Coonoor Station and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

As mentioned on my Chandrapore page, two different railway stations were used to portray Chanderapore in the film 'A Passage To India'. When the expedition organised by Dr Aziz departs on its fateful trip to the Marabar Caves, the first part of the journey is by rail, and for these scenes, David Lean used the Nilgiri Mountain Railway that runs from Mettupalayam, on the plains of Tamil Nadu, to the Hill Station of Udhagamandalam, previously known as Ootacamund or 'Ooty'. Half-way along the line is the military town of Coonoor, and it was here, at Coonoor's metre-gauge railway station that Lean set the departure point for the Marabar expedition.

Dr Aziz and Selim awake on Chandrapore platform - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Dr Aziz and Selim awake on Chandrapore platform

As advised by his friends Mahmoud Ali and Hamidullah, Dr Aziz has taken the precaution of sleeping overnight on the railway platform, to guard against the possibility of missing the train. He has with him his man-servant Selim, and other helpers, plus a large amount of provisions and other essentials for the 'picnic'.

Coonoor station in 2002 - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Coonoor station in 2002

Marabar Express arrives at Chanderapore - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Marabar Express arrives at Chanderapore

Coonoor station in 1992, with train - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Coonoor station in 1992, with train

Coonoor station in 2002, with train - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Coonoor station in 2002, with train

Mrs Moore and Miss Quested, with servant Anthony - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Mrs Moore and Miss Quested, with servant Anthony

The 'Marabar Line' locomotive, at the 'Chandrapore' platform - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The locomotive, at the platform

An NMR Locomotive in 2002 - Click to show full-size image in new browser
An NMR Locomotive in 2002

Anthony has been instructed by his master Ronny Heaslop to remain close to the ladies all day, but Adela has taken a dislike to him, and is pleased to dismiss him.

Mrs Moore and Miss Quested hurry onto 'Chandrapore' platform - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Mrs Moore and Miss Quested hurry onto the platform

Anthony is dismissed - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Anthony is dismissed - 1

These two images are included to show notices and other platform details.

Anthony is dismissed - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Anthony is dismissed - 2

Detail of 1st class carriage - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Detail of 1st class carriage

Note the word 'Ladies' on the carriage door behind Dr Aziz. In India, then and now, it is quite common to have special compartments set aside for ladies only.
In the top left corner of this shot, the modern-day initials 'SR', standing for 'Southern Railway', shine through the new paintwork added for the film.

Carriages in 2002 - their slatted blinds are lowered - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Carriages in 2002 - their slatted blinds are lowered

The Marabar Express departs from Chandrapore - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The Marabar Express departs from Chandrapore

Fielding and Godbole arrive late - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Fielding and Godbole arrive late

Mr Fielding and Professor Godbole arrive late, and so miss the train. Their delay is caused (purposefully?) by the Professor, who's morning prayers take longer than expected. Dr Aziz is distraught that the trip has been ruined, but Fielding promises to catch up later. Quite why he didn't just jump on the train, which only goes about 10 miles an hour at that point is not clear, except that if he had done so, the whole story would have been ruined!

Fielding promises to catch up later - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Fielding promises to catch up later

The locomotive leaves Chandrapore - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The locomotive leaves Chandrapore

This is a very curious shot: the train, with carriages, has just departed, and we then see a shot of the engine, without carriages, disappearing up the line. What was all that about, then? Still, it looks very nice, and we quickly cut to some carriage-interior shots, obviously filmed in the studio, as Mrs Moore and Adela have their breakfast.

Mrs Moore and Adela have their breakfast - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Mrs Moore and Adela have their breakfast

Mrs Moore makes a remark about the location used by the bearer to do his cooking. Quite how she would get such a view from the closed-compartment in a non-corridor carriage is unclear!

The bearer cooks breakfast - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The bearer cooks breakfast

For continuing shots of the film's train-journey to the Marabar Hills, please visit my NMR Railway page. The remaining photos on this page are ones taken at Coonoor during two visits that I made in 1992 and 2002.

An NMR locomotive at Coonoor - Click to show full-size image in new browser
An NMR locomotive at Coonoor

The locomotive-shed at Coonoor in 2002 - Click to show full-size image in new browser
The locomotive-shed at Coonoor, 2002

Coonoor signal box and station - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Coonoor signal box and station

Locomotive and loco-shed at Coonoor - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Locomotive and loco-shed at Coonoor

Diesel locomotive pulls the train to Ooty - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Diesel locomotive pulls the train to Ooty

Diesel locomotive on Coonoor platform - Click to show full-size image in new browser
Diesel locomotive on Coonoor platform

 

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