Our Plan

Our Plan

While India has a the 4th largest rail network in the world there are surprisingly few heritage railways. The ones that do exist were historically isolated lines that in general catered more to tourist than freight or the general public since their inception. This project would the first in India to revive a unused railway for tourist purpose as is the typical model for heritage lines in most of the world. While there are informal plans to save part of the railway for heritage without a proper plan in place ahead of closure the line will likely fail as a tourist railway. This page outlines what steps need to be taken to ensure the railways success so that future generations will be able to travel through the beautiful Choral Valley and experience the meter gauge era of the Indian Railways.


The first key is to make the line accessible, this means it is vital that the meter gauge remains linked with the main Indian Railway network at both Mhow (Now Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Nagar DADN) and at Omkareshwar Road so the line can be visited as part of a longer trip.

Secondly the change of gauge must be made as convenient as possible meaning that train departure times should be aligned with the arrival and departure of broad gauge trains at the connecting points with sufficient buffer given incase of late running. Along with this appropriate facilities should be made available at these points including luggage storage, waiting rooms and retirement rooms. If a potential tourist has to go far out of the way to ride the train it will become far less desirable to visit.

The current plan is to remove the meter gauge south of either Kalakund or Choral, this would severely limit the railways potential as it leaves one end disconnected and provides no real destination for tourists at the end of the run. Since the new line will follow an entirely new alignment to atleast Balwar it makes sense to keep the railway intact atleast to this point, this will provide a longer ride and a connection back to the broad gauge mainline.

Side by side MG and BG lines on the Mavli-Nathdwara segment
However the best option that will allow the line to become a successful tourist operation is to relay the Balwar to Barwah segment with side by side meter gauge/broad gauge lines as has been implemented on the Mavli-Nathdwara segment. This allows both gauges to continue to operate and the meter gauge trains to remain out of the way of the broad gauge express trains that will likely ply the line after conversion. The terrain from Balwar to to Barwah is relatively flat so it should not be very difficult to expand the right of way. Since there are no plans to build a new bridge at Omkareshwar the meter gauge and broad gauge would need to run in gauntlet style dual gauge trackage which would continue into the Omkareshwar Station as much of the approaches to the bridge are on a high fill.
Currently the Omkareshwar Station is poorly suited to handling the large number of people who visit the holy city each year, the station is situated just 11 KM away but there are few means of reaching with few taxis available to meet the train leading most visitors to arrive by bus. This can be remedied in 2 ways; as a short term solution the railways can set up their own bus service or arrange for a private firm to provide bus transportation between the station and the city of Omkareshwar. As part of the gauge conversion project however the actual railway should be extended to Omkareshwar with dual gauge track allowing both the meter gauge heritage trains as well as limited run broad gauge express trains for important festivals.




Tourist Appeal:

A YG Steam locomotive leads a train across Ravine Viaduct #2 (John Tickner photo)

The railway has alot of tourist appeal in its current condition, just that it is not marketed as such and the schedule does not cater to tourist needs. Marketing will be the most important step and this should be done through the local tourism board or a separate organization that is focused solely on this railway.

Mhow was one of the last sheds to home steam locomotives but once steam finished in the late 1990’s on the meter gauge the country has been almost totally without any regular steam powered trains. While many Indian’s have fond memories of steam it is now confined to just a few mountain railways and even there diesel traction has encroached. The preservation of this line will allow an opportunity to revive steam traction in all its glory with a steep ghat section and banker operations. Regular steam traction will draw people from all over the country and abroad like nothing else so this is crucial to the revival. While the Mhow shed still hosts 3 derelict YG class locomotives it would be far easier to bring in already restored locomotives from elsewhere in the country. The Rewari Steam center is a prime candidate for this with 3 YG class and 1 YP class steam locomotives in working condition but nowhere to run them as all metre gauge lines around Rewari have been converted, if an agreement can be reached with Rewari that would allow an immediate start to steam operations. Once steam operations have begun additional suitable steam locomotives should acquired to be restored to operation and permanently homed at the Mhow Shed.

The Mhow shed itself would be an ideal place to create a working museum similar to the Rewari Steam center where visitors can see diesel and steam locomotives under overhaul and restoration. This would be a unique experience within India and would draw rail enthusiasts and if museum tours were included with the train ride would draw visitors from the general public. Many items already at the Mhow shed such as the derelict YG class locomotives and the steam cranes would make ideal museum pieces. If set up correctly the locomotive shed could be a world class museum on its own.

The trains themselves will require upgrades to make them more suitable for tourists, currently the trains consist only of unreserved coaches with wood bench seats which most high end tourists would not use. To facilitate tourists the railroad should either acquire or convert coaches to reserved FC coaches with padded seats as are found on broad gauge trains. In addition the railways should move any remaining Air Conditioned meter gauge coaches to Mhow for tourist services. Ideally each train would run with a combination of unreserved, first class and 1-2 air conditioned coaches depending on demand.

The scheduling should also be adjusted for tourist purposes, trains should be coordinated with broad gauge arrivals into Mhow. Patalpani is one of the lines biggest attractions but the current Patalpani station is 1 KM from the falls. Downhill trains already make a technical halt here to test the brakes so a platform should be constructed and the train should make a regular long halt (atleast 15 minutes) to allow tourists to get off and view the falls, during the dry season when the falls are less impressive the time of the halt can be reduced.

Additional Revenue Generation

Plandampf event in Germany. (photo by Mike Biehn)

Outside traditional ticket sales the railway line can host rail enthusiast events to draw visitors and bring in additional revenue. Many tourist railways throughout the world offer photo charters where a group of rail photographers pay for a special train to be chartered by them and stop in scenic locations for photographs. These charters are a huge source of revenue for tourist railways as these enthusiasts are typically willing to pay large amount of money for well organized charters. During the late 1980’s India was a very popular destination for steam enthusiasts and bringing back steam on this line would no doubt draw some of the same people back once again. Another version of the photo charter is the “plandampf” event, German for Scheduled Steam in which steam traction replaces all regular motive power on a line for a day, this is funded by enthusiasts donating money until the threshold required for the even is reached. They can then choose to ride the trains or photograph trackside.

Another exciting opportunity for additional revenue is a “driver for the day” program which allows anyone to operate a locomotive under the supervision of the trained regular crew. The most successful example of this is the Wolsztyn Experience in Poland where a group of English rail enthusiasts have successfully kept steam in daily service on segment of railway near Poznan, Poland along with maintaining a roundhouse with several working steam locomotives. This would provide a significant amount of income as a single day of driving the locomotive in Wolztyn costs participants approximately 200 US Dollars or around 13,000 Rupees.