Time travel in a Railway Colony

Forgetting going anywhere by train, the Indian Railways are a holiday by themselves. Visit Lonavla, Igatpuri and their railway colonies for a good blast from a steam-filled past!

Forgetting going anywhere by train, the Indian Railways by themselves are a holiday destination. Visit Lonavla, Igatpuri and their railway colonies for a nostalgia blast from a steam-filled past!

The Indian Railways offers a time travel option if you or the kid in the family is a fan of trains – whether he is 5, 35 or 55.

A typical building in Lonavla Railway Colony

If you live in Western India, you can travel back in time at two very interesting Railway Colonies: Lonavla and Igatpuri. They have two of the most beautiful railways locomotive stops in Central Railways (more about railspotting later).

A typical railway colony with railway fencing and gate

The railway colonies in Madurai, Bhusaval or even Hubli are interesting but nothing tops the experience at Lonavla or Igatpuri.

At the Railway colony cricket/football ground

The reason why Lonavla and Igatpuri are excellent for rail fans who wish to see an old Railway Colony is that they also offer other attractions too besides the railway nostalgia. They are both at the upper end of two majestic ghat sections that connects Mumbai with Pune and the other with Deolali/Nashik. They are the best during the monsoons. This ensures that the people who are not railfans in the family will not be disappointed.

Railway union message. The lantern/storm lantern was and is a very useful
tool for railwaymen and hence the symbol.

Walking on the railroad

The Railway Colony trip cannot be a regular holiday. The best thing to do here is go for a morning or evening walk and imagine life as it would have existed in a film from the 70s with the Anglo Indian steam engine drivers. You can look at picket fences, pots, decorations, gates, even small sheds from railroad sleepers, rails and electrical items. You can look at the many trees that are as old as the railways. You can carry a Rudyard Kipling book and sit in a playground and read it. For example, something about the trek from the coastal plains to Igatpuri through the treacherous ghats when they were yet to build the section. Those days,  caravans used to carry everything up before it was transferred to another train for the journey to Kolkata or Delhi from Mumbai. You can carry a binocular and spot birds. You can heard the announcements from the station above the cry of the birds. You can stop the samosa and chaiwala who sells them on the train and he is lazily walking towards the station and have a small little picnic.

The essentials store in the Railway colony

Ah, said the engine driver!

In Lonavla, you can watch the daily routine of the railway engine drivers who specialise in maneuvering through the ghat sections. You will notice that the Ghat Loco Pilot as they are known, share homes that are on par with a Senior Section Engineer.

You can go to the local playground and watch the local cricket or football team playing. You can watch the condition of the old quarters or homes that the railway people live in. Everything remains and continues at a leisurely pace that we have completely forgotten.

Almost all homes have arches made from rails


For a rail fan, this is the best part of the holiday. If you like to spot trains, Igatpuri is one of the best holidays you can have.  Because of the climb from the plains to Igatpuri and due to some technical issues, this place has the best collection of locomotives that a railfan will enjoy. Also, trains come from all over the country pulled and pushed by a wide range of locomotives. For a railfan, the locomotive’s type, power, shed and various other technical features are something similar to the rush a bird watcher gets when they see a rare bird, maybe your child will find a new hobby that has spawned the large community of railfans in India. And yes, you can take the train up and down the two most beautiful ghat sections in the country. You can also hire an rickshaw and ask him to take you to places where you can get better view of the wonderful old bridges on the ghat section at Igatpuri. Lonavla is also as interesting.

The charm of the railway holiday need not be just a trip on a train. It can also be a visit to a railway  station, a railway yard, or the places where the people who run the railways live.

This article is a part of The Alternative’s UnTravel Festival Special that aims to get you to celebrate regional festivals like a local through our travel calendar experiences, recommendations from our experts and travel writers along with contests and Twitter chats. 

If you have a local or festival travel experience that you’d like to share, write to us at editor(at)thealternative(dot)in.

Gopal MS is a Mumbai based blogger and advertising copywriter. He documents Mumbai streets at www.mumbaipaused,com more


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Gopal MS is a Mumbai based blogger and advertising copywriter. He documents Mumbai streets at www.mumbaipaused,com more

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