Narrow gauge railways in India

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Narrow Gauge Train in Chhattisgarh

India has a substantial network of narrow gauge railways that are narrower than the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. The majority of these are 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge, approximately 6,000 km of track and 5,000 km of route in 2015, about 5% of the total Indian rail network. The others are 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge railways and 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railways that are known as "narrow gauge" in India (as opposed to "metre gauge") lines and were 2,000 km of route in 2015.

The total length of all gaugues tracks used by Indian Railways was about 116,000 km (72,000 mi) while the total route length of the network was 66,000 km (41,000 mi) in 2015.[1]


In 1991, Indian Railways concluded that metre gauge network had poor performance compared to broad gauge network and decided to convert most of the metre gauge and narrow gauge network to broad gauge as Project Unigauge - the advantages of uniformity and interoperability were judged to outweigh any other possible benefits arising from the use of diverse gauges.

The lengths of metre gauge and narrow gauge tracks have progressive reduced from approx. 30,000 route kilometre at the start of Project Unigauge in 1991 to approx. 7,000 route kilometre in 2015.

Notable narrow gauge lines[edit]

The narrow gauges are present on a few routes, lying in hilly terrains and in some erstwhile private railways (on cost considerations), which are usually difficult to convert to broad gauge.

2 ft 6 in (762 mm)[edit]

The Kalka-Shimla Railway
Rajim-Raipur Narrow Gauge Train

The first 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) railway in India was constructed in 1863, the Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway.

In 1897 the Barsi Light Railway was opened.

The Kalka-Shimla Railway is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway in North-West India travelling along a mostly mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. The Kangra Valley Railway runs in Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh. The trains on this route run from Pathankot to Joginder Nagar through Kangra Valley.

Parlakimidi Light Railway, the Naupada-Gunupur railway line in India is laid between the east coast and Eastern Ghats in North Eastern Andhra Pradesh and Southern Orissa. It was built by Maharajah of Paralakhemundi in 1889. It was converted into broad gauge in 2010. Broad gauge passenger trains are running in this section.

Other lines:[2]

State Railway
Himachal Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal

2 ft (610 mm)[edit]

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

In 1999 the 2 ft (610 mm) Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The line runs from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal. The railway climbs the foothills of the Himalayas and uses several switchbacks, and spirals to gain the necessary height. Until recently all trains on this railway were powered by steam locomotives; however in 2001 two modern diesel engines were built for the line.

The Matheran Hill Railway is another surviving 2 ft (610 mm) gauge hill railway. The route was destroyed by landslides caused by heavy rains in the 2005 monsoons, but has been rebuilt.

Other lines:

State Railway
  • Sugar cane railways in Bihar[3] (1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge lines also present) (operating)
Madhya Pradesh
West Bengal


  1. ^ compiled and edited by Research, Reference and Training Division. (2011). India Yearbook 2011. Publications Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India. Table 19.1. ISBN 978-81-230-1674-0. 
  2. ^ IRFCA - Narrow Gauge Routes
  3. ^ a b c - India