Munnar light railway 1924

those days only Tamils were in high ranges ;imported from Tamil nadu by ruling British .kerala(malayali) workers started arriving around 1950 .later kerala .immigrants'from low lands  came for settlement and agriculture once the fear of malaria and wild animals were removed

A historic centenary goes unnoticed

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A LANDMARK: A 1911 picture of the train on the Kundaly Valley railway.
A LANDMARK: A 1911 picture of the train on the Kundaly Valley railway.
A Correspondent
KATTAPPANA: It is the centenary year of a landmark venture by the British rulers in Munnar where they introduced a railway transportation system in 1908.
The Kundaly Valley Light Railway was a major transportation facility in the area till 1924, when a flood wrought havoc on the system and restoration of the railway was considered impossible.
Finally the British dismantled the entire project.
Even now, one can find portions of the rails used in the gates of some old buildings or for some other purposes in Munnar town.
The railway station in Munnar still remains as a monument to the historic project. It is now being used as the regional office of the Kannan Deven Tea Company.
After 1924, this building was used for various purposes like storing rice, tea and occasionally for church services.
“Facets of A Hundred Years’ Planting,” an in-house publication of Tata-Finlay Ltd, says that it took one-and-a-half years to complete the railway project for which the parts of the train were shipped from Britain and assembled at Munnar by engineers of the British tea company. Four railway stations were built for the project at different places including Munnar.
The train had four compartments named Buchanan, (the general manager of the tea company), the Anaimudi, the Kundaly, and the High Ranger. The High Ranger also had a first class compartment for use by European managers and visiting officials.
The book says that the train movement was slow owing to frequent derailment, the occasional elephant on the track and ‘wilful interference on the rails’. “Initially, it was hoped to run the locomotives on wood fuel alone, but owing to steep gradients and curves, this was impracticable and the use of coal and firewood, which generated sufficient steam, was adopted,” says the 110-page book written by Amita Baig and William Henderson.
The book has a number of black and white photographs. When the railway was dismantled, a network of rope-ways was built in Munnar for speedy transportation of tea leaves and other goods, says the book.
“Though it was decided to open the rope-way connecting Bodinaikanur in Tamil Nadu, the Munnar-Neryiamangalam road was opened followed by a network of roads, paving the way for easy road transportation. The introduction of railway in Munnar is historic as it is a hilly tract and is even now not connected by a railway line,” the book says.

Old train that runs between Munnar and Top station

The Kundaly Valley Light Railway, 1911
Blair Hill, Munnar, Monorail Transport c. 1900

The Historic Transformation of the Kanan Devan Hills
1877: John Daniel Munro, an Officer of the Independent Kingdom of Travancore and Superintendent of the Cardamom Hills, makes an application to the Poonjar Chief for the grant of the property called Kanan Tevan Anchanatu Mala on payment and obtains from the Raja the first Pooniat Concession Deed.
1878: Intensive exploration of the land acquired by Munro takes place under the guidance of H. Gribble Turner of the Madras Civil Service and his half-brother A. W. Turner. Lands are offered for cultivation and a nucleus labour force is harnessed from the plains of Tamil Nadu to start a cinchona plantation under the Devimallay in Devikulam Estate.
1879: Munro obtains the second Pooniat Concession. The North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society is founded to which the Concessions are conveyed. Soon… tracts are opened in the Hills in Cinchona and Sisal.
1880: The first tea is planted in Parvathi Estate (a part of today's Sevenmallay Estate) by A. H. Sharp.
1886: An expedition in 1886 to the foothills by a new and precipitous route - from Top Station in Chittavurrai to Korangani - is made in search of food. A business connection is forged with the famous Suppan Chetty to send up rice in exchange for headloads of cinchona bark. Thus a new chapter in trade opens. This route later serves as the path for a ropeway.
Soon… bridle paths spread in various directions are made. Ponies, donkeys and bullocks carrying up rice and taking the hill produce down become the way of life in the Hills.
1888: The Kanan Devan Planters Association is formed.
1890: The first apothecary is appointed.
1892: The first Post Office is opened on Devikulam Estate - The pioneer planters send a lot of post cards to their friends in the High Range itself "to get a sufficient amount of stamping registration in the post office so that the authorities would keep it open"!
1894: By now there are 26 registered small holdings in the Hills. Sir John Muir of Finlay Muir & Company visits the Kanan Devan Hills to finalize the purchase of the Concession area. Thus Finlay Muir & Company Limited's interests in tea extends to the High Ranges.
1896: The Kanan Devan Hills Produce Company is formedin the Kanan Devan Concession territory. Estates outside the Concession territory but within the High Range are owned by the Anglo-American Direct Tea Trading Company, also a subsidiary Company of Finlay Muir & Co. Ltd.

[devious ways of the colonial ruler-instead of getting permission from the maharaja of Travancore ,they got it from a poonjar raja who was under the Travancore king!!] 


Flood In Munnar 1924
 Mattupetty bunglow after flood 1924

Bridge destroyed due to flood in Munnar 1925

                                                    Munnar ropeway system

Old sign board   at kundalavalley

Mudhuvans The Original Inhabitants of Kannan Devan Hills

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Mrs. A.W. John on Monorail, c. 1900

As Monorail from 1902 - 1908

Kundala Valley Railway was built in 1902 and operated between Munnar and Top Station. This railway was built to transport tea. Initially a cart road was cut in 1902,[1] then later replaced by a monorail goods carriage system along the road leading from Munnar to Top Station for the purpose of transporting tea and other products from Munnar and Madupatty to Top Station. This monorail was based on   Ewing System

File:Monorail steam train.jpg

and had a small wheel placed on track while a larger wheel rested on the road to balance the monorail. This was similar to Patiala State Monorail Trainways.

coin issued by British tea company

In the early 1900s the Kanan Devan Hills Produce Company introduced its own coinage, and this money was in use throughout the High Range for all financial transactions relating to the workforce.
The basic purpose was to minimize the risk of the worker disappearing or 'bolting' after payment, as this currency was negotiable only within the Company.

To commemorate the Introduction of its own coinage, the Company misted the two gold coins displayed here, one of which pictures Sir John Muir, the then Chairman.
Image result for travancore raja in munnar rolls royce  1930's
Munnar Factory, c. 1910

Workshop staff including G.A. Cole and C.A.V. Grant, 1920s

Family get-together at High Range Club, 1920

 First Independence Day celebration at Munnar Town, 1947

An unknown photographer's legacy

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Freedom's liberating waves scaled the mountains well on time. A large gathering of people were in attendance in the tea town of Munnar in Idukki district on August 15, 1947, to celebrate the day when India woke up to life and freedom.
Though very few records are available about the celebrations in Munnar, a photograph taken by an unknown photographer, said to be of Tamil origin, sets the record straight.
The black-and-white photograph was with Royal Studio, which closed down some years ago. Before the predecessors of the unknown photographer closed the studio, his work was given to another photographer who was keen to keep it.
The Independence Day function in Munnar was a grand affair, with hundreds of people across religious or language barriers participating. The organisers, the then leaders and nationalists, held the meeting in Munnar, a tea town which owes its legacy to the British. Munnar was one of the earliest developed towns with many workers from Tamil Nadu and Kerala settling there.
“One may not have vivid memories of the first Independence Day observance; however, the photograph is clear evidence of how the tea town received the message of Indian Independence,” says Selvaraj, a settler keen on history and a former employee of Kanan Devan Tea Company Ltd, which is the present stakeholder of the tea estate left behind by British planters. “It is also evident that most of the leading figures who organised the meeting and rally might have been from outside Munnar, a reason why it is difficult to get details of it.”
Munnar is one of the few towns which still keep vintage photographs of its history beginning from the British Raj. The foreign rulers were instrumental in introducing photography in Munnar, where many photographers survived on imaging the imprints of life. Photographs from 1900 onwards are with the history lovers and photographers of the present generation.
“One reason for keeping the photographs is their economic value, as the present generation of the British-era planters who visit Munnar are keen on collecting details of their ancestors. Copies of many of the photographs taken by yesteryear photographers that include various kinds of British celebrations, introduction of motorbike
After the Wanderer factory had launched its first motorcycle in 1902, this model was developed and improved at short intervals. The 3 hp model of 1905 was now a proper motorcycle 
Eric Francis and his colleagues were the first to introduce tea plantations, railway, boilers, motorcycles, other technologies to the hills of Munnar

, an Albion lorry in 1910,

and the Kundaly Valley light railway in 1911, and the flood carnage in 1962 are in some homes in Britain,” Mr. Selvaraj said.
However, the photograph of the Independence celebrations stands different as it shows how the message of freedom was received by the planters and estate workers in Munnar, which was little known then as a major tourism destination.
The photograph shows how the tea town celebrated the greatest moment of India's history.
J J Murphy’s bungalow and grave yard
At Yendayar, we have the J J Murphy bungalow now functioning as a school, a few minutes away is his grave yard in Mattumala hillock.


Koliekanam Bungalow

Picking over leaf, Chokenad, 1920s


The Koliekanam Bungalow was built in 1938. The medium peaked roof and the gabled porch with charming multi painted bay windows makes the bungalow a beautiful country house. The north-east facing bungalow has inviting interiors which spreads from the long front verandah. The walls are made of cut or dressed granite. As you drive in from the south to the eastward facing, cute little bungalow, unique in many ways, the first thing that attracts you is the mirror-like flooring in coffee brown shade which has endured human footsteps for more than half a century and lays still without having a scratch for the last seventy years.


On the northern corner of the garden there are a group of huge trees which stand shading and enclosing the fringes of the compound. The northern boundary rolls down steeply into the valley, where a small brook flows undisturbed with a lulling sound. The bungalow is situated on the edge of a cliff with panoramic view of undulating stretch of meadows and mountains. Two mountains named “ANNAN and THAMPI”(the Tamil word for elder and younger) forms a close back drop on the southern side. The whole setting is as beautiful and scenic as a picture post card. Atop the mountains we can spot the view of Deviculam in the Munnar region.

High Range club. 

Visit the high range club, which reflects the real planter’s life, were you find the good old days.

Vandiperiyar Club 
The club is located along Connemara estate en-route to the forest ranges of Vallakadavu Division of Periyar Tiger Reserve. 
We can spend the evening in the company of present managers and member planters of nearby estates, play snooker or do some reading in total privacy.

Activities Offered Deep in the Periyar valley

Periyar Tiger Reserve - Thekkady

Treks can be arranged within the cardamom plantation and the forest with recognized guides Trekking on foot along the edge of the Periyar Tiger Reserve with possibilities of spotting several species of exotic flora and fauna.

kattappana old busstand (1960)

  1. Kundala Valley Railway - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Kundala Valley Railway was built in 1902 and operated between Munnar and ... In 1908, the monorail was replaced by a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge light railway. ... A flood completely destroyed the Kundala Valley Railway in 1924, and the ...

  • History - High Range Club Munnar :: High Range Club, Hill Resort ...

    ... grounds and Tennis Court were extensively damaged in the 1924 floods. ... The First Class Compartment of the Kundaly Valley Light Railway, which was ... used as a Bar on the Gymkhana ground after the Railway became defunct in 1932.

  • Family get-together at High Range Club, 1920

  • The High Range Club

  • Address: High Range Club, Moolakadai, Munnar, Kerala 685612
    Phone:04865 230 253

  • Total Tea Day - The Hindu


    Nov 12, 2012 - EXPERIENCE An unusually well-planned museum in Munnar catches K. PRADEEp's fancy. ... the Kundale Valley Light Railway that transported men and material between Munnar and Top Station from 1908 to 1924 and an ...

    1. Pottering through the past - The Hindu

      Apr 30, 2006 - The tea museum in Munnar reflects a strong sense of history. ... one of the locomotives of the Kundale Light Railway that operated between Munnar and Top Station from 1908 to 1924 - another innovation of the British that had ...