park. The park is ideal for a long and idle walk through nature. An enviable factory of fresh oxygen, the park is carpeted with some fine grassy lawns and winding pathways that lead to the bottom of the ravine where a small man made pond with an island adds to the landscape.

Mist and light mingle with the fresh greenery

Tourists prefer to cover as much as possible in a single day and therefore do not enjoy the park much. The best way to visit this park is to give it at least half a day. I have two interests in Ooty now...The Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Sims Park and looks like my day will be well spent divided between the two. :)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Nilagiri Mountain Railway #3

Rest In Dignity? A nicely painted Winterthur plinthed in front of Coonoor station house. The Abt system is not visible under the loco, however.

A flagstone for the loco describing its features. Even age....looks like the loco is still in running condition, for the age is changed every year.

The Mettupalayam-Ooty passenger slowly ambles into Coonoor after a 4 hour uphill crawl at 13kmph.

The coal is all used up! The loco, coaches and even the fireman are all covered with soot. A common site many years ago, now reserved only for the Nilagiri Mountain Railway. The passenger moves onto the only platform at Coonoor.

Many fans for the steaming hot Swiss Miss. One thing I have observed is that this train is more famous on the Coonoor-Ooty stretch than up or down to Mettupalayam. Hordes of tourists of all kinds and nationalities temporarily ditch their preferred mode of transport at Coonoor/Ooty and take a joy ride in this train. They even take snaps of the YDM4 diesel loco thinking it to be a part of the 'toy train' set-up. But the steamer has its own fans too, like in the photo.

The diesel and the steamer. Looks like it is straight out of Thomas The Tank Engine...the steamer would be Giggles and the Diesel is Barney....dunno ...the names just came to my head :-)

Giggles and Barney again...a critical mind would see a great deal in this photo....the locos, the distance between them, the angle etc. I see only one thing...darn! I screwed up the snap :)

Giggles is shunting itself out of the main line onto the pit-lane....sheesh that is Formula 1 jargon!...well towards its steam shed.

No more giggles (pun intended)! The Winterthur steam loco looks like it could do with a nice clean up and paint job in the front. After all, it is a Unesco heritage!Look at the plinted is all clean and polished.

Stations on the NMR are compact and cute. Note this points levers right beside the station master's office at Ketti. They are newly painted in bright colors. After all, they are a heritage under UNESCO.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nilagiri Mountain Railway #2

These points levers are heritage now as Unesco has given the entire line a World Heritage status.

Lovely woods en route Ooty

Arriving at Ketti, a cute little station with its own little garden and even a level crossing.

Coonoor-Ooty shuttle leaving Wellington. Note the three flags. This is the only train I know that has 4 guards!

The Swiss Miss arrives to haul the Ooty-Mettupalayam passenger downhill. Note the sandbags in the front. these are meant to provide friction for the wheels downhill.

A closer look at the locomotive.

The Mettupalayam train is set to depart from Coonoor on the right while the Coonoor-Ooty shuttle awaits line clearance.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Nilagiri Mountain Railway #1

A view of the Mettupalayam loco shed early in the morning from platform 2. Mettupalayam has only two for broad gauge towards Coimbatore jn and another for the NMR.

The Swiss Winthertur Loco brining in the Ooty passenger into platform 2. The early morning chill and gloom accentuate the hissing steam from the loco.

Mettupalayam-Ooty passenger starts its journey from Mettupalayam. The first 3Km is a smooth run where actually, you can feel the power of the little loco. At this point, the climb begins, a straight and gradual rise till Kallar where the rack and pinion contraption is engaged. From there it is a 1:12 gradient. The man on the verandah has an enviable role...he operates the hand brakes of the coach on curves and slopes along with the others on each coach's verandah. he is also the eyes for the driver and communicates backwards with the use of his flags--semaphore signalling. The reward? Stunning views from the best position!

This man has work twice a day as there is only one round service on his line. This is a level crossing just outside Mettupalayam where the gradual slope to Kallar starts.

The passenger chugs past the level crossing...the loco pushes the train up the hills.

A small bridge on the NMR spans a wonderful waterfall. This photo was taken from the road quite far off...

A freshly painted YDM4 diesel waits for the Mettupalayam - Ooty passenger at Coonoor. The rack section ends here and the diesels take over from here to Ooty. The steam loco does not do the entire trip except for specially chartered trains.

Another shot of the steaming Swiss...

A sign at the Ooty railway station showing the altitude of the station from mean sea level. I am 2 km above Chennai!

The Ooty-Coonoor shuttle rolls through some pleasant woods after Lovedale. Ooty-Coonoor line is relatively flatter, though it offers great views of vallies, plantations and woods. It also has some really pleasant stations.

The Ooty-Coonoor shuttle prepares to leave Ooty...the coach in the middle with square windows was a recently refurbished at the golden Rocks workshop, Trichy. The leg-space for seating is worse than Air Deccan A320s! The older coaches have a better seating but poor visibility.